June 6, 2008

Changing courses

Recently I had an eye opening moment. About myself, and it wasn't a good thing.

I'm being honest and truthful because I want people to understand that I am not perfect at all. I am human and do not know it all. But, to put it bluntly, I've been a bad mother. On the outside it may not seem that way, but on the inside of my heart, it was.

What has been the problem? Well, selfishness I guess. Allowing myself to fall into the trap of being the 'martyr' and not wanting to die to myself. When I was just out of highschool I had high goals. To take up my cross and follow Jesus into a foreign land and live in reduced conditions, well, that was noble. To work my heart out to be a doctor or teacher for the Lord and His purposes, that was worthy to sacrifice myself.

But to just get married and have some babies? What is so special about that? Yet, the Lord specifically told me that was what I was meant to do. So, I fell completely in love and the rest is history. But, all my years in school taught me nothing of how to be a wife or homemaker or raise Godly children. I had lots and lots of head knowledge; I had lots of experience in missions and intercession and diving into 'ministry' work.

But all I could cook was scrambled eggs and spaghetti. I didn't even know how to properly hand wash dishes. How sad is that? My mom just didn't feel led to teach me- she probably forgot that I didn't know those things or that if I wanted to know I would ask. Oh, I could bake cookies from scratch, but that's it. My story is probably that of most women who now find themselves with several small children and want to be a homemaker.

Anyways, as time went on in our marriage, I learned, but I still didn't know what my role was. I didn't know about wifely submission. So, and I hope my mother-in-law will not take offense to what I am going to say here, I have forgiven her, but this is how things got messed up. One day I received an email rebuking me for not keeping our home clean, for not taking good care of my husband etc. At the time I had my oldest two girls, ages 20 months and 9 months. I was caring for them, doing laundry and cooking good meals. I was doing my best, or so I thought. I was very hurt by this and was even more so when my husband agreed with her. So, many months later I was doing some searching and came across Ladies Against Feminism. I suddenly began to understand where I went wrong. I began making things right, slowly, over time. I was a much better wife and home keeper. I was able to accomplish so much more and took good care of dh. But, what happened to the children?

Over time, as I focused on those areas, my little girls were pushed out of the way. Leiah is special needs and Alexa is strong willed and loves attention. They got into all kinds of mischief while I was busy scrubbing every nook and cranny of the house! Then I got pregnant again and was tired and nauseous etc. and then we moved...I hardly ever just played with them. I went about my own business, while they ran wild. Don't get me wrong, I took care of them, I just didn't teach them much.

When Sarah was a newborn I got another email, this one much more hurtful than the first. Somehow my in-laws got me all wrong and thought I was the one leading in our marriage and telling my husband what to do, my house was filthy etc. This time my husband did defend me, but I was still so scarred. I began to think that if my house wasn't spotless then my husband would be disappointed and not love me. It was all about perfection- perfect house and wife, but what about the children?

They were far from perfect. Had I taken a few weeks to crack down on Alexa, we might be in a much better place now. But, no, had to keep everything spotless and perfect meals.

Soooo, this is long I know, I realized our family dynamic is not what I want for it to be. My girls don't listen very well, disobey me a lot, I yell, they fight a lot, one of them has sticky fingers and threw a bad temper tantrum at the store last week. I whine and cry to dh, which in turn has made him less than happy to see me...,big mess.

A sweet lady has been teaching me about what it really means to be a mother and wife. As I have seen my children's behavior reflect my behavior, I realize how truly sinful we can be, and how awful it is to God. They are a reflection of my heart. I keep holding onto me and my desires. I don't want to be hidden away; I don't want to fade in the background. To die daily and give completely of myself always is more than I can bear. To be humble and longsuffering; always loving even if I'm hurt- this I CANNOT DO !!!! But, that is where He comes in.

My heart was broken when I finally realized it was my own selfishness that made things the way they were. It was my own heart that was wrong. Though I thought I was giving and selfless, I was lying to myself. I so resisted having to give up everything of myself to this point. But I finally let go. Lord mold me into Your image- I am the clay, You are the potter. Though it may hurt, let me do only what You desire.

That's what I was prepared to do in any other vocation, so why not this? Because there is an evil one who knows that strong Christian families are the Lord's army. He must tear us apart because the time is short- he is angry because he is hellbound soon.

