I apologize for all the posts, but there’s a lot going on in my heart right now and it’s good stuff! This is part 2 of a series I’m doing about how motherhood is refining me. Part 1 is about feeling unfulfilled – the first struggle I identified as a new parent. This is the second issue parenthood revealed in me – selfishness and self-pity. I’ll share Part 3 Friday!
It’s easy to complain…
About my kiddos. About the weather. About other people. About chores. About cooking. About working. About not working. About being busy. About being bored.
I’ve found it terribly too easy to let some of the minor inconveniences of my relatively soft, cushy American life spiral into a dark place.
A place where I feel entitled, overworked, overwhelmed, and discontent.
A place called self-pity.
I readily admit that depression is real and more than just emotions. I’ve experienced this myself.
But I also believe outward circumstances can effect our inward workings.
It’s all of it – the internal and the external.
Chemicals, hormones, experiences, stress, and life.
For instance, an active lifestyle is much better for mental and emotional health than a sedentary lifestyle.
Being well-rested and well-nourished helps hugely. It’s no coincidence that my depression pops up most when I’m sleep-deprived with my babies.
But you know what else I’ve come to realize?
I’m a lot stronger when I intentionally steer my thoughts out of the trenches of self-pity.
I know it’s not easy. It’s a process.
But self-pity thinks of myself as entitled. As not getting what I need. When I’ve got it pretty great.
I’ve got a baby that doesn’t sleep enough, yes. But otherwise I’m fantastic.
Perspective is everything. Thinking larger and longer-term helps.
2 Corinthians 4:17
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.
Maybe my “suffering” isn’t really suffering. It’s just light, momentary troubles when I think on the larger, long-term scale.
Think globally. What would my brothers and sisters struggling all over the world think about my troubles? Suddenly my problems don’t seem so large. It’s humbling.
Thinking about the lasting impact of my daily actions also helps me remember that it’s about more than just today. The small things are the big things.
A little bit of gratitude can shift my thinking.
1 Thessonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I’m thankful for my healthy baby (who doesn’t sleep.)
I’m thankful for a husband who lays down his own desires and takes care of the kiddos whenever he’s home without complaint.
I’m thankful that I’m no longer pregnant! (Just being honest here. I know pregnancy is a miracle.)
Yes, sleep is important and wonderful. But is uninterrupted sleep becoming an obsession for me? Am I glorifying it too much?
There’s freedom when I accept that some things just come with parenthood and that my babies are worth it.
There’s also freedom in knowing it’s a season. I’ll sleep all I want when they’re grown. And it will come way too fast.
There’s freedom in focusing on others. Nothing like waiting on young, needy children all day and night to shed light on my own selfishness and neediness.
“Stop being so selfish, kid.”
God could just as easily be saying the same thing to me.
Not everyone who feels sadness or depressed is struggling with these things, but I definitely was. I’m a cry-baby sometimes.
“I want my needs met right now! I want, I want, I want.”
I’ve always wanted to be a parent. And now here I am. Wish granted.
But some days, if I’m totally honest, I envy my past self. What I’d give to just sleep as late as I wanted and then work on the computer all day without interruptions!
But those “interruptions” are precious to me. I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t change my children. They are a great gift, not just to me, but to the world.
Comfort is overrated. We weren’t called to live an easy, comfortable life.
I was meant for this and it’s strengthening me.
One practical thing I do to shut down pity parties is replace my inner dialogue. When I find myself thinking “I’m tired” thoughts I replace it with “I’m strong” thoughts.
“I’m too tired to do this.”
“I’m strong enough to do this.”
“I’m getting stronger every day.”
“I’m physically worn out from all I did today.”
“I got a workout today.”
“Today was challenging.”
“Today made me a stronger person.”
How I talk to myself matters.
I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m getting there.
How I talk to my friends matters.
I try hard not to complain about my family.
My friends are here for me if I have a rough day and need a hug. But it’s important that I don’t let myself complain endlessly about my kids being kids (or my husband being a husband!) It doesn’t do me any good to merely complain.
And, more importantly, my kiddos are listening. They should grow up knowing that I love them, not wondering if I view them as a burden.
There’s some great reminders in the Bible that life’s challenges won’t crush me, but rather refine me.
But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Of course I still have to take care of myself and make sure my needs are met before I can be a good mother. Josh takes great care of me and makes sure my love tank is full so I have more to give. I spend many nights in the tub soaking after a long day, or in bed sleeping in while he watches the kids.
If you’re in a difficult season, don’t be afraid to reach out. Friends and family might just be waiting to answer the call. I’ve often reached out when I was struggling and people have answered. Twice when I was feeling overwhelmed I “randomly” had people text me that they’d like to come over and help with the boys. I’m thankful to have such a loving support system in my life! I think of those who have it harder than me. For instance, I have so much respect for single moms! I’m in no position to make myself a martyr. I’m privileged with many resources.
It’s tough medicine, but acknowledging my own self-pity was one of the defining changes that helped me overcome my postpartum blues. Now when I catch those thoughts entering my mind, I’m self-aware enough to take those thoughts captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5) I empty them out of my consciousness. They are no longer allowed to cloud my vision. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m getting better at it.
Am I the only one who struggles with this? I realize maybe it’s just my personality. If you can relate, I’d love to hear how you fight those self-pitying thoughts.