It’s May! And that’s Mother’s Day month, so we thought we’d take a peek at “mama guilt.” If you haven’t read Tracy’s post, please do. She did a beautiful job. Kim’s up next week. Then we’re bringing back our sweet friend, Erin Thompson, the following week. It’s going to be a great month at FACETS!
I (Jennifer) have two arrows in the quiver, and (at 16 and 18) it seems like my sons will be flying out into the world to find their mark any second now. Time is a funny thing. Diaper changes and homemade baby foods were yesterday and forever ago at the same time. I’m in that season the mamas told me about. I didn’t believe them, but they were right. Time flies. And the arrows will fly, too.
I’m sifting through memories, and my heart is tender. My guys don’t know watery eyes and sniffs go with that. A picture from years ago appears in my social feed. I stumble on a video of my sons being silly and love every second of it. I want to relive some of the memories on the highlight reel over and over. You have some of those, don’t you? And they’re not always the “perfect” ones.
One arrow was affectionately known as “Poo-ccasso” for a few days. One boy may have dug through the drywall above his crib the day before our house closing. Jack the wonder sheltie, hated the 90-minute bath following the spray starch spiked hair incident. There was the pearl pink nail color incident. “Three drawers in a row makes a ladder” logic gave me fits for three weeks when I couldn’t figure out who was getting on top of the fridge and into the freezer. Time keeps marching on. Those days are faded images (and some are finally funny). *Grin* (If you’ve got great stories like these, please share them!)
Mamas have piles of memories. Some are precious. Sometimes we don’t realize how precious they were. Then something happens over time—we cherish different moments and learn to look at things with a little more perspective. In the moment, though…
I know I’m not the only one to be a hot mess as a mama. My sons’ allergic reactions made me feel terrible. I wondered if my child would ever eat something besides Goldfish, mac n’ cheese, and hot dogs. I was the first teacher my kids would know, and my work was cut out—eating, drinking, toilet training, hygiene, first words, counting, colors, the alphabet. Asking, telling, and listening were important skills. The virtues of sharing, honesty, and obedience were high priorities. Mamas are precious to child development, and a hefty emotional load can accompany the responsibility.
Not only was I the first teacher my sons knew, but as homeschoolers, I was one of the few they knew. Somewhere in junior high the academics pushed a “guilt button” I never knew I had. My mama guilt was rooted in a fear of the “what ifs” in life. Because decisions have consequences, I wondered if our choices (my husband’s, mine, and my sons’) would be devastating in the long run. Honestly, I was laser-focused on me, the mama, and the decisions I made. I can still hear my own voice—“Will this turn out okay? Have I messed up the rest of his life? I’m the worst mom ever!”
In 19 years I’ve learned a few things that may help a mama fighting the battle rooted in fear, the one I still fight. Sometimes a mix of facts and faith can ease it.
“Just the Facts, Ma’am…”
Whatever we learn from the first child does not apply to the second.
I have only two sons, but I know most moms would agree: no two are alike. So, parent the child in the moment according to the immediate need. Some rules apply to every child; some don’t. Stop comparing siblings, friends, or imaginary children. Don’t assume one child’s success, skill set, or mistake is another’s. Whatever is happening is this child in this moment, not any other at any other time. Age, personality, and persistence in the child matters, but I try hard to be in the moment with the child in front of me.
You are not. Your child is not. I like to think my sons will find their way through the natural dysfunction that’s part of every family (including ours). I have made mistakes; I’m sure I do that daily. I want to be quick to see the problem and respond with the appropriate apology. A little perspective helps. If I could do two things over, it would be to have a better grip on age-appropriate expectations for my kids and the necessary diligence in inspecting whatever is expected. Realistic expectations and diligent oversight would have saved a lot of trouble. Still, apologies smoothed a lot of rifts.
Shape the heart; don’t try to control it.
Children have their own preferences and personal decision-making process. A mama can help shape the process, but she cannot control it. We all know independent hearts will do whatever they like given freedom. As a child grows, the balance of control and responsibility shifts. It’s a messy transfer, but it’s necessary while children are in the home establishing themselves, before they take flight. Mistakes at home are far easier to navigate than somewhere out in the big, wide world.
It’s not all about you!
Mama, you know you’re not the only influence on your child, right? Of course, you do. You know they have their own will and make their own choices, too. Guard your heart against guilt over their decisions.
What’s done isn’t exactly done.
Think you’ve made too many mistakes? While you have opportunity, take it. Apologize. Encourage. Talk about and show the love you have for your child. Talk about how the relationship could be better…or fixed.
“It’s a Matter of Faith!”
Mamas, can I be real? It’s hard being a mom—it’s also beautiful and precious and raw and joyful and tearful and a million other things. If all the responsibility fell squarely on our shoulders, we’d shatter into a gazillion pieces. (Maybe you have memories of moments that felt just like that. I do.) Can I suggest the antidote to mama guilt is faith perspective.
God is Bigger!
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Our God is not surprised by our struggles, choices (both good and bad), or fears. He knows and cares about us. You and your child are precious in His sight. Don’t forget that. He will help you, Mama (and your child). He is strong enough and loves you that much!
God’s Plan and Purposes are Good!
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose. Philippians 2:13
When the twists and turns, difficult hills, and dark valleys in the lives of our kids become too much for us mamas, remember that God’s plan is also bigger than we can see. He loves our children, and he wants the very best for their lives.
Your Prayers Matter!
Pray constantly. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
And if I could encourage one thing—pray, pray, and pray more! The times I was clueless about what to do, prayer made all the difference. The two-year-old temper tantrum in the store ended when I prayed and listened. God whispered, “Tell him to say he’s sorry.” As true now as it was then—the more I ask God for help, the smoother my parenting moments seem to go. And when mamas get together to pray, mountains can move, so don’t forget to keep your friends close.
I’ve enjoyed sharing this week, and I sure hope we’ll have some great conversation this month. If you’ve got a funny story, please share in the comments below or at our Facebook page. If you’ve got some precious gems you’ve learned, we could sure use some of that collective wisdom, too. Please add your thoughts.
Thanks for reading and sharing!