Hope for the Discouraged Mom

Hope for the Discouraged Mom- Parenting Like HannahWe’ve all been there. Or at least I have been there. No matter how much time, effort, prayer and love you put into parenting, there are days you feel like a failure. Even if you love being a mother more than anything in the world, there will be days you wish you were the kid again. It doesn’t really matter the cause, because often there isn’t one glaring thing. Sometimes the lack of sleep, having to instruct your child how to do or not do something for the thousandth time or having a house full of sick people just makes you want to crawl up in a little ball and cry.

Only, for some reason, most moms feel like they can’t really cry. The worried reactions from our kids and husband when we do cry just seem to make it feel like we shouldn’t ever let them know we are discouraged. Somehow it feels like a betrayal or that we are saying we don’t love being a wife and mom. Often we are afraid to open up to other adults for fear they will confirm what we currently secretly suspect – we have no earthly clue what we are doing and we could quite possibly be ruining our kids.

Ever wonder why the Bible tells us Jesus went off by himself and prayed so often? I think Jesus knew exactly what it felt like to be a mom. He spent every day nurturing, instructing, healing and even feeding dozens and often thousands of people. Yet, even God’s Son felt the drain emotionally, physically and spiritually (John 4:6, Luke 5:16, etc.) after constantly caring for others. It wasn’t that he didn’t love them or that he didn’t enjoy his ministry, he just needed to recharge.

As moms, we need to give ourselves permission to recharge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of the “I need to party like when I was single” or “spend thousands of dollars at the mall” types of recharging. I do think though, there is a lot of value to following the example Jesus set.

The next time you start feeling weepy, overly tired or just like you are slogging through mud, stop and find a time when you can recharge a bit. You may need to ask your spouse, your parents or a good friend to help with the kids, but that’s okay. Try doing some of these healthy things to get back your strength and your joy:

  • Have a nice long crying prayer. Poor God has heard these from me off and on almost my entire life. Honestly though, when I reach my limit and my cup feels very empty, this is often what saves me. Now you may be like me and feel a bit guilty about whining when you know you are blessed beyond belief. Remember though, Jesus knows where you are and what that feels like. I often start these prayers with “I am so, so sorry God. I know you have blessed me beyond belief and I am very grateful. I just need to share these things that are making me hurt right now. I know you are working in them and around them, but I just need to share how I feel about everything.” And then I proceed to do that very thing! I don’t know of any scripture that says we should apologize for “I’m toast” prayers, but I think it can take away any unnecessary guilt you may feel. Continue crying and praying until you get it all out and don’t have any tears or words left. (Reminds me of Hannah in I Samuel!)
  • Find some quiet time for yourself. A friend of mine has a child with extreme special needs. She has gotten what I would consider virtually no sleep for decades. The routine care of her child would send me into physical collapse. I can’t tell you what an awesome mom she was and is to her now adult kids. What I find interesting is that one of the ways she recharges is having a few minutes alone in the house while everyone else sleeps. I totally get that. I know when you are sleep deprived already, this sounds like insanity. Maybe you can’t do it well at night at your house, but what about during the day while the kids are in school? Or hiring a sitter for an hour once a week to take your kids outside to play or to the park? Don’t do any chores. Just be. Read your Bible. Pray. Do a craft or play a mindless game. Watch a travel show. Those few uninterrupted minutes can recharge your battery more than you would think.
  • Read Psalms. I’m not sure why, but I know other people feel this way, so it may help you too. All scripture has great value. There is something about Psalms though that is so calming and soothing. Whether you are anxious or worn out, reading a few Psalms can remind you God is still there and He is on your side.
  • Dream godly dreams. Have a godly dream about the way you want to serve God after your children are older. Pray about it. Put some ideas on paper. Look around on Pinterest or online for ideas. We often forget raising our children is a full time ministry job. After they leave home, many moms are left wondering if they have any purpose in God’s Kingdom. I can promise you, God is just starting with you! He has probably already placed seeds in your heart for your next “assignment” from Him. Now is probably not the time to begin it in earnest, because you haven’t completed your current parenting ministry (and are holding an empty cup at the moment). Dreaming about that seed though can give you hope for the future. Sometimes that little spark of hope can help fill your cup.
  • Have coffee with your mom mentor. I know I say this constantly, but you must find yourself a mom mentor. Ask a woman who has raised godly children if she will have coffee with you occasionally and mentor you. Your mentor may not have been in your exact shoes, but I can almost promise you she has experienced something very similar or has a friend whom she has seen through it. You won’t shock her and she can give you reassurance, perspective and godly advice.
  • Take a long walk. Yes, eating healthy foods and exercise can improve your health. I’m talking about a thirty to sixty minute walk three or more times a week for recharging purposes. Now, I am the queen of “I’m too busy to walk”. I have found consistently though, when I make the time to walk, I get almost immediate real benefits from it. I’m no speed walker by any means. Even at a moderate pace I have found I can cover several miles in that amount of time. By the second or third day in a row, I notice a huge improvement in my energy levels, how well I sleep at night and even my mood. In fact, some days I can feel my spirits begin to rise as I walk.
  • Focus on things that are good and pure and lovely. (Philippians 4:8) When we are down it’s almost as if our brains look for evidence to support the idea we are miserable. It finds additional things that should upset us to add to the ones already making us unhappy. When I get in this mood, looking at pretty things can help. For me flowers, pretty fruits and vegetables or travel photos can do the trick. Sometimes five minutes on Pinterest can lift my spirits and help me recharge a bit. (Note: If focusing on beautiful things then adds envy to your plate, skip this step!)
  • Hug your kids and tell them you love them. I’m sure you do this multiple times every day. This time though, hug them for purely selfish reasons – to be reminded of their precious love for you and your efforts to parent them towards God.

I am sure there are many other healthy things you can do to recharge. I know there are people who claim recharging is selfish or somehow means you haven’t let God take control of your life. I say if done in godly ways, like Jesus did, it is absolutely necessary. Having worked with a lot of ministries working with orphaned, abandoned and abused children, I have learned often the parents were just at the end of their ropes and had no healthy coping skills to deal with stressful parenting situations. Don’t put yourself in a parenting situation (although hopefully your reaction would never be that extreme) where you are saying and doing things you would never say or do if your cup weren’t so empty. Do what Jesus did and recharge.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)