One June morning in Sacramento, California, I boarded a Greyhound bus with my 5-month-old daughter to visit my parents for a weekend. We were with a rough-looking group of passengers. The drive was six hours. My baby needed a diaper change before we'd even gone 100 feet. But I was falling apart as a new mother, and this was my chance to take a break.
My husband, Eric, and I had moved to a lovely suburb in Northern California after we finished school, and the world was full of promise. We had a new baby, a new job and all kinds of fabulous ideas to make that new life sing.
But our baby cried a lot, our apartment complex was a ghost town during the day, my husband needed to take our only car to work, and our budget didn't allow much wiggle room. Life felt lonely and frustrating, and I simply couldn't figure out how to improve my circumstances — especially since I'd just gotten a bad haircut and still couldn't fit into any of my pre-pregnancy clothes.
Eric could see I was sinking, so we spent $79 on a bus ticket and off I went for a little vacation.
The trip rejuvenated me, and after all those hours in the sticky bus, my simple apartment felt like heaven, but the main thing I remember from that trip is a phrase a dear friend shared with me when I poured my heart out to her:
Never, never, never give up.
So simple, really. But that phrase has come back to me time and again, and today, I feel impressed to share it.
All of us have challenging times in our lives, and there are varying ways we might choose to give up.
Sometimes mothers mentally check out — and just stop trying. Giving up might mean permanently walking out on the family — thinking that everyone would be better off if Mom weren't there. In some heartbreaking cases, "giving up" means suicide, and children are left to fend for themselves — or make do with a new guardian who tries to take Mom's place. I know I don't fully understand the feelings that would lead to such an extreme, but I can empathize with the perspective a friend shared: "Death is easier than what I am living right now."
I'm not sure who is going to read this post, but if you have ever felt like giving up on motherhood, here are six reasons to stay strong:
1. We are not alone.
Every mother (even if she looks totally put together) has discouraging times.
We might need to look deeper and get past all the talk about room remodels, vacations and parties, but if we look carefully (and encourage honesty), we'll see that everyone else is just as human as we are.
Finding a trusted group of friends and reaching out to other moms has literally been a lifesaver for many, many women. (Have you heard of Learning Circles?) When we know that others are going through similar circumstances, it just makes life easier.
Allyson Reynolds and I met through email about three years ago. In one of my messages, I told her about the story behind The Power of Moms, the website I created. This is what she sent in response:
"Reading your story actually brought me to tears because I felt so much validation for my own experience up to this point. (I feel like the main characters in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' who are compelled to make crazy mashed potato sculptures of that mountain even though they don't know why. Once they meet they are instantly validated and know that their compulsion is real and for a purpose. Do you know what I am talking about? I hope you are laughing.)"
I was laughing. And now Allyson is one of my closest friends, one of those people who wants to know what's in my heart. Someone who would totally make potato sculptures with me, if I asked.
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