Don’t Forget the Big Picture

posted by Andrea | 05/3/2013

big picture

Before Nora was born, I asked a handful of moms to write a post about motherhood, parenting, family, or another related topic (read the posts here). I used those posts for a 3-week maternity leave after I returned home from the hospital and began real life with a new baby.

The posts were fabulous; I read them ALL over and over again!

Even now, almost 18 months later, I still regularly go back and read through many of those posts — especially this one from Sarah of Clover Lane. Her blog is one of my favorite blogs, and I know many of you enjoy reading her motherly advice as well.

At the end of Sarah’s guest post, she says “Remember the little things, but don’t forget the big picture.” And that phrase has really stuck with me through the many long months since Nora’s birth. However it’s the 2nd part of the phrase that I recite to myself on a daily basis.

Don’t forget the big picture.

 

I repeat this phrase whenever I feel overwhelmed with my job as a Mother (so usually around 50 times a day!)

For example, at this VERY moment, Nora is screaming at the top of her lungs from her bedroom and refusing (once again) to take a nap. She’s been screaming for a while now, and I know from months and months of experience that she will NOT fall asleep. However, without her daily screaming sessions, I get absolutely no time to sit and think (did I mention our babysitter had to quit two weeks ago.)  So I sit and type while she screams and refuses to give in to how tired she is.

In a few minutes, I’ll get her out and take her for a walk. She’ll be asleep by the time we get to the end of the driveway.

It’s not ideal, it doesn’t make me happy, but it is what it is.

I wish she would be like normal children and take a nap each day.

I wish I could get her on some sort of schedule.

I wish I wasn’t so exhausted all the time.

I wish that even one piece of sleep-training advice we’ve been given would work.

I wish she would fall asleep at night without hours and hours of crying.

I wish Dave and I could have one full night of sleep… just ONE night in 18 months. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

And while right now, at this point in my life, Nora’s sleep issue seems like a huge deal (it IS a huge deal when your so tired) I do realize that in the scheme of my entire life, it is just a phase.

Yes, I know that “time goes so fast”, I know I should “enjoy every moment”, I know that “this too shall pass”, and I know that “the days are long but the years are short”. However none of those overly-used cliche phrases helps with my exhaustion right now.

Don’t forget the big picture.

By constantly (and I mean CONSTANTLY) reminding myself not to forget the big picture, I feel like I can make it through one more hour, one more day, one more week.

After all, Nora is happy, she’s healthy, she’s loved… and if she’s still not sleeping by the time she’s 18, she’ll go off to college and keep someone else up all night :)

Don’t forget the big picture.

As I continue to recite this phrase over and over each day, I realize that it can also apply to so many facets of life…

Maybe your home isn’t nearly as neat or organized as you’d like it to be right now — but in the big picture, your home is a place where family and friends gather regularly and enjoy spending time together. They don’t care how neat and organized it is. They just know that your doors are always open and you will always welcome them in.

Maybe your career isn’t where you thought it might be right now — but in the big picture, you have enough to provide for your family, you’ve met so many great people along the way, and you’ve learned a lot in the process. Maybe your current job is just a stepping stone to something really great.

Maybe your life feels overwhelming and completely out of control right now — but in the big picture, you have your health, your family, and so much more to be thankful for.

Maybe you have a difficult baby, teenager, adult child, or spouse that’s creating all sorts of stress and problems right now — but in the big picture, at least you have a baby, teenager, adult child, and spouse. They are alive, and there is always hope that the problems will be resolved with time.

I know these examples are overly simplified and won’t resonate with everyone, but I think you get the idea.

I’m not naive… I realize that it’s really easy to say “don’t forget the big picture” but it’s completely different to actually believe it (yes, I speak from experience).

Even after MONTHS of telling myself not to forget the big picture, there are still plenty of times when I think, There is just no way I can do this. I am not cut out to be a mother. I can’t handle one more night with such little sleep. How did I ever think I could work full time and be a mom full time?

Then I snap out of it and realize there are SO many worse things we could be dealing with than “just” lack of sleep. Our house could burn down (or flood), we could have a life-threatening disease, we could lose our jobs and all our savings, we could experience death, etc. etc.

Right now, our lack of sleep feels like a huge deal… but in the big picture, it’s just a phase (maybe a long phase, but still a phase).

Life will go on.

We will be OK.

Nora will sleep eventually… right?

What area of your life could use some “big picture” thinking? 

