A couple weeks ago I was really struggling with having joy as a mom. I was irritable, snappy, short. I wasn’t spending quality time with my kids because I was spending quantity time. In the same house, in the same room, in the same seat! I pushed away their requests for attention, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted (more on exhaustion later.) I wanted to do my thing, and wanted them to leave me alone. There were days when I laid down at night and asked myself “Did I even LOOK at my kids today?” Sure, I was with them. Sure, I took care of them. Fed them. Bathed them. Disciplined them. But did I LOOK at them? Did I take in his long eye-lashes, notice the hair in her face, the new scab on his knee, the fact she changed clothes eight times? I was actually entertaining thoughts like “Things would be so much easier without kids.” “This would be more enjoyable without kids.” “I wish I had never had kids.” It was a dark place. I know, you might be thinking, “She only has two kids…how hard can it be?” But everyone has their limits.
Is that ok to share? Oh well. If you’re a mom and you haven’t had those thoughts, you’re either lying, or you haven’t been a mom for very long. Just wait. You’ll think them too, eventually.
I am convinced being a parent is quite possibly the hardest form of sanctification there is. (Sanctification: the process of being made holy) If you let it, it can be the most effective way to break us of our stubborn, prideful and selfish heart. It can be the best teacher of service, selflessness and the true value of solitude. It’s as if God, in His infinite wisdom asked Himself, “How can we train these heathens called humans? I know! Let’s give them children.”
Children are a sort of ticket for the journey to holiness, if you but allow them to reshape your heart. Can other things take you on the journey to holiness? Of course, but parenting uncovers things inside us that other things just don’t.
I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, so I spent some time with Jesus, talked to my husband, and got a few things sorted out. I’ll admit, when it comes to parenting, my experience only reaches as far as my oldest son (who is almost five) So I know next to nothing, but this I do know:
As moms, we are leached of life. You can’t get around it. There are demands on you that are constant, urgent, and important. We can either be sucked dry and have a bad attitude about it, or choose to give ourselves away. The latter brings much more peace.
So I did a little experiment. Instead of allowing myself to be irritated at the rate of life and energy being sucked from me daily, I told myself “Give yourself away.” It became my mantra. “Give yourself away.” When he wants to play Uno for the sixth time, “Give yourself away.” When she wants you to accompany her to the bathroom Every. Single. Time. even though you know she can do it on her own, “Give yourself away.” I made a point to look, actually look at them, in the eyes, in the details, and I realized, once again, just how much I loved them.
Nothing changed, really… except me. Except my attitude. They still needed me at the same rate, and I was giving out the same energy, but it was different somehow. I did it with a happy heart. I chose to do it. The days passed more quickly, I enjoyed myself a lot more, and I’m sure my children enjoyed me more too.
Was I still exhausted at the end of the day? Yes, even more so. But I was also more fulfilled.
I like how Anne Lamott put it somewhat close to this: “Willing to be of service is where the joy resides.”
I write this to inspire, and encourage, but also to remind myself I always have a choice. A choice to be willing instead of reluctant, not just in motherhood, but also in life.