Are You Weary of Parenting?

Have you ever felt discouraged and sad as a parent? I’m guessing you have.

I wrote this at the end of our time on Whidbey Island. It seemed a bit whiney and maybe discouraging, so I didn’t post it. Today, I read it again and thought it may help you to know you’re not alone.

Here are my honest, slightly raw, reflections on being a parent of kids with early trauma.


Family vacation: beautiful, restful, fun, happy.

This is what I want in a vacation. The problem is, it’s not what I get, which leaves me with the question, “Can I be content when vacation doesn’t feel like a vacation?”

I go about my days with grumbling in my heart, “This is not the way it should be. This is not how vacation was with our older set of kids. I want what I had before.”

I remember days filled with imaginative play, forts built, long beach walks with conversation. Of course, there was squabbling among siblings, fussy babies, and games abandoned due to arguments over rules. It wasn’t perfect.

But having children who simply don’t want to be here, who don’t want to be with me, who refuse all offers of activities – it stinks. It really does.

My current crew is wired differently from my older kids. Trauma, abuse, and neglect impact their brains. Creative play is hindered. Complex emotions about belonging rush through their minds. Attachment to peers is easier than attachment to parents.

While the older kids were here with us, the days were filled, but once they left to return to their jobs and lives, the hours stretched before us.

It took a few days of yuck to get proactive.

We need a family adventure every day to keep us regulated. Amid complaints of torture, “We have to go where?,” we’ve been packing the car with water bottles, snacks, and disgruntled kids to explore Whidbey Island. Wandering beaches, exploring Fort Casey, and hiking at Ebey’s landing have filled our afternoons.

Each time we make it out the door, I have a moment when I realize I’m happy and content. The sun is shining, there is room to spread out, we are all breathing a little more easily.

There is also a spiritual process at work.

Years ago I read Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot and her words still resonate with me,

The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.

This pierces me. My circumstances are not going to change soon – it’s my heart that must adjust.

Yesterday as we drove to Fort Casey, I felt tears welling up and sadness wash over me. I wanted to cry and say, “This is too hard. I want an easier life. I’m tired of parenting that wears me out.”

I want life to feel better than this. We’re not in crisis, we’re just weary – and sad sometimes too.

I remember that Christ calls me to a life of service. He calls me to lay down my life, to pour myself out, to give and love.

And He promises to fill me. Only Jesus can restore and give me strength and joy for each day.

This joy needs to keep me going. And when the sweet moments come, I need to grab hold of them and run them through my mind like a favorite movie.

Christ in me, our greatest hope and comforter. We will not be shaken.


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Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

18 Comments

  1. Lisa
    September 10, 2018

    Thank you for such an honest and raw post. I, too, am weary of parenting a child who has experienced extensive trauma and who turns her rage and fear toward us. This road is so hard. Recently I’ve been wondering if God made a mistake when He called us to adopt an eight year old child out of foster care. I know God doesn’t make mistakes but I am so ill equipped to parent her. Everything is difficult. I dread weekends because she wants to know what we’re doing while all I want is a quiet and restful day at home. But that life doesn’t exist anymore. I cling to Galatians 6:9 which says: “Let us not grow weary in doing good for at just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.” Christ in me, the hope of glory.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      What a blessing that we have a loving Father who gives us what we need. Weekends have always been hard for us too. It’s getting better, but unstructured time is very difficult. I put structure in place as I can and that definitely helps.

      Reply
  2. Ruth Carlson
    September 10, 2018

    THANK YOU FOR PUTTING INTO WORD WHAT I FEEL BUT COULD NOT EXPRESS… I AM NOT ALONE!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      You are definitely not alone, Ruth. Much love.

      Reply
  3. Susan Whitlock
    September 10, 2018

    I love your transparent gorgeous heart….this is so beautifully written…I so get it….it is hard….and, my favorite word in the English language is “BUT”…BUT CHRIST are my absolutely TWO favorite words in the English language! Somewhat on the other side of what you are talking about, I do remember those days of dread the minute my eyes opened, which was my “check engine” light for the day….I would raise both weary and tear-stained palms up to the ceiling some days and with my right hand open, would say, “what do You want to give me and show me today?”, then with my left palm facing upward, “what do You want me to let go of, release, today?” Usually, it involved death. My own. Death to the illusion that a “happy and easy” life was my right…..kudos to you, and all you other sweet mamas, for walking the courageous path in a place you thought you did not, but do belong…doing the hard stuff, flaws and all. My oldest son, heroin exposed, is doing well, married with a sweet family and working as a Deputy Sheriff in a county nearby….my youngest son, fetal alcohol/bipolar, sits in a prison…it is still a hard path…and I would not trade it for all the tea in china. I continue to die a thousand deaths on this path…but that is a good thing, because in the place of that death, I find that it is replaced by joy and the sweet knowledge that God IS IN the hard places and always will be. Soli Deo Gloria

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      Susan, I just want to sit and have coffee with you and I’m sure many women who read your comment will feel the same. I love the way you express this and your example of using your hands is beautiful; I’m going to try it.

