Don’t believe the Hype (also known as Mothering Myths)
I sure hope y’all enjoyed the fourth of July (in whatever country you live). We can all celebrate an “independence” day of some kind. Surely you’ve experienced freedom in an area of your life. Let’s celebrate that freedom! Freedom is something I fight for, something I long for, and something I pray for.
I think I started asking God for freedom when I was a girl. One of my very first movies I ever saw was Annie. I cried and cried to God to give me freedom from my parents (even though they were/are loving parents) so that Daddy Warbucks would whisk me away to live in a mansion, sing and dance with “the staff,” and finally have the long-awaited dog I dreamt of…even if her name was Sandy.
Thankfully, God did NOT answer that prayer.
I may have been tad dramatic when I was younger.
I may have also lettered in Theatre Arts (Drama) in High School (and, yes, I do still have my letter jacket. Maybe letter jackets will make a come-back?).
Thank goodness, I’ve way outgrown all those drama-like tendencies. I’m a seriously mature person now. In fact, if there was a letter jacket for maturity, I’m pretty sure this girl would be awarded one.
Years later, my requests for freedom were honest and desperate. I begged God for freedom from guilt and shame that suffocated me because of rebellion and sin from my youth.
Thankfully, He DID answer that prayer and continues to answer it (it’s a process).
A little over 9 years ago, I became a mom to, count ’em, FOUR kids. I was the first of my friends to have a baby, I was the first of my friends to have 2 kids, 3 kids, 4 kids. You get the idea.
It’s funny how we give credibility to the “pioneers” of the world. Some pave-makers are due credit, but some are simply pioneers because they experience something before someone else. For this second group of pioneers, wisdom, intelligence, and tenacity sometimes plays a role in their earning of the title. More often than not, it’s just dumb luck.
I fall into the second category. I am the “mom pioneer” to most of my friends.
By the way, I looked up pioneer in the dictionary. Here’s one of its definitions: one who is first, or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress.
Now, before you send me hate mail, I am not saying I am the first mom ever in the history of all the moms. I mean, I know Eve was.
(by the way, thanks for the childbirth pains, Eve!)
I simply mean I am the first of most of my friends to experience every stage of motherhood…in all the glory and all the mess.
Day one of being a mom to four, the third born had a melt-down because he wanted a horse and not a baby brother. True story.
Clearly, I am the model pioneer. I have all my crap together. The kid thought his mom was HAVING A HORSE! Let that sink in.
I used to get nervous and anxious when people would say things to me like, “I’m so glad you’re paving the way” or “I can’t wait to learn from you.”
I remember thinking, “what am I ever going to teach someone about being a mom? I can’t even ______________ (wake up before my kids, get dressed before noon, keep up with the laundry, whatever guilt-inducing-good-mom stereotype fills the blank).
For the record, I still don’t wake up before my kids. I can never get laundry done. If it’s washed and dried, it’s never folded and put away. And, my house gets cleaned every other Thursday. Not because of a chore chart or system in place, but because I pay someone to clean it.
I don’t necessarily love the role of being a pioneer. It makes me nervous and uncomfortable…probably because being a mom has stretched me more than any other role I’ve had in my life. At times, I’ve been desperate for Jesus. At other times, I’ve needed to be desperate for Jesus, but too tired and exhausted to lean on Him. Some days, I’m a really good, intentional mother (the desperate for Jesus days). Other days, I’m one pity party away from locking myself in my bedroom with every cult classic 80s movie and pretending I’m still a 17-year-old girl waiting for Duckie to take me to the prom. Actually, that’s not true. I prefer Jake Ryan.
I used to pray for freedom from the role of “inaugural screwer upper of children,” but God hasn’t answered that way. What He has given me is freedom from some of the mom guilt and outlandish expectations of what our culture (social media) says motherhood is supposed to look like. I’ve come to a place of acceptance with my role now. And, for the way He answered me, I am grateful.
Perhaps, you need the same freedom. Here are some of the myths of motherhood that will entrap and leave even the very best moms guilt ridden and defeated:
Myths of Motherhood:
Myth #1. Mothering comes naturally
If being a mom is as instinctual as breathing for you, then, seriously, stop right now and thank God for that gift. I fumbled my way through all of my kids’ newborn stage. Breastfeeding was about as natural as a group date on the Bachelorette. There are things that become necessary and habitual (like taking a kids shirt and wiping his snotty nose with it) but those things aren’t usually “natural instincts.”
I study how to be a mom. I read parenting books, blogs, articles. I engage in conversations with moms of all ages and stages. I ask my kids for evaluations (don’t do this on a day you aren’t ready to hear it, or on a day that you haven’t spent time with Jesus). I ask them what I’m doing well, and what areas I could do better. I also take their evaluations through the filter of “what’s my goal for them when they leave this house.” If their opinion of my mothering is I should buy them an iPhone 5 because they are such a great child, then, that evaluation is taken with a grain of salt. But, if their opinion is that I’m on my iPhone when they are trying to talk to me, then, that evaluation carries weight.
For me, the natural instinct I have in mothering is to protect myself or defend myself. Many prayers I’ve cried, “God, please free me from my selfishness for my kids’ sake.”
Myth #2. If you read to your children when they are young, they develop a love of reading.
I really don’t have anything else to say. As a mother who loves reading, is it too much to ask that one of her four children would love to read? Can a sister get a break?
Myth #3. You are responsible for how your child “turns out.”
I am smack-dab in the middle one of the most joy-filled experiences of my life watching my oldest make good decisions. I am in awe of who Kaden is and how he is pursuing God’s purposes for his life.
But, I am also keenly aware that Kaden is one sinful choice away from squandering all God has given him.
(aren’t we all?)
I am responsible to my children. But, I am not responsible for my children.
I think of it like this-the personal trainers on the Biggest Loser help their contestants by providing them with all they need to succeed in their weight-loss journey. The trainers teach the contestants how to eat healthy (even provide food); they compile a work-out regimen and strategy for the contestants; and, the trainers encourage, counsel, usher in accountability, and even model what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
The contestants have every tool available to succeed in losing weight.
But, at the end of the day, the contestants have to choose (for themselves) whether or not they WANT to succeed.
That is what parenting is like.
We are responsible for providing the tools needed for our kids to be “Jesus followers.” We need to model what a surrendered life looks like, cheer them on when they grow faint, usher in accountability when needed, love them as Christ does, and then, we PRAY for their affection to be for Jesus.
When the contestant “wins” the Biggest loser, the trainer doesn’t take credit for the contestant’s hard work.
When the contestant “fails” on the Biggest loser, the trainer doesn’t get fired for the contestant’s poor choices.
If we are going to take credit for the “good” our kids do, we need to be prepared to take credit for the “bad” they do.
Myth #4. You’ll miss the mess one day.
You won’t. Not even a little bit. You’ll miss other things when your kids move out: conversation, camaraderie, knowing all the details. But, you won’t miss the mess. I have never walked into my house and thought, “Wow. I really miss Kaden’s piles and piles of laundry.”
In fact, maybe I’ll go celebrate that freedom. See, everyone has some kind of freedom to celebrate.