Today I offer a guest post submitted by Louella Martin about her struggle adjusting to motherhood. She would like to hear not only from other moms who are in her stage, but also from those who are through it and who can teach us younger ladies how to do this well.
“We’re lying there nose to nose, blue eyes matching blue, deep staring into deep. Slowly I watch as her little eyes flicker, then close. Chest rising slowly, she’s breathing rhythmically and off to sleep. I catch her pacifier holder, fingering the beads which spell out her name. Soraya Willow
Three years, two girls into this journey and I still don’t know what I’m doing. I still don’t have words to the emotions and I don’t always know if I like it. It is for this, shame threatens to engulf me and I get up off the bed, leaving my sleeping daughter, before I suffocate.
Thirty minutes later she’s awake again. I squash the sigh I feel and smile into her wide eyes instead.
I’m in the middle of playing a game with this loud rambunctious family of mine and I don’t want to stop. Not ten years ago I was one of them and now? Now I’m lucky to get bathroom breaks to myself. And the thought wriggles its way into my head – If I knew then what I know now…
I can’t finish the thought, can’t allow my mind to dwell on that but Jesus what do I do? How can I get beyond this?
My second daughter was born in the car, a week late, and I feel like it epitomizes me and her ever since then. She’s the wind and clouds and sea waves, always moving, reaching, restless. I am the sea turtle, flipped on my back, legs flailing, arms reaching, never enough. I clean up one mess and two more happen while I’m bent over. It’s two steps forward, three back every single day and how many times must I go to bed with the floor littered, counter buried in dishes and the next morning no one but me gets to deal with it all again.
If I knew then what I know now… tears prickle my eyes because I don’t want to think this way and I do anyway.
I envy my engaged sister and newly married friends and married-but-no-children sister-in-law. My cynicism wants to hold all the red flags in front of anyone debating having children. I text congratulations to friends having babies and feel my glaring hypocrisy. Shame descends again.
In these moments it does not help to know that children are of the Lord and precious gifts. My precious demanding infuriating children.
I love them with my whole heart and sometimes my heart is so tiny there is room just for me.
And yet… and yet, let it be said, that even though I am finding this season hard, even though I do not enjoy newborn babies, even though I do not feel like I am ever enough, let it be said, I did this as well as I could.
If I knew then what I know now… and I give this over to Jesus.
I give it all over to Jesus – the shame, the weariness, the anger and selfishness and bitterness, the jealousy and envy.
I give it all to Him and through my faltering efforts, I pray he will shine through me. Let it be said I did it as well as I could and learned to wring joy out of every day in the midst of the glaring ordinary.
If I knew then what I know now and I will rest and live and work and leave it all to Jesus.”
From Louella Martin.
What do you connect with?
How did young motherhood surprise, challenge, or delight you?
What have you learned along the way?
I connect with all of this. I was most surprised by the utter weariness of motherhood, and the resentment produced by that weariness. I have learned along the way that the resentment is a secondary response to the weariness – the resentment is not the first or primary thing – there is no shame in being tired. It is good and right to ask for more help and to get creative with strategies to grant us one more hour of sleep, day or night. And any mama who can keep smiling into their baby’s eyes when their entire body, soul, and mind are craving sleep, is giving more than enough.
there is no shame in being tired – thank you for that reminder! I know I do hold a high standard of perfection sometimes.
I want to hear from the seasoned mothers too. I’m not any further along in motherhood than Louella, but I’m getting a hint that it’s not only pure facts I need to hear but that real-time conversation with God. And I desperately need Him. Like my heart cries out because I see this little person who IS JUST LIKE ME. Lord, have mercy.
Louella, you are not alone! I was shocked when I first became a mom. I had no idea THIS is what all those moms were enduring! How could I have been so naive? Many times I thought, “If only I had known…” ???? For me, it has gotten better over the years. And I’ve heard from older moms who would not wish the baby-stage back… So maybe I’m not a failure for not being into babies, after all.
The older I get, the more I find myself amazed at my own mother. She becomes more blessed as I open my arms to my own brood, which spans 16 years. How did she do it? One day at a time, imperfect sure, but faithful. I always knew she loved me. I hope my children remember the same thing about me.
I loved Louella’s honesty about the selfishness that we all deal with. It truly is Jesus who enables us.
It helps me so much to admit to myself that what I am doing is HARD. It is hard for anyone to care for small children day after day without breaks. It is even harder yet if the person who is doing it pregnant or breastfeeding sand/or recovering from pregnancy and birth. We weren’t meant to do this on our own. We should all be living in villages where a grandmother or grandfather, an aunt or uncle, sister or brother could share the load. A woman alone with her children all day is a strange result of our weird modern American way of living. It is unnatural and it is HARD. So don’t feel like a failure because you can’t do this easily. Feel amazed and proud of yourself because you are doing it at all, even if you are doing it imperfectly.
What you feel is very normal! Ten years ago I could have written something similar, and those days with my two little girls were some of my darkest. I know you’ve heard it before but this is a season. Your life WILL NOT be like this forever. It gets better. Which I know is really no comfort when you just want some uninterrupted sleep.
I was surprised by the incessant wiping: wiping noses, wiping spills, wiping tables, wiping butts, wiping butt paste off windows, repeat, repeat, repeat. I was also surprised how long it takes a child to learn anything. “Line upon line. . .” Repeat, repeat, repeat. The repetition is enough to make your brain feel like oatmeal. It’s important at this point to make time to do something you enjoy.
I’ve learned that pointing out squirrels and other interesting things in nature to the kids and directing their attention to the Creator is the only worship time you’ll have time for some days and that that’s OK. I’ve learned that I am abominably selfish and even 5 children cannot wrest it all from me. I’ve learned that I still have much to learn. I’ve learned that while I long to have a result, the journey to the result is the most important part. I’ve learned that God is faithful and will always provide what is needed.
God has started a great work in you Luella, and He will be faithful to complete it! You can do anything through Christ! You are stronger than you think (or at least you will be!) and you will definitely make it.
Oh yes! Many, many times I have slogged through our messy house thinking “This isn’t fair, it’s five against one, five against one; almost like a mantra. To my shame I think I’ve even put my husband in that number – six against one, six against one.
