The Rise and Fall of SUPERmom

November 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

 

By the time I finished high school and started college, all I really wanted in life was to get married and become a mother.  A perfectionist by nature, I didn’t plan on being just another frazzled mom out there trying to survive another day.  If I was going to do the parenting thing, I was going to do it right!  I was going to be…SUPERmom!  And that’s exactly what I was…at first.

Second to meeting my husband, the birth of my first child, Josiah, was the best thing that ever happened to me.  He was a great baby with a great temperament – laid back and easy-going.  Flexible.  Happy.  And the most precious thing I had ever seen!  I’d gaze at him for hours in awe of a God who could create such perfection!  As he grew, so did our relationship.  We were best buds.  I adored him and he adored me.  My days were 100% his.  If he wanted to play, we played.  If he wanted to read, we read.  And every night, we spent time -just the two of us- cuddling and talking together before bed.  I absolutely LOVED being a mother and gladly sacrificed every moment I could for my child.

Because our son brought so much joy to our lives, we decided to bring another child into the world to love.  Alyssa Joy’s arrival was just as we’d hoped.  Another beautiful blessing from God.  A precious baby girl to join our happy little family.  She, too, was an excellent baby.  The perfect addition to our life. 

Everything was going as planned when the unexpected happened.  Another bundle of joy was on the way…a WHOLE lot sooner than we had planned!  Though we knew without a doubt that this third child was God’s will for our lives (for He had definitely overridden our will to wait awhile to expand the family) I have to admit that I was not pleased with the “new” plan.  I was tired.  My body was tired.  I had a baby already.  And my perfect little boy was proving to be not quite so perfect anymore…

So we brought our precious baby Grace home just twelve days after Alyssa Joy’s first birthday.  And though she was another wonderful baby, our life suddenly became mass chaos.  The battle of the babies began.  Every last moment was spent trying to manage and care for the two baby girls.  “The good life” that Josiah knew no longer existed.  There was no time to read or play or cuddle.  Consequently, Josiah’s behavior took an ugly turn for the worse.  Our once peaceful home was now filled with crying, crying, and more crying.  (And that was just ME!)   Staying home with three kids under the age of four, my worst fear was realized.  I truly had become another frazzled mom just trying to survive another day.  “Only a year until Josiah starts school.  Then a third of my troubles will be over,” I used to encourage myself.  Little did I know!  School was just the beginning of my troubles with Josiah.  But that’s another story altogether…

Determined to conquer motherhood, I pulled out my cape and spent the next few years racing through school plays, doctor appointments, pep rallies, soccer practices, and parent/teacher conferences as SUPERmom, two nap needing toddlers and a mile long to-do list in tow.  Operating in my own strength alone, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and just plain empty.  But I was SUPER!

Just when I thought I had perfected the art of being SUPER…when life had actually become almost manageable…surprise, surprise!  Our sweet Glory made her glorious entrance into our crazy world, gracing this SUPERmom with overtime in the day and demanding that I take on a night shift as well!  BUT… the Lord in His goodness blessed and multiplied my time with our new baby girl.  Delighting in the little things again for the first time in almost six years-the precious moments in time that can never be recaptured- I began to realize just how much of my two older daughters’ lives “the race of life” had robbed me of.  I had not really gotten to enjoy either one of them in their first few years of life.  We did not play.  We did not read.  We did not cuddle.  We didn’t have much of a relationship at all.  We were just doing good to survive!  I realized that in the kids’ eyes, I wasn’t really SUPER at all.  I desperately wanted to start fresh but there just wasn’t enough time in the day to change anything.  I raced the clock all day long and once the kids were in bed, I had to “start” MY day with endless piles of dishes and laundry.  “Busy-ness” had once again taken over every aspect of my life.  Multi-tasking became such an established pattern in my day that I was literally unable to stop it.  I could not slow down for fear of getting behind.  In a desperate attempt for order in the midst of the chaos, I consumed myself with housework.  And when the chores were all done I poured myself into anything else that might give me a sense of accomplishment.  A job well done.  Anything to offset the failure of not spending quality time with my kids. 

I pressed on, tackling every spelling list, field trip, class party, and dirty diaper with full force.  On the outside I was the picture perfect mom but on the inside I was…decaying.  Tired of giving every ounce of myself to “takers” who gave nothing back…ever…and surrounded by a culture that exalts self rather than others, my heart changed.  I began to resent anything and everything that took away from “me.”  After all, it was MY life and I deserved to get to live it.  Right?

