A few words of hope in light of your failures in motherhood.
Our greatest sign of success (of doing well) in motherhood is not “success” itself or even having “great” children. Our greatest sign of success is how we recover from our failures in motherhood.
We typically make one of three choices when we fail at some part of being a mom. But before I even go there, we have to start at the beginning.
First, before you’ll even be able to hear the rest of my heart…or even receive any hope on this topic, you must accept that you are going to fail sometimes as a mom. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to let your kids down. You are going to get it wrong. You are going to downright fail at times.
If you think I’m wrong about that, then you’re definitely missing something or just haven’t been a mom yet. In all of history, there has never been a perfect mother. Not one. Not you. Not your mother-in-law. Not even your own mom.
The sooner you are able to accept that you will mess this mom-thing up in one way or another, the sooner you will be able to start receiving hope and healing in your experience of motherhood. You will not get it right every time. Until you accept that foundational truth, you will constantly be holding on, trying to hold everything together, wrought with stress over the very reality of motherhood.
Next, as you accept the reality of your own error in motherhood, you will feel awful after you start to see those failures. Pit-in-your-stomach awful. You will cry. You will ache over the places you’ve already messed up. You will feel heartbreak over the ways you have let your children down or hurt them. These feelings are almost paralyzing at times. But they are not meant to be the end. These feelings are actually helpful and pave the way for hope and healing.*
Once you’ve seen some of your failures, you typically make one of three choices in response to your failures in motherhood (or really in any other area of your life!). Only one of these responses is actually helpful and healing, the others are simply painful and even counter-productive if not downright destructive. What follows is a summary of the three most common responses to failure, with one of them offering hope:
Justify – The most common way we respond to our own failures is to justify why we did what we did. To make it look right even if it was wrong. We try to convince ourselves, others, and even God why what we did wasn’t wrong…or at least not that wrong. While totally anti-hope and anti-healing, we usually think this approach will make us feel better. At least we won’t feel like we did anything wrong. But there can never be hope or healing in this response because our denial of failure means that there is “nothing” to heal. In the parent/child relationship, this can be the most destructive approach to our failures toward our children. It does not allow for any healing or hope of change in us or for our children.
Wallow – The next most common response to our failures is to simply feel the weight of what we’ve done wrong and allow ourselves to wallow in that sadness and guilt. Never actually seeking healing, we think somehow that by staying in a miserable, depressed reality over our wrongness will at least offer some penance for the failure. But there is no healing here either, only guilt. Shame and guilt. Regret. Not hope. Not healing. In the parent/child relationship, this just keeps you (and your child) circling the same pain over and over and over again, never healing, never being free, just held in the grip of regret.
Repent – The final response, the only one that is truly helpful and healing, is repentance. In repentance, you actually can do something about your failure. You can admit you messed up and you can ask Jesus to heal.* You actually step into a reality greater than the failure…a reality of Divine grace. The Bible says that Godly sorrow leads to repentance.** So, yes, you will feel sad over your failure, but you get to go further than simply wallowing you’re your sadness. You actually get to repent to God (and your child), asking Jesus for healing and transformation, and trusting the Spirit to give you the power to change so that you do not stay stuck in that failure. This is the only response to failure that brings about hope and healing. It is the only response that not only allows you to admit the wrong but also that allows you to “do” something with you did wrong, transferring your mistakes from a physical and emotional reality to a spiritual reality where Jesus can actually triumph over and heal your failures, changing you and setting you free from those failures.
In my next post, I will share more on repentance, adding in some practical “how to’s” for how that might look in motherhood. In the meantime, may I encourage you to embrace the third option of repentance as you encounter your own failures in motherhood.
* 1 John 1:8-10
** 2 Corinthians 7:10