I’d say the number one thing that keeps me sane is to determine to get up early enough for God and coffee time before anyone else awakes. That can be impossible with newborns, but they can share your God and coffee time. And then during their nap time, when you’re tempted to hustle and whip things into shape, just lay down and rest for at least fifteen minutes. If you fall asleep and wake up an hour later; great! Your house will still be messy, but you’ll be better able to handle it emotionally.
I liked this for the lack of miraculous change of heart at the end. I actually do enjoy my little people alot, but I despise housekeeping. That is not too strongly stated. I know it is those sweet little snookums that are creating most of the endless excersize in futility that is housework, but somehow it is still two separate things in my mind. Sometimes the victory is in keeping on rather than being on top. Or as Shari more expertly said it in a long ago post, “You don’t have to love every minute….You just need to show up.
As a mom of children who have been abused and neglected, I just want to tell you this: You are a GREAT mom. You are there with your children. You are not zoned out on drugs or alcohol. You are not screaming at them, beating them, throwing them against the wall. You are not leaving them alone to cry and cry while you hang out with your boyfriend down the street. You don’t drop them off with a friend and disappear for months. Parenting is so hard and yet you don’t take the easy way out. You are there, day after day, spending time with them, teaching them, loving them. You are not perfect and you lose your temper at times. But your girls won’t have the pain of wondering if they were such awful children that their mom didn’t want them anymore. They won’t cry into their pillows at night and ask why their mom didn’t care about them enough to be there for them. You brave the hard and you are there and for this you will be blessed. ????
This made me cry .Because my passion is to love my children well and I do love them dearly. But the truth is?? Sometimes on a deep dark, dark level I understand why ‘those’ moms do what they do . ”But for the grace of God” that would be me too! I am so thankful for the support I have that does help to make the journey easier .Thank you for your words!
“Sometimes on a deep dark, dark level I understand why ‘those’ moms do what they do.”
Just so you know you are not alone in this… I have shared the same sentiment with several other mom friends and every one agreed. If not for the grace of God and the teaching we’ve received we could all be in the same place!
I get this too. You are not alone. I’m convinced that there is a whole crowd of us that have experienced this same thing, but somehow the shame of these feelings as you naively stumble into motherhood and feel like God made a mistake in giving you a child, is suffocating. I missed my job, my social life, my pain-free life, my very identity of who I had once been. I hated breastfeeding in an isolated room somewhere when we were away from home. About one year in I wanted to die. My journal from 2015 isn’t fit for human eyes to read. Now I’m 5.5 years in, and I’ve learned that when my children get to the age of talking, I enjoy them so much more. I’ve learned that I have to lay the ground work of caring for them as babies if we’re going to have a chance at enjoying those golden years I remember living at home as a teenager, in a houseful of grown children. I’ve learned that faithfulness is required, but giddy happiness and oohing and ahhing over babies and toddlers and ‘enjoying every moment’ is not. I’ve learned that there are others like me, and certainly many who are NOT, but that’s ok too. I have even learned, through some outpouring of Gods grace, to mostly enjoy babies. Some day, I believe, you will see a bit of light shining in to the tunnel. But until then, keep communicating with God and those around you who can encourage you in the darkness. God is with you!
Personally, I am cringing for the generation of children growing up with this kind of “honesty”. I can not even imagine what kind of damage it would have done to my 8 or 10 or 12 year old heart to find out that my mom had written to the public that she resented [her children] [me]. God spare these little ones!
My mom (now in her upper 60s) was one of the few “honest” ones in her generation. I didn’t know her complete thoughts and struggles in mothering until I was an adult, and I’ve always appreciated her honesty. It greatly helped me once I was walking in her shoes with five children of my own.
It’s the mom’s who are not honest that make the ones who struggle, struggle even more. We think you must have it all together and never go on your knees sobbing about yelling at your child once more. I love babies but they are exhausting. I love my 1 and 2 year old but their incessant crying for no apparent reason makes me almost lose my mind. We all struggle to some degree but we still love our children. We just admit that it is hard and keep on going day after day.
What else did we want to do in life… other than be the Mom?! Yes it comes with challenges, but so would a job outside the home! You may have a hormone issue, and if you do, Happy PMS may help. It was a life saver for me!! I so wish I’d have known about it in my younger years. It helps Mom to be happier and cuts stress back… with the ability of being able to cope better!
As a Mom of 30 years, I look back, by the Grace of God I survived all those busy seasons! You will also! I do wish I’d have been given more encouragement along the way. It seems some can find plenty to say, how you are doing it wrong, rather than encourage Mom’s on the journey! Every time you don’t know what to do with situations, pray! Pray night and Day.. I already went to bed with ‘problems’ that I did not know what I should do….. and in the Morning, God gave some answers on what I could try… And in case you didn’t realize, God don’t need to to stand still with your eyes shut to pray! Alot of my praying is done on the run, and during the night… The older I get the more I realize that God wants us to ask Him… even though we don’t know what to ask… or how to pray, believe me He already knows IT ALL… just tell Him!
We had 4 sons, who all held jobs, all living at home, that was 5 men’s lunches to pack, work clothes to wash, and FOOD to be made, all depending on me, I was so busy, I didn’t think I could keep after it all, but by the Grace of God I did my best, Be there for your children now, cut out the Parties you are invited to, extra shopping trips that are just for the fun, etc. You have a job to do, being a Mom, and you only get one chance at it… be there for them now, and you will develop relationships, that will be your payback in the end! Your Reward will be ‘those sweet grandchildren they share with you later. Along with the relationships you took time to make!
Wanting to encourage the younger Mom’s along this journey…
I wasn’t one of those who “always dreamed of being a wife and mom.” I was the seventh child out of twelve. I had around 150 cousins, counting both sides. Babies everywhere! The normal thing to do was to grow up, get married, and start a family. But I was different. My dreams for the future consisted of being a teacher, writer, entrepreneur, public speaker, etc. I had nothing against men or babies, but they didn’t seem like any sort of ultimate fulfillment. But a young man entered the picture, and it seemed his very life depended on getting married to me! He was persistent, and we got married and had five children in the next ten years. My husband was diagnosed and treated for cancer 10 months after our wedding day. He had 28 chemo treatments in twelve weeks time. He was indescribably sick for months and months. (He is now cancer free). Our first child was born exactly halfway through his chemo treatments, and I found out what postpartum depression is like, although for me it remained undiagnosed and untreated, unrecognized even by myself.
