Friday, April 16, 2010

The Good the Bad and the Guilty

A few days ago I sat at my O.B.G.Y.N's office filled with exhaustion, guilt, physical pain and frustration. There are many things I felt guilty and exhausted for. I felt guilty for taking out my frustration on my son and I am exhausted because I am 36.5 weeks pregnant. I can’t imagine that in less than 2 weeks I am going to have my fourth child. I always wanted a large family. I always wanted to have a lot of children running around my house and making happy noises. Thoughts of freshly painted pictures covering the fridge, fingers covered in messy food, and quiet moments of prayer and reflection at the end of a day filled with hugs and laughter were ever present. I feel so far from that mother I thought I would be with all those happy noises. My son’s constant need to articulate every thought and action irritates me and the sibling rivalry is enough to make me want to sit them outside our porch with a FREE sign around their necks.

Where did I think I was going to get all that patience and loving tender care from? Most of the time inside I feel selfish and short tempered. I can’t let their need to be children override my need to be right and in control. If they cry because they are upset I have to tell them to stop. I can’t handle them crying – maybe except my middle child. I carry a lot of guilty thoughts about him around. I worry that being my only biological child right now will create a problem for my other two children later. Fifteen years ago I never imagined that being a mother entailed so much worry and guilt. I had my dream of my life as a stay at home mom to adopted and biological children well played out. I remember spending many Sunday afternoons thinking about what my life with my family in my dreams would be like. I thought I would have myself all straightened out by then. All the habits and quirks would work themselves out of my life.
As I was cleaning the kitchen sink this morning I wondered why I thought being a mother was going to be such a dream. Where did I get this idea from? It certainly wasn't from my mother. My mother came to Canada on her own when she was just 23 years old. She worked as a nanny for a while. I saw her struggle to put herself through school and take care of me at the same time. Memories of leaving my mom behind while I went on vacations with another family will always stay in my mind. She struggled to hold her fears in check but at times they spilled all over her parenting. She so desperately wanted me to have a different life. She struggled to discipline me but frustration and worry were usually friends to her discipline. I knew my mother loved me very much. I felt it in her determination and her struggles. When she failed at parenting, it was out of desperate love. When she succeeded it was out of that same desperate love. Parenting didn't strike me as coming easy for my mother. So I don't know why I thought it was going to be such a dream?. It is so much harder than I thought. I thought that I would be a pro at it. Where is the woman who was supposed to be fun and full of patience and love. Where is the woman who is firm but kind? Did I ever have the potential to be that woman?

I sit here tonight with no answers to those questions. I just have to trust that my children will know that in the end I just want to be the good part of their bad day, the good ending to a chapter in their life, the good mom who is desperate in her love for them.


Dianne said...

Hey Myrtle,
Thank you for sharing at Walk With Him Wednesday. I really enjoyed reading your post and identified with you so much even though it has been years since I was "in your shoes." I have almost grown grandchildren now but will never forget how hard those mothering years could be at times.

However, God is faithful when we are faithless and He will help you be all that He desires for you to be as a mother, wife, friend, and daughter.

My mom was also my best friend so that really touched my heart.

I pray that you grow in Him and become everything that you want to be as a mom. I know you are great already just because of "your desperate love for them."

I'm so glad to meet you.


Myrtle's Turtles said...

Hi Dianne,
Thanks for your comments. I love that women of all ages and stages can relate to the same feelings about motherhood. Thank you for taking the time to spread some encouragement my way. You have a beautiful family and a garden my mother would love!

jenny said...

Hey Little Mama,
I just stumbled onto your blog from Ann Voskamp's page, but I'm pretty sure it was a God-thing, 'cause I said a fervent prayer for you. I'm a happily married but childless 50-year-old (how'd THAT happen?) living in rural Idaho, but I feel connected to you because of your love for Christ and your feelings of inadequacy. Keep remembering, my sister, that HE is sufficient, and that is why He came. To fill in the huge gap between what we are and what we want to be in Him. Be encouraged today. He sees your heart and knows your desire to please Him. You are precious in His sight - just the way you are. God bless.

Myrtle's Turtles said...

Thanks Jenny. I love that you called me "little Mama". Thank you for praying for me. Isn't it amazing how we can touch the lives of people we haven't even met? I needed those prayers today.

Anonymous said...

Hi Myrtle,

I just found your blog through Ann Voskamp's blog. I saw your link and the picture of you and your two boys and little girl and it caught my attention because I have two little boys (age 3 and 5), and am expecting my third. I'm not sure what it is yet.

Anyway, reading this post reminded me so much of myself and of the struggles and self-doubt I go through everyday. I appreciate your raw honesty. Being a mother is so much harder and different that you think it is going to be. I still fight the image I had and what it actually is.

If I can offer some advice, something that I am struggling to learn, it's that you have to take some kind of break to take care of yourself, even if its 15 mins a day where you get to journal and write a letter to Jesus. Something where you are uninteruppted and can get time to replenish yourself. I have noticed that mum's who are able to do this seem to be better mum's, even though you may feel guilt (as I do) for time away from the kids. I have also noticed that women that pursue what their passion is - even if that is 15 mins a day, seem to be more passionate about mothering. I think its because when you are home with small children, you can feel that your life is about just working all the time.

I am envious of my sister. My children jump at the chance to be with her, because she is fun (and I'm not so much). I know that this is natural. I have to discipline and feed them, and make them go potty, and she doesn't have to do any of that. It bothers me a lot at times. I want to have as much fun if not more with them. That's the way I always thought I would be with my children.

Anyway, even if you can take tiny steps toward doing something you love for 15 mins a day, I think it is a life saver (besides your time with God - that's the best life saver of all even though its so hard to actually get down to doing it). When you do this for yourself, you don't feel like you're just living to physically take care of the children, but you have something to give to them.

A few books that have helped me are "honey for a child's heart", by Gladys Hunt. I get most of the books she suggests from the library. Her advice about providing "honey" for your children was such a shift for me (it's in the first chapter). Reading has become such a bonding thing for us (and it's a time where I don't have to break up fights). Also "Playful Parenting", by Lawrence Cohen. I haven't even read the book all the way through but what little I did read has helped me battle less with the kids.

What I struggle with most is the fighting - usually over toys. When I see them hurt each other it rips me apart, and at times I feel so scared and angry that I scream - something I never thought I'd be capable of. This is my biggest challenge right now.

I hope that some of my suggestions and resources help. I'll be praying for you. (I live in Los Angeles, and I grew up in Canada.)

Again, thank you for your honesty - it really helped me today to see that I am not alone, and that we all feel like we are failing at times.