I stifled my suffocating emotions as I cuddled the boy I’d reduced to frightened tears only moments before. It didn’t matter that he had pushed all my buttons. It didn’t matter that he’d angrily pulled the dresser drawers onto his bed and had plastered the floor with his crumpled clothes. It didn’t matter that I’d started out as calm-super-mom patiently asking him to make things right.
He pushed. And he pushed some more. And I lost it.
Not in the “Christian” way. Not in the “Oh Honey, we all make mistakes sometimes” way. In the way that leaves you questioning why God would for a minute trust YOU as a mother. What kind of mom could not just misplace her temper but lose it like a lego stuck in the van seat.
And for a whole night all I could think was that I wanted two things: one impossible and the other nearly so. I wanted to rewind and undo my monster moment with my son more than anything. And I desperately hoped in the basement of my soul that there was even one other Mom who had struggled with anger like I had. Just one other mom like me that looked sweet and put together in church or the school pick up line but couldn’t always keep her stuff glued when push came to shove.
I scrambled through my list of friends, but fear has a way of isolating our worst broken places from the very people who could help us walk through it. Sympathize with us. Cry with us while we trudge slowly towards a better way to love. And while I knew none of my friends were “perfect moms”, were there any that wouldn’t just listen to my bad mom confession, but silently nod their head and give me a look that said, “You’re not alone”?
Suddenly, I no longer cared whether I “looked bad” to other moms- I was overwhelmingly afraid of my capacity to BE a bad mom. Not all the time. Not most of the time maybe. But in that broken moment when I didn’t have a blessed excuse to stand on for my actions.
So often the church and even school mom circles feels a little like that scene from “Mean Girls”
when Lyndsay Lohan (Cady) first gets invited with the “mean girl” clique to Rachel McAdams’ (Regina’s) home. Cady looks on, confused, as the three other gorgeous girls take turns looking in the mirror and lamenting over their physical “flaws”. One girl laments that her “pores are huge” and another decries that her “nailbeds suck”. They’ve made it a ritual to feel better about themselves by each sharing some superficial shortcoming with the others. But their bond is as shallow as their confessions.
In the same way, we’re willing to share what we consider our kind-of-bad stuff. The way we’re hopelessly late because God didn’t bless us with an internal clock. The way we indulge in a little too much coffee, but doesn’t everyone? Even the cute little mistakes we make as moms like accidentally driving our kids to school on a national holiday or caving and letting the three year old help himself to a gazillion church doughnuts. (Yes, I’ve done both.)
But when and where do we talk about the gritty stuff? The real “bad mom” stuff? The “I’m pretty sure I’m raising a murderer” stuff. The “I cried myself to sleep over my mistake” stuff. The mom fails that go beyond the superficial bad of dessert for breakfast or lying about the whereabouts of their toy when you know good and well you gave it to goodwill.
And while I’m not proud of myself, I figure the conversation has to start somewhere. So here it is:
I’m not always a good mom. I’m not always an OK mom, even. Sometimes I screw up so bad I don’t want to tell any of you about it. Sometimes I’m afraid if people only really knew… (and I’m afraid to finish that sentence.)
This isn’t a cry for accolades- I really am not looking for someone to tell me “I’m sure you aren’t as bad as you think, Sweetie.”
I want someone who will look me in the eye and tell me that I did screw up. And then hug me and tell me that they’ve been there too. Maybe not the same way. But that parenthood has broken them in ways they’re afraid to tell anyone about too. That they’re afraid sometimes of their own capacity to squish and scar the little lives they’ve been entrusted with. That some “bad mom” moments can’t be laughed away over coffee or numbed away over wine, but spill out in hot guilty tears in a pillow and linger long after the offense is over.
To any moms who feel this way: you. are. not. alone. I see you and feel for you. And while you may have made a mistake that isn’t “cute” or excusable- you are human. And maybe you need to take a step to work towards change. I know I do. But don’t forget that your love for your child is so much stronger than that moment of brokenness. Don’t for a second give up completely. And whatever you do, don’t hide the shame away- because shame has a way of magnifying itself in secret and maybe our healing begins in pulling back the curtain to our vulnerable moments and letting someone see our real flaws.
So I’m putting out the application to you.. “Wanted: Failing Moms”. Your brokenness is not too big for this space. And if you need to vent publicly or through a private message, I’m more than willing to listen. And I have a feeling we’re not as alone as we think.