Three years into marriage, just before our second child was born, my husband had an accidental fall at a construction site. His spleen was shattered, and he nearly bled to death before the emergency surgery could be performed. He had a lengthy hospital stay, and was still in recovery at home when the baby came. Welcome back, postpartum depression.
Two years later, when our third child was eleven days old, my husband had a mental health crisis and was hospitalized for that. This baby was a fussy one! Oh, and we moved to another state when she was three months old, due to unforeseen circumstances.
Fast forward to the present. We now have five children. The youngest is 19 months old and doing well, considering the fact that she was a preemie.
So for me, ALL of young motherhood was a surprise. ALL of it was challenging. Particularly challenging to me were the fond-but-clueless older women who would tell me, “These are the best years of your life!” When I hear that, I smile, but I do not agree.
But then, what really is the measurement for “good” years versus ” bad” years? Maybe they were my best years, for having stripped me of all critical attitudes and judgements towards others. For showing me who and what I really am. For having brought me to the feet of Jesus with nothing to offer, able only to receive His offering.
Maybe those older ladies aren’t as clueless as I initially thought.
I am convinced that the dear older ladies who say those things have forgotten the exhaustion that goes with caring for small children. Yes, it’s busy when children are older, but it’s so different! Those certainly were not the best years of my life. 🙂
Oh friend, you are not alone. I was there. My five children are ages almost 3 to 13 now, and it’s so much easier. There were many months when my first three (who were born in a little less than 4 years) were small that it felt like all I did was survive. It’s okay to admit that it’s hard. It’s okay to ask for help. Is there a grandma that can come stay with little ones so you can get out of the house for a while? Could your husband take a half day off from work once or twice a month to give you a break? It’s special to my children to spend time with Grandma or Dad occasionally. My children have great relationships with their grandparents and I’m sure that spending time in their home, without the parents nearby, contributed to that.
You know what you need. If you need a break, don’t feel guilty asking for one. Some moms don’t need breaks, but some of us do. I am a much better mother when I can have a bit of time off from mothering sometimes. Don’t let those moms who can mother day in and day out make you feel guilty if you can’t do what they do.
I am fortunate to have a helpful and observant husband. When the children were small and even now, he tries to make so I can get away and go to ladies’ events or do some fun shopping occasionally. He can tell that it makes a difference. It’s okay to tell him you need help, they are his children too. Our Mennonite mentality that raising the children is primarily women’s work is not healthy. My husband works in a secular workplace. If he told his co-workers that he was going home to babysit, they told him it’s not babysitting if it’s your own children, it’s just part of his responsibility as a parent. 🙂
I had no idea mothering was so hard. I felt like I got ripped off. No one, absolutely no one, had ever talked to me about it. My mom tells me now how busy she was when she had small children, raising their 10 children (born in 15 years), on a farm. I’ve wished she would have talked about it when I was getting married. Why don’t we young moms talk about it? Why don’t we help each other with projects? I’m not there anymore but oh, I remember! You will certainly not hear me wish my children would remain babies! Yes, I’m still busy, but it’s a different kind of busy. It’s so much easier when children can get themselves dressed and help with the work. I will pray for you!
The fact that our children have two grandmas who love them and really love to spend time with them really amazes me some days! But I am so thankful for their help and support. There is no one I want more than my mom after I have a new baby!
I feel like I should encourage this dear young mom. I’m a young myself and I know it’s not easy. But I also feel like God wants us to be joyful moms and find fulfillment in this important calling. Here’s a few things that have helped me.
1.) God uses motherhood to refine us. I didn’t realize how selfish I was till I became a mom. I didn’t know that there was anger that could weld up within me. I learnt about trusting God in a whole new way. I read once that through the great work of motherhood we can slowly be conformed to the image of God.
2.) PRAY. Pray daily for patience, wisdom, and strength. I try to remember to do quick little prayers through my day.
3.) Ask for help. There are times when it’s humbling to admit that I can’t do it all. But it can lift such a burden and put a smile on my face to have the house cleaned in just a couple hours and the laundry done. It’s amazing what an extra set of hands can do!
4.) Keep your expectations low. I intentionally make sure my daily ‘to do list’ is short. It makes me feel accomplished if I have everything crossed off at the end of the day. If I’m able to do more, I often write them on the list just so I can cross them off! 😉
5.) Take care of your health. Eat healthy foods. Try to sleep as much as possible. At times I take calming herbs and magnesium so I can fall asleep quicker at night and also to aid in a deeper sleep. Do see a doctor if you feel constantly negative and overwhelmed. Postpartum depression can happen anytime in the first year after a birth, and it is very common.
These a just a few things that can help bring joy to motherhood. I know it’s not easy, and I wish you the best. I believe not every mother is cut out the same. Maybe you will enjoy the older years better! There is hope! And with God, we can get through each season of life!
I think the hardest part for me always happened a couple months in. I would get in bed beside my husband, and all I could think was, “I’ve been sat on, fought over, slurped on, and squished ALL DAY. Please don’t touch me!” Still, I loved the baby stage in so many ways, and found it easier than teenagers overall. Relinquishing control is a tough one for me.
You’re doing it right. You really are. You’re giving it to Jesus, and that is the only thing that gets us through motherhood at any of its stages.
I connected with all of this. I have thought all these things and worse.
That shamefilled thought, “If I knew them what I know now” gradually became, “If I knew now what I will know then…?” I am pursuing that relentlessly.
Several things have helped me, maybe they will resonate with someone.
1) a mentor mom or 4 who is not shocked by your thoughts
2)books about family and home from a Christian perspective
3) monthly meetings with other moms in my stage where we share and PRAY for each other
Blessings blessings blessings. None of us are perfect, but many of us are leaning into the labor pains of God birthing us to be more like him. (It hurts.)
