Thursday, October 2, 2014


Sunday morning, eight o'clock. Gus cries and wakes me. I double take at the clock. They never sleep in, but of course when they do, we have someplace to be. I hop up fast and jump into high gear. This baby needs to be nursed. So does that one, but we don't have time. Andrew gives him a bottle. I skip stairs on my way up to Harriet's room. Grab clothes and start dressing her, but she doesn't want that dress...melts to the floor in tears. I pick her up, skip stairs on the way up to her room again...way out of breath. Note to myself that I need to start working out.

"What do you want to wear?" I say in my best negotiating-with-a-toddler voice. I'm working hard to stay cheerful. She picks something goofy, too small and rather inappropriate for the weather.

"Perfect! Great choice!" I say and wrestle this child who has mysteriously and suddenly lost all muscle tone into this lousy excuse for an outfit.

I hear Andrew from downstairs, "Why don't you hop in the shower and I'll get the kids ready?" I know, most women would LOVE hearing this. But I'm annoyed because it feels like he's trying to control the situation. We're often late, and he hates that, usually blames me. I do my best to avoid you're-not-the-boss-of-me mode. I'm only moderately successful.

I try to make myself some oatmeal. The dog is in my way. The dog is always in my way. This morning, I'm not in the mood, so I put him out in the backyard where he can roam and explore and run. But he wants back in...very badly. "Fine. Come on in buddy," I say and open the door. He just stands there and about five mosquitos come inside instead.

The clothes I planned to wear? Dirty. Those earrings? Missing in action. That purse? Emptied out on the living room floor. The oatmeal? Totally forgot to pour it into the boiling water. The babies? Crying. The toddler? Not even sure where she is.

I burp Gus while I grab a pack of pop tarts from the cupboard. He lifts his head off the burp cloth and pukes down my neck. New shirts for both of us. Burping Louie, letting the dog out again. "Go outside Murphy. Hurry up," I say while holding the door ajar, welcoming in the rest of the mosquito family. Murphy finally goes outside while Louie shoves the burp cloth out of the way and empties his stomach all down the back of my shirt. Without even thinking, I slam that door as hard and as fast as I possibly can. The thunderous crack echoes in the kitchen, stops Gus's crying and brings Harriet out from hiding. I walk slowly through the intense silence and into my bedroom to change...for the third time in one hour.

I was frustrated. Frustrated...disappointed...such gentle, fancy words for something so plain and simple - anger. I was angry. Boiling mad like the oatmeal-less pot on the stovetop. Furious as the storms that were apparently raging inside my babies' tummies.

I've never been an angry person. I don't mind conflict, probably because the more intense things get, the more calm I get. I've never struggled to stay cool in the midst of relational tension...until I became a parent. In her book Surprised by Motherhood, Lisa-Jo Baker writes that she didn't realize that she had a temper until she became a mom. Same here, Lisa-Jo. Same here.

Maybe it's the sleeplessness. Maybe it's the feeling of powerlessness that happens when you can't get an eight-pound baby to do anything you want her to do. Maybe it's the caldron of emotions that gets stirred when two adults from different backgrounds try to parent the same child. Maybe it's the hormones. Maybe...yeah, pretty sure it's all of the above. And then there are the endless toys everywhere you walk...all of them somehow sharp or squeaky.

My husband's not immune from it. In fact, he's the primary target. I remember when we were having such trouble getting Harriet to sleep, we went for a morning walk. Andrew was full of advice and theories, and I literally had to step to the other side of the path to keep from slugging him. And not in a playful way. I wanted to punch him in the arm and I wanted it to hurt. I was angry. Sometimes, my fuse is short...too short. Sometimes it turns into sarcasm. Sometimes I get loud. Sometimes it's just a seething silence.

