While both Simpson's and Koziarz's books require a good, long look inside, it seems we moms raising kids with disabilities or chronic illnesses are prone to give up in more ways than we might first think. We view ourselves as fighters, relentless advocates in the classrooms, hospitals, and community for our children. We are! Yet, I find myself deeply convicted along with the parents I lead of throwing in the towel when it comes to other critical pieces of our lives.
We tend to give up on our homes. We're so tired from running to appointments, administering extra therapies, and enforcing every educational right for our child that we give ourselves a pass when it comes to keeping the home. There seems to come a tipping point where housecleaning seems like, "Shoveling while it's still snowing," so we don't bother to tend to things like we once did. The inside might still look great, but gardening or other extra touches that make a house a home just fall by the wayside.
We give up on meals. Trying to plan family dinner each night when the budget is thin and we don't know when to anticipate the next meltdown or ER visit seems futile. We're too exhausted to do battle with the picky eater in the family. Our brains are so full of have-to's that meal creativity seems like a luxury. We end up following the path of least resistance, eating convenience foods as our waistlines expand. The family would hardly know a raw fruit or vegetable if they saw one.
We give up on friendships. The emotional energy it takes to pour into friends who just don't "get it" finds us leaving certain relationships in the ash heap of our personal history. The judgment and lack of help from people we once held dear just seems to be more than we can take. As we wistfully glance backward, we press on into our new reality with our child. It seems to be the only way we can cope.
We give up on our marriages. Dating our mate becomes a thing of the past. Exhaustion robs us of a sex life. We stop trying to look nice for one another or building a friendship beyond the duty of family. If divorce doesn't pull us apart, emotional vacancy does.
We give up on self-care. Crisis has a way of changing how we view our personal appearance. Where we used to give care to our makeup and hair, emergency hospital runs leave us resigned to the wash-n-go style (that is, if we even manage to fit in a shower). Income that is disproportionately allocated to medical expenses no longer strives to pay for acceptable attire, accessories, massage, or manicure. Exhaustion and busyness give us an excuse to opt out of exercise.
What has been so convicting to me in identifying these areas where we seek to validate our cop-outs is that we don't face the truth that there are SERIOUS consequences to each decision we make. Quitting, even when done secretly or silently, is still a decision.
- When we give up on our homes, we acquiesce to chaos, denying our kids a safe place to find comfort in a brutal world.
- When we give up on meals, we miss the opportunity to teach our kids cooking skills, or eating foods that we may not like, or basic table manners, or healthy diet.
- When we give up on friendships, we lose a piece of ourselves that is not involved in special needs. We also miss the chance to spread more awareness outside of our little community.
- When we give up on our marriages, we open the door to infidelity and heartbreak for our entire family.
- When we give up on self-care, we tear down our own health, walking ourselves steadily to our own premature death.
I hate to sound overly grim or demanding here, but the simple fact remains that parents like us must simply put in a bit more effort than most. There are days when we are up to it and others when we are not. Even so, the trajectory should be upward with an eternal perspective.
The Truth is that we cannot do this of our own strength and resolve. The One who pressed on through the most horrid of circumstances is the only One who can give us what we need to persevere. This life of ours is an endurance race. Together, we must attack these issues in bit-sized pieces with the guidance and fortitude of the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we have no hope.
Join me! Let's fully rely on Jesus as we strain towards the goal!
PRAY: LORD, you know how prone I am to giving up. Remind me to stay plugged in to You for daily encouragement. Holy Spirit, infuse me with the strength and energy it takes to persevere as the parent of this child who needs extra care.
~ Barb Dittrich