Today is Mother’s Day and while we all imagine that moms around the world are being served breakfasts in bed, are getting kisses from their beautiful children, their home is conflict-free for the day, and they skip through meadows of daisies at some point in the afternoon, it doesn’t work that way – at least not for all moms and rarely do daisies come into play.
While I feel super blessed in this moment (my hubby and middle son are picking me up a white chocolate hazelnut latte from a local coffee joint), my heart has struggled the past several weeks with the perceived pressures of what it means to be a good mom which means that I’m struggling with 1) prioritizing people’s perceptions of me which makes me a people-pleaser and 2) comparing myself to others in the midst of a crazy season of life. I often forget that parenting IS that crazy season.
When the boys were younger, I had to get over mommy guilt on so many levels (not that it doesn’t still affect me – I’m just quicker to recognize it): what my boys ate, how often they brushed their teeth, allowing them to watch the same movie over and over so I could take a much-needed nap, allowing dust bunnies to multiply under the sofa, saying no too much, saying yes too much, being too strong in some areas and too weak in others, struggling with feeling neglectful when I needed a break, and blah, blah, blah…. I’ve struggled with depression for more years than I care to count so needlessly carrying around this ‘mommy guilt’ was too much. Ridiculous. There aren’t actually any perfect moms out there so why are we comparing ourselves to others anyway? (Actually, it’s very popular to have mommy guilt- just an FYI.) It’s just nonsense. It’s a waste of emotional energy. And bottom line: there is nothing about guilt that is godly. Let me say it again -guilt does not make us godly.
While you don’t win points in Heaven for carrying around guilt like a badge of honor or for being a martyr who crucifies themselves on the cross of mommyhood, the unfortunate irony is that do you win points with other flawed humans when you’re a mommy martyr. What do I mean by this? I’m so glad you asked…
Through the various seasons of motherhood, I’ve watched countless moms exhaust themselves into a puddle of manic wheel-spinning. They do and do and do and do with no rest in sight. These moms are considered the good moms by society’s standards. They perform out of expectations of others rather than peace and love for the world around them. They are extremely uncomfortable with saying no and/or they say no to anything that is not centered on their children. (Um, side thought – it’s truly baffling that so many young adults are self-centered and feel entitled, is it not?) Moms everywhere burn themselves out on every level as they hang themselves on the cross of motherhood.* I, myself, am guilty of this a time or twenty.
Our culture teeters dangerously close to the edge of family idolatry. (Yes, ANYTHING that consumes us can become a little god who rules our hearts and minds – a relationship, job, hobby, identity, etc). This is called idolatry. The problem is that when our god or idol fails -and it always will- we crumble, grieve, fall apart, and become angry. We grasp for more control and then sacrifice more and more at the feet of our god. We, ourselves – seeking our own pleasures, our own satisfactions, our own accolades, to satisfy ourselves can also become our own god.
Quality friendships become fewer.
Marriages weaken and sometimes fail.
Time to think deeply disappears.
Exercising or tending to our physical health is seen as a luxury.
Growing emotionally, spiritually, and mentally becomes non-existent
We stop exploring life, hobbies, skills, interests, etc.
So because it’s Mother’s Day today and now I hear my boys finishing with the breakfast dishes, I’m not going to continue to ramble. We can finish this discussion another time but let me just challenge moms out there as I challenge my own heart today:
-What are our children’s actual needs physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
-What are their wants?
-Which do we tend to accommodate more?
-In what areas are we sacrificing our health (emotionally, spiritually, physically) so that we can be seen as a good mom by others?
-In what ways do we sacrifice our sanity, marriages, and friendships so that we can be seen as a good mom by others?
-How can we be quicker about recognizing needs (our own and our family’s) and prioritize those over the expectations of culture?
I know so many really good moms out there – solid women who are passionate about loving their families well. I really admire these women on so many levels. These women challenge me through their victories and mistakes to make better choices myself. Isn’t this the joy of community- the journey we travel together?
Thank you, my friends, moms, and aunties for the amazing women you are. You have impacted my life and taught me much about mothering. I love you!
Happy Mother’s Day.
*While motherhood, like marriage, requires sacrifice on countless levels, it’s the woman herself that is responsible for recognizing her actual needs as a person and verbalizing and prioritizing them within a personal context, the marriage (partnership) context, and within the relationships around her.
**For the sake of kicks and giggles, let’s just define a little god as anything that has a lifespan.