the day i realized i was poisoning my parenting

how to fix parenting mistakesWith just one simple question, she laid bare the image-conscious, people-pleasing aspect of my character that was poisoning my parenting. 

From the outside, everything looked fine. When my kids were young, I remember my sister-in-law telling me, “You all are just the perfect little family!”

I knew the truth. If you peered beneath the surface, the picture wasn’t exactly perfect — for a variety of reasons.

However, when my oldest turned 12, a powder keg seemed to go off. She began to act out and assert her preteen independence. At the same time, my son was struggling with his own challenging issues. I couldn’t seem to fix anything or anyone. In fact, my best efforts only seemed to make things worse.

The “perfect little family” facade was crumbling.  

This phase of my parenting was more intense than I was prepared for. It required more wisdom and courage than I thought I had. I just wanted my kids to behave … was there anything wrong with that?

My relationship with my daughter was particularly strained at the time. I often responded to her with anger, sarcasm and controlling behavior. Then I’d feel just awful and overcompensate by trying to do everything I could to please her. It was a vicious, unhealthy cycle.

The overall atmosphere in our home was tense and volatile. And I was exhausted.

Finally, my husband and I agreed on a good family counselor and made an appointment.

Those early sessions were mostly filled with a combination of hostile words and defiant silence.

Then during one session, my daughter asked me this: Do you really want things to be different because it’s best for me or because it will make YOU look good?

Ouch. It was more of a statement than a question. I wanted to argue. I grasped for some words of defense. It was no use. Because instantly, I knew she was right. All at once, she exposed something I didn’t even fully realize about myself.

Who was my desire for everybody to be happy really about? Them or me? My selfish, image-conscious motives may not have been obvious to me, but they certainly weren’t lost on my children. I was fighting battles to change behavior, but I was losing the battle for their hearts.

I was trying to fix everyone else. What I truly needed to do was allow God to fix me.

Our family struggles weren’t all my fault. But that surprising, unexpected revelation revealed a major flaw in my mothering that was poisoning my relationships with my children. I felt deep remorse.

That was a huge turning point for me. Right there in that counselor’s office, healing began. I acknowledged that she was right. I asked for forgiveness and resolved that I was going to change.

I began to ask God to help me focus on what was best for my family and quit worrying about what other people might think. Motherhood is messy. My worth and value had to stop hinging on what people — who only knew a fraction of the whole story — thought about me, my kids and my mothering skills. Only one Person’s opinion really counts. And He offers so much more grace than we humans often give each other.

That was six years ago. Do I still focus on behavior more than heart issues? Sometimes. Have I come a long way since then? Absolutely.

Mothering is a journey. My kids are nearly grown and I still have so much to learn about being the mom and woman God created me to be. He isn’t finished with me yet. Thankfully, He never gives up on me.

I will continue to mess up. I will always fight my selfish, people-pleasing nature.

But shining the light of Truth on those dark areas of struggle has proven to be a powerful antidote. 

Melinda Means

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 You can purchase our new book, Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for Your and Your Family on Amazon and other online booksellers, as well as at bookstores nationwide!

“I was deeply touched by this book and especially loved that it didn’t feel AT ALL condescending, as so many parenting books tend to be, but instead offered practical solutions and a whole lot of grace. I highly recommend it!”

~ Ruth Soukup, New York Times bestselling author and blogger at Living Well Spending Less

when mama is broken

postpartum depressionIt was around 3 A.M. 

Max was 2 years old. He was in his crib sleeping and I wasn’t about to disturb him.

Paul was 4 months old. He was finally asleep in his crib.

Ben? Asleep.

I wasn’t. I was up, standing in the kitchen starring at the linoleum floor. The room was only lit from the moon, yet I was wide, wide awake. I wasn’t happy to be awake. It made me nervous. I wanted desperately to snuggle my mind and body in somewhere to rest both.

But it wasn’t going to happen. I was broken. This mama was indeed broken. My mind and body were both shattering into pieces that I couldn’t put back together like a child’s floor puzzle.

During the day, my eyes could barely stay open. My feet felt like they were stuck in maple syrup as I walked around the house moving from highchair to nursing chair to the clothes that were on a chair to be folded. So, so many chairs.

