I’ll never forget the day I posted an Instagram photo of my faceless children with a caption about how hard that particular day was going. I had been a mom for about two full weeks and was in deep, deep over my head. I was drowning. Adoption was harder than I thought. Motherhood was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what we had gotten into and I was cussing way more than usual.
Then a real life friend told me that I shouldn’t be complaining because I knew what I was getting myself into and that I was being ungrateful and they (other friends, I guess?) were all really tired of seeing my constant complaints on social media and I needed to just get over it because my kids deserved a better mom than what I was being. Another real life friend said that they had a congratulations card they wanted to give me but because I was sucking it up big time (her words) she decided to not send it to me. Another real life friend said that it was great I was a mom now and all, but since I stopped hanging out with her and the rest of the women in my small group, I was being a terrible friend and small group leader and I really needed to shape up or they might need to talk to our pastor.
I can hear you all simultaneously gasp from here. Horrific, right? What absolutely terrible things to say to any first time mom who finds themselves drowning in a new life change.
I’m the founder and creator of community designed to give you all the practical tools and encouragement to know how to rise above comments like these to be the best mom you can be. So what amazingly awesome thing did I do?
I cried all my tears out, yelled at my children who wouldn’t stop bickering, yelled at God that he did a crummy job making these people and maybe He should go back to the drawing board, and pleaded with my husband to give these children back because surely they were better off somewhere else than with me.
Yeah, it was not my finest moment. I’m cringing just writing these words and reliving this moment. Cringing and crying again. Because while I’ve fully processed these events the feelings when I relive these moments are still very real.
I cried, and I cried, and I stopped posting on Instagram. When my mother-in-law asked how we were doing, I said fine. When my mom asked how we were doing, I said fine. When other friends asked how I was doing I told them fine.
But I was far, far from fine. I had definitely developed some post-partum/post-adoption depression and while I cannot give these women the credit of putting me in the dark place I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk in the lies they spoke over me and allowed myself to dive deeper in depression than I should have.
It was when an authority figure at our church had said that I was being childish and needed to step up my act that I got so ticked off I stopped hanging out with everyone and anyone. We stopped hosting our small group. I stopped going to church altogether. I said it was because I didn’t want my children’s first experience with Jesus to be with these people, but truth be told I had no idea how to keep tiny humans alive, much less give myself to my husband, my small group, my friends, my extended family. I didn’t know how to survive the day as a mother, much less thrive as one. I needed to stop multi-tasking and start single-tasking.
A year later and we had moved cross country and had no friends. While I was so grateful to be out of that negative environment, I wasn’t really in any environment. I was relieved to be away from people who told me I was a terrible mom, but no one was telling me that I was doing a good job mothering because, well, I had no one. I hadn’t been in the state long enough to make friends.
I had two choices.
Would I continue believing the lies of the enemy that my children didn’t deserve a mom who yells or throw things or loses her temper? Would I believe the enemy who said that my children deserved a mom who made homemade applesauce and took them on nature hikes and played with them outside and read them a book every single night?
Or would I believe that I was the woman God created me to be? Would I believe the truth that God created me to be my children’s’ mother; that He uniquely equipped me to understand their emotions and deal with their trauma? Would I believe that God created me in the image of Him, the same way He created my children in the image of Him, and that being a good mom had nothing to do with building the best playdoh creations or possessing the ability to keep all the dishes clean or feeding them only organic, non-GMO foods?
So I stopped walking in lies and began speaking truth over myself. I am the mom my kids need today. I began to read scripture daily, in between yelling at my children for their constant bickering, and baking sugar cookies with them. I told myself I was uniquely equipped for these two children when I couldn’t get them to take a nap or when they had nightmares at night. I told myself I was a good mom because God had given me all the tools I needed to be a good mom when my kid locked me out of my car (on purpose) and when I took them to the beach and waded out in the water with each one on my hip.
The truth is, I am really the most amazingest mother there ever was.
The truth is, you are, too.
Women of God, I tell you this story because you’re wallowing. Just like I allowed people in my life to speak lies over myself, you’re doing the same to yourself. Just like I wallowed in self-pity, so you are, too. I see your Instagram comments about the terrible things that you do when you’re angry with your children. You slam doors and break dishes. I see your social media posts about the worst words people ever said to you. That you don’t deserve these kids and you’re being a terrible friend.
I see them and I commiserate with them and I empathize with you because that was my life. I went from wife to mom overnight. I didn’t have nine months of carrying my child in my belly to get used to the idea of being a mom. I didn’t have an outward appearance of motherhood that allowed friends and family to have months getting used to the idea that I was having children. I daydreamed about how wonderful motherhood was going to be when I finally held my not-so-baby babies in my arms that I forgot to brace myself for the whirlwind impact of what motherhood actually is. I didn’t know I would never pee alone. I didn’t know that I would have to serve grilled cheeses every single night just so my kid would eat something. I didn’t know I would never sleep. I didn’t know people could be so cruel.
I also didn’t know I would wallow in loneliness and self-pity. But I did. And that was worse than anything anyone ever said to me.
I don’t want to sit here and tell you to WOMAN UP! Get over yourself! Because that is the last thing you need to hear. But can I tell you what I wish someone had told me?
I wish someone had told me to WOMAN UP! You are a daughter of the most high King; you think He doesn’t know what He’s gotten you into? You think He is going to let you flounder all alone? You think He doesn’t hear your cries? You think He doesn’t know the thoughts that go through your mind? OF COURSE HE DOES! He created you! And just like He created you He created the little people living in your home right now and you have a duty to them. Your job is to help them believe in the same truth that they are the daughters and sons that God created them to be. Your job is to love them, to keep them healthy and to keep them safe, not to feel sorry for yourself.
I wish someone had told me that this is hard and in some ways motherhood will be the worst thing to ever happen to you. Motherhood will show you your weaknesses, your true selfishness. Your children will mimic your worst qualities and pick up on your worst habits, some that you never knew you had. But in most ways, motherhood will be the best thing to ever happen to you. It will make you work hard and you will be all the better for it. Your level of patience will expand, your selfishness will begin to disappear, your habits will begin to change. Motherhood will show you that you can love someone besides yourself.
Over two years into this motherhood gig and I’m often told I’m doing a terrible job--sometimes by someone on social media, sometimes by my children, and sometimes by myself. What’s different now than two years ago is that I also tell myself I’m an amazing mother who is specially designed by God for my children. I also have surrounded myself with people who tell me the same thing and who allow me to speak truth over them. I face a choice every time I yell at my child or become exasperated by their antics--no matter how I respond I’m still an amazing mother. And no matter how you respond to your children you’re still an amazing mother. Believe it.
Whether you believe in God or not, whether you believe that God created you and your children, whether you believe that He has equipped you in such a time as this doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there are lies and there are truths and you have to decide which one you’re going to allow to define you.
Moms, stop wallowing in lies. Believe in your strengths and learn from your weaknesses. Smash a bowl because you’re angry and then ask your kids for forgiveness. Yell at God demanding all the crappy people be smited and then go in and bake brownies and let your kids lick the spoons. Tell yourself that you’re the most amazingest mom there ever was and then BELIEVE IT. Because it is the truth.
You really really are the mother your kids need today. And you’re killing it.
Caitlin is the founder and creator of Respite Redefined. She is a wife and mother of two daughters through adoption from foster care. Caitlin loves to read, to write, and to dream of the places she'll go and the sights she'll see and the new kids she'll one day meet.