Momming (is) So Hard

I debated whether or not to specifically address moms in this article, but I have for two reasons. One, I am a mom of four (soon-to-be-five) kids, so it’s what I know. Two, there is something unique and special about a mother’s love for her children.

So, moms, this is for us.

I believe that a mother’s nurturing, strong, protective spirit enables children to feel loved. It is this love that helps our children flourish, even from an early age. However, I believe that this love has caused us to grasp our children so tightly that we forget who we were made to be. This is the joyous yet extremely hard journey of mistaken identity called motherhood.

My Weakest Point as a Mom

I reached my weakest point during my nine years of mothering just after my babies became toddlers. It was very subtle and deceptive, but I found myself in a weak place both physically and spiritually.

Quick context, our twins suffer from asthma and our oldest son, croup. My husband had a scare with cancer and I found out that I had a pericardial effusion. Couple that with the fact that I lost my father to cancer when I was fourteen. My past and my circumstances constantly overwhelmed me.

Over a two-year period, the ambulance came to our home three times and I made countless late-night trips to the emergency room for their breathing. Then, there was an awful choking episode. I used to sit in the parking lot of the ER debating whether or not to go in. After an hour of waiting and my child falling asleep in the backseat, I’d drive back home. These scary episodes just caused me to grasp them tighter.

Wyatt after his surgery

The problem is, my children had become my #1 priority. When their safety was threatened, I realized that my roots weren’t deep enough to keep me at peace. I convinced myself that it was noble to care for their every need and I felt justified in worrying about them. But instead of grasping the Lord tightly, I was grasping onto them tightly. So tightly that it was suffocating all of us.

As a result, my walk with God and my relationships with my husband took a back seat. I was sure that my strength would be enough to hold me up at the end of those really long days, but it wasn’t.

When my kids behaved, I felt like a great mom. When they all fell apart, I was a train wreck. And when they were sick, it all went out the window.

This constant cycle opened the door to a world of anxiety that I had never known.

But the truth is, I was being shaken. My roots were being tested. The more I clothed myself in the false identity of motherhood, the more I realized that this wasn’t who God wanted me to be.

False Identity and False Security

During this difficult season, we were going to church and I was attending a weekly small group. But we’re at a place in our culture where no one likes to rock the boat and challenge a mom that they’re ‘momming’ too hard. In fact, we praise it. The #MomSoHard hashtag is a badge of honor instead of something to surrender.

It wasn’t until my husband started to challenge me to loosen the grip on my kids, and tighten my grip on the One. who created me. At first, I was defensive—incredibly defensive. In fact, it caused quite a few distant nights between us. But in time, the Holy Spirit began to convict me in my heart.

And then, a childhood friend lost their two-year-old son. I honestly could not fathom her pain but here is what she wrote:  

“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I see clearly how I’ve spent too long praising the Lord with my left arm raised high while using my right arm to wrap a wall of protection around my family and friends. I thought I desired God, what I really craved was safety.”

Her words shook me to my core and confirmed everything I was feeling. At first I really didn’t understand the depth of my grip on my children, but as God peeled back the layers,  I realized that they were my identity.

God had so graciously blessed us with the gift of children but somehow the devil had used it—just like he uses so many other good things like money and careers—to distract us from our heavenly identity and our source of Life. 

Letting Go

There is something scary about letting go, but we can not know freedom until we do. God cannot free us from the things we’re unwilling to let go of. 

Moms, I still struggle with this. But now, when I recognize my tendencies to grasp my kids too tightly, I have a battle plan on how to armor myself. The road to freedom will look different for everyone and some of you may not be ready to hear this, but I want you to know that it’s possible. I’m not there yet, but I long to be. 

Besides my husband, I have a few women who encourage me to sit at the feet of Jesus instead of staying busy with the demands of motherhood. I also pause and rest in my favorite praise music instead of my fear. Both of these things are practical ways that I get my heart back in line with the Father.

As I sit here, weeks away from welcoming our fifth child, I am overwhelmed at how faithful God has been. I’m also painfully aware of my tendency to cling to everything He’s given me instead of clinging to Him. I am learning that the fruit of my womb is a blessing, but it cannot keep me from the fruit of the Spirit. My kids are His kids first, His temporary gift that I need to trust Him with.

So, it is with open arms and a grateful heart that I say, it is great to be a mom, but greater to be His daughter.

Liz Ham

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