Survival Mode: The point at which you do whatever possible or absolutely necessary to survive. To make it through. To keep everyone alive and mostly well. To keep your sanity somewhat intact. To just survive.
At our house it looks a lot like fast food, skipping baths, lots of TV time, a stressed-out mama, off the chain boys, a hungry dog who is not only waiting on supper but also on the opportunity to go out and do her business, a messy house, 1 or more boys being slightly neglected while I take care of 1 or more other boys, etc, etc, etc. I'm sure I could think of more survival mode examples but I think I'll stop there and just let you use your imagination. To sum it up, it's desparate. It's out of energy and ideas and good parenting skills. It's just surviving and getting by and not much else.
(I know I sound dramatic and extreme, but given I just experienced full-blown survival mode last night, I think I'm coming from a sincere and pretty accurate place.)
For our family survival mode typcially occurs when Terrell or I (or both) are sick, OR, when Terrell has to work really late. That's when things get crazy and we just do what we have to do to make it to bedtime because sometimes that's all you can do. Sometimes you have to feed the kids McDonald's while the house remains a disaster zone and the dog barks and begs for supper and a potty break and the kids either skip a bath or give themselves a bath (hahaha) and bedtime is a 3 ring circus act (literallly, one act for each boy), before they're finally asleep and you think you've made it... only to realize the dog still hasn't been tended to and neither has the McDonald's trash. Ahhhhhh. The craziness of it all is overwhelming.
However, thankfully for us, survival mode has always been a sort of rare occurrence. We aren't sick that often, Terrell's back doesn't go out too regularly, and Terrell typically doesn't have after hours meetings/obligations with work or much travel.
I may have mentioned my husband's going to be working and/or traveling quite a bit this Fall. He's basically going to be away traveling or working late at least once a week and up to a whole week every week until the week of Thanksgiving. (And then again in January, I just can't think about that right now) And up until last night I've tried my best not to be dramatic about it. I've remained supportive and confident in my abilities to hold down the fort and very go with the flow about it all. We even made it through his first traveling dates last week with no issues. Praise the Lord!
Unfortunately last night just wasn't so good. My survival mode tendancies came out and I barely made it to bedtime. The boys were fine (at least I hope they aren't scarred), me not so much. There was drama and yelling and exhaustion and craziness. Ughhh. By the time I made it to bedtime I was worn out and defeated and determined to find a better way. Because survival mode is okay every once in a while. It's fine and necessary for those rare occasions when you just have to do what you have to do. But every single time daddy is away this Fall? That's not okay. Last night is not how I want the boys to experience half of our Fall season.
So I'm going to be changing my approach. I'm going to prepare and plan for and do my best to implement some normalcy while I'm on my own in the coming weeks. I know I will have some nights like last night. It's probably inevitable. Survival mode isn't always a bad thing, it's just a bad thing for me to resort to over and over and over again during the next month and a half.
It's so funny to me how during the day I'm totally fine going at it solo and being way out-numbered. It's just my thing. I still have moments when I lose my cool and yell and make mistakes, but I never panic and I never go into survival mode (unless I'm sick I guess). But in the evenings when it comes to feeding everybody, bathing everybody, taking care of everybody, and getting everybody to bed all on my own, things get crazy (and ugly) and tend to fall apart. And that's what I really want to change. That, and the fast food, too much TV, lack of good hygiene, and drama-filled wildness that usually occurs.
I want to be able to cook for my boys, let them play, manage to have a somewhat normal bathtime, and keep our usual bedtime routine intact. I want things to feel relaxed and predictable for them. I don't want to be on such a short fuse just because I'm by myself that they get in trouble for every little thing and then finally just start acting out like crazy little people because they're feeding off of my flustered, panic-mode lack of confidence and consistency. I want a realistic game plan that works for everybody and I want to enjoy my time with them. I don't want to just wish away all this time I'll be on my own with Terrell out of town or working late. I know I'll have help from the grandparents some days and I'm so grateful to be here in the hometown where I can call back-up anytime, I just want to be prepared for the days and nights when I'll have to be on my own or when it's best for me to be on my own.
The biggest thing I'm going to focus on is getting out of the house in the afternoon after homework is done. If the weather is nice I want to take advantage and just get them outdoors to move and run and play hard. I also want to plan some simple meals. And I think I'm going to start focusing totally on Layton first at bathtime/bedtime, and then once he's in bed take care of the big boys. Who knows if any of this will work or how it will go, but I have to start somewhere. I'm sure it's going to be trial and error for a while, but I'm determined to find a better way. Survival mode is supposed to be a last resort, rare thing so I'm making it my goal to keep it that way.
Like the Casting Crowns song says It's time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive.
And that's exactly what I intend to do. Gulp. It's a tall order and lofty goal but I have to try my best for my boys. Time to start praying and seeking wisdom and patience and strength and energy. Goodbye survival mode!
(Until I'm really desparate.)