by Heather Bock
I recently saw and shared an image that said, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. The mom in E.T. had an alien living in her house for days and didn’t notice.” Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? Although I laugh about the image I shared, I do have trouble with ones that especially pop up around Mother’s Day, addressed to all mothers that say something like, “Mom, you’re doing an awesome job.” I’m sorry, but no, not all mothers are doing a wonderful job. Have you read the news ever? Some are doing a horrendous job. Not only that, but although some are better than others, none of us are doing a perfect job. Heard of “mom fail”? All of us mothers are failing at motherhood in some way or another.
I know I sound harsh. Why in the world am I bringing up something that most mothers inherently know? Most of us are too hard on ourselves already. After all, this knowledge is the reason some have “mom crushes,” longingly wishing they could be like that “perfect” mom they see on Pinterest.
I bring it up because I’ve seen some people take this realization of shortcoming and answer it in some unhealthy ways. When I say “some people,” I have to include myself, by the way.
- Ignore Sin “We’re all doing a fantastic job as moms!” This is the one I already mentioned. I think the thought behind this is, “If I just ignore the faults, they won’t matter.” However the flaws remain, and ignoring wrongdoing rarely brings good.
- Focus on Hardships “I pee when I sneeze because of you. I deserve pampering on Mother’s Day.” We have stretch marks marring our previously beautiful waists. Our bodies become depleted as they make food for our kids. We are sleep-deprived. Yes, motherhood comes with self-sacrifice, but these physical realities don’t tell us anything about the heart inside the body. I can imagine even an abusive mother dealing with all of these aspects of motherhood–it certainly doesn’t make us good moms.
- Focus on Goodness “I know we moms are not perfect, but look at all the good we do!” This one is a lot more subtle than the first two. We focus on the good character of many moms, including ourselves, until we feel better about our glaring mistakes. Now, I know and love Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I am NOT saying we shouldn’t focus on the good that moms do. I just worry when we do that so much that we don’t deal with the bad, especially in ourselves.
- Rationalize Sin “Well, yes, I am unkind to my kids sometimes, but how else am I going to get them to listen to me?” Rationalizing away our sins enables us to never fully deal with them.
- Embrace Sin “That mom who looks so perfect on Instagram? She’s been exaggerating. We’re all flawed, so just embrace it!” I see this come out especially in the gray area of cleaning the home. We’re so busy, and we can’t keep up with it like we know we should, so some of us just give up. “A messy home is a happy home”? To some extent, of course, but we have to be careful not to take that too far. Some children really thrive better when calm and order prevail in a home. If this isn’t your family, ignore what I’m saying–I honestly don’t think my daughter would do better in a cleaner home. However, I know my son and I do. Maybe we wouldn’t be sinning to ignore this, but we would sure be loving children with that type of personality better if we recognized that.
- Compare Sin “I’m not as bad as THAT mom!” We can feel pretty smug when we watch a mom fail or maybe just fail at the parenting style we hold so dearly it has become gospel truth even though it can’t be found in the Gospel. The thought behind this one is that we may mess up, but it’s not so bad because, in our estimation, someone messed up worse. In the meantime, our sin continues.
What do we do then? How do we handle the sin we rightfully see in ourselves, the failures we will inevitably fall into as mothers? First, I believe we need to recognize it for what it is instead of ignoring it, rationalizing it, or giving into it. We are sinful, imperfect human beings, not Superhero Moms. If we just make a mistake instead of sin, we need to let it go and stop dwelling on it, but when it is sin, we must own up to it.
Once we recognize this and fully confront the (often depressing) fact that we will fail (there is none righteous–Rom. 3:10), we must strive to do our part to attack the sin, getting at the root of it (like I mention in part two of my weeding sin series), finding out the real reason behind it and digging it up there. While doing this, we must recognize that we will never be able to make any progress alone, so we must find some accountability in friends (part four of the weeding series) and get on our knees and beg Jesus to dig it out of us (see my last weeding post for more of this). He’s really good at that, by the way.
Finally, and this gives me the most comfort of all: if we were perfect moms, our children would not need Jesus. This is not an excuse to give up and sin without trying, but as we ask for His help and do our best, we have to recognize that God’s got this. He will help our children where we fail.