defeated, worn out, and failing miserably

So I went out last Sunday night.  Just me and a few precious friends–and not a child in sight.  It’s the first time I have done anything like that for, ummm, a few years.  We went out for dinner and then on to watch a movie–Mom’s Night Out. 

I cannot remember when last I have laughed so much in a movie.  If you haven’t seen it, go!  It’s wonderful!  At one point I found myself laughing and crying at the same time.  There are so many funny parts (that we, as moms, can all relate to), and the tender moments really touched me deeply.
I drove home later that night feeling so many mixed emotions.  Feelings of gratitude for new friends who embrace my family just as we are.  Feelings of joy after the gift of laughter.  And a feeling of sadness that I, personally, could relate to so much of the movie in my own life.
Those feelings of despair, hopelessness, incredible fatigue, lack of purpose, and trying to find joy on the journey of raising children is something that most mothers have felt at some point in their mothering, I’m sure.
When Connor was born, I seriously felt like life as I once knew it had ended.  I had gone from being someone who was always out and about and involved in many things, to being a stay-at-home mom. I struggled to find my purpose. Seventeen months later, Kellan joined our little family and I felt like I was never going to get on top of things ever again.  Two babies, confined to my house for days on end, too much baby weight and not enough energy…it was hard!  Anthony walked in the door after work and I just about threw the kids into his arms.

(It’s just as well I never knew back then what the future would hold.  I guess that’s why God says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”  He gives us grace just for today.)

Desperate for company and other moms around me, I reached out to play groups.  That’s just what moms do, right? It was there that I learned a profound lesson in motherhood very quickly.
Mothers are some of the most opinionated people on the planet! 
More often than not, I walked away from those play groups feeling hopelessly inadequate, worn out, literally unable to be the mom who God had called me to be and completely drowning in my day to day life.
Oh my word!  The comparisons!  I couldn’t keep up in those early days as a Play Date Mom.  My head spun after just five minutes in their opinionated presence.  I got in my car after one hour of “fellowshipping” feeling like a total loser as a mother.
Woe to anyone who bottle fed their baby (didn’t they KNOW that breastfed babies were smarter and healthier!  I mean really, people!).
Baby Einstein!  USE BABY EINSTEIN!
“Plastic toys are toxic!  Wood only for my little cherub, thank you very much!”
“Your baby didn’t crawl!”  Oh geez!  “Put Connor on the floor and insist that he go back and learn to crawl!  Force him to get back on his hands and knees. He is seriously missing a huge piece of his development and this is going to affect him later in life.” 
I stood there like a deer in the headlights as a fairly new mother trying to figure this parenting thing outI clearly had an oh-no-I just-totally- scarred-my-kid-for-life look.
“A PACIFIER!  Seriously?!”  “Your one year old still uses a pacifier?”  (Except in my part of the world, it’s known as a “dummy.”)  “Get rid of that thing immediately!  Your child is too dependent at such a young age.  He needs to learn some independence and how to self-soothe.”
Exactly! Shouldn’t every eighteen-month-old baby be independent?
“No child should use a bottle after their first year!”
“Have you even seen the ingredients in baby formula?  No parent in their right mind should give that to a baby.”
Gulp.  My hungry baby was supplemented with that dreaded stuff since I wasn’t able to give him enough of my own milk.  Bad Mommy!
“Your son is eighteen months old and you still haven’t started potty training?!  My little Nate was fully trained day and night by sixteen months.”
Of course he was.
“Oh, my sweet Hannah walked at just nine months.  She is just so, so smart.”
“MY baby can recognize her A,B,C’s….and she’s ONLY fifteen months!  God has such big plans for my little one.”

Yup.

“You’re really delaying vaccinations?”
Really, really.
On and on and on.
I think I lasted all of two months in those groups.  I just couldn’t do it.  It was soon after that that I started a group in our church that would bring together moms like me—those who didn’t care what the mom sitting next to them was doing.  Those who reached out and encouraged and blessed and accepted one another unconditionally.  We had a rule in our group—edifying words ONLY, no comparisons.

Those were my play group days. 

