No one is Really Ready for Parenting

When I became a mother at the young age of 18, I clearly remember a very real pressure to prove to everyone around me that I was ready to parent. Now I can’t speak for those who wait until their 30s to first start having kids, but I can tell you from my own experience that I always felt as if someone was watching and even waiting for me to mess up.

As if they had CFS on speed dial and were eager to have the chance to call me in for any mistake I would most certainly make.

Every choice was thought through at least twice.

Every cry was my fault.

Everything I couldn’t afford to provide, I felt the need to justify. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even order a drive-through coffee back then without feeling guilty, as if I should be spending my money more wisely (on baby).

Every feeling of overwhelm was shoved down and pressed into a deep dark pit in my stomach which would only be addressed a decade later as I neared my thirties.

The reason was simple: Teenage mothers get a really bad rap. And I understand this! Often the mother is far too inexperienced, too self-absorbed, far too naive to realize what raising a child all entails. A baby definitely does not just simply mean a cute doll to haul around and a gorgeous Pinterest nursery to create…

Right from day one, the child is a living, breathing, individual being; a little human who hasn’t a clue how to tell you what they need, much less regulate their own emotions or take care of their most basic functions.

Being a young mom, I was painfully aware of this stereotype – so much, that I couldn’t even admit to my very normal feelings of becoming a mother. I couldn’t admit that I was afraid. I couldn’t admit that I needed help or ask for a much needed break. No parent should live with that kind of expectation. Raising children is far too difficult for one person to do alone. I took motherhood all on my own shoulders, lest someone would step into my life and tell me: “I told you so! I knew that you were too young. You never should’ve been allowed to keep your own child. You should’ve given it up to parents who were ready! Parents who are established in their careers, who have a house and can keep their plants alive (heaven knows I can’t!) YOU’RE JUST NOT READY!!!”

And you know what? They would’ve been right about that last part.

Because I wasn’t ready. Not for a second.

I wasn’t ready to give up sleep; to eat cold meals for the next year because the baby needed to be fed.

I wasn’t ready for the postpartum pain women experience after childbirth. I had no idea that for the next month I would have trouble standing without fainting and dread every bathroom break.

I had no idea of the pain I would experience while breastfeeding, or the loneliness of being the only one who was able to meet that need for my baby.

I had no idea of the absolute love and protectiveness I would feel when someone else would hold my baby in a position I knew he didn’t like or wrap him up too warmly.

I didn’t know the absolute terror I would feel as he lay with needles and cords from every limb while he spent almost a year in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis to why he was so sick.

I just wasn’t ready.

But neither is any parent, really.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of bumping into some new parents in their thirties. As I asked them how they were doing, they smiled and responded in awe of how nothing had prepared them for both the joys and the struggles they were facing and with a slight smile the man said, “It’s crazy how such a tiny person can completely change everything in your life!”

And it struck me: These feelings are normal! They didn’t just happen to me because I was too young.

Oh, that I would’ve realized that years ago!

I’m now 31 years old, with 5 kids. You could say that I have some experience…

And yet I still don’t feel ready in so many ways.

I’m not ready to stay calm, when my kid rages out of control.

I’m not ready to give up the things I love so that I can replace yet another worn out pair of shoes.

I’m not ready to navigate the teenage emotions and schedules, much less ready for my oldest to get his drivers in a couple more years.

But parenting never was meant to be about being ready. It’s about doing the right thing, even when you’re not ready. It’s about being the bigger person and admitting your mistakes (and you will make MANY). It’s about grace and second chances, for your kids, for yourself.

It’s about recognizing that everyone else around you was also not really ready, but yet, somehow, are doing it – and doing it well. Because what you really need to become a great parent is selflessness, love, persistence and a whole lot of people to walk beside you.

 

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The Day I Cursed God…And Lost My Voice

At the beginning of this year I lost my voice, for three days. The end.

If I had my way, that would be all there was to the tale. I would stop this post right here and move on. Nope God. I’m not telling them the full story. Obviously I had some sort of cold…right?

Except that I’ve never, not even once lost my voice in my entire life before this. And while my voice was gone, I didn’t have a cold or a runny nose – not even a hint of one. In fact, my throat didn’t even hurt. But my voice was gone. It was so gone that I couldn’t even make those raspy, crackling noises of a teenage boy… I could only whisper. And it hurt to whisper, so I stayed mostly silent.

Three full days to listen to others speak.  Three days to realize how many things I can accomplish without using words. Three days to think about how much I take talking for granted, how often I’ve used my voice for evil rather than good.

Three days to consider what happened the day before my silence.

