#MomGuilt

From the moment I saw the hash tag “mom guilt”, it bugged me. Another real, deep life issue had just been turned into a clever marketing scheme…and I didn’t like it! I still don’t like it. Businesses are doing it more and more often and it’s very clever indeed! Advertisements are playing on our emotions and they stay in our memories…but in the end they do absolutely nothing to address or help the deep ache inside that mothers really feel every single day: Guilt for doing their absolute best!

Telling a mom, “Just don’t feel guilty about it, you’ve done your best!” does absolutely nothing to heal the self-condemnation many woman feel day after day after day. Turning it into a light-hearted joke may temporarily ease the pain but in the end, mom-guilt is very, incredibly real and it comes from deep within causing restless nights and illegitimate worries. It causes outbursts from insecurities of our intentions and abilities. It brings many into depression. It causes some to give up and check out emotionally on their children.

Where we started motherhood gazing with wonder into the beautiful faces of our newborns, motherhood slowly turns into an endless checklist of chores, appointments, and things to remember.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. But it is.

There was such hope for SO MUCH MORE!! But that hope just seems to fade a bit more everyday, until we check ourselves out of the mothering day as soon as our little ones are in bed, exhausted from the pressure and stress we were never meant to feel in the first place.

Real Mom-guilt story: When I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, I went on a marriage retreat with my husband. It was winter and there was a hot tub at the event. Now, being very self-conscious about my body at that point in my life and during that stage of pregnancy, I really did not want to go in. First of all, because I knew I really shouldn’t for the baby’s sake but also because I was too embarrassed! It so happened that a nurse was along on the trip and she casually mentioned that as long as I was comfortable and stayed in a short time, it was totally ok. So one evening, I went out to the hot tub with my husband when no one else was around. It was really cold, so my plan of just putting in my feet a few minutes quickly changed to me plopping myself down fully emerged in the very hot water. After ten minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable so I stood to get out, but as I stood a huge group of people came out to join us and I awkwardly plopped back down because I was totally self-conscious in my swimsuit. I sat there for another painful twenty minutes until I realized I was feeling very sick and got out anyways. The next few days I was physically sick as a result of this and I kicked myself for it…for caring so much about my appearance that I would put my own health and my baby’s health in jeopardy…but that wasn’t the worst part of it: I felt like the dumbest, most selfish mother on the planet and I worried for the next three months constantly that I had done something that would cause permanent damage to my baby.

You know what’s the craziest part of this all? My son is now eight years old and that memory still haunts me. Because my boy has trouble making friends, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, he tiptoes when he walks and deep down, I blame MYSELF. Every. Single. Day. Is there something wrong with him? Are the issues in his life a result of that one poor choice? Probably not! But I don’t know for sure…I never will. And it haunts me. And this is just one example of the hundreds of ways we Mothers feel guilt!

When I hear my children yelling at each other… it must be my fault for once in a while yelling at them.

When I see my children use bad table manners…it’s probably my fault because I haven’t trained them properly.

When they get sick…I should’ve not let them go outside without their jacket!

If they say something awkward…my fault, I’m homeschooling, they probably don’t get out enough.

If they’re all over tired, fighting and throwing tantrums…my fault, we’re probably too busy and not at home enough.

When we leave them at childcare or crying with a sitter…I am a failure, I can’t even be there for them.

If my boy pees his pants and I forgot extra clothes…I’m such a horrible mom.

It goes on and on and on and ON!

I have personally talked with mothers of kids who have disabilities who blame THEMSELVES!! It’s not their fault! It’s obviously not! But still the nagging, taunting dark questions plague their minds: Maybe I have bad genes, I shouldn’t have had children…Maybe I ate something wrong…Maybe the immunizations did it. Maybe I wasn’t there for them enough…maybe….

REALLY?!?

As if our children were just these flawless, perfect little angels sent straight from heaven, with only the purest of nature, and holiest of thoughts and somehow we RUINED them.

But this is REAL, and it’s deep. And it’s a lie that needs to be addressed head on! I’m sorry to say that there’s no quick solution to this. I can’t just go and tell all the mom’s in the world, “Oh it’s not your fault” and end all the guilt…because sometimes it IS our faults. And as grown ups we need to be responsible and admit when it is. Yet as mothers we can’t separate our failures from what’s actually just our children’s human nature.

