I recently was awakened to my husband asking where he can find a new bar of soap. When he can’t find things, he has a habit of saying to me, “Where do you hide the…” and then he fills in the blank with whatever item he can’t seem to find at the moment. Although it is summertime and I could have slept in, I felt his urgency to get ready and get to work. So I hopped to it and began unpacking the linen closet where there is a stash of toothpaste, deodorant, and various personal items. We were out of soap, so I improvised with a bar of tiny hotel soap, gave it to him, and then the guilt started to take over. I failed the homemaker test the moment I rolled out of bed. I attempted to solve the problem, “Maybe I should have a list on the closet door, an inventory of sorts, so running out of things doesn’t happen.” But… wait a minute… is this really a problem? Is this my problem? If I took the time and effort to create an inventory list, would the rest of the family use it? I think not. At 6:30 in the morning, that was as far as I could go trying to solve a problem.
As my dear husband shaved his handsome face, I set about making our bed and then making the coffee and making his lunch. The hubs and I kissed goodbye and off he went to bring home the bacon. I sat down to sip my coffee alone and in silence, knowing it was only a matter of time before a new wave of activity would occur. One by one, each of our three sons plodded down the stairs as the morning went on. And one by one, I was encountered with situations that resulted in more pangs of guilt during the course of my off-course day.
- At breakfast, my middle son disappointingly rummaged through the kitchen looking for “something good to eat.” Never mind the 7 boxes of cereal in the pantry, the basket of fruit on the counter, or the waffles he could toast. Nothing suited his craving that morning, and what I heard was, “Mom, when are you going shopping? There’s nothing good here.” My whiney son won’t eat, and I feel a tinge of guilt as though this is my fault.
- That afternoon, after my teenager spent far too long playing video games, he flatly stated, “I am so bored. There’s nothing to do.” We discussed many options, all of which seemed unacceptable to him. For some reason, I feel guilt.
- That evening at the ball field, my youngest came to me and said, “I’m hungry. What else do we have to eat?” I had to inform him that there was nothing else to eat, it was his responsibility to bring along a snack, and if he ate it, that was it. He’s only nine, I think, and then I feel the guilt roll in like stormy cloud trying to rain on our ball game.
As I watched my middle boy on the pitcher’s mound, I realized I had been converting these incidences into opportunities to berate myself! It was subliminal chatter in my head. The messages were, “You are not organized enough. You are not creative enough with these kids. You should plan more fun and entertaining stuff for them to do. You are not measuring up. You are not good enough.” Oh my gosh! My thoughts are tearing me down! I AM a good mother! I do my level best for them – and I’m human! Sometimes my best is just not that good. And that’s alright, because the kids have to learn to be understanding, flexible, and resourceful. These four family members automatically come to me with their needs and questions. There is some kind of expectation on moms to keep it all straight. And that’s a bit much to take some days. Believe it or not guys, I don’t have all the answers.
I think these negative thoughts of mine, and for most every mom out there, don’t come from within. I think these negative thoughts are rooted in the messages we receive from society. Look at the ads and commercials. Nearly all ads put moms in the role of Dr. Mom, Mom taxiservice, Mom housekeeper, Mom homework helper, Mom this and Mom that. While it is true that Moms help our children constantly, I think the expectations are unrealistic. The messages we receive seep into the corners of our mind and the crevices in our heart. It starts wreaking havoc on our thoughts and creates unrealistic expectations.
So how do you stop this? I have stopped paying any attention to those ads, for one thing! As soon as I see a commercial with a “mom” vacuuming or some other stereotypical mom-activity, I catch what I’m seeing and I turn it off literally or turn off the receptors in my brain by doing something different during the commercial. I have realized that I get to create my own job description as mom. Advertisers try to do that but they are obviously getting it wrong. Censoring the media is an obvious and easy place to start.
The other thing I am doing is catching myself or my family members while we are in the act of expecting me to do certain things because I have the title “Mom”. Am I taking on tasks that I don’t need to? How can I encourage more responsibility of the kids? I want to be clear that I enjoy serving my family, and I am happy to sacrifice certain things for them. By no means do I desire to renege on my own responsibility to shape and guide their young lives. But when riddled with guilt because I am not measuring up to some unrealistic expectation, I am trying to capture that thought and work it out from within. Or if my family happens to thrust unrealistic expectation on me, then I am attempting to name what is happening and discuss it with them.
Moms, it’s hard! No doubt about it. Let us remember that our role as mother is for our own family, not for the masses. And we get to consciously choose how we are going to work together and function as a family. So I am consciously choosing to love and to serve, and to encourage them to do the same. When everyone does their part, and each member takes responsibility, we create an atmosphere of serving, contributing, and loving. What family wouldn’t want that?
Coach Julie Stroud is the founder and principal of Aspire Coaching & Education. Her deepest desire and greatest joy is to inspire women to reach for their highest and best. For more information about coaching and upcoming programs, contact her at http://www.aspirecoaches.com; firstname.lastname@example.org, or (847) 557-9600.