Mothers, We aren’t Good Enough

Some days I miss college.

I miss affirmation and the proud look a professor gives when you provide an answer of which they approve. I miss a letter or number grade that tells me I’m succeeding and accomplishing something. And I miss the simplicity of my decisions only affecting my future in academics.

Motherhood comes with none of these things.

For all my efforts I receive tantrums, throw-up on my favorite shirt, lots of “why” questions, and the constant nagging question that settles in my stomach like a stone, “am I doing this right?”

That’s one of the many reasons motherhood is superior to education.

I know, I know, I’ll get some dirty looks for that one. But as our culture moves more and more toward awarding everything it seems there is more need for us to exist in spaces where we are not rewarded, where we are not even thanked.

Because, people, we are not that great. And it’s really important that we remember that.

As I feed and clothe and teach and play with my children, I really don’t deserve being told, “good job”; because I’m doing the bare minimum of what’s required of me as a mother–as a human being. And this idea that I deserve recognition for that is dishonest and self-glorifying. Why should I even be noticed for doing the very least of what’s required of me?

 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ Luke 17:9-10 (ESV)

We are pulled as mothers (and really as humans) in two polarizing–but equally dangerous–directions. Straddling a line between guilt and pride. We often bounce between the two, on the one hand we will engage in “mommy wars” feeling proud of our mothering choices (whatever they may be) and condemning those who differ from us, yet simultaneously we will be at war within ourselves with debilitating guilt over our own failures. We vacillate between these two extremes, justifying our failures and basking in our pride, until another day when we are plunged back into guilt. We have plenty of “mommy wars” in social media to feed our guilt, and simultaneously too much written that tries to make us feel “good” about ourselves as mothers. People write that our selfishness is warranted because we haven’t slept (which we haven’t) and our children are needy and selfish (which they are), and moments of impatience and unkindness are acceptable. It’s reiterated that motherhood is draining and children are demanding; and while much of this is said with a casual flippancy and satirical feel, I think it invades our hearts more than we’d like to admit. At least it does for me. Because some days I am tempted to shrug off my own impatience. I am tempted to excuse the sharp tone I use when I am frustrated or my expectations are unmet. And being told that I am justified in my selfishness, and that all the days I don’t act selfishly somehow make up for my failures only creates more of those moments of impatience in my own heart.

Yes, motherhood is hard, it’s exhausting and non-stop and often thankless.

And that’s why it’s such a good thing. That’s how it serves to refine us, to break us down and remind us that we are weak, selfish, and in great need of a savior.

We don’t need to be told motherhood is hard, we don’t need to be patted on the back when we serve our children and love them how they should be loved. We don’t need another voice to justify our selfishness because we’re tired or our children are needy.

What we need is to remember that we are indeed as weak and selfish as we feel. 

We need to own up to our failures and stop justifying our sin. Because it is not okay to be quick of temper, to speak unkindly, or to lose our patience, especially with these little people who depend on us. No matter how tired we are, or how many times we’ve answered the ‘whys’; love is patient, it is kind, it is long-suffering. And anytime we do anything less than that, we have failed.

And no matter how hard we try, we will continue to fail.

We have to remember that, because it is only in remembering and admitting our own imperfection and failure and sin that we can finally allow Christ to give us his perfection, and to graciously take our failed efforts and turn them into something good.

We have to stop patting one another’s backs (or perhaps stabbing them in the mommy wars) and instead we need to encourage one another in the truth. The truth that we fail, and even when we do “ok” one day (or even exceptionally) it doesn’t make up for the failures of the past. But Jesus does. Jesus can take our broken, failing efforts and graciously turn them into something beautiful. He takes the fragments of our love and makes them whole, and it is only there that our children will see the truth and feel what real love is. Because they too need this great God. They need this God who will take their failed efforts and give him his perfection instead, and we cannot expect them to understand that if we aren’t honest with ourselves. We cannot dwell on guilt or pride, but on the God who rescued us. Because when we look at his goodness our pride shrivels, and when we gaze on the cross we see our guilt washed away in a scarlet river.

We have to desperately cling to our God who bore our failures on a cross, and when we do we will find he does the rest. And our children will see him in all his greatness. When we own up to our failures (and apologize to our children when we wrong them), the grace and forgiveness of our God can mend and heal what wounds we inflict in our imperfection.

And I am so glad, I am so glad I can trust him with not only my children, but with myself as a parent. Because trying to do this by my own strength is exhausting and impossible. But with his strength I find I can face the impossible with certain victory, and I don’t have to be told I’m “successful”, because it’s not about success. It’s about his love, his grace, and his glory permeating every area of my life.

Because my efforts aren’t good enough. am not good enough. But Jesus is.

One comment

  1. Wow, thank you for that beautiful message. I really fell into the trap getting mad at my kids and excused myself because I was pregnant. But I find it’s a much harder trap to climb out of than I thought it would be. This message was perfect timing for me!

    Liked by 1 person

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