Do you know that feeling when you are desperately trying get something very important done and you keep getting interrupted? It’s this feeling in your gut, similar to a panic attack, where you are tied up in knots and your heart starts racing, and you’re trying not to start yelling at everyone, “Please, stop talking to me and give me five minutes to finish this very important task that I am trying to do for your own sake because I love you and can you please just go away and leave me alone!!!
Gasp for air.
I’ve had at least twelve of those moments today. My three-year-old has pretty much given up taking naps (whhhaaaaahhhh!) So, those two hours that I used to have in the afternoon to do sane things like read and shave my legs now include an interruption every five minutes. Holy smokes, guys. I literally have been interrupted three times since I started typing this post. I have kindly been begging her to go play so Mommy can get stuff done.
I miss nap time. And I'm riddled with guilt.
I find myself wondering in moments like this if I’m just a terrible person. A horrible mom. Shouldn’t I put my work aside and give her undivided attention since she will someday be grown and gone and my house will be empty and quiet? Probably. But should I also feel guilty about doing the things that need to be done? Probably not.
We tend to swing on a pendulum in our society between making the world revolve around our kids and ignoring them completely all the time in order to selfishly do what we want to do. I think those of us who don’t want to be the “Go away kid your bothering me” mom over compensate by always indulging Jr’s every little need ignoring our own needs and even our husband's needs. Maybe we are afraid that our love will be called into question. Maybe deep down we are afraid that we are not the mom we are supposed to be. We may feel like we are doing it all wrong all the time.
Let's pause and look at this practically.
Trying to create a world where we are at our children's beck and call can cause a little one to think that mom needs to drop whatever she is doing to obey his demands all the time. It’s possible that he will grow up thinking that the world revolves around him and everyone should always make his needs their priority.
On the other hand, when we lovingly (loving being the key here) tell our kids to play on their own, it helps them figure out how to be more independent. They have a chance to learn that they can entertain themselves, too. Best of all, it gives them a chance to learn that mommy and daddy can’t always be with them, but God can. More than anything I want my children to put their trust in Him - I want this even more than I want them to trust me, because I am a fallible human who will disappoint them. This is what I remind them when they are afraid at bedtime. Sometimes, they want me to stay and sleep with them, and I remind them gently that I will stay and sing another song, but I can’t sleep here. I remind them God is here and He won’t leave them. It’s hard for me to walk away (sometimes...reality check - sometimes I am running down the hallway singing "Freedom is here!"), but I know that painful moment will give them an opportunity to exercise their small faith. Isn’t that what fear and pain usually push us to do?
The problem is, I second guess myself constantly. Sometimes my instinct is right and I need to follow it. Sometimes my instinct is unnecessary fear and mistrust and I need to ignore my instinct and do what is most beneficial for my child. It's not always easy to know the difference.
Since I told my cherub faced preschooler a few minutes ago that mommy can’t play right now, she has been on the other side of the room alternating between building with her giant legos and “composing” her own song on the piano. She’s fine. Her self-esteem is not damaged. She is not cowering in the corner crying about how she is unloved and unwanted. And I am reminding myself that I spent the entire morning reading books, coloring and all kinds of other fun things with her. She has not been ignored and neglected. She has been loved and is still being loved.
These little moments, that really don't seem like a big deal, are preparing us for the day these little ones become big ones. The issues we are facing today, like fear of the dark, are giving us an opportunity to prepare our babes for bigger issues, like bullies, peer pressure, or unfair employers. If we bend over backward to shield them now from all pain and disappointment, they may not know what to do when those moments come. In those big moments when they are afraid, confused and unsure of themselves, I want my children to know they have a big God who is faithful to walk with them daily.
Take a breath, Mama. You are doing a good job. Please don’t let the guilt and expectations of well-meaning child experts make you feel like you are a lousy mom. There are so many of you that are amazing, loving mommies, but are living under this guilt that convinces you that you are never doing enough. Trust in God today, my friend. You can’t be everything your children need because you are not meant to be everything they need. That’s God’s place. Trust Him to do His job.
When we accept our own finite abilities to be the all in all for our kids, we create space for them to lean into Christ and trust His love for them. And the more they see us practicing our trust in God’s ability, the more likely they are to grow into people of faith.
My prayer for us today, loving and anxious moms that we are, is that we would rest in the infinite ability of our Father to be everything that our babies need. I pray that when guilt threatens to shroud us in shame, we would trust that his grace is sufficient. I pray that we would enjoy our children for the gifts that they are, and run our race free from the unrealistic expectations of others and our desire to please man over God. I pray that we would put our trust in God, and teach our children to do the same.
He also said, “I will put my trust in him,” that is, “I and the children God has given me.” Hebrews 2:13
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame…Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Psalm 22:4-5; 9-10