The Lonely Hard Road of Motherhood

Can we all just be honest that this motherhood thing is tough? I’m pregnant, and I’m pretty unfiltered, so buckle up because I have many feelings about it.

Yesterday I read this post on my friend Kristen’s blog, “For When the Mother In You is Desperate,” and the post was great, but the responses stopped me in my tracks. Mom after mom after mom poured out her heart in the comments about how desperate and overwhelmed she felt, and how alone she felt in that place of desperation, like she was failing on a desert island. Woman after woman shared how much she needed grace.

And boy do I relate.

Yesterday my oldest child snuck into Valentine’s candy and ate it all in her closet before 7 am, and in a sugar craze then made huge messes in room after room after room in our house throughout the day every time I turned my back. I spoke harshly to her many times yesterday, which made me feel small and horrible. This morning I spent almost an hour cleaning up glass from the Christmas lights that she unstrung and broke in our backyard (because she wanted colored lights, not white ones) during the 20 minutes I sent her outside to give each of us a small break.

Exhausting.

And although I know, rationally, that the sugar played a huge role, and that these things are her expressing natural creativity and curiosity and I am proud of her and I truly think someday God has great plans for her as a creative artist, I do look at her sometimes and think “how utterly I am failing at this.”

A good friend one time asked me why, when our children rebel or disobey, us moms tend to feel like it is our failing and not just our children’s. And I didn’t know the answer to his question. But I do know that is how it feels. And even as moms, when we see other children rebel, we do tend to blame the parents, don’t we, if we’re truly honest? We forget the sin nature and the curiosity and the immature self-regulation and the power of impulse and instead we just feel like the worst mom in the world. We are so quick to judge, and so slow to give ourselves, and other moms, grace.

What a terrible tactic of our enemy. He lays the blame trap, and so often we fall into it. May God help us to see as He sees and avoid this trap. We need to know that we aren’t failing and that our children are just growing and learning, and that just because this is hard doesn’t mean we are bad at it. We need God to help us see the grace that is ours.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 4

Courtesy graceformoms.com

And to compound this problem, it’s hard to know where to go with these feelings, because it is lonely being a mom. Which is another tactic of our enemy. Isolate and destroy. Isolate and destroy. It’s been his battle plan since the beginning. And he is good at isolating moms of young children.

My friends with children who understand where I live are themselves too overwhelmed to do much more than check in occasionally, and my friends without children have their own busy lives and although they try so hard, the world we live in with young children is hard to comprehend. True friendship is hard to maintain when you are the mom of young children – and it is a season of life where I think we may need friends the most. True friends give perspective when we have lost our ability to see the bigger picture. Thank God most of us have those friends who you can see or hear from once every three weeks and still pick up where you left off, but the hours and days and weeks between significant adult interaction can sometimes spread out before you in an overwhelming chasm.

And social media, although it seems it would help with this problem, just isn’t sufficient to fill that void and I think may even exasperate the problem. I think sometimes we post the fun stuff, because we don’t want to appear crazy and put out there all of the bad feelings, so we fake each other out so we don’t reach out and we don’t know what is on the heart of our friends. We are connected virtually but alone relationally. It’s a bastardization of the true community that we need as humans to grow and thrive, so false and yet what we have settled for. Maybe even what we’ve been deceived to settle for.

And lately, the whole thing has had me on my knees. Justin and I are talking through what to do about the difficulty of parenting and the isolation in the midst of it, and thankfully he understands and relates and takes my feelings and needs seriously. Because I am more needy than usual. I feel lonely and overwhelmed. I want to battle it all – but when we are tired it is hard to battle. So together we are working through what to do with all of it.

  • First of all, I deactivated Facebook for lent to force me to have real interactions with people I love and not settle for the social media fake-out. And in those relationships – I’m trying hard to be real and transparent.
  • Second, Justin and I are trying to talk to each other more about deep things we feel and about our struggles with faith everyday, making sure we connect over more than TV shows and work updates.
  • Third, we’re trying to have more people over into our house and visit the homes of people we love. In-person interactions are truly the best community.
  • And fourth, I’m trying to call or text friends to see how life really is beyond the mask of social media and momentary interactions at church on Sundays, especially when the Lord lays them on my heart.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10

For all of you friends who feel unsettled and alone, I guess I just want to say “me too” and I’m sorry you feel that way. For my offline friends, I am sorry for my part in any relationship that is all surface and no substance. I am working on being refined in this area and truly praying for a revival in the relationships in our life. Because we need each other, especially in this season of life. Because we aren’t failing. This is just hard. It is a season, and it will end someday, and for now we just need to keep working, keep trying, stay humble and loving to our kids when we can, and take a break when we can’t. We need naps and date nights and occasional ugly cries and texting each other the terrible things we think when we are just too tired to fake it anymore. We need the grace and perspective that true community brings. We need new mercy each day. We need more grace than we even know how to ask for.

So what do you think? What has the Lord shown you as a trick to maintain relationships when times get tough and schedules are insane? How do you keep a wise perspective on parenting and avoid the “blame” trap the enemy sets for us? Any wisdom for us overwhelmed moms?

