When you feel like a failure…

Today’s post comes from the heart of Linda Anderson, founder and Director of Mom To Mom.  Mom To Mom is a biblically based parenting program for churches and community groups.

Linda is an exhibitor at our 2011 Hearts at Home conferences and she will be a workshop presenter at our 2012 events. She and I share a heart for moms and I know you’ll be able to resonate with her words today.  This is an issue we all struggle with…

Oh Mom, I just don’t know what to do with her sometimes. I’m at my wits’ end, and I feel like the biggest failure of a Mom.” My daughter is on the phone, and you guessed it—she’s got a two-year-old. Immediately, I’m flooded with memories of feeling the same way many times in my mom-life. And I’m seeing the faces and hearing the voices of countless moms I’ve met and talked with around the country who are saying the same thing.

Sometimes they have a brand-new baby who just won’t sleep at night. Others, like my daughter, are dealing with “terrible twos.” Or testy teens. Or young adults who are taking the long way around back to God.

Each mom-story is a different one. But the feelings are the same. For some reason we moms tend to feel responsible for everything in our kids’ lives. Whatever is happening with them, be it developmental or situational, it’s somehow our fault. And before we know it, we’ve made the jump from “Something’s going on with my child which needs attention” to “I must have done something wrong!”

Or maybe there’s not even any specific issue popping up at the moment, but we’re just looking around and comparing our child with someone else’s and feeling we come up short. Conclusion? “I simply don’t measure up as a mom.”

To some extent these “I’m totally blowing it” feelings are completely normal and come with our job description as moms. But when they settle into our souls long term, they become both debilitating and distracting. They keep us from finding helpful solutions to our problems, cause us to pace more than pray, and drain all the joy out of mothering.

Why do we do this? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Lots of reasons, of course. But here are a few of the most common:

• High (usually overly-high) expectations—of ourselves and of our kids
• The comparison trap: We compare our inside (how we feel about ourselves as moms) to everyone else’s outside (what great moms they appear to be) and always come up short
• Just plain exhaustion: It’s hard to see things clearly when you’re chronically sleep-deprived
• Overlooking the uniqueness of each individual child: Your 4-year-old is not wired the same way as your sister’s (or friend’s) 4-year-old
• A misunderstanding of our role as moms: We confuse our job with God’s

Underlying all the reasons we moms struggle with feelings of failure is the fact that we care so much. We really want to be good moms. After all, didn’t God give us these children? Bingo! Therein lies the key to dealing with these feelings, the antidote to the “I’m a failure-mom” blues.
God did, indeed, give you these kids. And it’s His perspective that can change your perspective! So here’s what I suggest: When you’re having one of those “I feel like a failure” days, keep in mind what we know about God. What He says in His Word. His plan. His promises. We need to replace the “I’m a failure” lies with His truth. It’s very freeing. (See John 8:32)

Freeing Truth #1: God chose you to mother the particular children He’s given you. This is true no matter how He gave them to you—biologically, by adoption, through blended families, or whatever. And when He calls us to a task, He gives us what we need to do it. (See Exodus 3-4 and II Peter 1:3)

Freeing Truth #2: Parenting is a continual growth opportunity. We are always learning on the job. And our kids are often—and God, always– the best teachers. Even the Apostles Paul and Peter saw the need to be lifelong learners. (See Philippians 3:12-14 and II Peter 3:18)

Freeing Truth #3: God is not finished yet—with either you or your kids. Parenting is a process, and so is life. Wherever you or your family may find yourselves today, God is not finished yet. He has begun a work in you and in them—and He finishes what he starts. (See Philippians 1:6)

Freeing Truth # 4: God—and your children—are very forgiving. You may worry about making mistakes. Relax. I can assure you that you will! But the good news is that forgiveness, mercy, and grace are always available. This is most often true from our kids (especially when they become parents!) and always true with God. (See I John 1:9)

Freeing Truth #5: Your children are His first—and He loves them even more than you do! You are not ultimately in charge of their lives—He is. Trusting Him to do His job—and help you with yours!—will free you to enjoy them so much more.

So when you’re having one of those feeling-like-a-failure days, remember you’re in good company. All moms feel that way from time to time. But like the rest of us, you need to give yourself a break—literally (go for a run, take a nap, sip a steaming cup of tea, read a just-for-fun book, go to bed early, just after the kids do) and figuratively (don’t be so hard on yourself).

But most important, focus on God’s truth. It will, as Jesus said it would, set you free!

What about you?  Which one of those truths did you need most today?

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9 Responses to When you feel like a failure…

  1. Esther says:

    • The comparison trap: We compare our inside (how we feel about ourselves as moms) to everyone else’s outside (what great moms they appear to be) and always come up short

    That is something I do a lot! Thanks for this encouragement!

    • JillSavage says:

      Yes, I struggle with that one, too!

    • Linda Anderson says:

      Such a girl thing, isn’t it, Esther? Yet it’s encouraging to know we’re all in this together. If only we can keep encouraging one another! How about if every time we’re tempted to compare ourselves to another mom, we instead look for a way to encourage her?

  2. Mindy says:

    What do you mean, which “one”?! I needed them all today!!!

    It definitely does take a burden off my shoulders to remember that God is in control, and I don’t have to be. Remembering to try to see my children as God’s sees them, because they are all His children, helps me find empathy and allows me to respond to them rather than react (as I often do, unfortunately).

    I really needed this encouragement today, thank you!
    Mindy

    • JillSavage says:

      Yes, I know! It’s so good to be reminded of all of them!

    • Linda Anderson says:

      Oh yes, Mindy, what sweet freedom to know our kids are HIS first–really only on loan to us. And what joy in remembering His infinite patience not only with them–but with us!

  3. Kay says:

    Thank you–God’s timing is truly impeccable. I have an almost-four-year-old, extremely strong-willed little boy who has me on my knees several times a day! I feel hopeless and times, thinking I’m a failure simply because I don’t know what to anymore. Most of the time, I feel a great fear that I’m somehow going to “mess him up” and his heart will never surrender to God’s love and gift of salvation. I know in my head that it’s God’s job to shape and mold his heart (and I desire to trust Him with abandon in this area), but this is so hard for me (having too high of expectations, I suppose?) because God has given him to me to train and influence–a HUGE responsibility I take seriously. Anyway, thank you for this encouragement and for speaking truth into my fearful heart!

    • Linda Anderson says:

      Kay, on your knees is not at all a bad place to be. In fact, it’s where I’ve spent my mom-life! But here’s a word of encouragement: As someone once reminded me, there’s really nothing you can do to your child that is beyond God’s power to redeem. How thankful I am for the Mighty God we serve. One Who gives us everything we need to parent the children He gives us (II Peter 1:3). Mama fears are powerful–but he is more powerful; a verse I live in is II Timothy 1:7!

  4. Diana says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I have a 4 y.o. boy with an iron-clad will and this week has been particularly tough for behavior problems. I feel like God was speaking right to me through your wise and encouraging words!