These days?  Today we have the Internet!  Ah, yes!  The glorious World Wide Web.
The Internet has been such a blessing in so many ways, but oh my goodness…
…it has, sadly, given many a place to tear down, share their not-so-very-nice opinions, and give unsolicited advice when a mom shares her heart on an issue. 
And while it’s easy to portray that we have it all together and that our families are so perfect on social media, the reality is that that’s really not real life. 

The constant influx of articles on “How To Raise A Smart Child in the 21st Century” and “Twenty Things You Can Do To Be A Great Mom” and “You CAN Look Twenty Again After Having Three Babies!” type stuff is, quite honestly, crippling for so many mothers.

We can never keep up.  

We can never meet the expectations.

We can never be the perfect parent.
We can never look as beautiful as the Photoshopped mother holding three picture-perfect children wearing designer clothes in the latest article doing the rounds on Facebook.
We walk away feeling like we can never measure up.  And that’s just sad.
My heart breaks every time I see a mom reach out and share her tender heart on a Facebook post.  Oh, the opinions she gets! 
Why in the world do we care so much about how other people are raising their children?
So what if one family has chosen to co-sleep?  Who cares?  That’s THEIR choice.
Why should it matter to me if someone who I don’t even know (but is a FB friend) declares that she will never send her kids to public school?  That’s HER decision, and she has made it because it’s best for HER child.   
My opinion is just that…my opinion.  And most of the time it’s best kept to myself!
Good for the mom who juggles a full-time job AND motherhood! That’s HER choice and guess what…God is more than able to take care of her children as she pursues her career.  Some moms don’t even have a choice, and they should be supported and applauded for doing what it takes, not torn down and made to feel like they are inadequate as mothers.  That’s just plain wrong!  Words hurt!
Why in the world should it matter to me if another mom has decided to throw away all of her conventional medications in her house and go the natural route?  Good for her!  She’s following her own convictions.
And who cares if parents decide to use cloth diapers, delay solid foods, not circumcise, use bottles until their child throws the thing away, let the girl use a pacifier for however long, and potty train when the boy is three years old?
Who the heck cares?! 
From what I can tell, no “typical” child has ever entered kindergarten with their baby bottle and pacifier.  Somehow, no matter what we choose for our kids and no matter whether they’re good decisions or not-so-good-ones, it all works out just fine in the end.  Connor didn’t crawl (and no, we never “forced” him to go back and get it right), but clearly that didn’t affect his “development”—he’s still managing to get good grades.  

God has a plan and a purpose for our children’s lives, and He really doesn’t care whether we breastfeed, bottle feed, or co-sleep with our children!  They’re all just ridiculous arguments. Nothing to do with eternity!

It’s no wonder so many moms are hushed into silence and refuse to even share their hearts on their social media pages anymore.  Social media is not a safe place to share hearts vulnerably.
Sadly, there is always someone waiting to pounce—to prove that they know what’s best for MY child, MY family, and MY life.
It’s sad to me how many young moms I know don’t even want to go out and gather with other mothers because they’re so afraid that they’ll say or do the wrong thing.  Or worse, that they will be compared to another mom. It’s safer and easier to just stay home.
It’s really no surprise that so many mothers just like me at some point have felt the same way that the mother on Mom’s Night Out felt…
…defeated and completely worn out.
If only we could get back to the heart of mothering…
…a place where we are so focused on loving our own children and following GOD in our parenting, that that’s all that really matters.
God is more than able to convict us when we make silly choices, show us the way when we’re at a loss, and lead and guide us uniquely for our own families.  Mothering is NOT a one-size-fits-all deal!  We’re all unique.  Our children are unique.  Our situations are unique.
Please, next time we decide to “bring correction” or give unsolicited advice to a precious mom who is reaching out, let’s do it kindly. 
Let’s do it with much grace. 
Let’s do it in love, knowing that we too once reached out for advice and encouragement when we needed it.
And let’s be mindful of the fact that we all have our own choices to make in how we raise our children and they really have nothing to do with anyone else.  Motherhood is not a competition to see who does it best!
Mothering is HARD as it is.  Let’s build one another up and focus on our own walks instead of everyone else’s.  Our children will certainly be better for it.
Being a mom is so much easier when we have people who love us unconditionally, accept the decisions that we have made for our own children, and encourage us every step of the way (even if they don’t fully agree!).
Praying that the LORD would raise up an army of support around His precious mothers this day!
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