Adoption, Infertility, Parenting

How to Have a Guilt-Free Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day used to be a day when I would woo-hoo Mom, woo-hoo Grandmommy.  A day to eat a yummy brunch and let my hard-working mama relax on the couch watching old movies.  I had the emotional attachment of a garden gnome to the day.  It was a day for other people, not me.  I was grateful to have an awesome mother, but beyond that, I didn’t give it much thought.

And then I got married and a couple of years into it I started feeling this longing for babies and I wanted that freaking flower on Sunday morning.  That Mother’s Day carnation they pass out in church…I started to want that thing I never thought I’d want.  The day morphed from a day to celebrate my own mom to a day that I wanted to claim as my own.

But I couldn’t achieve it.  That stinkin’ carnation eluded me, year after year.  Y’all, I’m not gonna lie.  I even tried standing on my head, you know, after….  Yeah, it didn’t work.  Nothing was blooming, not my womb, not the dumb carnation.  Mother’s Day became an annual reminder of my failure.

I’m a mom now, through in vitro and adoption (surprisingly, not through standing on my head after sex).  And still, I experience technicolor emotions surrounding our big day.

I’m thrilled to be celebrated.

Alex, kids, make way for Mommy, and I sure hope you planned something mind-blowing and involving intense relaxation.  I work hard, and I looooooovvvvvvvve hearing how amazing I am.  I need to feel appreciated, and I do so appreciate your appreciation, thank you very much.

I ache, eyes stinging, heart breaking, for the women still trying to become mothers.

Waiting on wombs, waiting on adoptions, waiting on God.  The ache of waiting.  I know those years of waiting for the title of Mother.  The job you can’t seem to land.  The monthly cycle of hope and grief.  I remember the pain, the isolation.  Sometimes I just couldn’t go to church.  Sometimes I could and regretted it.  Sometimes I ate donuts.

I long for my next children.

The years of waiting for my second child, and all the pain in between.  And now the unknown road to our third.  People think that once you have a child or a few children, that it’s easier waiting on the next ones, or you should just be content with what you have.  I thought that once, I did.  Now that I’m here, I think longing is longing, whether it’s your second or your fifth.

This Mother’s Day, whether you’re an experienced mother who has raised several children, a mother of young children who is learning to master the circus act of parenting, a mother-in-waiting who is emotionally shredded, a woman who has reasons for not currently pursuing motherhood, or anywhere else on the huge spectrum that encompasses BEING FEMALE, I am praying for you, for us.

There is an issue that seems to plague women.

It might start as a tiny little throb in the pit of your stomach.  It might feel like your own personal rainstorm inside your head.  Maybe it wakes you up at night, ties your intestines in knots, or whispers accusations in your ear.

It’s guilt.

So many of us struggle with it.  It starts with the shoulds.  The shoulds accumulate until they start to pile up around our ankles.  We try to keep up.  We try to do all the shoulds that threaten to overtake us, but no one can manage them all.  We can’t please everyone, and believe me, I’ve tried.  And when we fail to should, we can choke and drown in guilt.

And then some of us become mothers.

And for many of us, when we become mothers, it’s “too soon.”  The shoulds hunt us down and heap guilt for becoming mothers too early, too the wrong way.  The wrong marriage, the wrong guy, the wrong age, too young, too unprepared, too soon.  And the guilt creeps up.

And for many of us, when we try to become mothers, we can’t.  We are mamas in our hearts but not in practice.  The shoulds question our methods and offer advice and when nothing works, we can feel unworthy and broken and guilty.  We started too late, we ate the wrong food, took the wrong meds, our hormones are wrong, our rhythm is wrong, we shoulda shoulda shoulda.  The should of in vitro, the should not of in vitro, the adoption should, the adoption should not.  The “just wait on God,” the pray harder shoulds.

And for many of us, as we raise our precious gifts, we start to choke on the shoulds of public school, private school, homeschool, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, birthing, adopting, stay-at-home, work-out-of-the-home, wayward kids, hard-to-hear diagnoses, play dates, prom dates, where did we go wrongs, we shoulda shoulda done so much, everything differently.

The guilt, this guilt of mothering, is debilitating.

So many of us struggle each day with the looming question of are we doing it right?  The stakes feel Empire State Building high.  Our kids, our beloved treasures, outward measures of our ability to measure up as moms.

