Today is finally March. I had thought by now surely my cabin fever would’ve subsided, but alas, it rages on! This has been the longest winter I can remember and trying to keep three kids under six occupied while plunking out a book has been no easy task.
But yesterday, I finally followed my own advise for how to “treat” cabin fever: i.e. getting out into the elements that make you feel trapped. My son and I worked for a long time on the glacier he’s been building all winter alongside our house (for what it’s worth, I’ve often thought of inviting Al Gore to show An Inconvenient Truth on the side of said not-so-melty glacier!). It was wonderful. After we finished working on it (my job was to build a wall for the “dungeon”), we both sat, rested, and chatting seven-or-so feet above ground on its top, all the while watching the sun set. It was one of my favorite moments this winter.
But anyway, this advice I have? It came from an article I wrote for MOMSense earlier this winter. Here’s a bit of what I wrote in “Cabin Fever: The ‘ins and outs’ of this seasonal condition,” which first appeared in the January/February 2008 issue of MOMSense magazine:
Last winter, when my preschoolers discovered fighting, I thought I’d lose my mind. I remember sitting in front of our bay window, rubbing my very pregnant belly, looking out into the whirling snow as they fought over something in the next room. I figured their newfound fighting was just another fierce symptom of what had plagued our house for weeks. We were experiencing one of modern motherhood’s greatest winter-weather maladies: “cabin fever.” I started longing for springtime.
If you’re reading this article on your sunny portico in San Diego or somewhere else with perfect weather, you’re probably thinking, Cabin what? But you know what I mean if you’ve ever struggled with being cooped up and feeling trapped as driving snow, pouring rain or blowing wind keeps you from enjoying the world beyond your home. And you also know the craziness cabin fever can inflict on a family with preschoolers!
Winter brings with it some wonderful family fun with snow-filled hills and frozen ponds. But during long, gray winters, the times of truly enjoying the season are few and far between. It’s in this “far between” time that cabin fever strikes a household. And as you try to remedy the symptoms with endless fun indoor activities, you can experience agitation, frustration, boredom and gloom.
But anyone whose family has been stricken with cabin fever knows while we can find temporary fixes, we look forward to springtime. We know that bursting through doors (coat-free!) into the warmer spring weather, running wild with our kids under a wide sky and bright sun, and breathing in fresh air will help cure us.
If only these solutions worked so well for the other kind of cabin fever. Because, of course, cabin fever doesn’t only hit when we’re cooped up in a house with preschoolers. Cabin fever can occur when we’re cooped up in life with preschoolers! As much as we adore our children, the demands of mothering them can leave us feeling a tad closed in ourselves.
I’ve struggled with this kind of cabin fever since I left full-time work to stay home with my eldest son. I’ve never regretted this decision. But I’ve frequently felt the sensation of life moving on without me as I sit “stuck” in the house waiting for one child to wake up while trying to get another one down. I’m often anxious to burst out into wide skies and sunlight (ah, freedom!). And when I feel like I’ve left the “real me” back at the office (because this near-crazed, frustrated and exhausted woman can’t possibly be me!), I long for springtime.
Unfortunately, wishing for spring means wishing away a season I don’t really want to go away. As challenging as this time of my life is, I love these years with my kids. They’re as full of wonder and fun as they are tantrums and time-outs. While this may be the season of feeling cooped up, it’s also a season of freely offered hugs, snuggles, silliness and play. And unlike actual seasons, these times with our preschoolers don’t come back. We only get one shot.
To avoid cabin fever, experts advise getting out into the very elements that keep you housebound—and enjoying them. I love this wisdom. Turns out, the cure for cabin fever is contentment—enjoying what we’ve been given when it’s given. That’s God’s advice, too—learning to be content with whatever my circumstances are because he gives me the strength.
I make no bones that these suggestions are easier to type than to follow (especially since springtime didn’t cure my kids of their fighting!). However, this winter—and in each “winter” of motherhood—I’m giving this a whirl: keeping my eyes off spring and trusting that the cure for cabin fever is in living and loving the season I’m in. I hope you’ll join me. Now bundle up and enjoy!