Recently I interviewed Kristen Howerton (visit rageagainsttheminivan.com to find out more about her). I read her book Rage Against the Minivan in 24 hours. It was that good.
I’m not a huge fan of parenting books, tbh. They usually end up making me feel even worse than I already do about my failing parenting skills. But Kristen met me right where I was with this book and I couldn’t put it down.
One thing she talks about in the book is “Opting In” and “Opting Out” of certain activities for you and your kids. Gosh, I loved the practicality of that idea. So, I’ve starting making my lists of what I am “Opting In” and “Out Of” so I don’t opt out of my every-loving-mind.
- At least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with Mom a day (when I can): Whether that is just talking, playing a game, watching a show, coloring, or baking. Just taking a few minutes out of my day to make sure my kids know they are a priority is important to me. It fills their tanks and mine.
- Family dinners: Most nights out of the week, we sit down around our farmhouse table for family meals. I love this time because we always ask the kids what their best part of the day was. I feel like the kids share, laugh hard, and get our undivided attention.
- Cleaning schedule: I have a cleaning schedule that I follow almost to the letter because it keeps me from spending several hours one day a week cleaning the whole house. Instead, I do about a room or two a day. It’s been amazing and leaves me feeling like the whole house is always clean!
- Cooking: We used to eat out all of the time and it was expensive, stressful, and unhealthy. Covid forced me to slow down and cook at home. It also helped me organize my day so that I was always sure we were home by a certain time for me to make a meal. I have found cooking is like working out for me: It keeps me focused on the task at hand and reduces my stress and anxiety.
- Music on: Alexa sits on my kitchen counter and is always playing some tunes in the background.
- Candles Lit: I love a cozy smelling house. So between my candles and my music, I feel like I’ve set a relaxing tone for my house. It helps my mind center and reminds me that I am safe and can create safety for my family.
- Working out: I don’t workout more than an hour a day. I take the kids for a run (25 minutes) and then do a 30 minute workout at home. It reduces stress and helps me maintain my health. It’s also a good example to the kids. But anymore than that and it begins to jeopardize the rest of my day. I also workout at home now using Beach Body on Demand. I used to go to the gym and enjoyed it, but I would stress wondering how much time I was taking away from being home.
- Living life: The past year has taught us that you don’t have to take every opportunity thrown at you, but like, why not? Why not go all in, balls to the wall, and really LIVE? So we don’t get bogged down by the “what if’s” because we don’t want to have any “if onlys” later. But, here are staples to living this way: A budget, communication, values. Those three things will put guardrails around each of your decisions so you don’t derail your life.
- Time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. We will plan our weekends around parties and gatherings with/for family. They are our people.
- Sex night: This has revolutionized our marriage. Pick one night a week when YOU KNOW you are going to have sex. Ladies, this will help you know what is coming and how to prepare for it. Do you need to nap? Do you need to do less so you have energy? Is that sexy outfit ready? etc etc etc. This may sound lame, but our sex life has grown EXPONENTIALLY because we’ve invested in it. And, we now have sex WAY MORE than one time a week. But we also don’t pressure ourselves because we schedule sexcations where we get away without the kids to catch up if need be.
- Prayer: I have started making this a staple of my day and it has changed everything. I write in my prayer journal or pray while I run. I just list out my concerns, stressors, fears, and then spend some time thanking Jesus for stuff. It’s amazing how writing it down or talking it out releases the pressure and allows me to better focus on my family and the day at hand.
- An uncluttered house: I am trying to learn that allowing the kids to use their imaginations and play requires some mess. And noise. Both of these things tend to trigger me because I fear the clean up and the energy it will take to organize the chaos. Instead, I am choosing to let the kids be kids and embrace the mess, because, one day, I am going to miss this.
- Mowing the lawn: We hired a lawn service and a pool service a few years ago. I used to do those two things myself, but the time it took away from other stuff wasn’t worth it. Also, we didn’t want Bryant spending his time off on the lawn and pool and not the kids. So it is a staple in our budget now.
- Empty laundry baskets: Some weeks I’m better at this than others. But guess what? I now have five other people who can help with the laundry and I’m not afraid to employ them on the task!
- Perfect grades: My kids do their best. End of story.
