Thursday, April 11, 2013

True Confessions of A Fearful Mother

One of the worst lies of Depression is that I will never be good enough at anything I attempt. Each mistake adds upon the other until there's nothing left but a crushing ball of massive failure dragging behind me (or lying on my chest. Whichever metaphor makes the most sense for you). Secrecy and darkness are the breeding grounds for mental depression, as well.

I honestly think that one of the hardest things for my mind to adjust to is the idea that I'm not supposed to focus on my failures in pursuit of my strengths. I'm not supposed to accentuate the light by comparing it to the darkness. Does this make sense? I'm not supposed to compare my weaknesses to others' strengths, I'm not supposed to assume I'm only fixable if I'm perfect, I'm not supposed to expect anyone else to fix me. The Savior is the Healer, and through Him and with Him, I am guided to others who can help me --but not ultimately fix me. That is His job. Sure, it's through other people that our needs are met, but other people cannot apply the Atonement to my own life. I have to do that. With Him.

Anyway, sermon aside, yesterday was one of the biggest light-bulb moments for me --while I was wallowing in the mire of my failures. I know --in my heart --that wallowing in that failure mire doesn't help. It doesn't help that I only see how much weight I have to lose as a whole. It doesn't help to be angry at my body for shutting down just as I was making headway on exercise. It doesn't help to take my weaknesses and failures and anger out on my innocent children who are simply just trying to live their lives.

My kids aren't trying to be bad on purpose. My kids aren't sassy and rude and selfish because it is their nature. My kids (mine. Not yours!) are simply reacting to their environment.

And what kind of environment are they living in? Where are they learning sassy, rude, selfish, and angry behaviors?

It is easy to become too focused on the things that simply don't matter, especially where my kids are concerned. If their socks match, if they get perfect grades, if they forgot to brush their teeth. Anger is wrong. It doesn't help anything. Rudeness hurts. Selfishness robs time and relationships. Sassiness is a mask of fear.

My kids are living in fear.

Fear because they are afraid for the next time their mother will start yelling again. Fear that their small --for they are VERY small --mistakes will be ridiculed. Fear that they are failures. Fear that mom will punish without grounds, that mom will fly off the handle again. They are afraid of me. And yes, they are afraid of their father a little bit, too.

Truth: I am also living in fear. I'm afraid I will never be healthy again. I'm afraid I will never lose weight again. I'm afraid I will never have more children. I'm afraid I will never conquer my mental illness, that I will die of lung cancer before I'm 50. I'm afraid my husband will not find me beautiful enough, smart enough, nor good enough at my job as a housewife and homemaker. I'm afraid the people who listen to me teach gospel doctrine will realize I'm a big fraud. I'm afraid my family members will continue to ostracize me. I'm afraid my opinions will destroy friendships. I'm afraid my small offering to The Lord will not be enough.

Therefore, my fears are translating into my anger, my sassiness, my rudeness, and my children are simply mirroring what they see and what they experience. Those sweet children, those beautiful faces, those wonderful souls who are trying so hard to be good, to learn, to grow, to exercise their amazing faith --they are simply doing what they are taught.

This revelation, made by the Holy Ghost (as a warning!) after I lashed out at my 6 year old son just before my 8 year old's soccer game (and after the 10 year old's soccer game), was like being slapped in the face. With a block of ice. With TWO blocks of ice. I looked at his eyes, his defiant look, and I saw his fear. His absolute terror. He was afraid of me. He was clawing a way to find some dignity, to see in my eyes some form of love. But he didn't know how to do it without being weak, without being a victim, without backing down and cowering. Because he is a child. A child. This is why the cycle of disobedience and anger kept going.

I don't want my kids to fear me. I want them to know, without doubt, of my love for them. I want them to experience protection, safety, support, empathy, sympathy, strength. I want them to trust, to believe, to know I am their greatest supporter. I want them to know Christ through me. I want them to know of love through me. I want them to feel safe. Safe and loved.

