I'm in the checkout line holding my three-year-old squirming son, one hand on a cart of groceries, some of which are falling to the floor. My five year old is crying about candy that I will not buy and my eight year old is asking for pretty much within eyesight. Another mother is glaring at my chaotic parade and shaking her head.
A reaction such as hers would have sent me into a panic years ago. Instead, I hike up my big girl sweat pants and push my messy hair out of my face and smile kindly at her. "Your kids are beautiful and I'm so impressed with how they behave." I say honestly to her.
She looks taken aback and then returns the kind smile and admits, "I'm usually the one trying to manage my own children crying in the store." We both laugh and begin to talk about how difficult it is to shop with children.
When my first child was born, I was so caught up in what others thought of me that half the way I parented was not based on instinct but on fear of judgment. I would leave a store in tears if a person commented that my daughter was not dressed warm enough or looked hungry when I knew she had just eaten.
I had this idealistic vision of what a mom was supposed. You would be hard pressed to find me admitting to a bad day. I didn't want anyone to know the struggles I faced as a new mom.
When my second daughter was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I would not talk to anyone for fear of them saying I was a bad mom, that I did something wrong. People begged for updates and I would not even respond. I hate to confess that I was embarrassed. I felt I had failed her and others.
The saddest part of this inability to be real with myself and those around me was that my focus was not on God. It crippled me from truly enjoying motherhood.
As a parenting blogger, I can tell you that behind the scenes some of those happy craft days and perfect looking moments there was a lot of frustration. I thought I couldn’t allow my readers to see me flawed. I had to be this ideal image of motherhood. I’ve now realized my children just want me to be me.
My son was diagnosed as "failure to thrive" at a year old. He was only 13.9 lbs. He was healthy, just small. After that doctor’s appointment, I could barely see the road through the tears. I knew I had to update about him in my blog, but what would people think of me? I pulled over unable to compose myself. I turned to him, he smiled widely. "You think I'm a good mommy, right buddy?" He giggled. I sighed and thought that this is one moment in a series of so many I will have as a mom. I thought about how I wasn't even focused on my son; I was just terrified of what others would think. I was not giving him my energy and I wasn't trusting God. I did become a mom and have my kids for other people’s praise, so why was I worried about that?
It's hard to walk with your head held high when scrutiny surrounds you.
I woke up from my daydream of perfection realizing it was a nightmare, smothering my joy as a mom. Do you know I did not have a babysitter for nearly eight years? I felt it would make me a bad mother.
I was overwhelmed. It wasn't just because I felt others judged me; they truly did. We all are inundated by this at points.
Now, I turn a deaf ear to judgment and fix my eyes to our Savior.
Negative words filter through the air like a nasty disease. Like germs, they can infect you, making you sick. We must protect ourselves. You can cough these germs in the air, poisoning others. Or we can all cover our mouths and stop spreading this disease.
When we have something negative to say, pretend it’s "Opposite Day". Say something positive instead. If your words are beautiful, your life will be more so.
Think only about how Jesus’ views of your actions. We're not in the Garden of Eden anymore. We crossed the threshold into a world of imperfection and struggle, Jesus and His way being our only saving grace.
Now, I happily post pictures of my son playing in the mud. I let my kids be kids. I laugh at everything! I laugh at how funny and fun my children are; I laugh instead of worry.