We're potty training around here. Have been for quite a while. We've taken a really relaxed approach to it. Partially because we want her to lead and partially because we're lazy. Some days she wants to wear a diaper, and that's fine. Most of the time, she wants to wear her underwear, which is exciting. I'm so proud of her. The other day, she was drinking a lot. She had four accidents in about three hours. I kept asking her if she had to go, and she'd insist she didn't while doing a dance that looked like she was standing on hot coals. I begged her to use the potty. Enter power struggle. I backed down, knowing that this was a battle I couldn't win. All of a sudden, she's standing in another puddle. I already had the boys in the stroller, all ready to go to the park. I didn't want to leave them in the driveway while I got her changed, so I wheeled them into the garage and hurried her into the house.

They were kind of like this...except crying.
I was annoyed. Okay, I was mad, and she knew it.

"I'm not mad that you peed, honey. I'm mad that you keep lying when I ask you if you have to go."

"But Mom,, not those pants!"

I did not have time for this. I ran and grabbed a few pairs for her to choose from. She deliberated for several minutes before announcing her decision. All the while, I'm sighing loudly, rushing her, feeling my face get hot. I put the pants on her and gently push her out the door.

"Mom," she says in her best preschool teacher voice, "It's not a good idea to push kids. And when you use that hard voice, it hurts my feelings."

"Okay, I'm sorry, sweetheart. Let's talk while we walk."

And we did.

I usually find that my temper flares when my self care is low or my sense of self entitlement is getting the best of me. Like when I haven't had time out of the house in a few days. Or when I have insisted on doing the nights by myself for a week straight. Or when I realize that it's 6:00 pm and all I've eaten are some chips and fake guacamole (yeah, when you're eating artificial guacamole, you know it's bad).

Or when I start to think that I deserve this or that, because really, I don't deserve anything at all. And this season - the parenting one - is a season of sacrifice. When I was a little kid, we would sing this song:

Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant, make me a servant
Make me a servant today.

This has been my prayerful song for the past few months. You'll hear me singing it at the strangest times, all throughout the day. Reminding myself that I'm a servant mama, making sure that while I'm wiping their hands and faces, I'm also metaphorically washing their feet. If I'm able to take good care of myself while maintaining a servant's heart, those red hot angry emotions usually have a hard time besting me.

Here's the thing...I don't think there's anything wrong with anger. It's an emotion just like sadness or excitement or fear. We can't judge it. In fact, I think our kids can learn just as much from our anger as they can from our joy.

Every time we mess up is an opportunity. An opportunity to show our kids that we are flawed, sinful people, and that apologies are some of the most important words we can speak. In fact, the first words I spoke today were apologies - to Harriet for being crabby with her during her bedtime routine last night and to Andrew for...pretty much everything I did and said all evening long. My blog post was going viral and although I was excited, I was also feeling the weight and responsibility of those two million views heavy on my shoulders. I was digging deep to fight off the discouragement that I was feeling from the negative comments. I was exhausted (like maybe five hours of sleep in three days exhausted) and everyone in the family was feeling the prick of my spiny mood. So this morning started with two apologies, both graciously accepted. Harriet even told me that she thinks Jesus is warming up my heart.

That's good news, my girl. Really good news.


  1. Em, I know I've told you this before, but I absolutely adore your writing. I love how you can be open and honest about everything, the good and the bad. You are a wonderful person and an amazing mother <3





  2. lets get all of these babies together so we can vent our anger :) or go to the indoor park and bounce it out! hehe.
    beautifully written, per the usual. miss you endlessly mama!!!

  3. Thanks, Em, for this. Parenting is beautiful and a gift, but also draining and hard -- and sometimes I get bested by my frustrations too. What could be better than teaching our kids that even as parents we don't have it all figured out? That way, when they are knee deep in parenting, dealing with 2-year-old temper tantrums, 4-year-old power struggles, 16-year-old angst, etc. they won't be so hard on themselves when they realize parents are just as much in need of a savior as anybody else. Thanks for always being real. I appreciate your heart and your courage.

