Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Horrible Mom

What is a horrible mom? Does she really exist? Is she inside of all of us moms, waiting for that moment of fatigue and irritability to reach an all time high so she can jump out and "shine"?

Aren't we all guilty of doing horrible things sometimes? Like, not letting the driver in the left lane with the furious blinking light come over into our lane because we're in such a rush to reach our destination or simply (and more horrible), we just don't feel like it. When we do that, we don't consider ourselves bad drivers, do we? We justify why we did it and move on (hopefully).

Somehow, mothering is the same yet so different. Shouldn't we be able to be more than what we do in moments? Yet sometimes those ever-important, miniscule moments can define our relationships with our offspring as well as shape the people we are or will be.

Is the mother who shakes her crying baby a horrible mother because she lost her temper in an instant? The world thinks so. However, as a mother of a previously colicky baby (and now whining preschooler), I know what it feels like to get lost in the insanity of it all. Sure, I didn't shake my baby, but admittedly, I thought about it. I don't condone child abuse. I do condone mother sensitivity. Sometimes these two overlap uncomfortably, but that's a story for another day.

In class, we learn that all humans are complex systems. Essentially this means that something that seems simple (the mom shaking the baby) really has more components than generally accepted or explored (the mom who shook the baby was dealing with post partum depression, the recent death of her spouse, threats of eviction and overall hopelessness). While complexity doesn't excuse behaviors, it certainly sheds new light on an otherwise dull situation.

I started this post because I have been battling emotions of feeling like a horrible mom. My 3-year old has started to request shows by name and often cries when I turn the televison off. This is new to me as he has just started really watching TV and now seems to be addicted to it. It's definitely my fault, right? I've started using the television as a babysitter more and more. I've got papers to do, job quotas to fill, dinners to make. But, my child couldn't care less about that stuff. He only knows that mom isn't jumping around with him and Dora any more because she's doing "ho-work" (as he calls it). He surely thinks I'm a horrible mother, right?

Does the fact that my children have 3 (mostly) homecooked meals and 2 snacks a day erase my intermittent neglect? Or does the fact that I snuggle and kiss and cuddle them for 30 minutes before bedtime while lavishing them with words of affirmation negate the fact that I sometimes ignore their "fights" and temper tantrums? Where is the line of horrible-ness drawn? And more importantly, have I crossed it?

**Deep Breath**

It's easy to compare ourselves to other moms and feel (wrongly) superior. It's also easy to look at our imagined motherly selves and compare it to the actual mother we have become and feel incredibly melancholy.

The truth is, I'm not better than the (real-life situation) mom who has 5 children with 4 different men, works part-time and receives a substantial amount of government assistance. I'm the same as her in that we're both doing the best that we can for our children in this given moment of time. And above all, we both love our children to the core of our being.

Today, I vow not to let motherhood guilt cause me to abandon my school work or hobbies. I vow to show my children that real mothers are human and flawed. I want them to know I have dreams and goals for myself, as well as for them. It's important that they know that while they are one of my greatest reasons for living, they are not the center of my world because God is. I vow today to present myself as a perfect imperfection--horrible only in small doses and best if taken with milk :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Forward Thinking

Fresh off of the heels of my oldest son's first ever organized sports "Draft Day", I am pumped! As I watched my little boy running, with all his might, across the gymnasium, I swelled with motherly pride. Not because he was terrific (even though he totally was), but because... he was mine.

He lined up obediently amongst the other rowdy 3 and 4 year olds, listened attentively to the coach, and performed the requested "drills". But, aside from that... he was mine. You see, sometimes, we don't appreciate our children for who they are as an independent entity, only for who they are at the moment. And let's be honest, there are moments when we just don't appreciate them at all, like the middle of the cereal aisle when they scream for the "one with the man on it!" and then increasingly louder when you reply "no".

Sadly, I sometimes forget that my kids were gifts from God. Packaged in adorable, occasionally snotty-nosed, loud, squirmy, whiny wrapping, but gifts nonetheless. He gave them to me to protect and provide for, but also to love and mainly to see Him through them.

The day-to-day struggles of non-naptimes and veggie bargaining and juice wars often consume my existence of what it's like to be a mom. But, today was different (well those few hours of soccer were anyway) and beautiful.

