Part of my self-care work this year involves releasing the story I have been carrying around about what defines a good mother. My inner story is (still) far too focused on results and control - control of my productivity, the state of home, and my children's attitudes and behavior . . even control of my own behavior. A good mom keeps a reasonably ordered home. She always rises early enough to meet her children when they wake and she never hides in bed until she hears banging or screeching. A good mom usually responds with gentleness and cleverness to her children's "mal-adaptive" behaviors. She does not allow herself to become overwhelmed by typical childish behavior and throw her own version of a tantrum. A good mom has children whose behavior steadily improves over time (ha!). A good mom does not hide in the bathroom with chocolate and text her husband that he'd better get himself home in the next twenty minutes if he wants said home to still be standing.
Do you see this?? I'm crushing myself each day before I even begin. Maybe you do the same thing, with your own story?
This list. . . these are all excellent things to strive for or to avoid (especially that last one,) but, inevitably, daily life with growing, testing children and an imperfect mother slides off the rails. If this type of list is how we define success at the end of the day, depression will be looming before long.
I'm working on releasing my “good mom” story because it misdirects me and serves everyone in my family poorly. I am ceasing to put pressure on myself that doesn't belong. Instead, I nourish my mama-heart with this story:
A good mother seeks God for wisdom and strength, knowing he loves her children far more perfectly than she ever could. She is intentional in her daily life as much as she is able, and compassionate with herself when she is not. She takes responsibility for filling her own tank and caring for her own soul so that she can pour out love on those entrusted to her care. She openly models this for her children. She acknowledges that she will sometimes be tired and cranky and selfish and make mistakes (including some big ones), but she also knows how important it is for her children to see her demonstrating apology, humility, and forgiveness. A good mom keeps showing up.
A mother who believes this kind of story does not fall daily under the sword of her own expectations. A mother who carries this kind of story can find true rest, and everyone around her breathes easier because of it. Abundant life.
I set aside some time the other day to copy out my new story by hand. The old story was zipping around in my brain and dragging me down again. It was so helpful and rest-producing to just linger over each word and settle on the end. A good mom keeps showing up. Maybe she first has a little alone time in the closet with some dark chocolate (sans texting), but she keeps. showing. up.
Other posts in this series: