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When you become a parent, you inevitably get a LOT of advice. Since every kid is different, and every family is different, not all of it makes sense or applies. And then some of it hits the nail right on the head.
One piece of advice I still constantly hear is to have grace with yourself as a mom. Which, in my mind, used to mean having a fuzzy sort of zen mode no matter what chaos is swirling around you. Of course that thought now makes me want to roll my eyes. How do you expect to go about that, O Wise One?
Time and experience have changed that view a bit. Instead of that numb sort of lifestyle, I now see having grace with yourself a little bit differently. I see it as being about choices and priorities. It’s about choosing patience, forgiveness, sometimes even your own sanity over some irrationally high standard we seem to set for ourselves as moms.
In the practical sense, that means a lot of different things to me.
It means laughing instead of crying when something doesn’t go according to plan. Which is about 75% of the time. It’s not hanging my head in shame when we are late, or when I have to soothe my crying baby in a public place, or when I’ve forgotten a diaper and have to ask a friend for one. Sometimes it just means not apologizing for being the mess that I am.
It means celebrating the small victories, and accomplishing a few things in a day, instead of stretching yourself to do everything and coming up empty.
It’s sometimes settling for less than my expectations for my kids, instead of an all-out war. I’m talking about at the dinner table, or at the park. If it means two more minutes at the train table at Barnes and Noble, then that’s what it is. Sometimes my rigid “no” isn’t the best thing for anyone involved.
Most days, it’s ignoring that perfect little Pinterestworthy mom in my head. The one that tells me I’m probably not creating enough educational opportunities for my two- year-old. Or including enough organic foods in his diet. Or making our house sparkling-clean enough. Some standards and expectations are good. Some are ridiculously high, and that voice just needs to take a hike.
It’s giving myself the chance to take time away from my kids. I’ve built that up as being selfish, when self-care actually makes me a better mom. And surprise! Sometimes your friends actually want to spend time with your littles, and want to see you happy and sane.
Actually it’s choosing not to guilt yourself out for a lot of things. For me, it’s things like not blogging 5 times a week, or not worrying about turning on the TV for my kid.
It’s not torturing yourself with impossible standards, while simultaneously telling everyone else they shouldn’t feel so bad. Most times I’ll gladly tell other moms that they look great and shouldn’t stress so much about losing the baby weight. Or that they shouldn’t worry about their child’s bumps and bruises – and then go and tear myself apart over those things in my own life. That’s not grace, mama.
Finally, it’s forgiving yourself when things go wrong, as they inevitably do once in a while. When your kid gets ahold of some chalk and thinks it’s a good idea to snack on it. Or when your baby rolls off the bed. It’s happened to us, and many times it’s been because of mistakes on my part. While of course every mistake is an opportunity to do better next time, things do happen, and refusing to forgive yourself doesn’t help anyone.
Basically, grace is an ongoing choice to do what’s best for you and your family, instead of what’s perfect. Sometimes it’s what’s best over what other people think is best. And sometimes you’re just up against yourself.
I don’t know if you realize it, but this is a crazy stage of life, for anyone. Raising kids is the most selfless, most consuming, most humbling job you’ll have. You’re a major part in forming someone’s worldview, their character, and their future. We can choose to so seriously take on the weight of that until it breaks us. Or we can see how many have gone before us, and turned out pretty decent because of or despite it all.
I also believe it means that we can let go, and let God work the good in our lives that he longs to do. He can work through every good and bad decision and situation in our lives, and our kids lives, to get us where we need to be.
So have a little grace with yourself, mama. Relax the unyielding expectations, celebrate the joys and victories, and move on when things don’t go according to plan. It will make this whole parenting thing at least a bit of a smoother ride.
How do you choose to have grace with yourself?