Thursday, August 16, 2018

Motherhood is full of pain

I'm not a natural mother. Perhaps the phenomenon of a “natural mother” does not exist but culturally the idea thrives and makes mothers all around the world feel guilty.

I thought I would love motherhood. Not every second, of course. No one loves everything all the time. But I had the general idea that while the road would be rocky at times, most of the parenting process would be straightforward and rewarding. I thought I would just “know what to do” when my child threw tantrum or peed on the floor. I thought that after birth, when I brought my beautiful child into the world, things would just fall into place and the cogs would turn as they do in well-oiled machinery. In short, I didn't plan.


Instead what I found of motherhood (so far, in my three years) is a lot of work and very little reward. My cogs are broken, if I am supposed to have them.The edges are all worn off and they don't fit together anymore. What God has given me is a puzzle without all the pieces. I don't know what I am doing half the time and I exist in a perpetual state of desperate prayer and half-guesses. I feel always behind and shortchanged. I look about for rest, and find none. I look about for my compensation for the hours of work—and find, usually, a hungry husband awaiting his supper at the table. The rewards of motherhood seem scant, at least the kind of rewards I can hold in my hand and tangibly see.

I am tired. I work from dawn to dusk. There are always tasks unfinished. There are always small moments missed where I should have pointed my child to Jesus but didn't. There are the failures I count over in my head as I am nursing the baby to sleep, if I have any thoughts left to spare in my exhaustion. There is the guilt. I didn't do well enough. I lost my temper. I cried. We watched too much TV. I didn't take him to the park. I didn't reach out to my friends.

Motherhood to me seems like a lot of lonely moments and missed opportunities measured against my guilty shortcomings. Who in their right mind would chose this life? It's hard. And as I said above, motherhood does not come naturally to me: it's a lot of hard work. It's not fulfilling, it's not rewarding: at least not in worldly rewards like money.


That is because the rewards of motherhood are not of this world. God didn't write “raise up your children and you will feel fulfilled and be richly blessed”. Because motherhood does not fulfill me on any sort of human, worldly level.

The rewards of motherhood are all spiritual. I am learning about God while raising my children. God is pruning my branches as I traverse toddler-hood. The heavenly father is teaching me patience, gentleness, kindness and humility. And I must submit to his will and to his teaching: not fight him for what I think I should have or how I think motherhood should look.

While on Earth motherhood is a lot of grief as you watch your child go through trials of all kinds and generally fail at making good God-honoring decisions. Our children, like their parents before them, live in a fallen world. They are subject to the whims of their own sin nature.

Thus we mothers sit here in perpetual prayer for the safekeeping of our offspring, daily beseeching God to keep them safe. Safe from themselves. Safe from vices, cancers, drunk drivers, abusive relationships...the list goes on and on and nothing is more broken than a mother's heart when we see our children hurt, be it physically or emotionally. Yet we must bear it.

While motherhood is mostly a world of heartache here at our temporary home on Earth: the abounding spiritual gifts of motherhood overflow! So do not despair, dear lonely mother. The joy of the Lord is everlasting, even in the midst of sorrow of hardship. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Despair of Motherhood

Sometimes I wake up and I'm so tired I can't move. I lay there next to Rebekah (usually the one who woke me up) and try to figure out how to get myself out of bed and start my day. My mind starts to run through my to-do list. Presently my toddler wakes up, crawls on top of me, asks if it's daytime and demands to go downstairs. With me, of course. Because going downstairs by yourself when you are three is impossible.

Yesterday Reuben, the aforementioned three-year-old, threw a thirty minute no-holds-bar tantrum about sharing his toys with his sister. I tried to patiently explain to him that sharing is fun, and that he only had to share one of his balls (he has a ball pit with hundreds of balls in it) but he wasn't having it. I told him if he didn't want to share he could take his toys to his room and play there. He didn't want to play there--he wanted the impossible; for the baby to not want to touch "his toys" even though she is six months old and into anything that is in front of her.


Today he threw a tantrum about toast. I'm talking screaming, crying, throwing himself on the floor hysterics. He didn't want the toast he had asked for earlier (when I gave him a choice between toast or oatmeal). I explained to him he asked for toast, and thus I had made toast. So he had to eat toast. This was apparently an unreasonable expectation.

When my toddler has these extreme outbursts of emotions I am always caught off guard. I mean, it isn't rational (to me at least) to cry and scream over toast, or sharing. Lets not even talk about the crying in public.

That reminds me of something else that happened. Last week I forgot my baby carrier for Becky so I put her in the stroller. I didn't realize that Reuben thought of the stroller as his. He screamed for about 10 minutes about it. People stared. But I couldn't hold a baby and buy whole chickens and eggs and things, so it had to be done. I think Reuben is still upset.


