I wrote this post a year ago about something I learned when I was a new mom – and it’s as freeing to me today as it was then. Buckle up, friends. It might be hard to hear – but I think you’ll be glad you did.
Originally published March 17, 2014.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks, ladies. I’ve said, “My kids are SO HARD right now,” more times than I can count. I walk around at a constant 8 or 9 on the “had it up to here” scale. (So, I boil past 10 over nearly EVERYTHING.) My breathing is a fancy blend of dramatic sighs, huffs & puffs.
I’m tired of the fussing, the complaining, the arguing, the why Mom? Can I Mommy? Mom I need, Mom I want, MommywhyMomcanIpleaseprettypleasebutwhynotMomMommyMomMomMommyyyyyyAHHHHHHH.
I’m weary. I’m angry. I’m over it.
Are my kids really being that much more irritating? Or am I just that much more irritable? I don’t know the answer. Maybe both. But something has to change.
Now this just popped into my head:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
There’s that blessed verse again. And by “blessed,” I mean I really want to cuss, but that feels especially inappropriate in reference to the Bible. But seriously, didn’t I ask for a re-do on that the first time around? Now here it’s popping back in for an encore.
I know God is showing me something. But I don’t really like it. Here’s the thing: Sometimes I say my KIDS are so hard when in reality, I AM THE ONE STRUGGLING.
What’s the difference? And does it really matter?
In one scenario, the unrest in our home is all my kids’ doing – not mine – which may sound like a relief. But in reality, it sucks, because what can I do except grieve the fact that I have really difficult children and a perpetually stressful home?
When we brought our firstborn home, I had a really hard time. This newborn gig was WAY harder than I expected, so my first conclusion was that my baby was a Really Hard Baby.
By the time Owen was 5 weeks old, I was in a pretty desperate state. A dear friend stepped into my misery and spoke some unexpected words:
“Amanda,” she said. “Owen is not easy. No first-born baby is easy for a first-time mom. But he’s not BAD. He’s a BABY. It seems to me that you are struggling.”
Her words weren’t harsh. They were tender and kind.
I was struggling. AND THAT WAS OKAY. And it was a very important distinction from “My baby is just so hard.”
Sometimes, I wonder if we call our kids hard – or spouse or friend or boss or co-worker – when really the situation or relationship is hard because WE are struggling in some area.
Now, don’t get me wrong – maybe the baby is colicky and the kids have bad attitudes – and that IS hard. I’m not saying my kids are easy right now. But if I can OWN that I’M struggling… that means something important.
Let’s clarify something foundational here: Ownership is not blame. Ownership is empowerment.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
How far does it depend on me?
Well, not at all if I’m utterly convinced my children are the entire problem, and my children’s attitudes are the only issue.
The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. (Acts 27:15)
Have I given way? Am I driven along by the attitudes of my children, or the temperament of my baby? I needn’t be. I have an Anchor. Can I own that? What does it look like to do that?
I am so freed up right now to admit that for the past week I’ve basically said, “MY KIDS SUCK” – and the truth is, my kids may be having an off-week, but I. AM. STRUGGLING. And once I can say, “I am struggling,” it’s a blessedly short hop to “I need help.”
Back when Owen was a newborn, that dear friend gave me permission to be the one struggling. And this gave me room to recognize (with help from friends and my husband) that I actually had severe postpartum depression. This should not have been a surprise to me – I’d already been diagnosed with & treated for clinical depression years earlier – I knew I was at greater risk of PPD. But I was so focused on my baby being hard — and so afraid of the problem being me — that I couldn’t go there. There was fear. There was shame.
But remember what we agreed on? Ownership is NOT BLAME. Ownership is EMPOWERMENT.
Ownership meant I could tell my baby I was sorry for saying horrible things about him. Ownership meant I could – and needed to – speak up to my husband about what I needed, (namely, the need to figure out what I needed). For me, it also meant a visit to my doctor and a prescription for anti-depressants.
This week, ownership means I need to keep getting my face in the Word of God. I need to run. And I need to ask for help.
Lord, please help us live at peace with our kids and in our homes. Show us what depends on us. And show us there’s no shame in being the one struggling. Lift our heads, Jesus.
Are you being driven along in some area of your life? Without shame, without blame, what might you need to own right now?