Where was my energy? Where was the feeling like I wanted to get ready and go out into the world and have a great day?

Where had I gone?

When was I coming back?

When was I going to be put together again?

Answering these questions took time and a commitment to seeking help.

My rambunctious, smiling babies helped me make it through the day. They were thriving despite my feeble efforts at keeping up with them. Max made Paul laugh, giggle and screech with delight everytime he walked in the room. He was constantly hugging and softly kissing him. “Baby Paul” was just content being with me, nursing and playing along side me. Thank goodness Max also wanted to spend most of his time outside. He made sure I saw the sun and got fresh air.

After the night that I was up starring at that kitchen floor in the moonlight, that morning felt heavy and insurmountable. I couldn’t carry it that day. Or another one. I needed help.

It was then, as I watched Ben put on his scrubs for work. Thank God he could depend upon someone else washing his clothes. He was pulling call night after call night working hard to complete his residency in Pediatrics. We were both tired, but one of us couldn’t bare the thought of the day. I felt guilty that it was me.

I looked up at him as he was ready to leave that morning, in a milk-drenched, tear-soaked flannel nightgown and plainly told him, “I can’t do this. There’s something wrong.”

I was broken. My spirit had been snapped in half and I didn’t know what to do.

He gently closed the door. Thankfully, he wasn’t on the other side of it. He started making phone calls for appointments and I was sent to bed. I didn’t argue or disagree. I was very, very thankful.

Postpartum depression feels contradictory. You have a beautiful bundle to be so happy about holding and your mind is fogged up in a haze that is difficult to navigate. The restlessness and anxiety that can sometimes accompany it are also contradictory. You’re not tired when you should be and exhausted when you should be awake. It all feels wrong and unsettling.

You feel crazy. You feel ashamed of how you feel about your life. You feel broken and unfixable.

My experience with postpartum depression, it turns out, is not unusual. But I was lucky. My husband was willing and able to help. He held me accountable for staying healthy. I had a few friends that were willing to dredge through it with me.

Therapy and medication work. They work very, very well. It’s important to know that they work even better when they are implemented together.

So, how do you fix a broken mama?

Piece by beautiful piece. Day by day.

God doesn’t want us to suffer. This is not a test of one’s faith or strength. It’s a test of one’s obedience to the truth of recognizing a medical condition that can be treated. We would never assume that a mother’s battle with any other acute or chronic illness would be a test of either one.

Depression (postpartum or not) is not either.

It just — is.

Moms need help. We need people to recognize that we need help, too. We need compassion and tenderness when we feel broken. In order to regain strength and resilience we also need patience, with ourselves and from our loved ones.

Are you in the middle of postpartum depression?

If you’ve had it in the past, how did you get through it?

What would you say to a mom who is suffering right now in silence?

Kathy Helgemo

 

ready to put some new life in your mothering?

Mothering From ScratchDo you need a little NEW LIFE in your mothering this Spring? 

We are offering a FREE, private online book study group called “Putting New Life In Your Mothering” beginning April 8th.

Over 7 fabulous weeks, we’ll be going through our new book, Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family with you. Each week, we’ll cover two short, easy-read chapters a week.

We are limiting the group to 10 people in order to maximize interaction and encourage the honest transparency and sharing that tends to happen more freely in smaller groups.

How will this study bring new life to your mothering?

– You’ll receive encouragement and prayer support from us, along with the other moms in the group

– You’ll realize you are not alone in your struggles and have others who have been where you are and can give hope and wisdom

– You’ll be equipped with practical tools that you can apply in your mothering RIGHT NOW.

– You’ll make potentially lasting connections with other moms in the group that will continue to bless you long after the study is over

– You’ll receive a copy of our brand new ebook, Blessing Kids with Bold Faith: 31 Ways to Equip Kids. (This ebook will be a part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle that goes on sale next month!)

So how do you sign up? Join the FB group by clicking here.

You’ll need the following by April 8th in order to start the study:

– a copy of Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family

– a teachable, compassionate heart

– a willingness to share your experiences and encourage others

We are so excited to start this fresh mothering journey with you!

