It was three months after my fourth baby was born and I had been feeling like I was going to have a panic attack all morning. On the verge of tears, lump in my throat, brain whirring through all the things that needed to get done.
On repeat: “You’ll never get it all done. You’re terrible at everything. You’re failing at everything in your life. Mothering? Homeschooling? Writing? Housekeeping? Friendships? Failing. Not doing enough. Not good enough.” All the undone tasks rotating through my head. Every site of clutter or dust in my house setting off alarms in my head. Wincing, shaking, rage, and fear.
I was overextended. My expectations for housekeeping while homeschooling and working from home with a new baby in the house were simply unreachable. And the postpartum hormones were throwing me for a loop. The ups and the downs.
And of course the day when you’re struggling the most always ends up being the day your kids struggle the most. It makes sense that they respond to our hard days this way but it’s sure not helpful.
The baby was up 5 or 6 times so I woke up exhausted. I had slaved away at getting the house clean the week before. And it was SO CLEAN. But so quickly it fell back into disaster and I felt so discouraged. Getting the kids to tidy their rooms and do the bare minimum of school work was just painful. The whole morning needed an attitude adjustment.
I decided to cut my losses and just take everyone to the park. But one kid threw a tantrum because it was the wrong park. Only a different park would do. The park I had chosen was TERRIBLE. I was the worst mom. Also, the cheese I brought for a snack was too spicy. After getting through what felt like a hostage situation we were all at the park and outside of the car and getting some sunshine and fresh air.
Upon our return there were more hissy fits about room cleaning and school work and privileges were revoked. My son and I got into a screaming match. Who is the adult here? I wondered. Not me, apparently.
I started looking up dinner recipes and one of my daughters was in tears because it was the wrong kind of chicken. Only drumsticks are good. Chicken thighs are disgusting. What kind of a monster makes chicken thighs?
I finally just went to my room and cried. It was all too much. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this day when I was at my best. And reader, I was not at my best.
I heard a gentle knock on the door. My son came in with a small green edition of the Gospels and Psalms that had belonged to my husband when he was a little boy and been passed down to our own wee man.
“I’m sorry I was mean to you earlier and didn’t do the things you asked me today. How are you feeling, mom? Sad? Upset?”
“Thanks, buddy. Maybe overwhelmed is a good word.”
“How about discouraged?”
“Yes. That’s a good word.”
I realized he had found the page at the beginning of his little book of Scriptures with a list of emotions linked to Bible verses to encourage someone experiencing that feeling.
He turned the pages to find the verse for “When you’re discouraged.”
“The Lord is my shepherd,” he read.
“I shall not want…”
He read me the 23rd Psalm then looked up at me with his big brown eyes, questioning mine to see if he’d helped.
“Do you feel better now, Mama?”
Of course. How could I not feel better? But I’m the one who is supposed to quiet tears and comfort little hearts. And yet, sometimes my children are the ones bringing a balm to my weary soul.
Motherhood is so difficult for me. And yet, God pours grace into my vocation through the same people who push me to brink of my sanity–my kids. These waves of grace rush over me in between the frustrations and exhaustion. It’s all one big messy soul-stretching experience.
The baby at 9 months is still waking up several times a night needing to be nursed or rocked back to sleep in my arms. I am so tired, friends. In the still, dark night I hear her cry for me and pick her up and hold her close to my heart. As my weight shifts between each foot as I sway and I hear the floorboards of our little 100 year old house softly creak and my baby’s face is illuminated just a bit by the silver moonlight. In these moments, it’s not my exhaustion that comes to mind but the grace of it all. The sweetness of her weight in my arms, the deep, peaceful breaths that fill her lungs as she drifts off back to sleep. In the midst of all the challenges, little grace-filled moments are like a love letter from God, read to me by the children He’s blessed me with.
Even before I became a mom, I knew that I would love my children with all my heart. What I didn’t expect was that the love they offered back would teach me about how God loves me. Their eagerness to forgive my many mistakes and failings. Their tender love and empathy. They’re not perfect, of course (ahem…you did read the beginning of this post, right?) and neither am I. And yet, with each passing year I understand more how God crafts our families and joins us together because He knows we can help each other get to Heaven, to become more holy, to understand more deeply the love and mercy of Our Father.
Whatever weighty and difficult season you are experiencing, I pray that God’s grace would be poured out into all the cracks in the hard spaces of your vocation. That all the lies you tell yourself about your failings defining you would be washed away by the knowledge that you are precious to Him as your children are precious to you and that He did not make a mistake when He made you their mother. I pray that you would remember that He chose you to parent each of your children, not because He wants to set you up for failure, but because He knows this wild combination of personalities, strengths, weaknesses, love, and forgiveness that make up your family will draw each of you closer to Him.
As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “All is grace.”