Instead of enjoying my kids, pursuing a close relationship with them, teaching them about the Lord, and celebrating who He made them to be, I completely distanced myself, merely tolerating them at best.   Though I went through all of the motions of parenting, I had checked out…and my kids could tell.  I’ll never forget the day my little Josiah looked me in the face and said, “Mom, you know I can tell when you and Dad are just acting like you’re listening to me.”

 I genuinely loved my children, but I honestly had no desire to spend time with them.  In my eyes, any rare moments of extra time were too valuable to waste on playing or talking or being silly.  I had more important things to do.  Like be SUPER!  Or be alone!  Oh how I wanted to just sit in silence –without a single little voice repeating itself a thousand times!  I wanted to be anywhere but home…

Over the years, my attitude and actions continued to slowly spiral downward.  I became harsh and short-tempered with the kids.  With our crazy busy schedule I didn’t have time to be patient, so I began to correct and discipline the children differently.  I demanded obedience and would go to whatever length it took to get it.  And I justified it all in the name of keeping peace in our home.  No longer was I a gentle and loving parent looking for a teachable moment.  Truth be told, I cared more about “appearing” to be in control of the kids than I did about instilling character in them.   I was a drill sergeant forcing results and perfection.  When my children didn’t meet the standard, all hell broke loose!  My emotions were all over the place so the kids never knew what to expect, nice mom, mean mom, really mean mom.  At times, I was overcome with uncontrollable rage when I encountered defiance or disobedience.  My children would literally flinch at the sight of me coming towards them and it broke my heart, but I could not seem to gain control of my emotions.  After correcting them in anger, I was filled with remorse and disgust at myself and my behavior.  What had happened to me over the years?  How had I become so impatient?  So harsh?  So hurtful?  So selfish?  Time after time, I resolved to be a better parent.  A better teacher.  A better example for my kids.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to sit down and do a puzzle.  Or watch a cartoon.  What a waste of time!  Instead of lovingly tending to body boo-boos, heart owies, and bruises of the spirit, I barked orders for them to quit complaining and dry it up!  Instead of encouraging them and building their self-worth, I constantly harped on their shortcomings.  My mouth had become a weapon of mass destruction and I couldn’t control it.

Maybe only those of you who, like me, have experienced the constant power struggles that arise when you’re parenting a son who thinks he’s ten times smarter than you (and really is!) can understand how a mom could reach such a low point.  And maybe only those of us who parent a daughter who exited the womb with fire in her eyes and a sassy attitude the size of Texas can understand “losing it” and lashing out in uncontrollable anger at a precious child.  Believe it or not, understand it or not, I was there at rock bottom.  Lower than low. 

I finally realized that there was absolutely no way to “fix” things in my own strength.  I cried out to the Lord for change and handed over my terribly warped and broken heart for an overhaul.  He met me right where I was, in the midst of my filth, and began wiping away the muck to restore my perspective on parenting.  The first thing that had to go was the selfishness.  He gently reminded me that my life is not my own.  It’s His.  Bought with the blood of Jesus and therefore at His disposal.  HE is the one who calls the shots on how my time is to be spent, not me.  So, He took my precious time, withheld a little for Himself and my husband, and handed the rest (all of it!) to my children.  And I spent the next five months homeschooling, learning to build and grow what I had stifled and crushed.  It was through that homeschooling process, that he removed “the race” entirely.  He broke the housework compulsion because there seriously were not enough hours in the day AND night to get it all done.  (Believe me, I tried!)  He defeated this SUPERmom’s selfish agenda and set me on a path to fulfill HIS perfect plan.  He, the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the Universe, chose to entrust four very specific children to me –that I would raise them to know, love, and serve Him.  Everyone is created to influence someone.  Maybe not the president or anybody famous but a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor.  As for me, I was created to daily influence four little lives.  To live a life before them that models Jesus.  To lovingly train my know-it-all son to submit to authority and gently teach my smart alec daughter to respect others.  Every choice I make and every word I speak alters their future.  And if I fail at my job of raising them, then they fail, too.  So, with the grace and strength of God, this mom is dusting off her cape one last time and embarking on a new mission –to really become SUPER.  Not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of my Creator and in the eyes of my children.

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Never Say Never

April 13, 2010 at 4:34 am (Magazine Assignments, More than Mediocre) (, , , )

Before I had children, I said that my kid would never talk back to me.
After four children I say, “I have literally taped a mouth shut – more than once!”
 
