I hear it all the time. Most often it’s when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.
I listen to the responses of the mamas in front of me. The overly chipper Trader Joe’s cashier will kindly ask, “How are you doing ma’am?”
The mama replies, “Fine, I’m tired. These kids are driving me crazy.”
The look on her face says it all. “I’m exhausted. I’m spent. I’m weary. And I don’t want to answer your questions right now. I feel frustrated, angry, and I just wanna get out of here.”
I was talking with a woman a few months ago who was sharing with me her plans for their summer break. She told me of all the activities she was going to put her girls into. From camps, to classes, to lessons, to sports, to VBS…overnight play dates, a trip to Grandmas and babysitters lined up for the rest.
I must have had a shocked expression on my face because she stopped and then said with a little laugh and an obvious edge of contempt, “I think I’m a 50% kind of mom. I honestly don’t like my kids. I try to sign them up for as much as I can because I just don’t want to be around them.”
I know dozens of grown adults now with families of their own who have no relationship whatsoever with their aging parents. I cannot fathom getting older and not speaking to my children anymore, yet somehow an incredible amount of people in my generation do not have a pleasant relationship with their mothers or fathers.
Why is that? What makes the difference in successful and unsuccessful families? Why do some people have amazing relationships and others would be fine never speaking to their parents again?
Being a parent is hard. Taking care of little people day in and day out is hard. And it’s often a thankless job.
But I promise you this. There is one thing that will surely destroy your home. And no, it’s not the dirty floors with crushed goldfish spread all over, being late to soccer every Tuesday, or the sink full of unwashed dishes. The one thing that will destroy every relationship within your home is hardness of heart.
Hardness of heart will destroy your relationship with your children.
What is hardness of heart?
Dictionary.com defines hardness as “unfeelingness or jadedness; callousness. Harshness or sternness, as of a difficult existence.”
In motherhood hardness of heart can look like this:
-believing that being short tempered and easily angered is just a normal ‘mom-thing’ and excusing it because everyone else does it too.
-focusing on making sure you look good to everyone else at the expense of truly relating with your kids.
-continuing to justify your extremely, overly busy life because of the desire to meet or exceed the expectations of others.
-choosing to think of yourself and your schedule as most important.
-choosing to focus far more on rules and making your kids learn to obey than on teaching grace and making sure they know they’re loved.
-having the mindset that your kids just “figure it out” and when they fail, because they will, rubbing their nose in it.
-tearing your kids down with words.
-blame shifting and excusing your wrongful actions because they deserved it.
-wasting inordinate amounts of time comparing and contrasting your home against others’ and making the judgement that “theirs is worse” or “theirs is better” and allowing yourself to become puffed up when you’ve beat them out, or depressed when you don’t quite measure up.
-lacking genuine sorrow over the harsh ways you treat your kids.
-responding with defensiveness, contempt, or uncontrolled emotion when someone tries to correct you.
-expecting your kids to say sorry first when you refuse to demonstrate it yourself.
-lacking genuine sorrow in your apology and following it up with “but….”
-demanding your kids be perfect because their obedience directly correlates to your identity.
-thinking more of what you deserve instead of what you can give.
-treating your family with contempt when they don’t give you what you think you deserve.
-expecting everyone in your home to be able to read your mind and getting upset when they don’t/can’t.
-focusing more on being right than on becoming righteous.
-solely thinking the picture perfect image, and other people’s perceptions is what equates a successful home.
-giving the cold shoulder, silent treatment, slamming of doors, using sarcasm or the rolling of eyes to let those in your family be aware they have done, or are doing, wrong.
-treating your kids as though they are in the way and making sure they know there are far more important things you could/should be doing.
-the refusal to humble yourself to ask for their forgiveness
-believing the idea that an adult repenting to kids is just ridiculous.
-believing that because you have the title of parent now means you’ve got it all together and no one can tell you otherwise.
