By Olea Gough

olea author pic

Sometimes it is in the looking back that we best recognize the Lord’s hand in our lives. This is certainly true for my journey as a mother, though I hope I am getting better at recognizing Him next to me in my present circumstances.

The only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a wife and a mother. I’m so grateful that that dream became a reality for me. I do have to say, as younger me, I could not have imagined how much more amazing or how much more challenging that dream would truly be in reality. Being a mom is both the best and the hardest job I’ve ever had!

every phase

Let me give you a little window into my life… At the tender age of 19, I married the perfect man for me. We have definitely had our good times and our really bad times, but he has been exactly what I needed as a husband and as a partner to raise our children. He chose a career as a police officer and I worked in customer service until my daughter was born. Then I got to be home with my kids until they started school. I followed them there and worked as a teacher’s aide helping 3rd graders with a little bit of everything, but specializing in reading interventions.  In 2011 I started losing my vision for no known reason and helping kids with reading became a big struggle, so I became a stay-at-home mom again.  I did a lot of leaning on the Lord to accept that change in life as my body also had to adjust to a new physical norm. Since then, I have found a love of sharing the images I created for my young children in the form of flannel board stories. I started with a collection of Fables, Fairy Tales, and Nursery Songs, and have found great joy in adding many scripture stories and sets to go with current children’s church manuals. I have also recently felt a call to help others anchor in Christ through speaking, writing, and hosting a couple of groups on Facebook, Anchoring in Christ, and Scripture Study 365. I find my soul feels on fire as I bear witness of Him through my words and my art.

My husband and I have two incredible children. My daughter, Ariana Jadin, is 21 and lives about 45 minutes away from us. My son, Michael, is 19 and is currently serving a mission for our church in Tempe, Arizona. My house is now empty and very quiet. Though eerie at first, I have made peace with the quiet. I have learned to appreciate the inspiration and direction that comes in the calmness.

As I look back on my life as a mother, I think each phase comes with its own joys and its own challenges. I was always one to remind myself to live in the phase I was in and not wish it away for a later time. I tried to savor all of the best of what was happening in that phase and focusing on that helped ease the struggles that were part of it. I found that with each stage the challenges grew harder, but I had also grown in my resilience and strength to handle them. Maybe you can relate to some of the challenges I have faced. Maybe my reflection will offer you some needed strength and solidarity.

every phase

MOTHERING LITTLES

With younger kids, my biggest challenge with my daughter was her intense feelings. From the time she could talk, she would argue with me about everything! It seemed she thought she was smarter than me and her screaming fits to try to get what she wanted were often more than I felt I could handle. She had the terrible twos, the HORRIBLE threes, her fours were like her twos and by five those fits became fewer and farther between, but they never completely left. Her stubbornness met its match with mine as I refused to give in and we were constantly butting heads when she felt she wasn’t getting what she wanted. There were lots of time outs for both her and me during that time. I still remember how difficult that part of mothering was for me. I felt like the worst mom! I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong or how to make it better. I prayed a lot for strength, comfort and direction in that time and was led to a lot of great books as I searched for answers and continued to hold firm to limits as that seemed necessary. In hindsight, I know how good the boundaries I set were and that even though it was so hard to hold the line, it was probably the best thing I could have done.

My biggest challenge with my son in the early years… the picky eating! And he was just so nonchalant. That kid was so laid back! So, our power struggle was on! From the time his baby food began to mix two textures, he was not having it! I used to have to use applesauce, which he loved, to trick him into eating other baby foods. And it continued from there. In my stubbornness, I was not going to make two dinners and I was not going to waste food. I didn’t give him much, maybe 5 bites of what we were eating, but he wasn’t allowed to leave the table until he had eaten and he wasn’t allowed to have any other snacks until he had finished the meal. He would literally sit at the table for two hours singing, talking to himself, enjoying the silence while I would be pulling my hair out in the other room. I really felt like I wasn’t asking a lot. Ha. Once again, I prayed for inspiration, I read and researched and looked for ways that both of us could win and I finally found it. I would set the timer for 15 minutes. If he didn’t finish by then he could leave. When he came back hungry, I would warm his food up for him. He wasn’t allowed anything else until that food had not been wasted. Yes, that meant that sometimes he had dinner for breakfast, but it worked. When he was hungry enough to want a granola bar or fruit snacks, he would shovel down his meal in about 60 seconds. In retrospect, I am glad I established the boundaries where we did. He actually LOVES food now and is willing to try anything! I can’t tell you how many times he has said, “I think my taste buds changed, I really like this now.”  Yes, there are still things he does not care for, but he will eat them without complaint. I’m sure that this makes him a very gracious missionary and that makes me happy.

