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 can just hear you now: “Clutter-free” and “parenting” in the same sentence? For real?
Well, not so fast. Clutter-free parenting is not a one-and-done proposition. When my children were little, I took delight in the nice, neat shelves in my basement, holding up totes clearly marked with clothing sizes. I was also Y2K ready (dating myself here), and had organized shelving stocked fully with massive quantities of food for pending disaster, enough to feed a small country. Yes, some of you are judging me right now while others are in awe.
Okay, so I have my skeletons in the closet of overdoing things when it comes to organization. I readily admit that maybe, just maybe, my focus on being clutter-free and organized bordered on being a little neurotic. Notice the past tense in that last sentence.
Clutter-free parenting as your kids grow older
Making five little people do their chores was stressful, but it does not compare with four college kids who all have jobs and school and a creative twelve-year-old who reenacts Curious George episodes again and again. Somehow the college “adult” status has a built-in entitlement that they just simply cannot do chores nor participate in the clutter-free schooling environment of days gone by.
A little background might help here. I home-educated all of my children all the way through. Yep. I am one of those. I delighted in purchasing books – LOTS of them – and organizing it all. Until … Until our lives were interrupted by a tragedy that transformed our very existence.
Suddenly the pet peeves about clutter really did not matter anymore. Just making my kids happy, just surviving, just trying to maintain some level of cleanliness, that’s where my focus shifted.
Balancing compassion and expectations
The problem with that state of living is that if we aren’t careful, it becomes our new norm. Kids are smart and realize this. The compassionate heart of mommas can, um, enable their disobedient behavior with excuses. I confess I have done this many times. I rationalized in my brain that it was cruel to stress them out with the burden of having to actually chip in around the house. They had a past pain that somehow overruled maintaining a clutter-free zone.
Now I have four kids, all with jobs and in college. “I’m an adult now,” several of my children have informed me. I mused over what those words meant as college textbooks were scattered all over my dining room table, kitchen table, coffee table, well, actually EVERYWHERE! “Mom, I have to work.” “I don’t have time to rinse the plate off.” “Gotta go.” The enabling side of me felt compassionately that it was just too hard for them to be expected to do 5-10 minutes of chores. They were stressed. But then, so was I. I work too.
The climb back to a clutter-free zone with children is not completely victorious. We fail and sometimes give ourselves space and grace when times get really hectic. But we don’t stay there.
When I am tempted to feel guilty and mean about expecting children who live in our home to pitch in, I am reminded that allowing clutter to reign in our lives and in the lives of our children is actually not kind.
One Small Win: Holding kids accountable to a standard that fosters peace can set the foundation for their lives to be clutter-free in their mind and homes.
So to our children who are now young adults, my husband says, “You’re right – you’re an adult now . . . act like it!”
“A servant pampered from childhood will become a rebel.” Proverbs 29:21
Denise Pass is an author, CCM artist, worship leader and speaker from Fredericksburg, VA, where she lives with her amazing husband and five children. Denise is passionate about writing devotions and music that foster unshakable hope and healing in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Her ministry, Seeing Deep in a Shallow World seeks to be a compass grounded in Scripture and a place where real problems meet real, transparent faith and needed answers in Scripture.
But there are millions of other moms out there who feel just like you do right now. And maybe, just maybe if you step back and allow yourself to find joy in the big and the little, that burden will be eased.
Listen in and find out how you can recapture the joy in your day-to-day life, then click over to Deva’s YouTube Channel to watch her hilarious parody videos and add a little laughter to your day.
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