We are all experiencing change in these days of weathering a global pandemic. As a stay-at-home mom of three, the greatest change for me has been the massive increase in total face-to-face time with my kids. I’ve told many people that parenting right now feels relentless. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, it’s just all parenting, all of the time.
I think many parents have experienced similar feelings this year. First, we watched our systems and routines crumble around our ears last spring. Then, we parented through a summer with minimal organized activities. And now, we have entered the fall, only to find that schools look different than they ever have before.
However, I discovered that the most difficult and discouraging part of the relentlessness of parenting right now isn’t that my kids ask me 100 times a day for snacks and “something fun to do.” The most relentless part of parenting is the constant feeling that I am failing my kids somehow.
This is what it currently looks like for me…
It’s breakfast time. My first grader, Avery, is doing distance learning this year, so I spend a few minutes getting her set up for school. I start to hear Eliza, my 1 year old, crying from her crib. I finish up with Avery, and by then, Eliza is wailing. Failure is whispering into my ear. That poor kid will hate her crib now. So much for peaceful mornings.
By the time I bring Eliza out, Emma, who is four, is whining that she’s hungry and doesn’t have anything to do. Failure. You were a middle kid, yourself, do you remember being forgotten in the shuffle? You’re doing that to your kid. Shame, shame. I get her some breakfast while Eliza is on my hip.
At this point, I check in with Avery who has now wandered over to an art tutorial on Youtube. Failure! Your kid is scrolling around unattended on the internet. Do you know what is on there? I close the laptop screen too hard and remind her that if she is on a site she’s not supposed to be on, she loses the laptop. “But I need it for school!” She cries.
By now, the baby is crying again and the middle kid is begging for a different breakfast. Your kids are out of control! Who is even parenting these children? I limp through breakfast and the Google classroom assignments of first grade, all the while feeling like I’m playing a losing game of whack-a-mole, and as soon as quiet time comes, I’m scrolling on my phone. Probably just to quiet the voice that whispers constantly through the day…Failure.
I remind myself that the kids were fed (healthy, homemade food…quickly followed by granola bars and crackers), my eldest finished her schoolwork (for the most part), and I found a moment to play with the baby on the floor this morning (while the other two fought in their room). But somehow, my parenting “wins” just don’t erase the overwhelming feeling of failure that I have allowed to cloud my day.
I hear the messages from social media. That in order to quiet that voice of failure, I just need to lower my standards. Be ok with constant screen time and junk food binging. Just survive during this time. So I reassess my standards and choose some things to let go of. Control what you can and release the rest, right? These solutions help the day go smoother, but I still sense that condemning voice in my head.
Maybe that is the issue. What is this voice in my head? Is it Mommy guilt? Is it my own inner critic? It’s certainly not the voice of God. The voice of God isn’t condemning and mean. The voice of the enemy sounds like that!
Something clicks in my brain as I realize that I’ve been believing the enemy’s lies about my worth and performance as a mom. That I’ve been listening to the voice of condemnation and failure, instead of the voice of God.
So what does the voice of God sound like? And what does God say of me as a mom? I open my Bible, turning to Isaiah 40. I’m 11 verses in when the words jump off the page.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV)
This is the voice of God. He is gentle like a good shepherd. His voice is filled with kindness. I pause and write in my journal…
Father God, I submit this day to you. I have been listening to the voice of condemnation and failure, believing the enemy’s lies about my motherhood. Help me discern and listen to your voice instead. I surrender to you the atmosphere of this home knowing that you are the Good Shepherd who speaks to his sheep with words of kindness and beckons with gentle words. I renounce my own self-condemnation, discouragement, anger, and frustration. I accept your forgiveness for believing lies about my home and failures. Thank you for carrying me and my children close to your heart. Amen.
After I’m done, I close my Bible, take a deep breath, and check on my kids, who are supposed to be having quiet time. My 4-year-old is on the edge of a fight with her sister. Something about a stuffed animal. I’m not sure. But I sense this is an opportunity for growth, patience and communication. Just go talk to her, down on her level. You got this!
I know this voice. I choose to listen to this voice.
Danielle Miller is mom to three girls and has been married to her husband, Johnny for 10 years. After 14 years in the medical field, including almost a decade as a nurse, she is enjoying being a stay at home mom with all the coffee and play dates that go along with that. She also enjoys eating out, running, gardening, and lake vacations.