This morning, I checked my e-mail inbox to find that I had a new comment on an older post of mine called "The Incredible Shrinking Family". I could feel the pain of the writer so clearly in her words, and I wanted to reach out to her. Who of us have not been frustrated, tired, and just plain worn-out?
Here's what she wrote:
Hi! I came across your blog today and loved reading this post. I agree with everything you have to say ... in principle. But in practice I find this very difficult. I want to love children and love being a mother, but I just don't!
I have two darling little girls who I love, but I don't love being a mother. Pregnancy was miserable, the sleep deprivation of newborns was horrendous and the tantrums and potty training of toddlers has been torture! Like you say, it takes sacrifice, but I sometimes feel like it is just too much for me. I long for a life outside of my children, for some part of me to be left-over at the end of the day for my husband, for something besides diapers and disciplining and dishes!
So yes, children are important and families are vital and I believe in the LDS doctrine of the family ... but I just can't have more children. I feel it would be disastrous for me, for my marriage and for the children we already have. So I guess what I'm saying is that I totally get why some women do not want to have children or do not want to have a lot of children. I understand what they are feeling!
I would have never guessed that I would be saying this. As a young LDS teen, I yearned for a large family. But now, when reality has set in, I am just not enjoying it at all! I feel like overall I have a good attitude around my children and love them, do all of the good stay-at-home-mom things, but deep-down, I am miserable. Any advice?
I know that often people may think that my posts are so idealistic that I must never have bad days or frustrations, or a bad attitude. I'm sorry if this is a disappoinment, ladies, but I have had those days when I want to throw in the towel. I have moments where I hold my head in my hands and think "What have I done?!"
But those days don't last forever (Thank goodness!) and with the Lord's help we can do the difficult and succeed-- and have joy! (I promise!!!)
Here was my response to her, and to all moms who have those times and seasons where they feel they can't take another step, change another diaper, or wash one more dish:
I am so sorry that you are so overwhelmed and discouraged. Boy, have I been there! But there really is hope and peace on the horizon...
First of all, you are deep in the trenches of one of the hardest times of motherhood! I advise you take a deep breath and try to see into your future five, ten or fifteen years from now.
You will NOT always be sleep deprived and mired in the difficulties of trying to be and do everything on your own. Those little ones you have now WILL grow, they will learn to do more for themselves, and they will not always be so demanding.
The time you take now to patiently, lovingly train them will buy you more liberty and breathing room in your not-too-distant future. Is it hard? YES. But from experience, I can tell you, that when you work hard at training those first few little ones, then they become more helpful to you in your duties AND with any other little ones that may be in your future.
Toddler-hood really is the time that ALL moms want to throw in the towel and say "I'm not cut out for this!" You are FAR from being alone in those feelings, I promise!
It is okay to take a break and let your body and your heart heal for a time. But the secret to that and to surviving and moving forward in everything is to PRAY. HARD. Ask for a blessing from your husband, now and then. Pray for peace. For direction. For patience.
Good grief, I even once had to start praying that I could LOVE my kids!!! LOL! The beauty and blessing was that MY PRAYERS WORKED.
Anything worth doing is difficult-- that's the test of this life. But you don't need to hold your breath as you try to make it through the difficult years. Come up to the surface and breathe deeply in the Father's love, mercy and help.
None of us can succeed at this alone. We need Christ, and He is willing and waiting to take those troubles and burdens from us if we will just give them to Him.
Please don't struggle alone when you don't have to! The Lord loves you and sees every sacrifice and tear and sleepless night.
Don't worry about having another baby right now. Just work on your relationship with Christ. Then everything else will fall into place.
We can "do all things through Christ." But we should not run faster than we have strength. We NEED to take time to be healed by the Lord. He will give us all we need and then some, helping us to do all things "in wisdom and order."
I know the writer and I would love to hear any other advice from my readers. Do you have more to add?
With love to all my sisters in the motherhood trenches,
Dearest Mama K,ReplyDelete
You will forever be an inspiration to me. When I start off and embark on my adventure of having a family and being a wife and mother I will constantly refer back to your blog and to you for love and advice. You really are like a second mother to me but also a friend that I know really cares. Thank you for this and thank you for being a part of my adventure I call: life.