- Extra curriculars: We just haven’t gotten started with these yet. Idk when we will. We value our week nights and weekends too much.
- Nights out: Bryant and I get one night a week to be out if we need it. Due to our jobs, we sometimes have to schedule things in the evenings. But we aren’t away more than once a week.
- A huge circle of friends: We honestly don’t have time for tons of friends. Or the energy. Our job requires a lot out of us emotionally, so we have to have very secure and confident friends. We have a few close friends who we invest in, and that’s it.
So there are a few of the things I’m opting in to and out of. What about you? What do you need to opt in to and out of? I’d love to hear in the comments.
I’ve had multiple conversations with parents recently who are really concerned for their kids’ mental health. If you are currently afraid your child may be battling a mental illness, you are NOT alone. I repeat: You are in really good company. This past year took a toll on our children and if they were already pre-disposed to trauma or some other kind of mental illness/disorder, then Covid and quarantine only amplified their pain.
Here’s what I am hoping you hear: You do NOT need to be afraid. Gosh, I know that seems so counter-intuitive and almost impossible to digest. But you have the tools to be able to get your child some help. You just have to be willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how much it costs, and regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Some of you have compounded your fear with your guilt. You also suffer from mental illness and now you are blaming yourself for your child’s affliction.
Please try to remember that our world is broken – and so we are broken emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Your child wasn’t going to be exempt from the brokenness, even if you didn’t have a mental illness. But, you do have the upper hand…here’s why…
So many of us didn’t get help until we were much older and had trainwrecked our lives. Our parents didn’t have the mental health information and resources that we have now. They didn’t know mental illness was a thing that could be diagnosed and treated. And so we had to white-knuckle our lives for years until we got into therapy and began to heal.
BUT NOW WE KNOW.
And that right there is powerful. We know the signs and symptoms and we can watch for them in our children and then get them the help that they need – The help we didn’t get at that age but were desperate for.
Our children are going to be okay…but only if…
- We can own our own brokenness. Maybe we need to apologize, quit (you insert what), implement some boundaries, or get into therapy…again.
- We take drastic measures. Maybe your child needs to be homeschooled, quit the extra-curricular activities, or go to a facility, go to therapy, or get on medication.
- We get into community. You and your child need to be surrounded by people who love you and who can be a positive, strong voice of encouragement as you all walk through this season. Let your child talk to other adults who have walked through similar situations. Make sure you have people in your corner who you can trust for prayer, guidance, and reason.
Watching our children suffer is so hard. Watching them suffer when we know we may have had a hand in their suffering is even worse. But we can own our part and then vulnerably and honestly talk with them and seek to get help with them. What if you did this together? What if your child saw you fighting for your own health? Sometimes our kids need to know we are going to be okay before they try to be okay.
I’d love for you to listen to my Scar Stories podcast that I did with Dena Yohe (click here). You can also purchase her book You are Not Alone from Amazon. It is specifically for parents who are trying to figure out how to care of a child with mental illness. Her daughter Renee is the backstory behind the organization To Write Love On Her Arms.
Then, I’d love for you to also listen to the podcast I did with licensed counselor Mike Brannen (click here). We talk about when and how to get our children into counseling.
There is nothing quite like it. Parent Guilt guts you out and weighs you down. It is the absolute worst feeling when you hurt the ones you gave life. Nothing compares to seeing the pain in their eyes and hearing the sadness in their voices. Then fear rushes in claiming the lies that you’ve forever ruined them and your relationship to them. Panic is quick to follow. The deadly cycle picks up speed, expending so much time and energy that you are even more depleted than when you started. And so who do you take it out on? The kids. And here we are: Back where we started with Parent Guilt.
When I’ve spent myself emotionally and then have to deal with needy kids (this is not negative – all kids are needy in the best ways), I lose it. I’ve got nothing left to give and yet here are four littles who need just about everything. The amount of emotion it will take to love them well feels overwhelming. And so I give into the frustration, the anger, and instead of retreating, I go looking for a fight.
When I take a step back and survey the damage, I fall apart. How could I have just treated my babies that way? What is wrong with me? Why am I such a monster?