Well written! May I add my 2 cents? Knowing Louella personally, I say it was a very healthy kind of honesty. Did you see the smile when her baby woke up earlier than she wished? Did you catch her desire to give her honesty to Jesus and allow Him to grow her in her ‘momhood’? I too am a mom who has my ups and downs. Like my last night when I was up to calm my 6 month old betimes. But I can’t forget the winning smile she pops me at the end of a good nap:) or the time my dear 2 year old boy says ‘let’s do dishes!” When all I feel like doing is closing my eyes for a nap…. keep writing you all, it’s a day brightener: )
I’m glad you’re smiling anyway. But I raised twelve and loved it! I was not a baby person, but when my babies came, I gave them everything with joy.
I’m kind of appalled that so many ladies are identifying with this post. On some level, won’t the children KNOW?
I know, too, that my mother, who raised nine, did not feel the way you express. And I have four sisters with thirty one children between us. I never heard anything like this from any of them. And much to make me believe otherwise of them.
I am concerned to see this abnormal emotion toward motherhood being affirmed as normal and honest.
From this grandmother’s perspective, what you and others are expressing is not healthy or normal. I propose it must be either hormonally dysfunctional or simply selfish.
Our default, human nature is selfishness. But the worst thing we can do is live in denial of it. It’s a message of hope to other moms. Motherhood is ruined by the fall, but when I confess my faults and pray with other believers- He heals us. We need our Perfection in the Person of Christ.
If motherhood came easy for you, that’s the sheer mercy of the Lord, but surely there are other areas you wrestled with the Lord about?
This level of shaming being done to such an honest post is precisely why so many mennonite women struggle w anxiety and depression. They must fit into the box which says that all women must love having babies. That is the part that is not normal. The shame that Louella feels and the shame that you have projected onto her is not of God. She says she loves her children, and I KNOW she does, but she is being honest about the struggles. That honesty is what will help her get through. Keep writing, Louella! Hugs!
Gwen, I am appalled that you have the nerve to say this to someone who is being honest about a very real struggle! Mothering feels to me like I’m a square peg being pounded into a round hole. It’s hard, day after day it’s hard. Before I had my own children, I never much enjoyed other people’s babies. I simply had other interests. Please please be kind to those of us who struggle. If you haven’t been in our shoes, maybe you’d best not give pat answers that feel hurtful and unkind when we’re truly doing our best.
Well written, Louella, it’s true…we so quickly forget those crazy days of when they were little and the sleepless nights . This made me think of how as the oldest, at 12-14, I used to wonder why mom didn’t keep the kitchen counters cleaned off. When she went to the barn in the eve and I babysat, sometimes I would scurry around and clean the counters and take all empty jars downstairs and put a doily and flower bouquet on the freezer in the entry. If she were still alive, we could laugh now. Who has time to remove a flower bouquet from a freezer????. And my kitchen counters..well, it seems we rarely get done. At least not to my 13 year old standard lol. I’m hoping my soon to be 13 year old will soon start thinking she should help out her counters filled mom ????????. I wish I could ask mom what she used to think when she came in from the barn. Hallelujah?? She was inspired to clean up! ????
Yes! Yes! Yes! This sounds so like me! Thanks for being honest and putting it into words. If we just keep everything inside and don’t “confess our faults” to each other, it only rolls around inside this head of mine and eventually gets bigger and worse and worse and finally explodes and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere close!! I feel so guilty for struggling to love my children and I pray often that God would give me a love for them. I have 3 children and at least 2 of them are very strong-willed. Did you ever read “Parenting Isn’t For Cowards” or ‘The Strong-willed Child” both by James Dobson? They emphasize that parenting strong-willed children just IS HARD! I grew up with an abusive father and I struggle with anger myself and I do not want my children to have to sort through all that aftermath from me! But it’s just so hard! I’m guessing the parents that think we’re abnormal either aren’t being honest, or have compliant children. But maybe that’s too critical?! I AM glad if some can honestly enjoy every minute of motherhood.I do so want to be “a joyful mother of children”. I am trying to deal with the issues of the past so I can get past this depression and anger, but it just always will be harder for me than some others. I never was a “children person” and I struggle to understand them and am intimidated by them. I do love my newborns and babies,tho there are definitely struggles with that stage too. its more the age 1 and up that I struggle more with, especially the constant talking and questions and hot-wired energy and constant messes that make me so tired and discouraged. I just want peace and quiet!!! I do love them; it just doesn’t always feel like it. And yes self……that monster that wants to destroy everything good and loving! I am growing to feel like everybody should have a mentor….we just cant do life by ourselves no matter how super mom we think we are (at least I cant). I love the older mom God has brought into my life and tho it’s hard for me to open up and be honest and open, it is a tremendous help. After all the Bible does say the older women are to teach the younger ones to…..love their children. So God must have known we’d have struggles with that! So is talking and praying with Hubby–God knew exactly who i’d need in this journey!! Sorry for the long epistle!
I love the discussion going on here! I can identify with the writer in the fact that I never knew how incredibly selfish I was until I had children! But otherwise I don’t identify because I loved the baby and toddler stage!!
I do feel sorry for those who struggle. There has already been excellent advice given, I guess I’ll add my little morsel.
Pray with your husband every morning about your struggle to mother! For years we prayed as a family before putting our children to bed, my husband and I prayed together over big problems, but otherwise we prayed separately over all our “small” problems. It wasnt until a foster child was placed with us with problems that horrified even the social workers that things changed. Then for the first time I knew what it was like to not want to get out of bed in the mornings, to go places mentally that I had only read about in books… then is when I started begging my husband each morning for special prayer that I could stay sane through each day. God answered! The difference it made was astounding. I had prayed over and over before but somehow it was different when my husband was crying out to God to save my sanity for me! Even a social worker told me one day that I had changed, she couldn’t describe it but finally said I was “somehow calmer”. The child was no easier but I was handling it better. That was 3 years ago and we still pray together each morning. The crisis is past but we’ve found it wonderful to pray together over all the little things that bring worry or dread to either one of us and then rejoice together over His answers! I believe Matthew 18:20 like I never did before!