I watched my child be himself. I noticed how he talked to other preschoolers, high-fived random adults, and pumped his little arms to run as fast as he could. He was awesome in just being who God crafted him to be. I'd be dishonest if I said I wasn't a little proud of the fact that he could follow directions while being sociable and still manage to be one of the best behaved kids out there today because I definitely was. But, bigger than that, I was just proud to be his mom in the stands, watching him exist in his own skin.

I caught a glimpse of not only who he is now, but what kind of person he would be in a few years and I loved the sight of it. So even though I should be working right now (my deadline is in a few hours) or finishing up 2 assignments for school (due Monday), I chose to document how wonderful life is as a parent. Most days.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Never Enough

I just read a blog post that inspired me to do some critical thinking (yes, I'm a fancy grad student now, and that's all we do). It was a wonderfully insightful post, written by an incredible mother, Christian and philanthropist who I have the pleasure of knowing :-) Read "How to Measure Success of a Mother".

As I sit up in the wee hours of the morning (3:17am to be exact), hammering away at the keyboard and probing the deeps of my mind to come up with something particularly genius for my classmates and teacher to read, I also think about how much energy I will NOT have for my children when they wake up. Then I feel guilty. Then the self-motivating pep talk begins. I tell myself that I can do this because "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). I think back to when my boys were infants (seemingly not too long ago), screaming at all hours, with no regard for the time. In those days, sleep was stolen in haphazard patches in front of the television with one hand patting a back or holding a bottle and always cradling a baby. Yet, somehow I made it to work (granted that was my computer in the next room) on time and always met my quotas.

Despite the obvious triumphs of the past, I still struggle with feeling like I'm enough. I question my dedication to my family as I heat up a Stouffer's lasagna for dinner, rather than slaving over a stove to prepare them a home-cooked meal. I debate my commitment to school as I do homework to the sounds of crying/laughing (because sometimes it's difficult to know the difference) and the NFL game playing in the background. I examine my devotion to my marriage as I choose to let the idiocy of reality television wash over me, rather than share intimate conversation with my husband. Looking around at the hurricane that is my life, I have the impression that I can be swept away at any unpredictable moment. I am clearly not enough.

But, thankfully I know who is.

I know a God who is made strong in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) therefore, I'm really not that weak, am I?

We humans (especially moms) like to think that we can do it all. We undertake so many responsibilities, we strive for perfection. We fail. We can't do it all on our own. God wants us to rest in our imperfections, so that He gets the glory for our success. Unfortunately, sometimes that means we have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death first.

Like my precious, fragile toddler having a seizure, blue lips and eyes rolled back, unresponsive, unconscious and me with no immediate transportation... BUT GOD steps in. He proved that no amount of CPR and parenting classes could save me in that moment. Only He could. I was not enough.

As my oldest son lashes out in frustration at his younger brother with a shove and exclaiming "I said, don't do that! You are so disobedient!" or giggles when he burps, rather than excusing himself, I sadly realize I am not enough to raise my rowdy boys into kind, mannerable men. I have to rely on God to mold them into His image, in His time (but seriously, any day now God).

The pressures of this life are difficult enough, without feeling like you're doing it all on your own. We have spouses and friends and community groups, but in those wee hours of the morning when our eyelids threaten to close and the to-do list stares menacingly at you, it is then that we truly feel alone. It is also then that we are most in-sync with God, despite that sinking feeling that rests in the pit of our stomach. In those solitary moments, those times we most want to quit and wonder why we even started, that's where God resides. He lives in those junctures of time when our failures illuminate his prowess. It is when we are truly isolated from the distractions of the world that we can see and hear Him clearly.

He never leaves us, but often we leave Him, thinking we can handle things by ourselves. We can't.

When I cry, confused and afraid, praying over my husband's heart condition, He hears me.

When me children disobey me and I harshly reprimand them, then question if I did the right thing, He comforts me.

When dishes pile up in the sink, laundry overflows from every basket in the house, homework sits undone, emails unanswered, family unfed, He breathes through me and somehow it all gets done.

I am not enough and contrary to what I think at times, I never will be. But He always is and I relax and rejoice in that.

*** This song has been on heavy rotation in my head for the past few days and it seems so appropriate to this topic, so I thought I'd share. "By Your Side" by Tenth Avenue North***