  4. I second that I love your writing style. Someone posted that amazing post on facebook yesterday that brought me to your site. I have since wasted several hours reading everything you have written and I have laughed and cried. We are not of the same faith but I have been uplifted and inspired to be a better person from the words in your blog. Tune out the negative even Christ was scoffed and scorned by his peers. You are about your Fathers business for sure. Keep it up

  5. You may be my hero. To balance your frustration, anger, joy and love for your husband and children is what all parents should inspire to do. It's what makes good parents and what turns children into wonderful human beings. You're such a beautiful writer and most important, an even better mother and wife...even if it doesn't always feel like it. Hope I can be half as good one day. :)

  6. Keep up the good work, Em- as a wife, mother, author, and most importantly as a daughter of God on a journey of sanctification. Ignore the criticism if you can't embrace it for what it is: evidence that your post was inspired, and exactly what the enemy of our souls doesNOT want people to be reading!

  7. Em, I don't know that there's a mom on this planet with a warmer heart than you. I'm not even a mom to a child, let alone three, and yet I get you. I swear, Sterling wants to go outside, and then in, and then out and then in… and I want to KILL HIM. His new thing is to eat his food with his body half in and half out of the house… no really, he goes out, then scratches at the door to come in. I open the door to let him in and he puts his front two feet and head in so he can reach his bowl, but leaves the rest of himself outside so that approximately 2.4 billion mosquitos and flies can come join us in the house. Add in that my bagel burns, my shirt is wrinkled, I spilled coffee on myself and well, Sam has learned not to talk to me in the mornings. To do what you do, day in and day out, with so much grace…. the fact that you even have the patience to let Harriet pick out her pants and decide if she wants a diaper day means you are WINNING the war against anger. You are such a wonderful mom, Emily! Those babies are so lucky to have you!

  8. I love your honesty. My best potty training suggestion is to teach her go change her own clothes - so when accidents happen she can take care of it on her own.

  9. Well I feel like a big fat baby now for struggling with the one that we have now. It is SO HARD, but reading your post is going to help a lot of women feel they aren't alone. Thanks for your honesty Em. Love it!

  10. Your posts - so elegant! You really should write a book. I totally agree - there is nothing wrong with anger - it's what we do with that anger that matters. You are one.amazing.momma! Ephesians 4:26 - In your anger - do not sin!

  11. I am always so glad to see more posts from you. I was so happy to see your post from the other day turn up in my facebook feed. I felt so much excitement for you that it had touched so many people.

    I don't have a good relationship with anger. Because of my parents' divorce I find it hard to have people angry at me, so I tend to bottle it up and shrug it off. I didn't think I was an angry person, but boy oh boy has motherhood ever brought it out.

    Ask Moxie talks a lot about how we have to talk more about mothers and anger. I'm glad you posted this. And you are not alone.

  12. Ah I just love Harriet. Jesus warming up your heart?! Em, you are raising a little peach!!! And for the record, twin boys totally makes that "hard voice" come out for me!! And lastly... I totally agree with everyone else- you are a gifted writer and must write a book!! xo

  13. A lot of what you said here echos with me. Like you, I'm in the middle of this parenting season and find that my temper flares when I'm feeling stretched thin. It's hard, especially with twins. And toddlerhood is a whole new adventure.

    I think you hit the nail on the head, though. To truly care for others we must first find ways to care for ourselves. Otherwise we can't sustain. I'm still learning how to do this (and failing miserably most days), but your message is reminding me that I need to be mindful of this.

    May potty training turn a corner, your boys continue to grow and may your whole family thrive. And know I'm thinking of you.

  14. My heart is so happy to see two posts from you back to back. :) Obviously I know that you're insanely busy right now, but boy do I miss your writing!

    For what it's worth, you're not alone in your feelings of RED. I've been working really hard at doing some self care (and "relationship care"!) lately, and it truly helps everything run more smoothly. I love your take on this!

