I’m not sure how to write this and express that I both am grateful for the early revelation while also mourning the extent of the damage that has already been incurred. I also don’t know (and have never known, really) how to blog about this type of thing without oversharing or being too vague and impersonal. However, as long as my regular readership is mostly made up of close friends and family, as it seems to be for now, I figure it is safe enough to share some of my actual feelings about my actual life.
Now that you’re thoroughly confused and probably a little concerned, let me assure you that nothing tragic has happened. I’ve just finally realized, as I suppose most mothers do whether or not they admit it, that it is impossible to be a perfect mom. It’s harmful to pretend I have enough attention and energy to give to every potentially good thing. Of course, we all profess this truth on social media and when our mom friends are struggling, but how often do we go on trying to cultivate perfection in our own lives anyway? How much time do we spend trying to find the perfect laundry system, the perfect educational system, or the perfect discipline system? We argue with each other intensely and incessantly about who has really figured these things out and who is probably ruining their child forever based on what they feed them for lunch. Oh yes, we believe in perfection.
Ironically, what I’ve discovered about myself is that my diligent pursuit of a certain type of perfect motherhood is exactly what has done the most damage to my kids thus far. I don’t even mean that in some grand overarching sense, though I suppose the potential for that was and is still there. I mean that, personally, I have literally given more of my attention to researching and planning and crafting this idol’s image than I have to my actual child. And it shows. Only lately as I’ve had our second baby (and acquired a life that is even more chaotic and cluttered than it was before) have I realized how attention starved my toddler is and how I wasted the time I had when she was the only child whose needs I was responsible for. How many more books could we have read? How many more songs could we have learned, or walks could we have gone on? I can still do those things now, yes, but not in the same capacity. And especially in this newborn phase, I often literally do not have enough hands to simultaneously nurse the baby and honor every request of “More book? Mama read-a-book?”
The gross part is that there have been countless times where I’ve turned such requests down because I was busy researching things like future homeschool curriculum or how on earth to organize all these darn toys . . . desperately trying to find some ultimate worldly solution to the problems I see in my life and self. Those things don’t matter as much when I actually look up long enough to witness my toddler’s face when she realizes she isn’t as interesting or important as the video/article/newsfeed displayed on my phone.
How legitimate is my anger, really, at how she misbehaves all day long when I know she just wants to get my attention? Maybe this is why she grins as she claws all the books off the shelf or giggles as I stomp after her in visible frustration (read: maybe it’s not only an issue of sin nature or insufficient discipline, as we good Calvinists tend to portray it).
People tell us young moms all the time that we and our kids aren’t going to look back on this season of life and remember how clean the house was or whether or not we were wearing yoga pants. We’re mostly going to remember whether or not we loved one another. We often smile and nod in at this, but whisper inwardly, How am I supposed to just stop caring about those things? AM I supposed to just stop caring about those things? Am I supposed to just read board books and stack cube blocks literally all day long?
We know this isn’t actually the answer, but the defense distracts us from the underlying, unavoidable reality that balancing acts are just plain difficult. The extreme ends of the tightrope feel more stable and we prefer them instead. Perhaps this is why we pursue perfection as mothers. Perfectly clear images of what to do and what not to do make life feel easier. We often want to follow the very clear rules of our idols that we can see on Instagram or converse with on Facebook rather than the God we cannot see – a God who requires faith and wisdom to be the rule of our days.
He is showing me now that I balk at the thought of child sacrifice but have essentially been guilty of it in the name of being a good mom. Oh, the sick irony . . . but oh, the mercy of such a painful revelation. Please Lord, make a better end of this current disaster.