The day before… was a windy one. The snow blew across our driveway in a big three foot drift. My husband had specifically done something that I had asked him not to and I was furious at him. In fact, because of my anger, I decided enough was enough, that I was going to drive away for the afternoon and leave him with the kids while I went out and did whatever I wanted for once. I grabbed my purse, stormed onto the van and backed out of my garage door only to get stuck in the drift that I hadn’t thought of looking for. Furious, that I was now trapped, I got out of the van and began to kick at the snow around my back tires….Maybe if I move forward and take a speed, I’ll make it out. So I drive forward and then hammer the van into reverse and try to barrel through the drift, but my bald, all-season tires are no match for the deep white fluff that surrounds them.

I am now a prisoner in a snow drift.

Then, oh God, no, please no! Who should peek out of the window, but the grinning face of none other than my beloved husband, who I’m so desperately trying to escape.

I feel like a child. An immature, angry, helpless child, stuck in my own mess. I beg God not to let him come out and help me. That would be too much, too embarrassing …humiliating actually. But, of course, he calls out to me from our front door already with his jacket on, beaming at me as if he’s greatly amused at my anger: “Need some help??”

I shout back that “NO, I do NOT” – but we both know I do. And he begins putting on his boots and grabbing for the shovel as angry tears pour down my face.

 I mean to pray, but what comes out of my mouth are a string of curses directed at God. How dare he humiliate me so in my anger! How dare he put me in this humble position after what was done to me! I sit sulking in my van as Ryan patiently digs me out of the snow bank. Without a word, I drive forward and park in the garage. I walk straight into the house and disappear into my room for the next couple hours, crying myself to sleep. I feel foolish when I wake up that evening, but don’t quite understand the magnitude of everything that happened until the next day when I wake up and try to speak…

Not a single sound comes out. Not one word.

At first I’m simply confused. I’ve never lost my voice before, and here, I can’t even squeak! I try again to clear my throat but this doesn’t even make a sound. Panic fills me as the harder I try to talk, the more I wonder if I will ever make another sound again! And it’s a Sunday, the day that I’m supposed to go to church and worship! How can this be?!?

Finally, to my relief, I realize that when I gently whisper, I can still make a sound. But it is only then that I realize why my voice is gone as memories of my careless, thoughtless words to an all-powerful God fill my mind. I hear a voice in my head which speaks loud and clear: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:10)

Tears immediately spring to my eyes as I realize the mercy of my all-powerful God. He could’ve struck me dead the moment I decided to speak to Him as if he were someone that was put there just to serve me. He could’ve put me in my place in fierce anger and he would’ve been fully justified in doing so.

But he chose to gently take away my voice.

He was lovingly disciplining me as a a Father would a child, not lashing out at me as an enemy, which shows me, not only can God do whatever he wants with whomever he wants, but he really does discipline for our good.

Also, He has a pretty funny sense of humour. “Fine, my angry, childish daughter, if you will speak to me that way, then no longer will you speak!”

Three days of silence does a lot to calm an angry heart and to open the ears of a child who doesn’t want to listen. It’s humbling. It got my attention.

Fast forward four months.

God’s still teaching me about my hurtful words, he’s given me so much grace, showing me and guiding me through. God really doesn’t leave us if we truly desire to walk in his ways. Next post, I want to share with you the steps he’s given me to lead me to freedom from using hurtful words. I believe these steps are a tool that can be used not just to control our tongue, but to walking in freedom from every kind of harmful habit or addiction. Until then, know this: that God is absolutely faithful…even when we are faithless. He disciplines us only because he loves us so dearly. Sit on that truth today.

He loves you and will do whatever it takes to get your attention.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Love always,

Heather.

 

Summer Prayer Challenge: Week One

Ok time to be honest about this ten week Summer Prayer Challenge: I couldn’t be more unsure of what I’m doing.

I’m actually terrified of what I got myself into.

I don’t mean prayer. I absolutely am 100% sure that I want to grow in my prayer life. I want to know God like a close friend. That is my deepest desire right now. I am desperate to see God work in my life. I hunger to know God in a way I’ve never known him before, to see things and people through HIS eyes and not my own. I’ve quite honestly realized that I’m a very average person, and not even a very good one. If I don’t have the power and love of God behind my words and my actions then they will amount to very little. I’m desperate to wake up and actually make a difference in the world. Prayer is my ONLY hope to make any positive change – of this I have become convinced.

But this social media challenge…it’s not me.

I don’t want to come across as some spiritual superstar, or as if I’m flaunting my prayer life online. That’s literally the furthest thought from my mind.

I’m simply beginning. Which means I’m decades behind many of you.

I’m also flaky on social media at best. I like to be on it for a while and then I turn it off completely and love being away from it. So I honestly don’t know if I can do this…if I can post regularly, if I’ll have the zeal, charisma and passion to keep going…I mean, I’m struggling with depression for crying out loud! How can I encourage others to pray?

