I wrote this post Thursday night, but wanted to wait until I had time to thoroughly edit to share it. I am finally finished! Enjoy!
It is 9:30 at night and while I normally would be sleeping, I am settling down with the only decaf hot beverage I could find – a packet of flavored tea that I snagged during our last hotel stay. (I love freebies. It actually made my day when the hotel concierge gave me a coupon for a free latte after I asked where the nearest coffee shop was. Please, don’t judge me.) Anyway, coffee or hot tea seems to be the thing to drink if you are a writer, so here I am. Writing and drinking a hot beverage, very cliché.
This is my first purely personal post. I have to admit, it is much easier to share what God says rather than what I have to say. After all, God is never wrong and I am often wrong. The reason I am up working so late is because of something weighing on my heart. God knows I need sleep, desperately. I am a raging crazy lady without it. God also knows that more than sleep, I need peace. Peace is the only thing that can carry this sleepless monster through a long day. Peace is something I have been lacking lately.
At first I thought I just needed a vacation. I needed some time away from the kids to get my patience and energy refueled. I knew for certain my hubby and I needed some time to just be alone together. I was sure, after a bit of time away, I would be able to come swoop back in and continue “super” mom duties (As if any mom ever really, truly and consistently feels they are super –or maybe that is just me?). Then our trip came to an end and I was whooshed back into reality. I actually did have a little more patience for the first day, but then slowly but surely the pressure started to build. After a few days, I once again felt as if someone sucked all the air out of the room and all I desperately needed was a breather.
While laying in bed tonight, waiting for the kids to fall asleep, I had a little time to browse Facebook. A post by Lysa Turkeurst caught my eye.
Wow. I love how God waits for you to finally slow down and wham, He hits you with the truth right between the eyes. Here’s my truth: Even though these past few months I have been studying my Bible, writing about God, attending church, and even though I did my habitual meal prayers and several shotgun prayers everyday, I was actually shut down. Even though I was talking to God and praising God, I did not really want to hear from God about certain areas. I did want Him to fix my problems, but I just didn’t want to sit still long enough to listen to what He had to say. You want to know why? Because He just might tell me a few things I do not want to hear. He just might tell me I have been in the wrong and fighting to be right even though it was getting me no where.
I know God loves me. I know God loves me. Hindsight is 20/20, and when I look back on the path I have walked and the dark valleys He has brought me through unharmed, I can not doubt His love for me. So why, when things get hard, do I lack trust and want to run away and try it on my own? Why do I sever the lines of communication to the only One who can help me? I have always struggled with prayer, especially taking time to listen while praying. My mind goes down bunny trails so often during prayer that I have to keep a piece of paper next to me to jot down ideas, so I can actually concentrate. (Am I alone here? Is this a product of our fast paced society? Or do I seriously have attention deficit disorder?) I know prayer is a struggle for me, and at this point in life, it is my most powerful weapon, but I ignored that fact and put off working on the problem while I tried to just make it on my own. Why do I always have to figure out things the hard way?!
I bet you are wondering what it is that I am struggling with that has me wanting to open up. Well, I struggle with many things day to day – anxiety, my “passionate” personality, patience – but the big thing I am really struggling with right now is parenting my toddler. Potty training is seriously going to be the death of me. Although, it isn’t really the potty training that is the struggle; it is what the frustration with my beautifully stubborn daughter does to me. I do not handle bumps in the road very well.
Sister was mostly trained and recently regressed. I know inconsistency is the deepest darkest evil of parenting sins, so I shouldn’t see this as unusual considering we have had a lot going on lately. Too much change happening all at once. My expectations are what are hindering growth in this area. They definitely are hindering my growth in my relationship with my child. My expectations have hindered me in many ways through out my life.
If I look at my personal expectations, and really reflect on them, I can say without a doubt that they are ridiculously high. When I look at the personal expectations of many of the moms around me, I would say they have overly high expectations of themselves as well. When did this “super” mom junk start? I am literally racking my brain for the big event in society that started this ripple effect. Was it World War II, when mothers had to step up since fathers were off at war? Whatever started it, this “super” mom lie is causing modern day mothers to feel like they are drowning in every day life, because the world thinks they should be able to do it all.
I know I am not alone here. I see the pressure on other mother’s backs as they rush through every day life; the pressure to do more and be more. I see the pressure as they wonder out loud how they can really stretch themselves any further. I see the pressure as they complain about their looks and their abilities. Now there will be women who refuse to take off their “superhero” cape and be real, but I know they deal with the guilt that all moms deal with when it comes to our children. Mom Guilt… We all wonder whether we are sacrificing the right things in order to make our children’s lives better. We all wonder whether we are doing a good job or whether we are complete failures. It may not be every day, but if you are not questioning whether you are doing a good job – you aren’t human.
