I read two posts last week that had been linked so many times by so many friends I thought I was probably the only person on the planet to have not read them. They were both on motherhood. One was a humorous rant. The other was supposed to be uplifting and encouraging and supporting for women in the season of life I currently inhabit.
The “rant” contained the following quote:
I want to tell people to SHUT UP sometimes when they mention how their kid is 2 grades ahead in math. SO WHAT. BRAGGART. My kid is behind in math. I could care less about them getting into Harvard. As for standardized testing – hate it. And Latin – why?
I laughed out loud. I don’t home school and I happen to see value in teaching Latin, but the sentiment resonated with me. I feel that pressure. I feel the burden to be the perfect stay at home mother, and to be involved in every activity and be personally discipling younger women. I feel guilty for not wanting another baby after my snickerdoodle, and guilty for being pregnant with my snickerdoodle when I am surrounded with women who would LOVE to have one or two children in their family. I feel guilty when I tell my children that I can’t read to them because I have to clean up the house, and guilty when I do read to them and let the housework stay undone. I feel the pressure. I heard Tonya’s words in my gut. I was encouraged, and my burden was lightened for a moment and I gained some perspective.
The second article was cited by numerous friends as being uplifting, encouraging and instructive. I began to read it with eager anticipation of being encouraged in my pursuit to be the mother the Lord would have me be. I was predisposed to agree with her premise, and was open to hear what she had to offer in the way of advice. Unfortunately, I stopped reading half way through the article, because the weight of expectation and the pressure of perfection was beginning to make me feel like climbing under a rock and declaring myself unfit as a mother.
This quote was the final straw:
When babies are touched and loved and sung to and talked to and have regular routines and regular, healthy diets, they are much more happy all the time and responsive to instruction. However, when a child has not received these basic needs, the only means of a child letting his parents know he is not happy or comfortable with his life is to whine or cry. When I am around generally healthy children whose needs have been met, it is obvious because they seem more content with life. All children are immature and will misbehave, and pages and pages could be written about the subject, but these are just a few of my thoughts.
It settled like a lead weight around my heart and stayed there for almost a week. When my three and a half year old, who has lately developed a serious case of “whine-itis” would whine, I would hear these words. When my son would cry for apparently no reason I would hear these words. When they weren’t obedient or “responsive to instruction” I would hear these words echoing like condemnation in my heart. “I’m not loving them enough. I’m not singing, and talking and hugging enough. I don’t have enough routine, I’m not feeding them well, I’m not . . . ”
This morning I just had to preach the gospel to myself. I had to realize that (a) I am sinful and (b) my children are sinful and (c) I can’t live up to the expectations of anyone else. I have to be faithful to those things directly commanded in scripture.
I had to tell Jesus that I’m not a perfect mother, and I had to admit that I had let this other woman become an idol in my life: I was trying to parent to please HER and all the others like her. I had to tell Jesus that I know I am incapable of parenting my children perfectly, and I had to tell Him that I know my children are incapable of love and obedience and I had to ask Him to make us in His image. Finally, I had to ask him to change my heart, from wanting a smooth day, to desiring to see my children grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. I asked him to make me more concerned with their spiritual development than their developmental milestones; more concerned with their eternal state than their intelligence and achievement.
After all of that, I went back and reread Tonya’s post and laughed and thanked the Lord for humor.