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86 comments

  1. Prerna@The Mom Writes

    05/04/2013

    My big picture challenge is a little different from everyone else’s I guess:-) It is all about a growing business {my 2nd baby, hah!} and fine tuning systems, setting up new ones and all the while reminding myself of the big picture, the reason we’re doing this is because I don’t have to leave home and I can earn a good living being there with my daughter doing what I love.. You’re awesome, Andrea and am sure Nora is going to grow up just as awesome as you, sleep or no sleep:-)

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  2. Amber

    05/04/2013

    Oh, Andrea, I can relate! Our 8 month old was up 4 times last night, and yes this has become normal! It is hard, but thank you for putting it in perspective. The hubby and I just take turns!! :)

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  3. Kathy K

    05/04/2013

    Trust me, this too shall pass. My son had a hard time sleeping at night until he was four. My answer, just let him sleep with us. Everyone was happy and everyone got the sleep they needed. Remember to do what’s best for “your” family. Children cling because somethings wrong, they’re trying to connect. My guess is that you have a very intelligent baby on your hands and she’s aware beyond her young years. Children take in information that would be completely overwhelming to an adult brain. Just keep her close, she senses your emotions, she’s fearful of something. She’s still working in the confides of the primal part of her brain.
    Great Book…Our Babies OurSelves. Its about how women all around the world care for their babies. Spoiler alert: Most cultures think we are brutal to our children for leaving them alone.
    This book really opened my mind and helped me settle in to what worked best for my family. Today, that baby just turned sixteen. He’s an honor stupid, well adjusted, well liked, and secure and happy. Hang in there….everything will be okay….promise. :)

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  4. Library Momma

    05/04/2013

    Nora might sleep, maybe, possibly, but probably not anytime soon, hang in there, I used to hate when everyone would pass around advice like it was so easy. I hate now when my SIL has an eight month old who sleeps twelve hours and takes two naps, really, you have got to be kidding! My five year still doesn’t always sleep through the night and his two year old sibling is the same. But it has gotten at least a little easier, so maybe there is hope! Even now I have friends that look at me like I am crazy when my littlest falls asleep and I try to even catch 15 minutes. Good attitude you have none the less. Mine has improved, but I don’t think I was nearly as positive when my oldest as 18 months.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Totally agree — I don’t think Nora will be sleeping through the night any time soon. However, I do believe in miracles, so you never know!
    Also, just between us, I’m not always so positive about the situation :)

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  5. Jennifer

    05/04/2013

    Great reminder! Since my 17 month old came along, who also has severe sleeping difficulties, I’ve really had to sit back and take a lot more deep breaths. Some days, to me nothing seems to be as it should be. In a moment of distress, or after a night of 4-6 wakings, or after a day of work demands, or after a hustle-bustle week with the in laws, it’s difficult to think of how lucky I am and how worse things could be. The big picture I want to see is my little family healthy and happy. Everything else is just background, and troubles will pass. They always do, but it’s always hard to remember.

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  6. Dawn

    05/04/2013

    Eventually she will sleep…,for my girl, that happened when she turned 11 YEARS old. I kid you not. My second girl, however, is a normal sleeper. :) Hang in there mama…

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  7. Christina

    05/04/2013

    Neither of my girls would “sleep”. They both started to skip naps at 18 months and were completely done with napping by two. Both would fight bedtime since birth but it does get easier as they get older (my daughters are now 7 and 4). But there will always be something that you will be dealing with in your life, especially when you have children. Just as you stated, you really have to look at the “big picture”. I would love to work on my current website more and be able to devote more time to it but I know that this time with my daughters is so precious and it goes so fast, and you don’t get this time with them back – this time when they are little and learning and growing so fast. In a couple of years both girls will be in school full time and I will have more time to focus on other goals in my life but this time in my life I choose to focus on my children. I left a really good, well paying career to stay home and raise my daughters, and I will never regret that decision. Being a parent is one of the most challenging things a person can choose to be but it is also one of the most rewarding. Enjoy your time with Nora, while she is little. There will always be time for work (trust me).

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  8. Tara

    05/04/2013

    Andrea, you are amazing. Sometimes we forget how much your diligence and organization has to apply to your thought life right now.

    I know you’ve heard more sleep advice than you’d care to. But I did want to bring up a possibility you may not have thought of. A good friend of mine had a little one who at 4 years of age still had never slept through the night. She took all three of her kids to an allergy treatment center in the SF/Bay area called Advanced Allergy Solutions where they offer a needle-free allergy testing and treatment protocol because they had severe seasonal allergies. When they tested this particularl child, they discovered she was actually allergic to her body’s own seratonin. So literally each time she became tired and her body’s chemistry responded with the flood of the proper sleep hormone, she ended up with inflammation and agitation rather than rest. The treatment was pain free and has literally changed their lives – primarily in that everyone is getting a LOT more rest.

