It had been one of those mornings. The kind where I wondered why in the world I make the same mistakes over and over again. The kind where my inadequacies were blaring in my ear like a siren. The kind where my fears of failing motherhood were almost tangible as my mind replayed the argument that I just had with one of my children – the one that I begrudgingly admitted may have been my fault.
How I hate those mornings.
When the kids left for school, and the house was finally quiet, I put on my sneakers and jacket and went outside, needing some fresh air to clear my head. The morning was windy and cold, with storm clouds threatening overhead, so there were not many people outside. I was grateful for that because I could be alone with my thoughts.
As I walked down the path, dodging puddles that had collected the previous day and fighting back tears of frustration, I found myself talking out loud to God.
We had a good conversation – God and I. Mostly I just spewed out my worries in a messy and haphazard way, asking for more understanding, more patience, and, most importantly, more love, because I felt lacking in all of those areas. I told Him that I believed He sent my children to me for a reason, but knowing that reason would be helpful because I was obviously inept at raising them. I felt like I was doing more to ruin my kids than to train them right.
It was a good hour-long therapy session, even if I did all of the talking. I did not hear any voices that told me exactly how to keep my cool during moments of whining and complaining (because there is nothing that gets me upset in a hurry like whining and complaining). An action plan to help me better understand my kids and their individual needs did not fall from the sky, even though that is what I wanted more than anything.
However, by the time I got back home, a measure of peace and hope filled my heart, and that felt like God’s answer to my pleas. I knew I could stop feeling sorry for myself and simply keep trying to do my best. Even though my best is not even close to perfect. Even though I make a mess out of things from time to time. Even though I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.
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The truth is that motherhood is messy. Most of us desire to be ideal mothers who raise thoroughly responsible, obedient, respectful, amazing children. Yet all of us, somewhere in our hearts, whether deep down or near the surface, worry about failing in this vital role because we know that, no matter how hard we try, we will always have weaknesses. And sometimes our children are the ones who suffer as a result of our shortcomings.
We worry about our kids growing up and blaming all of their problems on our poor parenting abilities. We worry more about whether they would be justified if they ever did that. We worry about them rebelling and walking away from the things that are most dear to our hearts – the things that we spend years trying to teach them. We worry about our lack of patience in moments when they succeed in pushing all of our buttons at once, and how that will affect them. We worry about whether we do too much for them, or not enough, and what the consequences will be in the long run, either way.
I could fill up an entire book of worries and still not cover them all. While I believe a little bit of concern is a good thing because it shows that we are taking our responsibility to teach our children seriously, too much of it can become paralyzing.
For those of you who, like me, sometimes struggle with feelings of failure, who may have temporarily lost hope, I plead with you to remember that motherhood is not easy work, and sometimes you need to cut yourself some slack.
If that sounds overwhelming and you do not know where to begin, start by talking to a trusted friend about your challenges, especially one who is also in the trenches of motherhood. Or, better yet, one who has navigated the turbulent waters that you are now facing and has emerged with more strength and greater perspective. Knowing that you are not alone in your struggles does wonders, and I guarantee that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
I hike with a friend a couple of times every week and we often discuss the difficulties that we are facing with our children, who are similar ages. It feels like free therapy. Plus, it reminds me that her kids are just as imperfect as mine, even though they seem like angels, and both of us are simply trying to survive while muddling through comparable challenges.
I have learned that it does me no good to be embarrassed about the things that I struggle with, especially in motherhood, because there is always somebody struggling with the same things. We need each other to be real and vulnerable. We need to be willing to shed the illusion of perfection that most of us desire to share with the world and talk to each other about the battles that we are simultaneously fighting. There is strength in numbers.
I echo the words of Jeffrey R. Holland:
To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle–and all will–I say, Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are…I can pay no higher tribute to anyone.
It is OK to struggle; it happens to everybody. It is what we do as a result of the challenge that matters. Will we learn from it or allow it to defeat us?
Solidarity, ladies. We are all in this together.