On Mom Guilt & Forgiveness

A friend told me that I always “make motherhood sound so good” when I blog.

And being a mom IS my favorite thing ever, but really, it’s not a 24/7 walk through fields of sunflowers and rainbows.  I don’t ever, ever, ever take it for granted because it is a HUGE gift, so I don’t complain very much.  But, in the spirit of keepin’ it real…

Motherhood lately has been fun.  And scary.  And messy.

It’s been FUN, because Zoe is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.  She’s bold and she has spunk and she will not sit still & quiet.  Last week, I took her to the playground and she wanted to walk over and over again into the splash pad to get wet.  I took her to music class at the library and she waved her arms, clapped, and screeched to the music, screaming and clapping when each song ended.  We took her to a birthday party on Saturday and she didn’t want to make small talk with anyone—she wanted to cruise around the playground holding onto our fingers for support.  She gives hugs, screams for joy, rips through her toy basket, and generally lives life to the fullest.  I love it.

IMG_1549It’s also been SCARY, because, well, Zoe is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.  She tries to kill herself multiple times a day, totally by mistake, and it is SO scary to think that her safety and security hinges on my close supervision.  I used to nanny and could give my sole attention to the child for the hours  I was there because it was my only responsibility.  As the mom, though, I have multiple things to manage.  I can’t watch her every moment and I can’t predict what zany idea she will think of next (eating carpet, pulling heavy toys on top of herself, yanking the dog’s ears, trying to pull the shower curtain down on herself, putting a twig I didn’t even notice into her mouth…my mind does not work the way hers does and I can’t always predict her next move.)

There’s a lot of pressure on me to, you know, keep this child alive and sometimes that pressure feels choking.   I try tactics to work through my fear, like praying or reminding myself that I used to be in charge of 24 middle schoolers on a daily basis, but in the amount of time it takes me to give myself that mental pep talk or lift up a prayer she usually has come up with her next Evel Knievel idea and terrified me again.

IMG_1462Think fast, mom.

And it’s been MESSY, because (what what?!) she is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.

Now, I’d already made peace with the fact that as a mom, I am messier than I was as a non-mom.  I have a certain level of acceptance for the bags under my eyes, the ponytails (a few months ago, Zoe became terrified of the blow dryer, so I can only blow dry my hair once a week or so when David is available to distract her,) and the mom uniform (I now own the same shirts, pants, and shorts in multiple colors so that I can get dressed in three minutes or less.)  I’d gotten used to life without jewelry (Zoe breaks it) and heels/platforms (who knew I was 4’11? No one, apparently.)  That’s messy, right?

Oh well.  Totally worth it.  “Polished 24/7” has never been my identity anyway, and  I love Zoe way more than straightened hair.

And I’d already made peace (or so I thought!) with the fact that life isn’t just about me, that this season is a little messy, and that’s beautiful.  Deeper meaning understood! I’m so well adjusted, right? Nothing should phase me now!

BUT GUYS.  In reality?

My house?

AHH.

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I’m phased.

Zoe is in a phase of development I’m referring to as “learning through mess-making.”  Or “MAKING MOMMY LEARN NEW COPING SKILLS.”

And she’s loving it.

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(That photo was taken at 6:15 am.  She had already consumed a bottle & taken every toy out of her toy chest.  Time for sunglasses.)  

I’m forcing myself to allow the messes because she NEEDS to make messes to explore and learn about the world.  If, for example, I insist on feeding her so that it’s less messy, she’ll never learn how to do it on her own, and she’ll be a two year old or twenty year old that still needs her mommy to feed her.

But giving her control?!!

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IT’S SO MESSY.

I know, I know…this is parenting.

I know, there’s a deeper lesson…that you have to let go of control and let them mess up because that’s how they learn.

And I know…these are the easy messes to clean up.  We have youth group parents that talk with us all the time about the harder ones so I should appreciate the avocado on the wall and poop in the bathtub while that’s all I have to contend with.

But AHH.  The stickiness.  The repetition of cleaning up the same messes over and over again. IT NEVER ENDS.  And that is the spot where I break, the spot where I am vulnerable, where I suddenly think: you deserve more than this.  You are too smart to be a full time housecleaner.  Maybe you should go back to work. You just spend your whole day serving your family—who serves you? When was the last time you got time to yourself during the day when you weren’t working? August? Why is your husband at work right now? What has he given up? Does what you’re doing right now matter at all? 

And I hate that these lies come.  I want to love and honor the people in my life, not despise them and feel weighted down by untruths about them.  I want to live joyfully and purposefully. Silently muttering to myself as I slam bottles into the sink and clean up toys for the gazillionth time that day doesn’t really fit into any of that.

I want to live authentically.  Pretending to clap for my daughter’s joyful exploration of our toy chest while I secretly think you are making work for me feels like a betrayal of our relationship, a betrayal of the kind of mom I want to be, proof that she deserves better than me.

I want to live sacrificially, because there IS more to life than my whims and wants and unmet needs, but sometimes the deficits feel so overwhelming.  I think, I have nothing left to give you.  I am empty.

So no, motherhood is not all sunflowers and rainbows.  Sometimes it’s visible sin that you can’t deny and frustration with yourself and guilt and hiding tears from your baby as you implore God to change your heart.  Sometimes it’s growth.  Sometimes it feels like stagnancy or regression. Motherhood is good—like I said, it it seriously my favorite thing ever—but it is refining and it is revealing and it is not something you should do if you want to feel successful and good about yourself all the time.  Because motherhood can create your best moments, but it also shows you your weakest spots and takes you to your most vulnerable and defeating places.

But you don’t have to live there.

I’ve always felt grateful for God’s forgiveness of me.  But since becoming a mom, I’ve awakened to how grateful I am that He enables me to forgive myself.

My sense of responsibility for this precious life is so high; my mistakes and failures are so numerous.  It would be easy to sit around in shame and frustration and guilt—not because I let someone else down, but simply because I want to be better than I am.

But He keeps me moving along, unencumbered by yesterday’s mistakes.  And so I sweep the floors and pick up the toys and wash the bottles again, knowing I am forgiven, loved, seen, and chosen even in my imperfection and (yes) messiness—knowing that He picked me for this job and that He can equip me to do it a heck of a lot more efficiently when I hold up my empty hands instead of trying to do it all on my own.

It’s humbling.  But it’s freeing at the same time.  Fun.  Scary.  Messy.

Hope that was real enough for you, friend 🙂

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2 thoughts on “On Mom Guilt & Forgiveness

  1. I am in tears, because I am SO right where you are, but have not had the courage to admit it to myself. This is THE.HARDEST.JOB.EVER!!! So much fun, so much joy, sooo much fulfillment. But omg, SO much mess. And stress, and pressure, and patience, and MESS!! I feel like I’ve had so many days lately where I’ve totally been phoning it in, because I am absolutely depleted of all energy and patience and strength. But then those sticky fingers grab my face and I’m reminded why this is the most beautiful calling on Earth. Thank you for your honestly. I will read this again and again.

  2. This is such a great post! was hoping you could answer my question I have about your blog! My name is Heather and if you could please email me when you get a free moment at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com I would greatly appreciate it 🙂

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