Saturday, May 9, 2009

About "Inadequate" Mothers

I recently heard one lady (with 3 children, expecting their 4th and last child according to her) report that another woman with a larger family (by 3 or 4 children) had said she wasn’t able to spend time with each of her children each day. The mother with fewer children said that “You are a bad mother if you can say that.” She went on to say it was weird that the lady wanted more children and she said “Why would you want more when you don’t have the time to spend with the ones you’ve created already?” Let me just briefly point out the fallacy implied in her comment “You’ve created”. The Bible says that GOD is the creator of life. We cannot create, nor can we accidentally allow a life that God didn’t PURPOSEFULLY create. But that issue is not what I want to address in this post.

It sounds, from the comment of the mother of three, as if any woman who would voice feelings of inadequacy is a bad mother (afterall, she's admitting to being inadequate!) and worse if she feels inadequate AND would desire more children! I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed and inadequate (patience wise) lately. I can’t say that I feel like I’m a horrible mother, though. Not as good as I would like and not as good as I could and not as good as I ought to be. But still, a good mother who loves and takes care of and raises her children the way the Lord leads as well as I can, given my flawed human nature. Lord, save me from sharing any of my feelings of inadequacy with such an uncompassionate, judgmental woman!!

Of course, it leads you to wonder, can you avoid being a bad mother?! Doesn't ANY mother find herself in the position of seeing things she should have done differently? Things she did wrong!? Or are there really mothers who know they have always done the best thing for their child in every situation? Something to think about, anyway.

But is this woman right? Is that mother a bad mother on the basis of not spending time with each child on a daily basis?

I have 9 siblings (one born after I got married so he almost doesn’t count in my part of what I’m about to say). Did mom spend personal, one-on-one time with each one of us every single day of our life at home? No. The majority of our personal time we did get was for school work (which, I imagine, added up to far more than the average amount the kids from public school with a working mom and 1 sibling gets). I’m sure there were times when we were in the kitchen helping to do things or, doing laundry or gardening with her or…who knows what else when no one was in there for a few moments, but there was very little “time with each child every day” in the one on one, specific way the lady’s statement implies.

I ask, IS personal time with Mom every day or even most days something we needed to have?! If so, why? Is there a Biblical reason that we needed special one on one time? Let’s not go into psycho ideas that counselors have conjured up out of nowhere with no real background to them, but give me a real, honest to goodness, known for thousands of years kind of reason that time with a parent and siblings just doesn’t count as time with your parent.

My mom was with the whole lot of us all the time. We were with her ALL day, she was with us ALL day. Anytime we wanted to go talk to mom, she was there and it wasn’t as if we had to submit a request in writing, squeeze our talk in between appointments or wait until she got home from work or we got home from school. But, at the same time, she didn’t have time set aside for each person every day. If we wanted/needed to talk, we found her and did so. But our bonus was/is, we have siblings we could talk to as well. We had our CHOICE of siblings to talk to!! I know that these days I might call my mother but then again, I might call and talk to one of my sisters (children #5, 6, 8 and 9). A number of my siblings have best friends in other siblings and they’re the ones to whom they tell all those things that you might not really say much to Mom or Dad about. While Mom and Dad are certainly nice to talk to, my siblings are definitely indispensable! Thank goodness my parents didn’t cut our family off at 2 or 3 or 4 children so they could personally give us all a specific amount of time or have money to give us certain lessons of some sort! Good grief! What robbery that would have been! If there were only 4 kids in my family, NONE of my sisters would have been born and OH, what I would be missing in my life right now!! Ugh!! What a horrid thought! I love and value my first three siblings, but we would all be lacking greatly if we didn’t have the other 6!! It happens that all but maybe my oldest brother wants to have a large family of their own. I can see in my friends what you get with smaller families and I have to say that I wouldn’t trade what I got…changing diapers, babysitting for no money, doing chores that friends seldom did and all that…wouldn’t trade it for what they got. In my opinion, my friends in smaller families didn’t get a single thing better…they just got less. They may not know they’re missing anything, but if I try and imagine life in a family of four, all I can imagine is the things I would have missed. We all feel incredibly blessed and we really value growing up in a crowd, so to speak. Enough to want to bless our children in the same way. I know many children in small families who grow up kinda lonely. It’s harder to find that in larger families.

I think the blessing of many siblings for the REST OF OUR LIVES, far out weighs any benefit of special time with mom on a daily basis while we’re growing up. But again, I still don’t see the need or even the benefit of having special time alone as opposed to time with mom AND siblings. Time with parents is important…yes, but all by yourself, not so important. Did Jesus spend special time with each of His disciples every day? No?! You mean, He didn’t set aside a 20 minute block to pour himself into each individual every day? No? Well why not? Maybe because it’s not needed or necessary in order to pass on the things God wants us to pass on. It’s not necessary in order for a person to feel significant, needed, valued, loved. Indeed, I have to say I feel like the world needs me more because my many siblings are in it. I feel like I have greater opportunities to be a good (or bad) influence because I have 8 younger siblings. I feel blessed because when I have a baby, my MOM doesn’t have to come stay with my kids but my sisters (far more energy and less aches and pains) CAN! Oh, I cannot tell you the THOUSANDS of blessings that come from a large family!! Yes, one so large that Mom might often feel like she just can’t handle it. But it’s not all about Mom really, is it?

I think often a MOM (including me at this point in my life) is a lot harder on herself than her kids are. I think non-understanding neighbors and friends can also be a lot more critical “for the sake of the children”, than the children are. I know that, certainly right now, I go to bed at least 4 of 7 nights, thinking about my short comings and how I did NOT do what I feel I should have that day. I imagine the mom quoted was feeling pretty bad, feeling like she wasn’t doing all she should and while she loves her children and would delight in another wonderful blessing, she feels that she cannot do enough. I believe this is deception initiated by Satan with the very purpose of discouraging Christians from doing something effective. The fewer children born in to Christian families the better and what better way than to actually make the parents think they’re doing the best by NOT having more. It’s so easy, in this culture where 1 or 2 children families are the model “family” and expectations of parents are based on this model. But this is NOT God’s model and the expectations that spring from this lack of fruitfulness are not God’s expectations.

When moms think they don’t have enough time for their large family or feel like they just aren’t doing enough, we need to remember that GOD knows what He’s doing when He gives you the children He gives. We forget, our children and what we do are not ALL ABOUT US and being just perfect. And if we're not perfect in our parenting, it's very arrogant of us to think that it would be better if our children weren't here. We make ourselves out to be far too important when we start thinking like that. We and our children are a part of some bigger picture God is working on and God still works through the weaknesses of His children. Yes, it’s true…God uses OUR weaknesses in the lives of our children and in everything else we touch. We just need to be open to Him. Ahhh. That's a refreshing thought to an overwhelmed, inadequate mommy.