Note: I feel I need to write a preface to this post, especially for my readers who are not yet parents. I don’t want my story to sound so awful that it scares anyone away from the desire to have kids or be a stay at home mom.
Every day of mothering toddlers and babies is not awful. In fact, most days are good and happy and joyful. Every single day is hard, but not every hard day is a bad day. The really “low points” in motherhood are probably a lot more scarce than those who aren’t parents would imagine.
But when the bad day comes, and you feel like you’re losing your mind or you’ve reached the end of what you have to give… it’s on those days that you thank God extra much for making marriage and parenthood a team. Because even though you’re often the one most deeply in the trenches, you were not made to do this alone.
I shut and locked the bathroom door and sunk down to the floor, letting my back take the reverberating door pounding of my toddler in full boar tantrum mode.
So far, it had been a failure of a day.
The weather was dark and grey and so were everyone’s moods. The teething baby was constantly fussy, the 2-year-old was screaming, and my eldest was reading to smack anyone and anything within smacking distance.
If I had had the time, I would’ve stayed on that bathroom floor and sobbed my heart dry. But there wasn’t any time for tears or pity parties. I had three boys on the other side of the door that needed me. And needed me to be dry eyed and tenderhearted.
I had prayed for grace all morning. But I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I was sick of listening to crying and whining and fussing. I wanted to run away.
I felt like a dry, withered vessel. I searched my heart for an ounce more of grace – even a drop more patience, but I could find none. I felt completely empty in a way I’ve rarely experienced. The Bible says God does not give us more than we can handle, and that His grace is sufficient. But I felt like my weakness had completely taken over on this day, and I couldn’t find the grace to keep going.
And so I grabbed my phone and locked myself in the bathroom. I texted my husband these words:
“Where is the grace for a mom as empty as I am?”
I think my Hubs immediately realized it was a “family crisis day” because he was quick with a reply and offers to pray, to come home, to help.
I told him the toddlers had already watched a ton of TV while I cared for the screaming baby and they were still all acting like monsters and it was only 11:00 a.m.
“Put on another show, Babe” he texted me back. “I watched a ton of TV when I was a kid and I turned out no worse for wear. It’s not going to hurt anyone to put on another show so you have a chance to breathe. I’m praying for you and if you need me to come home, I will.”
He was calm. He was caring. He was practical. And in my crisis moment, it’s what I needed to hear.
So I put on another toddler DVD and I made another cup of coffee and and I sat down with my fussy baby. And I breathed.
Understanding that I had backup who would/could come if I really needed it somehow got me through that awful morning. Having reassurance that one more episode of Curious George wasn’t going to ruin my toddlers’ brains for life was somehow…calming…to my guilty mom conscience. Knowing that he was thinking of me and praying for me was that ounce of strength I needed to make it. It wasn’t my own strength, because I didn’t have left any at the moment. But knowing I could rely on his was enough to make it.
Parents, here’s what I learned on this really tough day: The grace of the sacrament of marriage is real. It’s so crazy real it blows my mind sometimes.
And when we face tough motherhood challenges, sometimes the grace we ask for will come directly to us. And other times, perhaps the grace will come through our spouse. When we are dry and empty and broken, God has chosen them – heck, WE have chosen them – to be the other half of our souls and our selves. The parenting burden is not exclusively our own. It is intended to be a shared burden with our spouse.
I used to worry that sharing the daily grind with my spouse while he was at work was complaining. I no longer think that’s the case. Even though he’s the breadwinner and I’m the homemaker, we’ve committed to share each others burdens and struggles just like we’ve committed to share the joys and triumphs. Our spouses have been graced and gifted to carry the joys and the burdens with us.
So next time you feel dry, empty, burdened or broken. Tell your spouse. Invite him into the situation. Odds are he will gladly carry the burden with you. Or even better, if you’re lucky, he’ll carry YOU.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10