But here’s the best steps I could come up with to help heal and move past the guilt that plagues us mothers:

  1. You will make mistakes. Big ones! Don’t waste ONE minute wallowing in “what if’s”…instead use that time to make positive changes. Change your habits. Get help. Ask for forgiveness! You can not change the past, but you can learn from it and change the future.
  2. Your child WILL make mistakes…even if you’ve trained them the right way… because they’re HUMAN. Their choices are NOT your fault.
  3. Be careful of the influences in your child’s life. Friends, caregivers, and media will play the biggest role in their values and who they become. Chose caregivers wisely, allow only good media in your home and encourage positive friendships. If you find out that you’ve made a mistake in one of these areas, do your best to make changes…but remember the first “rule”!
  4. Spend your time wisely and find a balance. Your messy house isn’t a big deal…your kids will NOT remember it. But use your time wisely – if it’s really messy because of hours spent on social media, or Netflix bingeing, take time to develop a balanced schedule of “me” time, “together” time, and “clean” time. Just don’t be so “responsible” that you forget to enjoy life. You will NEVER regret the time you spend just enjoying your children.
  5. DON’T worry about the small things…feeding your children McDonald’s won’t kill them, letting them watch an extra hour of T.V. will not ruin their lives, taking a year off from extra curricular activities will not ruin their chances of playing sports or learning an instrument someday, throwing a simple family birthday party will not damage their future. Life is so much bigger than the type of lotions you buy for your kids or the clothes they wear. Please just don’t go down this trail!! Use your best judgement and respectfully block out unwanted advice!

But above all, learn to accept GRACE. God has unending grace for our shortcomings. Receive this grace. Let it pour into your heart and mind until you can not help but have grace for yourself, your kids, and everyone else around you. God’s grace heals, restores and brings hope to EVERY hopeless situation.

The guilt…it doesn’t go away over night…but it does get better. And when you live your life out of a standpoint of grace, you will begin to see the truth: Mother’s are the first and best gift that any child ever recieves… and to your children there is only one YOU!

YOU are the PERFECT mother for your child! Embrace this and you will find much freedom from that dreaded, ugly #Momguilt.

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The Day I Adopted my Own Children

As the little girl climbed onto my lap, I could tell she was from a foster home, probably recently placed there I thought. She had a certain essence about her that I can’t quite explain. You could feel it coming from her very being – a longing to belong, a longing for love. It is so distinct in the really little ones, it’s much more than just a friendly kid. She clung to me, a stranger, because she supposed to cling. It’s how children are made. Naturally they choose their mothers, yet when that relationship is broken they will find the connection they crave somewhere else. I gently stroked her little arm and noticed the rash, I could tell it went beyond her arms. She scratched at it and my heart broke for her.

He acts up every time he’s with his peers. He’s the one that seems to not care what anyone thinks, the one that all the teachers have their eye on from the moment he walks in the room. They blame him before he’s really even done anything because by the time he has, he’s already completely out of hand. The leaders strictly order him around, and he barely listens, apparently because he doesn’t care about authority. But I know better, I know he has had a HARD life. I know he has been abandoned by his own father and mother. And really, he cares more than any other kid in the room what the leaders think of him. Because he’s hungry for love…you can feel the yearning from across the room. He’s seeking attention he never gets anywhere else.

I love children. I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. Even in my most selfish, hardened teenage years, I found children impossible to resist. I loved all children, but I REALLY loved children who needed the extra love. Those from broken homes, those neglected, those who were rejected by peers, those who acted out in their pain, those who struggled with authority. THOSE are the ones who had my heart, THOSE are the ones I wanted to help… “The least of these” the bible calls them.

Some people don’t like kids. They find them annoying and gross. However when these people who dislike kids have their own, often I see something magical happen – they fall in love. Parents can’t help but admitting to having a special love for their own children. It’s normal, it’s how we’re wired. So naturally, being someone who already LOVES children, I figured that I would be an amazing mom someday because my love would be that much stronger for my own kids! It took a long time for me to realize that it wasn’t that simple.

One day, as I was racing around my house doing all the little things that needed to get done before starting school that morning, my two-year old boy was crying at my feet. Ok, more like tugging and screaming. I sighed, very annoyed because I knew from experience that he would continue to cry and cry for me until I stopped everything I was doing to hold him in my arms. And as I sat down on the couch holding him with resent in my heart because this child was keeping me from my “more important duties” the realization struck me like a brick in the face:

I have far more compassion for everyone else’s children then my own flesh and blood.

The realization shocked me. Why do I have so much more love for other people’s children, difficult children even, than my own precious kids? What is wrong with me? Aren’t most people opposite? And even more starling to me was when my five-year old sat down beside me, he snuggled up close and as I slowly pulled him in to stroke his arm I noticed the rash. How long has THAT been there? I wondered. How in the world did I notice and care so much about the rash on the little girl in the nursery at church and not on my own son? Do I ignore them that much? Or was this hitting something deeper?

Throughout the next few days I realized the problem. You see I didn’t choose to have kids the way many people do. They came into my life when I wasn’t ready for them. From my first pregnancy when I was only seventeen years old, to my fifth child when I was 25. I hadn’t chosen to be a mother to them, it was simply a responsibility I’d been given. And, little by little, I was giving myself to serve and love these children who “had it all.” They are from a good home, they have had everything they need and more. They didn’t act out because of some need that wasn’t being met, they acted out because they were just being kids. And here I was, stuck in what I felt was a “lower” calling: Mothering my own children. Because where is the respect in THAT? It’s nothing special! Is it? I’m just doing what’s expected of me! I’m just doing my duty!