I’m broken. That’s how. I’m depleted emotionally from distracting myself from my hurt. Nothing will drain you faster than ignoring your pain. Your trauma. The real source of your anxiety and depression. What seems the fastest way to refill is to dump all of the negative out on those closest to me and who will still need me and want me after: My kids.
But this is so counterintuitive. If we are empty, why do we think an emotional dump – will fill us? The dumping will only deplete us more.
Someone explained it this way: If you have a bucket of dirty water, instead of dumping the water out and now having an empty bucket, stick a hose at the bottom of the bucket and flush out the contaminated water with clean, fresh water.
Emptiness is lonely. It’s scary. It’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous. Instead of further emptying yourself only to discover you’ve filled your heart with more contaminated emotions, flush out the negative with the positive.
Here are the ways I go about regaining a healthy equilibrium:
Circle the wagons.
My therapist taught me this. Back in the covered wagon days, when settlers would travel across country, they would circle their wagons around their camp at night for safety. The wagons became a source of security from the outside world. If we are determined to create safe homes, then when we are in the midst of emotional turmoil we should be able to take time to withdraw from the world around us and to retreat to the people who love us the best: Our families.
That may require us to cancel, say no, rearrange, rest, turn off media, sleep, eat better, drink water, exercise, self care. The best thing we can do is to listen to our bodies – they are crying out for us to pay attention, slow down, and circle our wagons. We live in an unsafe world – we have to learn when it’s time to create some additional margin in order to feel secure again.
When I am struggling the most, I let my husband and children know. I get the most honest with Bryant so that he isn’t caught off guard by my reactions and responses. We make a plan as to how we will intentionally circle our wagons. Then I talk to the kids and explain that mommy is struggling and so sorry for her behavior. She is going to really work to make sure she doesn’t treat them badly.
I commit to whatever I need to commit to get healthy. I slow down – my anxiety and pain want me to keep moving to stay distracted. I commit to hugging, holding, sitting, listening, being present. When I am present with my kids, I am grounded to the moment. It is such a relief to get my mind off the downward spiral of my anxiety and depression. And their love and attention in return is so healing to my heart. It reminds me I am safe. I am okay. It gives my soul the deep breath it has been searching for.
I do the same with my husband. Sometimes we just need to get dressed up and go out. Sometimes we need a few nights away. Sometimes we just need to sit on the couch and watch Downton Abbey. Whatever it is, we need to be together.
Our families should be a source of safety. Replenishment. Reprieve.
I find my Courage.
Some of our homes aren’t safe because we’ve never been brave enough to break the cycles. Maybe your home wasn’t safe growing up. Maybe you’ve been hurt along the way. Maybe you know something’s wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it.
It takes courage to say, “I’m not okay, but I’m ready to know why!” We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. But with knowledge comes accountability. It’s not enough to discover the problem, we have to do the work of changing. Talk is cheap and repeated apologies without any signs of growth will only drain our families. Our getting healthy proves to our families that they are worth our best selves.
It takes counseling.
Hurt people hurt people. We know this. So if I am not actively dealing with my hurt, then I am going to hurt my family.
I have been dealing with low-grade anxiety. It started to come to a head the past few days, and one of the tall-tale signs is I have been incredibly impatient with my kids. I am rushing through my day (so I stay distracted and don’t have to deal with the pain), and running over them emotionally. IT BREAKS MY HEART. So it’s time to reach out to my therapist, communicate, commit, get courageous, and circle those wagons.
What do you need to do TODAY to fight against the parent guilt? I’d love to hear what steps you will take to communicate to yourself that you are safe and to your families that they are special.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1
Just a season. This too shall pass.
I am going to tell you, some days I cling to those seven powerful words, don’t you? Some seasons in our lives just suck. There’s no other way to put it.
- You are struggling with grades, friends, identity, you name it – in high school. Yeah. Those four years are rough. Awful sometimes. It’s a season. Hang in there. I promise, the best is yet to come. Dig your roots down deep in your youth group. If you don’t have one, find one. Probably some of the most influential people in my life were my mentors in high school. They don’t know it, but I think of them often and remember that during that time, they were my lifelines.
