Thursday, February 26, 2015

Temptations Only Mothers Know: Mama guilt/confusion/questioning/advice-seeking/controlling

Wordy title, right?  There's no easy way to trim down all that *stuff* that goes on inside the mama mind.  The angst. The guilt.  The confusion. The frustration. The attempts to control every situation and the advice we seek from others when we're not sure we're doing it just "right."

You can see the signs everywhere, "You're a good mom."  Every mom wants to hear it.  We want to know we're doing an okay job.

I know, it's getting heavy today.  No light-hearted Libby joking about velcro and elastics, or stuffing her face with chocolate.  I spent the better part of my day at a specialists office for my oldest son, and the more time that I spend thinking about "am I doing it right" with my son, the more frustrated I am with myself.

Do you know why?

It's not because those questions are bad to ask.  We should always be trying to better.  We should try hard to make wise decisions and serve our families.  But how many times are we looking around at others wondering how they see us?  How many times are we trying desperately to hold on to control to our lives and our parenting?  How many times are we asking advice just so we can say, "yep, I did that. I'm a good mom."

I am so tired of it.  I am worn out from trying to look like a good mom, and I'm tired of everyone else judging whether I am or not.  I don't even like that slogan "you're a good mom."  You can't even think it without comparing yourself to someone else.  You will NEVER be happy when you compare yourself to someone else.  Ever.

It is so tempting in our culture to control every thing we can.  We are so sure that parenting in ways A and B will lead to C behavior.  We are so sure, in fact, that we are quick to give advice even when others haven't asked for it, or they have asked advice from certain people and you're NOT those people (but you give your advice anyway because you're sure it will help).

Just stop.  Stop giving people advice when they don't ask.  How many times has unsolicited advice helped you in your parenting? I'm going to guess that more times than not it's put you on the defensive and it's pretty hard to listen when you've got your shield in front of your face ready for battle.

Just stop judging other parents and how they're doing it.  I know not all of you are Christians, but I firmly believe the Bible is true.  And you know what's pretty amazing?  God Himself walked around in the flesh telling people how to live righteous lives and He still found a way to do it with grace and mercy.  *You* can't dole out grace and mercy but the only person in the whole world who ever lived a perfect life can?

Stop comparing yourselves to others.  Stop feeling elated when your kid isn't tantruming in the store and you've done "such a great job" of being a parent.  Stop feeling totally down on yourself when your kid IS tantruming in the store and everyone is looking at you.  Guess what?  Your worth isn't in how your child behaves.  It isn't in how clean his face is or how well she did her homework.  First off, I'm here to tell you that your worth is in Christ and nothing you do makes Him love you more or less.

And secondly, the most wonderful way to parent is to work hard at it and make the best decisions you know how.  That's it.  It's really not complicated.  I know, it feels more complicated than that.  But it's really not.  Since we're so distracted by our joy-stealing, habit-forming temptations of guilt, questioning, controlling and advice-giving, here are some things to consider:

1) In that moment when you glance at another kid/mama and thinking to yourself "I would have....." or "oh boy, I wouldn't have....."  Just STOP.  Stop yourself in your tracks.  Look at your precious child and smile.  Consider all the wonders you've been blessed with and just leave it at that.  You're not making anyone's life better by comparing yourself to them.

2) When you're hanging out with friends and you see them do something you wouldn't, or you hear them struggling with a particular part of mommyhood, ask yourself these questions:
  - Is she actually asking for advice, or is she just bemoaning the fact that her child is having an off week and is screaming every day?
  - How would I feel in her shoes?
  - How can I best encourage her right now?
 If the answer to "how can I best encourage her right now" is telling her some great thing you found useful in your own parenting life, then by all means, share away!  Don't get me wrong, I love getting advice from other moms.  At the right time.  Seasoned with love.  Try not to go spouting off things as if you are Anonymous, The Internet Troll without any consideration for her.

3) Use that God-given mama instinct.  So many times in my seven years of being a mom, I wish I had let go of that anxiety-driven need for control and just listened to my instincts.  Don't try to follow the crowd just for the sake of following the crowd.  Cut a path for your family that blesses all of you.  Figure out what's best for YOUR family.  And once you've figured it out, go back to #1.

Now it's time to start using it.  Grace.  Mercy.  Kindness.  Temper all your parenting with it and I guarantee your whole family will benefit.  If you start clinging to control or wanting answers, check yourself.  Am I doing my best?  Am I working at it?  That's it.  Leave it at that.  You are NOT in control and you will never know everything.  Let's all start encouraging each other to do our best.  Let's gather around and lift each other up.

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