Motherhood should never be done alone. It should never be an isolated job. It requires a support system of some sort, whether friends, grandparents, church family, cousins, neighbors, etc. Sometimes I look around, and I see all these moms doing it alone. And when they look for advice, and they look for help, and they look for encouragement, (because they are keenly aware that they are sinking), people tell them that they need some support, instead of actually offering support.
Having trouble in your marriage? You two need some time alone, without interruption. You should have a date night. (Um, thanks. Care to watch the kids?)
Having trouble getting any rest? Someone should come over every once in awhile and let you take a shower and a nap. (So…when can I schedule you.)
Feeling overwhelmed? What you need to is to go out with some friends and just get away. (Sounds fun. So can you be the friend or the sitter…or something?)
Feeling lost on how to deal with a child stuck in an attitude? Are you having trouble just liking this child? You need a mentor who has walked in your shoes. (Great…so where do I sign up for a mentor?)
I’m not sure if it came with the onset of the “women’s choice” movement, where the culture shifted to “you chose this child, you deal with it” mentality. We all see the thread of truth in that. These are my children. They are my responsibility and no one else’s.
But speaking directly to the church, we are called to hold each other up. We know that, but there’s an issue with that. Lean close, because I’m about to share with you one of Satan’s most basic battle strategies:
Make people feel isolated and alone. Get a sheep away from the flock.
He knows we need community.
The strategy goes even further than that. It’s not just getting anyone separated and alone. He picks the people caring for the least of these. He attacks the women and children. He often attacks the children by attacking their caretaker. It’s like getting 2 birds with 1 stone.
Have you ever been in that position, where you feel like you have no support system? I have, for sure, during various times of my last 12 years of motherhood. If you feel alone, here are some steps.
Acknowledge it’s a spiritual battle and treat it as such.
There are a few things that give away the spiritual elements of this. They are Satan’s fingerprints, if you will. First, there’s a bit of lie mixed in with it. Sometimes we feel like we have no friends, when we do. We feel like we can’t ask when we can. We feel unloved when we are. Satan loves to twist our feelings into disbelief to things that are true.
Another one of Satan’s fingerprints is your battle position in the home, taking care of the little ones that are so precious to God. Let’s face it. You’re wearing target on your back having a job like that. Ask anyone else who is in ministry, whether a pastor or elder, or missionary, if they have ever felt spiritually attacked when they took their job. You’ll get the same answer pretty much across the board: yes…of course. When you recognize the importance of your position from a kingdom perspective, it won’t be so surprising that you feel like you’re falling apart.
Also, the feeling of defeat is a very common sign of spiritual battle. When you are tempted to resign yourself to the fact that you will always be alone, that your marriage will always be bad, that no one will ever help, that you just won’t see your friends until your kids turn about 18 or so…you’ve given into defeat. You’ve stopped trying. And that’s exactly where Satan wants you.
Pray, because that is your biggest weapon.
Pray that God would bring you a mentor. Pray for your marriage. Pray for your kids. Pray for your attitude. Cry out to God. Speak Jesus’ name. Get in the battle. Fight back. Pray when you don’t feel like it. Wrestle with God if you need to. He can take it. Tell God you don’t feel like it. Don’t come up with something pretty and fluffy that you think God wants to hear, tell the most gut-wrenching truth to him that you can muster. The truth is powerful. Pray it. Sometimes when I pray what I see is real, and really wrestle or cry out to God, He ends up revealing the most life-changing truths that I refused to acknowledge, or showing up in ways I didn’t think were possible. It’s worth it.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities for compassion.
I think that people who have experienced the most pain in their lives tend to have the most compassion. It’s like they have this radar for people who are hurting. They know what to say, because they’ve lived it. They know how to show up because they know what someone’s presence can mean to someone who is hurting.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4. (ESV)
When we go through those deep dark places, we find ourselves uniquely qualified, dare I say chosen, to be an instrument to help others. I heard a story once from a friend of mine who worked in refugee camps of Syrian refugees traveling to a refugee camp that was already full. The UN had no more supplies in this location, and 600 or so more people were just going to show up because they had no where else to go. So it was the Syrian refugees who were already living at the camp who took up a collection of food, blankets, and tent space so that these 600 newcomers would have food and shelter when they arrived.
Those who are poor can’t stand seeing someone go without. One of my best friends and I connected in a place in our lives when we both felt lonely, and it was a huge connection for us to see that the other one truly understood what we were going through. Keep your eyes open, because you have something in your vision that others may not see. Look out for that other mom who looks like she’s sinking. Say something encouraging to that stranger with the toddler screaming on the floor of the grocery store. Love on others the way that you would want to be loved. It could be that is the purpose in all of this hardship and if it is, then don’t miss it.
Keep asking for help even when you hate it…but wait for God’s timing.
So you’re praying for help. Your eyes are open for those who can help, and for those who need help. Now it’s time to be vulnerable…again. When I move to a new place, or my old mentor moves away or moves on, and I need a new mentor, I usually get turned down 5 times before someone says “yes.” I’m finding that’s pretty normal.
As far as physical help, I’m not sure if it’s the midwest culture, or if it’s just general pride, but asking for help is often frowned upon where I live. Whether or not that’s true, it feels that way. Where I live, you wait to be offered help. When you are offered help, you should politely turn it down at least twice. If they insist on helping a 3rd time, it’s okay to accept, as long as you show reluctance. At least that’s an old family joke. You don’t just come out and say: “Could you help me?” I have even asked for help once, after my big car accident. The woman who was asked stayed for about 30 minutes, explained to me everything that I was doing wrong as she sort of helped with something on the table, and then left, basically saying she was glad I didn’t look hurt at all, and if I could get more organized and my kids better behaved I’d be good to go.
Wasn’t that helpful?
This is why you pray about it first before you just start asking people for help willy-nilly. You need the person with a servant’s heart. You need the right person to help you, the prepared person. You need to have a prepared heart, and they need to have a prepared heart, and God is in the prepared heart business.
On the other hand, when I started praying about it, a woman in my homeschool group called me up and said, “Gretchen, I’d love to come over to your house and chat with you on how you are doing. When would be a good time?” She came over, we chatted and before long I started crying as I told her how I felt like I was drowning and couldn’t keep my head above water. She talked with her 17 year old daughter, who then came over every Thursday afternoon to watch my kids so I could rest and clear my head, and maybe even get some work done in peace. She did this for months.
She was the person God had prepared. And God had prepared me to open up when I wanted to appear strong.
I’m so thankful that I have a great support system now. It has taken a long time to build, and as people move to different places, or just move on, a support system can end up being a very fluid thing. I’m also thankful for the lonely times (in hindsight) for all that they have taught me, and it has given me the ability to recognize the need in someone else that I would otherwise be oblivious to see.
You are not alone. God has not left you. Pour your heart out to him, and keep your eyes open. He has so much in store for you: blessings that will come in the most unexpected forms. Sometimes he sends help. Sometimes he’s just working something in us for the purpose of his kingdom. Sometimes it’s both.
But you are not alone, and you are not forgotten.