Mom Shame: Whom the Lord loveth, He maketh cry like a baby.

I paraphrased that scripture in the title a little bit.  It really says “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” but I was just trying to make it more accurate as it relates to me.

(Deep breath.)

I’ve been drafting this post in my head for five days, and it’s still going to sting a little.  In fact, as soon as “the incident” happened, I knew I was going to have to blog about it, but that I would have to wait until I had recovered my dignity.  I don’t know why I feel so compelled to tell this story, but my best guess is that it has something to do with confessing and moving on.

I’ve been busy. There’s the regular busy:  the meals, laundry, carpool, church responsibilities, volunteering at kids’ schools, homework and chore supervision, etc.  On top of that, I have several writing projects going on, many of them with deadlines (even if they’re self-imposed). I’ve also had some lesson and teaching preparations happening on the side. I’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes research and really-small-scale activism about some social issues that have captured my attention and that I feel strongly about. It seems like I’ve had a really long ever-growing list of emails to reply to and appointments to make and stuff that just keeps taking a few minutes here and a few minutes there.  Other tasks and details added to my juggling efforts, and I started to feel a little out of balance.  You know, the nagging feeling that maybe I needed to pause and refocus, but I was too busy to do that, so I just left the thought hanging and kept on going.

Fast forward to Friday.  I was hosting a girls’ night party at my house that night, so I was engaged in must-get-the-house-clean-and-do-party-prep mode.  I got sucked into some emails and other online “business” in the morning that I kept going back to and checking on in between chores.  The boys were at school and Natalie was working on her own chore chart and then I turned on a show for her.  The phone rang and I talked to my good friend for a while.  Toward the end of our conversation, I told her I would email her a link about something we were discussing, and I headed toward the computer to log in and pull it up on the screen.  When I walked over to my desk, I saw this note taped to my keyboard.  It knocked the air out of me.

It felt like a kick in the stomach. I stumbled through a quick goodbye to my friend, hung up the phone, and carried the paper into the family room.  Natalie was sitting on the couch.  She saw the paper, and her eyes were wide waiting for my reaction.

I started to cry.

“I’m sorry, Natalie.  Do you feel like I think the computer is more important than you are?”  She nodded yes.

“Have I been a bad mom?”  Yes again.

I cried more and said I was sorry more.  She looked a little worried, but she hugged me, and she mostly seemed relieved for having voiced her grievance and been understood.  I, on the other hand, was mortified.  Here I was writing a book about motherhood, blogging about motherhood, trying to find ways to fight pornography and protect my children, and frankly, forgetting to be a good mother.  I felt it deep.  You can talk it away and rationalize, but I know it was a necessary, personal wake-up call.  It was a guilty flame that burned out a little hole inside of me, and God was giving me a chance to fill it back up again with the right stuff.

I talked to a friend.  I talked to my mom.  And when I thought I could tell the story without crying, I told Matt.  I was wrong.  We all came to the same conclusion.  I was doing good things.  I really was, but I neglected the most important things.  It was a classic case of good, better, best, and I failed.  It’s not like I had abandoned my children and all household responsibilities, but I could have done better.  I should have done better.  I like to think that God heard my silent heart-prayers about feeling out of balance and not quite knowing where to fix it, and then He sent me a lightening bolt answer.  It wasn’t a fun answer.  It was humiliating.  But it was the right answer.  It was just hard.

Natalie and I have talked about it more, and we’ve come up with a system that allows me to work on some projects, but still gives her the time and attention she needs from me.  It will take a little time for me to change some habits, remind myself often what matters most, and get things balanced again.  It’s totally worth it.  Maybe even the shame part.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” –Luke 12:34


A few post-scripts:

1.  The girls’ night was fun!  Natalie joined in and loved it.
2.  Next weekend is the Story @ Home conference in Salt Lake, where my friend Jana is teaching this workshop: “Striking a Balance with Real life and Online: It’s unacceptable to put our families in crisis or fail and give up on our dreams, both can work.  Come learn five essential principles for following your dreams and striking a balance while keeping God and family first.”  Coincidence?  I think not.  Come join us.
3.  The book I contributed to is still at its special pre-sale price.  Here’s a link to know more and buy a copy or two.  🙂


27 thoughts on “Mom Shame: Whom the Lord loveth, He maketh cry like a baby.

  1. Your story was just for me. I needed to hear that. I feel overwhelmed with things too… and I need to remember good, better, best also! Thank you for sharing. I think I’ll go hug my daughters now….

  2. I also see evidence that you are an awesome mom. First, Natalie felt comfortable letting you know there was a problem. Second, you talked to her and worked out a plan that works for both of you. Yes, you may have been more focused on the computer for awhile, but how you and Natalie dealt with it shows that some great parenting is happening in your home.

