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.