I’d say most mothers would agree that the lifelong, never-ending journey of motherhood is both filled with seasons of storms and the incredibly rewarding and meaningful gift of raising a family. God has graciously blessed me with four wonderful children who have taught me more than I could ever imagine—about fostering relationships, understanding people, exercising patience, handling disappointment and cultivating gentleness, among countless other lessons.
But before Sarah, my firstborn, came along, I am not sure if I had ever held a baby. With zero experience, I assumed parenting books and magazines would hold the tricks and secrets that would prepare me to become a mother.
I will never forget the wise, yet shocking and brutally honest words one woman said to me as she pulled me aside at Sarah’s baby shower. Her eyes intensely fixed on mine as she told me that motherhood was not going to be easy or simple; that, in fact, it was, invariably, a constant challenge. Despite bringing me to face such an eye-opening truth, I could see that this kind woman was right — and she gave me my very first look at what motherhood was actually like.
Children, while so young and defenseless, possess a special knack for turning the world of their parents upside down. As parents, we enter an overwhelming onslaught of life storms, often completely unprepared and untrained, with the weighty job of raising another human being.
Each one of my children presented me with distinct challenges, eventually helping me to understand just how unique every individual is created by God. But, of course, He designs us with our peculiarities on purpose. I’ve spoken with friends and received hundreds of letters from concerned mothers who are walking through strenuous seasons of pain or disappointment because of the differences that set their children apart from one another.
From years of demanding and discouraging experiences with my own children, I very personally understand the dread, despair, and feelings of helplessness that come along with disappointments and painful moments. I have walked through some of the same crises, particularly dealing with the often taboo issue of mental illness.
Through these trials and tribulations, I had to learn to give myself grace and realize that my child’s behavior, and the challenges they must overcome, do not always reflect me, my effort, or my success as a mother. Children are undoubtedly a beautiful reflection of God’s image and creation, and this bit of encouragement is something every despairing mother, I hope, can find some much-needed comfort in.
Bearing the hard, confusing, and messy moments is something that we are not meant to do on our own.
It is essential that we search for encouragement, community, and support from other mothers and believers who are walking along the same ambitious path as we are — often, in my own life, rather than acknowledging that three of my four kids struggled with mental illness, and attempting to help me process this pain, many of my friends ignored my need for help and advice. But I finally found the chance to catch my breath after finding encouragement and a place of rest in an incredible group of kindred spirits.
It’s absolutely crucial that we have a faith community that allows us to share our burdens and offer reassuring, restorative words, instead of judgment. Every single family will inevitably find themselves thrust into periods of chaos and unrest, seasons in which the storms feel like they might wash us away — but please remember this: God is there, even through the hardships; He is forever with us and our children. Being candid with other struggling families can ease the heaviness on our hearts, as we walk through the often harsh realities of life together.
As a parent, one thing is certain—there will always be fresh challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic was one that deeply affected us all. It kept children at home with their parents around the clock, many a mother immediately added new roles to their portfolios, taking on the task of being a teacher and friend, along with their preexisting and never-ending to-do lists.
I commend every mother and would like you to know that I see you fighting to do what you know is best for your children in the middle of your unique storm—and God sees you, too. I so vividly remember the overwhelming days when my four little ones would fuss, cry, and quarrel constantly. My heart goes out to the moms navigating parenting through a pandemic, a time when fear is so tangibly present.
Ease your mind with the truth that no one is perfect, and there were countless moments throughout my parenting journey that I felt like an utter failure. Now that my children are all grown up and beginning families of their own, daily I find so much joy in seeing the wonderful men and women they’ve flourished into.
Love your children gently, give grace when it is needed, and please, extend it to yourself as well. A mother who seeks to cultivate compassion and love for her children will display and model the gentleness and mercy that come from a humbled heart, just like we learn from Jesus Christ.
Sally Clarkson is the beloved author of 24 books, podcast host, speaker, mother and friend. Her most recent book, “Help, I’m Drowning: Weathering the Storms of Life with Grace and Hope,” will be available Sept. 14.