I am going to comment before I read the 20 before mine. I am 39, expecting my 7th child. My oldest is 13. I have experience, but am not experienced. I so get what this post is saying!! Over the years I have felt the shame as I read the various Christian magazines about motherhood and family and hear the mothers who love mothering tell the overwhelmed ones to enjoy it, it doesn’t last long, be cheerful, etc. Tell me how! Tell me what to do when the happy thoughts don’t come naturally! Tell me how to cultivate them!! I have some more perspective now. Not what I will have in 10 more years, but 13 years and 6 children’s worth. And it gets better. Easier? Not really. But when you keep on doing what you have to do (wiping noses and bottoms, disciplining when you feel either like laughing or crying, hugging and cuddling when you feel ready to drop, answering questions, making meals, cleaning messes, teaching children to do chores, to get along with each other, to be responsible humans who know about God and what He expects from them….) your heart expands a little more. There is a little less of you and a little more of Jesus. When you keep taking your shame and your questions and your selfishness and your hurt and loneliness and smallness to Jesus, He gives you some more of Himself and His heart for people, including you and your children. You are on the right track. You ARE doing this! Just like in childbirth when there is sometimes that point when you yell or think “I can’t do this!!”, you ARE doing it! You are being sanctified in the hard and in the not knowing. We don’t get blue ribbons when we get it right. We don’t always know till later whether we touched our child’s heart or not. But God doesn’t just give the children to the smart ones, or the most spiritual ones, or the calmest ones, or the most theologically correct ones….Sorry. Thoughts are random here. Find an older mom to walk with you, or a mom in your stage to encourage you as you encourage her. Keep each other sane. We aren’t meant to mother alone.
[…] you to all who shared thoughts on Louella’s post. The diversity of our experience is proof of how difficult – and essential – this conversation […]
I wish you could have been in my life 30 years ago.
I wanted children, and I loved my babies, but I found that stage so unspeakably hard that it still pains me to remember.
My pregnancies were horrible. My babies were colicky, screaming and screaming for hours for no discernible reason. If they slept at all it was for short periods of time, then the screaming resumed. Some of my toddlers, were loud, needy, wild, active, and defiant. They all had super-inquisitive minds, generating hundreds of questions a day.
I felt exhausted and overwhelmed every single day. I loved my children but I got angry and desperate.
None of my peers understood. I remember sharing with other moms, both older and younger, and they would look at me with sympathy but no comprehension. Their babies ate and slept on schedule like normal babies. They fell asleep in strollers. They didn’t scream for hours. One older mom said, “I used to be happy when my babies were sick, because then I had a good reason to hold them.” I couldn’t comprehend that. I was always holding babies, trying to calm them.
The shame and isolation were unreal.
Somehow we all survived but I wouldn’t go back to that stage for all the tea in China.
I realize now that there were factors that made that stage harder than it needed to be:
–I was a broken little person, so I parented out of shame and a lot of unhealed wounds.
–I was physically worn out and depleted.
–I was unable to ask for help, from doctors, counselors, my husband, and others. Sadly, I did eventually ask two other women for advice, but they weren’t helpful. One said, “Spank more.” The other said, “Well! It sounds like he has anger issues!” Well, yes. One person was sure our son had a demon. Not helpful but it sure added to the shame.
–My mental health was teetering on the verge and we didn’t have the skills to recognize it.
As I said, we survived. I’ve gone back to my kids and apologized for how much I spanked and how impatient and angry I was. They are so kind about it.
It eventually got easier. The toddlers started sleeping through the night, for starters.
I’m not surprised that a few commenters here are shocked at your honesty. They are probably the women I went to, back in the day, who looked at me with blank and uncomprehending faces when I tried to share how hard it was. I can’t be too hard on them because how could they possibly have understood?
If you want advice, I’d say get healthy in every possible way. Good food, vitamins, counseling, good books, mentors, Bible studies, medical help, everything. It’s not selfish. Ask for the help you need. Try to find friends who empathize. Find ways your husband can help carry the load.
You are strong and you’re going to make it.
Your children will know that you loved them, and they’re going to be ok.
Here is a big HUG from me.
Amen and Amen. This is why we need each other. Why we need to hear from older moms.
Thank you for sharing For gas. I respect you, as I watch you mother from afar with candid life experience and honesty.????
Thank you for being vulnerable and brave about this subject. It resonates deeply with me. I struggle with finding fulfillment in these years of littles. It has nothing to do with my children as people, I love them with a tiger-love and they know it. But losing my mother while I was carrying my first one and living hundreds of miles from any family, has made it feel so overwhelming. So let’s extend the grace, hold up the arms, and not bash the honest heart-felt sharing that’s happening here.
Just loved the honesty of this letter, sweet fellow-mom-of-young children. And all the comments to follow… interesting, Didn’t love all of them, but still interesting. I”m the eldest of a large family, baby-sat for my parents and for lots of others, was the kind of teenager that often got the comment “Oh, you’re so patient with children” (and yes, I think it did go to my head, because in retrospect, how hard is it to be patient for a few hours with kids you don’t have to deal with 24/7?!). Never one of those girls who just “loved babies” and had to hold every one I saw, but loved kids all the same. So when my own baby #1 came for me after a year of marriage, I figured “no problem, I’m experienced”. Oh. Wow. I had no idea. I distinctly remember watching my baby cry one day, crying myself, and thinking “he doesn’t even like me. How can I be his mom?” Loving him, but hating the tiredness, the achy knees from what felt like endless evening sessions of gentle jostlings to settle a fussy baby, the inability to “get anything done”, the unending responsibility of being tied to a little person who had to have mom for his very sustenance (and no, I’d never call myself one who has to have “me time”, unless a private shower or even using the bathroom alone can be considered “me time”?!). I despised (and can I confess, kinda still do?) when an older mom would look affectionately at my little one(s), and give that worn out line “Enjoy them while they’re young, they grow up so fast”. Fast forward; baby #1 is 11 yrs old, baby #6 is 1 yr old. It’s true, they do grow fast, and I get why experienced moms say that, but in all honesty, I think the speediness is a good thing, because just how long can we survive on 4 or 5 hours of regular sleep? In Christ’s strength, yes, we can do whatever He calls us to do and His grace is without limit, and yet it doesn’t change the fact that these yrs of infant-toddler dependency are hard! I too, even while congratulating a mom-to-be on her precious news of new life growing within, think of the dramatic changes ahead of her, and wonder to myself, how much should I say? Should I say anything? If someone had tried to clue me in, would I have listened? I feel strongly now, that one of the best things we can do for the young moms following on our heels, is be there for them, in practical ways (clean her bathroom(s) or take her other young kids to a park for a morning romp or take her a meal), “teaching” just like scripture says! And if not able to do that, then have a soft heart towards them, and lift them in prayer as much as possible. The struggle is real, so real. I identified with so much of what the other gals shared here. Even the candid comment about climbing into bed at night and not wanting to be touched. Oh so true. God help all of us, to do our best in this huge task, with His unending help and wisdom, because these precious little lives are a reward, just as He says, even on the days when it feels like anything but that. Including a few links (if that’s ok) to some articles that I’ve enjoyed on this very topic.
