Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Inept Mothers

Photo Credit: Luke Shackelford
Sometimes I feel like the imposter mom. Like I just walked into a fashion designer’s expo wearing my saggy-bottomed khakis. Or like I’m the one team player that keeps dropping the ball. 

I don’t think I belong here. I don’t think they chose the right person to mother these children. I hate telling people what to do. I’m terribly impatient. I have a hard time making decisions. I jumble my words. And I like being by myself and having all my ducks in a row. Besides, I don’t even like babies.

I’m surprised they haven’t developed a test to weed-out inept moms like me. It would be like that Jury Duty questionnaire that they send you in the mail with red boxes around all the right answers, except these questions would be like: Do you keep a clear head in stressful situations? Do you enjoy resolving conflicts in public? Do you have back, knee, or foot problems? Do you like to throw birthday parties? Is service one of your spiritual gifts?

Sure, I have strengths in other areas. I can teach my children to grow gardens and eat healthy and use their money wisely. I’m certain my love for literature will probably rub off on them as well as my adventure-some spirit and creativity. Yes, yes, yes, I’m not without strengths. But I could've just as easily been a mom who dances hip-hop and makes TV dinners every night. It doesn’t really matter.

What highlights my ineptitude the most is what I do when they disobey or backtalk, when they don’t succeed the way I wish, or how I react to their demands for independence. Those are the situations that make me wish these babies came with an owner's manual. 

I find it so difficult to love them when they shout NO in my face. It's so hard not to begrudge them the work they add to my regular responsibilities. And daily I'm keeping myself from shouting, “Would everyone just shut up and leave each other alone! I’m trying to make your food here, and you’re not making it any easier!”

It all comes down to loving them unconditionally. Doesn’t it? And that means not faulting them for being beginners at everything. Especially contentment and the exercise of independence.

“I don't want an apple for my snack.” 
“I don't want to wear my jacket.”
“I don't want to sit in my chair.”
“I don't want to say hello to the lady.”

More often than not, my response is, “Oh, well.” By which I mean, “Too bad. So sad. That’s life. Your complaining is hurting my ears. So get over it. After all, I have. After 33 years. You don’t hear me complaining about putting on my shoes or eating all my dinner or carrying my own stuff into the house. Sure, I complain about how difficult it is to be a mom and how some people are impossible to deal with and how house work is futile. But those are real problems.”

I’m reminded of those parents of teens who tell me, “You think raising toddlers is hard? That’s nothing compared to raising teens.” And I'm terribly offended because my troubles ARE hard. To me. They’re the biggest troubles in the world. They dominate my entire life! Have pity!

Have pity.

Somewhere in the noise, I forget that my children's troubles are huge to them too. I get caught up in the noise of their complaints and get frustrated because I can’t make them behave. I can't heal their pain. I can't fix all their problems. I can’t give them their hearts’ desires. I can’t even meet all their needs. And perhaps that’s the trouble. I'm not supposed to.

When they were infants and couldn't speak, it was my job to interpret their cries and keep them happy. But my role as mother is changing. My job is to step out of the line of fire and give guidance once they can speak semi-rationally again. 

Stepping out of the line of fire means to let them rage without becoming indignant myself. It means to stop taking offense at their misbehavior and to stop relying on my children’s goodness for my sense of stability. It means I don't use their public displays of obedience as my report card. 

It means that I'm getting my sense of power, worth, and stability elsewhere. From God. From daily immersion in the words that teach unconditional love and pity.

There is no better way to have pity on those little humans than to remember the great amount of pity had on me. Only then will I be a window in a dark room, a sprout of growth in the desert, a conqueror on the battlefield.

"If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desires of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong. And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail." (Isaiah 58:10-11 ESV)

3 comments:

Susan Gaines said...


I am so blessed by your perspectives. Thank you for this article.

Gg Jensen said...

I love your posts.... Although I think I'm more inept than you! :o <3

Great Aunt Gretchen said...

So well put! We need God's guidance daily!!