“I’m at the end of my rope.” This was the text to my husband earlier this week. He was at work and could do nothing about it. Bless his heart, he’s so patient when I cyber-vent to him about my difficult days at home, even though he has a very busy job and often doesn’t even get the message until hours later. But sometimes I am so absolutely and completely overwhelmed by the daily job of being a stay-at-home-mom that I can’t help but reach out to another adult. I’m in survival mode.
I don’t like the feeling of inadequacy. In fact, I actively avoid it. I’ve always carefully chosen activities, projects and jobs that were right in my comfort zone, so I could learn and master them. If I test the waters for something new, and I can tell I’m not going to be good at it, I refuse. For example, I’ve been to the driving range twice in my life, and I was horrible. So I’ve never been back and don’t plan to ever take up golf. I got a temp job right after college graduation (that’s a scary time for someone who likes all her ducks in a row) and it was mostly data entry and analyzing sales for a copy machine firm. Not only did I hate the job, but I was NOT catching on quickly at all. So I quit. (I need a job that revolves around talking, really.)
But nothing in my controlled little life could have prepared me for parenting. People tried to explain how much wild, uncontrollable love you would have for these children, but I didn’t understand until I experienced it myself. I heard that motherhood is hard and losing sleep is challenging, but I am a very maternal person. I LOVE babies and children. I mean, you guys, I babysat, like, a LOT. I have awesome parents who obviously did a great job raising moi. I knew I was going to have this mommy gig in the BAG. (Are you laughing at me yet? You should be.)
And as if the long, dramatic labor and delivery of my first born was not enough to teach me that I was out of my league, I remember clearly when I realized this new season was going to take me beyond myself.
My Precious Firstborn (we call him PFB) was a very challenging baby, and he didn’t eat or sleep well. At all. Ever. He didn’t seem to enjoy either of those very natural experiences. He only cried. And he was about two days old when I broke. It was 3 am, neither of us had slept or eaten in hours, and my mom was awake with me in our tiny apartment living room. Little Carson wouldn’t stop wailing, probably in hunger, but he would not eat. And eventually, I couldn’t keep it together any longer and I started wailing with him. “I can’t do this!” I sobbed. “What is wrong with him? What is wrong with ME?!” My sweet Mama took pity on me and told me to go to bed and she would stay with him and try to give him a bottle. I wept all the way to my bed and fell asleep in .6 seconds.
Two days. Two days into the role of a lifetime, and I already felt like a failure.
And that was just the beginning! That little firecracker has brought me more joy and laughter than I could have ever predicted! But he’s what polite people would call “a handful.” Even when he was an only child, he could push my buttons in a masterful way. When he became a defiant preschooler, I had to learn the fine art of locking myself in the laundry room to bawl and scream into a towel. That was with ONE child.
In the last few years, the end of my rope has come because I feel like I cannot possibly meet the practical, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of my three unique children. Let alone cover the other life necessities like manners, hygiene, nutrition and academics! Each of them has seasons of extremely challenging behavior (usually overlapping, of course), and I want to pour into them with everything I have. But when I do, I don’t have anything left for the other children, my husband or me. Then I start comparing myself to mothers of four or more and the self-berating is a full-time job in itself.
But the most amazing discovery has settled on me, especially coming to light through our adoption process and parenting a precious kiddo who spent the first two years of his life with another mama. That constant knowledge that I can’t do this? Daily recognizing that “I am at the end of my rope”?
That’s where I find Jesus.
I used to think the end of my rope is frayed and ugly. But to be honest, the rope itself was never that strong to begin with. Now I think it’s a beautiful place to be. Because when I am out of my own strength, my own patience, my own wisdom, it forces me to finally look to the only eternal source of strength, patience and wisdom. God never intended for me to do this motherhood thing ON MY OWN. He’s waiting there for me to bring my broken, ragged, split-end self to Him.
He did not say “Your grace will be enough for those little kiddos. You are a strong woman, Jen.” NO! He said, “MY GRACE is sufficient for you. For MY POWER is made perfect in WEAKNESS.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Scripture also promises “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
Are you kidding me?! The all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe sees my weakness and my impatience and he wants to give me power, grace and wisdom—generously? Without pointing out my faults? Is this not the most comforting news you’ve ever heard, mamas?! I want to weep with relief and joy! I don’t have to do this alone! I’m not SUPPOSED to rock this mommy gig all by myself!
It has been a slow learning process for this girl. I still frequently try to rely on my own skills to get through the day. But when I do, I inevitably hit a wall and fall on my face before the Lord, confessing to him that my rope is down to a thread. And you know what? His love is UNFAILING. His grace is not only sufficient TO ME, but it is sufficient THROUGH ME to these three amazing little lives. And as I get better at recognizing my own weakness, and His constancy, I’m learning to call on Him before I’m an emotional wreck. (Well, sometimes.) I’m learning what sweet freedom can be found in letting go of perfection, and surrendering these children, this season, this HOME into His hands.
We still have rough, ROUGH days. I still text my husband to vent and I still have a special spot in the laundry room and a lock on the door. But I no longer feel alone in there. I am learning to SEEK HIM. I’m learning to ASK for grace and wisdom that only He can give. I’m learning to live in the fray at the end of my own rope, because I know my Abba Father is right there to catch me and carry me. And my babies.