I remember days when I wondered if I would ever, ever, ever not be tired again. I remember nights when I looked in on my kids sleeping peacefully and wondered how I could have felt so impatient during the day. I loved being a mom and I loved my kids but sometimes life was hard. I hope I never forget how hard it was. I’d rather be an encouragement than a discourager to young moms. Bless you for loving your kids in the tiredness and for being honest. We had 6 in 10 years and the first three in three. I would not trade it but it was exhausting.
Motherhood is for me the most rigorous, demanding, and unrelenting spiritual discipline I have ever participated in. But God has faithfully met and continues to meet me in my weariness, discouragement, anger, joy, successes, and felt (and unfelt) love for my children.
I cannot underscore enough the importance of our thoughts and beliefs about God as we walk as mothers. It is good that we bring all our emotions to Him, but we must also stand under the Word of God and allow His truth to run over and over and over our minds. We too must walk in obedience even when we don’t feel like it or don’t understand. (Just like I tell my kids) Practically, my go-to’s are 1. Dwell Bible app, 2. Shane & Shane Hymns album, and 3. Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick.
Also, just in this week alone, I have cried separately to my mother, my mother in law and my small group leader about the lack of joy-and I don’t mean happiness- in young moms, myself included. Each one has mentioned the weight of technology, information, and expectations that today’s mothers face. My mom has so encouraged me by saying that it IS harder to raise children in this mobile society. Just the acknowledgment of that eased my burden. But here we are, and if God is faithful, he will equip us to be mothers in this society. Is he faithful? He is. Worship Him for that today.
Ok, my four children under 6 are ravenous. Must run. I prayed for you this morning. You are not in the trenches alone.
One more thing that I have found helpful when I find myself in seasons of despair, anger, chronic annoyance and impatience is to ask for and receive (without defense) correction from my husband or older women in my life. Sometimes it really hurts, but it’s worth it and I know they all are praying for me, so that trade off makes it worthwhile.
I was a Mom to children who would not sleep at night…. and I wondered how to survive. Taking one moment at a time, and a word of caution, don’t pray for patience, you will multiply your trials…. Instead pray for Grace for each step of the journey. Your journey will be more graceful. I have not forgotten how it felt, to be up all hours of the night. One thing I did do, was have rest time after dinner, for all in the household, it was needed for all, even if they were quiet and looked at books…. and I could rest and recharge.
Our youngest is 18, and I do remember it is intense…. and somewhere along the way, they all did learn to sleep through the night….. now, being a Grandma and sharing the load, with others, with the help I wished I had…..
I want to give you a hug, because like so many others already said, you ARE doing it! Mine might be a different perspective than the rest, because I am not a mom. I’m an upper 20’s single woman. But I care deeply about children, parents, honesty, and hard. I was a “difficult child”. And I’m still a hard learner in some ways, and life hasn’t been easy. But let me just tell you what, from my perspective, children really need. That is mothers (and fathers) like you! Parents who are leaning hard on Jesus, and mothers have a great impact in this way because you are with them daily in the nitty gritty. They WILL feel loved, not because you always FELT like it, but because you chose to show up and do it, regardless. One who lets the hard make her broken and softer and chisel out the impurities. That is such an important life lesson for children to catch! How else will they understand what being a Christian means? It won’t be through having a perfect mom, but seeing one who sees her need of Jesus, who makes big mistakes, and then displays what a godly attitude of repentance and restitution and redemption looks like. I get so passionate and excited about this, because it’s such an incredible gift to your children, especially once they become teens and adults. Motherhood is a calling from Jesus, a high sacrifice, a call to be that corn of wheat that dies so that it can bring life to all the “ears” that grow out of the stalk. I don’t know why there’s this pressure that you have to “like” motherhood. That’s not even the point! Doesn’t sound that fun to me! But a promise of rich reward? Yes!!! I like to think that motherhood is a picture of the Christian life fleshed out, like Jesus was. Did he always like it? No, it sounds to me like most of the time it was the opposite – hard! He wanted to get away often. He needed his disciples, and his time alone away and with God. He is your perfect strength, example, and all knowing, all compassionate friend. He gets it. Hope this is an encouragement and makes sense. My hat is off to you and all mothers!!!
Hugs to you my friend! This takes me back to when my second daughter was little. I look back on that as one of my hardest years. Bless you as you keep on going one day at a time. It changes so much in a few years… my 14 year old is a tremendous help as well as often being my babysitter ☺ Wish we lived closer so I could share that with you! Praying for you today!
Louella please don’t beat yourself up. Motherhood is the hardest job in the world and the most important. When my girls were little they would drive me absolutely crazy. I think babyhood was hard because I could never understand why my baby was crying or why each of them decided they were nocturnal which caused me to have the “mean sleepies” in which I was so sleep deprived I was a mean old hag!
However I survived with the Lord’s help. If you don’t have a regular quiet time with the Lord, I want to encourage you to do so. A devotion I use is Tea Leaves and More Tea Leaves both by Nancy Stutzman and they are available at Christian Light Publishers the website is clp.org
I wish I could give you a hug and do a road trip and hug all the moms who are struggling.
I hear you my friend, and understand how hard it is. I was there not so very long ago myself. There are a few things I’d like to share.
1. If something isn’t working, try something different. Here are a few things I tried, that actually made a difference:
2. Split night duty with Daddy. Here, he took the early morning hours so I could get some uninterrupted sleep.
3. Get help. Laundry and cleaning can be delegated.
4. Always make extra when you are cooking, and freeze a meal or two for later. Many things freeze well. Meatloaf, mac-n-cheese, chicken noodle casserole, rice, beans, most soups, grilled chicken, gourmet potatoes.