When I was in the throes of babies and little children a wise older Mom said "Once you get one child to age eight things get easier." She was right. Once the oldest was eight I had a helper, then as each child got to the point where they could dress, toilet and feed themselves I felt like I could breathe again. Every trial we go through seems to last forever, until it's over and then we say, well that wasn't so bad, I made it! Which in my mind is a metaphor for mortal life itself. It seems to last forever, but I'll bet as soon as we cross the veil we think "I made it, that wasn't so bad." Another little piece of advice. Be the PARENT, not the big sister or friend. And being the parent means that you have to do the hard stuff and put up with all the bad stuff in order to train your children to be successful adults. The children probably won't like you, and call you names and say things like "I hate you." But when they become the successful adults that you picture in your mind as you are training them, they will thank you over and over again for all you did to teach them to be responsible, hard working, able to deal with failure, successful adults, AND they'll be your best friends! Press forward with steadfast faith, keeping your mind fixed on the end result; let the little (and big) troubles of daily life roll off your back, and be like the pioneers putting one foot in front of the other to get across the plains. And lastly, one day I as struggled with the hundreds of interruptions that children bring to the daily routine I thought and probably said "You're interrupting my work!" Instantly the Spirit spoke to my mind and heart "They are your work!" I repented and remembered that I signed up for this job and continued to do it to the best of my ability. One of the GA's said something to the effect that Our Heavenly Father doesn't have any distracting hobbies to take Him away from His main work. A great book to read is John Rosemond's Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healty Children. Available online, new and used.ReplyDelete
Yes, yes, yes! I had my fourth and last child when my oldest was still three. The years before and after that with those little babies were the hardest, darkest days of my life. I hated being a mom, cried all the time and was totally overwhelmed. Not every moment was awful, but honestly a lot were. I thought about all the things I wanted to do and couldn't. I was just plain miserable.ReplyDelete
But I kept doing the right things. Prayed to love my kids too! One day in personal revelation The Lord asked me to "choose to be happy." I accepted the invitation and it made all the difference. I stopped believing Satan's lies that there was something better I could be doing. The lies that my kids were irritating. The lies that god was asking too much. I stopped whining that things weren't fair. I just acted in faith.
It took a long time. Peace and hope came. And happiness. It helped that they grew older too!
Now my youngest is ten. They are my friends, we have fun and we laugh. Things are good. I am grateful I stuck with it. That I didn't quit.
I only have one regret. ( I don't regret the lack of sleep or crying sessions. Because that was when god was purifying me). I wish I could have a dozen kids now. I wish I had more children. But The Lord has said no to many times to count and I learned I needed to stop asking.
Being in the trenches is hard. Harder than anything I have done but it is worth it!!!!!
PS another thing that helped was memorizing the proclamation to the world on the family.
Good post! I agree, it can be SO HARD some days that we honestly have to pray to love our children! I'm at the point where I have 4 small children and nobody is old enough to be very helpful yet. I know that right now it's just going to be hard, but that with lots of training I will someday have some good helpers and have some of the burden relieved. Sometimes I look at big families and can't figure out how they get so much done and have the time to do things like blog. Then I remember that they usually have older children who help out, but that they also must have had some years where they didn't have that help.ReplyDelete
Thankfully our church directs us to counsel as a couple and with the Lord to decide when to have more children as we all have different struggles and know our own needs best. I'd like to have more children more quickly than we've done, but I know for my mental sanity I have to take it a little slower than I'd like. There's nothing wrong with that. We certainly need strength from the Lord and we have to trust in Him that things will work out.
I know exactly how that gal feels! Over the summer I had baby #3. In the weeks before his birth by c-section, I completely lost it. I was totally overwhelmed would often run to my room, slam the door and cry and scream into my pillow. I felt like a total failure as a mother and kept crying out, "I can't do this, I can't do this."ReplyDelete
On one occassion after running away from my bickering toddlers, I forgot to shut my door and as I lay there crying I felt a little hand on my shoulder. I looked up from my tear soaked pillow and into the face of my precious 3yr old son. He kissed my face and rubbed my back as a I cried. Shortly afterward, my 2 year old daughter crawled on the bed and she too kissed my face and began to play with my hair. I must've laid there and cried for like an hour but my little ones stuck with me and just waited till I smiled again before running off. Even though my kids drive me crazy sometimes, having them with me in my dark moments was what I wanted and, in the end, the love I needed to feel better.
