Surviving Survival Mode

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Surviving survival mode is a worthy goal. And some seasons of life are just that: surviving.

Surviving Survival Mode PIN

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When I look at pictures from years ago, I’m stunned at all that has happened in that time. My kids have gone from 13, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2 to ages 19, 16, 14, 12, 10, and 8. We’ve left behind the baby and toddler stages. Everyone’s potty trained and literate. Some can even drive.

The days went by like a flash.

Sorry, true story. It did. Those old ladies are right.

Honestly, I feel like I was only just surviving for so many years. When I think back to 12 years ago when they were 8, 5, 3, 1, and unborn…. I was surviving. And that was a good thing.

I know they say that you shouldn’t be in survival mode forever, but it feels like I have! Tell me it’s not just me!Maybe I haven’t been, maybe these modes and seasons just have different feelings of “survivalism” attached to them?

  • Will I ever get to sleep all night long?
  • Will I ever get to eat a meal without chopping someone else’s food?
  • Will I ever get to finish a conversation without being interrupted?
  • Will I ever have a clean house?

I’ve been there, friends. I now sleep all night (sometimes). I now eat my dinner in relative peace. My kids have (almost) all learned the appropriate way to interrupt. And my whole house has gotten clean at one time.

Hold on because Jesus may be coming back. I never thought I’d see these things to fruition!

And yet, there are new things that I’m “surviving”. When will my son stop rolling his eyes at me? When will we stop running out of groceries on Tuesday when I went shopping on Sunday? When will someone besides me go out for more milk?

Those days will be here before I know it. So, what do I do between now and then?

Here’s what I’ve learned about surviving survival mode:

Surviving Survival Mode

mom and daughter

1. Remember what’s important.

I’ve been in survival mode for awhile, since I took on the writing of four cookbooks in four years. And had my thyroid go wacky. Oh yeah, and had six kids. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. It’s not the same kind of “survival”, but it is survival nonetheless.

I could drive myself bonkers freaking out about what we’re missing out on or what I’m failing at, but that won’t get me to the next season of life any faster. And do I want to miss this?

Either way, remembering what’s important will redeem the ride.

Taking time for praying, dating my husband, hanging with my kids, or simply taking care of me — these are important things. And they’ll matter far longer than the current “survival mode” will.

Milk running out? Diapers? Who cares about those things? My relationships with God and my family as well as my physical health matter more in the long run.

2. Count my blessings.

While there are imperfections in my life, there are way more good and beautiful things. My children’s hearty, healthy appetites, the smirk on my son’s face when I make him laugh against his will, the ability to go grocery shopping by myself, there’s lots of good around me, even if they’re small things.

For every single thing that currently feels “hard”, there are a dozen beautiful things. These are what I need to focus on during hard seasons. Am I right?

fishfam mammoth 2010

3. Provide food and clean underwear.

Somedays we’re on a roll when it comes to housekeeping. And some days we’re not. Every season has its own rhythm. Currently, we’re trying to tame kitchen habits and keep the kitchen clean.

Sometimes I just have to let things slide. I need to lower my expectations of myself as well as focus on the more important tasks. At our house that means making sure there’s food and clean underwear. If we’ve got those things, we’re golden. The house may be a wreck, but the important things are covered.

4. Get help.

These days life is “normalizing” a bit. I have no new books to write. No major deadlines looming ahead of me. We’re getting into a rhythm of school. Things are starting to run a little like clockwork. Dare I say it?

But, when I think of the systems we’ve put in place, like the laundry or the bathroom chores, I realize that survival mode has actually bred solutions and better ways of doing things. While I was busy writing cookbooks, my husband pitched in and kept this ship afloat. His involvement allowed him to see what areas and systems needed to be improved. My need for help when things were crazy prodded me to ask more of the kids.

All of this actually produced a better way of doing things.