MOTHERING TEENAGERS

I loved the teen years with both of my kids because we had so much fun together. But they did not come without their own difficulties. With my daughter, the teenage power struggles were sometimes better than our early stage, but sometimes they were just as bad. She was just as strong-minded and often fought for her right to be wrong. Sometimes those debates got very emotional. But in that phase, she also became what I called “my 24 hour girl” because it was very common when we would lay it to rest, she would go to her corner of the ring (her room usually) and think about the thing we had been wrestling with and come to my way of thinking.  I was grateful for the way the Lord taught me more meekness during that phase. I learned to listen more and lecture less. I learned there was a time to talk and sometimes a time to be still and let it settle in. I learned to contemplate my responses rather than just responding emotionally, as I had done in the past.

With my son, it was his easy-going nature and his desire not to hurt people’s feelings that were so difficult. He was often quiet and would not share what he was thinking or feeling until it was dragged out of him. We spent a lot of time trying to teach him to advocate for himself, to have the courage to share his feelings. A doormat does not usually end up a very happy person and that was my worry for him. There were some hard things we went through as a family and it seemed that during that time, he actually started to implement those things we had tried to teach him. During that time the Lord taught me that I needed to learn to leave the door to communication open longer than I sometimes wanted to. My son needed more processing time and the opportunity to work through his feeling before sharing them. As I learned to be patient with his need for time, I found that sometimes our kids file away the things we teach them, and when they are most needed, they have the ability to retrieve them. He also loved to push the boundaries of deadlines. He would finish homework and then not turn it in. Or he would know when something was due and wait till the last minute to get it filled out or completed. I just had to learn that he would get it done and it wasn’t my nagging that would do it. He was a lot more responsible all along than I gave him credit for.

MOTHERING ADULTS

Becoming the mother of an adult child was another huge adjustment, and so much more difficult than I could have imagined. You lose all leverage to set limits and help them when you see the decisions they are making are potentially harmful to them. I had to change the way we communicated. As I prayed about how to do this, I felt very strongly that my daughter and I needed to take a specifically timed break from each other so that I could ponder, research and study to learn how to communicate in a new way and stop damaging our relationship. That really helped us so much! I needed to learn a different mothering style for that phase. I had to become a different kind of mother so that I wouldn’t lose her.

I am grateful for the divine direction I learned in that phase. I could not have done it on my own. The direction I was led went against my very nature. I really had to submit and I am so grateful I did.

Recently my daughter started really exercising her right to choose. It seemed to us that she began to experiment with anything and everything she felt we had held her back from. This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through as a mother to this point. To watch her making choices, knowing she was going to end up hurting and not be able to do or say anything completely tore me up inside. If I did share any of my concerns or offer any advice, it seemed to be a springboard for her to push back against. After some researching and lots of prayer, I determined my best course of action was to just reach out in love and love only. I sent daily messages commenting on things she had posted. “I love that color on you.” “Your eyes look beautiful.” “You are such a talented writer.” “I like the way you breathe.” Just kidding on that last one, but really sometimes I just had to be grateful she was alive. I have never been more scared and I have never cried more tears. This came to a peak last month when we thought we had lost her for a half a night. We found her in the most unideal of circumstances. I believe there were a lot of miracles in that time and everything clicked into place as we were actually able to talk her into checking into a behavioral health unit at the hospital. She was diagnosed with Bipolar and Borderline personality disorders.  These two diagnoses come with so much relief as well as great sadness. It is so nice to know what the problem has been all along. It is so nice to have answers so we can start researching how to offer her the best help and hope. But it is also hard to know that she will struggle the rest of her life with these. She will have to find a way to daily implement her therapy plan to have peace and happiness. It is not an easy answer.  But I am grateful it is an answer. I know this phase will require a lot of help from heaven as we seek the best resources and therapy team for her. We have already found so much comfort, strength and many answers as we have sought the Lord’s guidance.

every phase

Maybe one of the sweetest reassurances came from the Lord as a text from a friend: We may sometimes wonder why the Lord gives us kids that challenge us so much. But in truth, He gave us to them. To love them while they figure things out. To help them smile and laugh when they are torn up inside. To remind them that even though they have made some mistakes, they have great worth and are loved and lovable. We are their reminder that they are children of God and He hasn’t quit loving them either.

I know that with God’s help, I am the mother my children need, in every phase of life. And  I know that He cares about every little concern we have. If it’s important to me, it’s important to Him.

To me, motherhood means finding the joy that comes with each phase and then studying, researching, and praying to find the best ways to deal with the rest. It means not giving up. It means loving my kids intensely enough to set boundaries where they need to be set and then working through the problems that come in a way that they feel valued and loved by me, always!

When I am frustrated and don’t feel particularly strong, I have learned that it’s okay to feel disappointed, cry, and grieve the loss of my ideal. Then I turn to heaven for higher help and I am directed to books to read and podcasts to listen to by people who have had similar struggles. I find friends placed in my path to talk to who can see things from a neutral standing and can share their ideas of what might help in my situation. As I ponder, I am blessed with insight that has eluded me. I have learned that it is impossible for me to do this on my own and I am so grateful that along with my husband, I have God as my partner. He always teaches me a better way and leads me to the resources I need to gain knowledge, insight, and strength. I am so grateful that the Lord has been in there in all the phases of my mothering.

Find more ANCHORING IN CHRIST.

MGL ad Sherron
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