I Used To Be A Good Mom.

*Editor’s Note- This is a guest post by our good friend Lisa Qualls. She is a writer, speaker, mom of 12, and the creator of Thankful Moms, where she writes about motherhood, adoption, faith, and grief. Lisa is a mom by birth and adoption. Along with her husband Russ, their adoption journey has been marked by joy as well as challenges of trauma and attachment. You can visit her blog here, and connect with her on Facebook here.

Sometimes the adoption journey can leave us questioning our ability as parents. But the trials may lead to personal growth that we never thought was possible.

Silhouette of helping hand between two climber

I was pouring a cup of coffee when my friend called. She asked if I had a minute to talk and when I answered, “Yes,” her resolve quickly faded and she began to cry. She told me about a conflict with her newly adopted son. Despite her best intentions, she was convinced she had failed to handle it well.

Then she said these words I thought were mine alone, “I used to be a good mom.”

When Russ and I embarked on our adoption journey, we did it with some sense of confidence. We were experienced parents with seven healthy, and reasonably happy kids. We wanted to serve God and, since we were in the thick of raising children, it made sense to expand our parenting to include children who needed families. Besides, we really loved kids and it brought us joy to consider adding more to our family.

I had been a mother for nineteen years – long enough to have made loads of mistakes, and overcome many obstacles. I was nowhere near being a perfect mother, but I was a good mom and pretty confident that my skills, my desire to live for Jesus, and my heart for children would carry me through any challenges that would come our way.

Before we arrived home from Ethiopia with our new children, we knew that our lives had shifted in a dramatic way and we were in for a struggle. Jesus is merciful, however, and we only saw the very tip of a large iceberg.

As the months passed and we struggled to parent our children, our belief in ourselves as “good parents” began to fade.

We asked ourselves:

  • Should we press on with parenting techniques that have served us well for so many years?
  • In the face of so many challenges, which problems should we focus on first?
  • Is it okay to accept behaviors we’ve never allowed in our home before?
  • Should we read more books on adoption?
  • Should we call somebody?
  • Should we stay quiet and hope that nobody will notice we’re falling apart?
  • What should we do?

We didn’t know the answers, but one thing we did know: we were no longer the parents we used to be and as all of our children struggled, we no longer felt like “good parents” at all.

It’s painful for me to admit, but the struggles I had with one of my children reduced me to a person I did not even recognize.
My heart, which had once been so tender, was quickly hardening as I attempted to hold my family together. I had thoughts that were so foreign to me that I could not even confess them to my husband. I wanted to escape this life we had willingly chosen, which made the guilt even greater.

My identity of being a “good mom” was stripped from me as I struggled simply to get through each hour. The day finally came when we sought professional help for our family and had to trust others to help us find our way. Hope was planted in our hearts and we have not looked back.

As we travel the long and winding road of healing, I’ve had to redefine what I believe a “good mom” is. I accept that because I fiercely love all of my children, I must parent them differently.

What I once held as my standard of “good mothering” no longer fits. I grieve these losses, I really do, and I miss the simple days when I thought I knew what it took to be a “good mom.” I now have the privilege of knowing many “good moms” who are being reshaped by their experiences of parenting children from “hard places.”

We aren’t the women we used to be, but we are the women God is calling us to become. He is shaping us through trial and triumph. He is calling us to lay down our lives for the sake of our children and in doing so, I pray that He is making us more like Him.

Question: Have you struggled to believe that you are a good parent? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Jylli Kristen

    I live by the last paragraph of this article every day now. I love my children firmly and intensely. 32 27 27 and almost 10. My grandbabies and nieces are 9 8 6 5 2 1 0 0. My children and grandbabies live away but we have weekly skype with some and every four monthe visit with nieces. But the grown kids have not accepted our new child well. Not giving him any slack for having some very hard challenges. But i felt i raised the big children with tolerance. I was a good mom. I loved with all of my heart. But with that one of the children with our 3 grandbabies is a strange for us all together.
    All I can live by is this is Gods plan right now. Our struggles with our little child are up and down, right now very hard. Medication has to be adjusted again trying new things again. Emotions are high for each of us. Im trying as hard as i can with everything i do. We have very small support system.
    With all this being said yes i always believed i was a good mom. I still try to believe i am still a good mom but a really different mom . Life is just different now all together. Life with a special needs child changes every thing and everyone involved.
    Your support is strength for me. Today I needed this article. Thank you!

    • We are so glad to hear that it hit home.

  • Rachel Maarhuis

    Yes, just so much yes!! The lack of ability to reason with my son as I did with my older 2 and his constant need to make everything into a fight with me have me questioning my parenting ability daily. It’s extremely hard to talk to anyone about it because all I get is told how much of a wonderful thing we’re doing and I just want to say “if you were at my house you probably wouldn’t think that!” It’s a lonely journey right now.

    • Hang in there Rachel. You are not alone. 🙂

  • Melissa Wallace

    The timing of this post is so perfect in what my husband and I are going through right now. Thank you so much for your raw honesty.

    • Lisa is the best! We love her writing. So glad this hit home for you.

  • Ann Skalaski

    I am not an adoptive parent, but this makes me want to know how to come along side those who are showing Christ’s love as adoptive parents. Please share your thoughts on what that would look like…it would be a great post!

    • We love this idea. We will definitely write it soon.

  • Ashton Lethco

    You lament that you lost your title of being “a good Mom” and I grieve that i will never have it. We entered parenthood by adding two wounded foster children (who we have since adopted) to our peaceful, child-free home. Thankful for the online and local support available to those of us in this unique and difficult club!

  • Sharon Jennings Bowler

    We parented 3 daughters to adulthood and then began fostering a baby who we have since adopted. So now our kids are 31,29,24, and 4. This life is full of blessings and we love her so much. She is adorable and she delights every adult she meets. But at home, she is a challenge like our older girls never dreamed of being. I do not blame her, there are so many factors. She was 3 months premature, exposed to just about every drug. And the parental genetics are not the same, so it makes sense she will have different tricks in her toolbox than the first three did. The hardest part for me is when she’s mean to me and calls me names intended to hurt me. I do not take it personally, I know she is a young child and working out so many issues, but knowing that she desires to hurt me is so troubling.
    A special challenge I am having though is I feel like I can’t seek support. If I admit that this is hard, I have been told, that I should have thought of this before agreeing to adopt. That is no help at all!!
    Even without her additional challenges, it would be hard to parent a 4 year old while I am 55! But that is NOT to say I wish we hadn’t adopted her. Other parents get to admit it’s hard. Can’t I?
    Thanks for your ministry, hahaha! I feel better for typing this!

    • Allisonm

      For the first seven years, my son tried to hurt me, usually physically, nearly every day. The severity of the efforts to harm me tapered off after the first thirty months, while I was recovering from a major injury, but the little hurts inflicted at nearly every interaction can really wear on me. It happens less often now. Not taking it personally means having to guard the part of me that absorbs all of the little pokes and jabs and try to respond instead of reacting. It’s hard every day. And at 55, too, I hear your weariness.

      It’s one of the inequities of life that those who have children through giving birth to them have the right to talk about how hard it is to be a parent and those of us who have adopted children from hard places do not. I don’t for a moment regret adopting our three, but I also know no one personally who would willingly sign on for what we’ve been through as their parents and as a family together. Good thing we didn’t know what was coming. I struggle daily with feeling like I’m not a good mother. If I were, this would be easier, wouldn’t it?

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