Light through water: a summer recap

Light through water

(Read part 2 of this post, here.)


My mother is not a very empathetic person.

She has many wonderful qualities, but empathy is not one of her stronger traits.

Sometime this summer we were having a conversation over the phone.

“This summer has been so hard,” I said.

I then continued to give her a list of things that were hard. Among the top of the list:

  • taking care of 5 (five!) kids all day long, every day
  • staying on top of housework (impossible–see previous point)
  • needing patience but seeming to always run out at about 9 in the morning, which is a rather depressing way to begin the day.

I don’t even remember what my mom’s response was, other than, I know it was devoid of much sympathy.

You see, my mother comes from a long line of pioneer-stock women–the hardy, no-nonsense, let’s-find-solutions type.

Five kids? That’s nothing.

My mom had 7, my grandmother before her had 8. And my great-great grandmother? At points in her life in Sweden she was so poor they ate nothing but potato scraps & tree bark, worked 16 hours a day, & her skirt, when stuffed with straw, became her mattress at night which she shared with her many younger siblings. No, no, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

When Joseph was in his last year of law school & we were discussing potential employment opportunities, I suggested he could get a job in city not to far from where we lived.

“The commute’s not bad,” I said. “Only about an hour or so each way. Plenty of people do it.”

“I am not wasting two hours of my life every day in a car. I don’t care of plenty of other people do it. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m spending two precious waking hours of my day in a car. Knowing that other people have much longer or worse commutes wouldn’t make that commute any more bearable.”

He is right.

Knowing that other people have it worse, or more difficult, doesn’t do much by way of actually lightening your current burdens.

Can it give perspective? A greater sense of gratitude? Sure (& it ought to).

But it doesn’t take away the fact that you have burdens to bear, no matter how paltry they look in comparison to the plight of others.

So how was my summer, you ask. 

Awesome, hard, long, hot, soul-stretching.

It’s that last one humbled me to my knees. Not necessarily in prayer (although it did a bit of that too), but more in a metaphorical sense. There were so many points during the summer, when I thought, “I totally suck. I’m a horrible mother. I can’t do this. My house is mess. I’m yelling at my kids, & I’m at my wits end.”

Admittedly, now that the kids are back in school, a weight has been lifted. I feel lighter, happier, glad to be back in the rhythms of school time (I love you public school teachers!!).

I’m still mulling over what I learned, or what I should have learned from the summer.

At moments it felt dull, terribly long, while at other times I felt the joy of having my children around me–to see them light up as they talked about legos, or a fun fact that they learned from a book they just read.

At moments I felt my sanity slipping. My life seemed to be nothing more than a long stretch of days, where my mind became so numb with details & noise, chaos & clutter.

At moments I loved myself for choosing a life that is not easy, that doesn’t offer much by way of public accolades, & revolves around thinking much more about others than myself.

At moments I was convinced I was not cut out for the trade of full-time, hands-on, constant motherhood.

One day in August, I took the kids swimming.

You know how the light starts to turn in late summer–sort of autumnal, even in the middle of the day?

I remember diving into the pool, swimming underwater, feeling my body glide as I saw sunlight filter through the water. It was nothing but impressions really, because my eyes were closed, but I felt that light flicker & flash all around me. My body was long & light. I felt weightless & free.

I came up for air, saw Salem & Amalia splashing near the edge of the pool, the boys running after each other, the baby sitting content in the stroller, watching all of us.


  1. Aimee @ bainsteradventure
    on September 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm said:

    Oh my goodness! My summer exactly. I found myself in my closet trying some yoga breathing and hollering, “Mommy is not here right now” on more than one occasion. The more kids you have, the more challenging too much free time is. Free time- there’s a problem our great grandmothers didn’t have to deal with. Yay for school! (And mine are in public school this year too. How did I live without that? )

  2. Alanna
    on September 3, 2014 at 6:15 pm said:

    Welcome back!!!

    I can sooooo relate here. But I love your insight, “Knowing that other people have it worse, or more difficult, doesn’t do much by way of actually lightening your current burdens.” Very true.

  3. Nicole
    on September 3, 2014 at 9:20 am said:

    Welcome back, Janae! It may have been a long, tough summer, but you survived. Like you, I’m welcoming fall with open arms. 🙂