Love,

MKsigssmaller

 

 

5 myths about raising kids who love God

raising kids who love GodI dare you to find a kid who went to church more than I did growing up. 

My parents strictly adhered to the philosophy that you should be in church every time the doors were open. Missing a church service, event or gathering was simply not an option.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Jesus. 

But that doesn’t mean I was spiritual. In fact, I wasn’t. I said and did all the “right” things. I was “religious.” I believed in God. In fact, I was a Christian.

However, something was missing. I somehow felt like I could never measure up. In college, for a while, I quit trying. I hardly went to church for three years. I was devastated when a boyfriend broke up with me because I wasn’t “spiritual enough.”

I eventually tried again – to go to church. To be a good Christian girl. In my mid-twenties, I remember standing in church, singing the songs, going through the motions, but feeling empty.

I prayed this prayer: God, I feel cold. If I’m going to keep doing this, you are going to have to make yourself real to me.

He did. Through some incredibly painful experiences in my life, as well as the challenges of motherhood, He lovingly brought me from “head knowledge” about Him to a place of real, authentic, on-my-knees, I-need-You-every-moment relationship. Gradually, I began to believe that I didn’t have to measure up — I was loved no matter what I did or didn’t do.

When I began raising my kids, despite my own personal experience, I had a rigid, naive, Pollyannaish view of how I was going to pass faith down to my children. Of what a Christian kid should look like. I was far too inflexible and passive.

I found that raising kids who love God can’t be based on a “one-way-fits-all” formula. Your experience is no doubt different than mine, but I’d like to share five things I believed (sometimes without even knowing it!) that I found weren’t true:

Myth #1: Kids who love God are always compliant and accepting.

I have strong-willed children. My daughter, in particular, likes bucking the status quo. And that can be a very good quality. Neither of my kids take things at face value. Some of the talks I’ve had with my kids about faith, especially as they’ve gotten older, have been uncomfortable and messy. They ask hard questions. And guess what? That’s okay. They are asking. They are wrestling. They are learning from their mistakes (at least some of them!). I’ll take messy faith, over cold, dispassionate faith any day of the week.

 Myth #2: Kids who love God love Youth Group. 

I went to Youth Group. I never for one second thought my kids wouldn’t.  We currently have a great youth group at our church and a phenomenal Youth Pastor. But for a variety of reasons, my kids have not connected. At first, I made both of them go. Teens and their reasons for not wanting to do certain things can be difficult for grownups to understand sometimes.

I finally came to a place where I gave them a choice: Either Youth Group or Church. You choose, but you have to choose one. They both go to church every Sunday, without a word of complaint. They bring friends with them and often talk about what they’ve learned. I had to let go of my rigid ideas of how kids were supposed to “do church.”

Myth #3: Passive “nice” teaching of principles is enough to give a foundation in an evil world.

It’s important to regularly expose the lies we see in the culture all around us. We live in an evil world. Safe, passive faith isn’t going to cut it.

We have to be intentional and consistent in showing our kids how to live out their faith — why it’s practical, powerful and valuable in their everyday lives. Seeing us live out what we say we believe when it’s not easy and when it costs us something is powerful.

Myth #4: Results are all up to the YOU.

We can guide and teach our children. We can give them boundaries and give consequences. We can pray over them daily. But here’s the cold, hard truth: We can’t control our kids’ thoughts and choices.

The older my kids get, the more true I find this to be. Only God can reach and mold their hearts. I have to trust Him to reach them in ways that I can’t. And, ultimately, they are responsible for their relationship with Him.

Myth #5: Rules are more important than relationship. 

I’m a rule follower. I always have been. Combine that with my tendency to be an image-concious people pleaser and you get a mom who focused more on the outward appearance than the heart. Yikes.

I finally learned I had to also offer generous grace (not enabling!) and emphasize the reason behind God’s rules — His immense love for us. It makes all the difference.

They also have to see our own vital relationship with Jesus. When they watch us turn to Him in good times and bad times, it shows them how to interact with a loving God who cares deeply about their heart.

One of my most passionate prayers is that my children will love God more and follow Him. Thankfully, God promises to direct us as we raise our sweet children to draw close to Him.

 It just might look different than what we envisioned. 

Melinda Means