I had grand plans for this week. I was going to get a lot of things done; I had a whole list of productive projects I was going to tackle and check off, killing time while my husband is on a business trip. But instead I’ve spent the night sitting, and worrying, and trying to soothe myself with TV and chips. (The good news is I finally gave up on the chips. The bad news is that I’m still awake and, though I was close to sleep about 30 minutes ago, due to an email chain with one of my kids’ teachers I’m wide awake now and my brain is full-steam-ahead.)

There are some things I have no control over. In fact, most things in this world I have no control over; really, comparatively speaking, my sphere of influence is very small. But when it comes to my kids, I’m not sure how much control I’m supposed to have. I feel like I’m responsible for teaching my children lots of things, including morals. So if they lack morals, does this mean I’m failing? And if I’ve failed with one, does that mean I’m doomed to fail with them all? I’ve always looked at parents of children who haven’t turned out “ideally” and thought, “Hey, it’s the kid, not the parent. These kids make their own choices.” But being on the other side of this, being the parent of the kid who isn’t turning out ideally, it’s a lot harder not to blame myself.

Tonight is one of those times when I feel like being a parent is more than I can handle. It’s time to throw in the towel, admit defeat, and hand the baton on to someone more capable. I’m ready to quit this gig. But it isn’t that easy, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t live with myself if I just gave up on this child.

But at what point is it no longer my responsibility? At what point do I just turn this child’s actions and decisions completely over to them? And does that mean I’m giving up? Does it mean I’ve failed? And if it does, then does that make me a shitty mom?

Over the years I’ve come to realize and accept that I’m simply not cut out to be what I’m trying to be. I’m not the mother I thought I would be (to be truthful, I’m not the person I thought I would be either). And I’m trying really hard to accept that, and come to terms with it, and love myself in spite (because?) of it. But I still feel so responsible. Like I shouldn’t have brought them here if I wasn’t capable of taking care of them and teaching them properly. Hindsight.

I love my children. I do. They have added a new dimension to my life. But sometimes I think it would be better if they had a different mother. Someone more capable. Someone better equipped to teach them, help them, and love them the way they need. Because I’m only capable of so much. And right now it sure doesn’t seem like enough.

Why do I share these things with the world? Why do I tell cyberspace about my problems? I promised myself a few years ago that I wouldn’t pretend this was easy any more. So I write, and I share that because I think there are a lot of people who need to know that the battles they fight are normal parts of parenting, life, and existing. Because I need to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t stellar at this or loving every second of it (or even most of the seconds). And if I need to know that, I suspect there are at least a few other internet-savvy people who need to know it too.

I was hoping that by writing this I’d be able to calm down and relax enough to sleep. It’s not looking good. So I’ll go back to the TV. Another couple episodes of Suits might do it. Maybe three or four.
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3 Responses to Discouraged

  1. Sarah says:

    I love that you share it, for all the same reasons you listed.

    I can relate. I have days where I am really glad I came to these conclusions (don’t have more than I can handle) before it was too late. And I’m sure it will just get more complicated when their environment is not just our home.

    Hang in there, sister. Love!

  2. Ray says:

    When you are presented from an early age with an image of motherhood as a blissfully happy time of nurturing children because that is your divinely ordained role, and the most wonderful thing that a woman can aspire to, it can be especially jarring when confronted with the reality of modern motherhood. Being a mom often means isolation, tedium, and frustration.
    As a young man, I bought into the idea that women were most happy when staying home and caring for children and taking care of domestic concerns. It did not take long before I realized that for many women, including my then wife, even though she loved our children, needed to have an identity that was larger than, but still included, wife and mother.
    I think that for most of human history child-rearing has been a communal endeavor, encompassing extended family and entire villages. Only beginning in mid 20th century America did the idea of the ‘Stay-at-home-mom’ become fixed in the popular imagination.

  3. Adrian Larsen says:

    I’m glad you have the courage to share these things. I suspect many, many people feel the same way you do, but don’t have what it takes to say so–or even admit it to themselves.

    Here are some poorly worded thoughts, imperfect, but meant to be helpful.

    I believe there are no accidents. The circumstances that we find ourselves in, though they seem to be “thrust upon us” are, in fact, designed the way they are because we need them, and even agreed to them.

    If the veil were removed at this moment, I would not be surprised to find that your children agreed, even covenanted, to come here with certain needs, problems, and challenges because you needed the experience of feeling like a failure at something you hold so important.

    Why would you need to feel like a failure? Because all of us are. None of us live up to the ultimate standard, and it’s extraordinarily dangerous for anyone to think they do. And yet, we’re surrounded by so many people who pretend to be perfect, who tell each other they are “chosen” and “the Lord’s” and all those feel-good titles that don’t include “shitty mom” in a desperate effort to cover up the fact that we all fail.

    But your particular circumstances have led you to drop the facade, to end the lie, and to confess to the world that you are not, in fact, ideal. And that takes courage and a great deal of humility. And someone as capable, bright and powerful as you likely would not have gotten there in any other way.

    In short, your children are working for your salvation.

    So the question is, what do you do about it? In the face of perceived failure, how do you respond? Oh, how I can identify with your desire to just give up, admit failure, and turn them over to someone else. And yet, you know that’s not the right response. So you keep trudging forward.

    It’s not fun. And as much as we hate it, it wasn’t designed to be. The point is, we’re here to become something we cannot possibly become on our own, and complete surrender is the first faltering step on the path that climbs.

    Surgery is not fun either, but the compassionate doctor will continue cutting until all the disease is removed, despite our pleadings to end the operation early. He knows that stopping before the operation is complete will cause it to fail, and all the pain suffered would be for nothing.

    From our limited vantage point, it’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not good, and it’s not fun. The challenge is to accept that our vantage point is the problem, not the situation. From the surgeon’s perspective, the painful operation is the only way to save us, and he’s not willing to just let us die.

    One day, we will see with clear eyes and then understand how carefully crafted these trials were for us. And maybe, just maybe, you’re handling them better than you might think.

    I didn’t respond to your suicide post because I didn’t want to admit I’d been there myself. But I have. Often. And it hurts. Through these circumstances, I now realize that facing failure is an absolutely necessary part of the growing process. It is essential. And if we don’t get to the point where we think life isn’t worth living, we’ve not yet developed to the point where we can stand the crucible that will burn away the dross and leave the gold.

    But moving forward, working on in spite of perceived failure, this demonstrates faith in its purest form. Staying in this telestial world when you don’t want to be here is an act of faith. Continuing to try to mother extremely challenging children is an act of faith. And faith, when fully blossomed, produces power.

    Hang in there, Christine. All is not lost. They are not lost. This is a great opportunity to seek spiritual guidance about what to do. My advice: Don’t stop seeking until you obtain. No matter what. I’m very serious, and speaking from experience. There are answers available, but they are not available cheaply. And perceived failure is no reason to quit.

    Thank you for having the courage to write what you’ve written and to do what you’re doing.

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