When I became a mother, I had all these visions in my head as to what kind of mother I would be. I envisioned myself as this involved, homeschooling mother, who had children who used their manners, quietly sat through church every Sunday, and never yelled or got in trouble. I would whisk them away as soon as they began to get overwhelmed and successfully calm them. We would present healthy foods every night and read books before bed, all cuddled up together in a line.
Not shockingly, my children did not adhere to what I expected from them in these daydreams. I was quick to allow and forgive them for that-after all, they were children and I knew I would love them no matter what. But I was not as quick to allow myself grace and love myself no matter how many “failures” I had as a mother.
I try to joke about it now; I try to highlight the mistakes and the times I am not the perfect mother on social media so others will see they are not alone. But for me, it wasn’t always a joke. I spent a lot of time hating the ways I didn’t succeed, hating myself because I was never going to be a good mother like my mom or my Mema. I grew up around pretty amazing moms. I’ve talked about how magnificent a woman my mother is. For those who don’t feel like reading, long story short? Five biological children, two adopted, a few fostered, a bachelors and masters, 20 years of marriage, a job she’s spectacular at, while being smoking hot-all by the age 45. That’s a lot to live up to and while she’s never pushed me to be the same as she is, I always saw it as an all or nothing when it came to being a mom.
My mother would be the first to tell you she was far from perfect, but I still saw her as great. So when I began parenting and couldn’t live up to the expectations I had, I felt like a failure as a parent, pretty regularly.
Grace is something that we were given as Christians, and it’s something we are called to give others. We are also called to extend it to ourselves. Recently I read a wonderful quote by C.S. Lewis; “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
And how true is that? How often as mothers do we withhold forgiveness and grace from ourselves? How often do we allow ourselves to continuously beat ourselves up over things that our children will forget someday? I’ve made a conscious effort this year to begin to give grace and forgiveness to myself over the things that are small and insignificant in the long run; the things I usually would beat myself up for months over. This has looked like two specific behaviors.
First, I allow myself to think about how I could have avoided or changed a situation-but only for five minutes.
If you’re anything like me, you dwell. And dwell. Then you dwell some more. I spend hours obsessing over the ways I could have done it differently, thinking about all the things I did to lead up to this situation, wondering if I could have avoided this accident or bump or bruise. Sometimes, I couldn’t have. Other times, there are steps I could have taken to avoid an explosion or an accident. I have been letting myself think of those for five minutes-but that’s it! After five minutes I work diligently to let go of what just happened by using my affirmations.
The second step, affirmations, are something I’ve put into use in many areas of my life over the past ten years and when I began to apply them to parenting, I was left wondering why I hadn’t before! I recite these back to myself and have them written all over our home. I included six of my little affirmation cards that you can download/save and print out for yourself to keep on your dresser or in your wallet. Make your own too! Hang them in places you end up when you’re feeling like a terrible mom. (I have a book of them in the bathroom. Because like any sane adult, when I feel badly, I resort to hiding in the bathroom. It’s also the only door in our house that locks.)
For my new mom friends out there; this is going to be hard and you will find yourself doubting every choice you make. For the older or more experienced moms, you have probably been doing this for years. Or if you haven’t, please tell me how you avoided it!
We’re all just moms.
And honestly, we are good moms. We love our children, we work our bottoms off, and we are doing the best we can. You are a good mom. I am a good mom. Your best friend is a good mom.
It’s time to fight back against this anger and resentment of all the things we aren’t as mothers and begin to recognize all the positives we bring into our relationships as such good moms. God made you a mother for a reason.