Surviving the crashing waves: hope for the drowning mom
I see her everywhere.
She is in Target with her newborn in a stroller (loaded down with 25 million things just in case she needs something), venturing out for the first time. Scared to death by the responsibility of this tiny person.
She is at Chick-fil-a trying to entertain her rambunctious 20 month old while her baby nurses, wondering if she will ever eat a warm bite of food again.
She is at the park trying to convince a stubborn 2 year old and 4 year old that it is time to go while a baby screams in the stroller, kept out well past his naptime in her effort to give her older kids some time to play. She is praying she can hold it together long enough to just make it to the car.
She is the mom of young kids and she is drowning. She is convinced she will never get through this time. She has no idea how everyone else survives. She is frozen in the crashing waves and cannot see the shore.
I was that mom. The months after Sterling, my second son, was born were some of the darkest of my life. I was so overwhelmed. I was worried I had made a mistake in taking on two children, that I had pushed my luck, that I was never going to be able to manage. We were living 7 hours away from family. Paul was working constantly and often gone for days or weeks at a time out to sea. Sterling was so miserably sick. I spent hours holding a hurting baby, many in the middle of the night. We went to 2-3 doctor’s appointments a week. Every outing was an ordeal. The days were so long and I was drowning.
One day Paul came home from work to find me locked in our bedroom sobbing. I had struggled with Sterling to get him to sleep that day while Wyatt, 15 months old at the time, threw a tantrum. I had hit my breaking point. When he entered the room I was overcome with emotion. “What have I done?” “how am I going to manage?” “What if it never gets better?” I could not see the end to the crashing waves and I was convinced I would never breathe again. I wept before the Lord and he heard my cry. He met me there, face down on my bedroom floor and covered me in grace.
Life got better. I found my groove. I poured myself into research and became my child’s advocate and we were able to find a happy normal (I so wish I would have had essential oils back then). I began to figure out how to navigate life with 2 little boys and a husband who was often gone. I began to see the shore. Life didn’t necessarily get easier, in a lot of ways it got harder, (not long after we moved across the country only for Paul to deploy 10 days later and I spent the next 8 months alone in an unknown place) but the Lord showed me repeatedly his grace was sufficient.
I learned something during those months. I cannot do motherhood alone, I need a savior. I learned that God is victorious even in the darkest times. I also learned to live in grace.
With the addition of each baby I have been able to let some things go. The house is not as clean these days. Sometimes the dinner is not gourmet. I’ve accepted that it is okay for my older boys to watch TV while I feed a baby or for my baby to miss a nap so we can go to the aquarium. I no longer attempt to say yes to everything. I am home more. This is where God has called me to be. He is sanctifying me as a mother.
Even with 4 young boys, I have never struggled as much as I did in those days. The days are still long. I still feel the waves sometimes, but those months gave me an anchor in the Lord that I had never experienced before. He gives me strength to get through each day, to encourage other moms who are treading water and wondering if they are cut out for this job, that He is there. He loves your children more than you do and made you their mother. His grace is sufficient.
If you are there right now can I encourage you to do a couple things?
Spend time with the Lord. I am going to be 100% honest and tell you I struggle with this. I am a night owl and cannot imagine a world where I wake up early willingly and often times by the end of the night find I have left out intentional time with the Lord. But I do make a conscious effort to seek the Lord throughout the day. I pray in the shower or while I am driving and the boys are preoccupied. I pray in response to my sin and lack of patience. Every day I pray for grace. It can make a HUGE difference in the course of your day.
Make your husband a priority. I know often times that piece of advice sounds like one more thing on our plate as moms, but I promise is you it will bring you joy. Make date night a necessity. I know you love your kids and think they need you all the time, but a couple of hours away each week or every other week will not hurt them, it will help them. It will help them because they will find security in seeing their parents making time for each other. Date night rejuvenates me. It helps me remember that I am more than just a mommy covered in spit up, being pulled 15 million directions each day. It reminds me that I am someones bride and our marriage is the reason we have these amazing, loving, crazy, loud children. Make sex multiple times a week a priority too. Even if you don’t feel like it, doing it will make you feel closer to your husband and more supported as you tackle each day. He will also be happier. Simply remember to talk to each other.
Cut yourself some slack. Do not buy into this lie that everything has to be perfect all the time. It is okay if you cannot keep the floors constantly clean or the laundry caught up. It is okay if your kids are not involved in every extracurricular activity. It is okay to just relax and enjoy your family. Set realistic goals about what you think you can get done and then let the rest of it go. Talk to your husband about his expectations and these goals so you both recognize the changes children bring. Perfection is a recipe for heartache and exhaustion. Your children want you, not a spotless house.
If this is you. If you don’t know how you are going to manage. If you feel like motherhood is too hard. Take hope. Things will get better. You will began to look at your beautiful mess of a life and see the grace of God woven throughout. God called us to this life. He has us here for such a time as this to lead these children to the gospel. It gets so much easier and their is immense joy if you let go and let Him lead.