Think about the solutions you’ve uncovered during your crazy seasons. My guess is they will help you live a calmer life now that the dust has settled, too. At least that’s how it’s working over here.

Have you survived Survival Mode?

How did you pull it off? Tell us in the comments!

Originally published November 2, 2015.


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  1. Food and clean underwear. Yes! That is my current life! My kids re 4, 2, and 4 months. My house is a wreck. And if I have a free moment, I am much more likely to work on my blog or watch TV with my kids than clean.

  2. I agree with the above commenter who said that the key to surviving survival mode is a routine. We had three kids in four years and have lived in three different states in the past 10 years. We have lived in our current location for almost a year, and I hope to get out of survival mode soon! The other key is to not be so hard on yourself. Many of us had/have high paying, demanding jobs and went to college before kids and are used to overachieving. Women especially feel like they need to minimize their problems and be “tough”. I think it is important to give yourself grace, and as you say, remind yourself that this is only a “season” of life. I love, love, love your new pic, by the way. Your hair looks great!!!

  3. Perfect timing! I *really* needed this post today! We are a homeschooling family with 5 kids (16, 14, 11, 5 & 2) I long for the day to sleep through the night, have everyone potty trained & can read. Its hard to balance it all with the oldest 1/2 half way through high school & the youngest refusing to sit on the potty. I want to be enjoying my older kids while managing the needs of the youngest-hard to find that balance sometimes (ok, a lot of the time). We keep saying life won’t always be this cRaZy. Glad to read about another family surviving. We are going to keep chugging along 😉

  4. I have always been the primary breadwinner in our family as well and therefore have not been able to be the stay-at-home mom I always dreamed about as a girl. My girls are now 12 and 14. I think they have learned a lot from me that they might not have learned otherwise.

    FIRST: They have learned the importance of advanced preparation. Because we have to be out of the house early in the morning the three of us have set routines every night to make for a better morning – determine what we are going to wear and ensure everything is clean and ready to go; pack lunches and set out water bottles; shower at night; make sure that school computers and electronic calculators are on chargers before turning out the lights; ensuring homework is loaded into the backpack and setting an alarm to avoid over sleeping.

    SECOND: They have learned the importance of setting aside time every day for those things that must be done. The minute they get home from school they get a quick snack and start on homework immediately. This ensures that schoolwork gets done and it also ensures that everyone is ready to sit down to dinner together as a family. A good nights sleep is a must. Come 9 o’clock it is lights out. At that point, anything that is not done simply has to wait until tomorrow.

    THIRD: They have learned the importance of prioritizing. We cannot always do everything we would like, but they know what my priorities are both for them and me: school first, family second, church third, and everything else. This list also drives my day. If I have to choose between eating dinner with my husband and children and cleaning the bathrooms, dinner is the priority. If the kids want to play on the volleyball team that routinely has practice on Sunday mornings conflicting with church the answer is no.

    FOURTH: They have learned about the power of grace. With so much to do sometimes things fall through the cracks. While I do my best to get to every game or recital, work sometimes means I have to miss them. While I try to ensure that everyone has clean clothes ready to go there are days when the kids have to wear the least dirty pair of jeans they have. They have learned to forgive me and I am learning to forgive myself.

    FIFTH: The gift of a patience and good-humored husband and father. I routinely remind my girls just how lucky they are in winning the father lottery. He always has time for them. Often when I am ready to explode he will step in with his quick wit turning the situation from anger to humor in a blink of an eye. He willingly drives them to every practice, game, recital, sleepover, play date, etc. His first priority is always his family.