    • Nothing earth-shattering. She’s five, so this probably wouldn’t work with younger ones, but she’s agreed to let me work on my projects while she does her chore chart in the morning and then her 30-minute media time. When that’s done, I agreed to get off the computer and spend the rest of the time more engaged with her. That doesn’t necessarily mean playing with her. She helps me do laundry or put dinner in the crock pot or grocery shop, etc., but I’m not ignoring her. We’ll see how it goes.

  3. I’m also waiting for one of those to show up on my computer keyboard from a teenager. Thank you for a very timely reminder. My ‘word’ for 2012 is Balance. I’m having a hard time living up to my word. So many good things pulling me everywhere, but I know I need to worry about the best things even though the good things are good, just not the most important.

    Thank you.

  4. It is to your credit as a good mother that a tender rebuke from your little one stopped your behavior and made you humbly begin to change things. Those kind of “ouch” moments are rough, but part of our growth as parents and as beings who hope one day to be eternal. Balance is so difficult in so many ways and it is ever changing. I equate it most with being one of those plate-on-a-pole spinners at the circus, for it always seems the moment we get everything spinning right, something happens to put us out of whack, or to knock all the plates to the ground at once. Since my DH has been in the hospital this week, I’ve been forced to try and find the difficult balance between caring for my frightened babies and being with DH in the ICU. I have never felt so torn and so needed in completely opposite places. It made me realize how completely mom is the center of the family universe. How terrifying that is, when you think about it, because we must continually stretch for balance, because when we are only stretching between the needs of those we love, we lose and/or exhaust ourselves in the process and then we can help no one. The trick for me is learning to make the most of precious downtime, to make it nourishing and not let the giant time suckers out there suck time (because they don’t nourish as they suck). When I lose sight of this trick, it’s all bad fast, for me, for my babies, for DH, for our little world.

    I wish I could go to Story, but we’re still in the hospital. Will any kind of transcript, synopsis etc be posted somewhere that I could get? I would dearly love that insight!

  5. I think that this is also a good reminder for those of us who look around us and wish we were doing more of that other stuff. If we are being the best Mom we can be, then that is enough. The tough part is looking at ourselves and determining whether or not we are qualifying as The Best Mom We Can Be or not. As I was laying in bed last night, I was thinking about how quickly my kids are growing up now, and how important it is to be actively engaged in this parenting thing. Then today I read this post. Thanks for giving us the reminder to do some self-reflection on this topic.

  6. Ouch! … I know the feeling well.

    Sometimes I feel like I tend to kid-sit my children instead of parenting them. Oops. I need to be more diligent about my computer time and about good, better, best. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Oh, boy. I know what that is like. My kids once taped a similar note to my computer, too, and it hit like a ton of bricks. Particularly considering I’d left my job to be with them. Yeah, some of my time on the computer was important, but a lot of it was just squandered in stress wondering how I could provide for them. Good, better, best … I’m glad to have read this reminder. Thanks, Steph.

  8. Oh, I have soooooo been there before. In fact, that’s the reason I stopped playing games on Facebook because I found myself on the computer nearly ALL DAY long. But that scripture at the end with the picture of your little sweetie? Yeah, that just kills me, thinking that I put imaginary things ahead of eternal things!

  9. REAL!! That’s how I describe my sweet friend and neighbor:) That’s why I enjoy reading your blog. This one made me cry!! Because I know how “busy” our lives get and it take the gentle reminders of those sweet children sent from God, entrusted to our care. Those little one’s who are so quick to forgive. I too have to be reminded to stop, balance, and remember who needs me the most. And like you said “Good, Better, Best”. We do need to focus on the “Best” choice and balance the rest.

  10. Oy. Ouch. We get these message in lots of ways, and I’m here to tell you they bite a little bit of your soul out every time. What makes you a GOOD mom is the way you handle it. There are definitely degrees of “bad” parenting, but that doesn’t excuse us from doing OUR best. I think you’re awesome.

  11. I didn’t have time to read the other comments so if someone already said this ignore it…How great that your daughter feels like she can talk to you about it…or draw a cute sign to let you know you need to talk! We all have those moments of mom shame…don’t beat yourself up to bad because you do so many good things that make up for it. It is a good thing for our children to hear us apologize to them and for them to see us make mistakes and that we think they are important enough to fix them. You handled it amazingly and now you even have a story to tell at your conference! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this…

  12. I think I would be doing you a huge discervice if I did not send you my kids, so you can get some practice time in. They are all on a plane now. Thanks.

  13. Wow Stephanie! Thanks for sharing this story. The fact that Natalie trusts you and felt like she could confront you shows what a good Mom you are. These lessons are never fun, having the humility to share this and process it as much as it looks like you have is so admirable. You are awesome and I love your blog!

  14. I can’t believe I missed this post before the conference. I’ve been having that out of balance feeling myself and this story and jana’s class have been the wake up call I’ve been needing. Thank you for sharing this.

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