It hit me like the 2 tbsp of butter that sank to the bottom of the metal pot on the stove.
My self-expectations of good parenting, swirling around in a pot of Mac and cheese, as the chicken nuggets warmed in the oven.
I poured my organic milk and my organic pasta and heated up my antibiotic-free chicken.
Yet, still there.
We’ve all had it. Maybe it happened on the third week night they ate the same meal for supper. Maybe that time we ran into a friend and remembered we forgot to grab the baby’s coat and knew they would see us carry him back out into the cold. Maybe it was when we raised our voice a little too loud when our toddlers raised theirs.
So we’re there. Again. Now what?
It may be helpful to ask some simple questions to survey the situation:
1. Is anyone broken?
Let me start by saying, even as I write this, I’m thinking of several scenarios where little ones get bandaged up from falls or accidents, and we cannot hold onto blame. Life happens, and we can get help and healing. However, in most cases when guilt sets in, no one gets hurt. Maybe a little bruise, but it’s unlikely there will be any long term effects. The reality is not always the worst-case scenario, and often, everyone is fine. Just breathe and pray and ask for help if it is needed. Usually, it’s our confidence that needs the most repair. Wounds do not have to become scars if we get them properly treated. We must have faith in the one who can build up and bless the broken; in any situation, we must seek Him and surrender.
2. Am I doing my best?
This one may be tough to answer in a world where my inbox is filled with messages like “baby food making 101,” “breast feeding support” and “you’ve got 25+ new pins waiting on you.” We’ve been tricked into a game of catch-up and comparison when we just wanted a little advice. The reality is no parent has it all figured out. It is not a cookie-cutter job.
My triplet sister and I were pregnant together, raising babies together, and she chose to make baby food and nurse past her daughter’s first birthday, while I bought Gerber jars and formula. And it is okay. Our babies are getting what they need, and they are happy. I do cook some meals from scratch, and she lets her toddler have crackers. We don’t all have to do things exactly the same to be doing our best.
Sometimes doing our best means asking for help, means taking a break to calm down when the tantrums flair. It may mean a night out with your man or with your friends or a massage to just relax and take care of your kids’ mommy. It may be pulling up to the drive-thru since you ran out of time to eat at home or sitting them in time-out after they hit a friend. Sometimes, it means holding them a little longer or showing them how much they’re missed when you pick them back up after work.
If our best is in the name of love, there is nothing better than that. So the question should be, am I doing this in love? If it is hard, help me through this in love.
3. Is there a lesson to learn?
One of the most amazing surprises about our children is how much they can teach us. As a woman of faith, I am learning that with my kids, as in all relationships and circumstances that arise, to question whether my responses please God or please the enemy. I believe testing has different consequences, and we are given a choice in how to react and move forward.
At the moment guilt sneaked in, what was the reason? Typically, it’s because a consequence occurred that I didn’t want, because it didn’t satisfy my vision of the “super mom” I desperately want to be. We want our children to arise and call us blessed, to behave, to eat more of their meal than they play with. Yet, how are we doing at that? How are we showing them how to be thankful and serve others and show mercy after a mess?
They may get upset, and we may lose our tempers, but eventually, a hug will make it all better. That is what we must learn and remember. So much is out of our control, but how are we stewarding and reconciling what is within it?
If your husband makes you breakfast, thank him. Ask if you can make him coffee.
If your toddler refuses to take a nap, some alone time in his room may be the best rest.
If you see a mother struggling to grab her groceries and carry her newborn, hold open the door for her.
If given the choice to take the easy way out or stay put to help someone through the hard, always choose to stay.
The lesson here is that we don’t want to be mediocre moms. We have a desire to be more. That is enough encouragement for me.
So goodbye guilt for the moment. It’s going to be okay, and I know, because I’ve heard what it sounds like.
“It’s okay, Mommy” sounds like giggles when they’re dancing in their room after dinner.
“It’s okay, Mommy” sounds like the silence that first morning they slept through the night.
“It’s okay, Mommy” sounds like the warm water rinsing you off in that shower you finally got to take.
“It’s okay, Mommy” sounds like the prayer they watch you pray.
“It’s okay, Mommy” sounds like “yum” when he tasted that macaroni from the pot on the stove.
And that “yum” and his smile were more than okay to me.