Tears streamed down my face as I drove away from the doctor’s office. The previous year I had lost my eye to cancer. I had just learned that there was a complication in my eye socket, and I would need to remove my prosthetic eye and wear eye patches for at least the next several weeks.
That translated into weeks of people staring, pointing, or looking at me in pity, strangers making insensitive remarks, friends and relatives avoiding me at social gatherings when they didn’t know how to talk about my situation, and others assuming I couldn’t read, drive, or perform basic functions. I wasn’t ready to face the isolation and anxiety eye patches created for me.
I gripped the steering wheel tighter, gritted my teeth, and stared out through the rain on my windshield.
“I don’t have to like it,” I said out loud. “It just is.”
That experience marked the beginning of a year of growth as I learned to make the best of a difficult situation and find peace with what life gave me.
After dealing with the initial grief of my new diagnosis, I made a conscious decision to talk about my situation. When the local scout troop stopped by, I happily answered their questions and let them hold my prosthetic eye. I spoke to the kids at church about my experiences and let those who were interested see my prosthesis. Talking openly about my experiences lessened the anxiety I felt about going out in public and dealing with others’ awkward responses to me.
The same principle holds true for motherhood. It is too easy to become isolated and feel like we are the only ones struggling with a child, dealing with a messy, chaotic house, and occasionally yelling or acting grumpy with family members. We need to remember that our own needs must be met before we can optimally care for our children.
Organize or join a Mom’s group, meet a friend for ice cream, and share your experiences with others. You will realize that you are not alone in working through the struggles of motherhood.
Accept Your Situation
In the first few weeks of wearing eye patches I found myself occasionally avoiding social situations—I was tired of being stared at and treated like I was handicapped. Sometimes I made myself go to things. Other days I recognized how I was feeling and opted out of situations that would have been too hard. I felt liberated when I chose to accept my situation and didn’t push myself harder than would have been comfortable.
As mothers sometimes we push ourselves too hard. We want our children, spouses, homes, yards, and waistlines to be perfect. I find it is helpful to remind myself of what I am doing and why and to accept my current limitations. For instance, if I didn’t get all the housework done but did spend some quality time with a child, I try to remember that housework can get caught up later but moments with children don’t come back.
If I am tired from caring for a baby or sick child at night, I can remind myself that this stage isn’t forever and the sacrifice is worth the results. What we tell ourselves makes a big difference. If we choose to accept our limitations and remind ourselves of our goals, we will feel a greater measure of peace.
Make the Most of What You Have
I ultimately decided to make the most of my situation by collecting fabric scraps, and my engineer husband used them to design and make 20 different eye patches for me. If I had to look like a pirate, I reasoned, at least I could be a color-coordinated one.
The same principle holds true with motherhood. We all have different situations, spouses, children, and talents. Build on your strengths and don’t beat yourself up over your limitations. For instance, if you are good at organization but not very creative, use your skills to maximize family time and don’t worry if your kids’ rooms aren’t as cute as your neighbors’. Make the most of what you have and don’t focus too much on your constraints.
Recognize (And Celebrate!) Growth
Due to an unforeseen circumstance, my few weeks of wearing an eye patch stretched into just over a year. As time passed, I stopped caring what people thought or how they would respond and just acted like myself.
Toward the end of the year I made a grand discovery: if I could go into public feeling contented and reach out to others rather than focusing on myself, people would feel grateful for the personal warmth I radiated and ignore my eye patch. I felt proud of myself when I finally started to metabolize that principle.
Just as I have grown and changed from my medical hardships, I grow and change through the struggles of motherhood.
I may wish for children who are perfectly obedient, respectful, kind, and generous, but if they were, then how would I grow? Motherhood is every bit as much about my personal growth and development as it is about my children’s.
We can open ourselves to others, accept the situation, make the most of what we have, and celebrate our growth to help us feel more peace. When we do, we will feel better about who we are and do better as mothers and people!
QUESTION: Have you decided to share, accept, and make the most of a difficult situation? Have you noticed yourself becoming more accepting or patient in your mothering?
CHALLENGE: Tell your spouse, a close friend, or a relative about one of your successes and honestly accept their congratulations. If you set a goal and reach it, appropriately reward yourself. When we celebrate our growth we will feel better about ourselves and have the strength to keep progressing.