The other day, one of my adult kids confessed that something I said to him was hurtful and upsetting. What was intended to be encouragement came across as criticism from his perspective.
I’ve been encouraging my son to seek outside counsel on navigating his internal struggles because of my love for him and concern for his well-being. Such concern may feel great when our kids are little, but as they grow into adulthood, they want nothing more than to feel confident and secure in trying to figure out life on their own.
Since I am also a person who wants nothing more than to feel confident and secure as a mother who is doing right by her kids, finding out that I hurt my son was a hit to my self-esteem. After 27 years of not knowing what I’m doing as a parent, you’d think I’d have negotiated a deal with myself against the self-bashing. Instead, I immediately slid fragile arms into my worn and tattered robe of guilt. Within seconds, the heaviness of the emotional garment pushed down my shoulders and stole my joy.
“There you go again, Shelby. Allowing worry and fear to drive your decisions. When will you ever surrender your need to control so God can do what God does best?”
This was the opening monologue to what became a lengthy round of emotional bantering in my head. I fluctuated between the guilt of hurting my kid, the guilt of not trusting God, and the guilt of knowing I was once again allowing mom guilt to have the upper hand. Ugh. The madness of it all.
Why do we do this to ourselves, Mommas? Goodness, we deserve some grace!
We deserve not just some grace but large, heaping doses. Which is why, during my recent moment of distress, God reminded me of the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
When it comes to my style of worry, fear, and self-condemnation, applying the sage advice of this prayer is difficult. Mostly because I struggle with the acceptance, courage, and wisdom part of it all. I guess that’s why God whispered to me a new rendition of this timeless petition geared toward mommas who struggle with mom guilt like me:
“God, grant me the serenity to stop chastising myself for not mothering perfectly, the courage to forgive myself while I do the best I can, and the wisdom to know you love me as I am, right where I’m at.”
As I wrote these words in my journal, the weight of my robe lessened ever so slightly. Something about the process of silkscreening the ideas of serenity, courage, and wisdom across the fabric of motherhood opened my heart to a new perspective. By considering the broad definition of these words, I began to see mom guilt from a God’s-eye view.
Serenity means calm, peaceful, and untroubled. So, we’re asking for the grace to remain calm, peaceful, and untroubled within our heart despite the flux of our external imperfections. Isn’t this how we treat our kids? Isn’t our goal to remain a safe and peaceful haven for them as they learn, grow, and mature into grownups? We don’t chatter in their ear through the wee hours of the night with a continuous barrage of condemnation about their shortcomings. Instead, we love them through the mess. We offer them the grace to make mistakes.
Don’t we deserve the same treatment and wiggle room to learn, grow, and mature? Yep.
Courage is defined as strength in the face of pain or fear. How many of us need some strength to face our fear of failure as moms? I sure do. Who wants to fail? Isn’t our underlying motive (besides loving our kids like maniacs) to avoid failing them at all costs? We want to get it right more than anything else because the idea of failing our kids sounds a lot like ruining their future. No thank you.
But the truth is, we aren’t failures. Life is learning school, and every time things get messy, we have an opportunity to receive a lesson about who we are, why we’re here, and how to love everyone better. We’re not going to be perfect in our humanity. But our imperfection does not equate to impending doom for our kids. Our children aren’t perfect either. They break the rules, make unconscious choices, and mouth off sometimes. But we forgive them. Why? Because we love them and don’t expect perfection. Yet, we have this crazy notion that moms should be perfect, and any emerging flaw is somehow unforgivable.
Why do we extend mercy to our kiddos at the drop of a hat yet hang ourselves on a hook of shame?
Don’t we also deserve the grace-filled space to stumble? Yep.
Wisdom is the quality of having knowledge, experience, and good judgment. I can only speak for me, but for the love of all things unconditional, I need only look back across my life’s journey for proof God loves me just as I am, right where I’m at. God has a 100% track record of accepting me ‘as is.’ If not, I wouldn’t be sharing this article with you because my poor behaviors would have rendered me null and void a long time ago.
Isn’t this how we love our kids? No matter what?
So, if God loves us no matter what, even and despite our imperfections, and we love our kiddos with abandon despite their mishaps, why on earth do we not love ourselves the same? Maybe we don’t really believe God loves us without qualifiers. But again, it’s hard to find proof that God doesn’t.
Don’t we deserve to love the person we see in the mirror for who she is? Yep.
Okay. So, what do we do to love ourselves better?
We DO THE BEST WE CAN to allow ourselves to remain untroubled despite our imperfections.
We DO THE BEST WE CAN to find the strength to face our fear of failure, which begins and ends with inward mercy.
We DO THE BEST WE CAN to believe God loves us just as we are, so we learn to love ourselves the way we deserve.
I think we all agree it takes a village (or a small country) to raise a child. But my heavens, doesn’t it take a village to care for the village as well? We need each other, Mommas. We need moms who stand before us, leading the way with wisdom and experience, moms standing beside us as we crawl through the weeds, and moms behind us to encourage and inspire us with their loving awareness.
There is serenity, courage, and wisdom in numbers. Maybe together, we can gently lift the robe of guilt off each other’s backs, thus setting free the collective, one battle-worn momma at a time.
Love and forgive you, crazy Mommas!
Feeling overwhelmed, alone, guilty, exhausted, worried? Here is some love for your mom heart: