I was pouring a cup of coffee when my friend called. She asked if I had a minute to talk and when I answered, “Yes,” her resolve quickly faded and she began to cry.
She told me about a conflict with her newly adopted son. Despite her best intentions, she was convinced she had failed to handle it well.
Then she said these words I thought were mine alone, “I used to be a good mom.”
When Russ and I embarked on our adoption journey, we did it with some sense of confidence. We were experienced parents with seven healthy, and reasonably happy kids.
We wanted to serve God and, since we were in the thick of raising children, it made sense to expand our parenting to include children who needed families. Besides, we really loved kids and it brought us joy to consider adding more to our family.
I had been a mother for nineteen years – long enough to have made loads of mistakes, and overcome many obstacles. I was nowhere near being a perfect mother, but I was a good mom and pretty confident that my skills, my desire to live for Jesus, and my heart for children would carry me through any challenges that would come our way.
Before we arrived home from Ethiopia with our new children, we knew that our lives had shifted in a dramatic way and we were in for a struggle. Jesus is merciful, however, and we only saw the very tip of a large iceberg.
As the months passed and we struggled to parent our children, our belief in ourselves as “good parents” began to fade.
We asked ourselves:
*Should we press on with parenting techniques that have served us well for so many years?
*In the face of so many challenges, which problems should we focus on first?
*Is it okay to accept behaviors we’ve never allowed in our home before?
*Should we read more books on adoption?
*Should we call somebody?
*Should we stay quiet and hope that nobody will notice we’re falling apart?
*What should we do?
We didn’t know the answers, but one thing we did know: we were no longer the parents we used to be and as all of our children struggled, we no longer felt like “good parents” at all.
It’s painful for me to admit, but the struggles I had with one of my children reduced me to a person I did not even recognize.
My heart, which had once been so tender, was quickly hardening as I attempted to hold my family together. I had thoughts that were so foreign to me that I could not even confess them to my husband. I wanted to escape this life we had willingly chosen, which made the guilt even greater.
My identity of being a “good mom” was stripped from me as I struggled simply to get through each hour. The day finally came when we sought professional help for our family and had to trust others to help us find our way.
Hope was planted in our hearts and we have not looked back.
As we travel the long and winding road of healing, I’ve had to redefine what I believe a “good mom” is. I accept that because I fiercely love all of my children, I must parent them differently.
What I once held as my standard of “good mothering” no longer fits. I grieve these losses, I really do, and I miss the simple days when I thought I knew what it took to be a “good mom.”
I now have the privilege of knowing many “good moms” who are being reshaped by their experiences of parenting children from “hard places.”
We aren’t the women we used to be, but we are the women God is calling us to become. He is shaping us through trial and triumph. He is calling us to lay down our lives for the sake of our children and in doing so, I pray that He is making us more like Him.