Being a mom is a blessing. At the same time it’s hard.
As a child I put motherhood on a pedestal, holding many romanticized notions. I’d coddle my baby dolls until they were threadbare, stroll them around the house, and line them up neatly to teach school. Being kind was easy because they were always content. I could abandon them on a whim and return hours later, their smiles plastered in place.
But there’s a difference between live babies and inanimate ones, and only an insider can understand the relentless demands of the real thing. Prior to joining the mom club, I’d see a beautiful child dressed up and think how much fun it’d be to have my own. I never considered the legwork required to get that child out the door: the cajoling her out of bed, the scrambling to iron her dress, the time spent fixing breakfast, brushing teeth, and fighting to get a bow in her hair.
On a good day I love being a stay-at-home mom and I’m grateful to have the option. But some days I wish I could trade places with my husband.
I wish I was the one working and he was stuck at home dealing with temper tantrums, stomach bugs, clogged toilets, potty training disasters, home emergencies, carpools, sibling fights, and dirty laundry.
I envy his quiet office, his quiet commute to work, and the fixed hours of his job.
I feel guilty for wanting school to start because with all the fun and joy of summer, too much together time makes my kids haywire. By this point they’re at each other’s throats, pushing me to the brink, and making me wonder what I’m doing so wrong that I can’t keep anyone happy for long.
Times like these, my blessings lose clarity. The camera lens shifts and gets hazy around the edges. I lose sight of what my children are – gifts from God – and hone in on the negatives. Sassy attitudes. Ungratefulness. Cutting remarks. Hitting. Strangling each other. Whining. Breaking my iPad. Staining my bedspread. Getting paint on the carpet downstairs. Forgetting to take the dog out and then stepping in her poop…
Again and again I literally have to scream, “Help me, Lord!” to keep from cussing. I have to walk away, take a breath, or bite my tongue to keep from snapping. But sometimes, I can’t hold back. I react with anger and yell because I’m tired and beat down and can’t take it anymore. I’m not proud of these moments, nor am I justifying my behavior, because losing it with my kids eats at my conscience as I lie awake in bed at night, asking God to help me control myself and be a better mom.
We all have breaking points, but what makes a mother’s breaking point hard to accept is how it completely contradicts our heart. How can we hurt the people we’d walk through fire for? How can we be cruel to the beautiful souls we ushered into this world?
When our children are newborns, love is so simple. We gush and shower them with affection because they’re cuddly, helpless, and irresistible. But as our babies grow up, they become real people. They learn to talk back, stomp feet, and demand things. When it’s just one child talking back and stomping feet, we can keep our cool, but when multiple children do it at once….well, eventually Momma’s gonna blow.
I don’t have solutions of how to never lose your temper, because I’m working on this myself, but I can share some thoughts that help me when my parenting lens gets out of whack. I can throw out truths we all know deep down but tend to forget in the heat of the moment, such as:
#1: Children are blessings, not burdens. To raise a child is an honor that can transform our life in powerful ways.
#2: Our children are young and still learning. We can’t expect of them what we expect of adults because their minds and maturity aren’t there yet. How they act at 3, 5, 10, and 15 is probably how we acted at 3, 5, 10, and 15. What helped mold us – patience, love, grace – is what they need too. It takes time to train a child in the way they should go and teach what is and isn’t acceptable.
#3: Yelling solves nothing. As Rumi once said, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” While we may get a temporary high in the five seconds we’re releasing steam, that high is immediately offset by a crash of remorse. If we can take a moment to remember how terrible we’ll feel afterward, we may stop ourselves from snapping.
#5: Part of love is reconciliation. Asking our kids to forgive us when we mess up teaches us humility and teaches them that to err is human, to forgive is divine.
#6: We live in a world where it’s okay to rant about kids. I’m all for moms trading war stories and offering moral support, but too much commiserating can become a habit. It can drag us all down and fuel the belief that parenting is drudgery. Parenting is not drudgery. It is a gift with huge challenges but far greater rewards. We need people in our circle who can remind us of that. We need moms who can listen and empathize but not accompany us down a negative path.
#7: Conjuring up images of our children as babies can soften our hearts instantly. Remember how we swaddled them in blankets…bathed them in the kitchen sink…held them in a fetal position as they slept on our chest? Would we have ever yelled at those warm lumps? No, of course not. They were too vulnerable. The children who test us today are the same children we brought home from the hospital years ago. On the outside they’re tougher and more self-sufficient, but inside they’re still hungry for love and approval. To our children we represent the world. For them to trust the world they must first trust us.
#8: How we talk to our kids will affect how they’ll talk to their children. Parenting perpetuates itself, so the way we want our grandchildren raised is how we should seek to raise our children.
#9: God matched us with our children for a reason. The gifts we bring to the table are precisely what they need to thrive. Rather than bash ourselves and wish we were like other parents, let’s pray for guidance on how to channel our talents and life experiences to positively impact our children’s journeys. God loves our children more than we do and wants us to excel. To receive help, all we have to do is ask. In God’s eyes we’re the perfect imperfect person to raise our kids. His grace is sufficient to cover our mistakes and shortcomings.
My children and your children have beautiful hearts. And when we focus our lens there, on the purity and goodness inside them, all the little complications in the peripheral blur. What’s a carpet stain compared to the beautiful art they painted for our birthday? What’s a sibling fight compared to the way they huddle together in prayer when one sibling is seriously hurt and everyone’s worried? What’s a sassy remark compared to the joyful leap our heart experiences when our toddler says, “I love you, Momma. You the best Momma ebber!”? Even if our child’s been difficult all day, that memory fades fast when we hear their angelic voice one room over singing “Jesus Loves Me.”
In moments like these, all is forgiven. Our lens sharpens to the singular emotion that propels our parenting: Love. Big, intense, camera-breaking love. Love that swells and swells past the point of being captured. When love this large enters the picture, our blessings come in focus. We see them, savor them, and thank God for them.
Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart, and we’ll all endure battle wounds, but if battle wounds and a few broken household items are the price we pay to know love of epic proportions, then so be it. Some may consider this a fair trade-off, but if our camera’s in focus it becomes crystal-clear that what we’re getting is actually the deal of a lifetime.
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Have a great day!