The last few months have brought about a dramatic change in my motherhood role. After an arduous twenty-nine-month adoption journey, our two precious toddlers finally came home from Haiti to join our family. Suddenly, I find myself the mother of six lively little ones, ranging in age from two to ten.
While there is no question that this has been a beautiful and unforgettable time marked by the supernatural grace of God, I've also had some major adjustments to adapt to. Though I haven't been in "toddler mode" for several years, I now find myself changing pull-ups, supervising bathroom visits, cleaning up spilled smoothies, and working through those irrational toddler meltdowns that always seem to happen at the most inconvenient times.
Though my feelings may be strong, I must remember that God's truth and power is even stronger.
The other night my husband was on a conference call, and I was putting all the kids to bed on my own. I was happy with how quickly the toddlers settled down. They were quiet and calm when I left their room. But about thirty minutes later I heard a suspicious rustling sound coming from their bedroom. I peeked in the door to find them out of bed, running around the room, their faces completely lacquered with sticky white diaper cream. They had even smeared it up their noses and in their ears. In such moments, I'm really not sure whether to laugh or cry.
Going out in public has become a whole new experience since we became a family of eight. Eric and I pretty much had things down to a science with four kids. We could go out to dinner, take off on family bike rides, and visit friends with minimal incident or drama. Taking six kids out on the town is a bit of a different story. It isn't fun or relaxing—it's work. Trying to keep everyone calm, clean, and behaving properly often causes me to work up a sweat and come home feeling frazzled.
There have been many moments when I've felt stretched beyond my capacity; when I find myself longing for my "old life" and resisting the idea that mothering six children has become my "new normal." In those moments, my emotions threaten to pull me downward, cloud my perspective, and bait me toward self-pity.
But time and time again, I have felt the gentle reminder from God's Spirit to fix my eyes upon Him and not allow my emotions to lead the way. I am continuing to learn that my perspective toward motherhood must always be based upon His truth, not upon how I happen to be feeling in the moment.
The Bait of Mommy Meltdowns
Having a chipper, happy, positive, calm, and peaceful attitude isn't really that difficult when my home and family life is flowing smoothly. But it can feel almost impossible to maintain that kind of joy when I'm running behind schedule, the kids are being hyper and silly, the weather outside is bad, the playroom is a disaster even though I just spent an hour cleaning it yesterday, every pair of my pre-schooler's shoes are mysteriously missing, the toilet has gotten clogged because one of the kids stuffed it with paper towels, and we somehow have an over-abundance of sippy cups without any lids.
Whenever I deliberately choose to tune out my screaming emotions and tune in to the grace of God, I find that I actually can handle the challenges with dignity and strength.
All of these little issues work together to create the perfect scenario for a Mommy meltdown. The voice of Self-Pity begins to shout suggestions to my soul: "You can't handle this. Go ahead and get upset, depressed, or angry. You have every reason to feel sorry for yourself right now!"
I've begun to realize that it is right when that bait is at its strongest that I must choose truth over emotion. Though my feelings may be strong, I must remember that God's truth and power is even stronger. I do not need to act upon my negative feelings just because they happen to be strong at the moment. Rather, this is the exact moment when I must cry out to God for grace to not only survive, but to actually triumph through challenging times and difficulties.
Whenever I deliberately choose to tune out my screaming emotions and tune in to the grace of God, I find that I actually can handle the challenges with dignity and strength because I'm building my thoughts and actions upon His truth and leaning on His enabling grace.
As mothers, we want our little ones to learn the art of self-control. This is why most of us will not just sit there and passively shrug our shoulders when our toddler throws a tantrum or our pre-schooler tries to eat an entire jumbo-sized bag of jelly beans.
But we must not forget that God's command to embrace self-control also applies to us as mothers. And the most important area for most of us is gaining self-control over our emotions.
Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.
We will have far greater success in teaching our kids this all-important skill if we are practicing it in our own lives. As it says in Romans 2:21, "You who teach another, do you not teach yourself?" Think about it. What good does it do for us to discipline our children for letting their emotions get out of control, when we are doing the very same thing on a daily basis?
If you frequently find yourself screaming at your children, getting irritated with your husband, storming around the house, or despondently shrugging your shoulders in defeat as your children fight and bicker, ask God to teach you the art of godly self-control and to give you the strength to choose truth over emotion.
Elisabeth Elliot expressed it beautifully with her statement, "Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them."
It's tempting to believe that we have no choice but to act upon our feelings of frustration or self-pity, but that is the opposite of godly self-control. When we bring "self" under the control of God's Spirit, choosing the higher path is always possible!
So next time you feel a "Mommy meltdown" coming on, remember that His grace is sufficient for you to resist that temptation. In His strength, you can choose to bring your "self" under the control of His Spirit-even at the moment when you least feel the power to do so.