Harder than I imagined..

I want to be a good mommy.  I want to want to do the things that are good and fun for Jones, like playing outside, even when its cold and I’d rather read a book.. Or making something with him in the kitchen, even if it will leave a mess.  Or doing creative crafts with him.  Heck, I’d take something much simpler — how about just being calmer while he’s throwing a fit and not start to throw one myself?  (How embarrassing the moments I’ve realized this is what I’m doing!)  Or refusing to give him the angry eyes and angry voice when he hits me?  He’s two!  If I respond in anger, how do I expect him to learn that hitting when he’s angry is wrong?  Or getting down on his level the first time he says ‘mom’ instead of waiting till I can’t handle the ‘mom mom mom mom’ anymore?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how much of motherhood is wrapped up in doing things I don’t want to do, in pulling myself away from my desires and setting myself firmly and squarely in what my family needs.  In theory, when I was pregnant, I understood self-sacrifice to be one of the main aspects of parenting.. because its a main aspect of the Christian life.  I thought I was self-sacrificing when I signed up to work at Food Net, or when I got up a half-hour early for church to bake some muffins to take, or when I sat with squirming three- and four-year-olds in Cubbies — and I was!  But, oh the difference between that and motherhood.  And for some reason, my struggle with self-sacrifice during Jones’s babyhood, complete with the middle-of-the-night feedings and the round-the-clock care and the constant worry about whether I was doing things right or wrong, didn’t hold a candle to what I’m struggling with now — when I’m not supposed to be a “new” mom anymore, when Jones is talking and things are supposed to be ‘fun’.  Truth be told, in this current phase of our mother-son relationship, I don’t think there are many things I do with him during the day that I actually want to be doing.  Most of the time, I’m dragging myself behind him, trying to think up ways in which I could make him happy while still doing what I want to do.  This is sad to admit, but its the truth of life at the moment, and I’m not revealing all in this post in order to fish for some “but you’re a good mom” comments, but simply because its the truth of my heart’s condition, and I’m tired of pressing it down and naming it a “normal” struggle of motherhood.  Perhaps its a common experience, but something in the word “normal” invites me to feel at ease and quit worrying/analyzing/thinking about how to change a situation I’m clearly unhappy with.  Saying something is “normal” means I can get by with second-rate effort and absolve myself of guilt.  Or at least that’s what its meant for me in this struggle.

I know some will read “I’ve failed at being a mom,” and want to tell me that I’m a good mother, I haven’t failed, and my child will turn out all right — he’s not being raised by a drug-addicted cult leader, is he?  I think I’m learning that my issue with this response, a response I have even given to myself, is that it does nothing to absolve the feelings deep in my heart — the feelings of selfishness and pride and guilt over sin.  Those words may hold some truth, but they address the surface and are a temporary fix to a very deep, very sensitive issue — failing as a mother is the true fear of any woman who has ever been responsible for a child.  The thought that your screw ups will screw up your child is terrifyingThe deeper truth, however, is that failing as a mother is inevitable. (I think I may need to read that several times now that I’ve typed it out.)

I have failed Jones, and I will continue to do so, I’m sure.  Without Jesus, this knowledge would send me into a tailspin of regret and inescapable guilt, knowing that, day after day, I have to fight myself tooth-and-nail to do the things that are necessary during the day — to give Jones the proper attention, to get off the couch, to stop ignoring him when his needs have hit my patience limit, to actually wash a dish or two, to turn off whatever kid program I stuck in to get a moment’s peace. Without Jesus, I would just continue in whatever I considered a failed model of motherhood because there would be no hope for the future, for the forgiveness of my sins, the absolution of my guilt, the freedom from condemnation.  And that’s what I’ve been doing.  Living without Jesus, though He’s standing right in front of me.  When I think about it, I think guilt over my failtures and plain ole’ fashioned stubborness of NOT wanting to do the small tasks of motherhood (countless trips to the park, car-seat tantrums, thinking of things to do when Jones is bored) are the main reasons I’ve been avoiding the obviously conclusion of my NEED for JESUS.

But I have Jesus.  Oh how I needed to hear this today!  I have Jesus.. and that’s about as much as I understand at this moment.


6 thoughts on “Harder than I imagined..

