Sunday, March 5, 2017

Parenting is hard.

I love being a mother. As a young child people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would often say without hesitation, "I want to be a mommy when I grow up!" I meant that truly. It did not mean I didn't have aspirations for any other things, but to me that was my highest calling. Motherhood. Fast forward 30 years later and I am a mother of four beautiful children, ages spanning from 9 years to 4 months old. The Lord has blessed our family immensely. They are so precious and healthy and well, in fact, that I often feel like I don't have the right to even confess or utter some of my own struggles of motherhood.

Lately I've run into fellow frazzled mothers that are trying so hard and wearing  themselves out in their parenting years. It is all consuming. Nursing around the clock and feeling like a human pacifier,  separating fights among siblings like a WWE referee, making nutritious meals like Rachael Ray, doing laundry at midnight so your child can wear their favorite shirt the next day, doing homework with your child that melts down at the very thought of a double digit addition problem, and putting the human boomerangs back to bed for the bazillionth time that night. "Just one last hug!" (Insert sigh here). I see common threads of reward and exhilaration for being a loving and diligent mother, and yet also exhaustion, overwhelming frustration, and downright discouragement too. We wouldn't trade our roles as mothers to our children for anything in the world. It is a priceless honor. And yet, we often feel guilty for even muttering the words, "This is hard." Parenting is hard. I will admit it. It's not that any one task is difficult, but the accumulation of daily tasks day after day that seem to pile up and often lead to a potential mental breakdown when we're not proactive about taking care of ourown needs. You know the old adage of putting on your own oxygen mask before you can help others to put their own mask oxygen on in order to not pass out. But who has time for that, right?? I know I am guilty of not putting mine on first. Too busy to care for my own needs when there is a baby crying and lunches to be made. Who's with me?!

The other night, I was parenting my 4 young kiddos without my husband who was in a night class, and all was going fairly well until a routine brotherly squabble was the straw that broke the camels back. And I was the camel. I hadn't realized that my own tension was mounting as high as it had been. It's hard to explain until you go through it. The littlest infraction that your child does seems to send you into a tailspin. Looking back, I can think with a level head that it wasn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but in the moment it's huge. Huuuge. In the heat of the moment, you feel the physiological effects of anger or frustration with your heart racing, your body temperature increasing and your patience leaving. Fast. Often times you mentally feel like you could snap or crumble. Your rational side has gone by the wayside. And I know for you, mom, in those moments it's huge for you too. It's easy for an outsider looking in and think that you're overreacting with your feelings of frustration. But just like a small dripping faucet, at first it doesn't bother you, but eventually the constant sound makes you feel like you're going insane. Bonkers. To the nut house! (Even when in reality, it's just a moment of frustration and not worthy of a medical diagnosis!) Parenting is hard. After my "breaking point" the other day, I had to walk outside (with baby still safely attached in my sling) to take a deep breath (or 2 or 12) cry out to the Lord for help and clarity of thought, and I walked back in to what seemed like the lions den...when in fact the children were repentant and eager to make things right. Thank. You. Jesus. (And the thoughtful husband even came home with flowers and a sweet and funny card after I texted him what a mentally tough night it had been.)

Sometimes we need that time to pause and step away from a tense parenting situation, and I'm here to say: You're not the only one. A lot of times as mothers (or fathers!) we think that everyone else has it all together. They have all their ducks in a row. Except you. That is a lie from Satan. No one has the corner on the market of perfect parenting. We are all doing our best and some just appear to be doing it better than others. Or maybe they just have a larger range of parental perspective to realize that this too shall pass. But I will tell you that you, dear friend, have a unique gift that the other mother across the street may not have. God made us all with different talents and abilities and ways to nurture our children. He gave us the children he gave us for a reason. You're the exact mother that they need. They don't need Susie homemaker to be their mother. They need you. Even if that means they get Happy Meals more often than you'd like to admit. And that's ok. They will survive! You have their best interest at heart. You, dear one, are chosen by God to be His adopted daughter, redeemed and loved for eternity. He sees you as you nurture your babies as they're sick throughout the night. He sees you as you're picking up toys under the couch once again with knees crackling, and He sees you as you kiss them on the head when they are finally resting peacefully. And He created you to be the loving mother that you are, by His grace and mercy. The Lord sings over you even in the moments where you feel like you are at your weakest. When you feel like you have nothing left to give, He is still there and He has not left you. Motherhood can be a lonely place when we don't make a point to find community and discover that listening ear when we are physically present with another person that gets it. God created us with the need for relationships with those who can lift one another up, and even when it means getting out of your comfort zones, we need to do it. We have to step out and be vulnerable because I've learned from experience that it's not a good place to stay in the mode of self-pity, even when it seems justified. It's vital for our mental health and well-being to have relationships with other mothers especially in this difficult season. After nurturing your relationship with the Lord, and a healthy marriage with your spouse, your oxygen mask may be a coffee break to share your heart with a neighbor, running a 5K with a motivated friend, or a splurging for a much needed pedicure with your bestie. You know what you need to refuel.

And it's OK to admit that parenting is hard. But God is there giving you strength along the way and the Lord sees YOU and all you're doing to raise your children to love God and keep his commandments. I encourage you today to reach out to a friend or neighbor just like you wish someone had done for you on your most difficult times. We all have those days and most likely a friend is having that moment right now where they might need you. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He often lays friends on our hearts for a reason. And after that connection, they will be more likely to be there for you when you need it too, as great friendships rooted in Christ blossom and grow. I believe that's a win-win situation.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.