I spent a recent morning looking through scrapbooks. I made the scrapbooks when my children were little because I needed something to look forward to at the end of the day. I was a stay-at-home mommy to two toddlers that were 20 months apart, and every night at 9 pm, after they were put to bed, I scrapbooked. I eventually completed about thirty scrapbooks. I desperately needed that creative outlet.
I nostalgically looked at a scrapbook that covered the time period around when my children were preschoolers. That was about sixteen years ago.
Now those two preschoolers are all grown up and in college. My daughter attends a large university one hundred miles away while my son lives at home and attends our local university. They are not so little anymore.
As I lingered over the pictures of so long ago, I had a surprising reaction to them. And it was this:
“I WAS a good mother to these children.”
And then I realized that for all of my years mothering, I’ve felt like a bad mother, but I really wasn’t. Truthfully, I’ve been living with the “bad mother persona” for a long time. It had followed me around relentlessly since I gave birth to my bouncing baby boy twenty years ago.
I have a lot of mother regret. Heaps of it. So much so that tears well up in my eyes at this moment while I write about it.
If you are a mother who is living and breathing, I’m pretty sure that you have some mommy regret too. Mommy regret is as prevalent among moms as runny noses among children. Perhaps you feel like a failure. You probably see every area where you fall short and you don’t feel good enough. Most likely you compare yourself to your friends that make motherhood look so easy. Then you compare your children to theirs and you feel even more inadequate.
And like me, you probably feel like you are a bad mother.
When I reflect on raising my children, I don’t think of the constant sacrifices that I made to provide them with a loving home, food and shelter, and a home education. I think of my colossal mistakes. My royal failures. My constant screw-ups.
I remember raising my voice at my son when he was acting like a limp noodle while I was trying to dress him.
I remember angrily slamming the van door so hard that it bounced back open.
I remember pitching a fit whenever my daughter spilled hot pink nail polish on our creamy white carpet.
I think of the turmoil that erupted when teenage dating began.
I remember refusing to nurse my infant son when I had postpartum depression.
I remember some things that I am too ashamed to even write.
My silent fear was that I was such a bad mother that Social Services would show up at my door at any moment to take my children away from me. I’m sure you have some bad memories, too…some that you wish you could forget.
Some of you may still be in the midst of raising little ones, and some may now be mothering your adult children. I think that wherever we are in our mommy journey, we need to realize that motherhood consists of good days and bad days. Successes and failures. Proud moments and those we regret. It just does. We are human, after all.
Motherhood is like a two-sided coin. One side is imprinted with the colossal failures. This side is dark and dirty and dull and reminds us of our failures. It represents the moments we would rather forget. The raised voices, the slaps, the times we said “no” when we could have said “yes.”
The other side of the coin is ingrained with our many successes. The college graduation, the heart-to-heart talk, the day dinner was on the table when we were an emotional wreck. This side is bright and shiny and attractive and does not condemn us.
When you look back at your motherhood, which side of the coin will you see? We can choose to focus on our failures or we can celebrate our successes.
I’ve spent enough time dwelling on my failures that I’ve forgotten my successes. But there were successes. I saw them in my scrapbook.
And in your motherhood journey, scattered among your failures, are your triumphs. The day that you got out of bed to serve your family when you were sick. The time that you drove your daughter to practice instead of having coffee with a friend. The night you stayed up late comforting a heartbroken teenager. Those, my friends, are triumphs. Every time we chose to serve our children instead of ourselves, we were victorious.
If you, like me, have been living with the self-imposed identity of “horrible mother” and “failure,” will you join me in flipping over that coin of motherhood? To do this, you have to accept that there were areas where you failed. It happened, it is in the past, and you can’t change it. Forgive yourself, and ask forgiveness if you need to. God’s grace covers it now.
You will have to search your memories for the buried successes. Look through some pictures or watch some home videos. You will find your moments of sacrifice and service. You will see times when you were a “good mother.” You weren’t as bad as you think you were. And neither was I.
Let’s flip that coin of our motherhood memories to the shiny side that is bright and beautiful and silent. We may have had failures, but we also had successes and sacrifices. Let’s remember those.