Each day I give a real try at being good to my kids: to have an organized and loving routine leading to meaningful activities, healthy food, and to set up situations where they can develop character. And then each day…I make mistakes. Sometimes big ones.
The schedule gets out of whack and I turn into stressed military mom, living out of the minivan. “Meaningful activities” turns into being over-programmed; we scavenge food from the bottom of the fridge. Sometimes the example of my personal character is a little closer to Darth Vader that I’d like to admit.
Then I get very tempted to get down on myself as a mom.
The balance between overcoming weaknesses and extending mercy to ourselves can be a hard one to achieve as moms. On one hand, I want to bravely face my mistakes and shortcomings. But discouragement opens its trap jaws and I sometimes feel paralyzed. I’ve hollered for the tenth time and I realize my ‘mistake’ is a really a habit. Am I ruining my kids? I find myself sometimes wondering if I’ll just keep making the same mistakes over again; can I really progress?
Yes I can.
I am learning that progress is not perfection. There is no completely “perfect mom” or wholly bad “Darth Mom.” There is just me- the woman who is growing up through this process called motherhood. Mistakes and stumbles in my mothering may even prove more vital to my personal growth than being the world’s greatest mom.
Here are some ideas on how to grow and move on from our mothering stumbles:
1. See how mistakes can be a blessing. We grow by leaps and bounds from our blunders–and much of that growth happens in our souls. Mothering is a “soul thing”: we are raising both children, and ourselves. I learn immense lessons from my reactions (poor and good) that teach me about myself. I am developing patience, humility, and compassion at a lightening-speed pace through the challenges of my four little kids that I wouldn’t learn swimming in easier waters.
2. Change doesn’t happen in our comfort zones. In any stage of mothering we are inexperienced to some degree: we face new situations and new personalities in our children. Each day in mothering takes us way out of our comfort zone. And that is a good thing! Change doesn’t happen in our comfort zones; it happens in our courage zone.
3. We as mothers are still maturing, and should extend the grace and patience to ourselves. Think about your children: they are experiencing life for the first time. We are patient with them as they grow through the stages. We don’t hold it against them that they were bad sleepers, surly toddlers, or silly teens. We know it was just a part of the process. Moms go through a process too–perhaps the most difficult, rewarding, soul-expanding endeavor there is–Motherhood.
4. When we fall, we should examine our hearts, but not obsess. Sometimes we think that we can kind of “whip ourselves” forward; that somehow guilting and berating ourselves will keep us from repeating an action again in the future. That we’re serving some kind of penance by beating ourselves up. Not so.
While it is important to see how our actions affect others and acknowledge our shortcomings, love will cause more permanent change than punishment. Tell yourself in positive terms what kind of person you are- “I am a patient mom. I am a kind mother. I sincerely care about this child.” Whatever it is that you want to become, you can! But you must approach yourself with forgiveness and care.
The Power of Progress may in fact, be the Power of Forgiveness–the power to forgive ourselves. It also may be the Power of Courage–to face the unknown inside us as mothers and in situations of mothering. “Courage doesn’t always roar,” says Mary Ann Radmacher. “Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’’’
QUESTION: How do you react to your weaknesses? Do you beat yourself up, do you try to brush them off? What are healthy ways you can respond to your stumbles? What is one aspect of your character that you would like to refine?
CHALLENGE: The next time you react in a way you are not proud of, gently correct yourself. Examine why you may have reacted so; look for triggers to help anticipate what you need to be cautious of in order to change your actions. Tell yourself that you are the positive characteristic you desire: patient, slow to judge, kind. Extend compassion to other mothers when they stumble in their mothering journey.