This is a quick Mother’s Day post!
Many of us have wanted to be mothers in some fashion, even women like me who initially thought career would come before motherhood. Until we have children who tell us the worst part of their day was hearing you yell at their sibling.
We have great dreams as mothers, but those dreams are really idols. Dreams can easily fold in on us because idols become chains. Idols are the MUST BE – HAVE TO BE – SHOULD BE – in your life. Have we failed if a child doesn’t have the intellectual or social ability of his peers or a spouse’s or child’s death changes the family dynamic, or a child has deep fears paralyzing his growth, or a child is currently rejecting all we taught?
I never thought motherhood would include losing children, a foster mother’s heartaches, those yearning to be mothers, an adoptive mother’s challenges, miscarriages, special needs mothers, or mothers chasing after adult children reluctant to come home.
Perhaps my complicated relationship with my own mother built false idols into my heart. As mothers, we do not have to absorb others’ pain. That is a shocking statement, one you might initially defend against. Most mothers I know feel it’s their God-given obligation to be the suffering servant for their children. We feel like we must absorb our children’s trials, but we don’t have to.
Carrying our children’s burdens is not the same as absorbing them, like Jesus did on the cross. We are not Jesus. We are not anyone’s Savior. Most mothers I know don’t carve out time to process their emotions. We believe the lie that everything our child does means something about us. Self betrayal is something we learn. There is blaming, self shaming, and unresolved emotions that birth bad coping mechanisms – people pleasing, workaholism, escapism, retail therapy, emotional eating, drinking. Internal stories of self judgement and comparison run our lives as mothers.
For me, I desire no hero worship from my children. I am finally climbing out of the trap of self betrayal by asking for more help! I take a distinct Christian perspective in training my children: “For even the son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Even the King of Kings comes without entitlement or expectation to be served hand and foot.
My goal is to teach my family how to serve each other and beyond. Everyone must chip in, and I will gladly give up the martyr pedestal. I want nothing to do with guilt, resentment, and obligation as my children grow into independent, fascinating people. After 16 years of marriage and 13 years of motherhood, it’s a bit rocky to suddenly turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction, but the fruits are worth it.
As moms, we are to see children as they are. To see their hearts as they really are, not how to gain love and approval from them. We don’t assume a single person can meet our needs. Or “make” us happy consistently. Freedom is encouraged for a child. Exploration is encouraged for a child. And there’s always a safe base to return to with mom.
So when my child tells me his worst part of his day is hearing me yell at his sibling, I can take that in. I can process it. I know my failings, and I am learning about myself. I have a child who can speak freely, respectfully (most times), and honestly (all the time) to me. It is my responsibility to process my emotions. It’s tempting to overcompensate in some area, to bury those feelings – but the temporary escape never resolves anything.
I have to grow. Motherhood offers no other choice if you want to avoid guilt. We can resist how our children are mirrors to ourselves. If I chasten my child for playing too many video games, he can retort about my phone habits. If I expect courtesy amidst sibling bickering, I can’t barge into my child’s things without common courtesy and explanation.
My oldest son asked me in our devotion time if other parents allow their children to be their own person – not just an extension of themselves. I told him it’s more rare than it should be. Why not start with your family’s honest answers about you as a mother? Ask your spouse and children to honestly share how you can be a better mother. Maybe have them write it down in case they are worried you will react poorly. That is what I will be doing on Mother’s Day 2020 – a secret casting of opinions for my eyes only. I already know one of them is being more carefree and relaxed with my kids. If you are missing your family’s hearts, you still have time to grow and learn.
Maybe your Mother’s Day is already off to a rocky start. Maybe your family forgot to plan anything without the crutch of quick flowers and Mother’s Day lunch reservation to rely on. Why not let go of the MUST BE – SHOULD BE – HAS TO BE for today? Ask them to join you in something you love. For some of you, this may be the hardest thing for them to adapt to – your needs and your individual passions.
Motherhood is a rollercoaster ride. The best news is you are a child yourself. Don’t mistake the gift of motherhood as your destiny. You are courageous to be a mother, but you are more than a mother. The only way to stop absorbing all your child’s victories and mistakes is to release your guilt, shame, & pain and your joys, victories, & high points, and let them be absorbed and sung over by someone else! For me, it’s a faith jump to a Father God, but a relationship I haven’t wavered from since age 28. It’s asking for help and making your needs known to your loved ones. It’s grabbing hands with your family members and inserting yourself as a real person, not just a mother, and celebrating the broken, crazy mess each family is.
Happy Mother’s Day to All!
To see how my family surprised me on Mother’s Day 2020, check out this Instagram post.
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