Before I had children, I said that my kid would never go out in public barefoot.  After four children I say, “Who has time for shoes – and who even knows where they are anyway?”
 
Before I had children, I said that my kid would listen to me the first time every time and that I would never have to raise my voice.  
After four children, I say, “What?  I can’t hear you!”  For I am practically deaf from years of shouting at disobedient kids.
 
There was a day that I said, “Absolutely NO pets in the house.  It’ll never happen.  Don’t even ask.”  Surprise!  Surprise!  At some time or another, we’ve had a dog, a hamster, a cat, a frog, two rabbits, three mice, four fish, thirty – one chicks, a tadpole, lizards, ladybugs, rolie polies, lightning bugs, crickets, and ants living in the house.   It’s funny how the pleading eyes of a precious child can bring about a sudden change of heart.  Never say never.
 
Life changes daily and so do we.  Long ago when I was a child, I determined that I was going to be a “career woman.”  I did not want to have children that might get in the way of my success.   Hmmmmm … one, two, three, four … It’s funny how God can change your heart and alter the plan you have created for your life.  Never say never.
 
There was a day that I said, “I could never home school my children.  I do not have the patience.  I do not have the time.  I do not have the desire.”  In fact, I was actually counting the days until my youngest child could start school.  I was busy racing through life, desperately trying to keep up with the housework, my part-time job, the kids’ homework, and all of their extra – curricular activities.  Stressed out, exhausted, feeling sorry for myself, and spiritually empty, I hadn’t picked up a Bible in weeks … months.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to.  I simply did not have the time to.  I found myself constantly frustrated with the kids and craving time for myself – just to be alone.  I was beginning to resent everyone and everything that needed even a moment of my time.
 
The Bible instructs us to train up a child in the way he should go.   After school, piano, cheerleading, soccer, homework, dinner, church, cleaning house, doing laundry, and giving baths, I barely had the time and energy to say a bedtime prayer.  Forget the training them up in the ways of the LORD!   
 In the midst of my chaotic life the Lord quietly spoke to my heart, “Your children do not even know the real you.  They only know you as ‘Hurry Up! We’ve got to get here.  We’ve got to go there.  We don’t have time for that!  I’ve got to do this.  I’ve got to do that.  Speed it up.   Pronto!  Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!’   Your children understand those words to mean, ‘I don’t have time for you.’  What kind of life is that?  Where is the love?  Where is the joy?  Where is the peace?  You do not spend time with them.  You do not know them – who they are, or what is going on in their lives and hearts.  I entrusted them to you so that you would train them to be mighty for me.  Somewhere along the way you lost sight of the forest for all of the trees.”
 
It was that day that God re – directed my path in life.  He stifled my selfish heart, softened my stubborn will, and filled me with His peace and a genuine passion to point my children towards Him.  I came to realize that I don’t have to keep up with the rest of the world.  In fact, I’d be wise not to.  There’ll come a day when I will have to stand before Holy God and give an account of how I raised my children.  I don’t want to have to tell Him that we were too tired to read His word. Too busy to obey it.  Too selfish of our time to go out and share it.      
 
In His infinite wisdom, the Lord used a financial situation to alter the course of our lives.  Forced to remove our children from private education, the Lord gently changed my perspective on home schooling.  He gave me the courage to try it, the strength to endure it for a necessary season, and the heart to love it.
 
Just weeks into the adventure of home schooling, I look back and am stunned at the way we actually used to live life.  I’m embarrassed of the compromise we embraced.  I am ashamed for regularly telling my six and seven-year old girls that I did not have time to play dolls with them, my three-year old that I did not have time to read her a story, my ten-year old son that I did not have time to hear about his day at school, and my husband that I had nothing left to give him.
 
A day will come when my children return to “regular” school – though I cannot imagine going back to the misery of “the race.”  Through this learning process, the Lord has been so faithful to restore every bit of stolen time to me.  Not only do I have the time to begin each day reading the word of God; I also get to exercise and shower – a luxury every busy mom deserves!  My children are guaranteed a minimum of four hours a day with mom’s absolute attention.  My husband comes home to a clean and happy wife who’s not ready to walk out the door!
    
Public school, private school, or home school – purpose in your heart to prioritize your life.  Don’t let life dictate what comes first.   And never say never.  God most likely will change your heart and your plan.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:33

How about you?  When has God unexpectedly changed your heart…or your plan?

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