Being a mom is the hardest job that nobody prepared me for. It’s a job that requires more physical, emotional and mental energy than any other job I’ve held, yet it’s the one job I don’t get compensated for. I find myself constantly wondering how I’m supposed to do a good “job” at a job I haven’t been trained for. How the heck am I supposed to raise little humans to be good citizens—and not just “good” citizens, but actual upstanding citizens who contribute something of value to this broken world—when most days I don’t even feel like I’m measuring up myself?!
“Don’t judge others,” I tell my daughter, as I silently judge the outfit choice of the mother I pass at school drop-off.
“Stop whining,” I say, as I complain and vent to my husband about people at work.
“Don’t waste time,” I nag, as I spend 45 minutes browsing Pinterest looking for nothing in particular.
Brush your teeth longer, stop sitting on the chair that way, don’t talk back to me, if I have to tell you one more time to get in bed, why do you not know how to keep your room clean, you need to brush your hair better…
Just typing out those words makes me feel nauseous. I’m sure if I played back footage of myself after a day of mothering my three children, I would be thoroughly disappointed at how much patience I lack, how hard I can be on them, and how truly unqualified I am for this work.
Pushed Over The Edge
When my oldest was newly seven and had managed to push me to my limits, I got up in her face, finger-pointing and all, and yelled loudly, “FIX YOURSELF!” Like a bratty teenager I stomped away, huffing and feeling every bit entitled to my anger at her apathy and refusal to listen.
Why is my seven year-old so snotty? What did I ever do to deserve this treatment from her? I thought I raised her better than this!!”
These were the questions and thoughts that raced through my mind as I returned to my dishwashing duties. This wasn’t the first instance that she had given me attitude; in fact, there were countless times I had gotten worked up about her behavior, but this particular time felt like my breaking point. Any mom knows, you can only take so much before you explode. I am no stranger to this feeling, and I absolutely hate it, but I often feel powerless to control my emotions when I reach this place of frustration.
While finishing up my kitchen duties, I suddenly had this sickening feeling that I was a total hypocrite. Aren’t we all in need of fixing? I wondered. We come into the world that way and we leave the world that way. Do I have a right to tell my child to fix herself…when I often feel like I can’t do anything right? Was this just my way of projecting my own insecurities onto my daughter? Am I a terrible mom for making her feel like she’s not worthy, not enough?!
Learning To Forgive Myself
And then I had this moment where I had to give myself a pep talk. Lindsay, stop over-thinking this. You ARE a good mom, but you had a WEAK moment, and that will just be one of hundreds—probably thousands—and it’s not your job to punish yourself. It’s your job to strive to be a little better each day. It’s your job to forgive your kids and forgive yourself…again and again and again.
As mothers, we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. We too often feel that we are totally screwing up this gig. From the time that we are young girls, we look forward to being moms, accepting the fact that it’s a sacred job—one so vastly important and underappreciated and difficult and scary and all the things. When we give birth to our babies we are quite literally launched into the unknown, and there’s no handbook to walk us through what good mothering entails. We want to do an amazing job—we want to do it “right”—and so we strive for this way of doing it that we think is “perfect.”
And no doubt we compare ourselves to other moms. We feel mom guilt at the drop of a hat. We ruthlessly chastise ourselves and cry ourselves to sleep and constantly wonder if it’s all worth it.
And I think sometimes God gives us little whispers and nudges to remind us that we are, in fact, just right for the job. Being a mother is a glorious responsibility because we are free to do it in the way that makes sense to us. We all have different talents, gifts, experiences and backgrounds that we bring to our children. Our uniqueness is what makes us exactly the right woman to raise the kids we have. When we yell, when we feel we have failed our children, when we question our methods, we are only doing ourselves a disservice by weakening the capabilities that God armed us with long ago. We are MEANT for this job and we can rock this job if we accept our imperfections and let go of the need to do it all right.
And I am convinced that despite our shortcomings, lack of patience, myriad imperfections…our children will thrive.
Accepting The “90 Percent” Mom
Maybe I shouldn’t have said those words to my daughter. But then again, maybe it didn’t really matter. Because 90% of the time I am offering her soothing words of encouragement, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, a lap to snuggle on, and an environment filled with safety and love. And yet, with all of that goodness she receives from me, I tend to dwell on the one negative thing—the one thing I felt I did wrong. And it eats me up.
My daughter went about her business just fine that day. She may have sulked a little, but she got out of the shower, got dressed, and then proceeded to play with her little brother. What seemed like mere minutes after I yelled at her (and completely destroyed her soul), she asked if she could paint my nails. I meekly looked up at her and thought, Wait, don’t you hate me? Aren’t you ruined by my vicious words and complete and utter lack of patience? And in her smile, that little whisper from God, I was reminded that children are resilient and forgiving. They will always give us another chance. They will come back to us because they know the 90% mom; she’s the one that shows up for them the most.
The other 10%? We have to let it go. Instead of blaming ourselves for our lack of patience, our constant yelling, or our inability to be calm and happy most of the time, let’s give ourselves grace upon grace upon grace. Let’s tell ourselves over and over again that we are completely capable of this responsibility—this joyous work— and there are a million ways to do it right. Occasional blow-ups come with the territory, but isn’t that true for everything in life?
We are ALL hypocrites. We are ALL messing up. But what will always overpower our flaws is the complete, unconditional love we have for our kids. And that is enough.
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