5. Spend time in Bible reading and prayer. Make it happen. This is the context in which the glaring ordinary becomes the glorious ordinary, and our home is holy ground, and our children are Jesus.
6. Take your vitamins.
7. See physical intimacy with your husband as something to receive instead of something to give. Freely ask for foot rubs and back rubs. Why not have a nice reward at the end of a long day? Let your husband fill your tank so you have plenty to give again the next day.
8. Shame, anger, resentment…while it may be normal to feel these things sometimes, it’s not ok. Ask the Lord to show you where they are coming from and work to resolve those issues and move towards healing. In my experience, counseling speeds up the healing process.
9. Give up your right to solitary bathroom breaks. At the same time, keep in mind that it’s only for a relatively short season.
10. Don’t underestimate the spiritual warfare in this country against the happy Christian home. Don’t sit down and cry, my friend. Stand up and fight!
If something isn’t working, try something different. Please don’t stay stuck. “He brought me out of the miry clay and set my feet on a solid rock and put a song of praise in my heart.” My children are now 2, 3, and 4, and I am so grateful every day that he has given me joy and a song again! It will come for you too.
I am sorry my comment came across as shaming someone who is honest about her struggles. I wrote it too quickly and incompletely, and I am sorry. I will try again, and pray I will speak truth and love, not shaming. But while my heart wants to be kind, deep kindness doesn’t always feel good. If Luella’s honesty is seen as admirable, please try to have grace to respect my honesty here as well.
I realize I was partly responding to the comments of others, rather than Luella’s post alone. These comments particularly, make me very concerned about our young mothers:
-I had no idea THIS is what all those moms were enduring! (What?All those moms?)
-My mom (now in her upper 60s) was one of the few “honest” ones in her generation.
-It’s the mom’s who are not honest that make the ones who struggle, struggle even more.
What I hear you ladies saying is that IF someone doesn’t admit to this unhealthy perspective they are not being honest. This is simply NOT true. (If I misunderstood you, I am sorry. I welcome your clarification.)
I read Luella’s post to my daughter-in-law this morning while she nursed her second baby. She looked concerned and said, “She has to be struggling with postpartum depression. People don’t realize that it can manifest up to a year after a baby is born.” She did NOT think, either, that a healthy woman would have such thoughts. That had been my thinking when I read it. Luella asked for helpful advice from older mothers. I meant for my hormonal-issues suggestion to to be helpful advice. But I wrote it all too fast. I am sorry.
To the sister who wrote “If motherhood came easy for you, that’s the sheer mercy of the Lord, but surely there are other areas you wrestled with the Lord about?” Thank you, sister. You are right. I suggest it is more than the mercy of the Lord, however. I believe joyfully motherhood is normal, and is built into us by God’s design. I don’t think struggling with resentment about our lost freedoms should be seen as normal, and joyful motherhood seen as a merciful exception. That is what I long to communicate. But I did NOT mean to suggest I had no struggles in life. In fact, I struggled terribly with sinful, even abusive behavior toward my adopted, mentally, retarded son. I did indeed weep before God, pleading for freedom from this gross lack of love and respect for his heart. (To clarify: I don’t see Luella behaving sinfully, so I don’t speak to her in this, but I do speak to the lady who wrote “It’s the mom’s who are not honest that make the ones who struggle, struggle even more. We think you must have it all together and never go on your knees sobbing about yelling at your child once more.”) You seem to suggest that you shouldn’t have to hear how sinful and wrong it is yell at your children, when you are already grieved about it. Dear mothers, IF we do this, we DO sin grievously against our children. Don’t normalize it. It may have comforted me, but would not have been helpful to me to hear from other moms that my anger toward my adopted son was normal and God understood that I was doing the best I could.Because of his unusually difficult behaviors, it may have been normal. I don’t know. But it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I sinned, sisters. Sinned grievously. No matter how many other moms are sinning, too. I will never try to normalize that, or say that the moms who never did admit to getting angry against their children like I did toward this son, are not being honest. This son was the ONLY one of the children I came close to feeling that way toward, and my heart aches at my sin against God and him. It was NOT okay, and if I had shared it with an older sister, I hope she would have offered prayer and accountability. I hope she would have stood with me in calling it sin. But I would have wanted her to be kind and understanding in it. (And this was a son with unusually difficult and trying behaviors that were not age appropriate, baby and toddler behaviors. He came to us when he was six, and I already had several little ones born to us, so I did not include this story in my initial comment about how much I loved being a mom. That first comment was addressing the normal motherhood experience such as Luella and others spoke of.) Obviously, I didn’t have postpartum depression with him, so sin and selfishness is the only other thing it could be, no matter how understandable my reactions may have been.
Some situations are exceptionally hard and are not normal motherhood. Marge, my heart ached for your story. I wish I could hug you. You have born more than most women bear in a lifetime.
Young women who don’t have children yet, please don’t expect motherhood to be like it has been presented in so much of this thread. It is demanding, yes. You will be exhausted sometimes, yes. But don’t expect to resent your children, or your loss of freedom. Most of us don’t. It is the most joyful, fulfilling, delightful life I and tens of thousands of other moms can imagine.
Please, young mothers, who struggle like this, see a good doctor who can help you determine if something hormonal is going on. And if there is not a hormonal issue, find an older woman who can come alongside and help you renew your thoughts and attitudes in Christ, and give you good counsel such as the two Dorcases and some others gave here. I care about you and about your children, and about the generations to come.
Luella, I loved that you smiled into your baby’s face when you didn’t feel like it. That is what matters most. I also wondered it your second might have special needs. This might explain your struggle. May God give you the answers you seek.
God bless you, ozarkdaughter… This was a beautiful response.
