There are few things in the world as tender as a mother’s heart when it comes to doing right by her children. And it’s out of this deep desire to be a great mom that myths about mothering can spring up and flourish.
Myths that some of us believe before we ever become moms. Others that develop over time spent with our little cherubs. And some that we learn by watching how other mothers do things.
You can probably imagine the number of different mothering myths I’ve heard over 30 years on the job. It’s a LONG list! But I’ve picked my top five to bust right here and now. Why these five? Because at times I’m still drawn in by them. Even after a lifetime of mothering!
Myth #1: I’VE GOT THIS!
This is the mothering myth cloaked in optimism and confidence. And maybe the teensiest bit of pride. It’s the myth that tells us we should be able to do it all when our kids are younger. And know it all when they come to us for answers as they grow. It’s based on the belief that there is no love like a mother’s love and no one who knows our kids better than we do. But thinking this way leads to just one place: exhaustion. Or maybe two places. Add guilt to exhaustion, and you begin to see why this myth is no way to mother. Being a supermom is not sustainable!
We can put this myth to rest by asking for help. Help with the heavy lifting of parenting young children. And help with the wisdom we need to parent young adults. Finding an encouraging community of like-minded parents will help. Where comparisons are left at the door and collaboration, encouragement, and support are the only things on the agenda. These are the folks who will keep you going when you’re tempted to believe the next myth on my list.
Myth #2: I CAN’T DO THIS!
A particular kind of incredulous fear gripped my heart the moment we pulled away from the hospital with our newborn strapped into the car seat for the first time. How in the world did the doctors and nurses decide that we could be trusted with this responsibility? And since that day, I’ve experienced more than one mothering moment when I looked around for a qualified adult to take charge only to realize that adult was ME.
Motherhood can feel overwhelming at times. It can leave us feeling frazzled and wondering if something is wrong with us. Or believing that no one else in the history of mothering has ever had to face the challenges of operating on no sleep, shopping with a toddler, disciplining an angry teen, or dropping off our youngest at college. The truth is that none of us are fully qualified when we step into the role of caring for another human being. It’s a lifetime of on-the-job training! But God in His wisdom chose you to be mom to your kids. He knows you. He knows them. And He knows what you both need to make this work. Lean on His wisdom as you carry out this assignment, and turn to Him when you’re sure the next myth on the list must be true.
Myth #3: I’M GOING TO RUIN MY KIDS WITH MY CRAZY MISTAKES
I once heard someone say that you always ruin your first pancake and that kids are like pancakes. So I’ve apologized on many occasions to my oldest son who was the lucky recipient of some of my crazier mom moments. Like believing he was a genius because he could identify the letters in the Winn-Dixie sign when he was two years old. And then having him evaluated by a child psychologist to verify my claim. Turns out that yes, he’s a pretty smart guy. But his success is most certainly in spite of my inflated notions not because of them!
Here’s the thing. We will all make crazy mistakes with our kids. We will feel at times like we’re losing our minds. And at times we will act like it, too! But there is a way to keep our crazy from ruining them. Awareness of our ability to screw up and a willingness to apologize when we do will keep us from causing permanent damage. And will help us avoid the trap of living under the shadow of the next myth in my top five.
Myth #4: MY CHILD’S PERFORMANCE IS A REPORT CARD FOR MY MOTHERING
If we trace this myth back to its source, we will likely find it sprouted from the natural sense of pride we feel as parents. After all, what mother’s heart doesn’t swell when her amazing offspring does something completely adorable, unexpected, or dazzling? But mothers everywhere also cringe at the thought of being asked, “Why don’t you control your kid, lady?” Of course, we take these things personally – we’re mothers!
But there’s a problem with measuring how well (or not) we are mothering by how well (or not) our children are doing. This myth is based on the false belief that we are in control. And we’re not. God is. We’ve been given the privilege and responsibility to raise our kids to honor Him with their gifts and talents. It’s not about me. I’m still figuring this one out.
Myth #5: I WILL KNOW WHAT MY KIDS ARE THINKING
When I became a mom, I naively believed that if I set certain expectations, my kids would absorb them as their own. I thought with some gentle, consistent training, our family would be one with similar tastes and opinions. We would like the same movies, music, and books. We would enjoy the same activities like going to baseball games and snow skiing. And even when we debated issues around the dinner table, we would be in basic agreement about world issues and politics. You see where this is going, right?
God casts family members the way a great playwright creates characters in a play. No two will be exactly alike! And how boring would life be if they were? I learned early on that my kids are not only very different from one another; they are very different from me. And that’s OK! It’s thrilling to get to know them as the unique individuals they are. And to watch as God reveals His plans for their lives.
Let’s embrace the wild and wonderful journey that is the reality of motherhood.
Share a mothering myth you’ve busted in the comments section below and have yourself a truly Happy Mother’s Day!