I got into the van that day with a heavy heart. The pressures of being a mom began to boil inside me until the tears spilled over.
It had only been a comment. An innocent and necessary comment.
“Um, little man needs to wear shoes next time.”
It came with a head nod toward my barefooted three-year-old as we left the gym daycare.
Yes, that was true. I agreed with her wholeheartedly. Of course my three-year-old needed to wear shoes. I knew that. I had told him that as we got ready for the gym that day.
Three or four times I had reminded him to put on his blue sandals, a task he often does with pride.
But amidst changing diapers, hauling my toddler out, making sure I had a packed diaper bag, grabbing my headphones, and checking to see that all the kids got buckled in safely, I missed the fact that Middle Man had come out of the house barefoot.
When we arrived at the gym, I noticed the bare feet. I grimaced, but brushed it off as inconsequential compared to the foul aroma escaping from a fresh load in his pants. So I changed him. Then I left him in the daycare and went to workout. I thought no more of his bare feet, convinced that I was doing the best I could.
“Um, little man needs to wear shoes next time.”
As I began to drive away that day, this reprimand pained me like a paper cut. Satan poured on the lemon juice, flooding my mind with all the things I’m “supposed” to do to be a good mom.
I’m supposed to keep track of different show-and-tell dates and topics for both of my school-attending children. I’m supposed to know which kids have P.E. on which days and make sure they wear their tennis shoes.
I’m supposed to make sure they bring their school library books back on the assigned day (different days for each kid)… and shame on me when I make sure of it, and my kid forgets that it’s in her backpack and never turns it in!
I’m surely supposed to be in better control of that.
I’m supposed to plan and pack nutritious lunches that my kids will actually eat. (Unless, of course, I want my daughter to report day after day that she ate her hot lunch main dish and dessert, and threw away the nutrition.)
I’m supposed to keep track of fundraisers and join a parent/teacher organization and sign forms for field trips and initial behavior reports daily.
I’m supposed to help my kindergartner, who has no formal preschool, catch up to her peers in reading (who have two years of letter-learning under their belts).
This was a huge guilt trip on its own. I sat at the stoplight stewing in my self-pity and frustration.
We couldn’t afford preschool! I thought to myself. I tried teaching her at home, honestly I did. But I was exhausted from the task of raising her and taking care of her younger brothers. It’s not like I didn’t read to her. I did. We worked on letters here and there, but I was often interrupted by a crying baby or other mommy duties. I always felt that it was more important to teach her good character. Surely we could study the letters later?
This torrent of responsibilities doesn’t even include the things I’m supposed to do at home… the laundry, the dishes, the cooking, the teaching my children how to be kind to each other and others.
I’m supposed to respond lovingly and calmly when my strong Middle Man hits and bruises me (albeit accidentally) with his toy bat. I’m supposed to somehow guide my children on this rocky road called life, even if I’m feeling like roadkill.
“I’m doing the best I can!” I sobbed at the road. “God, how can I do all of this? How can I please everyone? I try so hard. I try so hard. I need some grace, God.”
I need some grace. I need unending grace.
I need grace to not begrudge this woman for mildly reprimanding me and unknowingly releasing the avalanche of “supposed” to’s that buried me. I need grace for myself to keep doing the best that I can, and let go of the minor mistakes I make. I need grace to accept criticism calmly and know that God is the only judge who matters, but also that sometimes He speaks through people. I need the grace of God to carry me through those days where I feel utterly depleted.
As I’ve contemplated these pressures, God keeps bringing this verse to my mind.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galations 6:9 (NLT)
I am charged with a lot of tasks as a mom. I share them with you not to complain, but to recognize that you are likely also charged with a lot of tasks in your life.
What a comfort it is to me that there is a harvest of blessing waiting at the end of these tasks! What an encouragement to keep enduring, to keep parenting, to keep doing my best, and to know that Jesus is better than all of it.
So, I’m waiting on Jesus, learning to savor His Words and follow His voice. I’m trusting that He will give me the strength to parent well and the wisdom to accept criticism with grace.