Amen! Amen! Amen! Last night my daughter showed this post and the comments to me. I lay awake last night pondering what I had read and was greatly troubled. This morning I came and read the rest of the comments. Thank you! Ozarkdaughter for writing what was on my heart. I did not have the time or ability to do it. After reading these comments I checked the emails. We get these weekly devotionals. The writer has Parkinson’s disease and not an easy life at all. https://gospelbillboards.org/why-lord-why/?utm_source=BBE+Anabaptist+Friends&utm_campaign=347e122dad-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_20465912fc-347e122dad-1204363053
May we choose to take the yoke of Christ upon us and learn of Him. And by the way, I have nine children ages 6-22 all living at home yet. I am busier than ever…. It’s just a different busyness.
I read down through the long line of responses and feel like adding my story too…for whatever it’s worth. I was not a “baby person” either and still don’t hold other people’s babies much (Except when it would be rude not to and then I wonder how to return the baby politely without appearing tired of holding it:) But “strangely” enough when my first baby arrived I was surprised at the STRONG mother love I felt. A few weeks after he was born I said “I am so into having babies. I hope I can have six.” I could sleep whenever I wanted; just lay him beside me to nurse and we’d both fall asleep. What were people talking about “sleep deprived?” Baby number 2 was a total doll baby and she rather me put her in her crib to fall asleep than rock her. Same with Baby number 3 and 4. I didn’t need “baby wise” stuff. My baby’s were just so good…and lovable and fun to take places. Before baby number 4 arrived, I braced myself for a colicy baby because what are the chances for all my baby’s being good? But when she slept so well and was so happy too I thought (and thankfully didn’t voice) “maybe I AM doing something right that my babies sleep so well and are content.” So baby number 5 arrived and I expected him to follow the road paved by his brothers and sisters. No, not happening! He cried and cried and cried. Some nights he barely slept. The crying went on and on and on. I could do NOTHING to make him stop. Aw it was an AWFUL feeling, an awful summer. All my good mommy feelings vanished. At the same time our oldest had just completed first grade and did not know how to read so I was trying to have him read every day and he hated it. I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t focus well and felt like I was in the stage of half falling asleep and dreaming all the time; staring at stuff, trying to make sense of why the poopy pamper was in the fridge, why the water was boiling on the stove. We finally figured out our baby was allergic to cows milk and put him on soy formula. It helped a lot but still what a fussy baby! The now 2nd grader we realized had dyslexia and needed extra help with homework so my afternoons were horrible trying to help him with homework while everyone else scraped and whined (so it seemed) and the baby cried. I texted my husband at work “I locked myself in my bedroom to cry and pray and wonder whatever happened to my ambitious happy dream of six children. It got buried under a mountain of self-pity.”
Baby number 5 is now three years old and such a sweet child. He talks not-stop and makes us laugh every day. He is totally worth all that stress. I wonder if God gave us such a fussy baby so I could empathize with moms who struggle. (I tried to sympathize before, but I did not understand) It is hard. It’s easy to feel bitter and “I can’t do ANYTHING for myself!” Somehow I made it through and I pray you can make it through too, to where you can look back and remember but be so glad you made it and now enjoy your children. When baby number 5 was heading for a year and fought sleep every single night and I walked and walked in circles (he would not let me sit and rock him!) I liked to read blogs on my phone. I went the whole way back to the beginning of Shari’s at one point and read the whole way through (in intravals of course). One poem she had posted I still have hanging on my fridge “God’s the Keeper of the Seasons” Seasons definitely change though when youre in the middle of them it feels like they never will. I take lots of pictures. Pictures so help me realize how fast life and children change. And if you can manage, bath, lotion and dress your baby cute. A cute outfit on a sweet smelling baby makes him feel a little sweeter (even if he’s not acting sweet at all) then a stinky, spit up on baby.
Prayers for all those who struggle with babies. Can anyone empathize with struggling with dyslexia and pre-teens? Sometimes I wish for his baby and toddler stage again :-0
I’m a little late, but I just discovered this wonderful blog! I could connect with Louella and I wanted to share what I have been learning through my journey.
My oldest child was 4 years old when my fourth child was born (10 months ago). We moved to a third world country when my first 2 children were 17 months and 5 months old. I do not have many options for babysitters and if I did, where would I go, what would I do and how would I get there? Most weeks I only leave the house on Sunday. That being said, I can’t separate mom struggles with missionary struggles since they both happened about the same time for me.
These years have been so challenging and I have felt so much guilt for not enjoying my little ones more. I have always been someone full of life and energy, loving what I’m doing and doing it well. Then I became a mom with several little ones. Wham! Suddenly I felt like a failure! I couldn’t reach around, I got (get) so tired of the endless messes, endless neediness, endless fighting, endless questions, endless crying etc. Some days, I feel I hate my life-not my children!-but my life. I have 3 sisters in the same stage of life and none of them struggle like I do and I’m fairly certain they would vouch for me and assure you that they have just as much selfish nature as I do. I often refer to this time in my life as “my desert years”
Looking back over the last 5 years, I see God has been teaching me faithfulness. As others have mentioned, this is a stage, even though it feels like it will go on forever some days. I trust that even though I find babies and toddlers exhausting and draining, I will find school age or teenagers invigorating. Not stress free, but invigorating because we can laugh and talk together. Maybe the moms that are invigorated by babies will find older children exhausting and draining, but they will be faithful too. I know deep down inside that I don’t love my children any less than the mom that enjoys a houseful of babies. In the moments I lack the warm fuzzy feeling towards my brood, what is God requiring of me? To faithfully met 4 little people’s physical and emotional needs, faithfully clean up messes, faithfully teach, faithfully train, faithfully love.
I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel as my children get a little older. The other day my 5 year old was dreaming of what she wants to be when she grows up- a florist and a masseuse. I was so inspired. These children aren’t going to be babies forever! They are going to grow up and touch other people’s lives!!!
know deep down inside that I don’t love my children any less than the mom that enjoys a houseful of babies. In the moments I lack the warm fuzzy feeling towards my brood, what is God requiring of me? To faithfully met 4 little people’s physical and emotional needs, faithfully clean up messes, faithfully teach, faithfully train, faithfully love.
This really resonated with me! To faithfully teach, train and love – so important yet so hard sometimes. I am so thankful for the grace of God in the hard days! Blessings and hugs to you!
This post just seems to say it all. I’ve definitely been there myself… I often say that the 3yo + 1yo stage was THE hardest and from there on out it gets fun 🙂 bless you!!!