I had high hopes for the mom I thought I’d be. In fact, at the baby shower for my first son, I actually remember thinking, “How hard can this parenting thing be?”
I had a happy childhood with parents who led me well and shared God’s love with me in a way that I was eager to emulate in my own parenting. I’d spent most of my pregnancy reading parenting books, doing my fair share of underlining and highlighting within them, and I had a loving and supportive husband who couldn’t wait to be a dad. Yes, I entered parenthood feeling sufficiently equipped to get it all (mostly) right.
But then I had children. Three boys in five years, to be exact. Real, moving, breathing, human beings. Boys who needed me, all of me, all of the time. Boys whose entire futures were riding on my ability to meticulously orchestrate their lives, and boys who needed me to be a perfect example for them to follow. Or so I thought. And they needed all of this while affording me no sleep. Why didn’t they care that I needed sleep? No mom can be awesome when she’s exhausted.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that the mom I thought I’d be was not the mom I was.
While motherhood brought out the best in me in many ways and revealed how my heart is far more capable of unconditional love than I ever believed possible, it also exposed all my weaknesses and inadequacies to the extent that I didn’t even recognize myself on many days because I felt so overwhelmed and out of control.
While my kids ran circles around me, self-condemning thoughts ran through my mind, convincing me that my weaknesses made me unqualified to raise the children God had entrusted to me.
Of course, I wouldn’t dare share my struggles with any of the moms around me who seemed to have the whole parenting thing mastered. Every picture they posted on social media seemed to shout, “I’m crushing motherhood.” All the while, motherhood was crushing me. Shame seeped into the crevices of my heart, and the joy with which I always thought I’d parent was mostly displaced by worry and fear.
The pressure to be “super-mom” was on, and I was cracking underneath it. The pressure, of course, is the lie that what we get right and what we get wrong is what will ultimately determine who our children will become. The pressure is the lie that it’s all on us to “be enough.” And this pressure leaves us stuck in some pretty awful places and patterns, like worry, fear, guilt, anger, and shame, just to name a few.
Whether you’re in the middle of raising tiny babies, tantruming toddlers, or teens who are too quickly turning into adults, motherhood has probably put a magnifying glass on your weaknesses and made you feel like you can’t catch your breath, can’t keep up, and will never (ever) be enough.
Are the impossible standards of the “super-mom” myth stealing the adventure from your parenting journey and preventing you from enjoying the messiness, and even the mundane, of motherhood?
If so, I want to share with you the one thing that’s changed everything in my parenting.
During the two-year stretch that I spent researching the long list of pressures that parents face, and then digging into the Word of God to see what Scripture says about those pressures, this is the truth that set me completely and radically free to unclench my fists that were trying to control outcomes and begin to parent my children with open hands and a trusting heart.
The simple but profound truth is this: I am significant but God is sovereign. That’s the foundation to parenting in freedom.
It’s been fifteen years since I started my parenting journey. I now have four boys who range in age from teenager to toddler and I am certain that I play a very significant role in my kid’s lives. My actions can hurt or heal. My words can build up or tear down. My decisions can propel my kids toward success or prevent my kids from experiences or opportunities.
What I model very much matters. But! As significant as I am in their lives, I am not sovereign. My children have a good and loving and faithful Heavenly Father who is sovereign over their lives, and I am not powerful enough to ruin his plans. God is the all-knowing and all-powerful One. I don’t have to hold all things together because He already is. I don’t have to have all the answers because He already does.
So here is the beautiful invitation He is extending to each and every one of us – He is inviting us to trust Him with the children He has entrusted to us. He is inviting us to parent in freedom from the pressure to get it all right. He is inviting us to be moms set free from being controlled by worry and fear and guilt and shame. He is inviting us to surrender our kids to His sovereignty.
This isn’t about giving up. This is about giving over to God all of those things that are out of our control so that we can parent with a lighter load. We don’t have to carry the burden of being enough for our kids. Jesus is their enough. We don’t have to carry the burden of being our child’s Savior. Jesus took care of that too.
Nowhere in Scripture can we find God saying “I’m going to need YOU to be enough.” In fact the very Good News is that God gave us Jesus who is enough on our behalf. He is more than enough. And because of Jesus, we are free from striving to be enough for our children. We can lay that down and we can pick up the grace that has been freely given to us in Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus said: “My grace is enough.” And yet, I spend so many days trying to be enough for my kids, and then end up feeling guilty that I don’t measure up to my own impossible standards.
So as we begin a new year with high hopes for the moms we long to be in 2019, let us remember this: Parenting isn’t about God relying on us to be all-knowing and get it all right. Parenting is about us relying on God to be all-knowing and to get it all right, despite all our mistakes. And becoming more of the moms we desire to be is only accomplished by more deeply depending on God, who loves to draw us into Himself and gives us the grace we need. Admitting our need does not make us failures, it makes us free.
This is very good news for the mom who is tired of trying to be good enough.
This post originally appeared on Fox News and was republished with permission.
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child and Mom Set Free, and a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country. Her passion is encouraging women to live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free – a message her own heart needs to be reminded of daily. Jeannie and her husband Mike have four boys who range from teenager to toddler.