Expectations in mothering.

Our staff team has used Gallup’s StrengthsFinder this past year to learn more about ourselves and each other. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m really good at analyzing present circumstances and thinking of ways to enhance them. I’ve also learned that I currently lack the wisdom to know when the present circumstances require analyzing, and whether or not a new method is helpful or necessary. I also lack the maturity to understand fully that the necessity of improvement is not always the result of a personal flaw.

Relating this to motherhood, I’ve often struggled with a nameless sadness. Things are not as they should be — I’m not doing what I should be. I can do this better. So on and so forth. I make plans, I get excited about them, and I implement them. Discipline methods, screen time, “natural play”, quality time, eating habits, etc etc etc — nothing is beyond the reach of my evaluating prowess! But then time passes and that feeling reemerges. Quickly on its heels is guilt: What did I do wrong? Do I need to move backward, to what I’ve done before? Forward, to what I’ve not done yet?

Self-improvement and growth are not the things I’m talking about here, but rather constant evaluation of a process that is not in need of it. My kids don’t need me to rearrange bedtime routines every few months, though I can do that if I choose. But they don’t NEED it, its not required of me as their mother. In fact, there are very few things they NEED, and they already have them: food, physical affection, presence, a listening ear. They don’t have these to the ends of my capacity, but they have them in good measure, and I’m learning that is enough.

This evaluation not tempered by wisdom has created in me a restlessness for a method, a philosophy or program, that will make things feel right with finality in motherhood, a useless goal in a broken world. That is Christ’s job, not mine. Which is not why I was given those analytical qualities in the first place. Really, I’m not certain why I have them — increasing efficiency in business? or in toy clean-up? — but I know they aren’t meant to rectify any worldly circumstance (mothering or otherwise). This helps me let go, helps me be okay with the idea that life is probably never going to feel “just right”, no matter what method I’m employing for parenting, cleaning, or self-care. “Enough” has become an important phrase for me this year.

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