Because of my job as editor of Ruby for Women, I am frequently out and about in cyber space, cruising around the mommy blogs, looking for intriguing writing, ideas, and personalities. And I frequently find them! There are SO many amazing women out here who write from the heart, who share honestly and even boldly, telling their stories and sharing their wisdom. One thing that remains constant, however, is an ongoing version of the "Mommy Wars." Now, if you are younger that 35, or maybe even 40, you probably don't remember the early days of the "Mommy Wars."
Perhaps these little spats have been going on throughout all of history . . . although I wouldn't be surprised if women of long ago really didn't have the time or energy to worry about whether she measured up to the neighbor lady. For many centuries of world history, women have been so consumed with survival, for themselves and their families, that they frequently had to figure out how to get through a day without dying. And they didn't always succeed at that. But in more modern history, we have the time, energy, education, and permission to consider things such as: "Am I a good enough mom if I can't provide my children with the latest designer clothing?" or what about the mamas who worry about having to choose between working away from home (and consequently having their children in day care) or having enough money to keep a roof over the heads of family members?
And of course a HUGE issue among mommies is the topic of education. Of course, we all want the very best for our children. That's the way God made mamas - and so we struggle to figure it all out. And sometimes we get it right and sometimes we discover that we THOUGHT we were doing the right thing, only to find out years later that, unfortunately, we made a mistake about something. It's definitely a good thing that there is God's grace, or we would all be in a pretty bad situation.
But the question that really haunts me, and has for many years, is why we seem to bring all of this guilt into our lives and into the lives of others. I'm sure we don't really mean to drag all this load of guilt around with us . . . . and I would have a hard time believing that anyone would intentionally drop that heavy load right on top of another mommy's (probably already) broken heart. But it does happen. And now that I am a "vintage mama," I have the advantage of being able to look behind me with a little different perspective than when I was right in the middle of being a young mom, trying to "get it right."
Now, as an older mom with young children again, I've discovered a couple of things that I wish I had know back when I was struggling with trying to "measure up" to all the other "perfect" mamas I encountered all around me. If you are interested in this conversation, Sarah Mae has started a discussion here where you can share your thoughts on this subject. But for whatever it is worth, here are some things that I have learned from being a mama, from watching my children grow up, and now being a mama again:
1. You aren't perfect, so don't pretend. I'm not perfect, and pretending for all those years almost destroyed me.
2. Mamas make mistakes. The sooner you accept that truth, and teach it to your children, the healthier you all will be.
3. God forgives. The sooner you accept that truth, and teach it to your children, the healthier you all will be.
4. Guilt will break you. It will break your heart, it will break your spirit, and it will eventually destroy your health.
5. If we could be perfect, God would not have needed to send His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins. He could have just told us to figure it out for ourselves, and then He could have done something else for all of eternity.
6. We ARE perfect, however, through the grace and forgiveness of God. The difference is that we are perfect positionally, not existentially. All that means is that in the physical, material world where we live right now, our human experience will defy all efforts to "get it right" all of the time . . . but that does not negate the reality of our position in Christ as being perfected because of His sacrifice.
7. If children are allowed to grow up believing that they are "special" (which of course they ARE!) without learning the correlating truth that everyone else is special, TOO, they will be deceived into thinking that everything in their life SHOULD be perfect . . . . . and if someone else (usually mommy) does not MAKE it perfect, then we can blame mommy for all of the bad things that happen in life.
8. As mamas, we are given the privilege and opportunity to train our children, protect them, and give them the "tools" that they need to be safe and successful in life. It is NOT our job to make them "like" us - if my four year old is "mad" at me because I tell him he cannot climb onto the roof and run around naked . . . . he'll get over it. But he might not get over a two-story fall into the rose bushes.
9. Your gifts are different from someone else's gifts. If you are a home schooling mom who runs a home business while writing the next best-selling Christian novel, sings and plays piano every Sunday and writes music that moves the congregation to tears, has a perfectly tidy home and garden, and sews a gorgeous wardrobe for all of your 12 children . . . . . that is a good thing. But most of us are just regular moms, struggling to keep clean clothes on those little bodies and nutritious food in their mouths. All the rest is just . . . . well, the rest.
10. Finally, get over it. My mistakes and failures are NOT the main event. My failures not that important in the big scheme of history. I mess up every day . . . . I forgot to mail a birthday card to my son-in-law, I haven't bought a Mother's Day gift for Grandma yet, my kids ate Cheerios for supper last night, the flower gardens need to be weeded, and I STILL need to get the garden planted. If I get to it at all, this year. Fortunately I remembered to buy toilet paper before it ran out, and I did manage to mow the lawn. I'm normal, and so are you. Normal does not equal perfect. Write THAT on the back of your hand!
The bad news is that you aren't perfect, and neither am I. But the very Good News is that we don't have to be. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, our every day mistakes, our failures and shortcomings. Own it, admit it, confess it, and get over it. God has. And if there are other people in your life who aren't ready to "get over it," well, I'm sad for them and I pray for them and I love them . . . but I'm done hauling around this great big load of guilt. So, I promise, I won't ever dump it on you. But, on the other hand, if you try to hand me a load of guilt, I'll just turn around and walk away. Because I believe that when God forgives, I'm not exactly the right person to question His gift.
Mommy wars . . . . why do we do this to each other and to ourselves? If you are striving to honor God in your daily life, and honest and sincere in seeking His wisdom and guidance, you will be doing EXACTLY what you should be doing today. And tomorrow. Don't let false guilt suck the soul right out of you.