On anger, and guilt, and change

by Lesley on April 24, 2014 · 18 comments

in motherhood

It’s an early spring morning, and I’m cuddled up in bed with an empty stomach and blurry eyes. I’m playing a guessing game about how the next hour will go.  I think the baby fell back asleep, but I’m not quite sure, so I can’t fully relax but I’m not ready to leave my warm sheets either. The baked avocado egg boats I’m dreaming about will have to wait just a bit longer.

Our new life in this familiar town continues to fly by, the days merging into one another and developing their own rituals, many like our old life in Sacramento but with the mountains and ocean as backdrop. We still make smoothies in the mornings and play on the swing in the afternoons, and Daddy comes home at 6pm to the same delighted greetings he always has. But there are also new patterns to our day we didn’t have before, the largest being that I’m working about 10 hours a week and exercising regularly.

I can’t tell you how good this change is for my soul.

To be honest, and I’ve shared this a little bit here and there, Owen’s birth really threw me for a loop. After dealing with (Jonathan’s) cancer during Anna’s first year of life, I thought I was ready for anything this time around. I also assumed because Owen is our second we’d have an easy time nursing and sleep training. But that really wasn’t the case. Unlike Anna, who took well to a schedule and slept through the night at 10 weeks old (!!!) Owen did not. For the first six months of his life he took 30 minute catnaps, and when he was awake he would fuss nonstop unless he was being held. I’m a researcher and a planner so his sleep schedule drove me crazy because, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t control him. Also, my arms hurt and I wasn’t showering as frequently as I wanted.

I’m convinced that regular showers help keep people sane, and moms of infants don’t get nearly enough showers.

Also, have you ever tried to vacuum with a 20+ pound infant strapped to your chest? It’s not exactly easy.

The only thing that kept me from going crazy was choosing to believe that when he began solid foods, something might change. So when that didn’t work, and when I began having major breastfeeding challenges on top of everything else, I started to crack.

By mid-February I was so tired and down and discouraged that I began seeing changes in my personality which really, really scared me. I remember holding my sweet baby, who was up again crying, and telling him: “I hate you.”  It’d be the first of several times I uttered that phrase over the course of three days.

(Ugh. There it is. Right there on the internet… ^^ …the terrible words I am so embarrassed I said.)

What happened after I said those words is fairly common, I think. The guilt and shame arrived with full force. Guilt that I wasn’t a good mom because good moms either have babies who sleep, or they fully embrace their waking with love and patience.

I entered this really bad cycle of anger and guilt, which lasted about a week before I called my favorite counselor, Lori, and cried on her couch a few times. She asked me if I was physically hurting my children, and I told her I wasn’t. But I was afraid that if I didn’t get some control over my anger then I might say awful things to him for years and years to come. This ain’t something to mess around with.

Something Lori shared with me, which was LIFE CHANGING, is: anger comes as result of something we love/value being threatened. She asked me, “What do you love that’s being threatened by Owen’s demands?”

Good question, right?

Of course, the answer wasn’t super simple. After a lot of thought I realized that Owen’s needs threatened my desires for high productivity (because I simply couldn’t get anything done!) as well as my desire for control (because he couldn’t be controlled in the ways I thought he should be.) Both of these values are idols in my life, and they have been for a long time, so I had some thinking and praying to do. Lori encouraged me and said I needed to think about the space between my expectations and my current reality. “How can you close that gap,” she asked?

Over the course of a few weeks in early March, I did a lot of thinking and praying and analyzing. I hired a babysitter a few times so I could get out and write, and you know what? I realized that having just five hours to myself each week made the difference between crazy and caring, lunatic and loving. I was actually shocked how much just five hours made an impact on my week.

I also decided that while a lot of babies can sleep through the night at 7 months old, my baby still needed to eat . And so Jonathan and I have been taking turns getting up with him each night while he quickly downs a huge bottle of milk and goes back to sleep. Instead of being bitter and angry about his waking, I am loving our time together again. I’m almost certain he will drop that feeding before college.

I am incredibly grateful that God grabbed my heart and mind, and helped push me to see a counselor because by the time our moving news came about, I was in a healthy place to take on such a change. He knew what was coming, and He made sure I was ready. How incredible is that?

These days the space between expectations and reality are coming closer together. It’s taken a change of mind, change of heart and a whole lot of grace. (It’s also taken a regular babysitter and a trip to the gym twice a week!)

If you’re a mama who is experiencing anger, or who is in a tough spot raising young kiddos, I have to recommend a few things. First, please talk to someone–whether that’s your husband, friends and/or a counselor. A book I read that I think every mom should read is, She’s Gonna Blow: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger. (The cover and title are cheesy, but the content is great.) Tim Keller also has a great sermon on anger, which I can’t seem to find online but maybe you’ll have better luck.

Please leave me a comment if you are/or have been in a tough spot when it comes to raising young kids. I’d love to know how to encourage or pray for you. We’re in this together, mamas!

Update: Those avocado boats? I made them after writing this post and they’re amazing. Add them to your weekly breakfast line-up, ok?

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