"This is the word of the LORD your Maker, the one who formed you from the womb: He will help you. Do not fear, Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.” Isaiah 44:2 CSB
Are you struggling this Mother's Day? Mother's Day can be challenging for Moms who don't feel they measure up. But that is the beauty of motherhood. No two moms are alike!
Moms come in all shapes and sizes, ages and aptitudes, niceties and nuances. Moms are wonderfully unique and complex individuals. No two are alike. Moms love immensely and feel deeply. Moms are passionate protectors, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Moms fiercely guard their offspring to their own detriment, carrying the battle scars to prove it. Moms face daily highs and lows that leave them exhausted and frustrated. Still, they wake every morning ready to face the battlefield again. The fight is worth it; their children are worth it.
While some women are natural-born moms, others feel awkward and struggle because of their personal limitations, convinced they are inadequate and ill-prepared for their roles as mothers. They question themselves and their decisions multiple times throughout the day, never feeling settled, always indecisive. Let’s face it. Motherhood is just plain hard.
I was one of those moms, the one who never felt good enough, always insecure. I was the mom who never ceased to compare herself to the Suzy Homemakers and superstar homeroom moms, the ones with perfect bodies, perfect husbands, and ugh, perfect children. Somehow, no matter how hard I tried, I never measured up. This imperfect daughter of an imperfect mom craved perfection, as though achieving it would somehow make her worthy to raise her own children. On a good day, my best was never good enough. On a bad day, well, I might as well have stayed in bed.
I was the first-time mom who labored for 28 hours in intense pain, only to cave and take the epidural, while my friends painlessly popped their children out within a few hours in the comfort of their own homes with little or no assistance from their midwives. My well-intentioned, earth-mother friends confidently convinced me that my lack of faith kept me from receiving the blessing of the super-natural, pain-free childbirth promised me in the Bible. Better luck next time!
"He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah!" Psalms 113:9 CSB
I was the exhausted mom who suffered through nine months of severe post-partum depression as I questioned myself and God for putting me in this role to the detriment of my sweet, helpless, and colicky baby. What were we thinking? Once I suggested to a friend that I was struggling with motherhood. Did she ever feel sad or overwhelmed? Dismissively, as though she could not grasp what I was asking, her response was, “Well, of course not! Children are a blessing!” She had that part right. Children are a blessing, but this child was not blessed, at least not to have a hot mess of a mom like me. My heart longed to embrace every attribute of motherhood. I craved feeling what other moms were feeling. Yes, I loved my son more than life itself, but that love only intensified my deep sense of inadequacy and failure.
As I raised my three children, the struggle remained. Their problems became my problems. From Autism to addiction, hangovers to heartbreak, and kindergarten to college, I have experienced every facet of motherhood. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have celebrated with laughter and tears and grieved with inconsolable weeping. I have been and will always be a mother. I am blessed. But along with the blessing of watching my children grow and fight to become the adults they are today I have also fought to grow as a mom. Like I said before, motherhood is hard; sometimes it seems impossible. And it would be, if not for God.
There are many reasons why we struggle as mothers. Observing our own mothers may have left us confused about what mothering should look like. Maybe they were harsh and distant, possibly even abusive. Other mothers made Martha Stewart look amateur. For most of us, our mom loved us, and we consider her to be a good mom. Chances are, if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, you’re a good mom also. The Lord never told us being a good mom would come naturally. Somehow knowing that being a godly mother would take endless effort didn’t make reading Proverbs 31 any less challenging. Here are just a few verses that convinced me my mothering skills needed some improvement.
"Motherhood is hard; sometimes it seems impossible. And it would be, if not for God." ~ Dawn Ward
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:25-29 CSB
If you are like me, the ambition of being a Proverbs 31 woman leaves you feeling tired, not inspired! If I heard my husband and kids say those things about me, I would need to walk outside and make sure I was at the right house! Motherhood can be frustrating, overwhelming, and make us want to run for the nearest exit. As a mom of adults, let me assure you there will be many days you will struggle, and in that struggle, you will doubt yourself and your abilities.
Our difficulties with motherhood are rooted in more than just sheer physical exhaustion. Feeling insecure results when we focus on our imperfections and incapabilities. Comparing ourselves to others can convince us we are inferior as moms. It did that to me. My severe post-partum depression was directly connected to my falling into the comparison trap.
It took several years for me to climb out of that trap because I was in deep. As a believer in Christ, the safe place for me to make parenting mistakes, if you can call them that, should have been the church. But that was not the case, at least not at the church I attended. While the friends I made were loving and provided companionship and encouragement, there was also an air of competitiveness.