Also, being open and honest about my prayer life online, in front of dozens if not hundreds of people whom I may or may not know, some who are probably far more experienced in prayer than I am, it scares me.

And yet, it’s not about me.

It literally comes down to a stirring I had in my heart last week when I decided to pray all summer like I never had before. Something moved my heart to invite others along on this journey. Anyone who has this same desire, really. Because it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, whether you’ve been praying for hours a day or if you’re also just beginning: It is time for the church to seek God like never before.

And if this encourages even ONE person to pray, then it’s worth the time spent. 

Today’s prayer items are firstly: THANKSGIVING. Turn your focus off of your list and onto Jesus. Spend a couple minutes thanking Jesus for his provision, his goodness, his forgiveness, his blessings in your life. Don’t just say the words. FEEL them. Where would you be without these things? What would become of you if it hadn’t been for the Cross? Spend time in worship.

Secondly, pray for individual family members…each individual by name, starting with your spouse (if you have one). Thank God for them. Pray about your deepest concerns for them. For example, one of my children is struggling with angry outbursts and I’m seeking God for heavenly wisdom and eyes to see the root of what is going on in his heart. I’m begging for wisdom. Ask God if you are holding any offences against them. Don’t rush this. Spend time listening attentively and write down any thoughts, verses or pictures which come to your mind.

These two things will become your daily prayers before we unite in the third “weekly items.”

Today, as it’s Monday, let’s focus on praying for our home church pastors. Pastors in a way have a never ending job. There is tremendous pressure on them and their families to “have it all together” as they quite literally are like a showcase for the church they lead. This burden, is FAR too heavy a weight for a person to bear. Many leaders feel incredibly lonely because of this, yet at the same time they also feel overwhelmed with the needs of their congregation. I realize some of us have leaders that we look up to, others have leaders that we struggle to respect. But here’s the thing:

We are all human. We ALL mess up. We ALL say stupid things we regret.

Today let’s decide in our hearts to be very gracious towards our pastors. Decide to protect their reputation by refusing to gossip. If you are harbouring any hurt feelings or anger towards your leaders, now is the time to forgive them. Ask God to show you HIS heart towards them. And now pray. Pray for purity in their lives, for hunger for them. For him/her to have a close spiritual walk with God, to spend time with God daily. Pray for protection over your pastor and their family, as the devil would like nothing more than to see your leader fall. Pray for his/her health. Pray for them to speak the truth of God boldly, and to not water the message of the gospel down to gain popularity. Pray for their marriage, for their family time, for their children. Pray for them to have wisdom in each situation, and to keep a heart that is tender/merciful towards their flock.

If you want you can also ask God to show you something you can do this week to bless them. These are just ideas to get you going…keep praying until you feel your heart overflow with love and compassion for your leader. Bless them!

This will most likely be my only prayer blog post for the week. If you want to see the list for the whole week, check out my previous post: Summer Prayer Challenge or get daily updates by following me on Instagram as everysmallvoice or Facebook as Heather Bergen.

Thanks for joining me in this journey! And please! If you see any encouraging changes as a result of these prayers, or have an amazing/uplifting story to share, or even if you are just deciding pray for the first time, let me know in the comments or email me! I’d love to hear from you!

Love always, Heather

10 Confessions Behind those “Perfect” Posts

Someone said something to me the other day that sort of bothered me.

Oh, it had nothing to do with her as it was very kind and meant as a complete compliment…but it hit a very sensitive subject that I carry close to my heart: Authenticity. The compliment was something like this: “I can’t believe what you all do with your children and homeschooling, plus the cakes you make and your blog…you’re just amazing.” And I smiled and told her she was far too kind because in NO WAY am I anywhere near amazing, but I still think it was totally sweet of her.

However, it  got me to thinking: Who am I showing the world that I am? Really.

Am I authentic? Am I being honest? Are my posts misleading people to think that I’m some super mom that has it all together? Because, believe me, I don’t. So I decided to be really raw with you. So raw that I may just be tempted to delete this piece five minutes after I post it. But it needs to be said, because social media has tricked us. It’s tricked us into believing that everyone elses lives are just great but ours actually suck. So I wrote a list of ten confessions behind the “Perfect” posts you see.

10) It’s not all that perfect – Every post you see was well-timed, well placed, and captured the best of the best. For every perfect shot, there were ten pictures deleted…for every perfect moment, there were fifty filled with sweat, tears, pain and sorrow. For every time I bragged about my pride in my accomplishments, my kids, my possessions and my friends, there were a hundred more disappointments, failures and let downs.

