Have you ever had those days, or let’s be honest, one of those seasons of parenting when you think, “This is never going to end! My life is going to be an endless cycle of ___________ (fill in the blank…sleepless nights…kids who refuse to eat vegetables…fighting over screen time…etc.)?”
Whatever your parenting crazy cycle might be, when you’re in it, it feels incredibly isolating, draining, tedious, and loooooonnnnnngggg. And it’s nearly impossible to find or even feel hopeful that the cycle will end.
That’s exactly where I was 10 years ago. I was a stay at home mom to a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. And I was parenting to survive, not parenting to thrive.
On the outside everything looked fine. We looked like the typical happy family, and I worked really hard to make sure it appeared we had it all together.
But I was barely surviving as a mother. I got angry – A LOT – and found myself parenting with a “just get through this” mentality. You know…just get through the day until my husband gets home, just get through the summer until school starts…
The truth is, I had a lot of ugliness in my heart towards being a mom, and most of it was directed towards our oldest who seemed to know exactly how to push my buttons.
So, I filled our days with lots of distractions – playdates, camps and TV – because it was easier to do those things than face the reality that parenting was more challenging than I’d bargained for.
It was hard to find the beauty of being a mom in that season.
That is, until Easter Sunday 2010…
As a mom of boys, I realized early on that trying to win the clothing battle with my kids was a lost cause.
Other than funerals, weddings and the occasional family Christmas card photo when I pay my children to wear pants with zippers (yes, I pay them), our boys have always preferred to be dressed in a steady diet of athletic shorts and t-shirts.
But this Easter, I decided to pull rank and made sure everyone was dressed up in our finest. Being a clotheshorse, I was excited to wear a new skirt I’d been saving for the occasion. White eyelet with a beautiful embroidered bouquet of flowers, this skirt said, “Spring is here and so am I!”
After church, we picked up the boys from their classrooms and headed to the car. Being Easter Sunday, the church lobby and parking lot were packed with people. We finally snaked our way through the crowd to the car, when our oldest announces he has to go to the bathroom.
Our son was just barely on the winning side of potty training so, I knew it couldn’t wait. I asked my husband to take our youngest and pull the car around to the front of the church. We would only be a minute. I grabbed his hand, headed back into the bustling church lobby and made a beeline to the ladies’ room.
Surprisingly, we were the only ones in the bathroom.
In my insistence on the boys dressing up for Easter, I just knew his lack of experience with a button and a zipper was definitely going to end in disaster, so I went in the stall with him and quickly helped him undo his pants, all the while he’s saying, “Hurry, Mama…Hurry, Mama,” and I’m thinking, “Hold it son, hold it son!”
As soon as I helped him, he dropped everything to his ankles, turned his back to me and started taking care of business. “Whew! Crisis averted,” I thought.
But just as he was about to finish, while he was still facing the porcelain throne, he let out the biggest fart I’d ever heard his sweet cheeks make! Only it wasn’t just a fart, as it came out completely loaded with an arsenal of diarrhea!
There I stood. My beautiful, white, Easter skirt now resembling a Jackson Pollock poop painting, while my 3-year-old had crap running down his legs and all over his new Easter pants and socks and shoes.
I’m pretty sure I started hyperventilating at this point, but I managed to gather myself enough to strip him naked from the waist down and wipe him up as best I could.
I knew I had an emergency pair of shorts and underwear in the car, but there was no way I could walk a half-naked toddler through the lobby of church on Easter Sunday. So, I gathered up his soiled clothes, crouched down and looked him straight in the eye as I said,
“I’m going to the car to get you some clothes. I am going to leave you here, in this stall. As soon as I leave, you lock the door. You are not under any circumstances to open this door. Do not open this door for anyone but me. Do you understand?”
I stepped out of the stall, waited for him to lock the door and prayed to God that no one found him in this state. I was already imagining the headlines, “Half-naked child found in church stall on Easter Sunday….” I began making my way back through the lobby toward our car, praying to God that no one saw me…or worse, smelled me.
As expected, my husband was waiting at the curb in our car. I headed straight to the open tailgate of our minivan (yes, a minivan) where I kept extra clothes for emergencies.
As the tailgate opened up, my husband, clearly irritated that we’ve been gone forever, looks back and says, “What is taking so long?!”
I just looked at him and yelled, “OUR! SON! JUST! POOPED! ALL! OVER! ME!!!!!”
With hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I grabbed the bag of extra clothes, went back into the church lobby, into the ladies’ room to find my little guy patiently waiting for me in the stall where I left him.
On the drive home, I sat silently in the front seat, crying as I looked down at the mess of my skirt thinking, “It’s ruined. I’ll never be able to wear this again.”
And yes, I was crying about the mess of my skirt, but I was also crying about the mess of my heart.
I hated how I felt at that moment, in that season. I knew I needed to change some things to find hope and purpose in my parenting.
Right there, driving home from Easter Sunday covered in poop, I asked God to forgive me and to help me find the beauty behind the hot mess of my life.
When we got home from that memorable morning, I called my mom to get some advice on how to save my skirt. She recommended cold water and OxyClean.
I could have just stuck the skirt in the washing machine, poured in the soap and hoped for the best, but I knew it would only remove the top layer of filth. The stains were pretty big and needed some extra attention.
I soaked the skirt in cold water and began treating all the spots with OxyClean. It wasn’t an easy task. I had to scrub it several times and let the detergent sit on some of the spots to really penetrate the stains. But eventually, the original beauty of the skirt was there. The stains were gone.
It’s a similar process when we trust God to change our hearts and fill us with his hope and truth.
In Romans 15:13 it says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The truth is I had forgotten it wasn’t my life, or my children or my circumstances that gave me hope. I had stopped trusting God with my parenting. I thought the frustration and anger I felt at the time was the way it always would be.
And when I did pray, I would just throw up prayers of desperation to God, hoping something would change. But that was basically like thinking I could throw my soiled skirt in the wash, pour in the soap and expect it to come out spotless.
Just like my skirt and the OxyClean, I needed to make time to soak up God’s truth through reading his word, praying for his strength and help, and letting him clean up my stinkin’ thinkin’.
During this season of my life, I was reminded of John 17:20 where Jesus said, “I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” Knowing that Jesus was praying for me was incredibly encouraging. I wasn’t alone in this battle. He was praying for me to have a fresh perspective toward parenting, too.
Today, if your motherhood journey feels more poopy than perfect, start by inviting God to join you in the journey.
He is for you. He intentionally made you to be a mom. And he desires for you to be filled with his joy and peace, and overflow with hope as you trust him every messy step of the way.
Happy Mother’s Day!