As a mother of two young boys, I have often felt pressure to be “perfect” for them. I think if we are all honest with ourselves, most parents feel this from time to time; maybe some feel it all the time. I have felt the pressure to be strong, wise, happy, and to always “have it together.” To never forget anything, to always have a smile on my face, to always be in a good mood, and to always have the answer for every problem that life throws our way.
And if I don’t…well, this is where MOM GUILT comes in. This is a real, serious thing. Mom guilt. It is legit.
This. Is. Parental pressure.
Where does this pressure, that is often so illogical, come from? Very seldom does it come from our actual children. They are not the ones who tell us we need to be “perfect.” In fact, I don’t ever recall a time, in my over fifteen years of being a mother, where either of my children conveyed this or even suggested it…this need for perfection. Yet somehow, I convinced myself I needed to be.
What does this frame of mind do or cause? Well, many things, but today I’m talking about only one. It inadvertently sets us up to be failures, in our own mind.
Often, this pressure comes from the narrative we tell ourselves each day. The narrative that says things like, “I’m a mom, I should have that figured out.” Or “I can’t let the kids see me fail or mess up…this is a bad example.” Even things like, “What will the kids think? How will this make them see me differently?”
For me, this quick to comment jerk in my head will appear around every corner…if I allow her to. Honestly, I don’t like her much at all.
Moreover, this narrative can cause us to compare ourselves to others. Have you heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? It is. For sure.
“I would be a better mom if this hadn’t of happened. If I wasn’t dealing with this it would all be better. She has it so together. She is a super mom. I wish I was like her. They probably don’t have any problems.”
Sound familiar? Have you found yourself saying and thinking these things? This is especially true for women…boy, do we compare ourselves to other women, but I think men also struggle with this. We human beings are constantly assessing if we measure up. The comparison builds upon the parental pressure; it is exhausting to say the least.
This rigid and harsh narrative is one that used to be on auto pilot in my everyday thoughts. However, I have realized (over the last almost two years) that this narrative is incredibly hard to live up to, if not impossible. Again, it’s setting us up for failure.
As much as I have tried to be the perfect mom and show my kids I have it all together, life made that impossible to do.
If you have followed my story, even just a little, you know I have struggled greatly. In the beginning, I worried obsessively that this struggle would negatively alter the way my children view me. But now that I am on the other side of my trauma and have a clearer perspective, I believe the opposite. I believe it has brought us closer.
Why and how? How could I go from thinking I needed to be the “perfect mom” to now saying that my children seeing me struggle made our relationship better? Because of this one simple fact; it showed the human side of me to them.
To our kids, we sometimes lose our humanity. By this I mean, they can forget we are people with emotions and feelings because as parents, we often work to conceal them. And this very point brings up a question I’d like to raise.
If our kids never see our emotions- the raw, vulnerable, hurt ones we all have, and that we all deal with at some point or another, then how will they know it’s okay for them to feel these things when they struggle? Because no doubt they will struggle. As much as we want to think they won’t and as much as we want to protect them, our children will have their own times of difficulty and challenge. This is simply life.
My kids have seen me struggle. For sure. They’ve seen me cry, they’ve seen me weak, and they’ve seen me not have the answer. But they have also seen something else.
They have also seen me lean on God and my faith like never before. They have seen me dig deep, go to therapy (individual and couple) and pray without ceasing. They have heard me say, “I don’t know, but God does” and trust completely.
They’ve seen me get back in the gym and work hard, because the physical challenge not only makes the body strong, but also the mind. They understand this connection now. And guess what? Now they like going to the gym.
They know they can find me early each morning in my home office spending time with God and journaling. They know this is key for me. They’ve heard me talk in detail about “my system.” They understand and grasp everything I’ve done in the last year to heal because I’ve been open about it.
They know and understand why I have certain scriptures tattooed on my arms- Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28, my life verses. They know I have relied on these words in my darkest moments, and because of witnessing this, they grasp that God’s word is a tool for life.
By seeing me struggle, they have also learned compassion and empathy, firsthand. They have hugged me when they knew I was hurting. They have given me love and told me it would be okay. I have asked them to pray for me at times, and I know in the quiet of their minds, they have.
By witnessing my struggle and time in the valley, my children have learned a couple of priceless, invaluable life lessons.
First, that everyone, including their parents, struggle. Everyone falls, and everyone goes through times in life that seem painstakingly difficult. They have learned it’s okay to be sad, confused and not know the answer. But they have also seen an example of what to do when you are in this place.
They know they can turn to God. They know He will be there for them when they struggle because He was there for their mom. He saved their mom physically, emotionally and spiritually. He healed things that looked to be beyond repair. They have seen when someone trusts God completely, against all human odds, He can truly move mountains in our lives.
They have learned how to support someone they love. They have seen me at my weakest, only to heal and become my strongest. And honestly, along the way, I think they have gained strength too.
Have my kids seen me struggle? Clearly the answer is yes. Have they witnessed me go through painful times and has this pain even extended to them? Yes. But I will go back to the statement I made in the beginning- I believe it has made us all closer and furthermore, I believe it has taught my children invaluable tools, they no doubt, will use in the future.
So, if you are going through something right now and have young kids at home, don’t be afraid to let them see and know this. Obviously, use discretion when needed as this is our job as parents. There are certain things that are absolutely for adult knowledge only. Kids are just that- KIDS. They should not have to carry a heavy adult burden or be treated like a therapist. They are not there to hear all our problems or for us to unload our emotional baggage on. This is NOT what I am suggesting, because when parents do this, it clearly causes damage.
I am simply trying to convey that it’s okay for our kids to see us have emotion and to see us hurting. They don’t need to know every detail of our hurt but can understand that mom or dad is going through something difficult. Let them know you just need some support. Let them hug you and ask them to pray for you. This is where compassion is learned and develops. It’s good for you and it’s good for them…on a soul level.
Also, don’t listen to the outside critics that try to tell you that you’re messing up (I speak from experience). This is a crucial point. Listen to your own heart and gut, as a parent and trust God with your situation. If you are doing your best and letting God guide you, then you can’t be messing up. Know and believe this. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says.
Your children will see your struggle and they won’t think less of you. Instead, they will love you, support you, respect you and see your strength. At the end of the day, you will know you’ve taught them, even through your trial and that’s something to be proud of.
In conclusion, don’t worry. Take it one day at a time and know God has the ability, through you, to turn your struggle into something good. Romans 8:28 affirms this. Through our struggle, we can learn, but so can our children. They learn how to be caring, empathetic, God trusting human beings. For this, I am grateful.
– Molly Duncan