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Coming Down From the Mother’s Day High

Mother’s Day is such a wash of emotions. There’s joy, there’s gratitude, there’s nostalgia, there’s pride and apparently even a little guilt- do I really deserve all this praise?  That icky feeling of not being quite good enough always rearing its ugly head and turning into “I’m not good enough.” If they could have seen me yelling at my 4-year-old just last night who once again, refused to get in the shower after being coerced seven different ways, would they still smile and compliment me on what great girls I’m raising? The phone calls, the text messages, the Sunday school coloring pages, the handprints from school, the sweets, the cards, the breakfast in bed…am I worthy?

I have four daughters ages 2, 4, 6, and 8 (who do we appreciate?! Mama! Mama!). In this day and age that’s considered a lot of kids and everyone can agree it’s a lot of girls. So this brings more attention to our family, and even more eyes on me as the mom of four little girls. “You’ve got your hands full.” “Good luck with the teen years!” “Are they all yours?” (You’d actually be surprised how often I get asked that and I’m on the brink of responding with something snarky like, “No, I borrowed two to make grocery shopping more exciting.”).

I often feel the burden of raising four little women and the eyes on me. When my oldest child, Dahlia, handed me artwork and a homemade Mother’s Day card (that was more like a book) I oddly felt equal parts pride and shame.  Pride because I’d done something right for her to want to make me a book of reasons she’s thankful to have me as her mom.  Yet shame because here was this wonderful, sweet child that I was often too hard on, tended to ignore because the little sisters’ basic needs had to be met, and at the same time expected too much from, because her maturity makes me forget she’s only 8.

We were late for church at Every Nation, as usual, so I put the cards and thoughts aside and we went to the Mother’s Day service. The girls were a sight in their matching pastel pink dresses and tights with their hair done in bows.  I had washed four girls’ hair (five if we’re counting my own!) the night before, knowing that eyes would be on us and pictures would be taken.  More attention would be drawn to mothers and their children, so naturally I wanted us to look presentable.  Because how they look is a direct reflection on me as a mother…isn’t it?  (Side note- they’re usually mismatched in hand-me-down sparkles and unicorn shirts, because they all dress themselves.  We’re lucky if their hair is brushed, and even luckier if it’s braided with a bow.  My four-year-old is into mismatched socks right now, and a page from Dahlia’s Mother’s Day card/book said “Thank you for helping me match my clothes.”  So on any other day we aren’t quite as presentable.)   

Everyone was wishing me a happy Mother’s Day at church and commenting on how cute the girls looked, and how well Dahlia did in her solo in the song the kids sang in service. It was all genuine and kind. The service was lovely, the sermon rocked, and the pastor’s wife so kindly made all the moms what I’m calling, “cake in a jar.”  Pastor Adam called it a fruit parfait, so we could eat that delicious concoction guilt-free for breakfast.  I mean, it did have fruit in it, so that counts as breakfast in my book.     

The notes from my kids, the sweet song at church, the Happy Mother’s Day wishes, the fingerprint pre-school art, my husband making meals all weekend and taking care of the cleanup, everyone calling it “my day” and doting on me, was starting to make me uncomfortable.  But why???  I should be soaking it in like a lizard on a hot rock! It wasn’t until Pastor Adam touched on the topic of identity that I understood why I was so squirmy with this mix of emotions, the pride coupled with shame.

He explained that when we associate our identity with our roles like wife, mother, friend, your profession, etc. and those “identities” are insulted or we fall short, our identity is shaken. I have always battled with placing all of my identity in my role as a mother, so when I would screw up as a mother, I felt like I was the screw up.  When I made a parenting mistake, I carried the guilt around with me and beat myself up convinced I’d scarred them for life.  When my kids would do something awesome or behave in a way that was admirable, I felt pride because I felt partially responsible for said good behavior. You can see how this can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  When I associate my self-worth with my performance in my roles, I’m going to be a mess of ups and downs- and a control freak. Ever tried to control a strong willed four-year-old who tells random strangers she, “can’t have dye because it makes her crazy”? I have. It doesn’t work.

I have attached so much of my self-worth to my roles. I have associated my identity with my titles over the years. Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Teacher. Social Worker. Volunteer. Where is Child of God? The truth is, my identity is in Christ and who He says I am. All of these other roles cannot be what defines me, because what happens when I screw up? Then I am a screw up. As Pastor Adam said, my primary identity needs to be in Christ. First and foremost, I am a Child of God and nothing can, or will, ever change that. Being a Child of God means that I am unconditionally loved, so when I mess up, which happens on the daily, I can be forgiven, learn and grow. Since I am a Child of God, when I get it wrong in parenting, it means I made a mistake, not that I am the mistake. My identity is secure in Christ who defines me.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

‭‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I was uncomfortable with the gratitude on Mother’s Day, because I was focused on the times I’d failed as a mother. The times I’d lost my temper. The times I’d used harsh words. The times I caught up on email and texts instead of playing Cootie. The days I woke up and wished I wasn’t a stay-at-home-mom. You have no idea how hard it is to for me to write that. But that’s how I felt at the time when I was burnt out, drowning in sick kids and hadn’t come up for air in eight years. It took a literal vacation alone with my mom and sister (first time ever) some 3,000 miles away for me to catch my breath, but that’s a whole other loaded blog post. After that break I can 100% say that was a feeling I had as a result of my state of overwhelm. I know now that God has me right where I both want and need to be- at home…for now. I had internalized those bad mom moments into me being a bad mom. So getting all this praise on Mother’s Day was making me squirm, because some part of me had always thought I didn’t really deserve it.

I’m not trying to excuse the times I’ve majorly messed up, but I am not the sum of my mistakes. Since I am a child of God I know that I can ask for forgiveness for those mistakes. However, I still have to deal with the fact that I’ve hurt my child’s feelings, which can have lasting effects. So I pray, read, and work oh so hard to be better for my family and for me. My children know that. I just needed to be reminded and Pastor Adam did that for me, so thanks PA.

So shame can shove it! I know my identity is not in what I have done well or not done well as a mother.  I’m going to allow myself to soak up all the love and attention I can get from my girls and husband, because it is pure and genuine.  Sure, I have made my fair share of mistakes that landed me in therapy because my desire to be better was so intense, but I have learned from them, sought forgiveness from whomever I wronged, and I have a real desire to grow and change.

My secure identity in Christ means that I am pursuing Jesus first- what he reveals to me in his Word, what he says to me in prayer, quiet whispers, or loudly through good friends if I’m being thick headed.  No matter how many times I get kicked when I’m down- figuratively or literal toddler feet to the throat when changing a diaper- I can have peace and security that we’re all okay.  It’s going to be okay.

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Beautiful heartfelt reminder that first and mainly we are a precious daughter of the Lord of creation. He prepared the way for us and we are to cling to Him for our identity and value.

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