When You Want to Throw in the Towel on Motherhood
Several years ago, a friend joined me on an outing to a neighborhood park. She observed me speaking calmly to my child who was on the brink of a tantrum and saw the attitude change in my child as they scampered off to play, happy once again.
She told me later that she admired my parenting and was impressed with my ability to lovingly handle a difficult situation.
It was an aha moment for me, a peek into the reality of motherhood that I hadn’t glimpsed before that moment. Because I knew about the hundreds of moments when I was anything but calm as I responded to my children. I was well aware of my failures as a mom. My foray into motherhood had not been peaceful. The three hours of pushing to meet my firstborn should have been the first clue. This being a mom thing wasn’t going to be easy.
My oldest pushed all of the buttons, even the ones that I didn’t know I had. She tested every boundary and she didn’t fit into my neat little set of expectations. This frustrated me to no end, because while I wasn’t sure of my direction in life, I had felt confident that I would be a decent mom.
And then my second was born and from the very beginning, he was the sweetest thing you ever did see. His wistful brown eyes and his cute little face made it nearly impossible to discipline him. We soon discovered that his sweetness was also evident to other young children. He became the target for more aggressive children and I discovered my fierce mama bear nature that had been dormant prior to this time in my life. While there were some positives to this protectiveness, there were also some glaring negatives and my feelings of failure were compounded.
Enter my third little one who didn’t sleep through the night for the first 10 months (and the vast majority of those nights, the two of us slept on the couch together, chest to chest). I was exhausted. At the same time, my oldest continued to exert her strong willed nature and my middle was dealing with school situations that threatened his safety. We were living in a society that was big on appearances and status and I felt an immense pressure to prove myself. I continually felt like I was falling short.
So when my friend made her statement on that day in the playground, my heart was ready to hear what I believe God desired for me to hear. Rather than patting myself on the back, I realized a valuable truth that continues to impact my parenting to this day.
As a mom, I am not defined by the behavior of my children.
When they are awesome, I must praise God for it, because it is His work in them. When they are awful, I must pray for them, asking God to change their hearts, because He is the only one who can do that. They all have awesome moments and they all have awful moments, so if I allow those moments to determine my worth as a mom, I will be on an unending roller coaster of emotions. This is not what God intends for me!
Parenting like nothing else has taught me to have an absolute dependence on Jesus. I am incapable of doing this thing called motherhood without his sustaining hand at work in my life. My inadequacies are written on every page of this parenting journey, but covering all of that is God’s grace that is so abundant and more than enough.
As if having three children wasn’t enough to drive me daily to the throne of grace, God saw fit to bless us with our 4th. I have joked about the challenges of having a tween and a toddler, but this week, there was nothing funny about it. At a time when my oldest desperately needed to talk, my youngest was not willing to stay in her big girl bed and their Daddy was at a meeting. I felt pulled thin, almost to the point of breaking, and I was reminded of the truth that continues to resonate in my heart.
I will never be enough for my children, because I’m not supposed to be. That’s God’s job.
My biggest failure as a mother would be convincing my children that I was their everything, when my ultimate success should be pointing them to Jesus.
God has brought our family to a place that is not about appearances, but instead celebrates authenticity. I am so grateful for this and yet my people pleasing tendencies still creep in and I am at times overwhelmed by my need to prove myself or defend my children. There are times when I am embarrassed by their behavior, because they still don’t fit into the neat little boxes I thought they would fit into.
God’s grace covers all of this. When I feel like throwing in the towel on motherhood (and there are plenty of these moments!), God gently reminds me that I am not alone on this journey.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ~2 Corinthians 12:9
Like Paul, I am not afraid to admit my weaknesses if this means that Christ’s power will rest on me. My greatest mistake would be to think I could do this thing in my own strength.
When I am weak, He is strong!
Please don’t admire me when my kids are awesome. It is all Jesus. And please don’t judge me when my kids are awful. Their Creator is still at work.
This focus is what keeps me from throwing in the towel. All for God’s glory.