I remember my first real Mother’s Day. I was newly pregnant with my oldest child and overcome with excitement about his upcoming arrival. As I sat in church that morning and listened to talk after talk about amazing mothers, I was determined to be an “angel mother” just like them. I was convinced that I was born to be a mother, that I would be able to navigate the upcoming waters of child-rearing with relative ease, and that I would never lose my cool with my children.
Those were blissful dreams.
After my baby was born, I quickly realized that I was about as far from an “angel mother” as one could get. I found myself praying for patience like never before. What I thought would come naturally turned out to be the most difficult thing that I had ever done.
I hoped it would get easier as time went on, but it did not. More children came, stretching me to new levels, and I regularly faced challenges that I had no idea how to solve:
How do you stay calm when your two-year-old gets out of bed every five minutes for three hours?
What do you do if your child has no interest in potty training at age 3?
How do you find joy when a messy house stresses you out, but you simply cannot keep it clean because the children who live there continually create messes?
What do you do if two of your children don’t get along?
How do you teach a strong-willed child to listen to you?
How do you reassure a child who is constantly worrying?
In the midst of these struggles, and many others like them, I began to question my ability to be a mother at all, let alone an “angel mother.” I felt like I would never measure up to the other amazing women in my life who seemed to have it all together.
I felt like I should be doing more of the things that good mothers do, like volunteering at the school, taking my kids to libraries and museums, doing cute crafts with them, and planning elaborate birthday parties. I felt like I was not understanding enough, patient enough, creative enough, or enough in any other way.
I was sure that I was failing motherhood.
I have since realized that what felt like failure was actually growing pains as I figured out who I was in this new stage of life. If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a young mother, this is what I would say:
You are enough! You are exactly what your children need. They do not need elaborate birthday parties, Pinterest-worthy craft projects, or weekly trips to museums and libraries.
They need YOU.
They need you because you dry their tears, kiss their fevered brows, hold them when they are scared, and encourage them to do hard things.
They need you because you tuck them in every night, push them on the swing even when you would rather read a book, and hold back the tears as you walk them into their classrooms on the first day of kindergarten.
They need you because you understand what it is like to have a bad day in middle school, and can encourage them to keep going when the path of life takes a steep uphill turn.
They need you because only you will be just as excited about their first dates as they are.
They need you because nobody knows them like you do. Even though you may not understand everything about them, nobody works harder to develop that understanding than you do.
They need you because you are uniquely their mom, complete with individual talents that make you awesome.
Don’t listen to that voice inside your head that tells you that you are not enough, because your kids do not agree with you. They love you because of who you are. In their eyes, you are amazing. You may not throw huge birthday parties or do intricate craft projects, but you teach them about the things that are most important to you, and they love you for that.
You may not be perfect, but perfection is not required in motherhood. A little messiness makes the whole process memorable. Nobody is perfect, not even the “angel mothers” that you hear about on Mother’s Day. I promise you that they have their bad days too. And, who knows…they may be looking at you and wondering how you do such amazing things with your kids. Women are funny that way. The grass is always greener in somebody else’s yard.
Learn to recognize, celebrate, and use your own gifts. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own kind of mother. While you may not be able to do everything as well as you would like to, I promise that you are doing better than you think.
I would say the same thing to any of you mothers out there who feel like you do not measure up to some unwritten standard of motherhood. This Mother’s Day, while you are listening to others sing the praises of their inspirational mothers, remember that you are one of them. You are strong, capable, and amazing. You are enough!
If you struggle to believe that, feel free to lean on my strength. While I am still weak in more areas than I can count, I have learned this particular lesson through the fire of difficult experience, which fire has burned the truth of this message into my heart always.
Trust me; you are exactly the mother that your kids need.