Whose child did the best academically? Who stayed out of trouble? Who didn’t embarrass their mom in public? Perhaps, the judgment that came from the church, its leadership, teachers, and fellow parents came from their own innate sense of insecurity as well. It is imperative that when you are struggling, you have the support you need and a safe shoulder to cry on.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you already are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 CSB
How to Embrace Your Role as A Mother
Many books have been written by experts in the field of childrearing. I am not one of them. But there are a few lessons I have learned that have helped me survive those difficult days of motherhood. Of them are three insights that will help you change your perspective and face the challenges of motherhood with a new-found sense of confidence.
Know your Identity.
Embrace your Individuality.
Understand your Influence.
Why is knowing our identity, embracing our individuality, and understanding our influence critical in overcoming the insecurities that come with being a mother? Because while there is no higher calling than that of being responsible for the care and upbringing of one’s offspring, we can’t do it right if we are trying to do it alone. The Lord, our Creator, has equipped us to be mothers and to do the task of raising them. Let’s look at the three insights mentioned above.
Know Your Identity–Remember You Are a Child of God
"For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began." Psalms 139:14-16 CSB
Like the baby you hold in your arms, the rebellious teenager you are trying to instruct, or the independent adult who doesn’t call often enough, you also are a daughter. You were created in the image of God, and your identity is found in him, not in your role as a mother. You are first and foremost his daughter, his beloved child.
On those days when you are feeling overwhelmed, unnoticed, and perhaps forgotten, take a few moments to sit in the lap of your Father and receive the love he has for you. Ask him to remind you of your identity as his chosen one. Let him reveal to you his heart for you and your child.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 CSB
Embrace Your Individuality–Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Moms
Let each person examine his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself to someone else. Galatians 6:4 CSB
As we read in the verses above, we were created and chosen by God to do the works he prepared for us. For those of you reading this today, you were called to be mothers, and in that calling, you were equipped by God to be the mother of the lives he assigned you. Why? Because he knew you would be the perfect mom to raise the children he put under your care.
When you fall into the comparison trap, you are comparing yourself to a completely different DNA strand! This means there is no comparing yourself to other moms or your family to other families. You are each unique, and while you can always learn from the experience of others, you should never compare yourself to them. Take a few moments to reflect on your individuality not only as a mom but as a woman. Embrace your uniqueness and that of your children. Then move forward knowing that the Lord will fill in the gaps where you lack and provide you with all you need to fulfill his calling in your life. (See God's Grace for Our Loved Ones.)
"Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another." Romans 12:4-5 CSB
Understand Your Influence – You Are Better at This Than You Think
"His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3 CSB
Believe it or not, God has not set you up for failure in the motherhood department. In fact, he has given you solid instruction on how to raise your children. While the world is sending conflicting messages about what successful parenting looks like, God has given you very clear directions in his word. Understanding your influence as a mother begins when you cease to measure your child’s accomplishments as either extraordinary victories or epic failures. Instead of focusing on the daily highs and lows, try keeping the big picture in mind.
Motherhood is a journey into unchartered territory, the great unknown. We are not taking laps around the track with occasional pit stops to rotate the tires. We are in this for the long run, and it is our ability to influence our children that will see us and them through to the finish line.
It is our influence that will make the biggest impact on our children’s future. They are watching us as we go about our daily activities. They listen when we pray and when we praise. They see us studying our bibles. They hear how we speak to their fathers or about our friends. Our influence in the lives of our children is far greater than the words we speak to them. It is based on the lives we live in front of them.
For more ways to learn how to effectively communicate with your children, see this blog, How to Disengage from Family Drama.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
God Is with You in the Struggle
Reflecting on the years I spent raising three now fully-grown children, two who dealt with addiction, I realize that most of my struggling was caused by my own self-doubt. Decisions concerning their well-being never came easily. I was not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of mom. I prayed and cried and researched and asked hard questions. Then I prayed and cried some more. The pains of childbearing did not end in the labor and delivery room!
The Lord was a steadfast presence in my life as I learned how to be a mom. He gently reassured me that I was never expected to be all things to my children. He set me in their lives to guide them and to be a godly influence as they ventured out on their own faith journeys. He would be with them, just as he had been there for me. He will do the same for you. He has created you to be the unique mom you are. These verses were with me on my motherhood journey. May they encourage you as well. (Also. If you are the mom of an addicted child, or any mom, for that matter, learn to practice self-care is a necessary skill. Check out our blog here.)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
“I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 NKJV
"'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts." Zechariah 4:6 NKJV
“…Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b NIV
“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NIV