  5. Wow, how can you not go crazy with 6 kids?? I go crazy with just my two boys ages 5 and 7, and I still think that I had one too many kids lol. I work 40-50 hours a week, aside from getting them up, getting them ready for school, dropping them at school and still picking them up twice a week(Thank god for the free after school care program), showers, dinner, homework while trying to pick up and yelling at them to pick up their toys while trying to make business calls and throwing a load into the washer I cant even imagine how some mom’s can do it. I try to be the best mom and feel so guilty that I cant provide my kids with the attention and time that they need and I only have 2. What am I not doing right? My husband is an after thought, yet the demands of being a wife as well with trying to meet his needs his a whole other story! Time for myself? forget it! I get up extra early in the am’s just to have quiet time to myself while I try to get some things done around the house uninterrupted while the hubby and kids sleep wether its exercise or chores. This isn’t even including the time I put into my money saving apps (swagbucks, receipt hog, find and save, Walmart savings catcher, etc…) to try to have a little extra. I recently sat and told my husband that he needed to help me more with house chores or they weren’t going to get done, and more hands on with the kids homework or it wasn’t going to get done. I guess you can say I was threatening to go on strike. This isn’t 1815 anymore where the wife solely took care of the kids and all household, its 2015! Not to mention that I’m the breadwinner. I absolutely hate that I cant stay home with my kids, I have never been able to. I resent it! Someone had the nerve to tell me that I shouldn’t have had kids then. My kids aren’t the problem, the problem is that I cant stay home with them because my job pays the bills, my husbands work cant not provide for us. Id rather live my life as is then not being able to provide my kids with what they need. although I feel the same way. Where did the time go? Im really missing out on them.

    1. I’m so sorry that you’re struggling, Suzanne. I’ll be praying that you and your husband can work together to find some good solutions going into the new year!

  6. I’m feel like I exist too often in survival mode. This is definitely a week for that- settling into a temporary home and restarting homeschool after over a week off. My heart isn’t happy with the location, although I know there is a reason for being here right now, and it is only temporary. I’m really needing to remind myself of the blessings, and find little things to delight in. This week that is some fall kitchen towels and scented candles. Sometimes, the little things make a big difference. 🙂

    I find one key to “surviving” is to have regular routines that you follow as much as possible. That makes it easier to continue as much as you can normally, and it’s easier to get back on track after a transition or crazy time. The other thing is to keep it simple. Sometimes food & laundry are the only things you really need to get done in one day.

  7. Thank you for this! It’s a good reminder to keep a good perspective. I’m just starting to come out of the crazy (my boys are 6.5, 4.5, and nearly 3), but it will descend upon us again in a few months (I’m 1/2way through my pregnancy for #4). It’s funny that as I just start to come out of the fog and starting to feel again like myself, another round is coming my way, but this time I know I’m in a better place. Spending time in the Bible gives me the hope I need to get through my days and the assurance that I rely on the Lord and not my own power to get things done. I’m grateful to have a husband who has low expectations and is willing to help out for those times when things like laundry just don’t happen.

    1. You will survive!!! I had 3 boys and my 4th was a little girl. Ask fire help when you need it and enjoy that #4 will just go with the flow!!!!

  8. I have been in survival mode since my twins were born 2 years ago. Now I also have a newborn, we homeschool, and I help my hubby with his small business. Things that make my day go better are: avoid sugar so I can stay awake past 8 pm, get the two oldest (5&7) to help with the housework, get out of the house for at least half an hour, use the crockpot. I feel like these days will never end because my husband wants to have a lot more kids.

    1. You don’t mention how many kids you have, but I’m guessing you’re in the 5 to 6 range? I long for more babies now, despite the crazy times I know we experienced. I’m a little concerned though, when you say your husband wants more. Do you?

  9. Oh man! Can I ever relate to this post. My littlest turned 2 this summer. I thought I was finally going to be turning a corner (I feel like I’ve been in survival mode for the last 15 yrs), then my mom got really sick. I moved her into a facility & am still really involved day-to-day. I’m still parenting my kids, but now I’m also parenting my parents. It’s really weird and I’m definitely in survival mode. I agree though, that all of the years of prioritizing church, Bible study and family time have borne much fruit. The years do go by in a blink. I can’t imagine the regrets I’d have now if I’d put all of those things off “until I had time.”