-giving time out after time out, or grounding your kids for incredibly lengthy times, because you just can’t stand to be in the same room as them.
-disciplining out of anger.
-discipling without restoration.
-implementing the “do as I say, not as I do” rule, teaching lessons or life truths you yourself have no intent to live by.
-magnifying the weaknesses and minimizing the strengths of your kids, while magnifying the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses of yourself.
-withholding affection until they ‘clean up their act.’
-assuming you know exactly why they’re acting a certain way because you know them better than they know themselves.
-twisting their words, withholding or expounding parts of the details, and telling white lies to make your side of the story come across in your favor.
-forming concrete opinions about their deficiencies/shortcomings and drawing the conclusion that they will always be that way.
-seeing their problems as only their problems.
-justifying your wrongful actions because “they’re just kids.”
-using the line “I am doing the best I can” to excuse your own shortcomings/wrongful actions/sin.
-preserving your own well-being at the expense of your kids.
-spending more time trying to find an official clinical diagnosis to explain away their behavior issues than looking in the mirror to address your own.
-believing that sharing with all of your friends the dumb things your kids do is not actually gossip or slander because they don’t even know what those words mean yet, or better yet, justifying it because you birthed them. No matter how old they get you have full liberty to say whatever you wish to whoever you wish about whatever you wish because you’ve earned that right.
That’s quite a list…
Maybe you found yourself relating with more than you would have thought…maybe you can think of more to add to the list…maybe you’ve never thought of hardness showing itself in those kinds of ways.
I am guessing that I’m not alone in being the recipient of that kind of parenting, but I am also guessing that I’m not alone in having participated in parts of it as well. When I speak of hardness I must raise my hand first to say “guilty.” Are you there too?!
But I’m also going to assume here, that none of us want to stay hardened. How do we break the cycles? How do we create a different kind of home/family/dynamic? Where do we even start?
In order for our homes to thrive and flourish we must guard with all diligence against hardness of heart toward our kids. It has no place in motherhood, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, distance, slander, hatred and bitterness.
We’ve all heard that being a parent is work. And now that I have five kids I can say I absolutely agree. But that work is far different than I ever imagined and far more challenging than I thought it might become when I was in those blissful, sleepy, fresh out of the hospital, cuddly, baby-smell, newborn days.
When I write that motherhood is work I’m not talking about the never ending demands that come as often as the waves of the ocean, fierce and unceasing. I’m not referring to the countless sleepless nights taking care of sick kids, the piles and piles of laundry that will never ever ever be complete. I’m not talking about the dirty dishes that have been in the sink since last Sunday, the dishwasher you’ve unloaded for the third time today, figuring out where to put the shoes (goodNESS why are there so many shoes???), mastering the meal plans, figuring out the discipline strategies, or organizing bedrooms, calendars, sock drawers, garages, seasonal bins, closets, toys, and fitness plans.
As if all of that wasn’t work enough?!
But, when I speak of the work in motherhood I am talking about the grueling, gut wrenching, goes-against-everything-you-feel work.
I’m talking about choosing to daily lay down our lives for our family, looking for ways to love, to pursue, and being relentless to leave no room for distance between us and our children.
This kind of work is about constantly thinking past what our kids mouths are saying and what our kids bodies are doing, to seek out what it is their hearts are craving and what they’re souls are needing.
I’m talking about loving when our kids are unlovable, and respecting them when they are not respectable, and pressing on with joy and compassion when not a single one thinks of what it is we need in return.
This kind of work is being exhausted from the days schedules yet still making time to be present, to connect, to see, to listen, to care and to be a friend. It’s work to truly engage with the hearts of our kids, to pursue peace and unity within the walls of our homes and to refuse to allow our hearts to become discontent or allow our mouths to grumble.
It’s work to see our children as a gift and to be diligent to treat them like one…even when, or should I say, especially when, they don’t deserve it. It’s work to wake each morning and find new mercy, new strength and new joy and it takes effort to intentionally celebrate the mundane, the messy and the monotonous.
