Like all new parents, my husband and I have a lot of plans for our little guy, due to meet the world in just a few weeks.
We plan to breastfeed.
We plan to limit screen time.
We plan to teach him to be empathetic, confident, and kind.
We plan to raise him Christian, despite of our own persistent doubts about God and struggles with the Church.
But we also know that plans can change and that flexibility and adaptation are far more important skills to master than stubbornness or certainty…especially when it comes to parenting. Even our most valued goals will require on-the-ground adjustments and on-the-fly compromise. As scary as it is to admit, very little of the future is in our control.
So when we dream and plot about the next 20 years—from where we’ll send him to school to what we’ll tell him about Santa—we’ve been careful to avoid making too many hard-and-fast rules.
…Except for one.
The single resolution I’m making as a new parent is to totally strike from my lexicon, both verbally and inwardly, the phrase: “I’m a bad mom.”
It is officially banished—named as the vicious lie that it is and condemned to the hellish pit from which it came. My husband, family, and friends are all on notice: If it is uttered, even in jest, call me out and set me straight. I’m not a bad mom.
I’m a good mom who’s having a bad day.
I’m a good mom who made a mistake.
I’m a good mom who bought way more newborn clothes than she needed because she has a pathological weakness for dinosaur pajamas.
I’m a good mom struggling to balance childcare and work
I’m a good mom who lost her temper.
I’m a good mom who doesn’t know what to do next.
I’m a good mom who just needs a good cry.
I made this resolution because, as an older mom, I’ve had the chance to learn from friends and peers who took the leap before me. In observing their ups and downs, triumphs and fails, I’ve identified this as the great “mommy kryptonite,” the one thing that can fell even the bravest, wisest parents who stand so tall in my esteem.
The truth is, if you care about being a good parent, you’re probably a good parent. If you love your kid unconditionally, and are committed to seeing him or her thrive amidst all of life’s obstacles, you’re doing it right…or at least right enough, which, let’s face it, is all any of us can hope for.
I’ve been able to observe this reality somewhat impartially over the last decade, so it seemed wise to make this resolution before sleep deprivation, hormones, fear, and the comparison game kick in and make it so much harder to keep. Sometimes you have to stand outside of yourself for a moment and offer yourself the same compassion and grace you would a good friend. My friends are amazing moms who sometimes make mistakes and get overwhelmed. There’s no reason to believe I won’t be the same.
In Christianity, Satan, (or the devil), is known as The Accuser. His aim is to convince the children of God that their sins, failures, and fears constitute their identity. Whether you consider this character real or metaphorical, the response to his accusations must be the same: “Not today, Satan. I am a beloved child of God and there is nothing you can say or do to change that. You’re a liar. Go away.”
While I suspect even this simple resolution will be difficult to keep once reality sets in, I figure saying it out loud will help my chances. Maybe I can model for my son what it looks like to stand tall in one’s ultimate identity as one of God’s beloved.
So pray for me and for Dan if you think about it. We’re excited and scared and a little overwhelmed.
But I have no doubt we’re going to be good parents.
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