The Measure of a Mom

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I wonder if there is any greater pressure in life than to be a good mother.  As a mom, it can feel like pretty much everything you do is measured by how good, or bad, you are at this job.  And the standard of how good or bad you are…well that changes constantly and there are a million variables that go in to figuring that out.  But the measure seems to be mostly dependent on who is administering the test (aka judging you).  When you think about how many interactions you have in a single day, week, month…that’s a whole lotta judging going on.  And that means a whole lotta pressure to be good at, well, everything.

If that’s not enough,  you’re also judged on the behavior of your kids and how good they are at everything.  If your child has a tantrum at the grocery store, that’s a forgivable offense for them, but you’re docked double points in the mom category, because first of all why is your child such a little monster? And second, why can’t you control them when they decide to have a melt down in aisle five?

As a pretty imperfect mom myself, I’d love to say that I’m not guilty of this unfair judging.  But that would be a lie.  When I see a child misbehaving, I have perfected “the look” that I give to my own kids as we walk past the uncontrollable brat.  And after many years of this look, I don’t even need to say a word, the kids say it for  me. “I know, you would kill us if we ever did that.” Yep.  I sure would.  Because I have enough trouble earning good mom points on my own, I don’t need you lowering my score.

I don’t really want to measured by whether or not I attend every baseball game or PTO meeting.  I don’t want to be scored by how well behaved my children are, how smart they are or how old they are when they started walking/talking/potty training…etc.  What level they read at when they’re 6 years old shouldn’t be a factor and it shouldn’t matter how many activities or sports they participate in.

I can’t imagine any other area in life where we are judged almost solely based on someone else’s performance.  Besides, I know some really great moms whose kids just aren’t there yet and may never be. What I’ve realized as my kids have grown into adulthood is that I can only do what I can do,  but ultimately their choices are up to them. And truly,  their behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of how well I’ve done as a mom.

So what is the measure of a mom? How do I know if I’ve done my job and done it well?  I’ve decided on these few things as a measuring stick for myself.  This list might change or be added to over the years, and it might not be a standard for anyone else, but this is how I’ll be measuring myself.

  • Do my kids know that I love them? Now, I’ve learned that just loving a kid doesn’t necessarily make you a good mom, even really bad moms often love their kids.  I want my kids to know that I love them with the kind of unconditional,  selfless, I’d do anything for you…but your “happiness” is not my main concern…kind of love.
  • Do my kids know that God loves them even more than I do?  For me this is a big one.  Because I will fail my kids.  Often.  And I want them to know and to understand that I am not their ultimate authority.  Only by understanding the depth of God’s love, will they be able to extend the same kind of love to others.  And for me, that’ll be a big win.
  • Do my kids know that there are consequences to their actions?  As a mom, our natural response to our kids getting in trouble is to bail them out.  This often means that when our kids do something really stupid that deserves to be punished, we rush to their defense and don’t let them face the consequences that they’ve got coming to them.  If my kids realize that good choices equal good consequences and bad choices equal bad consequences, and that sometimes those bad consequences really hurt, I’ll be doing alright.
  • Do my kids understand the value of working hard?  My kids don’t own their own computer or ipad, they were never given a car and I’ve never paid for a spring break trip.  Why?  Because that stuff is expensive and they can’t afford it.  I supply my kids with their basic necessities.  If they want the extras, they have to work for it.  Giving them a handout now does not teach them the importance of hard work, which they will eventually have to learn. ( Unless of course, you plan to allow them to live in your basement and play video games their whole life, in which case, better you than me.)  I want my kids to know the value of a dollar and to realize that dollars don’t grow on trees.  I also want them to experience the satisfaction that comes with working for something and then obtaining it.  They will never get the same sense of satisfaction from a handout.  

And maybe most importantly,

  • Do my kids know the importance of character?  I’m a huge fan of good old honest Abe, who once said “Reputation is the shadow, character is the tree”.  I want my kids to know that their character will reflect who they are.  And that who they are, especially when nobody’s looking, is really important.  And I want them to know that things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are always admirable traits to have. 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Love is Tough

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It’s easy enough to understand the concept of tough love.  It makes perfect sense when I see other people in situations where they need to practice it and I’m certain that I’ve given advice on more than one occasion to just show some tough love. But wow is it hard to practice it myself.  

If tough love is when you treat another person sternly in an effort to help them in the long run, then I guess as a parent I’ve used tough love. You know, for minor things that the kids have done. Grounding them, keeping them home from a birthday party because they didn’t do their homework, taking away their t.v. privileges, stuff like that.  I guess that counts as tough love, right? But honestly, that’s pretty easy. 

Recently though, things have changed and I’m becoming well-versed in matters of tough love, and it really is tough.  It feels pretty confusing and on most days it’s awful and doesn’t feel a whole lot like love at all.

Tough love situations are always borne out of necessity, which is exactly what has happened to my family. My sister is fighting a heroin addiction which has pretty much destroyed her life, and is having serious effects on ours as well.  Her story is exactly the same as the many others I’ve heard recently.  She started using, then stealing to use even more, wound up getting arrested for stealing, spent time in jail, went to rehab in hopes of getting a reduced sentence, got out…went back to using…steal, arrest, rehab, repeat. And in 2011 during a two week break between rehab and a jail stay, she managed to get pregnant.  I was so certain that a baby would be the catalyst for change that she needed, but when he was just 18 months old, she wound up back in jail and Little B found a new home here with us.  

It’s exhausting to be the family member of an addict. It’s tiresome and it’s frustrating constantly trying to figure out the “right” thing to do. I’m getting better with the “tough” part, but it wears me out sometimes trying to figure out how to love my sister when I’m so angry with her decisions, upset by the effects that her addiction has had on my family, and saddened by the fact that Little B is caught up in the middle of her mess.

But as a follower of Jesus, I believe that I’m called to show love.  In John 13, Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The Bible doesn’t put any contingencies on this calling.  Three times in three sentences he says to “love one another”. But he doesn’t clarify what that love looks like.  He doesn’t use the phrase “tough love”, and he doesn’t give instructions as to how we are to show love.  I wish Jesus would’ve been just a little more clear.

Most of the love that I see around me is really different than the love that I see in the Bible. It says in Romans that God showed his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  But in this world, love seems to be completely contingent on the behavior of the other person.  It’s more of an “if/then” love.  IF you do this for me, THEN I will love you.  IF you (meet all my needs/make me happy/buy me nice things/put up with my bad attitude…etc) THEN I will love you.  But if you don’t, then forget about it.

So, my dilemma is this. I want to love my sister through this addiction, I really do.  But my natural inclination is to have an “if you clean up your act, then I will be able to love you” mentality…which is exacerbated by the fact that her addiction has had such a huge effect on my family.  I want to love like Jesus, but to be honest, most days it’s a struggle. 

What makes it harder is that all of my really well-intentioned, loving and loyal friends are quick to point out that I’ve done enough for her and that I need to stop, that I can’t let her take advantage of me, that she’s in this mess because of her own bad decisions, that these are her consequences so she has to deal with them…etc.  These are not things that I need someone to point out to me.  I already know all of this.  What I could really use is someone to remind me that I am called to love her.  Period.  Not with contingency, not IF she gets her life together, not IF her bad decisions don’t effect me.  None of those things matter.

I’ve been shown love and I’m undeserving too. I’m grateful for love that comes without contingencies and I want to pour that out for others. 

Love is tough. Tough love is tougher. And I don’t do either of them as well as I’d like to.  But I’m learning.