Last night my husband and I had a discussion- a very tearful and painful one, each rebuking the other. Yes it was arguing, but we did it quietly and calmly even with the children present so it didn't appear we were mad :) So my heart was broken again, realizing that I have the power to make or break my family, kids and marriage. If I am selfish, then it affects everyone and everything. If I give until I'm give out, there are rewards. Hard work...not glamorous and not easy. But, it's necessary to have fruit that will last.

I am having to completely retrain myself. If I need to cook, then I have to figure out a way to involved the girls or somehow keep them busy and next to me. I have to spend time with them in order to teach and pass on my values. If they need correction then I have to drop everything and deal with it. It may take an hour, but my focus has to be on eternal things. My husband and children are more important than a clean house and beautiful meals. And, if I would take time to train my girls how to do things that will help me, then I won't have so much work to do- I will have helpers! This will take time and not be instantaneous- must get it through my head.

I am doing better now. Yesterday was 100 times better than the days before it. Today I'm doing better, not perfect, we're all tired and a bit irritable. Right now I am focusing on my tone of voice and attitude, making sure each child is loved on adequately, playing with them and reading with them more, and including them in what I am doing as best I can. I know I will fail at times. But, at least I'm back on the right path.


mama said...

just wanted you to know I read your post though I don't have much to add.
I too think it's important to not shove the kids aside in the quest to accomplish much. I understand where you are coming from as I don't have the type of children who will calmly do some sit down activity for hours!!
I'm sure you'll figure it all out in time-what really works for your family and what are just some useless ideals ingrained in your mind but not bringing much profit to your family life!!
Right htere with ya as life always brings something new with each year!

mama said...

oh and one more thing....I don't think having needy/cranky/ornery or whatever children is a direct reflection of your parenting. I know a lot of people will make you feel that way and sure there is room for improvement there BUT I have all kinds!! And I'm the SAME parent to all of them!! It has a lot to do with TEMPERAMENT as well!! Not all temperament mind you but a lot of it!!! For example I have calm, obedient, responsive and pleasant children as well as hyper, easily annoyed and often rude ones too!!! Same parenting....different temperament. Some people are more happy go lucky than others IYKWIM!!?? Anyhow I thought I'd share that with you cause I know there are so many ideals in our heads and we as mothers are real quick to blame EVERYTHING on ourselves. If you look at it all "soberly" (without those ideals attached) then you can assess the situation for real and go from there. Yes maybe your kids need your attention more (and that does indeed solve a lot of problems!!) but there is more to your family dynamics than that (possibly...i'm not you but aslo a mom with a lot of kids!!)
Hope my novel here doesn't offend you!! This is a subject close to my heart.

susanna said...

Hi Jess, I have enjoyed stopping by your blog for a while and have not been compelled to post a comment untill now. What the in-laws did to you was wrong. How horrible! How you kept your home was and is none of their business. You were young and still learning. It not an easy job, especially with young ones. Everything you said was right, it is a journey of self discovery. Nobody is born the perfect wife and homemaker. I'm so sorry you have let their comments give you a complex for all this time. Let God take away your guilt and he will show you the way, as life is a learning process. It seems like you are already on the right path!
Love, your sister in-law, Susanna

susanna said...

Did my comment go through?

susanna said...

Not sure if it worked.

Rachel said...

I really don't think you are any different from any other woman who finds herself married, with kids, working outside the home or not. We all have to learn as we go, it's not instant knowledge no matter how much our mother's teach us - it's hands-on! I think your MIL may have had good intentions, but I think the way she handled it was all wrong! To chastise and hurt someone by telling them they are doing something wrong - by who's standards? Hers? Why not HELP you.. guide you, show you? That's my opinion and I'm glad you were able to forgive her. I also wish your husband would have see it's HARD to have 2 small babies, new wife, running a house. He also should have stood by you and HELPED. Just because you stay home does not mean you can get it all done in one day or know everything about raising kids or keeping a home - again, hands-on. Trust me.. i went thru the messy house and the yelling and the kids and feeling inadequate, etc. In time the kids got older and things got easier and I started falling into routines, but I had a wonderful, supportive husband and a MIL who never looked down on me for having a messy home and sometimes, gasp, frozen pizza for supper! LOL You'll learn... on your own time and in your own way. Don't sell yourself short. You are a good mom and wife. :) The kids will learn to entertain themselves as they get older and you don't need to "train" them to be housewifes at that age. They need to learn to clean their messes (and not perfectly!), behave and be kids!! My best advice? Routines. Just like when the kids go to school - routines let the kids know what is expected, what to expect, and they feel secure. If they know mom has to clean the kitchen then she will be read to us or do a project, then they will have something to look forward to and not try to constantly gain your attention. They will have a designated time and will trust and expect it from you. As they get older you can stretch the time between entertaining them and having them entertain themselves. :) Oh, I've rambled long enough!!

