From this vantage point, with my oldest leaving the nest, getting ready to start her adult life as a married woman, and my youngest just shy of turning sixteen, I have perspective on what I would do differently as I’ve come to see the truly sacred work of motherhood.
God designed the relationship between mother and child as one to provide the kind of emotional AND physical security that lays the foundation for development.
Studies upon studies show the impact an emotionally engaged and present mama has on her child. And yet, how many of us (I’m raising my hand) struggle to show up and be present emotionally and physically?
We have our issues to resolve.
We’re numbing out our pain.
We’re struggling in our faith.
We’re exhausted by too many responsibilities.
We’re consumed by fears of the future.
We’re burdened by expectations.
We’re consumed by comparison.
It’s totally understandable, right? But instead of doing something about it, we make excuses and chalk it up to the motherhood chaos. It doesn’t have to be that way.
While there are no do-overs in life, especially when it comes to motherhood, we can pivot right where we are and choose a new way forward with our children . . . and if the Lord wills, grandchildren.
So what would I do differently?
The very first thing I would do for my children would be to put myself in counseling with a therapist who could support me in pursuing God for truth and healing.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me until my older daughters were eight and six and the twins were two, resulting in lots of pain on my girls that could have otherwise been avoided. In that season of my life, I believed that counseling (and coaching) was only for those going through something really hard and that as a Christian, if I prayed more and read my Bible more, God would heal all the parts of my life that were broken. And yet, with each passing year, my anger continued to grow more fierce and shame more crippling. It wasn’t until I opened my mouth in that counseling office, that transformation began to take place. I truly believe that is because God calls us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed (James 5:16).
Healing came through confessing my sin and my pain in a safe and private place while being held accountable to receive God’s forgiveness and extend it to those who wounded me.
It was the power of repentance and forgiveness that deactivated the time-bomb of anger. That transformation didn’t happen overnight but rather was the beginning of the work that is still unfolding more than a decade later.
What else would I do differently? I’d resign from being the emotions manager! I wish I would have known the damage I could do with my words and tone, even when my intent was good. It’s not like the Lord doesn’t declare that risk.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1
Yet how often, even after my healing was well underway, would I say to my kiddos, “Suck it up, Sally!” or “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” or “Get it together, already!”Why did I speak these words? Well, it was both habit and a by-product of how their emotions overwhelmed me.
A dysregulated mama can’t help but try to control her children’s uncontrollable emotions.
I was so disconnected from my own body’s reaction that I didn’t even know what was happening in me until I started my training in equine-assisted coaching and could see the horse’s reaction to my elevated energy level. Through that experience, I realized what I was doing and how my shaming words toward my children’s sensitivities only made matters worse.
I’ve since learned through my studies how the brain responds under stress and fear, that a better way is acknowledging my overwhelm first and remembering that their pain doesn’t need to debilitate both of us. Instead, I can lean on Jesus who is more than able to carry me and them. And after regulating myself with a deep breath and holy release to the Lord, I can offer my children an authentic and calm connection to help them regulate before helping them solve the problem at hand.
While it is not possible to experience a do-over, we can take heart in knowing that God’s grace is more than sufficient to cover our parenting fails, His redemptive work is always powerful, and His mercies are new every morning. The same is true for you, mama.
Instead of wishing for a restart, we can choose to embrace a better way right now.
Yes, we can admit our struggles. Yes, we can ask for help. And, yes, we can see God change us and make us more and more like Jesus.
Find out if counseling, coaching, or becoming a coach is the best next step for your growth with the Align Quiz.
Originally published at TheBetterMom.com