  4. Marlee
    on September 3, 2014 at 12:56 am said:

    Here’s hoping this post doesn’t actually recap your entire summer, because you sound exhausted and a little overwhelmed that you even made it! Did you have any fun at all? I hope so, but it didn’t come through here, and frankly, I feel worried now, for you, for Janae. This is not to say you shouldn’t express your true thoughts and feelings. In fact, that’s one of the things I like about your blog — that you seem like a real person. I don’t have children, but I’ve still really enjoyed many of your posts because I relate to growing up with traditional values. But as someone who works in healthcare, I just sense you may need a few more weeks off to breathe, enjoy the changes now that school has started, and do a few things for you! Either that, or you wrote this when you just really needed a nap!! 🙂 I hope you’re not back on the blog because you feel like you have to be. We, your readers, are here whenever you post, (and it’s great to see you back!) but for goodness sake, take care of you! And to your mother, yes, you’ve chosen to have multiple children like she did, but a little empathy from her would’ve been nice. Every family’s different, and maybe you could never have a meaningful conversation with her about it, but for your own sanity and to perhaps to improve your relationship, any chance you can tell her how much it would’ve meant to hear something supportive and encouraging that day? Perhaps you already did. O.K., I’ll stop meddling in your family affairs now. 🙂 Just hoping you’re not feeling quite as overwhelmed as it sounds today, and can do something in the next few days/weeks that makes you feel “weightless and free” for longer than a moment under water. Hugs.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 3, 2014 at 5:23 am said:

      Hi Marlee,

      So nice to hear from you!

      You’re right–I do sound exhausted! (And I was.) It was a challenging summer, & I realized, thanks to your comment, I didn’t fully explain why. So, in today’s post I go into more detail as to why things were tough AND good. You can read it here:

      You are so great to take the time to express your feelings, your concern, & love. THANK YOU! You’ve made my day, dear.

      Hope you have a marvelous day.


    • April
      on September 3, 2014 at 10:09 am said:

      I think every stay at home mother sounds exactly right you now. I do think you sound tired and overwhelmed and exhausted but so do the rest of us! Thanks for being real and putting a black and white tangible voice to what so many moms are feeling now!

  5. Kristi
    on September 2, 2014 at 9:18 pm said:

    Kids can suck the last itty bitty drop of energy from a Mom’s body. Have FIVE of them and one of them being a baby, who is 100% dependent on you, I’m impressed you came back to us!

    You rock. You are a rock star. You don’t need a straw stuffed skirt/mattress to be a strong woman. I promise. 🙂

    • Janae Wise
      on September 3, 2014 at 5:30 am said:

      Kristi, you are my FAVE. I can tell from all of your comments, just the kind of person you are, which is, the kind of person I would love to spend time with in real time. I agree–“Kids can suck the last itty bitty drop of energy from a Mom’s body”–and no one knows that better than a fellow mom in the trenches.

      “I’m impressed you came back to us!”
      I need this outlet, if nothing more for more sanity & well-being. I love connecting with you, & others who are just awesome. So yes, I’m back, & thrilled to be here. xo

  6. Brittany
    on September 2, 2014 at 9:16 pm said:

    Janae, you amaze me in every way. You’re doing so much good, and I can’t believe how much your kids have grown in only a few months. Gorgeous! It’s great to have you back!

  7. lfwfv
    on September 2, 2014 at 8:01 pm said:

    Five kids and a house is a lot. A whole lot. Cheering for you from the sidelines! Thank you, as always, for your honesty. So glad to enjoy your writing again 🙂

  8. Lois
    on September 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm said:

    Mine are 22,18 and 14 and I only have Georgian Bay to swim in (YES I am blessed!) but my youngest and I took the dog swimming at the “pets welcome” beach a few times. We didn’t swim a whole lot with the dog trying to save us when we went under at all or if we moved fast, but it was great fun. Even with only three “children” I did my share of nagging and even yelling AND the house is a mess.
    Take heart! Five young blessings, a full-time job, public school and a hubby not wanting to spend more time away from you all than he has to! I definitely empathize, but I know too you are a good mom and you will get through and see many streams of light as your family grows up. I have!

    • Janae Wise
      on September 3, 2014 at 5:24 am said:

      Thanks Lois, I LOVE your optimism. And you’re right–so many things to be thankful for!!

      Love that your dogs try to save you when you go under! Lucky you to have such great companions.


  9. Ricki
    on September 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm said:

    Welcome back! Your kids are stunning. 😉 Glad you got to have at least some time to think and enjoy not working. Looking forward to reading more! xo

  10. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on September 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm said:

    All in all it sounds like a rewarding summer if nothing else! Glad to have you back Janae 🙂

  11. Anna-Lena Stöwhase
    on September 2, 2014 at 1:10 pm said:

    Welcome back Janae, missed you during the summer. I was more than happy that school finally started again. Although in Germany we have only six weeks of holidays. But as you said, the house was a mess and I was screaming at the kids. Now I feel much more relaxed. Wonderful.
    I couldn’t believe that you went swimming with all your kids. I didn’t at all. My six year old is a very poor swimmer and my baby (10 months) would NEVER EVER sit in her stroller for more than five minutes. She gets up and climbs out of it.

  12. Kim M
    on September 2, 2014 at 11:49 am said:

    I don’t know why I didn’t go to the pool more this summer. It’s one of those things that are there and paid for but I just never seemed to make the time for. My biggest regret of the summer I’d say!