- You are 21 and still single. Seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Been there. In fact, I was 23 when I met Bryant (or 24…I can’t remember and I am terrible at simple math). When I graduated from college, I had only had one official boyfriend (a few “going steadies” in between) and most of my friends were already married with a child and number two on the way. No lie. I felt like the Apostle Paul: I had the gift of celibacy. When I moved to Florida, I was so lonely at times. I second guessed my personality, looks, you name it. And what’s funny? I was only 23. If you are in this boat, I am not patronizing you. I get it. But it’s a season. Just a season. Fill your single years with as much as you can. Start pursuing your dreams. Take a chance. I moved down to Florida from New York and took a job at a respectable school when I was only 22 and after a pretty severe breakup. I was scared to death. Best decision I made. Cause then I met Bryant…on a blind date…and the rest is history!
- You are recently married and facing marital trouble. Been there. Our first year was no picnic. It was awful. But it was a season. We sought counselling, experienced real healing, and I’m going to be honest, I understood the ramifications of the Gospel during that season more than any other time in my life. It was the most sanctifying, healing, horrifying, exhilarating time in our lives. And our marriage is strong and healthy now as a result. A season.
- You were diagnosed with clinical depression or some sort of personality disorder and/or anxiety disorder. Been there. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder shortly after we got married (hence some of our difficulties). That’s when I jumped head first into counselling. Yes, I was embarrassed by the label. I hated it. But it forced me – I mean absolutely demanded – into the grace, love, and unconditional forgiveness of Christ. My mental illness still beats me up at times. But it’s just a season. I know during those times to reach out to my closest friends for prayer. I speak honestly with Bryant. And I schedule a counseling appointment. Yes, even after ten years, I still see my counselor. It’s a season.
- You have a newborn. Need I say more? Listen, it’s a season. Now he/she is a toddler. It’s a season. I so appreciate Instagram right now. You know why? I have some honest mommy friends who share their real stories of frustration, pain, exhaustion, excitement, and happiness through pictures. I don’t feel so alone. And we can be praying for each other and encouraging each other that this is just a season. One day, when we are 50 and empty-nesters, we are going to miss these days. Sometimes I don’t believe that, but I take the word of my more “seasoned” friends. Hang in there mommy and daddy. Soak in those precious moments. Laugh at the aggravating ones. It’s a season.
- You are divorced or have faced (are facing) some sort of loss. My dear, dear brother or sister…It’s a season. Please do not think for a moment that God has abandoned you. That’s what Satan wants you to think. He wants to destroy your life and the fastest way to do that is to isolate you from your Heavenly Father who probably doesn’t seem that loving right now. This is cliché, but grasp a hold of His promises from the Word of God: His mercies are new every morning. He’s never going to leave or forsake you. He wants to give you abundant life. Find some friends who can have faith for you during this time. Hurt. Bleed. But then cling. Cling to Him. It’s just a season.
You were diagnosed with cancer. You’ve just moved for the hundredth time. You have trouble making and keeping friends. You have to pull away from a person who is doing you and your family some harm. You lost your job. You quit your job. You can’t make ends meet. You are making more than you ever have. Seasons. These are all seasons. I have friends in almost every one of these categories. Dear friends. Friends that I hate seeing hurt. Friends that feel so alone. And all I can say is that God is WITH you. He knows.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Exodus 2:25. The Israelites were experiencing brutal slavery and felt like God was no where to be found. But this verse says so eloquently:
God saw what was going on with Israel.
So I leave you with this…not a theological argument for God’s presence, not a ton of Scriptures for you to memorize, not another Bible study or list of things to do. Just this: God sees. God knows. God understands. God’s with you. It’s just a season. Hang in there dear friend.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a t time to search and a a time to give up,
at time to keep and time to throw away,
at time to tear and time to mend,
at time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a t time to war and a a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
I love talking all things parenting. I realize I’m no expert – we’ve been at this for only eight years. BUT, I’m no novice when it comes to babies, toddlers, and little kids. So I’d love to share with you some things I’ve felt and learned over the past few years by age range.
I broke up the baby’s first year into three stages. The first year of your baby’s life will more than likely be the longest year of your life, but at the same time, the fastest year of your life. Parenthood ushers in this new phenomenon of time: The seasons where time feels like it’s dragging, it’s actually going by the fastest. It’s the worst part of parenting: Everything speeds past you in a whirlwind. All you can do is be grounded to the moment and do your best to embrace it all! Sandra Stanley says, “The days are long but the years are short.” Gosh, I couldn’t agree with that statement more.