It’s work to defer our own preferences, pushing through our own pain, our own agendas and our own feelings in order to pursue unity, love and compassion. It’s work to constantly, continually and unreservedly lay down what we want for the good of those around us, considering others as more important than ourselves.
God wants us to cultivate what we have been given. But in motherhood the reality of what we have been given is often far more challenging than we ever would have anticipated.
There is pain between expectation and reality.
This kind of work in motherhood IS painful…yet it produces a love that compares with no other, because it comes from an exclusive source: Ultimately that love is a reflection of the love of Jesus toward us, having laid down his life for our sake. We have been loved in that way…selflessly, sacrificially…perfectly.
Learning to love as Jesus does brings about character, joy, honor, patience, steadfastness, perseverance, and maturity. Pressing on through the hardship of motherhood not only binds families together in an indescribably beautiful scar-filled unity, but ultimately sanctifies us and causes our lives to look more and more like Jesus.
Jesus, while we were yet his enemies, endured a brutal death sacrificing himself that we might be brought near. We were ransomed from our futility by his own blood and have been born again into a new hope, a living hope, to be built up as living stones in honor of the one true God. We are a people chosen for God’s possession, for obedience, for joy, and for His glory.
Through the hardship and challenges of motherhood we have the opportunity to see/receive Jesus’ love more clearly and in turn learn to love as He does.
I urge you, dear friend, if you find yourself reading this and you are not at peace with your children, drop whatever you are doing and begin with prayer. What is it you need to hear? Where is it you have lost sight of His love for you? Where does your heart need to heal? Where is it you need to grow? What is it you need to change? Who is it you need to pursue?
Ask the Lord to change your heart first.
This isn’t a list of do’s and dont’s…this isn’t a list of rules and guidelines. This is a pleading for us all, beginning with myself, to not waste any time being hardened at how difficult this role is…and it’s an invitation to not give, or leave, any room for distance. If there is something we need to confess, let’s do it. If there is someone we need to forgive, let’s do it. If there is some way we need to grow, let’s do it. And may we encourage one another in this work…for it’s often far too much for us all to carry alone.
Let’s carve out the time and energy to pursue the hearts of our children and ask God to give us eyes to see them as He does…as He sees us; with love, compassion and joy. No matter the age of our children, let’s ask Him to give us the ability to see beyond what is on the surface.
Let’s look carefully for what might be deeper. Is there loneliness? neglect? fear? shame? rejection? Ask God to heal us first and then to give us words, joy, peace, and resolve to love as He does. May our hearts seek to truly listen, love, repent to, forgive, pursue, and serve those who are in our care.
Motherhood is for our joy, the good of others and for His glory.
Let today be the day we soften our hearts. Let today be the day we chase after our children’s.
…but if I have not love I am a noisy gone or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient.
Does not envy or boast.
It is not arrogant.
It does not insist on it’s own way.
It is not irritable or resentful.
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Hi! I am a new reader and I just want to say, your articles are not only practical and helpful, but so uplifting! After reading this I feel like I just got a sermon preached right to me. It was exactly what I was looking for this morning as I wait for my 3 littles to wake up. Knowing I dont have energy today. I am 7 months pregnant and barely slept last night. I know today is going to be tough. My husband works long hours (he is a pastor) and I so often worry I am “ruining my kids.” But your words gave me encouragement this morning.
meg wallace says
Thank you so much! That is super encouraging! I can absolutely relate to the exhaustion of pregnancy and yet having to still care for more kids during the day. I’m so humbled that these words were able to serve you in some way. Thank you for your encouragement and for taking a moment to write to me. I’m praying the Lord met you exactly where you needed on that day in particular. Grace to you,
Erika L Perez says
I sat on my couch last night, bawling. I was feeling sorry for myself because life has been so hard lately as a mama. And yet , reading this, I realized that part of the reason it was so hard was my own behavior. I homeschool, so I am with my kids nearly every second. And though I would never say what the lady at the grocery store said, I recognized soooo many behaviors of mine in that list. It was very convicting and humbling. I really appreciate you writing this post. I am printing it out to keep it visible as a reminder.