Now raising the unwanted – the difficult, the sick, the neglected, the abused, that’s a more worthy calling!

Or is it?

This calling of motherhood. It wasn’t as heroic, it wasn’t as fascinating, it wasn’t different or extraordinary. It came with stretch marks and back troubles. It meant patience with kids who’ve always had everything they need.

It meant letting go of the idea that the call to “missions” is any different then the call to “motherhood”.

Because here really lies the problem: we Christians (really I’m talking about myself here) have a certain pedestal we put people on…that the young man who leaves his home and family, who sells his possessions to bring the gospel to the nations is obviously FAR more spiritual then the one who takes a wife, and builds a home, who has a family and provides for them. We do this all the time. And we need to STOP. I need to stop believing this crap.

It’s garbage, really.

You know what is really spiritual? Following God wholeheartedly whether he chooses for you to be a king…or a shepherd boy, a ruler…or a servant, a missionary…or a fisherman, a person who rescues abandoned children and starts an orphanage…or a mother. Because the ONLY calling that is heroic is following the one that God gives you. EVEN if you didn’t choose it. EVEN if it just sort of happened.

I was given five children, even if I didn’t choose them. But today I am adopting them into my heart. I choose each one of them because they each have a huge need that only I can fill. They need a mother who has chosen them.

And that my friends is a high calling. Not just because of what I’m doing, but because of the One who called me.

 

 

A Dream and a Blog

For years I’ve loved writing. Writing to me is a way that we take the experiences of the day, the emotions in our hearts, the thoughts in our minds and put them together into words, so that other people may get a picture of the world through our eyes.

When I was eight, it was short stories of unwanted children, which expressed a deep sadness and never ending feeling of unwantedness that I held in my heart. In my teens it was poems, which I wrote for my assignments, but they all held those deep, deep emotions and thoughts that we would never dare share with another. I shared my depression, suicidal thoughts and heartbreak, hidden behind the lives of fictional characters or flowery  words. In this, I discovered how writing helped me understand myself and that it actually helped me cope with my situations and feelings.

I had never thought of writing as a career choice, I was far more interested in the “lucrative careers” that the school system seemed to put on a pedestal. I always thought though, that someday, I would publish some of my poems or write a novel.

At the beginning of grade 12, when most of those grand decisions for our futures are made, I discovered I was pregnant. At the time, it didn’t feel like a crisis. As an easy-going seventeen year old, I just shrugged and thought, “Well I guess I know what my future holds, I’m going to be a mother!” And from that point on, I made all my decisions around this one question: What will be best for me and my child? I wanted to graduate, but it was no longer important to me. I didn’t see how it would be any use in my future, which was now motherhood. I decided to finish all my courses the first semester in school and to then work full time at my job so that I could recieve maternity leave and stay at home with my child for the first year of motherhood. After the first semester, I only needed one more credit to graduate, but I put my diploma out of my mind. I really had so many other things to focus on at that time.

As I wrestled through the next season of life, writing took a different role in my life… journaling. Occasionally I was asked to speak at an event about my teen pregnancy and then I would get to share my story, which was about the only place I shared my written work with others.

About three years later, I was pregnant with my third child and I had a dream. Now I’m not the kind of person to think that every dream means something or that I need to do what my dreams tell me to. If I did that I would most likely wake up and rob a bank, and then spend the following days running from cops, who would suddenly turn into the most terrifying bear you’ve ever seen in your life. Really. Most dreams make absolutely no sense. But I had a dream where I received my high school diploma. I woke up and wept. It seemed like a piece of my life that had been long forgotten, yet here, in the dark of the night I was crying about something I didn’t even know I had really cared about. And sitting alone in the dark, I decided right then and there that I was going to graduate before my next baby was born. The very next day I made the arrangements to earn my final credit. A few weeks before my third child made his arrival, I went to my old high school and my principal handed me my diploma.

For the next seven years I continued to  journal. And then, a few nights ago I had another dream. It held the same sense of loss that seemed to awaken a longing within me that I never knew I had. In my dream, I was going to college and majoring in journalism. When I woke up, I was reminded so clearly of the first time this had happened to me and how joyful I had been to receive my diploma. The ache I had felt before returned, so I immediately (in the middle of the night), got up and started looking into colleges nearby and what they had to offer. When it became clear to me that it would still be three years or so before I would be able to go back to school, I decided that I needed to sharpen up my writing skills while I waited. Thus, I decided to start this blog, even though I’ve never considered doing anything like this before. And I think the hardest part of starting a blog for me has been this introduction, since I much prefer to just write those things on my heart that seem to flow. But there’s my story on how this blog came to be. I hope you enjoy it.