Let Mothering Be Hard

A few weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post written by a mother, publicly honouring her grown daughter, who is also a mom, by saying, “I’m always amazed by how you can do it all! You make it look so easy!” and went on to list all the many responsibilities her daughter juggles.

This bothered me. I love words of affirmation, and I think encouragement is a beautiful, life-giving thing. But I had a problem with this comment, because it’s what our culture always glorifies – doing it all, and looking perfect while we do it.

The problem is, it’s pretty much impossible to “do it all”, and not lose our sanity. If anyone is actually doing it “all”, and is able to make it look easy or perfect, they are either exceptionally gifted, or they’re faking it. If they’re exceptionally gifted, this should not be the normal standard, and if they’re faking it, it shouldn’t be praised and glorified.

Standards have been set so high, there is no room for admitting weakness, stress, or struggling.

There are a few problems I see with this:

  1. Moms who can’t do it all get the message that they fall short.
  2. It encourages comparison.
  3. It ignores the fact that each mother has a vastly different life-calling, personality, and number of responsibilities on her plate.
  4. It suggests that when women burn out and must take a break, they are “less than”, falling short of the times when they are able to do it all. It makes it hard to admit when things are hard.

Social media plays a large role in this, but it seems to be a message we communicate in a wide variety of other ways, as well. It’s an attitude which permeates our culture.

We praise the woman who can do it all, but where is the honour for the mother who goes slowly? Who dedicates her hours to the small, simple acts of caring for her family in ways which the outside world will never see? Where is our praise for women with strong boundaries, a good understanding of her personal energy levels, great wisdom and self-control when she decides not to spread herself thin by committing to too many things?

There are some women who do a fantastic job of working full-time, raising kids, and keeping the house under control, while making it all look easy, but I don’t know of very many. From what women have shared with me, a lot of these brave, hardworking mothers all have times of struggling and fighting discouragement and guilt. It seems that most of the time, something has to give. There’s guilt over hiring a cleaning lady, or guilt over not spending enough time with her kids. Always guilt about something, because she’s doing everything but doesn’t know if she’s doing it well enough.

Then there are women like me, who stay home, and feel guilty because we have the extra hours at home, so we *should* be able to keep the house cleaner, be more focused and attentive, do more crafts with our kids, and yet even with the “extra” time, we still feel like we’re falling short.

Why are so many women feeling guilty? Why is it so hard to be a good mom?

My guess is because it IS hard. As it should be.

This is the most important thing I will ever do. It should be hard.

I hope there are other important things I get to accomplish in my lifetime, but to bring a human being into this world, and to be a part of the process of them growing into mature, wonderful adults is a big deal. It takes a ton of work and growing pains of all kinds, for everyone involved. There are no shortcuts to growth and awesomeness, and yet we’ve come up with the term “Super Mom” – for the woman who can do it all, and make it look easy.

I read this quote recently which summed it up nicely:

Looking back on my childbearing years, it seems as if I struggled every step of the way. I interpreted my struggling as a sign that I wasn’t good enough. Yet now that I have the perspective of a veteran mom, I think that there are certain struggles that can’t be avoided in mothering, such as sleepless nights with a newborn or an older child getting sick the day you’re leaving for vacation. And there are others that shouldn’t be avoided in mothering — how to meet your child’s needs without negating your own, when to take charge and when to let go, how to balance getting things done with building relationships or having fun. Struggles like these serve as stepping-stones to self-development. It is through these struggles that a mother defines who she is and becomes the mother she wants to be. (MotherStyles, Janet P. Penley)

Instead of focusing on perfection, I love the idea of embracing struggles, because it is the struggle which strengthens and shapes us. It acknowledges that life is messy, and that’s a good thing. There is room for mess, pain, confusion and uncertainty. There is no such thing as a Super Mom – there are just a lot of beautiful, strong women, working hard to love and care for their kids in the best way they know how, and that’s going to look a million different ways.

Saying parenting is hard doesn’t have to be a negative thing. For the last while, I’ve been doing some physical exercise which is hard for me. There’s nothing wrong with the exercise, or with me for finding it difficult – it’s just hard because I haven’t done it before, and I haven’t built up my strength and skill, but I will.

The same thing goes for parenting. It’s hard, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the kids or the parents. It simply means we’re building character and skill, and it will come.

Hard things are rewarding. They bring wonderful truth to the surface, and show us that we can become more than we were before. Parenting does this more than anything I’ve ever done. It is most definitely rewarding and life-changing. There are such beautiful moments, there are no words to describe it. I love these children of mine deeply, in the hard times, and the good.

We will gain far more ground if we lean into the struggle, rather than wasting our precious energy denying its existence and hiding its reality from the rest of the world.

It is hard, so let it be. The struggle is right and good.

Comfort Food, Comfort Photos

After Monday’s post, I feel as though I don’t have much left to say, for now. (I’m sure that will change shortly…)

I feel as though I’m in the mood for a nice, comfortable post, with nice, comfortable pictures.

girls

Apparently, I’m after comfort today. I did a little bit of comfort eating earlier. A long day led to me finishing off a bag of chips in my closet, so I wouldn’t have to share any with my children. I can’t even imagine my mom doing anything half so selfish when I was a kid. But then, I guess I wouldn’t know if she had. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t.