    If a testing like this is of interest to you, I do believe that clinic can help you find a similar treatment centers closer to you if you contact them. I pray you find this information helpful and not annoying. It may not be the answer for you, but if you’re like me you like to know you’ve explored all your options. :o)

    Carry on! No matter what, your determination and faith will get you through this phase. You are an inspiration.

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  9. Rachel

    05/05/2013

    I can totally relate to your exhaustion. My first son slept through the night by 6 weeks and took all of his naps on queue. My 3rd child slept so much that we took her to the doctor convinced that something was wrong with her to be sleeping so much. She is now 5 and still sleeps 11-13 hrs a night and nothing at all is wrong with her. Our second child, however, was a totally different story. He literally did not sleep through the night until he was well past 4 yrs of age. We tried everything with him. Letting him cry it out resulted in vomit covered sheets and a 2 year old brother woken up by all the chaos. We tried letting him sleep with us, letting him sleep with his brother, moving him to a big boy bed at 1 year old so we could sleep with him, keeping a Coleman cooler in his room with sippy cups of milk to pacify him when he woke up. NOTHING worked and we were exhausted. Deliriously exhausted. We both worked outside the home, I was nursing at night, pumping during the day, never getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep. On the mornings he slept in later than normal because of a really bad night, I either had to get up early for work or because his brother was awake and raring to go. We were beyond tired. I remember laying in bed just bawling because I was so tired and thinking that there was no way I could make it another day. I remember there were times when I couldn’t even go to his room because I was so beside myself that I wasn’t sure what I would do. Thank goodness I have a wonderful husband who did as much as he could and suffered through it with me. I don’t know what we were thinking having a 3rd baby when he was only 2 and still not sleeping through the night, but somehow we made it. I think her ability to sleep 20+ hrs a day the first month of her life was God throwing us a bone. Our middle child is now 8 and sleeps more soundly than any of our other kids, although he continues to be the child that challenges us more than the others in every way imaginable. At least we’re well-rested and able to deal with him now :-)
    Hang in there. It will get better. It will. It just may take awhile. And you’re totally normal to feel the way you do. Hugs!!!

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  10. Allison

    05/05/2013

    This is such a great post…I really enjoyed reading it!

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  11. Kathy

    05/05/2013

    Don’t worry, all first time mothers feel like that………then second child comes along you have done your training and you feel as if you know stuff. Don’t get me wrong, each child is different but the first child is HARD because it’s the first, you have never experienced lack of sleep unless it was for a big fun night out for yourself, your time is not your own and routines constantly get interrupted. The lack of the day time sleep is a nuisance and I have been there done that….maybe if she is not going to have the sleep that you buy a special puzzle, toy or whatever that is only for “nap” time…something that she could sit quietly in her cot and do. Whilst it’s not a sleep, it is quiet time for her and you so the “special nap toy” one that you don’t need to supervise she is sticking it in her mouth and choking ….in other words the safe toy or the safe stuffed bunny to take to bed and she can read it a story herself..pretend to be mothers etc.
    Now as far as the night time sleep that is more important because for (i) you and your husband need sleep to recharge your batteries and (ii) she needs her sleep to recharge her batteries and grow. This is where I highly recommend you pay for a “sleep specialist” or whatever you call them their to come to your home and stay until you get her to sleep. One night or 2-3 nights say 7.30-10pm or whatever it takes. This is where I think the money (whilst expensive) is worth investing in your HEALTH because you need sleep and so does she. You will be surprised how quickly this works and in a short space of time. Having an expert there even though you have personally tried all the techniques gives you confidence and keeps you calm having someone else there to guide you.

