Have you ever had one of those days where everything is just a little off? You wake up a few inches to the left. You run three minutes late to everything. You misjudge the proximity to which you are standing in relation to your kitchen counter, bend down and whap your forehead.
Oh wait, that was probably just me.
But that, seemingly, has been what the last 10 weeks have been for me. (I can be that specific because I have been keeping track. If you’re wondering why, it has to do with constant nausea, exhaustion and a due date of Sept. 8.)
No matter the cause, all this “off-ness” has brought two emotions constantly to the surface: guilt and failure.
I feel guilty that my house is a wreck. I feel guilty that my girls have watched way too much TV lately because I have been so tired and sick. I feel guilty that I’m a few weeks behind in my preschool instruction with my oldest. I feel guilty that I’ve let order slide into chaos. And on, and on, and on.
And then there’s the feeling of failure as I start comparing my children’s behavior to that of those around me. My oldest, who turns 4 next month, isn’t quite as embarrassing, though she can lay on the drama when needed.
But then there’s my youngest, who will be 2 in May. She is a determined, adventurous spirit who escapes from church nursery on a regular basis, who climbs on everything, who keeps me on my toes all the time and generally does her own thing.
I find myself thinking that if I were a better mother, my child would be calmer, more obedient and less embarrassing in public. If I were a better mother, my children would obey me the first time I say something and we would have a calm home.
I’ve almost come to a 100 percent conclusion that “mommy guilt” is the worst of any guilt. There’s nothing that weighs so heavily on a mom’s mind than feeling as though she is failing in her role of molding, shaping and teaching little lives.
The sinking feeling of failure has plagued me for weeks on end.
Until the moment I bruised my head on the counter.
I raised up, held my forehead in my hand, turned around and bit my tongue against the negative words forming. My daughters were both present in the kitchen, so I had to hold myself together. Instead of saying those choice words, I’m pretty sure I just said “OUCH” over and over.
But then my oldest came to me and stroked my arm while she said, “Mommy, I’m sorry that happened.” (How absolutely sweet! The tears of pain started changing to Hallmark tears.)
But then after a short pause, she added, “But you need to be more careful next time!”
Lesson learned. First, have better depth perception. Second, even if I feel I’m failing, my daughters are listening and learning all the time.
How many times have I said those exact sentences to her? And she even used the same loving tone I find myself using…not only to sympathize with the ouchie, but also to teach a lesson.
My children really are learning. And I’m not failing in my role as a mother. I simply needed a change in perspective. I needed to realize that my role as a mother is not to do everything perfectly—there’s no way I could succeed. My role is to train up my children in the way they should go so when they grow up, they won’t disregard my teaching.
A friend of mine forwarded me an e-mail from Proverbs 31 Ministries with an article titled “I don’t want to raise a good child.” In it, author Lysa TerKeurst shares how her determined, independent, insistent toddler had turned into a determined, independent, insistent young adult. That the things that drove her to feel like a terrible mother in the early years started to thrill her as her child grew up.
She writes, “Remember, the things that might aggravate you about your child today might be the very things, when matured, that make them great for God’s kingdom tomorrow.”
She continued to give this advice: Don’t take too much credit for your child’s good. Don’t take too much credit for their bad. Don’t try to raise a good child; raise a God-following adult.
And the mother of another determined, independent, insistent toddler says, “Amen.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.