However, I’ve decided not to tell myself I’m a bad mom anymore. It’s so discouraging, and not really accurate. I’m a good mom who makes mistakes sometimes. I’m a work in progress. And I fed my girlies toasted waffles, to make up for the chip thing.

girls

 

I totally forgot my poor husband in the city today.

What??! I know.

We drove into Winnipeg together this morning, and then I went off to a bunch of appointments, and took the girls to their last swimming lesson. After that, I was merrily driving home, when Ben called my cell phone. EVEN THEN, my first thought was, “Oh, I wonder why Ben is calling??”

No recollection, whatsoever. Brutal.

I was already almost home, so fortunately, Ben was able to catch a ride home from the city with a friend. SO GLAD I didn’t need to drive all the way back to Winnipeg again! Then I might have needed a bit more than just chips in my closet….

But we will press on. I’m a good wife who makes mistakes sometimes…Oh, boy.

Any other confessions out there??! How’s your week going?:)

Insecure Much (Part 1): What’s Your “One Thing”?

So yesterday I let you all know about my newest little blog series about insecurity. I’ve been learning a ton from Beth Moore’s book, So Long, Insecurity, and I want to share with you some of the things that I’ve been working through as a result.

To start things off, I’ll give you a little tip on how to figure out what your biggest area of insecurity might be.

Beth Moore writes that if you want to figure out what your “soft spot” is, the area where you are most vulnerable, just try to figure out what is the one thing that you would change about yourself, if you could.

She calls this “a prominent false positive: one thing that we think would make us more secure in all things.

She writes,

Think of the person you believe to be secure and determine what earthly thing he or she has that you don’t feel like you possess, at least in matching measure….Needless to say, we would all like any number of things to give us the security we’re after, but we each have a tendency to prioritize one above the rest….Often we’re not even aware of it, but we demonstrate it by the inordinate power we assign to it. (p.37)

I read that, and thought, “I really don’t think that’s true in my life. I don’t think I have just one thing that sums up my insecurity.” But I wanted to be a good sport, so I spent some time thinking and praying about it.

What finally came to me was kind of surprising.

For me, it’s health. I often start to think that if I could overcome the health issues that I’m still trying to deal with once and for all, I would be perfectly happy.

I watch the other moms here at camp with their kids, and they seem to have boundless energy. They seem to do endless amounts of crafts with their kids, have never-ending amounts of patience, and run all over camp with their children. I used to watch out the window as my friend Terra-Lee went sailing past our house on her bike with all her children in tow.

And then I would look at my house that was a mess, because I was exhausted and had no energy to deal with it. My kitchen was pure chaos, because my health requires me to stay on a very restricted diet that’s a ton of work. And my hips give me so much trouble that I can’t even go for walks, never mind a bike ride.

I would feel very sorry for myself, and I would think, “If only I was completely healthy, then I would be the one biking, and having the time and energy for crafts and cleaning, and parenting with all the energy and patience that everybody else has. I would be able to have as many babies as I would choose to have instead of being restricted by my body, and my whole life would be wonderful….if only I was completely healthy.”

So positive, right? I didn’t feel that way all the time, just on the bad days.

But Beth Moore is right – I do have a soft spot, and my “one thing” is health. I was longing for the health that others seem to have, I was pouring a lot of time and money into trying to achieve it, and if you would ever want to crush me, all it would take is telling me that I looked like I was “wasting away” (yes, that was a direct quote), and looking tired, run-down, and unhealthy. Then I would go away and cry, and feel discouraged about absolutely everything in my life. I felt insecure about how I was doing as a mom and as a wife, and I felt insecure about how I looked and what other people thought of me.

I thought that everything would just be better if I was healthy and vibrant and full of energy.

But you know what? As long as I was thinking about all of that junk, as long as I was wishing for the life that someone else seemed to have, as long as I was feeling sorry for myself, I was never be able to see myself the way God sees me. If I’m thinking about what I don’t have or comparing myself to other people, I can’t focus on God. My thoughts are focused on myself and on the little pity party that can kick into high gear at a moment’s notice.

That’s my soft spot.

I found out what it was, but I also found out what to do with it. I need to surrender it over to God, and allow Him to heal it. I need to stop the pity party, and start filling my mind with thoughts that are glorifying to Him.

Sometimes identifying the soft spot already makes the hugest difference. I realized that I was unconsciously thinking a lot of harmful thoughts in a day. When I figured out what my “one thing” was, I was able to stop those thoughts, and replace them.

And it’s always possible to replace those thoughts: I am so much healthier than I used to be. And maybe I’m not biking all over the place with my girls, but we sure have fun snuggled up on the couch, reading books. Maybe my diet is a lot of work and really restricted, but at least I’ve found a way to function well and feel good.

My negative thoughts were feeding the insecurity I had about my health. I was constantly comparing myself to others, and only seeing all the ways in which I was not strong enough, not good enough, just….never enough.

