Today was supposed to be my first day “back” to work after 2 weeks “away.” I put those words in quotations because I work from home. My kids have been on Christmas break for 2 weeks now. One week was spent out of town with family and it was glorious. The other week was spent here at home and it too was pretty great, but about 2 days ago my kids starting getting on each other’s nerves and because I’m not a saint, I’ll admit they were starting to drive me crazy too.
So I was looking forward to January 5th, the day when 2 of the 3 kids headed out of the house for 8 hours and I could head to my desk to dig back into work while the youngest played with all of his Christmas toys (and the toys his brother and sister got but won’t let him play with). I really love my job. I really love who I work with, even though most of our interactions are via email, text and conference calls. I love the creative work I get to do and the purpose behind it. I was not sad about going “back” to work.
However, we live in the Midwest. Lo and behold, snow swept through the metro last night and I woke up to find that school was canceled.
You’re going to have to believe me when I say that I love my kids. I really do. But having them all in the house today has made my non-mom job very difficult. God is good and gracious and reminded me of how precious they are, and that my role as their mom is to train them and disciple them to glorify God with their lives. He created them, after all, and Jesse and I have the privilege to steward our relationships with them well.
I adjusted my attitude, prayed for patience and dealt with interruption after interruption. Some were legitimate (“Can you help me get my glove on?”) and some were not so I had to gently remind them that I was working and they needed to figure out said problem on their own.
So this is my frame of mind going into the post-lunch clean up. At that time, the boys, ages 5 and 7, began to run around upstairs while they waited for me to get a movie set up. We have rules in our house (gasp!) and one of them is that all roughhousing, running and wrestling need to happen downstairs. As I watched them run through the kitchen (where I was cleaning up) another set of thoughts began to seep in:
“Oh don’t tell them to go downstairs. They’re just kids. Let them be. They just need to run off some energy.”
“You’ve been busy with work today. You’re not a good mom because you’re not spending this snow day baking cookies, making snow angels and snuggling with your kids on the couch.”
“Be a fun mom for once.”
So I let them keep running.
And a few minutes later I heard a loud crash. The 7-year-old had run into a large potted plant and the entire thing had fallen over. There was dirt and water all over the floor.
“Great,” I thought, “this is just what I need right now.” I tried to remain calm as I saw my son was near tears. He knew he had made a mistake. I confirmed with him that it was a mistake and mistakes are ok to make, but he needed to make it right. The clean up took FOREVER and I had to work hard at being patient at his somewhat pitiful efforts. As I helped him clean up the mess, I couldn’t help but reflect on how my thoughts had been thwarted.
Jesse and I are the parents in our house. (I know, big surprise.) Which means we set the rules and expectations in our house, not the kids. So why is it that I failed to stick to a clearly set rule of not running around upstairs?
I gave in to one of my idols of being liked. It is my lifelong struggle to care too much what others think of me. I just recently have seen how that thinking sometimes seeps into my parenting. The reality is, I want my kids to like me. I don’t want them to be angry with me. I don’t want them to get mad at me.
So guilt infiltrated my thinking today. I felt guilty for working. I felt guilty for not doing ALL THE THINGS our Instagram feeds tell us other “good moms” are doing. I set aside the standards of our house in exchange for approval . . . from a 5-year-old and 7-year-old, and from the non-existent observers that judge me as a “good mom” or “bad mom” based on what I do.
How ridiculous was my thinking today??
Fellow moms, fellow parents . . . do you ever struggle like I did today? Do you ever cave to what the world says we should be as parents? Our culture says we should give our children what they want. That we should make them the center of our lives. This kind of thinking is turning normal people into harried, stressed, and guilt-ridden parents.
Before we had our first child, my husband and I talked earnestly about the fact that we were already a family. The focus of our family was Christ. When children entered our family, they would not become the new focus. Instead, they were given to us as good gifts that we should disciple and train so that they will one day grow up to glorify God with their lives. This was how we thought 10 years ago and this is how we still think. Yet, it’s easy to let the cultural parenting norms of our day seep into our thoughts, especially when we see everyone else’s parenting displayed on social media for all the world to see (and approve of or judge).
The running boys and crashing plant today reminded me that it’s ok to be the “mean mom.”
After the whole ordeal was done, I actually talked with all 3 kids and told them that I was sorry for not being consistent. I asked them if they remembered what the rule was about running around upstairs. Every single one of them remembered perfectly.
When I decided to set aside out predefined rule, that was not me being a good or fun mom. It was actually me being a “bad” mom. I demonstrated to my children that the rules in our house are flexible. Sometimes there are consequences, sometimes there aren’t. Can you imagine living with that kind of inconsistency as a child? It’s anything but fair. It’s chaos for a child.
I apologized to the kids for not being consistent and then I asked them if God is consistent. The 5-year-old said no which tells me this whole conversation might have been a bit over his head. But I digress . . . This whole stupid plant ordeal (that is really not that big deal AT ALL . . . but also, my picture doesn’t do it justice) gave me an incredible opportunity to remind myself and the kids that God is NOT like me. He is consistent. He tells us how we can receive redemption from our sins in the Bible and that truth doesn’t change. He does this out of love for us. Everything God every does for us is out of grace and love.
So thank the Lord that He does not parent us like I parented my children today. I want to encourage you parents, but especially moms, that it’s ok to be the “mean parent” at times. You have such an amazing and precious task as you raise children. You get to partake in the glorious task of teaching a child about our consistent, gracious God who finds joy in us despite our sinful hearts. As you parent today, remember this:
Having rules and expectations for your children is GOOD.
Expecting your children to abide by those rules is GOOD.
Following through with consequences when those rules are broken is GOOD.
Following up with hugs, love and reconciliation is VERY GOOD.
We have the amazing opportunity to point our children to Christ by doing our best to model how He parents us. Yes, you will mess up like I did today. And because God is consistent in his love and grace you can know that the gospel is still true today, it will be true tomorrow and for the rest of eternity.
Oftentimes, when you feel like you’re a “mean” mom, you’re actually being a very, very good mom. Keep it up, fellow mean moms!
If you liked this post, you may like my other posts on parenting.