Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a mother. I spent many years working in childcare to the extent I even felt prepared to be a mother. I expected ups and downs, but it wasn’t long before I found myself saying, I’m a mom, but am I doing it right?
My son, Samuel, came into this world with a laundry list of minor, yet concerning, complications. Just before being discharged to take him home, I spent half an hour unabashedly sobbing in the arms of my doctor. I remember seeing my mascara on her shoulder as she left the room. We were only three days in, and I was a mess.
As Samuel grew, we noticed that he was quite different from his father and me. He was the greatest joy of my life, but he was a puzzle to me. He was debilitatingly anxious in crowds. Utter terror struck him when he was left with an unfamiliar caregiver. His anxiety was acute, overwhelming, and completely incapacitating to him. I knew many children who disliked being left without mom, but Samuel was different.
Over the course of Sam’s first year, these comparisons and anxieties overtook me. I was wracked with worry, and Satan burrowed in with relentless questions. Why wasn’t he behaving like the other kids? What was wrong with him? What had I done to cause his fears? What could I do to fix him? Am I doing this right? How can I be a better mom? I felt helpless, isolated, and judged. These feelings afforded me many sleepless nights of foraging Internet forums and parenting articles with bleary eyes.
A few months before Samuel turned two, in the midst of one of my worry-fueled storms, I cried out to God. He gave me a simple answer. Stop. Stop your crusade to change him. Stop your quest for perfection. Stop spinning your wheels, and listen to Me. A supernatural wave of relief washed over me, and I slept with a divine peace that night.
A few weeks ago, I was brought to tears as I watched Samuel mingling with other toddlers at the playground. Several times, he faced small obstacles that would have normally sent him spiraling. I spent most of the morning tense, waiting for his telltale cries. But on this day, he surprised me. Each time he felt afraid, he pointed to me sitting on the park bench, and uttered, “My mama is sitting right there.” Then to my shock, he went right on playing. The simplest phrase was a huge breakthrough for Sam.
What a beautiful reflection of my own journey, was the journey of my child! In moments of uncertainty, I can look heavenward and know my loving Father is sitting right there. My burden as a mother is not to exhaust myself to attain perfection, but rather to point my children to the truth of the Gospel. If that is my ultimate goal, I can take heart in knowing that each time I fall short, Christ fills in the gaps. And if Christ fills in the gaps, I can absolutely know I’m doing this parenthood thing right.
How to Take the Pressure off Parenthood and Know You’re Doing it Right:
- Listen to the whispers. The Lord is often subtle, moving in our hearts through gentle whispers. Lean into the Lord’s calling for your family, even if it feels a little bit uncomfortable or unpopular. He may not reveal His entire plan, but He is faithful to light your next steps. (Psalm 119:105)
- Keep perspective. Your family’s story and the entire history of the world were written by the same hand. Trust that in His infinite wisdom and power, He is capable of equipping you with the necessary skills to make decisions for your children.
- Surrender perfection. While it’s true that we should maintain high expectations for our children, they should also be respected as unique and important people in their own right. Sometimes, it’s freeing to celebrate what you’ve considered a less-than-perfect aspect of your child’s personality, and let go of your own impossible ideals that are crippling their growth.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes God’s answer is that you and your child need a little help to sort out what’s going on. God has gifted us with countless wonderful pastors, medical professionals, therapists, teachers, and counselors to lean on when we need to. If God is placing it on your heart to reach out, never—ever—resist that urging from Him.