  1. Oh, does this strike a chord. Not to let you off the hook, but this IS a common struggle. That is why motherhood and marriage is so sanctifying – we are constantly called to do the opposite of what we want to do. This has been so good for me. How many times have I asked myself the eternal significance of this little choice I’m making right now? What if I let my child off the hook, instead of calling on God’s wisdom and struggling to figure out how to deal with the problem? Struggles change, but our battle with self does not. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to counsel my daughter, who just got asked out on her first date from a guy she is interested in. How I wish she just wanted me to play outside with her again! 🙂

  2. Jamie: first of all, thanks for the honesty. As Jen said, this is “normal”; but we need to understand that “normal” doesn’t mean easy or ‘you get a free pass on this’. Motherhood is sanctifying. I have always maintained was that God gave us seven children in part because he knew I needed that at least that many to help me grow. 🙂 Evidently only one or two would not be enough, and I know that is true–I would still be hanging on to my own pride in being a good mom, and look how great they turned out, and didn’t I do awesomely. (Not to say that I still don’t struggle with pride–it’s an ongoing thing.) Having kids humbles you. Being in a marriage humbles you. Being in relationships with others where you have to serve others instead of your own desires humbles you. And it makes you realize–I need Jesus. He’s the only one who can handle this. And really, that’s one of the big lessons he has for us in this life, I think: that we would realize that we are not in control and in charge. We need to depend on Him.

    If you are learning that failure as a mother is inevitable on child number one, you are ahead of me. 🙂

    Some things that we do as mothers naturally bring us joy in the job; others are just plain no fun, and require sacrificing our own wants a good portion of the time. (I am convinced that most of disciplining one’s young ones consists of getting one’s butt off the couch to deal with it, instead of following the desire to sit and let whatever happens, happen.)

    You have Jesus. And you recognize it. That’s what really matters.
    And you have the rest of us, such as we are, on the journey with you. Hang in there.
    Love you, sister.

    p.s. Sorry for the even longer comment, but soon our Mom to Mom talk from last week will be up on the Zion site–Shirley Moore from Grace Chapel spoke on moms finding their significance and security from God. It was GREAT. Give it a listen when it’s up!

  3. Jamie: I tried posting a comment earlier, and it didn’t appear to “take”, so I’m trying again. If the first comment eventually shows up, sorry about the duplication.

    First of all, thanks for the honesty. There is a lot of guilt associated with motherhood, not the least of which is “I SHOULD be enjoying my child” and feeling like a bad mom when you don’t necessarily. There is joy in many of the things of being a mom or parent, and then there are a lot of things that you don’t enjoy, but are nevertheless a part of it all. So much sacrificing your own desires of what you want to do with your time, and instead, playing trucks in the yard or re-arranging Polly Pocket furniture or letting your little one “help” with the cooking or whatever.

    Motherhood is sanctifying. I have always maintained that part of the reason God gave me seven children is because he knew I needed at least that many to start sanctifying my life. 🙂 And I have so far to go….but I know that if I had only had 2 or 3 kids, I would be very smug and proud about how well they turned out, and aren’t I an awesome mom, and I have all the answers ! I am thoroughly disabused of that idea–although struggling with pride is an ongoing issue, and probably always will be.
    (Disclaimer: I am not saying that EVERYONE needs more than 3 kids to make them more humble–this is just true for me. )

    Having kids humbles you. Being in a marriage humbles you. Being in close relationship with others humbles you. They all help you realize that you don’t have all the answers, you’re not in control, and you really, really need Jesus.

    You are realizing this on your first child, so you are way ahead of me. 🙂

    And know that we are all on this journey with you, such as we are. Hang in there, and hang on to Jesus.
    Love you, sister.
    p.s. Our last Mom to Mom speaker, Shirley Moore from Grace Chapel, spoke to some of this last Thursday. It should be on the Zion website soon. Give it a listen when it is up! Good stuff.

  4. Your post is exactly what I think and feel daily. Yesterday Etta wanted to stay outside and play with chalk (after and hour walk to mochizuki and a strawberry stand then home) when all I wanted to do was put the groceries away and sit for a few minutes. I had no desire to color with her and it made me feel horrible. I think all of us stay at home moms (heck probably even working mothers) just want some alone time from the kids and do something as simple as watch a grown up movie or even read friends’ blogs. I’m sure we’ll struggle with this until they move out of the house! Then we’ll still feel bad that we aren’t as active in their lives as we could be. Just remember, Jones doesn’t need you 24/7 and this will be apparent once number 2 comes. If only we can teach the kids to be more self entertaining when the time calls for it (like when cooking!)

  5. Jamie, we can certainly understand where you are coming from. I ditto what the others said—you have Jesus and that will make all the difference.
    Love you!
    Mike and Dixie

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