By Amanda Winsor
Have you ever had a question about parenting? Not like, “Which diapers should I be using?” or “At what point do you take a feverish child to the ER?” No, no. I am talking more along the lines of: “What ever gave me the idea that I could do this?”
Mama, I have been there. Depending on the day, I am still there. There was even a time in my not-so-distant past where nearly every waking thought ran along these lines: Should I stay home? Should I work full-time? Should I work part-time? Should I home-school? Should we be eating better? Should we get rid of the TV? Do I read to them enough? ? Should I be speaking more French with them? Should I bottle-feed? Should I breastfeed? Cloth diapers or disposables? How much tummy time? Should we co-sleep or crib sleep? Kindermusik or swimming lessons? Do I worry too much? Do I worry enough? Should we be reading more Bible stories? Should we be praying with them more often? Am I being an example of good behavior? Am I meeting their needs? Am I smart enough? Patient enough? Firm enough? Loving enough? Creative enough? Entertaining enough? Tender enough? Nurturing enough? Attentive enough? Funny enough? Wise enough?
Can I do this?
Am I enough?
The truth is that I am a far-from-perfect mother who struggles on a daily basis to reconcile the mother I am with the mother I feel I “should be.” I have, and oftentimes still do, wrestle with feelings of inadequacy. I compare myself to other moms. I have denied the existence of my own gifts. I have been lost in the box of what God has called someone else to be, instead of embracing who I am. And I have failed to live up to my own expectations. I have constantly questioned the purpose behind the plan, or if there even is a plan. It is only now, after having failed miserably to succeed as someone I am not, while drowning in questions with no answers in sight that I am able to see that my idea of success was inherently flawed to begin with. I now realize that many of the things I believed I had to be to qualify as a good mom are actually meaningless, and that there is no one better equipped to raise my children than I am, because I have been chosen as their mother by the One who never makes mistakes and never leaves me without answers.
So I say: I will no longer live in a way that produces questions without answers. I can do this. I am enough. And so are you.
The truth is that when you became a mother it was not an accident, a mistake, a random event, or a coincidence that you ended up with your specific child or children. They are with you, here and now, for a purpose. You are their mother because no one else could be. They are your children because they need to learn something that only you can teach them. They are calling out for something that only you can offer. You have a gift, or maybe even many gifts, that God has given you in order to mother them in the exact way that they require. When you accept that, how can you fail?
Worrying about things like which soccer team my kids play on and how many grams of sugar they consume on a daily basis will never get me the answers I am looking for, as a mother. I have arrived at the point where I now realize that “things” and activities are good, and time spent with my children is always time well-spent. However, if my focus and motivation for providing things, planning activities, and spending time is to convince myself, and those around me, that I am worthy of the title “Good Mom”, then the reality is that I will fail my children. No matter what kind of baby cereal, formula, diapers, nipple cream, nursing pillow, crib bumper pads or car seat you use, they will never transform me into the mom God calls me to be, or my kids into the people He has called them to be. If my goal is to produce good kids that will in turn make me look good, I may impress a few of my neighbors along the way, but that’s where it will end and that is not enough.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” –Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a relentless God
It is so hard to be a mom, no matter how your family has been called to operate. It is even harder to be a good mom, and entirely impossible to be a perfect one. In fact I have discovered only one perfect parent in all of history, and He did not concern Himself with what other parents thought of Him, nor did He lie to Himself about what was truly important. Likewise, I have discovered only one perfect child, and He was not in swimming lessons, his mother probably didn’t know what tummy time was, and he probably was not rear facing on the donkey for twenty four months. (He probably did wear cloth diapers though). Instead He watched His Father, and by doing so learned how to live in such a way that His purpose was fully realized. Who could ask for more than that for their children? I know that it is not my job to be what other human beings consider to be perfect or to produce perfect kids, and that even if it were possible to accomplish such a thing, it would still not be enough if in the end they never discover their true purpose. I now know that it is my job to teach my children to watch their Father, and I can only do that by watching Him myself.
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.” -Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)
A life of love. So simple!! Not a life of things. Not a life of accolades. Not a life of human approval. Not a life spent worrying myself and my kids to death over details that don’t give us what we need. Not a life spent in hopeless pursuit of an ever-shifting definition of perfection. Not a life of questions with no answers.
A life of love. To me this means a life spent watching what is good, doing what is good, teaching my children what is good, keeping company with and learning from God, and then living the rest of my life loving the people God has called me to, trusting that my children will learn to do the same, in whichever way this is meant to look.
A life of questions? No, thank you. Mama, I promise that my life will never be perfect. Neither will yours. I will never be you, and you will never be me. But I believe with all my heart when we each strive to live our individual lives with love that points our children to their Father, that our lives of questions will become lives of answers.
Amanda Winsor is a recovering control-freak on a mission to let it all go wrong. Happily married to Jason for almost a decade, she is a middle-school teacher on an unpaid leave of absence following the birth of her third child in four years. She will be returning to work full-time in September of 2014. Amanda manages her chronic sleep-deprivation with caffeine, chocolate, and an amazing playlist. She strives to walk by faith and not sight, and has recently learned how to ask for help. Amanda enjoys crafts (as long as there is no glitter involved), baking (as long as there are no sprinkles involved), and being outdoors (as long as there is no mud involved). She is rich in many beautiful friendships with godly women and never ceases to be amazed and encouraged by the way Colossians 3:12-14 (MSG) works within the sisterhood. She looks forward to having more time for reading, writing, and color-coding.