    I got our neighbours to do that and they had twins and one was 4 and still not sleeping and the sleep lady came and was there one night and then came back a week later and it was all done……..they could not believe how calm their household was and worth every penny. This is where reading books etc. just sometimes won’t do and where you have the expert come to your house. I also recommended the same lady to another mum who had 3 kids under 4 and 2 of them were not sleeping getting out of bed every night and no one got any sleep – she said it was the best thing she ever paid for so seriously it is worth just as much as saving on your groceries one week. It needs professional help and usually it can be done…ever look at the super nanny and see how quickly out of control kids can start behaving normally. She is not out of control but she needs to learn to settle herself in her cot and go to sleep…..she has to learn this for your sake and hers and I’m sure she will but I’d call in the expert. Ring your local health centre and ask them or the hospital might be able to refer you to someone. Without sleep no one can cope with life whether they are the big things or little things. Seriously it’s investing in your family’s well being and totally worth the cost. Having someone in your house seeing what you are doing, with guidence and support is GOLD. Also sometimes if kids stay up late even 30 mins more than their bodies need then they get over tired and can’t go to sleep. Maybe try bringing the bedtime routine in by 30 mins. I put my 7 year old and 9 year old to bed at 7pm. We start at 6.30pm and do reading for my 7 year old and then I do reading for my 9 year old and then by 7pm it’s lights out. They do need a lot of sleep and I can tell when I have stretched that out by 15 mins a few days in a row. Kids need good quality sleep and so do Mummy’s and Daddy’s so I would go with the private sleep expert in your house because if we are tired we get so cranky about everything and more than that a screaming toddler during the day just makes us irritable if we haven’t slept on top of that. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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    Amy Reply:

    Wow that’s cool Kathy! I’ve never heard of a sleep expert but it sounds like a great investment if you need it. Thankfully, my babe is finally getting the hang of this sleep thing…but I’ll definitely keep this tucked in the back of my mind in case I ever need it :)

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  12. Kathryn

    05/05/2013

    Have you ever had Nora tested for allergies?

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  13. Laura

    05/06/2013

    Well even in your sleep-deprived state you are still able to put together fantastic posts. I needed this reminder so much this morning as I work through my own struggles. Thank you!

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  14. Stephanie

    05/06/2013

    As a mother of 3 beautiful children, I understand the frustration of needing that 15 minutes. February and March were very hard months for me. My 3 year old got pneumonia, it took two antibiotics to get him over it, then his 4 year old brother ended up with pneumonia too. Just when I thought we were on the mend, the 3 month old got sick, wouldn’t eat properly, wouldn’t sleep one night, slept 12 hours the next, she ended up having pneumonia too. I was at the store during all this when I ran into a friend. She said in true concern that I look exhausted. I was but just kept going. 6 weeks of getting up multiple times with kids with fevers, coughing, nursing sessions wore me out. My husband was working 13 hours a day and needed his sleep too.
    You will continue to get through it. Teething will come to an end, she will start being able to communicate better, and will soon not “need” you as much.
    A wise person told me, that these “problems” seem so big right now, but that they just get bigger as they get older. It doesn’t make now easier but it does make me appreciate my children more.
    Your post hits it. And as a fellow believer in Christ, remember that He cares for you, and will provide you with the grace needed to be a mother to Nora. It is overwhelming raising children, but what a comfort that God loves and cares for them more than we do.
    Back to simplifying our lives over at my house. :)

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  15. Marie

    05/07/2013

    Good post. I probably needed to hear this. In less than a year my husband is getting out of the navy and a few months before I will be moving home to start the job search. Currently we are in the middle of all the preparations to get to that point. This includes selling our home that we’ve worked so hard on, and knowing that for the next few years we will be going back to staying with family temporarily and then apartment living and pretty much be in limbo until we get jobs and my husband finishes school and starts his career. This thought is so depressing to me because I feel like in the six years that we’ve been married we’ve achieved so much and it almost feels like we’re taking a few steps backward in order to go forward again. I keep trying to also remind myself to see the big picture that we have to do all of this to be able to move home and be with family and this is what we want. But it’s easier said then done when you haven’t reached that big goal yet. So thanks for this post, I needed to be reminded of this :)

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  16. Michele

    05/07/2013

    Thank you so much for this post! My girls are 11 and 13 and they are sleeping just fine but I really need to say that phrase over and over, especially with the hormones running rampant through my house.

    It really made me feel like I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed….not only do I appreciate that I NEEDED to hear it.

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  17. Lisa

    05/08/2013

    After a friend complained that she was soooooooo tired b/c she was getting up with a newborn, someone replied “You’re a mom. You’ll be tired for the rest of your life.” I don’t say that as in “Buck up, get over it.”, but I say that to encourage you to take heart, b/c you’re not alone :) I’m willing to bet that every mom out there is tired. Maybe not as tired as you are, but we’re all exhausted, because we’re all always trying to do our best at being a mom. And hey, even though you’re exhausted, you still look cute! :) (i have the same gray dress…Target, right?)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes I get it Lisa — I’m not offended :)
    I think the part that’s so exhausting for me is all the crying and screaming every night before bed — and then the fact that she usually won’t end up sleeping unless Dave or I are in her bed with her. Then the minute I get up, she wakes up. So since she doesn’t take naps during the day, I never get even 5 minutes of my day to myself. Ever! I can’t say “I’ll just wake up before her” or “I’ll stay up late” or “I’ll do that while she’s sleeping” because if I’m awake, she’s awake and screaming. So I guess that’s part of my exhaustion — I just never get a minute to think or breathe or be alone!

