I’ve never run a marathon – a sprint down my street in hot pursuit of one of my children is pretty much my limit! But I’m told there’s a ‘wall’ people often hit. A moment where you simply have nothing left to give, but there’s still a way left to run. All your energy, your stamina, your motivation has been used up – it feels as though your legs simply cannot go another step. The other morning, I hit a parenting ‘wall’.
We had one of ‘those’ mornings – in a big way! The kind where I’m fairly sure that, before going to sleep the night before, my boys had a meeting to plan the most effective and efficient strategy to send mummy crazy. And the next morning they executed it to perfection. By 10.30am the volume in our house was horrendous as I shouted harshly while they continued to scream and shout and whine and bicker and flat out refuse to do anything I asked. By 10.32 I had burst into tears pleading with one of them to “please, just do something I ask” and had locked myself in the bathroom to hide from the whole situation.
I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt frustrated, and angry, and guilty, and a failure. I found myself questioning not only how committed I was to homeschooling, but how committed I was to even being a stay at home mum. I couldn’t see how I could manage another minute. I had hit ‘the wall’. I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give – and certainly nothing to give with any patience or kindness or grace. I don’t agree with spanking, and absolutely not in anger, but I could feel my temper rising, and with it the temptation to threaten smacking. I had hit the wall at such velocity that we were now in a blooded broken heap on the floor.
In her book ‘Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full’, Gloria Furman talks really kindly and helpfully about how it is our sinful nature that leads us to this place, and the Good News of how it’s Jesus that will lead us out. I can’t recommend that book enough – it’s short, easy to read but theologically robust and trustworthy.
But the point I want to make is this: while I was locked in the bathroom pleading with the Holy Spirit to give me just an ounce of love or patience or kindness for my children (and just possibly slightly more obedient hearts for my children!) I felt like I was the only mum to reach this place. If parenting were a marathon, I felt I was the only one to hit the wall and be in a crumpled mess on the floor, shouting harshly at my crying children while everyone else skipped on merrily by holding hands and singing ‘Jesus loves me’. I felt very alone and very useless and very much like a failure.
As Gloria points out in her book – it’s not ok to be in this place. Being harsh and unkind to my children is not an unavoidable and inevitable part of parenting. It’s sin. BUT the wonderful thing about this, is that Jesus has dealt with my sin on the cross. Nonetheless, the Bible is clear
‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.’ (1 John 1:8-10).
It’s no secret that, as mums, we are experts in hiding our parenting sin – to act like everything is just fine and paint on a smile for the rest of the world while we speak to our children through gritted teeth. But this denies our sin, it stops us getting the support we need from others, and it leads to being locked in the toilet, crying, and feeling like the worst parent ever! And, moreover, when we hide our sin and feel alone and cut ourselves off from fellowship with other mums in this way, we make it all the easier for Satan to plant and feed lies that we are a failure and useless and our children would be better off with someone else, which only makes that wall seem bigger and harder and even more impossible to overcome.
So my point is this – you’re not alone. You’re not the only one to have screamed at your child over putting their socks on, you’re not the only one to have cried in a locked toilet like an angsty teenager, and you’re not the only one to desperately need Jesus! And admitting these things doesn’t make you a failure as a mum – it makes you a mum who has confessed her sins, received forgiveness and is able to have the Holy Spirit work to transform her heart so that we can parent with ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ Galatians 5:22-23.