  15. I've enjoyed reading your articles, I feel like they could be my own autobiography. Keep it up! Xo

  16. So I laughed at some parts, but yes, that sounds like a tough morning. Thank you for your honesty, and I am praying for you guys. At least you have adorable children, right? :)

  17. I had a horrible day yesterday also. I felt alone, like no one understood. I cried so uncontrollably hard all day that I gave myself a sinus migraine. I literally felt frozen. I hardly even wanted to turn and ask God to take it...okay to be honest, I'm not sure i ever did.In the midst of living life sometimes I forget to rest in the fact of who God made me...that He chose ME. ME...before lunches were made, ME...before I showered and cleaned up for the day(let alone exercised), ME...feed my kids mac&cheese for dinner because maybe just maybe I played one too many games of candy crush! In all my doing I forget to take time for rest to rejuvenate to find JOY. Yesterday my husband sent me a text that said "I just want you to be you, I NEED you to be you and so do the girls!" But I can't be me if I'm so busy being everything for everyone else...its exhausting. And so now today I am home...doing NOTHING...listening for God to remind me He is always with me. Reading your blog lets me know I am not alone so thank you. Being a mom is hard but even harder I think it trying to take the time to just be me. Praying you will get to just be you this week Em.

  18. I just stumbled upon your blog as my sister in law recommended it to me, and I wanted to thank you for your writing. It's inspirational, honest, funny, and so very relate-able. I am in the thick of the crazy mom life with you. I have twin sons who are now 19 months, a 4 year old, and a 6 year old. A year ago I was doing the twin baby thing. Wow, that was a hard year. It's still hard, and there is still constant crying, but it is better. I have gotten countless "wow" comments, and many comments that I have gone home and cried about. And I have been angry. So angry. So thank you for this post. It's true, and I think all of us moms have been there and go there, and go back there. We are in process, we learn from our mistakes, and God is not making us into the people he wants us to be. Hang in there! It gets easier!

  19. I am like you... I never had a temper before kids... But boy have I found mine. And I'm not scared of confrontation either, but fighting with Matthew makes me crazy. All of this has been making me feel pretty bad lately. But thank God these little souls are so forgiving!

    Hang in there!

  20. Thank you for this post. I had a week like this post and my anger was hard to contain. My six year old forgave me for screaming at her (which I rarely do) when I apologized. We are Mommies and we are human. I love teaching them humility and seeing their expressions when they realize Mommy isn't perfect. All the best. Hang in there.

  21. thank you thank you thank you for this. Ive been battling anger lately and have had such a hard time with it. It seems like the only interaction I have with my husband is when im apologizing, ive slammed doors and yelled....all the while wondering "what am I doing?!" then when the grizzly bear settles I look back and wonder who the heck that person is? its like im not even myself when I get angry. Thankfully my husband is supportive and super understanding and is helping me work through it. I agree with you though...anger is just another emotion. Its not letting it get the best of me that's the trick!

  22. I wish I could explain the way your blog has affected me. I just found it a few days ago and can't stop reading. Something about your writing heals me and gives me the strength to keep going. You make me want to be a better mother. And thank you for the reminder that my mothering is directly connected to my spirituality. I didn't realize how much I had been neglecting the latter in recent months. Your writing is an answer to prayers

  23. So honest and real. Thank you for sharing real life - straight from the heart!

  24. As a brand new mom barely 5 months into this thing, it is so encouraging to know that even "older" moms with more kids and experience than me still struggle. Sounds strange...seems like it should be discouraging to know that, but it's not. It is comforting because it reassures me that I'm normal and than I'm going to make it. You are making it, thousands of other moms are making it, and in Gods grace I can make it too. Thank you for this post and your blog! I will come back often :)

  25. I think our kids can learn just as much from our anger as they can from our joy.

    In the midst of so much helicoptering and political correctness that overwhelms good parents, this is a little gem of wisdom.

    When my son was in his tween years I had to admonish him once that he did have the power to exasperate at times, and should not be surprised if the reflection of that was anger. He was old enough to take some responsibility for his triggering, I was wise enough to not back down when he flung the "angry" word at me. We were both better for it.

  26. I absolutely love how "real" you are Em! You make the rest of us realize that we are normal. lol Boy howdy, does motherhood sometimes bring out the anger. You put it very eloquently that it can be just as much of a learning tool. Thank you so much for all you share with the rest of us.

  27. Awesome blog... so it <3

  28. I am a grandmother now, but enjoy reading your posts. :) I see my younger self in your stories. And I am reminded of what my kids are going through as they raise their kids. It's so funny how the older we get the more we forget what it was like. Thank-you for your willingness to be transparent. Have a great day!


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