Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I wrote this post a week ago and I’m just getting around to posting it. It occurred to me that perhaps it’s wildly inappropriate to be writing these things on Mother’s Day – but then again I thought maybe the opposite is true? I hope you don’t have a meltdown today, but I’m sure there’s no guarantee. If you’re not a mum and you read this, maybe it will inspire you to give a mum you know a cuddle today!
I had a meltdown this week. By meltdown I mean a grown-up tantrum, unless when I write grown-up you think of rational, reasonable and proportionate, in which case it was just a tantrum.
And I just thought that I should tell you about it – lest you think that I’ve got it all together. Some people tell me I’m always calm. I can be screaming on the inside, but for some reason people will say to me things like, ‘How are you not stressed?’ My family (parents; brother; husband) find this all very amusing, because they know I’m like a wild donkey really in the emotions department. Anyway, I’d hate for you to think that, because I write this blog, I’m fine every day. And even when I tell people I’ve had a meltdown, I will say it in a calm (or even entertaining) way, which detracts from the reality of the emotional rubbish heap I found myself in on Wednesday evening.
I think it’s normal to do this sometimes – to find a day really hard and to decide to sit and have a cry. Or worse, experience the thunderstorm on the inside but not quite know how to express it. Maybe something obvious triggers it – a toddler tantrum followed by the washing machine leaking and then rounded off with banging your head on the kitchen cupboard (I HATE banging my head. It’s my least favourite thing to do). In a way these times are simpler, because then when your husband comes home (or your mum walks in) and finds you in a heap on the floor, you can explain yourself.
Other times it’s less obvious. Could it be cumulative tiredness or stress? Hormones? Doubts trickling in about God’s goodness? Worries about money occupying your thoughts and reducing your capacity and patience?
This time it wasn’t really anything obvious. I wanted my husband to be home, and he was a bit late. I suddenly felt really, really sick of looking after my children, all the while watching them and feeling incredibly guilty for having such selfish thoughts: ‘I’ve been breastfeeding this baby for eight-and-a-half months and I’d like a day off!’ ‘God has sustained this life for eight-and-a-half months and all I can do is whine about it!’ Etc.
I’m no expert, but I assume that if I felt like this every day, I would probably be spiralling into a depression and should ask someone for some serious help. But once in a while, is it normal for a mum to feel trapped and weary and a bit like she needs to scream into a pillow? I dare say it is.
Now it’s probably the appropriate moment to present the solution to my emotional problems, in order to encourage any mums out there who can relate to what I’m saying. But actually I don’t have the solution, and because I don’t think there is an easy fix, I’m not going to try giving you one.
My husband, like many men, is a fixer. This is a good quality, and I’m not knocking it. But it’s a burden for him when there’s something he can’t fix. That’s why it’s hard for him when I’m in labour! And it’s hard for him when I’m just feeling fed up of my 24/7/365 job. He can encourage me to go to bed early, but that won’t necessarily stop me being tired (especially if the baby wakes in the night). He can remind me of God’s kindness and all there is to be thankful for. Now that is a good one, but it won’t necessarily cheer me right up instantly. So sometimes, I just need a hug. It’s a cliché, but sometimes you do just need a shoulder to cry on, and for someone to tell you that it’s not really surprising that you quite fancy a holiday in the Maldives.
But when I’m feeling down, I need to preach to myself, rather than listen to myself. Below I’ve listed a few things that spring to mind, in no particular order because this is not the place for a polished piece:
- Is God surprised by my tears? I assume not, otherwise why would he say that ‘he will wipe every tear from [our] eyes’? (Rev 21.4)
- If life is hard, then that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I can learn to change my expectations – life is not a bed of roses. CS Lewis wrote: ‘If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.’ So I can thank God, even in the tears, that he’s teaching me something, even when I can’t fathom what that is at the moment. Then I can go to bed – tomorrow is a new day.
- My church family is there for me, so I need to be honest about how things are going. Anything else is lying. And they can’t help me at all if they think I’m absolutely fine.
- Guilt and shame are a thing of the past, because I am in Christ. Yes I should say sorry for wishing I were far away from my beautiful children. No I may not feel ashamed and guilty. ‘Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.’ Romans 8:33-34.
- I need to pray that if God doesn’t want to change my situation, that he would change me instead. I trust he can do this, because he’s been doing it for about thirteen years now. And sometimes, when I’m not looking, he does graciously change my situation too. Thanks be to God.
- My emotions don’t define me, so there’s no need to panic. God is still God when I’ve locked myself in the bathroom. The gospel is still true when I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day.
- Sometimes, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-6, what I actually need is to sleep, eat, then sleep some more.