meg wallace says
Erika, Thank you so much for your feedback! Especially your honesty. I can completely relate. Writing that was a reminder for myself for the times I grow hardened in this job as a mama too. I’m so glad you felt that it served you and am praying for a sweetness to fill your heart. Although the circumstances around you might not change or improve, I do know that our perspective in that can be life changing for our homes. Thank you again for writing! I really appreciate that!
Shannon Tellbuescher says
I am a mom of 7 incredible kids and I really needed this! Thank you for helping me to realign with the truth of who I am and who my kids are and remember that they are a gift from God. I too have been caught up in the day to day ‘tasks’ and have fallen into the trap of believing they are ‘just kids’ and I am justified in my behavior and words because I’m the ‘grownup”. That is just a lie from my ego. When I lead with love and God as my guide I find that my kids teach me more than I could ever teach them. What a blessing! Thank you so much for sharing!
meg wallace says
Thank you for so much for sharing that with me! Comments and feedback like yours is such an encouragement to me. And thank you also for taking the time to see your heart in my words, I know for me it can be so hard to admit when I’ve not handled things well. But I praise Jesus for the times He stops us in our tracks and shows us when we have gotten off. I’ll be praying for sweet restoration in your home and for a new turning point of drawing near to Jesus and compassion toward those little lives in your care.
Recently having my two grandfathers pass away, both whom raised wonderful, large families, I was struck with the reality that their passing is much less tragic than the pulling away of parents from their God-given, glorious gift of parenthood and/or marriage. The more we focus on our own desires, preferences, agendas and promote only ourselves, we lose a vital part of a truly fulfilling life- true connection with our spouse, our children and others. As a mother of 6, I’ve learned to prioritize time for a relationship with God (messier house), my husband (date night, babysitters=extra cost), my health (naptime for baby) and a time of rejuvenation (thanks hubby), and encourage my husband to take time for himself too (such a pleasure to see him walk in refreshed after fishing!). Ask God for wisdom in deciding your course in life and stop comparing. I pray God keeps my love burning strong with joy and gratitude for my precious family. It is hard to hear people say they are unhappy to be around their kids. Please-
Leave them for a short break, get a coffee, go for a run, find balance, have a set time to do “your” thing, and then be a present parent! Sometimes the answer is… LESS.
meg wallace says
I love those comparisons. You’re exactly right that sometimes, often, we need to say no to some very good things in order to say yes to the most important ones. Thank you for sharing your experience and the changes you have made to chase after the best things in life.
Tami Matz says
This is an excellent article, minus the taking of the Lord’s name in vain. I don’t get it. Scripture is referenced. Being like Jesus is referenced. It appears Meg wants us to glorify God in raising our precious children, yet His name is misused (“Good lord, why so many shoes” comment). Can’t take the rest of the author’s thoughts toward God seriously.
meg wallace says
If you would have asked me directly if I felt that in any way I had taken the Lord’s name in vain anywhere at all in my entire blog I would have emphatically told you no. While I do believe you have chosen to take one small detail and have made it become far too large, I can understand that each person has their own sensitivities to such issues and I thank you for your feedback.
First and foremost thank you for this article. There is a lot of great information.
I am a mother of two who are now grown and gone. I enjoyed raising my kids and never had any of the issues you have listed. However, I am also a step mother of three who are grown and gone. But, raising kids didn’t end there. I am now going on year 3 of raising my step grandson, who is 6 yrs old. Raising another child who is not mine has been very difficult and a huge struggle on so many levels. I have developed a very hard heart toward this child and can relate to many of the items you mention. I am also very resentful toward his parents who chose a life of drugs over raising their son. It is also very difficult that I don’t get any appreciation from them that I have stepped up to raising their child when no one else would.
