My fingers are resting on the keys as I think back through all of the moments when I have not felt equipped as a mother. When I have absolutely failed. I tend to play this awful highlight reel over and over in my mind — whether it is the wrong things I did today, or this week, or this month — and I am so easily crushed by it. Crushed by my mistakes. My shortcomings. The times I was too quick to anger. The times I lacked patience. Raised my voice. Did not show understanding. I think of the sad, hurt look on their faces in these moments. And I can go to a place of questioning my abilities as a mother. Where did all of the doubt come from?
I think back on the when and how the doubts started...we question everything, don't we? Should I breastfeed? What if I can't nurse well? What if I don't make enough milk? Is it ok to give formula? What if the formula I give is wrong? Do we co-sleep with the baby? Put them in another room and use a monitor? Swaddle? Loose sleep sack? Stomach or back? What do I do if they get a diaper rash? Should I have used cloth diapers? Is it ok for them to use a pacifier? For how many years? Do I have to make my own baby food? And what about potty training? If they still aren't out of diapers at three am I failing? Why is my child biting? Do we homeschool? Traditional school? Why do they seemingly never listen? Why do they talk back? And questions I haven't faced yet but that are already present in my mind...What if I can't help them with their homework? What if I'm not smart enough? How do I handle bullying? My child to another, or another child to mine? How do I encourage them through that awkward phase? What if I lose my connection with them as a teenager? What if I don't ever truly understand one of them? Will they ever take responsibility seriously? Will they be motivated to walk through college well? How do I guide them to a good career? What if I overstep my boundaries as a parent when they are adults?
Am I doing everything wrong?
I am putting this out there because if I have these doubts and question my abilities as a mother, my guess is that you might, too. So what do we do about those doubts? How do we handle these, when our babies don't come with manuals?
We could easily make a list of tips and tricks to get us through the hard days…or just through bedtime…but I realized the question I should be asking is not whether I am doing everything wrong, but, am I focused on the wrong voice?
I read a book last summer that entirely shifted my perspective on parenting by Paul David Tripp entitled Parenting: 14 Gospel Centered Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. Well, I shouldn't say shifted my perspective; it was a perspective I yearned to have before reading it, but in practice it just never quite looked like what I wanted it to look like. If I am too wrapped up and focused on answering those questions above, I'm always honed in on the problem or the current stressor or looking at the next step. I get too concerned about stopping their behavior rather than shepherding their hearts. I end up being more focused on whether or not they are breaking my law that I have laid down to accomplish whatever goal may be at the top of the parenting list that season, rather than being focused on whether or not they are breaking God's law.
So these became my new questions:
Where should my focus be?
What is my real purpose?
Why am I here as a mother?
When we take our eyes off of Him and zero in on those never-ending questions above and one hundred more, we lose focus. We are suddenly in a dizzying tailspin of the should's and should not's of motherhood. We are more wrapped up in nursing or formula feeding, rice cereal or liver (yes, it's an option) as a first food, traditional school or homeschool, rather than using our energy to focus on the One who will guide me as a patient shepherd throughout the process, showing me what is really important: compassionately guiding my flock as He guides me. Being an ambassador of His to my children.
Purpose is found when we realize life - motherhood - is not about the surface dilemmas we see.
We will ALWAYS have doubts. ALWAYS! But He asks us to trust Him. I have made so many mistakes in parenting I have lost count. I am still learning. But the biggest mistakes I have ever made are in the moments where I get wrapped up in the doubts — I react, rather than respond — and I realize I have taken my eyes off of Him. I have elevated myself to a position of being able to create change, as if I am in control. And when we think we have the power to change, our parenting will be demanding, aggressive and focus on rules. We’re trying to make them into something rather than help them see and seek something.
This book has been so meaningful to me, I have chosen it to be our first Book Club read, starting this coming February 1, if anyone else wants to come together and read it as a group. I can't wait to dig into the book with you, but for now continue to trust. Continue to pray. And remind yourself that even if you feel like you’ve wrecked this thing called motherhood or are stuck in the mundane, no one is beyond purpose because no one is beyond the love and grace of Jesus.
It is never too late to shift your focus.
Actually, I have a small p.s. to add.
It is funny…no, funny is not the right word…it is so gracious of God to speak to us right when we need it. This doubting of my abilities was swirling in my head last night as I put my 6 year old to bed. Every night I ask my children, “What do I want you to remember?” They say back to me, “I am kind. I am smart. I am important. And I can do anything I set my mind to.” I said that last night, he responded, I kissed him good night, told him I loved him and as I was getting up to leave he said,
“Wait, Mommy, what do I want you to remember?”
I smiled. “I don’t know. What?”
“That you are a great Mommy.”
My heart. I took a deep breath and held back some tears.
“Say it back to me. What do I want you to remember?”
Why was it so hard for me to say? “I am a great Mommy.”
“That’s right! The greatest.”
Even when we feel like we are doing our worst, these little people in your life think you hung the moon. Don’t be so hard on yourself. And trust that the Lord can redeem anything. He is so kind. So compassionate. So patient and loving. And gives us a guidebook…we just have to let Him lead the way.
So looking forward to walking through the book with you… You are a great Mommy.