So the three stages of the first year…
0-3 Months: The Dark Ages
I never enjoy any of my babies as newborns. Judge me all you want, but I can’t be the only one. Sure, they are super cute and tiny (the only one of mine that was tiny was Brooke. The boys were GINORMOUS), but they are also angry house guests. They are very unlikable, mainly because you are unlikable, mainly because you are exhausted, hungry, and in pain. Yay you. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, you are doing everything right. Realize you’ve only ever been in charge of yourself. Now you have to keep a little human alive who can’t do anything for him/herself and who cannot communicate. So again, yay you. I don’t suggest reading a lot of books and articles. You can begin to feel even more inferior and overwhelmed than you already do. Find some moms who have done this a few times and ask them ALL THE QUESTIONS. We want to be asked – we love this stuff – it’s why we did it so many times (for the most part – insert smirky emoji here). You cannot do this alone. Hire someone to do the cleaning and yardwork and do not turn down any free meals/gift cards. If someone wants to come over and hold the baby while you sleep, the answer is YES. If someone wants to hold the baby so you can fold laundry, the answer is YES.
As far as your marriage is concerned, it will be weird initially, especially if this is your first. It’s only been the two of you. Now there’s this new person who is taking all of your attention, love, energy, and time. That’s usually what we refer to as an affair, and it can kinda feel like one IF you aren’t communicating properly. And how can you – cause your T I R E D. So. Try to make the small, insignificant moments, significant. Bryant and I would have dessert and TV dates during the 2AM feeding. We’d enjoy dinner at midnight. Our entire house became a nursery so that we could be comfortable in order to make her comfortable. Just know, you will come thought to the other side. But it’s hard. You’ll get caught up on a lot of shows, movies, and books. That’s exactly what you should be doing. And hang on to your loved ones and other moms for dear life.
One quick word to those who just had their second child: I had a terrible time connecting with Ryder (at first, relax) because I was mourning all the time I assumed I was going to miss out on with Brooke. I felt so badly for her – believing somehow she would be gipped. THIS IS SO NORMAL. I am going to tell you what so many people told me: Giving your child siblings (if you so choose) is such a wonderful experience for your firstborn. He/she will learn so many great life lessons and you will be forced to be incredibly intentional with your time with your kids. Deep breaths. Again, reach out to moms who have done this before. You’ll feel better.
3-6 months: The Not So Dark Ages
So you start to come out of the fog around four months and then your baby will start to be a lot more fun by six months. You are beginning to develop schedules and rhythms and attempting to re-enter society. I want to tell you something here that has the potential to change your life: Your baby CAN sleep through the night by 3-4 months. The only books I would encourage you to buy are sleep training books. OMG you are welcome.
You are in between maternity and regular clothes and you just feel weird. That’s okay. Your body will get back to normal – it all just take time. So deep breaths. Buy some comfy spandex and cute, loose tops and throw that hair in a messy bun and get back out there, girl. Your first trip into public alone will be scary. It’s okay. Just do it and get it over with and you will eventually gain more and more confidence.
And go on a date with your spouse WITHOUT the baby. It’s time. Love you.
6-12 Months: The Into Everything Age
Shew. It’s a party when your baby gets mobile. And by party, I mean workout…for YOU. But it’s also so fun to watch him/her learn and discover. Buy the gates and baby fences and everything else you need to keep him/her contained. Trust. I broke down and got a baby leash with Ryder. Oh gosh, I judged other moms so hard before and then repented in sackcloth and ashes after. Baby leashes are a must.
Also, that first birthday is not for your baby. It is for you and your spouse. You kept him/her alive for a whole year. This is very impressive! And do a big, crazy birthday only if you want. I went ALL OUT for the first two kids. Then I realized how exhausting and expensive it was and just did balloons, cake and ice-cream for the last two. Ask me which birthdays we all enjoyed more. I bet you can guess.
Andy Stanley says this first year is all about CONNECTING. It’s all about assuring your baby that you will always meet his/her needs and be there for him/her. It’s such a precious reminder of what Jesus does for us when we are weak and incapable of caring for ourselves. He scoops us up and holds us close and reminds us that He will never leave us. He reminds us that He can meet all of our needs, if we will allow Him to. We have to surrender and see Him as our only hope. This is why Jesus speaks so impressively of child-like faith – it’s faith without abandon.