I am at a point in my life that I shouldn’t have to be looking for a babysitter if my husband and I would like to go on a date. Actually, dates have become a thing of the past because of the situation. It has taken a heavy toll on our marriage.
I struggle and fail each day with letting go and softening my heart .
meg wallace says
Oh Kara, my heart truly goes out to you. You’re so right….it just shouldn’t be like this…and I can relate to that feeling about “life” in other areas. I do see, however, such grace in your response to the needs around you. I love that you stepped in, and are filling in the gap for those who haven’t taken responsibility. That is the heart of Jesus…He took the place for us and filled in the gap when we didn’t get it right. I’m praying for you sweet friend. Praying for a soft tender heart…that those who are in your care would one day leave your home knowing Jesus more fully after being in your presence. Don’t grow weary! Keep pressing on…and one day…one day there will come those words you long to hear “well done….well done….” Keep pursuing Jesus and don’t allow yourself to think He has left you all alone. He is so near to you, He sees you…and His strength, patience, joy, and love are already completely yours. Let this trial only soften you all the more as you learn to look to Jesus every single day. Praying for you!!! Don’t lose hope!
Wow! What a convicting read! I sadly think I could have checked every single one of those things you listed. I am also a mom of 5, and have been really struggling with the day to day “tasks” lately. ( yes, that is how i have come to view being a mom😔)This was just what I needed to read this morning. I think I’ve just been in a state of existing and making it through until they are out of the house. It breaks my heart now to even type those words but it’s true. I know I can by God’s grace and with his help be a better mom. Thanks for sharing your heart.
meg wallace says
Thank you so much for sharing that. I completely understand that mentality of just getting through it…five kids is so much work isn’t it??? But I am continually blown away to hear how God uses my own brokenness to bring healing and renewed joy to others. Praise Him for that!!! I often say that if there is anything at all that is good in my life all credit belongs to Jesus, not at all me…I’d be a total wreck apart from Him. I’m praying for your journey in motherhood…that each day would be another new start to love your children well and by the time they leave your home they will have tasted a bit of heaven having been with you as their mom. Thank you so much for encouraging me. I so appreciate that.
Elizabeth S says
This is my first time ever commenting on a blog…I too am a mother of five and a pastor’s wife, so I can certainly appreciate the difficulties of expressing grace in those most trying moments of parenting. I particularly appreciated your comment on intentionally celebrating the mundane and messy, as I daily struggle to find joy in re-doing what my children have so quickly “undone”. I am left to wonder, though, as your post makes no mention of the importance of pursuing and developing our relationship with Christ as first and foremost. The type of love you describe only comes from God, so if we are not taking the time to fill our own hearts with His love and grace, we will have none to give to our children when the opportunity arises.
meg wallace says
Thank you for letting me know what it is you are left wondering after reading my post.
You’re exactly right that there is no love, like the kind I describe, apart from Jesus. Our loving God is the one who created it, and He is the one that indwells in us to empower us to love like He does…which is, quite frankly, the entire point of my blog.
Apart from His grace we are wholly unable to love selflessly or pursue relentlessly as He does for and toward us. We find our joy, hope and identity rooted in Him, and only Him, because there is no other fount or source for that kind of love if we are not abiding in Him.
My desire is to continually paint a picture of what it looks like to love as Jesus does…and use my articles and words to repeatedly and emphatically point others (beginning with myself) to Jesus….that we might pursue Him which results in pursuing others. It cannot be reversed.
Though I did include a smaller paragraph in this particular post (toward the bottom), my hope would be that people who read my work not assume that each article or blog post is intended to stand completely and entirely on it’s own removed the whole and/or separated away from the remainder of what I communicate. I view my blog as a quilt, a patchwork, if you will, where each piece fits together into a much larger picture.
Abiding in Him is the fount of living waters. Abiding in Him is the only cure for a hardened heart. Abiding in Him is our only hope for genuinly considering others as He considers us.
