I can’t do this. I’m not sure if I can keep going. I feel like giving up.
Those are some of the thoughts that have been rolling around in my head the past few weeks and months. And as those thoughts roll around in my head, the tears keep falling down my face. There’s been some challenges that I just didn’t ever expect to be facing as a mom.
There’s not much in life more effective at making you realize just how little you know than parenting. It’s humbling to realize that you truly have little to no control over how your child turns out.
These words from Jon Foreman’s song, “Cure for the Pain” have been keeping me company lately. It’s strangely comforting to know that these feelings are not exclusive to me and my situation.
And here tonight while the stars are blacking out
With every hope and dream I’ve ever had in doubt
I’ve spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away
But the water keeps on falling from my eyes
The last line of the song says, “It would be a lie to run away”. It’s often my instinct to run away. To try and drown out the pain with other things, whether it’s entertainment (Netflix binging anyone?) or an actual addiction, we often turn to other things instead of facing the pain.
What if, instead of running away, we decided to talk about it?
When I was 17, I headed off to college. But for 2 weeks before college courses started, I participated in a program called LaVida. It was an outdoor education program where I was able to spend about 12 days in the Adirondack mountains with a group of 9 other students. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and also one of the most rewarding.
I’ve been thinking about those days in the mountains recently. Perhaps because there’s a lot of similarities between motherhood and hiking in the woods for days on end with out showering. (One of them is that you might literally go several days without showering.)
But seriously, there were moments on that hike that I felt like I could not keep going. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, and there were times that the pack was just too heavy for my petite frame. Lately, that’s how motherhood has been feeling – like I don’t really know where I’m going or how to get there. And there are days I’m not sure if I can keep moving forward.
When the tears keep falling as a mom, what do you do? How can you keep going, when all you want to do is run away?
- Focus on the next step.
I’m the kind of person who likes to know how things are going to turn out. I like to see where I’m going, have a plan, and execute the plan. However, motherhood is not like that. At least with hiking, you usually have a general idea of where you are going. However, that is not possible as a mom.
When you hold that new baby in your arms, you have absolutely no idea how things will turn out. You have hopes, dreams, and you may even be able to influence that child significantly. But ultimately, it’s not up to you! (That’s a great feeling, huh?)
I have to remind myself to stop trying to control everything. I can’t. I have to focus on the next step – sometimes the next minute – with my child. It’s a humbling reminder to savor, to focus, and to not take things for granted. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, and even if it is, I can’t control how it is going to turn out. All I can do is choose my own attitude, behavior, and reactions right now.
- Share your load with someone else.
On my hike years ago, I learned something that while I was responsible for carrying my own load, I was also able to ask for help. There were times that we rearranged packs, based on someone’s needs at the moment. When one of us was struggling, or someone else was stronger, loads could be adjusted so that everyone could keep going.
As a mom, it is so important to have other moms to help lighten the load. I literally do not think I would have made it this far without some amazing moms who have walked beside me. When my baby was young, I had a couple friends who had kiddos just a few years ahead of me. I was able to cling to their words of wisdom, and know that I was going to make it through the sleepless nights and nursing challenges.
As a mom, it is so important to have other moms to help lighten the load. Click To Tweet
Now that my daughter is older, I have a few friends who are there to listen, relate, support, and encourage me. At times when I feel like it’s too much, simply sharing my load – by talking, crying, or praying – can make a world of difference.
- Savor the sunshine.
There was one particular moment I remember from the hike in the mountains of New York. We had hiked a long, difficult day, and we finally set up camp in the rain. It rained ALL night, and our tent leaked. My feet were soaking wet all night, and I had to sleep all scrunched up in order to keep the rest of me dry – it was miserable.
The next morning, when we woke up, there were beautiful rays of sunlight streaming through the trees. It was like a whole new world from what we had experienced the night before. When you’ve just been through a storm, the sunlight seems that much more bright.
Even though we are walking through some challenges as parents, and there are times that the storm is strong and everything feels difficult, there are still rays of sunshine. I’m learning to savor those moments – to take delight in them. I’m learning to identify and appreciate the times that are great, and this helps take the focus off the storms.
- Slow down or take breaks.
When we were hiking the Adirondacks, our guides had a destination we were heading towards. There was a time frame to them, and there was a plan and a map to follow. Yet, when someone was struggling, or when the group needed rest, we slowed down or took a break.
As moms, we often feel like we have to be accomplishing stuff. We need to be doing all the crafts. Going to the library. Teaching our child 3 languages. Making gourmet meals every night (okay, that’s never really happened in my house). Reading the appropriate amounts of books every day and of course not allowing tons of TV & iPad time.
Here’s the thing – we’ve gotta give ourselves a break! If things are really rough, and you’re drowning, you’ve got to allow yourself to take a break, or at least slow down.
What does that look like? It might be adjusting your weekly routine so that you have less on your schedule. It could mean talking to your spouse about how you can have more help. Perhaps you need to make sure you get a moms night out or a lunch date with a friend on a regular basis. It might mean cutting out social media or Netflix for a time and instead spending time doing something more life-giving. (Don’t worry, I’m not anti-social media or Netflix – I just know what a time suck they can be).
For me, during this time of challenges, I’ve really been considering how I spend my time, and making sure I am doing things that are life-giving to me on a regular basis. And while I want my family to eat healthy, I’m not beyond asking my husband to pick up pizza on the way home if I’ve had a particularly challenging day.
- Rely on God.
Even when you do all of the things above, there may still be times that you feel like you can’t keep going. There were definitely times on that hike in the Adirondacks that I felt like I was not going to be able to take one more step. My only hope in those moments was to rely on Jesus.
And in the days now when I feel discouraged, and the tears keep falling, I have to pray and turn over those thoughts of inadeqaucy to Him. I know they are not from him. I ask God to provide me with the strength to take the next step, to accomplish what feels impossible to me at that moment.
One of my favorite verses since my teen years has been 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”… For when I am weak, then I am strong.
It’s reassuring to know that when I am weak, Christ provides the strength I need. Ultimately, that is the only way I’m making it through most days right now.
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