But Ben often says, “It is what it is.” This is the life and the body that God has blessed me with. It’s not perfect, and that is okay. In His eyes, I will always be enough. Instead of continually focusing on that one thing, I need to keep looking to Him. He heals the hurt and the insecurities, and the years of not measuring up.

So what’s your spot? It might take some thinking to figure out, but I think it would be worth the effort. What is the one thing that you think would make everything better in your life, and then take it to God and ask Him to heal you and free you.

Anyone brave enough to share? I’m kinda curious about your “one thing”...

(If it’s way too scary to share something like that publicly, you can always send me an email! I’d love to hear from you.)

Faith in Living, Breathing Colour

Hey everybody, here’s something new and different! My friend Heather and I are swapping blog posts – my post is over on her blog, and she’s written a post to share with all of you!

I’ve known Heather for a few years through Red Rock Bible Camp. She used to work on staff here, and now she comes back as a guest speaker during the summer or for retreats. I always look forward to her coming out here, because she’s such a fantastic person to talk with – upbeat, encouraging, fun, inspiring, and wise, with a heart that is seeking after God. I read her blog every day, and now you all have the chance to get to know her, too! Check out her blog to hear more from Heather!

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Two months before my wedding my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Weeks after her diagnosis and first surgery, she was told that because of a genetic strand she carried, she had a 50-80% chance of the cancer returning. This led to four months of chemotherapy and three major surgeries.

Life can change so drastically in just one day. One phone call, one blood test, one surgery later and suddenly everything looks unfamiliar. What does it mean to have faith in the midst of chaos and confusion? What does it mean to trust, when your world has been shaken up, turned around and poured out? The tidy answers I’d always given others struggling seem dried up, empty and clichéd. And yet I knew I had no hope without my faith in God.

“Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see” Hebrews 12:1 NIV. This verse – one that is preached, taught and spoken so often – takes on a whole new weight in the midst of struggle. It’s one that both encouraged and frustrated me as my flesh and spirit fought over its meaning.

My flesh said being sure and certain of what I cannot see is ridiculous. Reality and truth is what I see – my mom is sick, she is broken and she is suffering! However my Spirit fought back saying, “This is what faith is!”

Faith isn’t seeing your prayers answered; it’s believing they will be even as you wait.  

It is looking into the face of my precious mother laying in a hospital bed, with a dozen tubes, chords and drains hooked up to her and believing that she is healed! Believing for a miracle.

Over the course of her battle with cancer I’ve see many amazing miracles in my mom’s life. But my faith grows most on days when I see my mom weak and sick and when I pray, “God, I believe you are making her strong and healthy”.

Our faith doesn’t grow most when we see miracles, but when we see nothing and still choose to believe that God keeps his promises.  

That is true faith.

Whatever difficult situation you see right now, know that it is an opportunity for your faith to grow.  It is an opportunity to be sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see. It is a chance to say, “God, I truly believe that you are who you say you are. That’s all I’ve got and that’s enough”.

 

Never-ending Party

Well, we had yet another party for Kaylia’s second birthday last night. It was the third one!

My mom got all the food ready, but she let me help assemble everything – that’s the best part! She went to town on all the details:

Kaylia went to town on the cupcakes.

And then she thoughtfully tried to clean up after herself.

We had fun! And now I think we’re done. She has successfully been partied into the next year of her little life.

For those of you who have been wanting to see pictures of the birthday party that I put on with my friend Terra-Lee, check out her blog here.

I Love Spring

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” -Robin Williams

I really, really love spring. I love the smell in the air, I love the mud, I love the puddles.

Although I grew up on a farm, it would be a fairly inaccurate description to call me a “farm girl” at heart. My sisters were out on the tractors and combines, but I just wasn’t into that.

But I still loved growing up on the farm. I loved being outside, and living in the country. Whatever “farmish-ness” was not passed on to me from my dad, he definitely made up for in teaching me how to appreciate nature.

I feel like spring is the season that brings out all things natural in me. It makes me feel like those years spent growing up on the farm are not very long ago. We would explore every puddle, flood every boot, dirty every article of clothing.

And my favorite part? I don’t remember my mom ever saying one negative word about it. She kept a very clean house, but I never felt like getting dirty was looked down on. And my dad downright encouraged it.

I want my girls to experience spring in that environment. It is time to party. It’s time to get dirty. Oh, the sights, the sounds, the smells! Everything is new and fresh and exciting!

Have fun getting dirty!

The Temperature of Our Home

Loved this quote from Emerging Mummy:

That these tiny ones mimic, that their hearts are settled when my heart is settled, when I spill love and patience they are filled, that I am – inexplicably, amazingly, sometimes frighteningly – the influence sweeping them with me, one moment a river of life and the next a rooted oak and the next withering for water still, ever needing just enough for today. And when I take the time to savor, they savor.

So true, right? Elizabeth George has written about how a mom is the thermostat of the home – she’s the one who controls the emotional temperature.

I needed this reminder to be more conscious about the temperature of our home.