Mom-worry can take you from an easy-going woman to someone that would be hard for your pre-mom-self to recognize. It's a real struggle for all of us moms! When I gave birth to my son, I was prepared to struggle with postpartum depression. What I got was postpartum anxiety, and I did not have that one on my radar screen!
For nearly ten years, we experienced infertility. Then when our baby was born, there were some delivery room surprises, and he ended up in the NICU. Apparently, that combo frequently sets the stage for postpartum anxiety, but I never saw it coming. Of course, we got through it with God's grace and time. But becoming a mom opened my heart and mind to anxiety in ways I had never imagined possible. Anxiety wasn't my struggle before that, so it took me quite by surprise.
Now, I watch mothers of all ages and see how real and daily the pressure of anxiety is for all of us regardless of the age of our kids. Little ones pose this constant need to watch over them in case they swallow something choke-able and all the million and one ways they injure themselves. As the year's pass, moms worry about the freedoms of young adult life and the million and one ways they will injure themselves. And there's the worry about other people and influences that is constant pressure. Moms of previous generations didn't have news stories of strangers attempting to kidnap children in a parking lot while holding their mom's hand! The times we are raising our kids in has added this new dimension of stress. From the moment we know there is a life inside us, concern sets in for that little one, and frequently it blossoms to worry.
Mom worry is unique from the other sorts of anxiety we face in life. Our children are tied to our hearts differently than anything else in the world. So the concerns we feel for them are more profound than other sorts of stress.
Here are five habits to keep your life from worry:
1. Purpose to Trust God with Your Weakness
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
One thing that has always been on the harder side of the faith journey for me is trusting God with my weakness. I've trusted Him to provide for us when I couldn't see a way to make ends meet or the way through a trial. I've trusted the Lord when I had worked hard but knew my best wouldn't be enough and asked Him to multiply the efforts like loaves and fishes. But I struggle to trust Him when I've messed everything up with my weakness.
The essence of the gospel is trusting God with every sin and mistake. So it frustrates me when I see howmuch I wrestle with entrusting my weaknesses to my faithful Father. That wrestling is entirely contrary to the truth of the gospel, and my God hasn't earned that reputation in my heart. In fact, He's shown Himself most faithful over my weakness in every way.
Much of motherhood means serving through our weakness. There are no "work hours" for mom life. It's 24/7, and the reality that we will be tired, worn thin, ragged, and still required for the job means our kids won't see us shiny all the time. We will have the flu with the rest of the family and serve through it. We will be exhausted and over-caffeinated and try to serve through it. We will be distracted and pressured by thousands of little things and miss the big thing. We will loose our lips and say things we regret. And God will still be bigger than our seemingly endless pile of weakness.
Sometimes our mom-worry stems from our weakness. When it does, we are wise to take it to the foot of the cross and commit it to our Lord. God will still be bigger than our mistakes and His grace larger than our weakness. It's there for us, and it's there for our kids. I often pray that God would show Himself bigger than my failings to my son. And I ask God to forgive me when I sin in my mom role, and I ask the family to forgive me too. I also ask them for grace when I wrestle weakness that isn't sin but is the reflection of being a human with too much to do.
When weakness causes worry, cultivate peace by setting your weakness in its proper place - lost in God's grace. His grace is most assuredly big enough to absorb our failings and flaws. Even with our weakness, we need to trust that He will work all things out for our good (and our family's good) and His glory.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
2. Pursue Enternal Priorities
Mom life is filled with genuine stresses that we all have to live through, but it's also filled with a lot of unnecessary ones that we don't need to put ourselves (or our families) through! Social media has opened our imaginations to all kinds of ways we can make birthday parties more exciting (and expensive), our houses prettier and more organized, on and on! There's no way we can do it all, and if we aren't careful about what we set our eyes on, we will bankrupt ourselves fast!
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. Isaiah 40:11
Our world sets a lot of pressure on us that God doesn't. Our world leads those with young children through a frenzy of demands. If our maker doesn't expect something from us, why should we? Do we understand more than Him? Is our sense of value more accurate than His? It's a subtly foolish and arrogant thing to do this to ourselves. It yokes us to the world when we were made for Christ's yoke.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
When worry robs you of enjoying motherhood and family life, check your priority list and see what you can (and should) take off the to-do list. Far too often, we make ourselves sick with stress over things that don't matter as much as we think they will.
3. Guard Your Heart
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
Scripture commands us to guard our hearts. Sometimes, I think this concept ought to be approached like a spiritual discipline. Too often, we come up short on the internal habits that help us guard our hearts. The constant critical thinking and discernment necessary to filter all the information we absorb require so much intentionality; it's exhausting!
While it IS practically an Olympic sport to guard our heart and mind in the flood of information we all consume, I have personally found that anxiety is often a red flag that I am mentally over-stimulated and haven't been guarding my heart. When we find ourselves unable to send information or influences through our mental/emotional "guard tower," we ought to cut out some of that stimulus. We are all busy with a million things that seem to need to get done, but there is mental clutter we can minimize! I can't change the normal ways parenting can leave me feeling like my circuits are a little toasty, but I can simplify other sources of stimulus.
Drinking coffee all day is a really easy way to overstimulate our brains and bodies. Too much digital junk taking up our day is another easy way to absorb more stimulus than we need to. Too many kid-related activities leave everyone overdone.
Guarding our hearts is a mental task, and if our brain space is overflowing or over-exhausted, it becomes a lot harder to engage life with purposefulness and intentionality. So take an inventory of the stuff crowding that precious brain-space of yours and see what could get tossed out!
Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit. Proverbs 25:28
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Proverbs 16:32
I want to be the woman who has control over my spirit; even more so, I want the Holy Spirit to reign in my heart, not my anxieties! So, I try to take stock of the condition of my "city walls" daily so I can guard my heart well.
4. Remember God's Character
Regularly sifting through the burdens of our hearts to clean up the emotional clutter is essential. It keeps us from letting things build up inside, causing stresses to mount up larger than life. And while those kinds of habits are healthy, there are moments when no amount of decaffeinated coffee, sunshine walks, or mental balance will gracefully get us on the other side of our worry.
There are mom-worries that no habit or discipline will pull us through. Only God gets us through the hefty burdens. And having cultivated a relationship with Him in the easier days makes Him all the more familiar when the days are dark and hard. For just about every struggle or stage of life, I've seen people benefit by studying God's character. It's basic yet unendingly deep and satisfying. For the times when motherhood is bigger than you or me, we need to be fixated on the One who is bigger than all our burdens put together.
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
This last one is pretty obvious for those of us who have walked with Christ for any length of time! But it is Scripture's number one anxiety cure!
Moms have a special calling of prayer for their children. There's a story in 2 Kings 4 of a Shunammite woman who cared for Elisha. He prayed for her to have a son, which God gave her, but when her son was young, he was suddenly stricken with pain in his head and died. She went to Elisha for help. He sent his servant in his place, but the Shunammite woman would not leave Elisha's side. The boy was not healed through the servant, and Elisha came to her house. The boy had been dead some time, but he laid over him and prayed for a miracle, and God restored the boy's life.
The Shunammite woman didn't have the same understanding of God and prayer as we do. But her faith that God could make it right and her unmoving determination is a picture of motherhood I deeply resonate with. Scripture records that she fell at Elisha's feet and wouldn't move until he had come to her son. When the heartaches of motherhood press upon us, like this other mom from Scripture, we can fall at the feet of Jesus and not move until we see God rise on behalf of our children.