9) Those great moments didn’t happen often – Jealous that I’m such a cool mom that seems to be always doing amazing, fun things with my kids? Really you got it all wrong. I never spend enough time with them. I post almost every single good time with them as if somehow it will make up for the many times I tell them to leave me alone or “go play” or say “maybe later” when they just want to be with me. My posts are merely ways I have tried to make up for all the times I haven’t been that cool mom that does amazing and fun things with her kids.

8) I’m insecure – My thoughts after almost every single thing I post online: “Will they like it? Will this offend someone? Maybe I should just take this post off before anyone sees it… Why didn’t so and so comment on this? Maybe they don’t like it. Maybe they don’t like me…” Think I’m confidant and fearless? Think again. These things have literally kept me up at night.

7) It’s never good enough – For every beautiful cake I’ve made, there’s a thousand better ones on Pinterest.  For every great blog post, there’s a hundred others just like it. That cute picture I took of my kids? I really can’t stop wishing that I had changed them into clothes that matched a bit better, that I had a better looking yard in the backround, that I was a better photographer…I see the flaws that you don’t.

6) I’m jealous of your posts too – Okay not ALL the time…often I am happy for you. But sometimes I see your posts and I think “Seriously, what! How can she look so good in a swimsuit? Am I the only mom in the world who’s gotten stretch marks EVERYWHERE?!?” or “How can they afford to travel all the time? I could only wish!” or “No way, her husband gave her flowers AGAIN? That’s like the third time this month!” or “She is so effortlessly witty and funny, why do I have to try so hard all the time?” These thoughts are ugly, aren’t they? But they’re real. And sometimes I feel them towards your “perfect” life, because I don’t see your real life either.

5) My flaws are carefully hidden – Wow!! Don’t you love that photo of me?!? Because it actually looks NOTHING like me. Not the real me. Before the makeup covers the bags under my eyes. Before my frizzy hair that slightly resembles a lions mane is curled or straightened. Before I sucked in my stomach for the photo, choosing the angle that best hides my crooked nose and extra skin. Before I picked the instagram filter that accented the blue in my eyes or that hid whatever else the makeup couldn’t. Now you’re probably waiting for a real picture of me aren’t you? Well HA! Not happening because…

4) You’re only seeing what I want you to see – because if I don’t want you to know, I won’t post it. I don’t like to document those ugly moments. I don’t want you to see me after I just woke up and my hair is sticking out every which way. I don’t often talk about the things that went horribly wrong like the temper tantrums, the fights, the wonky looking cakes and the blog post flops (ohhh yes, for every one I post there’s five I delete)…if I don’t want you to see it, simple: I DON’T POST IT.

3) I check my stats/comments/likes way too often – because I care FAR too much what everyone else thinks…really do I have to watch every single hit of my blog in real-time? One would think not, but once again, you aren’t seeing the reality of how pathetic I can actually be…you’re only seeing what I want you to see.

2) It’s all too soon forgotten – Remember the name of that white police officer who shared that heart-felt message to the black man he pulled over for texting and driving? No? Then maybe you’ll remember the name of that woman who was deaf and got the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent? Or how about that brother who convinced his drugged up sister that she was in a zombie apocalypse? Or how about the photo with the little girl in the hotdog suit and all the other girls dressed as princesses? No? Well guess what…even if I do someday accomplish what so many only hope to do on Facebook and “go viral”, I’ll be forgotten in a matter of weeks or even days for the newest exciting post. By the way…whatever DID happen with Kony2012?

1) It was often a waste of my time – “Mom! Mom! Look at this!!” … “Just a second honey.”   “Mom come play outside with us.”…. “One moment please!!”   “Mom! Did you see that?!? You missed it mom! I told you to watch me but you’re just on your phone” ……I’ve totally wasted some of the most precious moments of my life behind a screen! On our one on one dates, I wasn’t fully focused on enjoying my child, I was too busy posting about them! During my children’s milestones I didn’t just want to celebrate with them, I wanted to celebrate with the world! Only they didn’t see it that way because all they saw was their mommy staring at her phone instead of at them. I missed out on so much while I was busy posting about all these great moments. I wasted so much time checking likes and comments, which never fulfilled me anyway. And I wish some of the time I could go back and change those moments.

Life on social media is not always what it seems. When we put our phones down and actually hang out with our friends we begin to see their reality: Their kids have temper tantrums too! Their marriage isn’t as perfect as we thought it was. Those nice “expensive” clothes they always wear, were actually second hand. They also burn supper sometimes and their house usually looks messier than a garbage dump! We don’t see these things on Facebook, but we DO see them when real, authentic friendships are formed and that’s why it’s so important that much of our time is spent with our phones put away.

My life’s far from perfect, and so is yours…I just needed the reminder today and thought I’d share in case you did too 🙂