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    Michele Reply:

    I remember that too Andrea. The exhaustion, frustration, sadness and crying (hers and mine lol)………….

    My girls are tween and teen age and I still don’t have a minute to think but it does get better.

    Over the weekend my husband told me that I need to take some “me” time and get away for a night or two. If you can work it out maybe that could be something you could do and recharge your batteries. I know I need mine recharged!

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  18. Sallie

    05/11/2013

    We have a spirited child who is six and a half. Spirited children have a hard time self-soothing and getting themselves to sleep.( Crying it out NEVER works with this kind of a child.) We had to rock her to sleep until she was three and a half. Once she was really out, we could put her down. It was hard, but it was the only thing that worked. She still needs help falling asleep even now, but not to the same degree.

    I don’t know if you’ve read any high-need infant and/or spirited child books, but I have an entire page on my blog on each topic with links to articles and books.

    http://aquietsimplelife.com/?page_id=2679

    http://aquietsimplelife.com/?page_id=2660

    Please don’t take this as a criticism, but an observation. If she is high-need and/or spirited, she will NOT go to sleep until her tank is full. Some spirited children take an incredible amount of one-on-one focused attention every. single. day. I’m taking hours and hours of one-on-one, focused attention. Not just being in the same room, but interacting. I know you have a lot on your plate and seem to be a super productivity-oriented person. But if Nora is spirited and she’s not getting enough one-on-one with you, she won’t be able to go to sleep. My daughter is this way. If her tank is full, she’s willing to go to bed with little protest. If her emotional tank isn’t full, she will have every excuse in the book not to go to bed. And they can be very particular about the time. For example, my husband can spend a lot of time with her during the day but if her mommy tank isn’t full at bedtime she will fight it. She has very specific needs to get the interaction she apparently needs and craves.

    My husband and I both work at home so I understand the frustration with needing to get things done and having a needy child. I truly do. The first couple of years just about sent us over the edge until we found the info on spirited children. Then it all clicked and made sense.

    I truly hope you find the answers you are looking for. :-)

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  19. Becky

    07/11/2013

    Hi Andrea – if you are interested, Erin at Pickles & Ice Cream Baby Sleep Consulting changed our lives. Our son was a terrible sleeper for the first 7 months. Erin developed a sleep plan for us, and our baby immediately started sleeping through the night and taking good naps. Here is her website if you (or anyone else who may be struggling with baby sleep issues) are interested. http://www.sleepandbabyconsult.com/

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  20. Sue

    07/11/2013

    Thank you for this REAL post! For me (and I want to specify that I am speaking FOR ME), I read your blog because I love your tips on organization. You spoke at our MOPS meeting, many years ago, and I was drawn to your thinking because I desired to also think as you do. Simple, Organized and STILL living!! I have organizing tendencies I guess you could say, but have trouble putting them into action. ANYWAY, I have to say that I get jealous easily, I guess, and envied you and others out there who seem to “have it all together”. It’s petty, I know, but I’m human and honest most of the time. To hear that not everything goes your way, and that sometimes life sucks even though all the blocks are in their place, HELPS me to remember that we all go through the same problems and things will NEVER be perfect and that’s O.k.! Don’t misunderstand! I still think you totally “have it all together”. Your post was amazing. Your reaction to your situation is real and not covered up with self-pity. You get it, and for being a “newbie mom”, I am totally impressed. Mine are 7 and 9 and I think I somehow magically fumbled through those early years. :) Thanks again.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for your honesty Sue — and glad you’re still following along after all these years :)
    I think what you said about jealousy is so true — you envied those who SEEMED to have it all-together. However, as you see, we all have struggles and difficulties in life — no one is perfect!
    I’m touching on this a bit in my post tomorrow (friday) You’ll definitely want to read that one!

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  21. erin

    08/10/2013

    Very nice! When someone asks me how I’m doing, my answer is always “great!” no matter what. No matter how I’m feeling at that moment or that day, I know I’m lucky for all that I have. In the big picture everything is great….great husband, healthy, happy kid, awesome job, a roof over my head, etc. So I fight the urge to say that I’m tired or hungry or whatever I am that moment and say I’m great. Because I am! Life is great!

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