With tears filling my eyes, standing there staring at my two year old son, I began to sob. How could I be so angry and yell so loudly at this little person that I love so much? How could I be so physically overwhelmed and exhausted every day that I feel completely and utterly helpless? Is this really how parenting is supposed to be? Does every stay-at-home mom drag their feet out of bed and watch the clock all day looking forward to bedtime?
These were the questions I asked myself almost every day. I was very confused and felt so alone. The guilt and shame of not loving #momlife was killing me and eating me up inside.
As a teenager, I remember dreaming about getting married and having kids. I longed to be married and have kids. I thought about the connection I would have with my kids and how I would love every minute of being a mom. I would picture in great detail what life would look like and how awesome it would be.
After years of these daily thoughts coming and going through my brain, I created a fantasy in my mind. It was a fantasy about my life as a mom and how incredible it would be! And fantasies, no matter how simple or harmless they seem, are still not healthy. To dwell on anything that is not reality is going to do harm to our brain and ultimately affect our behavior.
I have never been a huge cryer or really an “emotional” type of person, so my behaviors of anger and crying caught me off guard and seemed to come out of nowhere. I was at a loss. I didn’t know how to stop these patterns of suddenly yelling at my kids followed by sadness and guilt. For several months, I continued to feel this way off and on throughout each day.
From the outside and through social media, it appeared that #momlife was going great! It’s easy to capture the picture-perfect moments and post them, making everything seem better while time stood still.
What was really going on?
Two major things were happening inside me.
After so many years of imagining what being a mom would look like, I built up a pretty elaborate fantasy in my mind. I developed expectations for myself, my husband, and my children. These expectations were not realistic. The fantasy grew even more after I became pregnant with my first child.
With the excitement of bringing a baby into the world, those expectations started to creep back into my mind and shape my view of parenthood. Following other moms on social media and seeing how great things were going in their #momlife also contributed to my expectations and perceived view of motherhood.
My fantasy of parenthood continued to distort my perception before my baby was even born. I should have recognized my delusions when pregnancy was much harder than I could have imagined!
In my life, somewhere along the way, I got in the habit of always being “okay” even if things really weren’t okay. I got so good at hiding and repressing my emotions, I didn’t even realize it. Because of this, I was not recognizing my own emotions let alone my children’s emotions. This is one thing I hadn’t taken into account in all my preparations for becoming a mom—parenting is the most emotional job I’ve ever had. I was pretty “checked-out” emotionally. I allowed my emotions to pile up for a long time until I couldn’t handle it and broke down.
What did I do?
Well, I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do and then God brought Pure Desire into my life. I had only been working at Pure Desire one week when I attended a Pure Desire University (PD-U). As I sat in the sessions, I was completely moved; and at the same time, filled with guilt and worrying that I had messed up my kids by yelling at them.
I wasn’t currently struggling with a love or sex addiction, but I could relate to so many of the concepts presented at the PD-U. Again, my eyes filled with tears (I’m really not a cryer) and I knew I had to join a group to work on whatever was going on inside me.
I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I signed up for an Eight Pillars to Freedom group, but I knew it was something I had to do. The tools I learned about and the conversations I had completely changed how I deal with my emotions and my behaviors. I became aware of what was going on inside me and how to talk about it. Through a lot of prayer, daily use of the FASTER Scale tool and regularly referencing a list of feelings (seriously), I’ve developed a much greater emotional awareness.
Now I know that it REALLY IS okay to not be okay. I’ve learned how to be honest with myself and how to be honest with my kids. If I have a meltdown, we talk about it. If they have a meltdown, we talk about it.
Together we are learning about our emotions and what we are supposed to to do with them. We are working to foster a relationship that is open and honest. A relationship where we talk about the good stuff, the bad stuff, the silly stuff, and the hard stuff. A relationship where we talk about our emotions, whatever they may be.
I still have to make a conscious effort to be present in reality and stay aware of my emotions but it is worth it. As long as I am recognizing my feelings, I don’t have those sudden outbursts followed by tears. If I revert back to not allowing myself to feel things, instantly I notice in both my behavior and my kids’ behavior. It is a daily process.
#momlife may not be what it looks like on social media but I wouldn’t change it. Some days can be extremely challenging, but I know if I allow God to work through me, and in me, I can be the mom my kids need to me to be.
Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly–not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.1 PETER 5:2
Anna is the Events Manager for Pure Desire Ministries. Her background is in event planning and social media. Anna also is an online group leader for Pure Desire Women's Groups.