Mami Jen said...

We can do it! With the Lord all things are possible. I find myself in a similar situation. I don't spend as much time as I should with my children. And right now they're all I've got. I don't work, I live with my parents. What else do I have to do? It's been difficult to just let go and give all of me but when I do, I the day is sweet.

Sarah Dee said...

Jessica, you are such a dear! I am sorry you are having a hard time. I will be keeping you in my prayers.

Anneatheart said...

Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments. Susanna- you have no idea how much your comment means to me. I didn't realize you had been reading my blog all this time! I don't comment a whole lot either on other's blogs unless I really feel compelled. Thank you so much :)Oh and you won't see your comment here until I publish it- in case I get some rude ones- then I can delete those before everyone else sees it :)

Mrs. M said...

I must agree with many of the comments but add my own thoughts too. Being a wife amd mother is not easy. Your post sounds alot like me and I have 5 children (ages 14, 12, 9, 7, & 2) It's a learning process. My children whine & bicker and cause trouble. I've always thought their bad behavior reflects my parenting, but I have come to learn that is not always true. They are human just like you and I....born with a sin nature, in need of a Savior. We can't control every sinful thing they do but we can guide them and direct then to the one who can help them....Jesus.It took me until my 4th child was born to realize this. Like another commenter said, each child has his own temperment....that also makes a difference. So don't be so terribly tough on youself. Also remember, no offense to your inlaws, but they can be tougher on you than most,especially MIL's. I don't know why it's that way but it just is, you might never do things "right or good enough" in her/their eyes, so you just need to focus on what the Lord & your husband wants of you.

Anonymous said...

The ones that sent these emails why can't they step up and offer their help? The way I see it you were not in the wrong, they were.

If you see someone in trouble step in and offer assistance. They could have offered to come in and sit with the girls while you cooked. Maybe they could have mopped the floor for you. Where are peoples Christian attitudes?

Don't be so hard on yourself. Take small step so it's not so overwhelming and ask for help if you need it.


Anneatheart said...

Shannon- my mother-in-law lives in Upper Michigan and I am in Texas, so she couldn't help me out, which was part of the problem. She wanted to help, but couldn't, and thought she was helping via email.

Anonymous said...

Making a person feel bad is not helping. :( I was in a similar situation so I can definitely relate.
Tips would have been better. :)

I hope you are having a good day!


Anonymous said...

Mrs. M, I so agree!

I also have 5 children and boy can they be a handful!


Jessica said...

I loved your post. It means so much to know other women are struggling with this issue. I am at the very beginning of my journey, getting married in 5 short weeks, but already have 2 wonderful stepchildren. I'm trying to figure out my place and it helped to read about you trying to find your way through.

Ashley said...

Hello! Just wanted to let you know that I read this awesome book called the Mother In Law Dance by Annie (maybe Amy) Chapman. It's a quick read, but gave me major insight into that special relationship. It's a pretty easy - it's short, but really helpful. For the first time, when reading the book, I realized that my husband, is HER precious baby - wow, that changes things. She loves him the same way I love my precious babies. Maybe everyone already knows this, but it was a new thought for me. It's for both MIL and DIL to read. It showed me some of my mistakes. I'm not at all saying that your MIL did an acceptable thing, but just passing along a great book to read (in all your spare time...lol) God bless you and your family

Anonymous said...


I have so been where you are and am there right now. My DH and I were just discussing trying to be more patient with our kids. I mean, it is still hard to get over being amazed when they do things like try to put stuff up there nose and I am like "what are you 3thinking, oh yeah, your only 3!" I think you are on the right track now and I will pray for you. I don't know why you got those emails and I don't think that was the way to "speak truth in love" but you may thank her later if the change is the one the Good Lord wants for you.

