There have been times when I’ve sat on the beds of my young children and wept with frustration and angst at the impossibility of motherhood.
I have cried bitter tears about the enormity of my to-do list and my ineptitude at accomplishing simple tasks. I’ve sobbed about the big and the little things; the things I’ve meant to do but haven’t; the people I’ve let down; the ways in which I am failing consistently, constantly, relentlessly. When I’ve been too quick to anger and too harsh in my responses I have fallen broken-hearted on my pillow and cried hot, copious tears until my throat was hoarse and my eyes were swollen and my emotions were spent.
This is the hardest job I’ve ever had.
From the physical process of becoming a mother onwards, this journey has been fraught with discomfort and difficulty.
The crushing discovery that my endlessly-breastfeeding baby was not gaining but losing weight; second-guessing every decision I had to make about supplementing, pumping, formula, etc; searching for answers which – when (or if) found – were never quite satisfactory…
The panicked, prickly adrenaline rush when racing to retrieve a tot from the edge of disaster; anxiety about setting and maintaining boundaries for adventurous little explorers without sacrificing their curious spirit nor damaging the maternal bond…
The exhaustion from a full and busy day that then spills into a long night with a sick child; weariness from dealing with other stages and problems that seem interminable and unsolveable…
The heavy burden of guilt – when impatience has become the standard response; when care and prayer haven’t yet yielded solutions to a parenting dilemma; when ‘at the end of my tether’ has become a habitual destination…
Some parenting difficulties, once finished, are easily forgotten. Sleep issues are one of these. We went through different phases with all of our kids where they’d need a lot of help to get to sleep, or they’d have trouble sleeping through the night. At the time that we were going go through them I’d wonder when it was that we’d last had an easy evening or a full night’s sleep, and I couldn’t imagine that it was ever going to be easier to get our kid to sleep; but once we were finally through that phase I almost couldn’t remember why it had seemed like it was such a struggle (until the next sleepless phase was upon us).
But there are other tribulations I’ve faced as a parent that linger even after they’ve been dealt with; echoes of past struggles, internal debates that haunt me; circular arguments on repeat in my head. Did I really make the right decision about x? Could I have handled y better? Should I have responded differently to z? And how is it that I’ve got a kid who does/says that?!!!
Every time I think I’ve got a handle on one problem, another one crops up. Just when I’m about to pat myself on the back, I end up having to slap myself on the back of the head, instead.
I mean, sure, there’s joy. Sure, there are moments where I feel like all is right in my world (through God’s grace alone). And certainly there is love – deep, fierce, strong, tender, and abiding. There’s humour – because, after all, they can be funny little people (even when they’re not trying to be).
But where’s that moment – as yet so elusive – where I get to feel that I am doing well at this job?
Where’s the proof that my life’s work will result in the contented, loving, productive people of faith and character that I pray my boys will grow up to be???
I have come to the conclusion, again and again, that I am not able for this challenge of motherhood. I’m not enough. At times, this realisation of my profound inability has dragged me to the depths of despair.
But that despair doesn’t get the last word in my story.
Today at church we heard again about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes – actually, the two miracles of the loaves and the fishes, because we were reminded that first Jesus fed 5000+ people and then later he repeated the miracle with 4000+. Both times, a crowd had gathered to learn from Jesus; he filled their souls and their minds, but another need arose: their stomachs needed filling, too. The disciples asked around and gathered a paltry amount of food in the face of such need: a few loaves of bread and some fish. It wasn’t enough.
Jesus took those loaves and those fish and he multiplied them. The people who were gathered on the sand – and, later, the people who were gathered on the mountaintop – ate their fill, and there was still plenty left over. God turned ‘not enough’ into an abundance.
I was reminded today that what we bring to God – what we bring to life – isn’t enough; but He multiplies our offerings. We are unable, but He is able. We are mired in our weakness, but in His strength he frees us.
Today I need to remember to simply make my offering. I need to remember to trust in God’s ability to multiply, magnify, and sanctify my small, imperfect efforts. I need to take tiny, shaky steps towards the goal, and trust in Him to bring me to the finish line.
I am not – and I never will be – enough. But God is.
Friends: There’s simply no way around it. Unless you’re the perfect parent, or you have perfect kids (both of which, believe me, I thought were my destiny before I had kids), you’re going to have parenting trials. Take heart. I have been leaning on two verses recently, in my own hour of need:
‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’
‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me’
Bring your need: God will be your sufficiency.