Sometimes when everyone is crying and I am exhausted, I despair. I wonder if this season of small babies is ever going to end and I am ever going to sleep through the night. I wish people would stop touching me and demanding my time--I dream of getting a moment to myself to breathe, but even in the shower I am accosted by my husband who can't find clothes, diapers, or kitchen utensils like a grown adult.

I wonder if Jesus feels the same way about my prayers.

Motherhood is harder than I ever imagined. It is like being refined by fire. Many times I feel like I  can't go on. Many times I fall on my face before Jesus and try, by his strength alone, to keep pushing forward. Navigating my marriage, interpersonal relationships, cooking, teaching my children, cleaning my house and chores--and attempting to care for my own hygiene and interests is a complicated juggling act that requires me to be the best person I can be at all times.

Even at my lowest I feel the tender love of Jesus calming the choppy waters with his everlasting peace. He reminds me that raising children for his glory is my purpose, and that caring for my husband is the way I worship God, and that he is ever pruning me as I traverse these toddler years. I cling to that when I want to throw in the towel.

God is good. Even when my life is falling apart and my anxiety is sky high, God is still good. My despair is human, but I have a heavenly father to lean on and I don't have to do this alone, even when I feel alone.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

how to be happy when your husband works late

1) Don't save anything to do when he gets home.

I used to "save" the dishes, sweeping or other chores for when my husband came home. He minds Reuben so I can easily work without interruptions. However, this meant when my husband arrived home there was a lot to do (and I was rushed and anxious) OR he came home too late and Becky was ready to nurse and not play with Daddy, or I was too exhausted to do chores. Now I try to get the dishes, laundry and chores done before 5pm so everyone can rest whether or not daddy is home.  This way there is no expectations of work in the evening and daddy working late does not throw off our groove.


2) I don't expect a break when he gets home.

I've said this before, but one of the main reasons I get so upset in the evening is my expectation for some type of break. I've worked hard all day, I deserve a break, right? Well, not really. I deserve nothing. Expecting no break has helped my sour mood become less...sour. Yes, I do get breaks. But not all the time. I have humbly come to realize running a household, managing my children are ways I worship God. Seeing chores and parenting and marriage from a holy standpoint has greatly influenced my mood and expectations surrounding personal rest time.  It's also helped them feel less like "lists of things I begrudgingly have to do" and more like worship.

3) Treat my husband with love and respect and always be happy to see him.

One way to a grumpy evening is to be upset with my husband just because he's late. Right when he arrives. Or send him desperate text messages letting him know I am sitting there waiting for him to save me from being crawled upon by two hooligans. Is he two hours late? Three?! Why?! Nothing like a sour, upset worn out wife crabbing at you right as you walk in the door to make your evening sparkle, yeah? Hah. Now I try to act happy to see him no matter who is melting down and how tired I am, and no matter what time it is. At least he's finally home, right? I try to treat him with respect. I mean, he does not walk in the door crabbing at me, so why should I crab at him right when he gets home, even if it's late? It's not like he wants to be late or chose to be late: he had to work overtime to fix an issue or get his code finalized, or whatever engineers do.


4) I realized he wants to be home too.

I don't know why this one didn't occur to me, but often I would feel like my husband was punishing me by working late. Like he did it just to make me upset or angry or because he didn't want to take responsibility for our household and help me at home. Once I realized that internally I was feeling this way, I legit wanted to laugh at how ridiculous it sounded. Sure, my husband is not perfect and he can be dense as a newly hewn log, but he loves his family and does help a lot! He cooks, he holds babies, he changes poop. He wants to be home with us. He works late because he wants to keep his job (and so do I) and that is that.

5) I no longer let him being late put me in a bad mood.

A lot of what I am learning in my 30s is that while I can't control what the world gives to me, I can control my output: aka my mood. In my 20s I let my emotions control me more often than I would like to admit.

I don't have to like that my husband is working late, but I also don't have to let it completely destroy my day. I can have (gasp) a positive outlook about it! I can be an adult and work hard on my end to make sure our house is in order. I don't need to crab at the kids. I don't need to feel upset and defeated. I can be okay even when he works late. I am in control of my response. Mind blown.


6) Set realistic exceptions.

This one applies to the whole topic of raising kids. I expect myself to get too much done, and I expect my husband to arrive home at a reasonable hour and help me to get things done. This is preposterous, as he's always late! Now I try to set realistic expectations to help curb the let-down feeling that arrives as the eight hour work day rolls on by, sans husband. After five years of being married to a computer engineer I expect him to be late now. But I still hope. I try to realize he will probably be at least an hour late every day. Usually two hours. And I plan for the days where he will be very late, and bedtime will have to be completed solely by me.

These are the things I try and do to keep the peace in our household when my husband works late. What do you do? Please give me all the tips.

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