It’s six o’ clock in the morning and my boys are awake. They “sneak” into my bedroom and try to crawl into bed with me. I sleepily protest and send them back to their room. I can hear them jumping off their beds and wrestling each other to the floor as I doze back to sleep for a few minutes, only to be forced out of bed by the hungry cries of my five month old daughter.
I try to rub the sleep out of my eyes as my daughter persistently nurses. It had been another “cat-nap” night as I drowsily attended to a son’s nightmare induced sobs, followed soon after by a late night feeding for baby.
Secretly I hoped the boys didn’t hear me get out of bed to nurse, but it’s a fruitless thought. They burst into the room, complaining that their stomachs hurt because they are SO hungry, and it’s settled. Despite my honest need for a few more minutes of rest, there will be no crawling back into bed for me.
Dragging myself into the kitchen, I set about to make everyone breakfast. My youngest son is persistently pleading for “onah,” oblivious to my reminders that oatmeal takes a few minutes to prepare. My oldest son can’t decide what he wants, but is determined to adamantly disagree with every suggestion that I offer.
I wait impatiently for my coffee to brew so I can get my daily dose of caffeine. I never drank coffee before I had children, but it now has become a non-negotiable part of my morning routine. There is finally enough liquid in the pot for me to fill up my cup. I doctor it up with cream and sugar and look forward to my much-needed breakfast beverage.
Before I can enjoy my first sip, however, the microwave beeps at me, letting me know the “onah” is ready. I thoughtlessly leave my coffee on the table and make my way toward the microwave as I hear the unmistakable sound of spit leaving a little mouth. I instinctively turn around, just in time to see my almost three-year old “blowing” into my cup.
“NOOOOOO!” But it’s too late. There is a slippery string of drool dangling from his mouth down to the rim of my mug. Frustration mingles with sleep deprivation and I can’t stop the sharp words that fly out of my mouth…
I love my children, but sometimes I hate being a mom.
Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. I don’t really hate being a mom, but there are days that I wish I could throw off the mommy hat and just be Christy. Where did she go? I hardly hear that name anymore. Now it’s, “mom this” and “mom that.” Even my husband refers to me as “mom” around the house. When did the seven letters of my name morph into three?
I used to have an identity outside of my home and my children. I have a master degree in Christian Education. I had a career in ministry for eight years. And I used to have lots of interests and hobbies, even though I can’t quite remember what any of them are at the moment because it’s been awhile since I did any of them! But I promise that I WAS (and still am) a really interesting person!
Sometimes I really miss the days when I could go where I wanted, when I wanted, without having to worry about anyone but myself. Those were the days when I stayed up past ten o’clock and could sleep in (SLEEP IN!) past eight in the morning. I could talk on the phone without having to stop every 10 seconds to hush a child or break up a fight. I could leave my house wearing clothes without spit-up stains and finger print smudges.
Believe it or not, there was also a time when I could eat a hot meal, and have it all to myself, without someone asking for something off my plate. Or when I could walk through my house without fear of stubbing my toe or tripping over blocks, matchbox cars, or other random objects that have since become part of an imaginary game of “good guys, bad guys.”
My room has never been a “quiet sanctuary” or a place of “personal solace,” as it’s apparently supposed to be, according to an interior decorator that was featured on an old Oprah episode. (That woman was obviously not a mother of young children). It has always been a bit of a disaster, but at least it was my own personal disaster. Now my room has become the family dumping ground for everything that apparently doesn’t have a place anywhere else. And my bed has become the greatest wrestling mat in the history of the world.
The one place in my house, where I can sneak away when I need a little quiet time, is the master bath. I never used to spend a lot of time in the shower, but now a steamy 10 minute number is like a relaxing day trip to an Aveda Spa! Of course on the days I forget to lock my door, the spa transforms into a noisy community bath.
Speaking of bathrooms, I had no idea mine would become the place where the whole family feels the need to gather. Isn’t that supposed to be the kitchen? Apparently, a closed bathroom door is an open invitation to play “peek- a- boo” with whoever is currently occupying the space. And don’t even get me started about all the things I have had to clean up that have been outside of the confines of the porcelain throne inside the bathroom.
All kidding aside, I think the thing I like least about being a parent is that it requires me to be self-aware. And when I take a hard look at myself, I realize just how far from perfect I really am. This is really hard for someone who likes to at least appear to have it all together.
I’ve come to realize that children are like a mirror. Not some magic mirror from a fairy tale story that only shows you the things you want to see. No, they are like those little magnifying cosmetic mirrors that expose all the wrinkles, blemishes, and personal imperfections that we try so hard to cover up and hide.
They reveal my insecurities, mood swings, lack of patience, selfishness, and a tendency to lose my temper. They not only reveal these things, but sometimes they model it right back at me, like a giant smack in the face.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids are no angels. They are extremely capable of acting up on their own volition, and regularly do, sometimes on a minute to minute basis. On those days I have to remember the advice of someone wiser than me who said, “You gave birth to little sinners! Don’t be surprised or take it personally when they misbehave!”
But as much as I would like to point the finger and sidestep any responsibility for their bad behavior, I can’t deny that there are definitely moments where I see and hear my own words and less than flattering tendencies playing out before my eyes.
I recall a recent conversation where my oldest son innocently asked me, “Mom, would you like it if dad took us (the boys) to Cabela’s today, so you don’t have to deal with us?”
“Don’t have to deal with you?” How often has he heard me say that in the midst of an angry rant or one of my own adult “temper tantrums?”
Parenting is the most amazing journey I have ever been on. I honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world. But it is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I had no idea how mentally and emotionally exhausting it could be, and how much self-sacrifice that it would require. The demand to constantly “die to self” is sometimes beyond overwhelming. If I’m honest, there are days I would just rather not do it.
Why? The answer is simple: because I’m human. That, and I often feel ill-equipped, fearful that I’m not doing a good job, and at times weak. And I HATE feeling weak!
My selfish pride and stubborn desire to control can creep in so easily and start to rob the joy that could be present, even in the most difficult circumstances. Instead of taking a deep breath and letting the little things go, I can cling tightly to the need to “win” the inevitable battles that break out in my house. And in the process I often end up angry and my kids are the recipients of a needless barrage of frustration spewed forth, followed by instant guilt and remorse on my end.
What am I doing?! I can’t do this Lord! Why is this so hard? Why did you give me such difficult kids?! These are some of the destructive thoughts that might swirl in my mind…
But then, like an unexpected hug from one of my children, there are those Holy Spirit Breakthroughs. Those gentle soul whispers: “You are okay. Your kids are okay. Remember Christy, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
It’s so true. His power is perfected in my weakness. Sometimes it is only in the midst of my desperation, the moments when I am ready to give up, that I am finally willing to set aside my stubborn personal agenda, and instead allow God to work in my heart and mind.
When I finally acknowledge that I need God’s grace- his unconditional love and acceptance that I could never earn or deserve – I can finally breathe again. His unmerited kindness and forgiveness IS sufficient for me, especially in the “tail between my legs” remorse filled moments.
His grace empowers, encourages, and strengthens me to be the mom that He has called me to be. Furthermore, as I allow his grace to transform my heart and mind, I am able to share and model the same virtues to the people around me. And this is a very powerful and important thing in the lives of the little ones in my life.
I may not be perfect. And I may not always love my role as “mom,” but I am so grateful that I get to be one. Despite the hard days, I wouldn’t trade them away. In the good and the bad, my children are truly a gift from God. They teach me and challenge me and force me to grow in ways that I never would have imagined. And for this I am truly blessed.