Thursday, January 17, 2013


"I'm failing as a mom."

I have said that sentence thousands millions of times.  I've thought it even more.

My first baby, precious Nolan, was born May 19, 2006, at 12:41 pm.  The first time I uttered that fateful sentence was about an hour later when a nurse brought me my tiny new baby (after the check-ups in the nursery) and said, "He was born without a sucking reflex, and I don't think there's any way he'll nurse.  But go ahead and try."  Then she handed me the baby and walked away as if I should know how to make a baby nurse.

My first step into motherhood was tainted by not being able to do the most basic, "natural" thing a mother should do for her newborn baby.  I was so set on not failing that I went through seven weeks of using a feeding tube, pumping, supplementing with formula, pumping, gritting my teeth, paying a lactation consultant, pumping, and trying everything possible until that glorious morning when I finally got my baby to nurse the way I was "supposed to" from the beginning.

I cried every day for seven weeks straight because I thought I was failing.

Failure crept behind me everywhere I went from May 19, 2006, on.

I found myself unexpectedly expecting again when Nolan was only 9 months old.  I had failed to time my pregnancies perfectly.  I had failed to lose the first baby weight before adding more on.  I failed because I was less than delighted to be having a second baby, and another boy, in two years.  I failed at getting my babies to sleep through the night.  I failed every hour of every day.

My worn-out non-stylish clothes were covered in spit-up.  And I'm pretty sure I had a faintly visible scarlet "F" on every garment to show the world that I was failing.

Having a third baby, my long-awaited girl, brought more joy.  But the joy was always tempered, and ultimately outweighed, by the looming gray fog of failure hissing in my ear.

Nolan struggled to adjust to kindergarten.  Failure.  Griffin isn't like other kids.  Failure.  Nora cries every time we drop her off in her class at church.  Failure.  I only lost 45 of the 55 pounds I needed to lose.  Failure.  I still haven't started Griffin in any type of therapy for his Asperger's.  Failure.  Every time Griffin says something weird, makes an odd gesture, gets upset with other kids, or cries about's my failure.  Nora won't let me style her crazy hair.  My kids keep outgrowing their clothes faster than I can buy more.  I didn't read the last chapter of my Bible study book.  Failure, failure, failure.

Last weekend Jared and I got to go out to dinner on a date.  Our dinner conversation was pleasant, mostly chatting and updating each other on our week.  After dinner we drove to a nearby home improvement store to price some things for our house (which I am very clearly failing on maintaining).  Before we got out of the car, we started a much deeper discussion.  I tried to convey to him the depth of how much I'm struggling right now.  I'm crumbling under the weight of all my failure and our current schedule and the knowledge that we need to add more (like therapy for Griffin and possibly moving).

As I sat crying in the parking lot, Jared decided to turn the car back on to keep us warm (the outside temperature was single digits).  The car made a few clicking sounds and then sat silent.  Our deep discussion was abruptly ended.

The rest of our date was less than romantic.  A very friendly man jumped our car (after Jared literally jogged to a nearby Walmart to buy jumper cables).  We ended up needing another jump later from a different stranger.  We then drove directly to Jared's mom's to pick up our kids (while leaving the car running in her driveway).  Jared dropped me and the kids off at home, drove our car to a car dealership (to hopefully be worked on the next day), and jogged home in the freezing cold.

I kept trying to repeat in my mind, "God will use this for good."

And he did.  The next day, I had to get Nolan to school, Griffin to preschool, Griffin home from preschool, and Nolan home from school.  All without a car.  I had to ask for help.  I hate asking for help.  But I'm blessed with willing helpers, and my sister and my friend Megan came to my rescue.

What I got, very unexpectedly, was a relaxed day at home.  I didn't have to watch the clock because I didn't have to go anywhere.  I stayed in my pajamas.  All day.  I enjoyed time with my friend Megan and her daughter.  I got to hang out with Nora and later Griffin (after preschool).  I did load after load of laundry.  I cleaned.  I made dinner.  It was just like how being a stay-at-home mom used to be.

