You want to know what sucks? Feeling like an inadequate parent. I recall one of our marriage therapy sessions where I tried to explain to Mark what happens in my brain and in my heart as a mom. The best explanation I could give him was that I wore my heart on the outside of my body. Being a parent is the hardest job on the earth. I don't say that I explained this to Mark like he didn't care, or didn't sacrifice for his family, but the reality in most situations is that the mom is the parent that bears the brunt of family and household responsibility. In our house I was that parent, Mark blamed the fact that I breastfed the kids, they were "extra attached." I think the biggest reason was just the amount of time I spend with them, Mark worked a lot. When Mark was alive I was able to "tag" him in. When I was at my wit's end, I could hand him his child and step outside. When he worked 80 hour weeks I could at least call him on the phone and listen to him remind me that I could do this. When our teenager decided to smart off he reminded her to show some respect. When Mark was alive I could always count on him walking through the door and taking some of the burden off my shoulders. I could fall into his arms and feel his lips kiss my head and know that I am never truly alone in this battle we call raising children.
Now that Mark isn't here I am not only doing the hardest job on earth, but I am doing it in the hardest circumstances on earth. I do not mean to compare, but parenting through grief is daunting. Parenting grieving children is daunting. Here I am parenting grieving children while grieving, and I am doing it alone. Widows and widowers with children do not generally refer to themselves as single parents, but rather solo parents. The distinction being that there is no co-parent to pick up the slack, or to take a weekend with the kids, or to call on birthdays. Every responsibility to care for, nurture, support, and influence the children falls on that solo parent.
Today was one of the days when I felt inadequate. It felt impossible to be in my house with my children. Today I didn't have the option of calling for back-up. Today I yelled, and I cried, and I cleaned up 4 million messes and wiped hundreds of faces, hands, butts, and tears.
Recently my fitness as a parent was questioned. It was questioned by people that don't know me very well. But it was still hard to hear. When anyone, stranger or not, chooses to question a parent in a situation they don't know anything about it tends to hurt, but really just angers you. My response to the accusation is this: I am a damn good mom. I love all four of my children with my whole heart. I pay specific attention to each of them as individual human beings. I ask them how it feels to be them. I encourage them to do what is right. I discipline them when they need to be disciplined. I teach them that there is nothing they could ever do that would make God love them any less. I remind them of how much their dad loves them, and how he will be filled with joy when he sees them again. I have been extremely intentional about addressing their grief by getting each of them in consistent therapy. I remind them of what I need to remind myself: God loves you, and He will fulfill your every need, He will never leave you or forsake you.
So here I sit, waiting for my two youngest to sleep, missing my two oldest that are not here this weekend, and I am choosing to remind myself that not only am I a good mom, but I am never inadequate or ill equipped. My God says to me "that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:17 He has called me to this life, for reasons I don't yet know or understand, and He promises that He will give me everything I need. He will show me how to love, how to nurture, how to discipline. He will protect us all from harm, and His plan will prevail regardless of any attacks from any enemy.