I sincerely apologize if you found that truth lacking in this particular article.
Thank you for taking the time to comment and to express your concerns.
Grace to you, Meg
Julie Filter says
I hear your heart and the ones to whom you speak, but let us also be careful to know the difference between the hardened moms and the weary moms. We must reconcile within the Body that sin is still within us and we will struggle daily to navigate it until we awake on that glorious day where sin and tears are done away with. Many moms are in the midst of trying to navigate the flood of emotions and inadequacy they feel in motherhood as they realize that they can’t do it all and can’t always keep their children from doing things they ought not to do. They feel the fear of the weight of their burden and that fear is loud and burdensome. May we fellow sisters in the battle of raising up children come alongside of the weary mom, whose tone is more harsh than she’d like and who is not the gentle one she’d hoped she’d be, and hold her up to help her know that she doesn’t have to bear that burden either. She has it in her mind that her works as mom are her value and that her children’s success in life is a direct reflection of her efforts and success. Let’s not mistake the fact that there is an iota of Truth in this, which is why Satan uses it against us all. But, we have the blessed opportunity to lift up the contrite heart and encourage her to breathe again because He can redeem even the hardest of times. May we stand beside the weary mom and walk with her as she walks with her kids and reflectively walks with Him as a child within herself to internalize the lessons that she was never taught in her childhood by absent parents and emotional distancing within her own experience. Let us love first, casting aside any oversimplification towards sin and embrace the heart of each other to be filled with His peace and to know it intimately. It’s a dance, and most of us are simply stumbling our way through it. May we be Good teachers to each other who lovingly and without harshness of tone on our part come shoulder-to-shoulder to listen and walk. This is so much more easily said than done, as we are truly only able to extend such Love when we ourselves have received it from above. As we walk with Him in Truth AND Love in the fullness of His gentleness towards a humble and contrite sheep we learn how to then walk with others in thanksgiving for the Love we’ve received.
meg wallace says
Wow! Thank you for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful and lengthily response! I completely agree about the words needed to encourage the weary mom, as I wholeheartedly know what it’s like to be one. And when I write those articles toward that specific aspect of motherhood I definitely hope, by God’s grace, to be a voice that uplifts, bring hopes and offers encouragement. This post, however, was intended to be along a different vein and I see there being space, and need, for both. I view my blog as a larger collaboration, a piece of artwork if you will, and each post only a mere piece of the bigger puzzle. There are different voices and different circumstances and different stories that surround the motive and intention of each post.Thank you again for your response. Grace to you, Meg
Julie Ann Filter says
<3 Yes, definitely. I'm glad that you have a space to reflect on both sides of that struggle. Shalom.
Chonda Ralston says
Amen and amen! Love the post and the challenge of Truth and Light to reveal what can so easily creep into our hearts and lives. Love your response and call to grace and lifting each other’s hands.
meg wallace says
Thank you so much for that sweet reply! I loved your wording…as I often think of the story in the OT where Moses had to have his arms held up in battle by Aaron and Hur. It’s one of my favorite stories!
So, so convicting. Thanks for sharing your heart and helping us all think through these things!
Right on. This completely speaks to me. I have a 15 and a 12 year old. I still have some time to fix some of these habits.
meg wallace says
Love your perspective. Yes, there’s time. Until we breathe our last breath there’s time! I pray that even if my kids come to me when they’re adults and let me know something was hurtful or unkind that even then I’d be humble to hear them and make things right and point them to Jesus.
Tim Hennig says
Very well written Meg. Love to see and read your words of wisdom that God has put upon your heart to share with others. Keep moving forward, trusting Him who holds all good things for you and your family. Love to you, Matt and the family.
meg wallace says
Thank you Tim! That’s so sweet of you to say. You guys knew what you were doing setting us up all those years ago! 🙂 One of these days we’ll have to come back and grill out together with the family again! #memories