I can offer some advice for including the kids. Just tuck them into you. I mean, if you are cleaning the kitchen, hand them a paper towel and ask them to wipe the floor. If they are in the tub, clean the bathroom, if you are doing the laundry, let them add the soap, if you are making lunch, let them put the peanut butter on the sandwich and grab you ingredients. I try to include my dds in everything, it is hard and takes way longer, but my toddler is actually a big help now. Also, music and songs can make anything fun and when in doubt, sit down and play.

Many Blessings :)

Anonymous said...

This is the first time to your site and just wanted to let you know how blessed I have been by ready your post. I have struggled with the same areas you have struggled with and sometimes it's just nice to read that your not alone. There is a balance in our lives and we just have to find it. Many blessings to you as you move forward.....the Lord is right there beside you.

Cath said...

Thank you for such an honest post!!!

Jemima's Way said...

This is my first visit to your blog and can I say that I could have written this post! I, too, have been where you are and am still struggling with it, unfortunately my inlaws live close so their ideas of help tend to cause more harm than good. It hurts. It hurts to realize the mistakes we maybe made and it hurts to deal with them, and it hurts even more when others judge us on them. There comes a time when a man has to let his parents go, and by that I mean that he has to discount their opinions sometimes because they do not live in his home. Your MIL could have easily sent you books on organization or parenting, or post cards with scripture, etc...and most of all they could have just prayed for you. She is so far away, how could she have known how your house looked or the meals you cooked?
Please don't think I am being cruel about your MIL. I am not. It just frustrates me immensely when I am hurt by my own and I can not stand to see others be hurt by theirs.
Just remember that someday you will be a MIL, and remember these days so that you dont' make the same mistakes.

Laura said...

I'm a little late in the comments here, but I have to agree with the others who said your MIL was out of line. I'm glad you have forgiven her; that's definitely something I would be struggling with still!

I have two kidlets, ages 6 1/2 & 3 1/2 - and my house is still upside down. It is getting better - they are definitely able to help more now - but we homeschool, and have a life outside of the home as well (that all important "socialization, you know) - sometimes the house stays messy for days on end. In fact, I'm not sure the last time it was completely straightened up - maybe Easter?

As much as it is a nuisance to me (and a thorn in my hubby's side), I keep reminding myself that my kids are the most important thing in my life. They are my job - their happiness is my priority (as is raising them to be wonderful adults). As they gain more independence, I know that the house will return to a semblance of normalcy and cleanliness, back to the days pre-kids when it was spotless. For now, that just isn't possible.

A homeschooling acquaintance with 3 young girls (all under 7) hosted a Valentine's party for us this year. I was so overjoyed to attend, to show up promptly on time - and walk into her house in complete disarray! Dishes stacked all over the counter, the dining room table overflowing with books and paper, we literally had to step over piles of toys in the entryway. I immediately fell in love with this woman...

Bless her heart, she had overslept on that morning of all mornings, was frantically trying to straighten up. So we fellow moms each grabbed a handful of whatever was lying around, put it where she directed - and proceeded to have the most amazing day, unified because we knew we weren't the only ones with messy houses.

A couple of us actually mentioned this to her, and I loved her answer: "This is my life for this season, there's nothing I can do to change it, so instead I'm just embracing it."

That's become my motto. Does it mean let the house fall apart around you? No, but it's okay if it happens sometimes. Do the best you can, do what God calls you to do - and know that you are right where you are supposed to be for this season.

Hugs & Blessings!

Kathryn said...

You sound like a true precious heart, and that you are really striving for God. This comment though, "So my heart was broken again, realizing that I have the power to make or break my family, kids and marriage", may be the source of so much of your hurt. Search the Bible. Which verse says that the woman ALONE shaped the family, and that, no matter how her husband treats her, she ALONE is responsible for her marriage? Can't find it? That is because it is not in there. Clearly, the marriage is meant to be a beautiful melding of heart and mind...each serving the other. It is a man who is to leave his mama behind and cleave to his wife. He is to defend her and protect her from all outside attack. It is not selfish to say you need help when you have two small babies and one on the way. It is not selfish to be tired, irritated once in awhile, etc...it is human. Please give yourself the grace that God provides...strive to be a wonderful wife and mother...but do not give yourself a nervous breakdown in the process. Realize that the fate of your home, marriage, and children is not only on your shoulders and lay some of that burden on your partner. God bless.