“I’m sorry this is so frustrating, Mom,” my seven year old son said as he hugged me.
I should have thanked him, but instead I tried to correct him.
“I’m not frustrated. I’m fine.”
But even I didn’t believe my short tense words. I wasn’t fooling anyone.
He paused and then asked, “Then what are you?”
The truth is… he was right. I was frustrated. I didn’t feel happy. And even though I should have been proud of his kind heart, I hated that he noticed.
I always pictured myself as this fun, happy mom who never ran out of ways to make the days spectacular with her kids.
When my kids were younger, I was better at it. I would do things like pull out rolls of wrapping paper and tape them to the kitchen floor. I’d pour out some finger paints and let my kids make art while wearing only their diapers. They’d make these huge messes. There would be paint on the wrapping paper and their hands and feet and bodies. After, I’d put them into the bath and wash them clean.
There was prep work, and clean up, and baths required, but they had so much fun and I didn’t care about the mess or the work.
I don’t know where that mom went.
She got busier, I guess. Or maybe she just got more impatient. More easily frustrated. Maybe she’s lived long enough with the mess and just tries to maintain order now. I don’t know exactly.
I know that now I weigh my decision whether or not to say yes to something against things like cleanliness, or time or effort. I say no because it would take too long to get the dried glue off of the kitchen table, or the park would take time away from the things I have to get done, or another round of Go Fish would push dinner and baths and bedtime back an extra fifteen minutes.
Where did that happy finger painting mom go? Ya know? Why is she gone so often that my kids can identify my frustrated feelings?
Do you know what I mean? Maybe you too. Maybe you feel like you’re getting everything done, but your heart or attitude aren’t what you want your kids to remember about you.
Friend, I think I know what happened to both of us.
Scripture says that the joy of the Lord is your strength, but I think we got busy trying to do it all in our own strength. We knew we needed His help. We tried to give it over to Him, but deep down we just kept doing it ourselves. We’re tired. Run down. And maybe getting most of what we need to get done accomplished…
But we’re missing that the joy of the Lord isn’t just strength… it is joy too. We’re missing the joy part
So what do we do?
I think the mistake we could make would be to go looking for joy we lost. Perhaps the biggest mistake we could make here might be adding “be happier” to our to-do lists.
The truth is, the Lord has everything we need in His presence. It’s all found in Him.
SO we could try and make our own happiness, or find our own joy, or just decide to be better… But I think we would find ourselves right where we started.
Because feeling frustrated or less happy or not so fun doesn’t mean we are bad moms. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do it all. Perhaps it means we’re doing too much on our own.
These things actually say less about what kind of moms we are… and more about the condition of our hearts.
Sister, if we’re going to be the moms we want to be, we don’t need to search for joy. We don’t need to try to be happier.
The answer is Jesus. It’s always been Jesus. It’ll always be Jesus.
And when we seek His Spirit… and set our hearts on finding Him… and recognize His Presence in our day… I think we’ll both find the joy we’ve been looking for… and we’ll realize that joy is necessary for strength.
So I’m sorry this is so frustrating, mom. I know it is at times. I know you don’t want to feel this way. I know you don’t want to be this mom.
But I know something else. Just one moment with Jesus was enough to change many people’s lives throughout history. And tonight? You might be one more person added to that list.
Deep breath. So much love.