Being a mom is hard. Trying to be a “good” mom is even harder.
And in a “social media-everyone’s an “expert”-there’s got to be a book about that-age”, the pressure and “mommy-guilt” can be even more intense and enough to drive us insane.
In order to combat those yucky feelings, I feel like we’ve gone to 2 different extremes. On one side of the spectrum, we know we’ll never be super-mom, so we figure why even try? We wallow in our sorrows with each other and become content with our messy houses, sweatpants and no shower days, “kids will be kids” approach to discipline, and a general lack of drive to try or work harder. We criticize the Pintrest moms and put-together moms and unfriend any mom who makes us feel inferior.
On the other side of the pendulum, we want to feel empowered. We want to prove that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do this thing called motherhood. After all, we women are smart and strong. We can research and come to the best opinions and decisions for our families (and everyone else’s). We can grow babies in our bodies (preferably as a Fertile Myrtle who can get pregnant whenever she wants), bring them into the world through our bodies (preferably with a quick, efficient, un-medicated, euphoric labor and birth), and then keep them alive with our bodies (preferably with breasts that produce enough milk to feed a small infant army). We are women. Hear us ROARRRRRR!
But last Friday my “Mama roar” was more like a squeaky, helpless yelp.
I knew that my sweet baby Jack was little. He was a peanut when he was born and seemed to follow suit with his other brothers’ first few months of life as teeny guys. I had had milk supply issues with Toby, so I always feared it in the back of my mind with Jack, but things seemed to be going really well. I nursed often. I ate and drank and did what I was supposed to and Jack seemed to be responding well. I had recently begun to questioned the size of his petite frame, but some babies are just little. I left for his 6 month wellness appointment fully confident that they’d tell me he was pretty low on the growth chart, but I hadn’t anticipated what they would tell me next.
“He’s lost weight.”
And I felt like the wind got knocked out of me as I struggled to take another breath.
In 2+ months not only had he not gained an adequate amount of weight, but he actually lost a few ounces.
I looked at my beautiful boy and instantly started to cry. By myself in a new pediatrician’s office in a new town with a new baby, I felt very much alone. How could this happen?!
He nursed so well and was, for the most part, a content and happy little guy. He gained weight like a champ the first few months of his life, why would I assume these months would be any different? He was developing and learning and changing, why would I assume he wasn’t thriving? Since moving, there have been days when he’s been extra fussy, but there are 10 billion reasons why babies could be fussy. He went through phases the past 2 months where he didn’t sleep as well, but there are 10 billion more reasons why babies don’t sleep well. Both could be attributed to teething, boredom, learning new skills, sickness, growth spurts, “sleep regressions”, “wonder weeks”, separation anxiety, etc. etc. etc.
But still…how could I have missed this?!
My baby was starving and I didn’t know it. What kind of mom does that?!
It was clear that I needed to supplement and do whatever it took to help my boy gain the crucial weight he needed to thrive.
I got in the car and sobbed the whole way home. I looked at my sweet baby in the rearview mirror – this baby I had prayed for, that I have enjoyed, that I have loved so deeply – and I felt intense emotions as I process what had just happened.
GUILT. Spin it however you want, ultimately my baby wasn’t growing because of me. And we didn’t change anything because I didn’t know. How could I not have known?!
SHAME. It’s so embarrassing. How could I not provide for the child entrusted to me? It’s all my fault.
JEALOUSY. Why didn’t my body operate more like other moms’? Why didn’t I have a plump, rolls-for-days baby like the ones I see on Facebook?
RESENTMENT. What was the point of reading every label and diligently sticking to a difficult dairy-free diet if I was still hurting him anyway?
SADNESS. Because of my history, I knew that my breastfeeding days were coming to a close and I was sad. So very sad.
FEAR. What if this hurt Jack developmentally? What if he didn’t want to eat? What if it was something more serious?
More than anything, I felt inadequate. Insufficient. Not good enough.
That evening after battling Jack to take a bottle (which he didn’t want) of formula (which he didn’t like), I wept once again.
It didn’t matter how anyone tried to encourage or comfort me, it painfully wrecked me that I wasn’t enough for my baby boy.
But I heard the Holy Spirit interrupt my thoughts.
“Megan, you’re not enough. You never have been and you never will be. Your boys need ME.”
Ouch. That stung.
Sure, what my son needed was formula so that he would gain weight. But what this experience has been consistently reminding me of is that what he ultimately needs is not me at all, but Jesus.
A pretty far cry from the empowerment we want to experience.
And yet it was strangely comforting. Knowing it didn’t depend upon me.
Still it was also a far cry from the “why even try” mothering. I had a job and work to do with my heart and body. I need to work intensely to point my boys to Him.
Turns out I am the supplement. I’m not what they absolutely positively need to survive. He is. But I am the special and super privileged avenue He is choosing to grow them in what they really needed.
Yet there’s no way I can do it on my own strength, in my own power. They don’t just need Him. I so desperately need Him.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…'”
– 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
I know that my mommy-trial is small potatoes compared to Paul’s lot here, but I related to this “three times” as I walked through mothering trials with these three boys. I wish God would just take some of them away…but then I wouldn’t realize my need for Him. There is great comfort to be found in knowing that while I am so insufficient, HIS GRACE is more than enough…and just what my boys (and I) all need. I sure could use a dose of His power right about now.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
When I am the weak mother. The helpless mother. The mother that recognizes her need and her insufficiency. This is when Christ power is most at work in me. This is when I am strong.
The past few days I have felt greater weakness and helplessness than I have in awhile. Apparently while my milk supply was diminishing, my beautiful boy was just getting used to not eating as much. He didn’t know what he was missing. Now I have to try to induce a hunger in him in order for him to get the calories that he needs. It’s almost like I have to teach him to be hungry. Teach him to thirst until he’s truly satisfied.
But wasn’t this my job all along as a mother? I can’t and won’t and shouldn’t be all my boys need, hope in, and rely on. My calling as their mother is to create in them a hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6), pointing them to their need for Jesus. My passion and goal as their mommy should be to help them taste and see God’s goodness (Psalm 34:8) and to not settle for things that won’t truly satisfy their thirst (Jeremiah 2:13).
Will even this make me a “good” mom? An “enough” mom? This is the beauty of the gospel – that can take any spot on the mommy-pendulum we fall on and bring us back to our need for grace. For our need for Jesus.
For the overwhelmed mom wracked with mommy-guilt and low milk supply and a sink full of dishes and a house full of chaos…
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus…
– Romans 8:1-2
No condemnation. Grace given. Freedom to not have it all together. But also no excuse not to live for Him. After all, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living in YOU…
“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is LIFE because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
– Romans 8:10-11
And for the mom striving for empowerment and picture perfect motherhood and being a “good mom” on her own effort…
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
– Romans 3:20, 23-24
You will never be successful on your own. You NEED HIs grace.
“…for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
– John 15:5
We are all broken. Flawed. Inadequate. And desperately in need of Him.
For the mama having to supplement in order for her baby to thrive – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the daddy wrestling to balance his time between work and ministry and family – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the parents whose child was diagnosed with special needs and you feel alone and scared – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the single mom trying to make ends meet and not sure how to be both mom and dad for your kiddos – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the woman struggling with infertility and feeling broken and damaged – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the parents wringing their hands and losing their minds over a wayward child – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the mother bear hearing that her child is being bullied – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
For the father desperately trying to provide for and protect his family – you are not enough. But HE is sufficient!
We are terribly and drastically insufficient, but hallelujah, we have a Savior!
And he is MORE than enough!