Books hot off the press minutely detail why it is so important to take a chance and fail, what we can learn from past mistakes, and how to continue failing. They neatly tie failure into a narrative arc with a clear beginning, climax, and end, all tucked in and tied with a bow. How can this simple narrative on failure be applied to motherhood?
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I fail in motherhood just about every day! I fail when I hit snooze one too many times and scramble to make breakfast before the carpool driver honks from the street.
I fail to brush my toddler’s hair and only notice the rat’s nest forming while haphazardly grabbing produce in the grocery store. I fail to notice my second-grader struggling socially and need a wake-up call from the principal when she’s sent to his office.
I fail when I grab a box of Funfetti cake mix instead of making cupcakes from scratch for the school’s birthday celebration. I fail to cook a well-rounded, nutritious meal full of vegetable goodness and instead grab Chick-Fil-A on my way home from work.
I fail when I lose my temper over intentional bedtime dawdling from my four-year-old. However, instead of letting these failures define me as a mother, I choose to celebrate them.
In her incredible book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown talks about how to rumble with our negative emotions to cause a revolution that will allow us to build relationships and overcome our failures. In order to begin this rumble, we must first ask, “What is the story I’m telling myself?”
For example, the story I’m telling myself is that in order to be a good mother I need to wake up to an alarm, make breakfast without rushing, brush my toddler’s hair, notice my second-grader struggling in a place where I am not present all the time, make cupcakes from scratch, cook a vegetable-filled meal, and not lose my temper. Because I didn’t do these things, collectively, that makes me a bad mother.
Once we’ve realized the story we’re telling ourselves, we are given the chance to rewrite it. No, I can’t go back in time and make cupcakes from scratch, but what I can do is recognize that when I said I’d bring cupcakes, cupcakes were brought. That is not a failure; that is a victory, a celebration!
I can also focus on what I am able to do once I have the information. Now that I know my second-grader is struggling socially, maybe I can schedule more play dates after school, or come to lunch with her and play with her and her friends. I can come up with solutions. I can look beyond my failures and find reasons to celebrate instead.
I celebrate the honesty of my second-grader when she tells me she had a fight with a friend at school. I celebrate the self-reliance of my toddler who dresses herself, even if it is a sailor dress topped with a Chewbacca t-shirt.
I celebrate that my children didn’t go to bed hungry. I celebrate the extra kisses I was somewhat forced to give during those deliberate bedtime dawdles. I choose to see each perceived failure as its own little narrative with a neat beginning and end, not as the sum total of who I am as a mother. Because motherhood is filled with such daily failures, I choose to continue on in the grand, never-ending celebration of motherhood.
QUESTION: Is there a time you were able to look at a less-than-ideal situation and see the good in what you did instead of the negative?
CHALLENGE: Take a second look at your perceived failures and try to see the hidden successes.
Edited by: Lisa Hoelzer and Becky Fawcett.
Image from Shutterstock; graphics by Julie Finlayson.