Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why "I think, therefore I am" is not an effective parenting philosophy

Next week I have an exciting adventure planned.

I will be boarding a plane and heading back to the homeland.

For me, that means the gorgeous and drizzly state of Washington.

Since moving to Arizona, we have been back a few different times. What makes this journey so thrilling is that I will be traveling alone.

My brave and capable husband is sending me off for some much needed rest and girly conversation.

I anticipate missing my men, but let me tell you, the prospect of seven days with not a single child needing anything from me sounds like bliss.

Most of our kids are on Spring Break
and that means that they
are home all day and hover around me
as if I am some delicious cookie
that they want to devour.
I constantly feel at risk of being consumed
by their eagerness and desire to be
close to me.
Especially in the kitchen.
Our kitchen is TINY.
But everyone loves it.
Andy has become a kitchen bouncer this break.
He walks in and when I am standing at the stove,
with four children flanking me,
he walks in and commands that everyone leaves.
Then there is a sigh of being able to move without
the potential of running into a child
with a hot pan or sharp knife.
Until they all drift back in.
As hard as it is to be so wanted,
it also reminds me of exactly why we do this job.
Just being able to hang out in the kitchen with "mom"
heals wounds and builds confidence
for the kids who live with me.
They need to be close.
They need to be close much more than I need space.
(Most of the time)
Andy always rescues me before my needs get the best of me
and I forget to be careful with my

Today a very dear friend of mine was texting me. We have been previewing the areas we are looking forward to catching up on and laying the groundwork for some long conversations.

We had been talking about making the gym part of our life... and she followed up a victory comment about successful childcare with a comment that so deeply resonated with me.

Her message said this:

"One of the things I need to talk to you about is that terrible insecurity and guilt that I'm not doing enough as a mother..."

There was more to the question, but I honed in on the feeling of guilt.

I told Andy over dinner, I don't expect that he will ever understand the role that guilt plays in my life. He just doesn't feel guilt the same way I do. And I'm pretty sure that is a normal man-woman difference.

But for my friend, I absolutely understand what she means.

It seems that every action as a mother not only has an opposite and equal reaction - but also a measure of guilt.

If we build strong parameters for our children, we feel guilty for being too ridged and fear stifling their creativity.

If we embrace the personality of our child and give them room to explore and express themselves, we feel guilty about not having more control over their behavior.

Guilt over food.

Guilt over television.

Guilt over discipline.

Guilt over leaving them with a babysitter. Or over not leaving them with anyone...

I have written about this feeling before.

This topic of mom-guilt is growing in my awareness.

Truth be told, I feel a bit like a doctor. I see a sickness that is running rampant and as of now has no known cure, but I am setting out to find one.

I don't want the women I love to live weighted down by insecurity and fear or by the heaviness of guilt that presses out the joy and strength and authority that we need to be successful as mothers.

So I'm pondering. I'm praying. I'm looking for a new way of living.

And what I realized tonight is that just because we FEEL guilty doesn't mean we ARE guilty.

For myself, I realize that I very easily mistake the two. The instant I feel like I've missed something or made a poor choice, guilt isn't just a sensation, it becomes a definition of who I am.

But that isn't how it works.

Guilt - we are talking in terms of mothering here. Not stealing or harming someone. This is the shapeless guilt that comes from being unsure where we rank and whether or not we are being the very best mom for the kids we love so much - this kind of guilt is a thought.

And we know from God's word that we can take every thought captive.

For example.

I really like ice cream.

I mean, I REALLY like ice cream.

If I ate ice cream every time I thought, "Oooohhh, ice cream sounds good," I would not be a healthy person.

I know that my fondness for ice cream is okay, as long as I keep my indulgence of it in check.

So now, imagine that many times a day I think, "I should have read another story to Joey."

"I should have not given in and let Jack eat marshmallows before lunch."

"I shouldn't have..." "I wish I was more..." "I'm not doing a good job at..."

These thoughts are going to come.

They are going to find a way into my mind.

But just because they are there doesn't mean I have to indulge them.

I am not guilty.

I am a mother.

Even if I perfected the art of mothering (which is impossible by the way) I imagine that I would still find something to worry over.

The reality is that mothering is a huge job with really significant implications.

Sometimes the significance of the implications overwhelm us and what starts as concern for our children grows wildly out of control to the point that it ends up controlling us.

To live as a guilty person sucks you dry. It drains the energy from your movements and makes any attempt at moving forward feel like pushing a stone up a hill.

If you are living guilty, the way out seems almost impossible because what you feel has become who you are.

But let me say it again, you are not guilty.

Guilt brings nothing of value to your mothering. It doesn't help your children or foster security and peace in your home.

What you wish for and aspire to as a mother will not come by feeling more guilt.

So stop.

Remember that when you think you are guilty, you have the power to lay that thought down and pick up a new one.

You are caring.

You are capable.

You are creative.

You are ... fill in the blank. What are you to your children? What are you as a woman?

Instead of mentally rehearsing all the things you are not as a mother, start reminding yourself of what you ARE.

You will not be everything.

But you will be enough.

Where in your mothering is guilt robbing you of your energy, joy and authority?

And more importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Just as it is sometimes hard to resist ice cream, there will be days that guilt gets the better of you. But don't go overboard. If it helps you to think in the terms of food - put yourself on a guilt diet.

Go for a few days without giving into guilt and see how light you feel!

The task is not easy, I know. Especially since in our culture guilt is sold as part of the package of becoming a mother. But return that part of the package and go pick out something prettier. Pick out some enthusiasm, some confidence, some rest or some security.

You are a mom, yes.

But there is no reason for you to be a guilty mom.

Remember, what you FEEL is not the same as who you ARE.

No comments: