When you feel like you failed as a mom

Motherhood can often turn into a competition of accomplishing tasks and goals, sometimes we are competing with other moms who seem to have it all figured out but honestly in my own experience most of my competitive nature is with myself. I feel elated when I accomplish a laundry list (no pun intended) of chores, spend time with the kids, have meals on the table that the kids ACTUALLY eat and have a candle lit. There is a checklist in my head that for most days if things haven’t been checked off I feel less than. My typical day consists of feeding everyone, cleaning what I can, breaking up fights, soothing tantrums, feeling guilty that I can’t invest quality time into everyone and then have said “cleaning” destroyed by little hands and feet… oh and the occasional mom tantrum of the day happens too somewhere in there.

More often than not I end up feeling defeated more than elated…exhausted more than excited and over all just frustrated….But this is more about me and a lot less about them. When I was at church recently I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen in awhile, she looked at my kids whom she had known since they were wee babies and said “Wow! They have grown so much, they are so cute. They are great. You look great too!” I said “oh thanks” sheepishly and then I couldn’t believe I actually admitted it but I said “I actually feel like I look not great and don’t feel great” and then laughed it off. She looked at me and said “that is how all moms feel, no mom feels great but you are”.

I felt kind of sad, speechless and comforted all at the same time. “No mom feels great”. I think it made me feel bad because in most conversations with other moms I have found this to be true in a multitude of forms.

Most moms don’t feel great about how they are doing as moms.

Most moms don’t feel great about what they are accomplishing.

Most moms don’t feel confident.

Most moms don’t like the way they look.

Most moms don’t like the new skin they are in.

Most moms don’t like the way they feel but don’t talk about it.

I have had different times in my mothering where some of this is true, sometimes when all of this is true and sometimes when none of this is true. I believe some of it has to do with hormones, some of it has to do with sleep deprivation, some of it has to do with the physically demanding stages of parenting and some of it has to do with the emotional stages of parenting. For instance, when my twins were 4, my middle daughter was 2 and we had a newborn we got NO sleep. ZIP. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, excited, happy, sad, you name it. The multitude of emotions that we experience as mothers are beyond anything expected going into it but they all come out…sometimes when you least expect it and sometimes all at once…No joke – you can go from crying to smiling in 20 seconds flat just ask any mom of a newborn who hasn’t tasted sleep in 20 days and watch her look at her cooing offspring and she will start cry-smiling. It’s real. Real y’all.

In the newbie stages of motherhood you can go from feeling elated because you got them down for a nap in quicker time than expected and you feel like you just walked on the moon. You can also feel incredibly defeated when your newborn won’t nurse properly, take a bottle, sleep, gain weight. Yeah …us moms put ALLLLLLLL that pressure on ourselves to conquer. Add to that body image issues of struggling with how slow baby weight is coming off and you wake up feeling like a hippopotamus every morning waiting for it to just slip off like satin. Heads up new moms – if it took 9 months for your body to stretch out that far it will usually take about 9 months to go back to normal. Now that I’m on the other side I can tell you with mama ((((hugs)))) give your body credit for all of the hard work it did to produce a human and give yourself time and grace for it to heal and change.

Later on we feel elated if we get them potty trained but defeated if they don’t know their ABC’s. I remember when my youngest went to VPK and she didnt know half her letters because ummmmmm I was a loser parent by the time I got to her and didn’t do a whole lot of Baby Einstein or flashcards or whatever overachiever things I did with my first borns. And YES I’m serious about calling myself that for the first borns – looking back I wish I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to have them spell the word BAT and would have cuddled them a little more. Why? Because they are 10 now and they are to big to hold and they can read on a level Z so it really didnt matter that much.

Now we are in the phase of parenting that pretty much requires me to do a whole lot of saying “Stop this” “Don’t make a mess” “Stop hitting your sister” “Don’t leave the fridge open” “Put your shoes away FOR THE 80000000th time” “Use your manners” “Wash your hands after you poop” YES this is how it goes all day long and I don’t feel like an accomplished mom – I feel like a yelling mom, a nagging mom, a ranting mom and sometimes I just feel like a bully. I feel like my existence right now is to be more of a cop than the fun mom I always envisioned myself to be. And don’t get me wrong, there are AMAZING moments – we do really special, fun and memorable things together but to be honest the bulk of parenting is less cute clothes, Disney World, reading The Hungry Caterpillar and more cleaning messes, instructing, shaping, refocusing, shifting gears, losing sleep, trying new tactics like 30 different chore charts, rules, ideas and schemes to get everyone to get along or do chores or be team players, there’s lots of forgiving, hoping they forgive you back when you melt down like a crazy mom, giving grace over and over and hoping they give you grace too….maybe even more grace than you need to give them.