      Reply
  4. Teresa Flick
    September 10, 2018

    Oh how I can relate. How hard and tiring it can be to raise kids from hard places and how at times I long for “normal/typical” in our life.

    At times in the past I have thought that not having children by birth has made parenting easier for me in some ways. My normal in parenting has never been “normal or typical”. I started off expecting somewhat typical parenting because our oldest and youngest boys were adopted as infants through an agency and weren’t deemed to have special needs. But these two boys have had as significant needs as the other three adopted from the foster system.

    Your statement “But having children who simply don’t want to be here, who don’t want to be with me, who refuse all offers of activities – it stinks. It really does.” is one I can really relate with at the moment. We have dealt with that to an extreme with our youngest son, but after an unbelievably difficult time and a lot of grace on our part, things have turned around somewhat and the relationship is so much better. He has worked through some of the anger around his being adopted. Instead of doing everything possible to push us away and not be part of the family he joins in conversation at meals and it seems he is okay with being part of this family again.

    Now I’m dealing with my girls (twins almost 16) in a similar way, but not to the same extreme. It still doesn’t feel good that they don’t want to spend time with me. I’m always trying to figure out how to connect. I often say to others that I don’t like raising teenagers, but really it’s so much deeper than that. Its hard to deal with my own feelings especially with one of my girls who doesn’t seem to want to connect and sees it as an intrusion.

    As I think about my girls turning 16 I want to do something special for them, but I know that how ever hard I try it won’t be enough for them. The activities I suggest won’t be good enough. There will be complaining and unrealistic expectations – but they will have a sweet 16 birthday. I will do my best knowing that it is Christ in me enabling me to love my kids when there is very little positive feedback and “it stinks.”

    Thanks for being open and real!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      Teresa, I love your thoughts. Thank you so much. It’s so good to hear about your son’s progress, and I hope you find a good way to connect with and show love to your girls for their birthday.

      Reply
  5. Pat Hays
    September 10, 2018

    You have given voice to the reality of the life of a special needs’ mom. It is very hard and exhausting. I try to remind myself that God chose me to parent these children. If God believes I am up to the task, then He will give me the strength I need for each day.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      Pat, I think about that too – He chose me. Even when I’m full of doubt and feel too weak, He chose me, He loves all of us, and He will give us what we need.

      Reply
  6. Melody Caton
    September 10, 2018

    Thankful you decided to post this!! Many days I wonder what the heck we are doing and have to wrestle with what I want and what God wants of me….pretty sure it’s to care well for these children…even on the days I don’t feel like it ❤️

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      It’s so hard to acknowledge our feelings and then do what we aren’t inclined to want to do. Only God can give us that strength. And when the good feelings come, it’s amazing.

      Reply
  7. Regina
    September 10, 2018

    Exactly how my morning started! I’m so weary today; I am making myself focus on the positives and praise God for the help He gives

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      That’s a good perspective to have, Regina. That’s where gratitude comes in for me.

      Reply
  8. Linda
    September 10, 2018

    Don’t ever forget that there are those of us here that want to open our hearts for respite care. I know you have “older kids” who can do crowd control if you want to go out, but if you want to be able to schedule one day a month for the rest of the family to breathe, we are here for you…

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      Linda, I did forget! My older kids have all moved away, except for Annarose who is a senior at UI and incredibly busy. Let’s talk. Thank you!

      Reply
  9. Nancy
    September 10, 2018

    Thank you for posting this…a recent comment from a friend…’but, the kids look normal and act appropriately, why are you so ‘stressed all the time?’…so very hard to keep my tongue still and celebrate the ‘appropriate’ when around others..while trying to not share what happens when our doors are closed. Vacations, public events can be very, very challenging.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2018

      Nancy, I think that is one of the biggest challenges. We need to be vulnerable and transparent to find support, but at the same time we want to protect our kids. It’s so helpful to have even one safe person to call.

      Reply

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