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To stand

I recently posted about how difficult things have been at our house with one of the harder 3-year old phases. Then last night my husband rented "Mom's Night Out" on Redbox. (By the way, if you are a parent, you must watch that movie!) This all got me thinking about motherhood...

1. Talk about your problems.

I think so much of the time we don't talk about our problems. There was a scene in the movie where the lead character slowed down and talked to another struggling mom about how hard motherhood is. The struggling mom looked at the main character, "You don't have it all together?" We had spent the majority of the movie watching how this main character was struggling with motherhood and balancing life and happiness and marriage, yet this other struggling mom perceived that the main character had it all together. Not saying that we need to walk around with a sign and tell every Tom, Dick, and Stanley we meet that "I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I'M DOING" but it is so important to be open and honest with your friends.

Why?

2. Because no one has it all together.

I think sometimes we think that there are people out there that "have it all together." I loved in the movie when the mom pulled up to church and saw these other moms standing outside dressed beautifully, hair done, and she mutters, "They must have nannies." The other day we took the boys to Monkey Joe's. We had another long day in the house staring us down and we thought it would be nice to take them somewhere where they could be kids-- run and jump without getting in trouble. Apparently there was a birthday party going on there because a parade of well-dressed children poured out of a party room. I mean, coordinating Janie and Jack type children. I have never seen so much embroidered seersucker in one place. There were mothers hovering outside the bounce houses in jeweled flip flops, silk shirts, and chunky necklaces waiting to fix ginormous bows perched on their little girls' heads. Dads wearing boat shoes, pressed shorts, and collared shirts followed after siblings proclaiming their siblinghood, "Big brother" written in checkered applique next to matching "Little brother." I took a look at our boys and hoped they looked decent....before wondering why I cared how they looked next to these kids. I wondered how these parents had it all together. Did they have it all together? They certainly looked like they had it far more together than our boys. When we leave the house in coordinating, clean outfits it is after a good solid 30-minutes of negotiating and threats.

3. Because we need support.

I cannot tell you how horrible last week was for me. It really did end in tears. I had organized dinner with my girlfriends earlier in the week because I was needing a night out, but by the time the night came I didn't want to go. I was emotionally exhausted. I felt like a drained, failure of a parent that didn't deserve a night out. The thought of making small talk made me cringe. I wanted to go to dinner and have a glass of wine... followed by the rest of the bottle. My husband came home from work and said, "Go. You need it. At the very least, go and listen to the conversation and enjoy a nice meal out." So I went and, guess what? It was amazing. It was so nice to chat with my girlfriends and hear about their problems as well. Listening to them drove home the point I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE. I felt myself relaxing at dinner and really enjoying myself. It really was what I needed to unwind. The next morning I woke up feeling like I could handle the day, the first time in a week or so that I didn't wake up thinking, "What fresh hell is going to happen today?" Talking to others isn't just a way to get support for ourselves, but to offer support to our friends. On the drive home from dinner, my girlfriend told me that she's been struggling with a phase with her little one and she tells herself, "I just have one right now and Kimber has four!" And when I'm balancing all my things at my house, I tell myself, "She has a toddler, is pregnant, and is finishing her degree!" It is so nice to lean on each other and get that support. It is so nice to hear that you aren't alone, that you aren't the only one struggling, and to hear how other people have dealt with similar issues and how they got through it.

4. Get the help you need.

The week before last was rough. Last week was a horrible, no good, very bad week. I cried a lot on Friday. I felt fried and tired and alone. I missed my mom. I missed my far away friends. I missed our old duty station and all our playdates there. I missed my husband who is working a lot. I felt like I had nothing else to give. So I started filling my calendar. I need interaction time with friends. I need quality time with my kids. My husband and I have been reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Through that we've discovered my love language is quality time. I really feel that is part of the problem why these days are so draining when they are going through these phases-- I don't feel like I'm getting any quality time with them since each day is so stressful and full of tantrums. On top of that, when my husband gets home we aren't getting much quality time since he's exhausted from work and I'm exhausted from dealing with the 3-year olds' tantrums all day. Filling up my calendar has helped a lot. I am getting face time with other moms who tell me, "Girl, me too! I hear you!" I'm getting the kids out and about so they can stretch their legs somewhere new (or throw a fit somewhere new). When my husband gets home, we all have something to talk about other than tantrums. The kids tell them about the new park we went to and I get to tell him about the overall adventure. It has been important to me to reach out to others and get that support. Another "guess what" moment: when I reached out to my friends and said, "Hey, the kids are going through a really rough phase right now and I really need to meet up with you. Let's put something on the calendar," they have all been responsive! "My kids too. I would love to meet up with you!" We are all in this together.

5. Remember-- it is only a phase.

For me, it really helps to remind myself over and over (and over and over and over) again that it is only a phase... it will pass... this won't go on forever... Because it is true. It won't be like this forever. That doesn't make it easier in the midst of it, but it does help me find the strength to dig my heels in and pray, to not cave when I need to stand strong. It might sound a little dramatic, but the other day in my Love God Greatly devotional, we got on the subject of the full armor of God. I love the verse in Ephesians 6:13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." How often does this happen in motherhood? You nicely identify the behavior your 3-year old needs to adjust, "We don't put stickers on the table. Stickers go on paper." You redirect the behavior, "How about you put your stickers on this piece of paper instead of the table?" You give the warning, "If you don't put the stickers on the paper, you can't play with them." You give them the last chance, "This is the last time I'm going to tell you that stickers must be put on paper. Next time I'm taking the stickers away." And then you follow through. There is flailing, gnashing of teeth, wailing... and so you follow through with time to rest in their room and pull themselves together. Yet while you are doing that the other 3-year old is busy "writing" with a permanent marker on your handmade kitchen table and your kindergartner is asking over and over again if you can play Uno with him now and the baby is starting to fuss because it is time to eat... and then the dog is bumming at the door to go potty and the pot on the stove starts to boil over. Those are the times that I think of the armor of God and standing firm. When I have done all that I can, all that I know how to do, when I have gone through my Rolodex of good parenting, I stand firm. Ephesians 6:18 tells us, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests..." Turn to God, mommas. Turn to each other. Put on the armor of God so that when you have done everything, you can stand.

I loved that the movie "Mom's Night Out" concluded with a heart to heart from Trace Adkins where he told her how hard she was on herself. It is true. We are hard on ourselves. What standard are we trying to live up to? Our perception of the seersucker kids at Monkey Joe's? The mom who shows up to church in heels and a clean dress? Or that we think our friends will judge us if we open up to them? As the main character sits with her husband at the end of the movie, she watches her kids and says, "It is hard, but it is worth it." It is so worth it. It is hard. Life doesn't slow down so we can figure out the hard moments with a clear mind.

If you continue reading in Ephesians, Paul says in 6:19-20, "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Have you ever left a church and seen the sign at the end of the parking lot, "You are now entering the mission field?" What a great reminder. This is our job. We often question ourselves, doubt ourselves, cave when we should stand, cry because we don't know what to do... Paul asks for prayers so that he will have the words and that he will fearlessly deliver them. We are witnessing to our children. We are ambassadors of Christ, in chains to the gospel, delivering the Good News day in and day out. It's time to lean on each other, lift each other up, put on the armor of God, and fearlessly parent through Christ.

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