Isolation

Being in relationships with other people is tough stuff. In fact, I think it is the primary “work” of the believer. I’ve gone through phases in my relationships with others as I’ve matured and grown in Christ, phases where I was deeply all-in with everyone around me, phases where I withdrew and followed my own path mostly alone, and phases where I have learned to use discernment to allow some people in while keeping others at a respectful distance. Each phase has been tough and has left bruises, but I think that’s just part of living in intentional community with people who aren’t perfect. What’s the phrase that makes me laugh and feel a teensy bit like Oprah when I say it? “Hurt people hurt people.” As goofy and pop-psychology as that sounds, it’s certainly true.

Relationships are dirty, messy, difficult and entirely necessary.

I believe that only in community do we grow in Christ. Relationships are difficult, but if we look around and we are not in relationships with people who are allowed to speak truth into our world, we need to see that as a huge blinking “check engine” light that needs to be addressed. This blog isn’t intended to harp on you if you are in the withdrawal phase of life right now. I get that. I have been there. Sometimes we all feel like we need a break from the drama of relationships with others. But here’s the uncomfortable truth – we can’t stay there. If we stay there, we get stunted. We stop growing. Our influence and ability to be light in a dark world shrinks and diminishes. So I hope my heart comes across and I can use this blog to get someone, anyone, to reconsider their choice to withdraw and to encourage them to push past the discomfort and awkwardness and enter into at least one relationship where Godly wise influence is allowed unfettered access to your life.

But the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, then gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17 (People who demonstrate this kind of wisdom are “safe” to let speak into your world).

I know it is hard. I have been the person shaking as I picked up the phone or walked into the coffee shop to meet someone. But I also know the fruits of the choice to obey and enter into community. And because I know our God is faithful, I pledge to you that you’ll benefit. And infinitely more convincing than my pledge is the Lord’s promise that if we’ll trust Him and enter in, there He will be found.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

One of the first steps to being in community is entering into a church body. I know someone will shake their head and think “here she goes preaching again” or “sure, just what I need, a room full of hypocrites” and you know truthfully, both of those statements are true. I do tend to preach a bit and I’m certain that every room we enter, whether a church or not, is full to the brim with hypocrites. But here’s what is different, and special, about church.

It is the method Jesus gave to us for changing the world from a place of darkness to a place of light and for growing from self-absorbed to concerned with His kingdom.

Church was built by Jesus for a purpose. And that purpose isn’t to make you feel guilty or to take all of your money, but it is to get you into a place where you can be honest with other people who struggle just like you do, find friendship and purpose and meaning and encouragement, and together you can work to make the world a little less miserable. It’s so important that the church is referred to in the Bible as the “Body of Christ” – we enter more into Christ when we enter into the church and relationships with other Believers (Ephesians 1-3).

Is walking into a new church terrifying? Oh my goodness yes.

Will you maybe feel a bit judged? Well, I always do at first.

But isn’t that feeling, and that terror, a tactic the enemy of our souls uses to isolate us and get us cornered alone somewhere awful so he can whisper lies about who we are and who God is? Absolutely.

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Psalm 122:1

Jesus told us that in church, and in community, we have hope. So it may be awkward, it may be hard, but after creating us, knowing us and walking in our skin it is the place Jesus said we need to be. And after most of my adult life being blessed to be in amazing churches, I can tell you that the relationships I have built there and the things I have learned are far deeper and more meaningful than anything I’ve built or learned outside of that place. Have I been hurt? Yes. Are the churches I’ve attended perfect? Not even remotely. But have I grown and benefitted far more that I have outside of church (by about 1000 times)? Yes.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24

After you find a church, you’ll find something interesting. You’re going to be a stranger in a strange place until you dive into community. Whether that is a Sunday morning Bible study, or a Ladies group that meets during the week, or just going to lunch with a new friend after church – getting into a smaller group and listening to someone tell you about their life, and then telling them about yours, is essential to being connected. (And a trip or retreat is the absolute scariest and yet most effective way. When I worked in student ministry we begged students and their parents to let them come to camp. In one week of intense time together kids connected and lives were changed every stinking time).

So if you have been “attending” church for a long time but still don’t get it or feel connected, I hate to be the one to break it to you – but you haven’t pushed in deep enough. You have to jump and trust the Lord and His people to catch you. Go to a study. Sit at a table. Stutter your way through saying your name and share something personal and important. Be the first to break the silence and share something vulnerable and then watch the ripple effects as everyone there begins to share and relate. Pray together. Share your needs and listen as others spill open and share theirs. 

They will. I promise that the crazy in your head isn’t the most crazy at the table – not even remotely. We all have the crazy and sin and mess inside and sharing it releases us from the power it holds over us.

Isolation is dangerous. We listen to the wrong voices. We start to get really passionate about the wrong kingdom. We start to lose the ability to interact with others in a meaningful way (suddenly our phones or the characters on TV get really important instead of the live human people sitting right in front of us). We need community. It changes us and makes us be about the right things in the right way.

So if you are isolated and you know it – please do something. Please take the first step. If you don’t have a church, I’d love to invite you to our church (Southlake Baptist Church). Please be my guest. If you have a church but you’ve let the hurts of relationship push you away – please go back. Try again. Open up and watch God work and change the way you think and view community. If you have a friend that you have watched isolate themselves out of all meaningful community, reach out to them. Confront them with love. Beg them to reconsider.

He is faithful and His plan (including community) is always perfect.

Trust Him and go.

It’s important.