I made a promise to my daughter the day she was born.
As I gazed into my baby girl’s eyes for the very first time, I silently assured her:
I’m going to meet your every need.
In that sacred moment, it felt right to make such a vow. She was so tiny, and I was overwhelmed by a protective instinct so strong, I felt like a combination of Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk.
But if I could go back twenty-seven years and whisper a few words to my new mom self, here’s what I’d say:
No you won’t.
You won’t even come close.
We went home from the hospital the day after Annemarie was born, and oh, how I tried to honor my promise: I’m going to meet your every need.
When she was bored, I tried to be Fun Mom.
When she was sad, I tried to be Nurturing Mom.
When she broke things, I tried to be Fix-It-Fast Mom.
When she couldn’t find things, I tried to be Organized Mom.
If she needed it, I tried hard to be it.
I did a wonderful job of meeting her every need.
But then she turned two days old, and everything went haywire.
The second day after we got home from the hospital, Annemarie was fussy. I fed her. I burped her. I changed her.
I tried singing to her, but that only seemed to make her cry harder.
Finally, exhausted, I handed her over to my mother, expecting (and secretly hoping) that there would be no change.
But the transformation was both instantaneous and dramatic.
Not only did Annemarie stop crying, but as her Nana began to sing, she started to smile.
“It’s just gas,” I said, stunned and a little hurt that my child had calmed right down with someone other than me.
Now, I would love to tell you that this was the moment I recognized that my promise I’m going to meet your every need was unrealistic, foolish, and impossible to fulfill.
Unfortunately, I took it as a challenge.
And I determined to try all the harder to be the one to meet my daughter’s every need.
For the next quarter-of-a-century, I muddled through motherhood, constantly overwhelmed by self-inflicted feelings of colossal failure.
Flash forward 25 years to Annemarie’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Solo Exhibition. She’s drawn large portraits of the twenty key people in her life, each one titled with a single word that defines their connection to her.
I quickly scan the gallery walls for my portrait so I can see what label she gave me. But before I can find mine, I see Aunt Karen’s:
It takes all my willpower not to run to the restroom and burst into tears.
I didn’t get Nurturer.
Which means I didn’t meet my daughter’s need for nurturing.
I tried, by golly, I tried.
But I didn’t even come close.
I’m just not made out of nurturing stuff.
I’m made out of …
I find my portrait and read my label.
… evidently, I’m made out of Writer stuff.
Whatever that even means.
Clearly, Aunt Karen succeeded where I failed.
But what if that’s okay?
The unexpected thought crashes my pity party.
What if she didn’t need me to meet her every need?
I look at my daughter, laughing with guests who are here for her grand opening. She’s all grown up into someone I am so proud to know, let alone share genes with.
What if she just needed me to be me?
I look at the titles of the other portraits:
Mentor … Philosopher … Listener … Challenger …
And suddenly, I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward Aunt Karen and and all the other people who have poured into to my daughter’s life, meeting needs that I never could.
The truth begins to settle into my heart:
She really didn’t need me to meet her every need.
Accepting the Truth
So if you’re a mom who feels like she’s constantly falling short? letting her kids down? never even coming close to meeting all their needs?
Lean in close, and let me whisper this truth to you:
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.
“I’m overwhelmed. I just need a break!” I said to my counselor. Minutes later, I left her second story office and hurried the length of the deserted hallway. I glanced at my phone while descending the stairs. My phone was dead, but I knew it was close to 4:00. I had just enough time to get to school and pick up my kids before their practices ended at 4:30. As I took the next step, I missed the stair and tumbled forward. When I came to a stop, I heard a loud “pop.” The pain was unbearable.
Tears came fast and furious and I cried out for help.
No one heard me.
I tried to push myself up to stand, but my left foot refused to bear any weight.
I cried for help again, thinking there must be someone nearby.
Again, no one heard me.
I tried my phone a second time in vain. My husband was in New York on business. Picking up the kids wouldn’t wait. I gritted my teeth and pushed myself up from the base of the stairs. I could stand on my right foot, but my left was completely useless. With great pain, I hopped to the car, frequently banging my left foot against the pavement. I managed to get myself into the car and drive across town to the school, sobbing the entire way.
