It was almost unbearable to watch the news on television last week of a Houston mother who killed her children. My heart was wrenched thinking of the kids, their father, and yes, their mother. How could this happen? All the experts have been talking about postpartum depression (PPD) and a mother's quest for perfection and her feelings of not measuring up to her irrationally high standards.
National reporting on PPD since the Houston tragedy has brought up challenges faced by a lot of mothers. Some of it sounded all too familiar to me.
About six months after my daughter was born, there were times when I felt I wasn't measuring up to my standards of parenting, housekeeping, being a wife, earning an income, or any other skill. I worked from my home, and that was supposed to make life easier! I felt that I couldn't manage with two kids - and there are people out there with four, five, and six children. I went through the usual human reasoning process: "After all, my kids won't suffer if the house isn't clean like my mom's ... my husband always says how much he appreciates what I do for the kids ... other moms are wrestling with this, and they make mistakes, too ... nobody's perfect."
But this reasoning often came up short. Oh, it made me feel better for a time, but the feelings would just come back a few weeks later. Afterward, I'd feel guilty, and my reasoning was more dire: "My kids will be young for just a short time, and all the experts say that these are their formative years, the most important. But how can I do it?"
I needed something permanent - reasoning that wouldn't fade away but is constant. I prayed. I just sat down - in the middle of my three-year-old's negotiation to watch TV instead of clean up his toys in the living room, in the middle of feeding the almost nine-month-old her lunch, right at the kitchen table, cluttered with printouts of required edits for the charts the client needed by 5 p.m. - and I listened.
These words came to me: "Our Father which art in heaven, Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious ...." One phrase is the opening to the Lord's Prayer, and the second is the interpretation given by Mary Baker Eddy in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (see pg. 16). Oh, how powerful those word were to me that day and over the ensuing weeks.
That Father-Mother God is my divine Parent, my children's Parent. He cares for each one of us. He is the perfect Parent with a capital "P." God is my ultimate resource for parenting - the only real expert.
All-harmonious. His love is in this house, and in this neighborhood. That love is enough for me. For my family. For the world. That love is all-powerful. God loves us no matter what - He has never stopped and will never stop loving us. His love doesn't change. Two synonyms for harmonious are "congruous" and "accord." I am in constant accord with God, and each member of my family is in constant accord with God. We are in accord with one another.
As the weeks went by, I saw that I wasn't alone in the parenting thing. If I thought that I couldn't keep up, I'd remember that God was right there with me. If I thought that I didn't have enough stamina, or time in the day, or patience, I'd remember that God has enough. I was not a bottleneck restricting the activities of love because of personal limitations. There was plenty of love for everyone because it came from the parenting of our Father-Mother God. Finally, I found that my work for my client was not in conflict with my work for my family. I stopped worrying about not having enough time, and started to love what I was doing at each moment. And you know what? It all got done - not in a haphazard way, but done well and done right.
As I started to love what I was doing, life became a joy again - and the joy didn't go away. Even though the building blocks and Lincoln Logs were scattered across the floor, there was order and harmony in the house.
It has been about two years now. I've reduced my client list, but only so I can go back to school. The building blocks have now become tiny Legos that get caught up in the vacuum. But there is still order, harmony, and joy, because it all comes from "Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious."
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor