What to Do When You Feel Like a Horrible Mother
By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Do you ever find yourself thinking What did I do wrong?
Kadee felt the heaviness of that question when her second daughter, Lily, was two years old and diagnosed with "failure to thrive."
Little Lily wasn't gaining weight as rapidly as she should have for her age, according to a chart used by medical professionals that determined optimal height and weight at various ages.
"I feel like a horrible mom," Kadee told me in a text when she received the news. But Kadee wasn't a horrible mom. She had two little girls, 13 months apart, and the older one was a voracious eater while the younger one wasn't. Lily wasn't complaining about not getting enough food. She certainly wasn't starving. She just wasn't keeping up with a doctor's growth chart on where she should've been at that age and at that particular appointment. And because Lily wasn't making a fuss about it, wasn't sick, and apparently wasn't starving, her condition pretty much went unnoticed.
The doctor prescribed a special diet and close monitoring of how much Lily was eating. The family drastically altered their mealtime routine to make sure Lily was eating the proper amount of the proper types of food. Within a month, Lily was gaining weight appropriately and the pressure lessened with each month that followed. Kadee now has a third child and told me recently that when little Eliza turned two, she was also diagnosed with "failure to thrive." Kadee was told to go through the same routine all over again.
I've heard that same story over and over again – a common situation in the baby’s developmental years that is easily remedied, yet Moms carry guilt about it, not realizing many babies go through the same "disinterest in eating" phase.
The Root of Our Insecurities
Many of our insecurities about parenting surface because we find ourselves in a situation that is new or different, or that we haven't yet walked through. But Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun.
During my daughter's early teenage years, I remember saying – out of frustration – "I don't know how to do this! I've never parented a teenager before!" (Now that must have been real comforting for her to hear, don't you think? To have a mom who admits she's clueless! Either that, or it made her feel she had some sort of edge!) That is the day I went into my study, closed the door behind me, got down on the floor, and called upon God – the Perfect Parent – who has gone before me into every stage of life my daughter will live through, and every stage of parenting I will experience. That's when I went to The God who Knows the Future for help one day at a time.
Raising our children is all about helping them navigate the changes and stages of life. But those changes and different stages can throw us for a loop at times and cause us to question our abilities or effectiveness as a parent. Yet we have a God who knows exactly what's coming and even laid it out for us in Scripture so we'd know that this too will pass.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we are told: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." The next seven verses list "a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up..." and so on.
Considering that passage, I want to encourage your heart with this: In the changing seasons and stages of your child's life and yours, there will definitely be a time to doubt your abilities as a mom; and a time to feel very confident. There will be times you are getting it right and times you will feel you are failing miserably. The important thing to understand is that throughout the changing seasons of your child's life and the times when you don't know what to do, you have an Unchanging God who will be your steady, immovable rock to cling to when things start swirling around you.
Trust His Faithfulness
As your children go through stages of temper tantrums, bad attitudes, feeling embarrassed at your presence, unexplained irritability, moodiness, hormonal changes, and so on, remember this one thing: You have a God who never changes. His ear is always bent toward your voice. His arms are always available for you to run into. His words of wisdom are always there for your benefit.
Changes in life can make us uncomfortable because they bring about the unexpected, and they catch us unprepared. Our lives are all about change if you think about it – changing jobs, changing houses, changing neighborhoods, changing churches, changing computers (as you upgrade and learn a whole new system), changing phones (and losing all your contacts). And, oh how the changes can make you crazy. Unless you are grounded in the One who never changes.
Scripture says God is the same from age to age. He "does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). He is an immovable rock. And His wisdom, compassion and stability is there for us when we absolutely don't know what to do.
So, although there is a time in parenting to weep and a time to laugh, He is there to comfort us when we need solace. And although there is a time to mourn and a time to dance, He is there to grieve with us and celebrate with us, as well. And although there is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, He is there giving us the wisdom to know which season is which and how we are to get through them.
I'm so thankful that Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 does not include the phrase "a time to receive God's help; and a time to depend on your own devices." Rather, it is always a season to receive God's help.
Scripture reassures us in all 26 verses of Psalm 136 that God's "lovingkindness is everlasting" (NASB). That means His character will never change. Unlike your child, God will never go through a moody stage, an unmotivated stage, an indifferent stage, a temperamental stage, or a stage in which He really doesn't feel like helping you or your child anymore. Because God doesn't go through stages, you can depend on Him to be the steady rock to cling to when everything around you is changing or the roller coaster of life has you dizzy and panicked.
He always knows what He's doing in our children's lives. And get this, Mom. He always knows what He's doing in your life, as well. So let this God of Stability help you be as stable of a mom as possible through all the changes in your child's life. I guarantee that, if you haven't already, you'll many times be asking yourself "Am I getting this right?" But you and I don't have to ask that question anymore. We don't have to wonder if we have the right formula, the right set of rules, the right advice, the right personality, or the right responses. We have the right God. He's powerful. He knows all things. And He gives wisdom, generously, to anyone who asks Him for it (James 1:5).
Look to Him to gain all the help you need, and in the process, lose all reason for worry.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and popular author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, and her newest book, Ten Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, upon which this article is based. For more on her ministry, books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Publication date: April 18, 2016