It changed my heart in an instant. I saw who I was becoming and what it was doing to the people I love the most, and the agony was excruciating. I pondered it the rest of the day. I dreamt about it last night. I've let it work in me this morning. It may take some time to heal hurt hearts and wounds in my family, but I'm going to try. I'm going to pray hard for strength. I'm going to focus on when I succeed. I'm going to applaud my efforts and push them into the next moment as often as I can so the momentum of loving and supporting my kids will be what they remember when they leave our home one day.

A dear friend once told me that when she was mothering young kids and came across some really hard decisions, the Spirit told her that she shouldn't think about being right --she needed to preserve the relationship. Because the relationship is what her kids would remember. The relationship is what would keep her children close to Christ. The relationship would center them and would have the power to bring her kids away from worldly influences.

I know it's easy to say that teaching kids to obey and work hard and all that are the most important things --but if they hate you? Fear you? Don't want to be near you --will they obey or work hard, anyway? Will they even want to try?

But there is good in this, because The Lord is merciful. I have made covenants to repent and be forgiven. I can keep trying. I can do hard things. I can improve with Him by my side. I really don't have to do this alone, nor do I need to be fearful of my future failures (for I know I will fail again. I'm mortal, remember?).

Wish me luck, dear reader. Better yet, pray for me. I am going to shift the dynamics of my stewardship --my beautiful little family --and I'm going to need my Heavenly Father's guidance.
Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.
(Doctrine and Covenant 6:34-36)


Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

i identified a little too much with this post. when i am on my game, i am a kind, patient, and loving mother. when i am not feeling well (pregnant, sick, depressed, overwhelmed, afraid) i fly off the handle way too easily and i turn into an enemy to my kids instead of their greatest ally. i am too critical of them and i expect more than they are ready/able to give. this post by jenifer moss came to mind after i read your post and it really struck a chord for me when i read it and since. (it is the last half of the posting). like you, i am also grateful that my children and the Lord are merciful unto me.

Lisa said...

well i guess it isn't necessarily the second half of the posting. it is the section that says 'to love is better than to teach'.

Becca R said...


I'm afraid, too.

I'm glad we're friends.

And you're going to do great.

Let's try again to get together soon. It will be good for my soul.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am all too familiar with a lot of what you have described here. Here is to all of us striving to do better! Thanks for putting this all in words!

Momzoo said...

Love you!

mandy said...

Thanks!! I also see myself here!! There was a good article in huffington post about a mom who said no more yelling and has manged for a year. Couldn't find it to link up to but it was really really good!! It has become my motto!! I've only made it to 4 days before I have to recommit! It's worth finding. I will keep hunting and when I find it I will send you the l

mandy said...

Opps! The link! Love you

Amanda D said...

Great post, Cheryl. I too identified with many parts of this post. Thank goodness for the atonement. Can't wait to see you in a couple of weeks!

Diane said...

Once my husband said, "haven't you noticed the rude things the kids have been saying? I wonder what is causing it?" I had to chimes in as the cause because if I am not careful I will say rude things all day long especially to punk 3 year olds who either break or write on everything.

Cheryl said...

I just attended a Power of Moms retreat this past weekend, here in Las Vegas and i'm telling you it was life changing for me. There is one coming up in Park City on May 4th and I promise it is worth every penny of money and time that you make. It has changed my perspective on my children and my Mothering forever.

Aubrey said...

The orange rhino is the no yelling mom site. Praying for you!

Anne Marie said...

Cheryl, wow. I've been reading your blog for a long time now, and I really appreciate your openness and vulnerability. This post is absolutely beautiful. And, remarkably, in the last week, before reading your post, I have been having many of the same thoughts myself. I have been pleading with the Lord that the spirit of fear which has come to dominate my heart and my home would more often be a spirit of hope and joy. Even the scripture verse you quoted about looking to God in every thought has been on my mind the last 2 weeks in a very poignant way. Thank you for all you share. During the last several months of emotional darkness for me, your blog was one of the few I could stomach. Thank you. Wish I could hear you at Women's Conference (I live too far away to come this year).