Open Letter to the Mama Who Feels the Too-Muchness

Dear Warrior Friend,

Yes – warrior. Because if you weren’t fighting for your kids you wouldn’t be here.

Let’s just get it all out there on the table before we go any further. This mom gig is the hardest thing. I’ve seen the social media memes and the you’ve-got-what-it-takes articles and all those things that are meant as an encouragement to all of us who are momming in the trenches. But the too-muchness of motherhood still creeps in like children’s little fingers under a locked bathroom door.

And there isn’t a season of motherhood that isn’t without its own too-muchness. From the wild-eyed newborn days to the drama of middle school to the heartache of watching grown kids make destructive choices, being a mom can feel like more than we signed up for.

I understand the sentiment behind telling a struggling mom she has what it takes, but the reality is that it rings hollow in the middle of mama-achiness. I know moms – really, really good moms – who feel like they’re about to lose their ever lovin’ minds as they wrestle through parenting kids with special needs, or walk with their children through unimaginable losses, or break up the 117th sibling fight of the morning, or sob it out over a child who has walked away from faith, or live yet another day with the ache of arms that shouldn’t be empty.

We know the truth in our guts.

We don’t have what it takes.

Motherhood feels like too much because it is too much.

And that’s okay.

Actually, it’s more than okay. It’s exactly the way it was meant to be! Like every meaningful thing God asks us to wade into, the water is going to get too deep for our feet to touch the bottom. His calling is always an opportunity to learn to float, to be held up and carried along by Him.

When my oldest was little, somehow I picked up this idea that it was my responsibility to meet every need she might have. I measured myself against every other mom I saw and almost always came up lacking. Their girls wore pretty pink ruffles with matching bows in their perfectly clean curls. Mine usually arrived at Sunday school looking like she had been wrestling a hyena carrying a jelly sandwich, with holes in her new tights and sticky pieces of hair standing straight up on her ornery little head. She was a biter as a toddler, and more often than not she was out in the hallway with the children’s ministry director when we came to pick her up. I would apologize profusely, claim my sulky child, and then try to make it to the car before breaking down in tears. I felt so guilty that I hadn’t figured out how to make her stop being so aggressive. One week, just after I’d had my first miscarriage, a “helpful” Sunday school teacher suggested that my daughter might learn to get along if we would give her a sibling. The tears couldn’t wait that day, and I told the horrified man that we had tried to give her sibling but the baby had died. Even while part of me realized he could probably use the lesson in sensitivity, I felt awful and fled down the hall like I was trying to outrun shame. And there was shame, so much shame, during that season.

At three years old my daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and at five it was confirmed that she also has ADHD. I questioned everything about my mothering of her. Had I eaten too many mercury-containing tuna sandwiches while I was pregnant? Had I given her enough tummy time as an infant? Were our discipline techniques too little? Too much? Was I putting enough effort into making sure she was properly socialized?

Her struggles continued into elementary school, so much so that she was well known by the office staff for her antics and she became a target for bullies. Every call, every note felt like a brick added to my load of parenting shame, and when we pulled her out to homeschool her I dealt with guilt over removing her from daily contact with peers. My shame, guilt, and fear for the future painted the edges of our days and stole a lot of the joy from those years.

I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point it struck me that my girl’s struggles kept me on my knees on her behalf. There wasn’t a day that went by that I could forget to pray for her, to acknowledge that she had needs I didn’t understand and couldn’t meet.

There still isn’t. She still needs so much more than I can give her. And her little sister… Well, let’s just say that a sense of humor is sometimes the only thing that keeps our whole household from tumbling over the cliffs of insanity.

I love my girls, deeply, desperately, and I want to see them flourish. But I cannot – I will not – meet every need they have. I cannot understand everything about them, and I can’t control their choices as they stretch their wings. I can’t control what happens to them, what their years might hold.

But God caught us, didn’t He, mama friends? What would make us think He’s not chasing our babies just as hard?

Yes, this mama thing is ridiculously hard. We are never more vulnerable than when we’re pleading for our kids, splaying ourselves open as we lay them before the Throne of Grace.

What a beautiful gift that vulnerability is.

Where I cannot, He can.

Where I’m blind, He sees.

Where I’m fragile, He’s strong.

Where I fail them, He never will.

I am free to enjoy and celebrate them, trusting that God has them just as surely as He has me.

The best gift we can give our kids is to turn toward them as honest, joyful  owners of brokenness in need of God’s grace. To let our not-enoughness invite them to know the depths of the God who is Enough.

Let that shame go, warrior girl. You don’t have what it takes. And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

“Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.” ~Psalm 34:5 (NLT)

2 Comments

  1. Sasha Mills
    Nov 15, 2017

    You know my heart! I have felt that very same way … especially about my oldest child (who has autism and sensory processing). It challenges us to our core – and yet God is bigger. Thank you for reminding us that we can’t be enough – but thankfully God is.

  2. Turid
    Nov 17, 2017

    This is souch a wonderfully beautiful reminder if God’s truth. Turn to him with everything! What a blessing to read! Thank you.

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