My husband and I want to have more children. We want to have a large family. We just don't have to have them all right now. After those rough months, we knew that we really need to focus on the little ones we have and get our act together spiritually and physically as a family and a couple before having more. There is a time and a season for all things, including children. I hope that dear sister will find the peace she needs in the Gospel. If the Lord brings you to it, he'll bring you through it.
I love what you say about taking the time to heal...this takes time and healing on more than a physical level. I think we forget that. I had three kids in three years time. I was fairly destroyed at the end of it and had nothing left to give. I chose to do that, but I too was in dire need of healing and strengthening of the Lord...and he truly was the only one who could heal me. My kids are now ages 7, 5, and 4...and after a four year break, I now have a newborn. I am healthier, stronger, and I love my kids and appreciate them now more than ever before. And now I feel ready to continue to add to my family if he sees fit to let me do that! I echo the sentiment that the Savior is the antidote to the feelings that you describe. He will bring you peace...whether you have more children or not!ReplyDelete
I've never struggled more with motherhood than I did after having two kids. I went through a transformation between child two and three that was difficult and beautiful. I'm so glad I pressed forward. I really surrendered to motherhood and found beauty and joy in it. I read a lot. I prayed a lot. And over time it happened. I became more capable and began loving being a mom. I'm about to have number five now. And I hope more. But it's not the number that's important. It's getting your heart in the right place that really matters.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful response for a heartfelt question. You did such a lovely job, I hope you won't mind if I add my own thoughts.ReplyDelete
What strikes me in the reader's comment you included was that it seemed that she felt set apart, different, than all the other moms who seem to always enjoy motherhood. It sounds like she is isolated from other mothers and may not be talking about the realities of day-to-day mothering with other kind, understanding and supportive women. That in itself can 'change the night to day' in so many cases.
There's just something about being in the company of supportive women going through the same things that alleviates a lot of anxiety and stressful feelings and helps mothers to feel like this thing called Mommyness isn't so isolating or lonely after all.
Here's a secret revealed: every mother has really hard moments, when they question what they are doing and why and for how long can they keep going? Motherhood requires faith, even if its as a grain of mustard seed. Plant it, *NOURISH it* and it will grow.
When I feel utterly depleted and hopeless, it is a cue to me that I need to replenish my strength so I can be energized when I get back to my tasks of mothering and being a wife. That is different than most of the world who urge women to have "me" time, surf Facebook or Pinterest aimlessly, or get a part time job just to "get away" from their children.
It requires a measure of personal discipline to open the scriptures, listen to a talk from Relief Society general conference, visit teach another struggling mother in the ward, or even just pray with real intent. But the Lord has promised He will answer those who turn to Him and give them strength to endure.
I do not believe I would have been able to weather the storms of learning how to feed, diaper, parent, and otherwise care for my children without the companionship and support of other mothers along the way. I earnestly urge any mother struggling with feelings of unhappiness to consider making time to spend with other friendly mothers with children of similar ages to their own, who are enjoying motherhood and with whom they can trade babysitting or solutions for those things that come up. Making time for a spouse is also helpful, or asking for help so she can shower or take a class or just go to the store alone, can make a difference, too.
Priesthood blessings can also be an invaluable tool our Father in Heaven *wants US* to ask for in order to receive His goodness and mercy and love through those who have the proper authority to administer them. They can be given any time the need arises and have helped many a mother through the tough moments that come, when she struggles internally, no matter the number of children. Mother are precious in the sight of God and of great worth, no matter the age or number of children!!!
One thing about motherhood that many women do not know before they become mothers is that much of it *is* just plain, hard work. It took me a long time to accept the kisses and sweet moments as the pay day they were and see the goodness in all the hard work.
My last thought: chooosing children and a life spent caring them is a very personal journey, which for any woman normally takes time to develop. If this woman has a desire to try this, I recommend prayer. If not, prayer is still so helpful in coming to terms with her relationship with God and understanding how she and He together can navigate the question of "how many can I manage?" and "when" and so forth.