Monday, May 09, 2011

I almost cancelled Mother's Day

I almost did it.

Saturday was such a bad day for me as a mom that I almost said, "I'm over it! I will NOT celebrate Mother's Day with you people (my children) because you don't care about me as your mother and you do not respect my voice!" I was such a struggler. Whew.

At the time, I was writing this post in my head, chronicling every gory detail of the window between 2 and 6 p.m. when my house and all the people in it turned upside-down in chaos, tears, defiance, consequences, a bad fall (my son fell, trying to leap from the couch to the coffee table and started screaming, "I broke my leg! I broke my leg!" I was inclined to believe him, since he actually has had a broken leg before. But he didn't break his leg. Thank you, God.) family discord, messes everywhere, a missed appointment due to said chaos...need I go on? But a lot of the detail is lost now. I guess I should be glad it's been washed from my memory!

So I didn't want Mother's Day for two reasons. I didn't feel like anyone cared about the mother that I was, and also, part of me was convinced that all the chaos was proof that I was failing at the job anyway. Completely failing.

Because how could things be going so badly if I were a 'good' mom? How could my children be so disobedient and disrespectful if I were doing my job properly? My anger and mistakes and weakness must be ruining all my attempts at raising healthy adults. Right? I couldn't get these thoughts out of my head.

You know what all those thoughts are called? In a word, shame. The familiar, favorite tune my enemy likes to sing to me when the downward spiral begins. I feel like I need to be totally vulnerable with you here to share that Saturday, after all hell was breaking loose, I was covered in feelings of shame. Drowning, and totally succumbing to its power to sink me. Which means I was standing in the kitchen doing dishes and weeping. My typical grown-up discretion was gone. I was flat-out defeated.

I know that doesn't happen to everyone. It is just my thing. Some people struggle with self-confidence, some get overcome with worry, some are incapacitated by anxiety. My battle is with shame. I know in my mind it is inappropriate. I know most of the time it is not logical or spiritually sound. I know I am redeemed by Jesus and that He has paid the penalty for all my mistakes. However, I just don't yet know how to conquer the power of negative emotion I feel when chaos ensues and it looks to be all my fault. It makes motherhood - an occupation riddled with chaos - at times, very hard for me.

I think part of the reason is that when I was younger, a lot of things came easily for me. For one, I got really good grades in school. I was used to receiving excellent report cards every few months. This went on throughout my school career (well, there were some exceptions in college). That equals a long history of someone telling me what a good job I was doing. Naturally, I left college, entered the adult world, and began looking for my report cards.

I found them, most certainly. Appropriate or not, I found them. In my job reviews, in the birthday cards people gave me, in the words of my husband. Wow, are you seeing the problem with this pattern? And as much as I've grown in my three decades of life, a part of me still longs for a "good review." So is it all that surprising that when my kids are completely bouncing off the walls that I feel like a big failure? No! It kinda makes sense, in a twisted way. As mothers, we make the mistake of looking to our kids' words and actions as a kind of performance review.

I get it, and yet I know it is wrong. It is so very dangerous for me to be looking to my children (or anyone, for that matter) to reflect my level of success. They are simply broken, selfish people too, and while I have a responsibility to give motherhood everything I can, I am not responsible for their every mistake. They have free will, and the only one to whom I answer is the Lord.

I am not freeing myself or any other mom from the basic God-given responsibility to raise her children with a healthy balance of truth and grace. Of course not. But Saturday I was getting really confused. I started to think Mother's Day had something to do with a report card on me as a mom. I was believing the lie that I wasn't measuring up. I forgot to listen to what the Lord had to say about me as a mom. He hired me in the first place, didn't He? Were children my idea or His? Were they my creations or His? Oh, how I forgot that it is all about Him! His plan, His children, and His performance review.

Really friends, His feedback is the kindest, most forgiving, encouraging feedback I'll ever receive. He gently corrects when I'm off. He gives me great ideas when I'm out of them. He lifts me up when I'm feeling tired and defeated. He gives me every tool I need for my life. In fact, the way He honors me as a woman and as a mother, filling in where I am deficient, the Lord makes me feel like Mother's Day is every day.

He is celebrating me because I am doing the job I've been called to do: parent His children. And I'm doing it to the best of my ability. He is celebrating you too, if you're doing the jobs you were called to do. Not for the quality of job you're doing in your life. Not for how close to perfect you are. Simply for who you are.

The Lord honors mothers. He knows how hard it is to shape willful, stubborn children into mature adults. And so He is an ever-present help for us. As difficult as it may be, I am so thankful He gave me the chance to be a mother, if only to see how well He parents me. Knowing more of His love for me as my parent gives me the strength I need to try to love my children in the same way.

Each day, I have a new chance to love them as I have been loved. What a privilege. What a thing worth celebrating.

I hope you had a Happy Mother's Day.   



