I wonder if we got progress reports and grades if we would feel like we were doing a good job as parents? If there was a board of moms and we got sat down every quarter and were judged based on how many times we lost our temper or how long we breastfed or the times we chose to clean the dishes instead of play with the kids would we rest easy? Would we feel validated in all that we do? If we had people look at us and our kids and received grades would it be enough? Would we still feel guilty every time they got sick because should we have kept them home when they complained last week? Would we still lay awake at night and replay all the harsh words and teachable moments we passed by in sheer exhaustion? Or would we awake with refreshed minds ready to tackle the day if someone was watching us and handing out grades?
I have yet to meet a mother that truly feels like she is doing a good job. In fact the word I have heard the most in conversations about being a mom is failure. I read recently that one of the greatest markers for a millennial parent is the amount of guilt we lay heavy on ourselves. It’s not even that we don’t think the task is important it’s that it’s almost too important. “Be on all the time” is the tiny voice in our head. The soundtrack on repeat says things like never yell, always take the time to teach, and come up with creative ways to cut up their food for them to reject even though it’s in the shape of a mermaid.
I don’t think a progress report is what we need, I think we need to let the stuff go that isn’t worth feeling guilty about and ask God to help us where we fall short. One of the greatest pieces of parenting advice my dad ever gave me was, don’t pick every battle but win the ones you do. I said amen all the way home as Briggs and Claire bickered over whether cats were soft or not. Fight away children I thought or in more PC terms “this is a great way for them to learn how to work it out” which is mother speak for I just can’t.
The sheer number of challenges and accessibility of information gives us a false picture of just how poorly we are doing. We can’t plead ignorance for anything, from hot dog ingredients to sleep training there is research for everything and almost everything has two sides too… except the hot dog ingredients no one argues for hot dogs. Spanking, sleep training, the perfect preschool, how we teach, how they learn, when to give in and when to give up consume our brains. Of course we all feel like we are failing because we aren’t perfect. We are people. We are mothers. We are imperfect, broken, in need of a perfect savior. When we try to be the perfect parent we deprive God of showing us our real need for him and my friends, we need him. Strive to do the best you can of course but welcome the truth that you don’t have to be perfect.
You might not feel this tension yet but it always manages to creep in, life will hit, you’ll have another baby, or one will have health issues, or so on and so forth and you’ll realize no matter how hard you work and try and strive it won’t be enough. You’ll lay in bed at night and promise to do better next time marking red lines and a big fat F all over your skills as a mom.
We are so worried about where are our kids are going in life, how they will do in all the trails that lay ahead but the reality is we have just as much of a journey ahead of us. We have much to learn about dependence on the only perfect father. Claire, my first born, is the child who challenges me, not because she is strong willed, just the opposite, she’s compassionate and kind and loves people. She challenges me because she is sensitive, she needs a soft tone and guiding hand, and I tend to act more like a drill sergeant on a power trip when I get stressed. Her big hazel eyes will look up and me and her lip will quiver when I raise my tone and I know I’ve blown it. She needs explanations and likes to stop and smell not only the roses but any plant or animal in a half a mile radius. I am in a hurry to get everything done.
I look at her and my weaknesses glare back at me. And God asks me, will you let me work on you or will you damage her spirit? Those are my options. My pride can fall and I can land on my knees begging God to teach me to be the mom I need to be or I can stomp on her heart and tell her to toughen up. My weakness when it comes to my daughter is Gods invitation to be not only a better mom but a better everything. A better wife to Ben, a better friend, a better mom to my other kids.
I cannot be perfect. I cannot do it all. I can do the best I can and really ask God to grow me where he sees I need it. I can choose to pick the battles that matter and not worry about the ones that don’t. I can stick to triangles on their PBJ, an occasional hot dog, and letting Claire and Briggs “work it out on their own” for the little things. I can ask God every morning when I hear those tiny voices at the top of the stairs say “good morning mommy” for enough patience to get me through today and when I feel that red marker all over my mom report card and I will ask for forgiveness and grace and be glad tomorrow is a new day.
“now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.