What overwhelms or scares you in your mothering?
Is it sleep deprivation and all that comes with it?
Is it the angry child?
Is it the lack of good parental role models in your own childhood?
Is it your concerns about the future?
Some or all of the above?
Mothering can bring up so many fears for so many reasons, unique to each one of us. But we each experience them. They often manifest themselves as unsolicited internal messages that cause some anxiety, sap our energy, cause us to doubt ourselves.
For me, those messages would often summarize themselves into one phrase that would pop into my mind when I felt overwhelmed… “I can’t.” When those moments in life would loom up at me and weaken me, seemingly out of nowhere, I would feel, more than hear, “I can’t.”
“I can’t get all this laundry finished and still have time to be the present mother I want to be.”
“I can’t handle my children’s overwhelming feelings and my own right now.”
“I can’t balance everything I need to balance.”
“I can’t multitask for one more minute.”
“I can’t handle an incredibly stressful circumstance.”
I could share so many more examples. Perhaps you have a different but similar repetitive message that plays in your head in moments of overwhelm, doubt, challenge, or fear.
If you do, you are not alone. It’s my experience that we all have some message that repeats and depletes us.
For years I thought I had two choices in dealing with this message. The first was to push through and just do what I could. This wasn’t an entirely bad choice. I often accomplished the things that I was facing, but I often felt exhausted and self-critical afterward. I know if this had been the best way, I would have felt successful, accomplished, and more connected to myself and God. The second choice was just to let my feelings escalate into a state of complete overwhelm, which left me emotionally depleted and having to climb further out of the emotional hole before I could deal with the things I had to deal with - because none of it goes away just because I freak out about it.
I try to take some time alone every day with God. During that time, I use part of that time to bring any frustrations I’m experiencing to God and ask Him to give me a listening heart for His guidance. Then one day in my prayer time, I finally realized that I’ve been misinterpreting this “I can’t” message all along. I had been interpreting it as a self-critical, depleting message, so it disempowered and frustrated me. I now realized that those words should be perceived as an invitation from God inviting me to allow Him more intimately into the nitty-gritty of my life. There is an element of truth in that “I can’t” message. I cannot do anything on my own. Recognizing this is freeing. For example, I can’t breathe on my own, nor can I make my heart beat. I cannot have a creative thought on my own. I cannot perfectly enact my plan for my day nor my will for my children’s lives. It is God who has the power and the plan. I can choose to cooperate with it or not. He put me here to know Him, love Him, experience His love, and share it with my family through everything I do. I experience more peace and success when I pause to acknowledge His loving presence in my life and His desire to help me all the time. I experience Him more when I stop trying to impress Him and just ask Him to help me with all I have to do.
Every mom has the experience of watching her child take on something not yet within their capabilities. We stand there watching, wishing they would accept our help as they just try harder and harder until they burst into tears of frustration. This is so similar to my “I can’t” moments. God is right there waiting to help and comfort me. But like an intense child, I chose to block him out, or at least hold Him at arms distance. But if I instead read the “I can’t” message as an invitation, I can choose to take a pause, a deep breath, and pray, “You’re right Lord, I can’t. I need you. Help me, please. Give me the grace I need so you can show me the next small thing I need to do. Open me to your help, and your help through others. Calm me down and let me hear your merciful, loving voice instead. Give me your guidance.”
When I do this, I open the way for Him to accomplish good things, big and small. For example, when I ask for His help with the overwhelm the pile of laundry is causing me, I may get the grace to ask my family for help instead of powering through frustrated and alone, or I might see a way to fit it into tomorrow’s schedule, after first getting a desperately needed night’s sleep.
I can also do this when my struggle involves others. For example, I can ask God for the grace to take a moment to pray with my children for clarity in a situation they are struggling with, rather than just push my ideas on them. I can choose to pray silently before a meeting that God would direct all the minds involved to the best outcome. In any situation, pausing to invite God in (especially if I do it before the situation becomes stressful) always yields more empowered and peaceful results than when I try to handle it by myself.
I believe my experience is something that may resonate with many moms. That is why I am sharing it here. Instilled in each of us is an invitation to co-create our lives with God, the Great Creator. By letting Him into each moment of our lives, we can overcome those depleting voices, as He replaces them with His grace, peace, and power one moment at a time. No moment is too big or small for Him to care about. He wants to love, support, and help us in every moment because He loves us. He’s just waiting to be asked. So now I work hard to make it a practice to invite Him into my day and throughout each day, especially if that depleting message starts to creep back in, and I’m always startled and grateful at how lovingly He shows up.