Why are we mothers tempted to dwell so much on the gifts we either can’t or don’t give to our children?
I’ve struggled for years with this. I’ve listened to many mothers of all ages worry about what they can’t, don’t, or didn’t give their children.
Here are some gifts that I can’t or don’t give my kids right now:
A vegetable with every meal of the day. Driving all over town several days a week for sports and activities. Buying specialty soaps, detergents, and skincare supplies. Mommy-and-Me classes with my 9-month-old baby. A side business to make extra money for my family. Making my own baby food. Scrubbing the bathrooms once a week. Yearly beach vacations. Being totally on top of celebrating the liturgical calendar. Checking my temper perfectly 100% of the time. Spending more time reading aloud.
And oh, how the list could go on.
Isn’t it funny how reading this little list of “gifts I’m not giving my kids right now” turns into a list of “things Erin probably feels guilty about regularly”?:)
What does your list look like? I know moms who struggle with not being able to breastfeed, with electing for traditional school over homeschooling, with choosing homeschooling over traditional school, with feeling they don’t have a big enough house for their family, with having a medicated birth, with sleep training (or not sleep training), with getting their kids on the right sports teams, with not being able to afford this or that.
Discouragement is not from God. Sure, we can always improve, and sometimes the Holy Spirit does use little pokes and prods in our consciences to encourage us to make necessary changes. However, that deep, dark dwelling on negative thoughts is called desolation, and it’s never from God.
I’m big on making myself take my thoughts captive. As I’ve had this post sort of forming in my heart for the past weeks, I’ve developed a simple spiritual battle plan: when an insecure thought comes to mind, I immediately make myself think of a good, unique gift I do give to my children. Forcing myself to think about all of the good gifts I do give my family has given me a lot of peace lately. When you sit down and really think about the unique gifts of your particular personality, marriage, and family, I think you’ll be surprised at how many special little blessings you give your children. This isn’t an exercise to make us prideful or smug; it’s an exercise to affirm that God knew what He was doing when He made you a mother.:)
Here are some of the special gifts I’ve realized I give to my family:
Making my marriage a top priority with involvement in Domestic Church; Homeschooling; Giving them a new baby brother this past year; Maintaining a hospitable, welcoming home; Trying to be vigilant about financial responsibility; Keeping a relatively tidy, uncluttered and cheerful home; Frequent prayer with and over the children, every day of their lives; A routine daily rest time after lunch; A set, early bedtime; Good sleep habits (in myself and in the kids); The older kids listening to four or five audiobooks a week during their rest time; Getting the kids a dog; Making an effort to spend quality time as a family; Our large community of other Catholic families; Protecting our children with with strict rules about screens and media content in our home; Being a stay-at-home mom; Spending “mommy time” away from home with good friends ever so often; Going to mass every week.
And oh, how the list goes on.:)
I want to encourage every mother to think more about the gifts she is giving her children than the gifts she isn’t. And if you no longer have children in your home, I wonder if God doesn’t reveal many of the gifts we gave to our children only in hindsight. I realized gifts my own parents gave me only after I moved away from home (and then back again, and then away again!).
I have also been thinking about how I’ve given different children of mine different gifts than their siblings. Our first-born had a warm, fresh towel for his nightly bath; our fourth child gets a bath…um…a little less frequently, and certainly has never had a towel fresh from the dryer! However, our fourth baby does have three adoring older siblings who can’t get enough of him. I also nursed two of our children for a full year, and the other two for five and then seven months. Family members and friends and our much-loved babysitters–not to mention daddy–got to spend some special moments loving on those two bottlefed babies. Our oldest child spent two years in a wonderful Catholic school. My next-oldest has never been to traditional school. They’re both doing just fine as homeschoolers now. My third child, Gianna, slept in a pack n’ play in her grandparents’ house until she was almost two (we lived with my mom and dad for two years…here’s that story). I used to feel so bad that she didn’t have a darling little nursery like her big brother and sister. (Living with my parents really turned upside down all of my previous ideas of “need” and “want,” though. Today, Gianna is no worse for wear. She sleeps like a dream wherever we put her when we travel, too.)
Different gifts, right?:)
Feeling a 100% certainty that we’re doing everything right is a deep-down desire for many of us. (By the way, I do believe there are certain gifts that all Christian parents should give their children, but that’s for another post!) I just don’t know that we can ever know that we’re doing everything right. I’m not even sure that God designed things to work that way, as in “just ask God about everything and you’ll never make mistakes.” I for one wish that’s how God worked! “Jump, Lord? Sure! How high?”; “Which brand should I buy?”; “This kind of discipline or that one?”; “To work or not to work?!” “Sign up or stay home?”; “Co-sleeping or crib?”; “Gluten, red dye, dough softener, and high fructose corn syrup- free? You got it!”.
Wouldn’t that be nice? 🙂 But as a priest friend once told me, “Sometimes what God wants is for us to figure out our problems on our own. That’s why He gave us our minds and our consciences.”
I’ve got to pray and discern. Talk to my husband. Try to maintain a well-formed conscience. Do my best. Then trust God to wrap all that I do up in His mercy.
Lord, show me what I need to do, for my part, to take good care of my family’s spiritual, physical, material and psychological well being. Give me the graces to be honest, realistic, discerning, and humble in assessing our needs. Help me not to compare what I can give to what others can give. Help me to see the good gifts I am giving to my family. In your Mercy, please show me where you are pleased with me. Amen.
Little Roman Anthony at 7 months:)
We got a dog! Among other you-did-what?! news I’ll share about soon. Her name is Sadie, and she is a Standard Poodle mix, looking very Labradoodley so far. She’s a love.