We’ve been talking this week about mom-shame, and we’ve talked about things like yelling or exploding… things that are obvious deviations from our ideals to mother with the love of Christ. If you’ve missed those, you can read some words of encouragement here and here. If you’re ready to move forward from mom-shame click the button below to get information on Lay Down Your Burdens: a 5-day Guided Journal to unpack, lay down, and move forward from mom-shame.
Today, though, I want to speak into a more insidious source of shame– our ideals that don’t spring from our relationship with Christ, but rather from our own idealistic expectations of what it means to be a good mom.
You know, what we will or will not feed our kids.
How much TV our kids will or won’t watch.
How much intentional time we will spend playing with them.
…fill in the blank with your own version.
Because I think it’s helpful to name these things, I’ll share a couple of mine:
I have a strong ideal against the use of TV. And yet, Leona is well-acquainted with Daniel Tiger.
I have a strong ideal towards eating healthy foods. Yet, Leona loves ketchup, french fries, and cookies.
I have a strong ideal about spending time with my kids. And yet sometimes I long for them to be in the care of someone else so my body and soul have a break from the constant touching and neediness.
You see how these aren’t values rooted in the truth of the scripture?
Instead, they are springboarded from years of social research– looking into what helps and harms kids, and desiring to shirk cultural tides and do it differently.
And to be honest, like we talked about last month in our lessons from Ecclesiastes, having these ideals isn’t bad in and of itself.
The problem arises, however, when we demand 100% adherence to them.
When we fear any slight deviation from them is a commentary on our worth as a mother.
When we wallow in shame that we are somehow ruining our kids by feeding them hotdogs on a weekly basis instead of always cooking a 3-course home-cooked meal.
Here’s why this can be so difficult:
First, we are parenting whole humans with their own wills and desires.
Which means, despite my best efforts, my toddler still prefers french fries to asparagus. I have served vegetables for her since she was 8 months old, and still it is sometimes a fight to encourage her to eat the “healthy” stuff.
She still asks to watch TV regularly, even though it’s not a daily activity in our house.
She still wants her mama 24/7 even though I’ve been intentional in cultivating a strong and secure attachment with her.
Children are not machines to be programmed and controlled by our perfect blend of good diet, stimulating play activities, and limiting of screen time.
They are human, hardwired for love and relationship, needs ebbing and flowing daily, hourly, minutely (just like you and I).
Which brings me to my next point:
Enacting these values requires resources, which are limited.
Moms have a limited amount of resources available to us. Financial and emotional resources, cognitive bandwidth, actual bodily energy… We enter a day with a finite amount of these available to us, and despite our best efforts they are limited.
That means that sometimes, by dinner time, my energy levels, or my emotional bandwidth for another battle royale with my strong-willed toddler has run out.
Hot dogs it is.
We have to be judicious with our daily expenditure of these resources, and place our energy where it counts. We must realize that as resources thin, usually saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else.
Sometimes, saying “yes” to the healthy meal means saying no to a kind and compassionate Mommy because I’ve run out of energy, I’m tired, and I’ve pushed myself beyond my window of tolerance.
Sometimes, though, saying “yes” to TV means saying “no” to intentional time with my kids. (And usually “yes” to a temper tantrum when it’s time to turn it off).
It’s not a perfect science, it’s not completely black and white. But I’ve learned that God has gifted us with self-awareness to recognize that we have choice. We have agency.
We can be flexible, holding our expectations of myself loosely and upward toward the Lord, and recognizing that even if we choose outside of our values one day, the next day comes with a fresh set of resources and a whole bundle of God’s new mercies.
And so, finally…
Always remember that God longs to lift us upward and forward in growth.
The answer is not to forego all of our values and resign to a life dominated by the will and requests of our toddler (that would be complete chaos, and probably result in no one in the house feeling or doing our best).
The answer is to be flexible, be present, and allow the Spirit of God to reveal the things that are worth our resources in any given day.
We will never be perfect mothers. But, as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of the truth, and as we grow in our understanding of ourselves and our children, we will get better at this decision-making process.
I pray that this truth sinks deeply into your heart this morning, Mama. That you might find encouragement and grace in your decision-making. No one is expecting us to make all the right decisions or get it all right (well, at least God isn’t). Lean into His grace, accept His guidance, and know that he’s gently leading you, just like he’s active in the growing and shaping of your kids.
Grace to you today and always,
Enjoy your hotdogs.
If you’re ready to move on from shame and find a more grace-filled path to this mothering life, I pray that you’ll join us for Lay Down Your Burdens: a 5-day guided journal experience to help you unpack, lay down, and move forward from your mom-shame. Click the button below to get more information.