And yet I guess that is the complete depiction of what the Savior does over and over for us. Cleans up our messes, instructs us, guides us, shapes us, tries finding new ways through suffering, trial or just every day annoyances to get us to refocus on what matters, He shifts our gears and shakes up our world, He tries new things to get our attention to make us more like Him and less selfish like our nature, He forgives over and over and over again and give us so much grace to try again… He humbles us through our mothering not because He doesn’t love us but because He does. He gives us something that is impossible to do alone, He gives us something that is a task far beyond our earthly ability, He gives us this daily beauty and chaos to turn us inside out to see the yuck in us. So when I’m wrung out tired and turned inside out I see vividly my pride, my need to be in control, my self centered wants and am so so so very humbled that God gave me beautiful living things to undo all of these things in me, to show me what selfless love looks like, to show me sacrifice …daily sacrifice. Motherhood is a sacrifice of love and the utmost honor and privilege and some days I know I treat it like I’m trying to accomplish a goal and it’s just not that. It’s really about having a heart for home, a heart to be teachable by messy imperfect dishes, loads of weird encrusted things on my floor, laundry that WILL not stay hung in their closets because they tear it apart, unkempt bedrooms and bad cop moments. Yeah, he teaches me so much in all of this stuff. He humbles me in all of this …all of it.

I read this quote by mother/writer Kimberly Hahn who in my opinion deserves a medal because she has like 9 kids and it just rang true for me and I hope it encourages you too.

‘Some days I plan a nice dinner, complete the laundry, except for ironing and even pick up the first floor, but I have not had time for Scott or one on one time with the kids. O maybe I get quality time with some family members only to realize at 5:30 that I have not even thought about dinner. No matter how much we achieve, it seems that we fail in some way everyday. It can be overwhelming. Does God intend for us to complete every homemaking task every day? No, it is not humanly possible. If it is not possible, then it is not Gods will for us. Embracing the humility that comes from incomplete daily work is one of Gods gifts to us through this calling” – Kimberly Hahn.

So she said a few things that made gave me such encouragement –

It’s not humanly possible to get it all right because it’s not suppose to be. What it is suppose to be is to humble us and draw us closer.

I mean I literally am crying as I re-read it – why???? Because God is so incredibly loving that He doesn’t WANT us to have the satisfaction of accomplishment unless it draws us closer to Him and our humility is what draws us closer not our accomplishments. This is the story of the gospel – it’s not earned, it’s not achieved, in and through grace we receive and that is so incredibly humbling. We bow down in motherhood…it’s what we do moms, we bow down and clean dirty surfaces, we bow down and kiss babies feet, we bow down and scoop up little hands, we bow down and sacrifice time, we bow down and humble ourselves because it is in that place that we acquaint the deepest place of our being with the Savior….bowed down, humbled, selfless, giving life for another. This is why motherhood is hard for us, because we want to accomplish something, we want to cross stuff off of our lists, we want to feel validated…But guess what moms…the validation comes not from seeing clean floors, perfect meals and perfectly spaced quality time…the validation of motherhood comes from the Father entrusting them to us in the first place! We were chosen to be stewards of these amazing little people by our Heavenly Father not because He thought we were perfect but because He wants to perfect us through loving them and because He will work in and through us to lead them. We are hosts of His presence and we get to carry that over to our kids…we get to model to them what it looks like not to be perfect but to RELY on a perfect God. We get to model humility in and through our limitations. What a huge gift to be able to be used in such a special amazing way…we just have to be willing vessels. Wow.

So yeah…if you feel like you didn’t hit the mark today, didn’t cross things off of a list, lost your temper, felt defeated; don’t –

don’t feel defeated – feel humbled that the Lord wants to show you that you can’t do it all and that you don’t have to

don’t feel defeated – feel honored that you have been entrusted to be vessels that the Lord can love through

don’t feel defeated – feel blessed that these gifts were given to perfect the Fathers work in you.

don’t feel defeated – feel thankful to look at a glimpse of Gods love in the eyes of your littles.

So as for me, not much accomplished today, I still have laundry to fold and have a list of should haves but I’m so thankful to look at it with fresh eyes humbled at another opportunity to sit and bow at the feet of my Savior, to ask for strength and grace once again and to share that strength and grace with my littles. Thank you Jesus for loving me like this.

Photo cred – Talley MacIntosh