On My Worst Moments
I love being a mom. I really do, but I didn’t at first. I really struggled for the first 6 months to find an inner peace, a steady place every day, and I often felt overwhelmed and unhappy. I watched other moms cope with the challenges of a new baby, watched them adapt beautifully (or at least appear to) and wondered, “why is this so hard for me?” I’ve always felt somehow lacking as a woman and for months, motherhood was another confirmation of my feminine inferiority. I felt guilty every time someone said to me, “Isn’t it fun?” or “Don’t you love it?” and answered a meek “oh, yeah” but inside felt a resounding “NO!” I finally decided to drop my pride, ask for help, and be authentic with the people who love me. I received in return many listening ears, much understanding, and plenty of support.
The last few months have been vastly more enjoyable, ever better and better. I’m finally feeling that I’m a competent mother, able to handle the many and varied challenges, able to adapt.
I practice what I’ve been calling “intentional parenting.” It’s the same way I treat Stephen. We’ve always believed in being intentional with one another, never doing or saying anything casually or thoughtlessly or out of routine, quick to repent when we do, talking about everything, and I’m happy to say it’s given us a rock solid marriage. I suppose I could call it “intentional relating” just as easily; it simply means I approach every day and every interaction with purpose.
I wake up every morning with the higher calling of not only meeting Isabella’s basic needs- feeding her, clothing her, keeping her safe- but sowing into her heart and spirit the messages and values that Stephen and I have determined are most important.
That she is abundantly loved, of exceptional worth, and highly honored.
That we deeply value her heart, needs, desires, thoughts, and emotions.
That she is strong, beautiful, tender, intelligent, powerful, bold, and capable of doing absolutely anything she sets her mind to.
That Stephen and I are a safe place for her to run to when she’s unsure.
That we deeply value our relationship with her.
I try to give my daughter more than the minimum. I try to pour everything I have into her, and I truly love doing it. The things I set aside for her benefit are not even worth mentioning, because she’s worth my time and energy.
I work for this every day, and I’m covered by grace when I fail. But at nighttime, everything that I value so much during the daylight hours seems to go out the window. Lack of sleep is like a mental illness for me. I’m not kidding. I feel like I turn into a totally different person.
I don’t know (nor do I particularly want to know) if this is normal, but Isabella often wakes up to nurse 3 or 4 times a night. Even at 9 months old it’s rare for her to make it longer than 5 hours at a time. I’ll usually get up and nurse her and she’ll fall right back to sleep, no big deal. But sometimes she just can’t get settled back down, and no matter how many times I bounce her to sleep and set her gently in her crib and pat her back for what feels like an eternity, she just wakes back up and I lose my temper so hard I think I’ll never find it again. I would never, ever hurt my daughter but I definitely know what it feels like to kind of want to a little tiny bit, in some deep dark corner of my heart. Instead, I slam doors and stomp around and curse like mad and get so worked up that even when Stephen finally gets her back to sleep I’m too full of adrenaline to get back to sleep.
Then as I lay awake in bed with my heart pounding feeling like a werewolf slowly returning to human form, God speaks to me in a firm but gentle voice. He reminds me who I am, what He made me for, that I’m better than this. He reminds me of the commitments I’ve made as a parent, and that I’ll look back at this challenging season as a moment in time, a mere heartbeat in the journey of my child’s life. And then I remember that every nighttime waking where I respond to Isabella and don’t leave her alone to cry in a dark room, I’ve taken another brick and cemented it into the foundation of her heart, building the knowledge that her needs are important and that Mommy and Daddy are people to be trusted.
And in the morning I apologize to Isabella and ask her forgiveness for losing my temper, for not being gentle and loving and patient with her. I thank her for being patient with me and giving me grace. I tell her I’m going to work on this issue in my heart and I tell her how much she means to me. I know, she’s only 9 months old… that’s why it’s so important I start humbling myself now, while it’s still relatively easy. We want to cultivate a culture of honor in our home, and it happens day in and day out, over time. With humility. With intention.
I’m slowly realizing that the moments it’s hardest to honor and love are the moments it’s most important to do so. This is how character is built.