It’s OK to Struggle

We’ve been struggling this week for many reasons, one being that my husband’s work schedule is changing, the other being the endless snow days here in Washington State that have cancelled gymnastics, tae kwon do, our weekly preschool-like Bible study, and church for almost two weeks. Now even the weekly Thursday babysitter that I share with a friend and her kids is sick. My kids are driving each other and their parents nuts.

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Sometimes, when we’re in seasons like this, I will scroll Instagram and feel weighed down by yes, the perfect pictures, but also the Momcouragement: “Go get ‘em, girl!” Well, I don’t got ‘em, random stranger on the Internet. Like our car out on the unplowed roads full of slushy snow, we are swerving around all over the place as we’re trying to get a grip.

Thankfully, the habits we’ve worked on during the easier seasons are holding us up right now in this harder season and helping us push through negative feelings. These are the habits of:

  • Mom waking up early

  • Kids not waking up early

  • Rejecting sweets and treats as emotional crutches for the whole family

  • Not watching TV in the mornings, except Saturdays

  • Doing our homeschool math and English, no matter our feelings

  • Sticking to our daily cleaning schedule

  • Making the beds

  • Tracking the budget

The pieces of our routine that aren’t affected by this tumultuous season are also some big dabs of glue for us, especially our breakfast devotions (reading the Bible, memorizing our catechism) and our nightly reading time before bedtime.

So what I want to tell you today, to bury the lede, is that it’s OK to struggle! It’s OK to be in the middle of the fight. It’s OK to be trying really hard and failing, especially when you’re trying to start new habits or break bad ones.

You know the days when you fall down and you pick yourself back up only to fall down again? Or you repent to your kids, only to yell at them again and need to repent again? Here’s something important: You are teaching your kids more on these days then you are on days when things go smoothly. I learned this when my son was a toddler and struggling with daily tantrums. His tantrums would trigger angry flashes from me, I would ask for his forgiveness, and then another tantrum would trigger another angry flash. Repeat. I must have asked my three-year-old for his forgiveness five times one day. I felt awful. But the next week, when he disobeyed me, he asked for my forgiveness for the first time unprompted. I had been teaching him how to be humble without even realizing it.

If you’re working on your first good habit or trying to break that bad habit, it’s OK to struggle—as long as you don’t give up. One study shows that it can take 30 or more attempts to quit smoking. (Mark Twain once said, “‘Quitting smoking is easy: I've done it thousands of times’.”) If you give up the seventh time, you may never get where you want to be.

Sometimes we need to go to bed and get good sleep to receive the next day’s mercies, as my good friend once told me. As long as we still get up, get those mercies, and get going again.