How Could Motherhood Possibly Be This Hard? (Parenting Kids with Mental Health Problems)

Dear long-time readers: You may recognize this blog post from my old blog, nicoleroder.com. From time to time, I will re-share old blog posts here. If you’ve read it before, feel free to just scroll by. (Or stick around and enjoy it all over again!)

I wrote this particular blog post in 2017. Back then, I didn’t have the best handle on treating my kids’ mental illnesses. It’s not exactly easy now, but at least the kids are taking prescription medications along with their therapy. That helps a lot.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

I want to warn you, before you read any further, that this will not be my typical, dumb humor post. I won’t be telling you some sarcastic, relatable story about a time that my kids did something aggravating, then toss in some “funny” so that you can walk away with the feeling that this is all normal, lighthearted stuff.

If you want to maintain the illusion that my life is perhaps a bit chaotic, certainly full of hard work, but at the end of the day we can all hug it out like an “aw shucks” moment on a family sitcom, you should probably stop reading now.

Because the truth is, my life is hard. Not poverty-stricken hard. Not life-threatening illness hard. I’m well-aware of my many blessings. I’m talking about my day-to-day life as a mother.

I’m talking about yesterday, when my 5-year-old son, R, refused to get up and go to church. There was absolutely nothing I could do to convince him to get dressed, so I threw up my hands and said, “I guess you’ll go to church in your pajamas.” My husband then had to carry him out to the van and buckle him in, kicking and screaming, and I had to dive into the back seat and hold him down to keep him from unbuckling and jumping out of the moving car.

I’m talking about the hour long Mass when I had to sit in the back of the church with him and physically restrain him from either A) punching and kicking me, or B) running out of the church and into the street. I’m talking about the fact that I’m calling him my 5-year-old despite knowing that he’ll be 6 in 3 weeks, because I don’t want you to think he’s outrageously immature for his age. (As if it were normal for 5-year-olds to punch their mothers and jump out of moving vehicles.)

I’m talking about a few days ago, when I stayed up late writing and consequently overslept and missed the girls’ swim practice. Nine-year-old E woke me up in her bathing suit. I jumped up, looked at my phone, and gasped. “Oh no, honey!” I said. “I overslept! We missed practice! I’m so sorry.” She stomped out of the room to inform her sister that the two of them were not to love me anymore. She then proceeded to scream at me, from every room of the house, for the better part of an hour. She said she wanted me to go to prison. Or die. Either one was fine with her.

I’m talking about the fact that I had to hide in the bathroom when my babysitter first arrived the other day so that she wouldn’t see that I’d been crying.

I’m talking about the fact that my daughter has a health condition that requires strict adherence to a bathroom/water/diet schedule, and I can’t get her to follow it without an enormous fight every day.

I’m talking about two days ago, when my 8-year-old threw my lunch across the room because I told her to go upstairs.

I’m talking about chore time, and how there has never been one single day when all 3 of them have done their chores without screaming at me and declaring that they wanted to live somewhere else.

I’m talking about the hours I spend writing, and the guilt I feel when I can hear the kids shouting at my husband while I stay locked away in my office.

There is no “but” at the end of this list. I’m not leading up to some concluding sentiment of happiness and satisfaction with my parenting life despite the trials. Yes, of course I love my children. I’d give my life to protect them, and if I could do it over again, I would still want to be a mother.

But there are days when I wonder, “Could this really be motherhood? Could it really be this hard?”

I know of no other mom who still has to carry her 8-year-old to time out because she will never, ever go there on her own. I know of no other family who can’t make it through a single family dinner without someone crying or throwing a tantrum.

As I’m writing this, I’m imagining dozens of my friends and acquaintances reading it with furrowed eyebrows. Whoa! We didn’t know that Nicole was such a terrible mother! How did she raise such miscreant kids?

Sometimes, I bring this up to another mom, but I don’t really tell the whole story. I say something like, “Wow, you wouldn’t believe what happened today! I feel like the worst mother ever!” Other Mom always responds, “We all have days like that! Don’t feel bad!”

But this is not one day. This is all the time. Yes, we have nice moments. Yes, we have more happy minutes than craptastic ones. But it seems like every single day, there is at least one blow up. At least one moment when someone hates me and never wants to see me again. At least one raging, screaming fit.

So I’m back to my original question. Is this normal? Do other moms experience this type of utter misery nearly every day of their lives? I don’t know if I want the answer to be “yes” or “no.”

I know that people usually keep this kind of thing private. Nobody posts photos of temper tantrums on Instagram. I know I don’t. If you check my Insta feed or Facebook page, you’ll see plenty of evidence that my family is happy, healthy, and carefree. And we are. But we’re also loud, miserable, and dangling from a rescue helicopter over a crocodile-infested swamp–and our hands are getting sweaty.

If you check my Insta feed or Facebook page, you’ll see plenty of evidence that my family is happy, healthy, and carefree. And we are. But we’re also loud, miserable, and dangling from a rescue helicopter over a crocodile-infested swamp–and our hands are getting sweaty.

I’m not looking for advice. I’ve talked to friends, family members, and professionals. I’ve read every parenting book and tried every “method.” This isn’t happening because I don’t know what to do. The opposite is true. I don’t know what to do because this is happening.

If you’ve never had to deal with a problem like this, I’m happy for you. I mean it. I’m really happy for you. But if you’re like me, and you’re wondering how everyone but you seems to have their motherhood shit together, please know that it’s not everyone but you. You’ve got at least one sister-in-arms.

If you’ve never had to deal with a problem like this, I’m happy for you. I mean it. I’m really happy for you. But if you’re like me, and you’re wondering how everyone but you seems to have their motherhood shit together, please know that it’s not everyone but you. You’ve got at least one sister-in-arms.

Published by Nicole Roder

Writer Nicole Roder lives in Bowie, Maryland with her husband, Matt, their children, Emma, Sophia, Raymond, and Gianni. And Lucy–their fiercely terrifying, 20-pound Boston Terrier who protects their home from some ubiquitous danger only she can see. When she’s not busy composing her next great work of fiction, she’s wiping bottoms, dancing in her kitchen, singing in her minivan, building lego castles, wrapping feather boas around her neck, and driving all over God’s creation. AKA–mothering her children.

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