Undone: Smashing Ideal Motherhood

Motherhood is more than posed and frameable moments.

It’s not the sum of blissful images filling the pages of a scrapbook. A mother is made in the difficult, challenging, and very real crises that never make it to a page. It’s choosing to love when you’d rather run away. Being a mother is becoming an expert at saying, “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” and “I love you,” as many times as necessary. And teaching your children to do the same.

It involved more hard work and less glamour than I’d dreamed once upon a time.

-Michele Cushatt, Undone*

Wow. So much truth here. If you’re not a mom yet, just know that you’ll come to realize this truth in time. The journey of motherhood. Similar to marriage, it’s not quite what you expected it to be when you were dreaming of it “once upon a time.”

Blissful. That’s the one word I would have chosen, before I became a mom, of how I expected motherhood to be like. All I have to say to that me is this: haha.

Here are a few of the many sandcastles/myths I’ve had to (or I’m still learning to) smash along the way, on my journey of motherhood so far.

Sandcastle #1: Motherhood will make me happy. Now, of course, there will be a lot of happy moments that your children will bring when you’re a mother. As well as a lot of frustrating moments, challenging moments, annoying moments, sad moments, etc. What I’ve had to learn is this. Truth: I cannot make my children responsible for my emotions. Their job is not to make me happy. Their job is to be children. My job is to parent them in love. It’s my job to look out for their best interest; it is not their job to look out for mine. I am the adult. When they do things that frustrate/annoy/inconvenience me, my natural inclination is to react, to take it out on them, and to have them pay for making me feel this way. One of the hardest things as a parent is to keep my own feelings in check. Particularly in times of discipline, I have to remember to ask myself, “Is this for their best interest, or am I reacting from my own emotions?” Oh man, this is so incredibly hard to keep in check, especially in the heat of the moment. So many popcorn prayers are necessary in these moments: God help me! 

Sandcastle #2: The main purpose of motherhood is to help my children grow. Of course, a huge chunk of motherhood is about helping my children grow. But what I’ve come to realize in the last 8 years of parenting is, Truth: I’m the one who is challenged to grow the most. Motherhood exposes so much of my own shortcomings, such as anger issues, impatience, lack of self-control, weaknesses, and inadequacies. Motherhood gives me so many opportunities – daily – to grow in these areas, as I learn to rely on God and His strength more and more. It’s not about building a trophy of “look what a good mom I am.” Like Michele said, it’s more hard work and less glamour. It’s more about growing than displaying. It’s a very humbling journey. But come to think of it, how in the world did we ever think we had it figured out at the start of this journey, when we had never experienced being a mom before? Of course it would be about growing. Somehow, parenting is one area we tend to think we automatically become experts at from the start. How wrong were we!

Sandcastle #3: Conflicts and challenges reflect badly on me as a parent. I was always a well-behaved child, so I expected to have well-behaved children. I thought I would coast through motherhood like I coasted through all my years of school: straight A’s. Yeah, not quite. My firstborn came out of the gates letting me know that she will not fit into any type of a box. As a baby, she was fussy. As a toddler, she threw ridiculous tantrums. As a preschooler, she was defiant. As a human being, she was (is) strong-willed like no other. She shattered my expectation of having a well-behaved child that is admired by all other parents. Some of it may be a cultural thing, but it was easy for me to be embarrassed by her bad behavior. I automatically assumed that people would see her tantrums and rate me as a bad mother. As I had more children, and as I encountered children from other families, I quickly learned that children come in all types of temperaments and personalities. Some are naturally easy-going and obedient; some are naturally strong-willed and defiant. It is very rare to have a child who is well-behaved all the time. During one of Focus on the Family broadcasts, one of the speakers said something so profound and true (I’m paraphrasing): “You shouldn’t be embarrassed when your child misbehaves. They are children; they will do that. You should be embarrassed as a parent if you fail to deal with their misbehavior.” Conflicts and challenges are part of motherhood, they just are. Truth: Conflicts and challenges are opportunities for growth, both for the parent and the child. If my child behaved well all the time, and if there was no conflict or challenge, I may be viewed as a great mother by others. But in reality, no growth is taking place. No lesson is being taught. How I handle conflicts and challenges as a mother speaks more volume than having a child who is well-behaved all the time.

So there you have it. Some of the misconceptions I had about motherhood that I had to smash. In closing, I’d like to bring attention to how Michele ended this chapter. When her stepson was asked to say one thing he loves about her, he said that he knows she always loves him, no matter what. She wrote, “In all my mothering failings, I’d managed to get one thing right. Love. And it mattered most of all.”

Motherhood is tough. We will make many mistakes. But moms, let’s get this one thing right: love.

*This is part of a series of posts I’m writing about a book by Michele Cushatt called Undone.  I will write about what God is having me reflect on after each chapter. You can just read my posts, or you can join the online book club I started. Read my Invite post and Getting Started post to find out more about the book club. 

This post was reflecting on Chapters 9 and 10.

Discussion Questions for the book club

-What misconceptions did you have about motherhood before you became a mom? If you are not a mom, what misconceptions do you think you have about motherhood? What kind of mother do you think you will be? 

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