There is nothing wrong with having high expectations, but there is something wrong when we make dishonorable sacrifices to reach them, or when we push our personal expectations on to other people. This includes our children. I know all too well the push from others to spend more time on the job – pour blood, sweat, and tears into your work – because by golly, if you aren’t putting in 2 extra hours on top of your standard work day every day, you aren’t doing it right. You better sacrifice your faith, your marriage, your family, and whatever it takes to be the best. The message – normal isn’t good enough. As a woman, I feel the pressure to be better – more slender, more fit, more beautiful. I am constantly battling the onslaught of advertisements for products that all repeat the same message- normal isn’t good enough. As a wife, I feel the pressure to please my husband, to be submissive but not too submissive, and to be more sexual. Do more, give more. Again, the world is telling me that I am not enough just as I am. Finally, there is a pressure that surpasses all those other pressures by leaps and bounds. The pressure you have as a mom. Do I even need to define the pressures that come with being a mom? Is it possible?
Mom pressures… Wow, they deserve a paragraph of their own. Perhaps they deserve a book of their own or at least a blog entry (Coming soon…). They are something you just really do not understand until you are a mom. Mostly because the judgments do not become personal until you are a mom. It is so easy to rattle off the phrase “When I have kids, they will never….” and you can fill whatever you want into that blank. I know, because I said it over and over and I am eating my words as we speak. Mom pressures are all centered around sacrifice. Sacrifice your body, your time, everything you can possibly sacrifice for your babes. Do your best, but remember the bar can always be raised. It is the hamster wheel of constantly feeling the need to do better. Not only do we receive pressure from those who are not mothers, but as mothers we have all been guilty of sitting and picking apart other mother’s decisions. As if any of us have achieved perfection in parenting our children. We will never achieve perfection, but the next best thing is to feel good by comparison. Right? Be truthful with yourself. Every mom has done it. We have all looked down our nose at some other mother.
Mom pressure is where my struggle started. I guess it really is a societal pressure. The motto of our society – Education: the sooner the better, the more the better. (A hot topic I may cover another time.) Caving to this pressure, last spring I enrolled my daughter in a Pre-K program. She would be turning three in August and wasn’t potty trained, but I knew without a doubt that she would be ready by September. We had been trying on and off to potty train her since she turned two. She just wasn’t ready. She still isn’t. She struggles physically with a certain aspect of it, and because of that, she struggles with it overall. Even though I knew she struggled physically, that hadn’t changed my expectation for her. Many of my friend’s kids struggled, but they overcame it and were potty trained. If they could do it, we could do it.
If I would have even bothered to reflect on this thought when it entered my brain I would have thought back to what I learned about child development in college. We know without a doubt by watching children, that every child develops differently. What baffles me is, even with the ample research to back this up, we still try to cram children into boxes and force them to accomplish something when they are just not ready. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for certain standards to compare every child’s development to, but honestly, some of the expectations for children through out our society these days are not developmentally appropriate at all. I am guilty of putting the pressure of developmentally inappropriate expectations on my child. I am guilty of taking my high personal expectations and pushing them on her. I am guilty of thinking that my daughter not being fully potty trained by a certain age is my personal failure. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
These feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mom have led me to have a downright shameful attitude at times towards my daughter. They have caused me to drift away from the One that could have helped me conquer the emotional struggle and her physical struggle, because I was dead set that this is something I should be able to do on my own. Guilt is one of the devil’s favorite weapons. Satan amplifying my guilt caused me to fall deaf to my Father’s voice, which has been calling out to me ever so softly. It took my heart being broken for me to hear His voice through another believer. His voice is calling out to all of us, mothers or not. He is telling us He cares. He cares about our day to day struggles in life. Even our potty-training struggles. He wants us to bring them to Him. He loves us. Even when we are not successful, we are not failures, because we are His. Our God can even redeem our missteps. If I had stopped to listen a long time ago, I could have saved myself, and probably my baby girl, plenty of heartache.
If I had stopped to listen, I could have learned my lesson quickly. I would have saw through the lies of perfection and embraced the fact that when I am weak, then He is strong. So, yes, as is the story of my life – I learned a very big life lesson through a random means. I may have to learn it more than once, but I pray that is not the case. I hope that by sharing my slightly ridiculous (and long-winded) struggle that you can feel a little better about your struggles. Just remember, next time you look at a woman and think you have finally found the infamous “super mom”, she doesn’t exist. None of us will ever dawn a cape and save the world. The world already has a Savior, His name is Jesus. He calls us to be aware of our need for Him; to be humble, not super. As Christian mothers, we can share the work of the true superhero by letting a fellow mom know that she is enough just the way she is. Let her know that she is not alone in her struggles and that God and you care about them. Instead of shunning other moms when they fail in your eyes, build them up. Help them up. We are all struggling.
Starting tonight I am going to make a conscious effort to not let my personal opinions hinder me from showing Christ’s love to other mothers. Right now, I have an opportunity to share a truth with you that is not tainted with my opinion. Tomorrow I plan on sharing this truth with my daughter, again. The truth I have to share with you starts with a bit of wisdom I picked up from the movie “Moms’ Night Out” and is followed by what I know to be true through God’s Word.
You are enough – just the way you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are the daughter of the King. You were knit together in your mother’s womb by the Creator of the universe. Your Creator does not make mistakes. You were made perfectly imperfect so that in your weakness His strength can shine through.