We had a date night this week.
I didn't really know what to do with myself. I mean, I was able to eat the entirety of my steak fajita salad without once saying, "No, sippy cups stay on the table." or "Take a bite!"
It was like a weird piece of heaven, and I'm totally willing to only visit it occasionally.
I love my kiddies. I missed them.
Even after what feels like the 36th lunch in a row of, "But you like mac'n'cheese!"
After dinner, hand-in-hand, the hubster and I browsed one of my favorite places: Barnes and Nobles. Had I unlimited time and resources, I would have a massive library, a huge reading chair, and a crackling fire. And I wouldn't move for days. But I sense that such a lifestyle wouldn't be entirely good for me, so God has refrained from giving it to me. Doubtless, I wouldn't turn into a wise sage like C.S.Lewis, I'd just turn into a fat, grumpy recluse.
But on special nights out, it's fun to pretend that I could be Lewis, and it's delightful to peruse all the fascinating things that I may, someday, have time to read.
Unfortunately, in between biographies on astronauts' wives and delightful children's books, I usually find several things that I'm tempted to hurl through a window and burn in the parking lot.
I was very tempted to mention certain authors and books in this post, but my common sense got the better of me, and several nights of sleep has lessened my vitriol. But it has not dulled my conviction that motherhood has taken a serious blow.
The "Me" generation has raised their babies, and now the "More of Me-Me-Me!" generation is launching into their children. The number of books out there to talk to mothers is astounding. And do you know what their overwhelming theme is?
You are okay.
You are doing a good job.
You are a wonderful mother.
Don't feel guilty. It's society's fault.
Don't stress it.
But then I glance up from these nice thoughts and see a section for teenagers full of smarmy love stories and vampire-obsessed literature, and I think to myself, "Ah, but we should be stressed! If we are raising kids who like this CRAP, then we're doing something wrong!"
So, let's talk about "mommy guilt:" that insane pressure apparently all women have felt from the dawn of time... When you type the phrase "mommy guilt" into Google, these are your top links: "Top 7 Mommy Guilt Trips: and how to handle them," "31 Reasons You Shouldn't Feel Mom Guilt," "Kiss Mommy Guilt Goodbye."
Apparently, the only thing we should do with "mommy guilt" is get rid of it. Banish it. Smear on some "You're a good mommy" cream and move on.
But I'm here to argue something else. Perhaps there's a reason why countless women wrestle with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and ineffectiveness. It seems that one of the few, universal truths of motherhood is that everyone feels like they're doing a horrible job. At least once. A day. Okay, all the time.
Perhaps you have "mommy guilt" because... okay, this is going to sound radical... maybe it's because you really aren't doing a great job.
I fully expect you to slap me across my face next time you see me.
Okay, but stop. Think.
We moms have a lot to think about, tons to juggle, and countless errands, tasks, and projects to complete. If you work outside the home and parent, I'm in awe of you. Regardless, motherhood makes life chaotic. Perhaps, what we worry about with our children, is not that they are getting to know their God and learning obedience to Him, but perhaps we worry about their socialization, their hobbies, the way they weren't invited to some one's birthday party, the irritating habit they have of leaving toast smears and crumbs all over the kitchen. Or once we take care of the immediate needs of our children, we tune out with TV, or a women's group, or the phone... And our parenting stops there.
I know that I'm often thoughtless and distracted when I am with my children. I know I err on the side of "disengaged" and counter-top wiping as opposed to gently teaching and actively involved. Being a parent requires that you be ON. You know what I mean: catch every little thing, analyze your child's character, actively teach, pour into, and invest in. It requires energy. Wisdom. Patience. You have to be responsive and thoughtful.
But although I know this, I also know that I react much more quickly to things which make me uncomfortable as opposed to things which make my Savior sad.
For instance, that infamous grocery store meltdown: does it grieve me that my child would sin and display such a horrible lack of love and self-control, or am I embarrassed that everyone is looking at me and my ridiculous child is making this trip such an ordeal and I'm getting a headache and just want to go home?
We can fill up our motherhood moments worrying, fixating, and obsessing about things which don't matter. And if this is ever you (um, the author sheepishly raises her hand), then the mommy guilt is real. And you shouldn't try to banish it. Look at it head on. Calmly evaluate. Take steps to change.
You are tasked with raising a soul. And although God in his sovereignty graciously works outside of our feeble attempts of parenting, he has given you a precious task: to teach souls. Your child is not "yours." They are a gift. Which you are to be stewarding.
So, stop for a minute, before you explode about the toast smears:
1. Did my child disobey?
2. Does my child know how to pray?
3. Does my child hear me talk about my Savior?
4. Does my child daily see the benefits of obedience and the consequences of disobedience?
5. Am I helping them grow self-control? In their eating, their talking, their whining, their sleeping, their playing...? Self-control doesn't come. It is pursued.
6. Am I showing them love? Do they see that I love their daddy, the people we encounter and all their grandparents (on both sides of the family!)?
7. Am I praising small obedience and tender hearts?
8. Am I demonstrating joy?
9. Do I read them the Bible and talk about the stories?
Is your child obeying? Yes. Do they know how to run to Jesus? Yes. Do they seem to be cultivating (with your help) the fruits of the Spirit, or a tenderness to their Savior? Yes.
Okay. Then you're good. Banish the mommy guilt. Wash it away. You're doing a perfect job. Mothers want to be you, kids want you for their mom.
Unless you can't possibly do all those things. And unless the mommy guilt is there for an additional reason...
(this blog is part one in a two-part series... click here to continue.)