Years 2-4: Do I Laugh or Cry Ages
Legit tho. Kids are so funny during these years – but they can be little demons. Like, you may want to give them away at times. But you will come out of years 2-4 with the BEST stories. I wish I would have journaled more – so make sure to do that. And never apologize for the photos or the posts. Those of us who are moving out of these ages MISS this. It’s wild to admit, but so true.
But this is when you are establishing who’s boss of the house: You or the K I D. Your child is old enough to begin to understand cause and effect. Teaching them to understand “no” early is so crucial. You will second guess EVERYTHING and some days be entirely frustrated. But Jesus gives you the instincts you need to survive AND thrive and you will make it. I so enjoyed Jame’s Dobson’s Dare to Discipline. It was incredibly practical for me during this season.
Andy says that ages 1-5 are all about DISCIPLINE. I say to my kids: “Obedience means safety. Love means trust.” I want them to understand that guardrails keep us in line and from destroying our lives. I’ve always let my kids ask why or disagree RESPECTFULLY (okay, this is a small lie cause I try to allow that, but some days it’s just “cause mommy said so…no more questions.”). Kids have voices and need to know how to use them. But they also have to learn how to listen to and obey healthy authority. The sobering thing is that once he/she turns five, you are pretty much done with the grueling work. So be consistent. Tap out when you need to. Take deep breaths. Seek wisdom. Work with together with your spouse.
But please remember that kids will model what they see, not what they hear. So if you are not modeling respecting authority, neither will they. If you model that they only have to obey when they agree, that’s what they will do. Sobering (I think we all know I am not talking about obeying in dangerous situations that violate our belief and/or our values).
Years 5-6: My Heart is Outside My Body Ages
Omg when they start going to school and social events, it is the scariest time of your life. You realize how little control you have to actually keep them safe. But it is so amazing to watch them develop personalities and independence. You will have to learn when to fight their battles and when to let them fight their own. You will start to figure out what makes them tick and how to get them to open up. I really do enjoy these years.
Andy says that ages 6-12 is TRAINING. They are beginning to realize that there are consequences for their decisions and you have to let go and let them face those. I will tell you, this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But your kids will be so much better for it.
Year 7-8: The Attitude Years
Idk if I have an 8 year old or a 16 year old sometimes. Geez. Ride the wives. Hang on tight. And have a blast making memories and letting him/her grow. He/She is a mini you. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Realize what drives you bonkers in him/her is more than likely what drives you bonkers about yourself. So as you are giving your kid grace, maybe spare some for yourself.
One thing we try to do regularly is to speak over our kids what we see in them. We never want them to question how special they are, so we just tell them. We list all the intangibles and tangibles that we love specifically in each child. We study our kids so we know how to relate to each one.
We are parenting with the end in mind: We want our kids to want to be around us when they leave the house. Our kids spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational development hinges on whether or not they have a good relationship with us. If we don’t earn their respect and love, then they won’t pursue relationships with us when they don’t have to anymore. So we pray that over them.
Finally, Bryant and I have found that in order to have a good relationship with our kids, we HAVE to have a good relationship with each other. So make sure you take care of yourself (it is possible not to lose yourself – we can address that in another blog) and you get time away with your spouse…just the two of you. I cannot stress how important that practice is. Yes, it costs time and money. But the dividends it will provide to your relationships with your spouse and your children are off the charts.
And always ALWAYS remember: God gave YOU your children. They are just a gift. They are really God’s. But He knew YOU are the best mom for your kids. Be confident in this. He has equipped you – follow those instincts. I promise you, you’ve got this.
(Also, for those wondering…Ages 13-18 are The Coaching Years and ages 18 and up are the Friendship Years).
I wrote this a couple of weeks ago…just in case you are like, “Oh hot dang…I need to send her a text or a coffee or chocolate!” I mean, you can still do that, but my yesterday-yesterday was good! My couple-weeks-ago-yesterday, not so much…
Yesterday was not a good one, ya’ll. It was a tough go. I was angry. I was yelling at ERRRRRRRone. My anxiety was through the roof.
