Even though I am a right-brained, non-numbers-person, every day at around 1:00pm, my life, sanity, and happiness begins to revolve around a number. Sixty. I know that there are sixty more minutes left until I can put my 2 and 4-year-old boys into their room for a little quiet time and put my 10-month-old baby twins down for a nap. Ahhh, sixty. Sixty minutes until I can use the restroom in peace (wow, I’ve been holding it in since 11:00!), I don’t have to hear anyone talking about Swiper or Thinking Chairs or how to get to Sesame Street. Sixty seconds turn into 1 minute. And now everything revolves around fifty-nine. Ahh, fifty-nine. Fifty-nine minutes until I can make myself some lunch and watch a short TV show or straighten my hair or just lie on the couch.
The minutes slowly tick by, then it’s 2:00, and it’s finally quiet. No one is asking me questions. No one is crying. No one is singing “the Wheels on the Bus” at the top of their lungs. But even though it’s quiet, some days, it’s peculiarly loud inside my head. My mind shifts from being on diaper duty to being a soldier, arriving for front-lines duty in a war inside the deepest parts of me.
Every mom has her own challenges. I know some moms who work full-time, and they have their own fight, but for me, a stay-at-home-mom, I find that, in those moments when I am not wiping noses or changing diapers or making lunches or potty-training or dishwashing—it’s in those moments when the real battle begins.
Let’s get real. This battle is more than just a bug on my windshield. Like many stay-at-home-moms (and dads), I’m fighting for something that is central to my entire being. I am having a knock-down-drag-out, winner-takes-all, I-might-just-die-on-the-front-lines war to find out who I really am and if I have what it takes. I’m fighting for my identity.
And, the opposing side on this war is not playing around. I have a brilliantly skilled enemy that’s equipped with the most dangerous of weapons. He’s really good at finding all of my flaws and reminding me of every single slip-up. And sometimes, frizzy haired, pregnancy-weight-retained, in-over-my-head little me feels like I’m fighting-to-the-death with only my bare hands.
To make matters worse, my enemy’s powerful weapons are unconventional. He isn’t firing a gun at me. He’s not that overt. He’s not calling my phone, leaving threatening messages on my voice-mail. He’s not that loud. He’s stealthy. So stealthy that I often don’t even notice that he’s got me by the throat, choking the life out of me, until I’ve almost passed out. That’s because my opposition knows that, if he can get inside my mind, into my thought life, I have just given him an all-access pass to destroy my identity, one thought at a time. These thoughts can sound like this:
- I didn’t check anything off my to-do-list today. Therefore, I am inefficient.
- I didn’t give each of my kids the kind of attention they deserved today. I even snapped at one of them. Therefore, I am a bad mom.
- I can’t make my kids do what I’ve asked them to do or share their toys or take a nap or clean up their messes. Therefore, I am a failure.
- My friends are posting pictures on Facebook of their kids eating vegetables and going to fun places. My kids mostly stay at home (a side-effect of having 4 kids, ages 4 and under) and won’t touch a vegetable with a 10-foot-pole! Therefore, I am not as good of a mom as they are and I wish I had their life.
- My life has come to this—diapering, taxiing kids all over town, nursing babies. Therefore, I am missing out on real life.
- No one can relate to me. Therefore, I am all alone.
- With 4 young kids, I am facing day after day and year after year of being stuck inside the house. Therefore, my life is hopeless.
So some days, by 2:00pm, negative thoughts have caused my identity to take quite a beating. And, in the quiet, I am fighting to stay encouraged.
Have you ever felt this way? Do you find yourself feeling discouraged as a stay-at-home mom or dad? Do you ever feel alone, depressed, and unsure that you have what it takes to be a successful parent?
If so, you are among friends. But, one thing is absolutely true, whether we believe it or not. There is hope. The Bible is teeming with hope. Our battle is real, but hope is real-er.
In my own struggles, I have found these four hope-filled, battle-winning weapons to be a powerful tools in the war for my identity…but we might need to dust them off and practice using them.
- Connection with God. I must connect with God every single day. It will probably look different than it did before I had kids. I may have to speak to God while I’m unloading the dishwasher and print off a scripture and tape it to my bathroom mirror so that I can read it while I brush my teeth in the mornings. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t connect with him in the way you used to. If you need it, I give you permission to change the way you connect with God. But, you MUST connect with him. Every day. Otherwise, your enemy has gained major ground in the battle. Without hearing the TRUTH from God about who we are each day, we will most certainly begin to believe what our enemy is saying about us.
- Connection with Others. I don’t care if you’re an introvert, extrovert, Republican, Democrat, male, or female. Every person on earth was created to be in relationship with God and with others. How do I know this? Genesis 2:18 says, “And the Lord God said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’” How long has it been since you’ve connected with people who fill you up and encourage you? I’m NOT talking about a group that only commiserates with you about the trials of parenthood or allows you to stay in your place of discouragement. I’m also not talking about people who make you feel worse or guilty about the job you’re doing as a parent. I’m talking about a group that understands and acknowledges how hard things are, but encourages you into a place of victory. I’m talking about friends who stand beside you in the battle lines and encourage you in the fight. Can’t seem to find a group like this? You might have to start your own. Pray about who God wants you to connect with. Since he has designed us to be people who need connection, he also has the grace we need to find such connections.
- Stay Vulnerable. If our enemy can keep us isolated, then we will lose the war for sure. We can’t fight a battle of this caliber all by ourselves. But the thing that keeps me the most isolated is when I am not vulnerable with people. If I feel like I can’t be real, ask for help, or if I’m so ashamed of my mistakes that it keeps me from letting people in, I cut myself off from connection—which is often the very help I need. I have found that, when I open up to someone about something I’ve done, am afraid of, am ashamed of, etc., they help me see that (a.) I am not alone in my struggle, (b.) my struggle is not hopeless like I thought it was, and (c.) I am loved no matter what. If someone doesn’t know the real me, I will always wonder if they truly love me and will fight my battle with me. Vulnerability is KEY. Moms who are too afraid to look bad in front of other moms are going to lose the war. Plain and simple. It’s just too hard to fight off the ememy’s lies by ourselves. We weren’t designed to do that.
- Watch Our Mouths. What am I saying about myself and my situation? I often find myself telling my husband, “today was hard. I feel like everything is hard. I don’t know if this will ever end.” I have just allowed hopelessness to rule my home and my situation. What I say matters. “The Message” version of James 3:2 says, “If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.” The other day, I got sick of feeling hopeless, and I started yelling some truths from the Bible out loud. “God wants me to have an abundant life. Therefore, my life is NOT hopeless.” “I am more than a conqueror.” “With God, all things are possible.” “I am lovely.” “God has given me everything I need for life and godliness.” “My voice matters!” “I am not a screw-up!” I couldn’t believe how good it felt to declare these things about myself out loud! Let’s take charge of our thought-lives and make our speech “perfectly true,” only saying what God says about us. If we say the truth out loud, we will begin to believe it (and so will our enemy!).
We can do this, moms! Remember, the battle is real, but hope is real-er. And do you want to know what’s real-est? Jesus already won every war. When I look at the battle-field, I see Jesus’s precious blood shed on the ground. I am fighting a battle he has already fought…and won. He died that we can LIVE in FREEDOM as a daughter in his house. Princess Tiffany. THAT is my unquestionable, nothing-can-take-it-away, unshakeable, no-lies-can-alter-it identity.