The “break” I needed
I’d love to tell you my injuries were minimal and I healed quickly, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I got the “break” I needed in the form of broken bones and multiple sprains in my foot and ankle, six months of pain, restrictions, physical therapy, and a complete overhaul of my demanding pace of life.
Before my fall, I was at a breaking-point. Maybe you’ve been there too.
I had taken on too many responsibilities – running a nonprofit, serving as team mom, leading a Bible study, making play costumes, and so much more. I spent the previous year moving at record speed. I like to keep busy, but I was over-committed, under-rested, and probably not the most pleasant person to be around.
We don’t have to live that way.
Count the cost of yes
What I learned through my ordeal was that I’m capable of only so much. I’m learning to live within my limits. That means I only commit to a certain number of activities, projects and responsibilities. When my plate is full, I must eliminate an item before adding another. I guard my time and energy or they’ll be swallowed up by my desire to say “yes” to more than I can sanely accomplish.
If I hadn’t been rushed and feeling overwhelmed, I’m sure I wouldn’t have missed that step. I likely wouldn’t have even been in counselor’s office that day. The cost of over-commitment was high.
One of the things I contemplated during my recovery was that Jesus never rushed. He moved at an intentional pace. His time of ministry on earth was very brief, only three years. If anyone had a reason to pick his pace and do more than humanly possible, it was Jesus. But, he didn’t.
I’m learning to follow his example.
Luke 14:28 reminds us to count the cost, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
When we’re tempted to say “yes” and add one more thing to our busy schedules, pause and acknowledge that “yes” will cost us something. At the very least, it means we have to say “no” to other opportunities.
What will saying “yes” cost you? Will it cost your peace? Dilute your focus?
When we commit to pause and count the cost before taking on another thing, we are empowered to manage the opportunities that come our way. We focus on what we’re meant to do, the things most important to us. We walk in freedom, unhurried and confident.
What are you doing to follow Jesus’ example of walking out your life intentionally and unhurried? How have you learned to live within the limits of your time and energy?
Elizabeth M. Thompson is a writer and speaker. Prayer is her super-power and she loves helping women develop meaningful prayer lives. She and her husband have three children. They live, bike, kayak, and hike along the American River near Sacramento, CA. Stop by her website for a free download of “Jumpstart Your Stalled Prayer Life.”
Kathi and Cheri Gregory, co-author of Overwhelmed, are here for Part 3 of the series, What We’ve Learned Since Releasing Overwhelmed. They discuss how decluttering is ongoing. It isn’t one and done; it is a day in and day out process.
As our recent Spring Fling participants have tackled their clutter, they realized that it wasn’t just a two-week project. It is something you have to keep working at. And each person has their own hurdles to work through. Our hosts discuss what some of the ah-ha moments were for them as well as participants. AS one clears her clutter, what once brought emptiness is now viewed as spaciousness. Kathi and Cheri discuss the discovery of how getting rid of the clutter provides room for new opportunities.
Listen for tips to get the support you need to deal with clutter and being overwhelmed.
Mentioned In the Podcast
Trello – Great for organizing projects and keeping everyone on the team on track.
Cheri Gregory, co-author of Overwhelmed, joins Kathi for the second podcast in a series about “What I’ve Learned Since Writing Overwhelmed.”
They have learned a number of things and one thing that Cheri found profound, “Women are bad at articulating what we want or need without feeling guilty.” As women, we are always preventing problems for other people instead of focusing on our own wants, needs, expectations, and communication.
Listen in to learn about their tips for handling our own wants and needs guilt free.
Build your own dreams or someone will hire you to build theirs. ~ Farrah Gray
Co-Author of Overwhelmed, Cheri Gregory, joins Kathi for a four week series to discuss what they have learned since writing Overwhelmed. This week, the authors discuss the one that that has stood out to them the most: “Women turn over their power to external sources too often.”
Often, we let what we think we should do for others dictate what we spend our time and energy on. But what if God isn’t surprised by what our circumstances are and has called us to more anyways? Kathi and Cheri discuss ways they’ve let others take over their time and emotions, and ways they’ve changed their own behavior to better handle situations that overwhelm their relationships, time and energy.
What are the steps you can take to take back control of your life?