Most of these thought patterns revolve around what is happening or not happening. If I can't get the dishes and laundry done and the house is strewn about with toys and the toilets need scrubbing and the tile is splattered with who-knows-what, then I feel like a failure. If my kids are misbehaving, whining, crying, screaming, or throwing fits then it's all my fault and I must be failing. When I would struggle with potty training and sleep training and proper-grocery-store-behavior training, it was all on me.
podcasts. In this particular episode, a group of moms was being interviewed specifically because they each had 6+ children. I loved it. I snatched up every scrap of advice they had to offer from their bounty of knowledge. I've listened to it twice, at least. Anyway, the epiphany came when they started talking about what success in motherhood meant to them.
First, Jen said, "At first I thought success meant that all their teachers love them, they have lots of friends, that we would always be smiling--a lot on measurable things[...] Now, I feel that I've been successful if they will kiss me in public [...] That for me means that we have a relationship."
My wheels started turning. I mean, I knew those things didn't *really* matter, but they still seemed important, ya know? Then, Stacey really drove it home for me: "I used to think that success as a mother was measured based on my children's behavior. Now I see that it's completely based on the relationship that I have with them."
Hold the phone. You mean I'm not a failure at being a mom when my threenager screams "I HATE YOU" and tries to hit me because I wouldn't let him watch a third episode of Little Einsteins (we are currently on a screen detox)? I'm not a failure because my one-year-old stiiiiiill winds up in my bed most nights because I just haven't had the courage or energy to sleep train him yet? My head probably already knew some of these things, but in my heart, I just wasn't sure. I think this can most definitely be carried on throughout our lives together, as my children grow. I'm not a failure if they get a ticket for speeding, or get a bad grade on a test. I'm not a failure if they choose a path I would rather they not take. I'm not a failure as a mother, and they are not a failure as a person if their room isn't clean or if they don't do their chores when I ask. One of Dr. Christi's favorite quotes is: "We are human beings, not human doings." I want my children to know I will love them, I will be there for them no matter what choices they make. They may break my heart, but I don't want them to ever break their ties to me.
At the end of the day, my three-year-old still tells me he loves me. He wants me to be part of every special, ordinary moment. He confides in me. He randomly thanks me throughout the day for doing something with him or for him, "Mom, thank you to take me to the museum." I'm still my one-year-old's favorite person and we get by with a little less sleep. They forgive me, by the hour, every day. They're so, so quick to forgive me--it's time to forgive myself. My theme for the year is grace, and it could not be more perfect for this season of my life. I have developed a habit of clinging to my mistakes--rehashing my shortcomings over and over in my mind. Grace allows me to strive for progress, not perfection. I'm a mom, not God. With His help, I can raise these beautiful little souls in my care. I can try to guide them along this path, but I cannot control what they do. Does God fail to be God because His children sin? No. That's absurd.
So, if you're a mom (or a dad) who is feeling like a failure for one reason or another, I hope you realize that you're not. And, I hope you give yourself and your children a little bit of grace. Just keep working on loving one another, and you'll be just fine.
(PS, Ironically enough, taking these pictures caused me to use a lot of pseudo swear words and this was a really, really hard day where I felt like a failure more than once. I think I need to start practicing deep breathing and repeating this post to myself over and over: it's about the relationship, it's about the relationship....)