  1. Amen!!!!!! I love this it so truly spoke to me & I thank you for that! I can SO relate to the performance thing...ugh. And, last week was my worst mothering week girls were so defiant & disobedient and i was blaming myself. Thankful His mercies are new each morning!

  2. Oh Leslie - this is so good! Totally relate to you in this post - perfect!! Bless you - and I hope you did get to enjoy your Mother's Day... even if just for a few moments. xoxo

  3. Oh Leslie Im so sorry it was a really bad Mothers Day. We've all been there-standing in our kitchens(or wherever) weeping over our inadequecies- but you're so right.This job is one we're called to. And the best part is that when we fall apart Christ is there to pick us up off the ground when no one else can.
    I so appreciate your open heart. Hoping today is a great day!
    *PS LOVE the new look of your blog!

  4. This is why I kept coming back to your blog because you are real and honest and so relatable. I'm sorry it was a rough weekend, but as a mom, I can relate to this on so many levels and more moms could benefit from this. I beat myself up way too often when my child misbehaves. I wonder what I'm doing wrong or why I'm not raising a perfect child. There have been many other occasions that I thought should have gone so perfectly and they didn't, and I thought everyone else had a perfect life, EXCEPT for me.

    I was just going to say what your other commenter said, He is new every morning, and so are we....and that is such a blessing!


  5. Love it and love the new look!

  6. I feel this way all of the time. I never expected motherhood to be as challenging, but I didn't know it would be so wonderful either. God is good that way.

  7. Oh, and I also wanted to let you know that I so love, love, love your new blog look!

  8. lovely friend.
    i just love your style.
    relatable and vulnerable and not preachy at all.
    i think every mother in the world will at some point be sobbing in the kitchen.

  9. I was literally just battling the spirit of shame this morning and asking God to give me some encouragement...and then this. thanks so much for sharing. I know there is freedom for us in this!!

  10. Thanks for sharing Leslie. I too look for report cards all around me (I've been a perfectionist goody-goody my whole life), and I find myself becoming incredibly anxious when I don't receive accolades. I just assume that lack of praise means I've failed. And that's so so wrong. Thank you for sharing your struggles, for warning me about what may lay ahead as my son gets older, and for the encouragement that there is hope. :)

  11. i am so blessed to know you, friend. and posts like this are one of the reasons why. "He hired me in the first place, didn't He?" that single statement makes it possible for me to move forward through this day, in the midst of the crazy. as always, WE benefit so much from your tough experiences and the way God redeems them for your good and teaches you Truth. thank you for your transparency. i struggle with feelings of shame, too, and i definitely look at my daughter's behavior as a reflection of my parenting.

  12. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! x439. i had a similar day yesterday. sobbing in my brand new, beautiful kitchen. because my 4 year old was acting like a beast. and then i sobbed harder because i felt guilty that people don't even have kitchens to sob in. or food in their kitchens, etc, etc. one hot mess. thank you for this post. i love the way you write. as if we were sitting in our kitchens, sobbing together...

  13. thanks for all your encouragement guys. your words are lifting my up today, and it does help to be reminded you're all hot messes sometimes too :) "let the morning bring me word of your unfailing LOVE because i have put my TRUST in you." don't know where that is off the top of my head, but i hang onto it!

  14. thank you for sharing this, I was having similar feelings but actually ON mother's day. it was a trying day to say the least, and sometimes I forget that I've got three very independent minded kids who at times in no way reflect the parenting they receive. it's so easy to get sucked into that shame trap, but we've got to remember that day by day God leads us (and therefore our kids!) I'm so glad it's a journey that we are on, thanks for the encouragement today. and the reminder that I'm not the only hot mess out there either!

  15. this past week my boy's been doing some major pushing and testing of the boundaries and it's left me feeling so defeated and grumpy. your words explain perfectly how i felt and what i need to do about it. thank you so much for sharing your heart with us!!

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  17. A friend shared your blog with me, and I've been enjoying popping around the site and reading things here and there. This post, though, really resonated with me. The following paragraph could have been written by me exactly as it is:

    I think part of the reason is that when I was younger, a lot of things came easily for me. For one, I got really good grades in school. I was used to receiving excellent report cards every few months. This went on throughout my school career (well, there were some exceptions in college). That equals a long history of someone telling me what a good job I was doing. Naturally, I left college, entered the adult world, and began looking for my report cards.

    I, too, am still looking for my report cards, and frequently interpret the less-than-ideal things that happen around me as failings in myself. Cranky dog? I must not have walked her for long enough. Child won't go down for her nap? I must have missed the cues and waited too long to put her down. Even in my friendships, I assume I've done something wrong if a friend is in a bad mood or doesn't respond right away to an email. Mommy guilt is a soul-defeater. I will try to remember going forward that God is the one who hired me for the job, and all he asks is that I'm doing my best.

    Thank you for being so open in your writing. It's inspiring, and I can't wait to read more.