Ouch.  Guilt sucks.  I struggle with it.  I replay conversations and wonder if I’m spending enough quality time and berate myself for always being the dead last mom in the preschool pick-up line and obsess about how to show my kids how much I love them while teaching them respect and figuring out how to make mac and cheese without the mac or the cheese.  And at the end of so many days, I can feel guilty.  I can feel like President of the Wrong Choices Club.

Mother’s Day, this day of many emotions for many women in many life stages.  It’s here again, and we need to do something with it.  This year, I’m challenging myself to live the day guilt-free.  I’d like to challenge myself to live the rest of my life guilt-free, but I’m gonna baby step this one.  One day.

How do we celebrate a guilt-free Mother’s Day?

A day where mothers, all mothers, feel prized and valued, not weighed down by the shoulds of all their choices and circumstances, the things they could control and the things they couldn’t.  A day where women who are not mothers feel valued, whether they are trying desperately to become mothers or content in their position without children?

Can we all just hold hands, all of us in our various stages and responses to Mother’s Day?  Can we all just hold hands, form a circle, stick guilt in the middle, and spit on it, kick it in the kneecaps, hurl our very best spelled-out swears at its slimy little accusatory face?

This Mother’s Day, whether you hear it from fifty loving people in your life or no one, I want you to hear it from me:  you are a good mom.  Whether you are fighting to raise your kids or fighting to conceive or adopt your kids, you have the heart of a warrior, and you are doing good work.

We are good moms.  We aren’t perfect moms, but we are on a journey.  This week, I will embrace my parenting choices and circumstances, the things I control and the things I can’t, and I will lay down the guilt.  I will snuggle closer to the best parent ever, our heavenly Father, and I will soak up His grace.  I will refuse to listen to the whispers in my mind that tell me I’m screwing everything up, I’m unworthy, I’m failing.

I will run at freedom as fast as my short legs will carry me.  In my last WebCam Wednesday, I shared Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  In that same chapter, the writer, my guy Paul, says this:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I’m pretty sure the guilt we carry as moms falls somewhere in that list.  Nothing we do or don’t do can separate us from God’s love.  I need that reminder today.  In a world that tells women they don’t measure up, I need to hear that.  (If you have time, read the whole chapter here.  It’s so.  Stinkin’.  Good.)

Whether you’re a mom or not, and all that line of demarcation entails, you are loved.

Whether you became a mom “too young,” “too old,” “too this,” or “too that,” you are loved.

Whether you have one child, two, or twelve, you are loved.

Whatever your parenting “style” and the choices you make, you are loved.

No matter how many times you fall down and get back up, you are loved.

What’s the remedy for the plague of guilt?  It’s love.  This Mother’s Day, I’m making the hour by hour, minute by minute choice to tell the shoulds in my head where they can go.  Let’s love deeply and receive love unashamedly.  May the day bring you peace and joy as you celebrate being a mother, having a mother, or desiring motherhood.  Let’s embrace the day burden-free.  We are good moms, and we are loved.

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images from urbanartwallpaper.blogspot.com, makingspace2change.com, filtersfast.com, and psychologytoday.com

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  • Erin

    I’m in the middle of years of longing for a third, and it is just not happening, so I so appreciate the sentiment about “longing is longing”. Thanks for making me feel a little less alone :)

    • Melanie Dale

      Not alone! When I reread the post this morning that phrase popped out at me, too. Your longing is real and valid and valuable and worthy. May you feel fulfilled, whether it’s in an unexpected, or expected, or God-sized miracle way. May you feel whole and full.

  • Terry Emery

    My mother is gone…17 years now…and there is a hole in my heart and in my life…and guilt if I think too long. It’s been a startling realization to me that I am the oldest woman in my family, and the wisdom that I used to be able to access is not available. Mother’s Day can be sad for a multitude of reasons. That’s one of the blessings of the “grandchild” generation. Whether they’re mine or someone else’s, those children give me hope. :-)

    • Melanie Dale

      Wow, Terry, has it been 17 years? I remember…. I remember the hole she left. Sigh. The oldest woman in your family – that would be startling. Wow. You are such a beautiful, wise woman leading the next generations. What an amazing grandmother and mother and friend you are. You are leading and leaving a legacy of empowerment and deep love and faith for those coming up.

 

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