Motherhood Mantras: I Can’t Do This

This post is part of a series called “Motherhood Mantras.” To read more about the series, and the full list of writers, click here.

I can’t do this. I quit.

Probably not the most positive mantra out there. But I think sometimes your mantra chooses you, and this suits me well. I’m one of those really capable people with plenty of skills and strengths. I even have the spiritual gift of faith. Sometimes those traits conspire to make me think that I can do all things… with or without Christ who strengthens me. At least until life pulls me up short. Nothing does a better job of getting me to the end of myself than attempting to be the “good mom”. And so I quit. Regularly. For almost 17 years of motherhood so far.

Every day for the first three months of my child’s life, I said those words at least four or five times. Seriously. I quit being a mom multiple times every day. It was too hard, too tiring, too crazy, too expensive, too everything. I didn’t want it. So I quit. Of course, you don’t get to really quit being the mom, especially when your husband is one of the most amazing dads in the world. And he really loves having the kid around. He’d notice if all the baby paraphernalia were to just, oh, disappear. With the baby.

And so, every time I quit, I would re-up. I would pick up my child, look him in the eye and offer some variation on, “Well, I guess we’re stuck with each other.”

When we battled toddler nightmares so many nights in a row that we might as well have had a newborn, I quit again. Until that terrified face would relax into peaceful sleep.

When we battled learning disabilities and elementary school teachers who weren’t really attuned to our gifted and struggling child, I quit again. Until those blues eyes pleaded with me to make one more phone call or send one more email to get things figured out.

When I heard my eighth grader’s voice on the phone from half a continent away telling me that he was gay and afraid to say it because I was so wrapped up in church and seminary that maybe I would reject him… I didn’t have time to quit. I had come up with words, words that would calm and heal. Words that would be supportive enough, loudly loving enough, to get from my cell phone to the satellite to the landline and through his tears so we could both get to class.

A year later, when I heard the catch in my husband’s voice from four states away, telling me that our kiddo was in the hospital because of suicidal thoughts, I quit on the way to the airport, in the plane and again while I was waiting for my luggage, so that by the time we were on the way to the hospital I could be mom again.

When the world had stolen his confidence and the panic attacks and depression made going to school a living hell, he flat refused. The day school officials called to fuss at me about truancy and couldn’t offer meany good options, I walked out to the garage to cry. The walls of the pit that surrounded me were so close I could smell the despair mixed into the slime. I had no where to look but up. I yelled at God,

“I. Can’t. Do. This.

…I don’t have any answers. This child is yours. You fix it. I’m done. I quit.”

This was the first time I directly acknowledged who the boss was, whose employ I had been quitting in all those moments of fear and doubt and frustration. Oddly, it was the first time I had gone directly from fussing to praying. But God had been faithful all those years, knowing in my heart what I needed was for my mothering God to hold me, to remind me that if I was stuck with my kid, it was because God had stuck with me. God heard all my prayers, even those I hadn’t spoken. And God was faithful to answer this loud, if not very articulate prayer, too.

Some days are good. Sometimes those good days come in big lovely bunches. Sometimes they are few and far between. Good or bad I’ve learned to just give it up.

I can’t do this.

I quit. Today and every day. Because God never does.

Laura Viau is a candidate under care of the Central Florida Presbytery. She recently completed her MDiv through Dubuque Seminary’s online program while juggling marriage, motherhood and a full time job as a communications specialist for a large parachurch organization in Orlando.

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