Today, as I was on my morning run, I realized something: I was using the three things that were stressing me the most to self-medicate.
What does it mean to self-medicate, you ask? Self-medication is when you attempt to feel better by addressing the symptoms and not the actual issues. In other words, when you feel worthless, sad, anxious, stressed, angry, or hurt, you try to eradicate those feelings instead of uncovering why you are reacting these ways.
Self medicating is lazy, temporal. You will feel better for a minute, sure. But self-medication creates an incredibly unhealthy cycle. I will use myself as an example, but you have to promise not to judge. Here are my three main stressors from the other day:
- Social Media/TV
You said you wouldn’t judge. I realize mine look benign. Maybe yours are pills, alcohol, pornography, sex, whatever. Our vices are our vices. If it’s keeping us from truly getting healthy, if it’s distracting us from the main issues, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s deadly. But back to me.
I have been so obsessed with money. I’ve been obsessed because I haven’t been disciplined and living on a budget. Spending money has always given me a high…I’ve learned this over the years and specifically when I was diagnosed with Borderline (reckless spending is a symptom). So when I’m feeling down, I buy an outfit or something for the house or for the kids and I feel better…for the moment. But then I get upset because I’ve overspent on a budget category and now I’m stressed. So what do I do? You probably guessed it…Hello Amazon!
I really work hard to stay fit and healthy. Chocolate, as you know, does not keep you fit and healthy. On a hard day, I attempt to cheer myself up with something sweet. I’m an all or nothing gal. I can’t just have two or three M&Ms. I have to eat dozens, which doesn’t make me feel well physically and then that affects me mentally and emotionally. So I’m down again and so are the chocolate morsels…down my throat that is (insert hand on head emoji).
When I’m feeling hurt, ignored, or rejected, then I turn to social media, cause like, duh, this seems like a really wise idea. People there will like me. Or I’ll make them like me by producing content that they will enjoy. I fall down the rabbit hole of comparison and jealousy and I end up only feeling worse and empty. So back to shopping on Amazon with a bag of chocolates.
You see, we are all looking for love, acceptance, worth and security. But we are looking to everyone and everything other than Jesus. And this creates unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs that we are trying to heal, resolve and meet…on our own.
Some of you know exactly what your unhealed hurts, unresolved issues and unmet needs are…but some of you have no idea because you’ve been white knuckling your life and self-medicating for so long, you don’t even see it anymore!
You may have to go back…waaaaay back…to figure out what unhealed hurt, unresolved issue and/or unmet need is making you get angry with your spouse over stupid things, or why you push your kids too hard, or why you work too much, or why you have to have everything just so, or why you are always afraid, or you have no friends, or none of your marriages have worked. You have been looking to other people for love, acceptance, worth and security – and people were never created to give you these things. Only Jesus can.
So you are self-medicating in order to cope…
Through counselling, I’ve been able to recognize my triggers and my coping strategies and I’ve been able to work to rewire my mind to think healthily and to then respond to these fight or flight situations appropriately. Did you know that anxiety and depression are basically adrenaline rushes? You sense danger and you fight or have an anxiety attack, or you take flight and hunker down in depression.
This is why my Three C’s for Healing (corny, I know), are:
Jesus is the only One Who can truly heal you and put your life back together. He wants to enter into the pain with you (the unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs) and He wants to offer you the love, acceptance, worth and security you need to live a WHOLE, HEALTHY life.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic, we open the door for others to speak into our lives and help us to see our blind spots that have the potential to derail our lives. Scripture says in Proverbs 18:1 that people who isolate themselves are not wise. Let people in…it makes life so much easier and worthwhile.
And finally, some of you just need to get into counseling so that you can get past whatever is holding your life hostage. We were created to live FULL, ABUNDANT lives. If this isn’t characterizing your life right now, then what are you waiting for? Why wouldn’t you want to do whatever it takes to be FREE and FULL?
Be on the lookout with your kids…when we don’t do the hard work of healing and getting healthy, they inherent these wonderful vices and find their own! Healing starts with us, the parents…and then it trickles down!
So let’s do this! Let’s stop self-medicating and let’s allow Christ, community and counseling do their thing in our lives!