I never identified myself as an angry or irritable person until I became a mother. As I trudged into the unknown waters of parenting I often found myself mired down in murky, brackish spots. I'd always imagined navigating motherhood would be more like floating blissfully down crystal clear, peaceful waters on a lazy, sunny summer afternoon listening to the tinkling of joyful laughter from a chorus of little voices.
You see, I grew up caring for children. My whole life was centered around children. I was the oldest child and the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family. Some of my cousins are a good 15 to 20 years younger than me. I remember being the one to entertain them at family gatherings and I sometimes babysat for my aunts. I also began babysitting other people's children at the age of 11. (Eleven!! Can you imagine? My oldest son is 11 and I'm only starting to feel comfortable letting him home alone for very short periods of time). I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would force my sister to play school with me. And although there was a short period of time in high school that I considered studying journalism or literature, I got my bachelor's degree in elementary & early childhood education. I taught a couple years in the public school. And, I worked for many years in an early learning center....first as the kindergarten teacher, then the assistant director, and then the director. This doesn't even begin to cover the other jobs I had during college & beyond that involved working with children.
I thought I knew kids. And, if anyone should have had a grip on what to expect from motherhood, it should have been me. I was creative, energetic, & patient with other people's children. I was really good at what I did. It came naturally for me. And so I assumed that motherhood would come naturally as well.
My first run-in with my own anger was probably when my second son was born. He and my oldest are only 20 months apart. Making that shift from one to two children really threw me for a loop. Throw in the fact that I was probably suffering from some serious post-partum depression but did nothing to seek help for it. Not to mention the interrupted sleep (none of my boys slept through the night until after their first birthday) and frequents bouts with mastitis and continuing to try to breastfeed through the pain. Motherhood became physically & emotionally demanding.
I remember snapping at my oldest son...who was only about 2...for various things. One instance stands out in my mind where I was holding the baby while Wyatt was picking out his vitamin. He wanted to choose which vitamin he wanted, but he was taking his time in making that decision. I was anxious to get both boys upstairs and into bed. I was done. Mama needed bedtime to happen and happen fast. I told him I'd just pick one for him. But he started fussing that HE wanted to pick it out. This went on for a while until I snapped & I yelled at him to pick one out and get up the stairs. His little eyes welled up with tears and I felt horrible.
We added two more sons in relatively quick succession. And I stumbled through those early years of mothering sometimes in a fog & sometimes barely holding it together. I don't want it to sound like it wasn't also a beautiful & breathtaking time....because it was. I relish the memories of nursing my children, of holding their little bodies close and smelling their sweet smell, of rocking them, of watching chubby little hands delight in digging in the dirt, and little bare feet toddling through the grass.
But, somewhere in there I became someone I didn't recognize....someone easily irritated and quick to yell. I would go through my day determined to maintain a calm yet firm approach to any frustrations, but inevitably that anger would bubble up inside until it exploded.
I never wanted to be a yeller. But I became a yeller.
And now that my boys are a bit older....five, seven, nine, and eleven...the physically demanding aspect of motherhood has subsided. But, now I feel like the mental and emotional demands may overwhelm me. I feel so outnumbered. And, I don't know how to deal with all the noise, energy, rough housing, & fighting that comes with four boys in a small house.
It's the fighting that gets me most. It's constant. All. The. Time. And, as much as we talk about being kind to each other, encouraging & lifting each other up instead tearing each other down, there's almost a never ending stream of teasing, fussing, whining, & just general meanness toward each other.
And, I have to wonder if my own irritability and anger has set the stage for what takes place in our house. I'm sure it has. If I had been a calm, unflustered, consistent & firm mother perhaps my children wouldn't be so quick tempered with each other.
So now what? When I'm in a funk (and I'm in a funk!) I can't see my way out of it. When things seem so out of control in my house, I retreat because I can't seem to see a way to regain control. Luckily today is a Saturday and my husband is here to step in....to allow me to have a little time to myself.
I have been praying that God would give me the strength, wisdom, & patience that I need for the day. I know I can't do this on my own.