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 terrifying! The 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.