success in motherhood.

It's easy to feel like a failure in motherhood. Beyond the "mommy wars," I believe most women struggle with internal wars. At least, I do. I've found myself more than once thinking or even saying out loud in my very-frustrated-about-to-lose-it voice, "I can't do this" or "I suck at this" or "I'm a terrible mom."

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.

 
And then one day, I had an epiphany. It came to me while I was listening to one of my favorite 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.

I've been thinking and mulling about this post for well over a month now. My friend Ariana recently posted on Instagram about her to-done list for the day. She'd only actually "done" two things with her toddler and newborn, but she shared this profound insight: "Being a productive mama is far more about emotions than it is chores." SO IT'S OK that things don't get done in favor of playing outside or reading books, because those things help us get through the day. It's not worth it to lose my cool over the dishes piled in the sink because their little hearts are so much more fragile, and the time I have with them is so brief.

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....)

4 comments :

  1. Beautiful, Kylie! You make some great points and I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

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  2. Excellent post Kylie. I love the honesty and insight. Parenting is much more mentally and emotionally challenging than I would have guessed. I'm amazed at how immature my responses toward my children are sometimes - still. Also how easy it is to get the priorities wrong.
    I am confident that your little ones are very lucky to have you as their mother.
    -Trent

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  3. That part about God's grace is exactly what I needed to hear right now! I am so glad that He gave our children such forgiving spirits. I feel a little more empowered and encouraged as I'm about to start another day. Thank you for your uplifting words!

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  4. I really needed this post today! I had one of those moments the other day when my toddlers were screaming and I just kept saying to myself, "It's your own fault they yell at each other. You're the one who set the example." I was just beating myself up over every little mistake they made. I'm glad that there are people like you to remind people like me that we're doing okay.

    I love this part of your post:
    "Does God fail to be God because His children sin? No. That's absurd."

    Sue//susanstange.com

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Thanks for reading! I love reading your thoughts, too :)