I'd be lying if I said that glorious Monday turned my whole week around.  No, my week quickly snapped back to the slew of places to be and things to do and deadlines and expectations.  I even had the pleasure of another mom unloading a whole bunch of ugliness on me at my husband's church basketball game.  At a very loud volume.  Ranting about my failure as a mom.  But God used that incident to work on me.  And I'm trying to stop failing at letting the incident go.

When Jared and I were sitting in that freezing parking lot discussing the weight of life, he told me that my standards are just too high.  That I perceive anything less than perfection as failure.

What?  Me?  A perfectionist??

Even if he is right (don't tell him), I still don't know how to change my expectations.  So I started evaluating my view of failure.

I asked myself this very important question:  What does it mean to fail as a mom?

I've been wrestling with that question.  Just what would it look like to truly be failing as a mom?

In the midst of all this swirling tornado of thoughts, my friend Aimee sent me an amazing email.  She included excerpts from a blog post she had read.  

Please visit the original blog to read the full post, entitled "Dear Sweet Mom Who Feels Like She's Failing."  It's amazing.

I don't want to steal what this woman already wrote, but here's a little taste of what Aimee sent me from the blog post mentioned:

Somehow in the mixed up media world we've got these thoughts of moms being perfect. Society doesn't give us a break. I mean read this article in the New York Times about the pressure on moms to look a certain way after they give birth. And then? Then we're to be ultra creative, crafty, humorous, happy, chipper, up before dawn, to sleep after dark, with our sinks shined, and the laundry folded, and tomorrow's breakfast in the crockpot, with tomorrow's dinner - pulled from our once-a-month cooking thawing in the fridge, while we work out for 20 minutes on odd days and 40 minutes on even days, and our hair is always done, we're makeup ready, our fridges are stocked, and the craft closet bursting with ideas for that quick perfect afternoon art project that we'll place on our recycled wood and mod podged adorned hand painted chalkboard.

And, in reality, it's 8am and we're just getting up. The baby was up all night, or the toddler sick, or honestly, we were just tired. We get our coffee and flip on facebook and our stream is flooded with stuff people have already done {I always tell myself -- different time zones} and we're racing to catch up with this never before except for the last hundred years perfect never feel like you're failing mom ideal that is exhausting.
You need to start to see all you do accomplish in a day. All the smiles of encouragement, meals made, clothes changed, books read, and more. Just like I wrote yesterday - we make mistakes {ten things moms need to remember} - we just need to learn from them. We're out of breath, racing, and exhausted, but truly not failing. Failing means stopping. Not getting up, not trying, not giving. That's not you.
It's great, right?  There's more.  You seriously should read the full post.

This, like so many other things, is something I'm working on.  Working hard.  Until I'm exhausted.  Some days are harder than others.  Sometimes the high of a relaxed Monday where I accomplished so much is washed away by a screaming mom on Tuesday who wanted to publicly tell me that I'm failing as a mom.  (And let's be honest, she was probably having a rough mom day herself.)  Sometimes Thursday comes around and I've already used up my mental and emotional resources for the week.

But I can look back and know without a doubt that God has been at work in my world this week.  If he provided the strangers to jump our car, the helpers to run my kids around, the strength to defend my child to the unglued mom, and the humility to do the right thing and force my son to apologize to the unglued mom...then I know he won't abandon me now.

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."  Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Seriously, will failure ever get off my back?  Will I ever function as a non-perfectionist?  All I know for sure is that my only hope is allowing God to keep working within me.  Even if that work involves faulty car batteries and screaming moms.

One last thing for today...I've shared before that God often uses a particular song to speak to me in the midst of a struggle.  Right now I am so drawn to this song:

Just in case you need a little encouragement.  :)


1 comment:

  1. Oh Jessica......I'm praying for you. You are a WONDERFUL mother, friend, and God loving woman. You are so beautiful....inside and out. I wish you could see how others see you & how God sees you. We love you just the way you are! You are perfect for us!!!