Another Mother’s Day has come and gone, and a few days prior I had the wonderful opportunity to meet an old high school girlfriend who is also a pastor’s wife. The evening was by far one big lesson from God to appreciate what he’s given me, not dwell on what I’ve lost, and learn from all the mistakes I’ve made. She pointedly asked me, “Do you give yourself Grace as a mom?” What kind of question is that? Why on earth would I give myself grace after all the stupid mistakes I’ve made…it’s hard even asking God for Grace. An in that lies the ‘LIE’. We all deserve and can receive Gods Grace, but do we give ourselves any? You know…the free, unmerited favor to forgive yourself – cut yourself some slack. No? Maybe a few of you just mumbled…’sort of’, or ‘maybe sometimes’? I never did until recently.
I’m now a divorced, single mom of 4 (two at home) at the age of 48. Not exactly what I aspired to be as a young girl at all lol. Still, I’m trying to find my way through this new life and figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life, all the while trying to keep God in the center, but I fail at that most days too. I was very hard on myself at first – taking on more than my share of guilt for a broken marriage even though there was equally fault on both sides. My kids went through H-E-double-hockey-sticks for the first year for sure. I can say after 2 1/2 years, it’s getting better day by day, but I certainly didn’t start off allowing myself any room for Grace. None as a matter of fact – at any point.
Three years later…I was pregnant again. We had already heard the heartbeat and things were great! The first sonogram appointment came and we were full of joyful anticipation at the first peek of our little bundle. It was supposed to be exciting and fun! It wasn’t. Our baby was there, but so still as he lay at the bottom of the sack. He never moved. At 12 weeks, we had lost our baby. That was, by far, the most devastating moment I had experienced as a young mother, but we got through it, and a few months later we were pregnant again. I lost that one too…and I was mentally and physically done. With the help of dear, dear friends and family however, we healed and moved forward one day at a time. By August that same year, I was pregnant again, and finally, my daughter arrived albeit a tough entry into the world. Her cord was wrapped around her neck and she was completely purple, but she was healthy and here. Not long after that she turned yellow with jaundice and had to stay in a bilirubin light box for a week! Geesh…motherhood was not easy then, and definitely is not any easier today.
My fourth child, and third son, arrived in 2004 with a birth defect called Pierre Robin Sequence Syndrome. It included a soft cleft palette, ear infections and ear tubes, respiratory challenges that caused him to stop breathing in the middle of the night, therefore he slept on my chest for the first year, sitting up. He had a heart murmur and he couldn’t take a bottle or my breast so he was on a feeding tube for his first year of life. Out of all my children, it was the most challenging and exhausting year as a mom I had ever experienced. I was also a military wife then post 911, so I spent much of that time parenting alone, like many of you have done I’m sure. I also lived in Tennessee, so I had to depend on friends – fellow Army wives, church friends, coworkers, etc. They helped me with everything – not just caring for Ethan, but moral support, prayers, and making sure I had breaks to help me recharge and be a better mom to all my kids. They became my family. They were all I had. That environment forced me to make fast friends with anyone in my circle for support and strength. I think my tendencies to lean on ‘friends’ vs. family even now is because of my past experiences – it’s all I know.
Now my kids are 26, 22, 16 (she gets her license in 11 days…ugh!), and my youngest son is now 13 – you would never even know he was born with Pierre Robin! They are healthy, smart, beautiful kids and so talented! We all think that of our kids, don’t we? GOOD – we should! I am also back in my hometown and finally have family close by for the first time in 28 years, which is wonderful and I would not have survived these last two years without them, or my ex-husband who also moved here and remains one of my best friends today by the Grace of God. Still, I struggle with how to fit into my family’s world – one they have been creating over the last 20+ years without me in it. We don’t know each other very well, and many times I’ve felt like a burden to them, but I will keep trying. I love them so much, more than anything, and I won’t stop until I get it right! I suppose to make it easier, I created my own world here where I felt more comfortable – where I fit in as me – where I can be my own person. Now, the trick is to not let that be the only place I find comfort and solace, because it will never take the place of my family. I know it will take time to reconnect with them, but I will keep working on it and give myself some grace during the process.
I still ask the question though. Why give myself grace though, when I’ve had so many MOM FAILS! That makes the whole ‘Grace’ thing even harder. HUGE FAILS! Ever called your son on his birthday only to realize you were a day late? Yep. I did that. CRAZY right? MY OWN SON! Have you not been able to attend your child’s event because of work? Yep. Me too. I know dads go through this too! My ex-husband missed out on SO much when he was deployed – it was very hard on him. I now know from limited personal experience exactly how hard it was. We just have to remember that life goes on, and it’s okay. Give yourself some grace!
I don’t have a support person living in my home anymore – so like many of you I do all the laundry, all the chores, my own yard work, and try and spend quality time with my kids every other week while working a full-time, 40-50 hr work week to pay the bills, take kids to appts on my weeks, help my mom grocery shop, visit my grandmother in the nursing home, and most recently added lawn care for my parent’s 2-acre lawn because my dad isn’t able to be outside in the heat. (It was really fun to run that zero-turn mower though!) Oh, and then there are choir concerts and track meets, of which I’ve missed several (track is during the work day…what’s up with that??!). I have my kids every other week, so you’d think the ‘off weeks’ would be stress free and relaxing right? LOL! “BIG MOOD”…as my daughter would say. No, those are the weeks I work late to catch up, clean house, pay the bills, plan out my Rotary meetings (as President), work on planning another event for another not-for-profit that I Chair, (and work on writing book three which is not going as well as I’d hoped) then collapse around 9pm on the couch until I wake up and drag myself to bed. Then it starts all over the next morning. You have your own version of this wonderful yet chaotic life as a mom – a role that is the best and hardest job on the planet, whether you’re a single mom or married and simply have a spouse who is gone for work all the time.
Until next time…and a thanks to my God for giving me His Grace unconditionally.