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

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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.  🙂

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The rest of the stories…

In the last month or so, there have been a few items that I’ve thrown out there for your advice and input, so I wanted to let you know how it’s all turned out.

1.  Appliances. Remember you all had 1,000 different opinions about the must-have items and features in my up-and-coming appliance collection?  Well, today is delivery day and I am so excited.  I rented appliances for almost a month– partially to give myself time to pick out what I wanted, and partially because I was afraid all this short-sale title-transfer business at the new house might not work itself out and we’d find ourselves out on the street with our brand-new appliances.  (We’ve been paying rent in the meantime, but the title was finally all cleared and we now have an official closing date to own the house.)  Anyway, go here if you even care about the final purchases.  I started to post it all, but then I felt dumb because it might come across as bragging or something  (Hey, wow, look at my awesome new fridge!), but I thought some of you might be curious about what I finally decided.  If I did not buy your very favorite item in the whole world, I hope you’ll forgive me.  I do have a budget, you know.

2.  Grant’s school. I had to channel the “mother lion” inside of me so I could hold my ground when I met with Grant’s principal and teacher. The kid is a year ahead of their curriculum and it has been a struggle to figure out what’s going to help him have a good learning experience.  My biggest fear is that he would become lazy and lose the attitude that he has to work and try when he goes to school.  We ended up with 3 options: clearance from the principal to (1) move him into another classroom with a teacher who’s much more equipped for “enrichment” or (2) have him tested to skip a grade, which he’d probably pass, but I’m just not sure about it, OR (3) put him in a brand-new charter school that just opened last week, but it feels kind of like a gamble because there’s no history or reputation to rely on.  We discussed all our options with Grant and let him pray about it. He chose to go to the charter school and started there on Monday. I’m still pretty nervous about it all, since the school is so new and still seems pretty unorganized. When I expressed my apprehension, he got frustrated with me: “Mom, God said (the charter school) will be fine.”  I figure that I need to let it play itself out, if for no other reason, to let him know we honor the answers he gets to his prayers.  Hopefully it will all work out okay. I guess the worse case scenario is he could learn nothing new this year, but then he’d at least be on schedule again for 3rd grade. Maybe. 🙂  By the way, I left Clark in his first grade class where he already was because he has a good teacher and seems to be doing well.

3.  The move in general. It’s gone much better than I feared.  Our neighborhood is nice, the neighbors are kind, the views out my windows are lovely, and the gospel is still true and all.  Things like Facebook and the phone have let me stay in touch with people I love and miss, and I’m beginning to feel more confident that I’ll be able to form some new friendships here.  The Lord has blessed us so much through this transition that I keep looking over my shoulder waiting for something terrible to happen, but I need to let it go and just be grateful.  This past weekend, we were able to attend a Regional Conference where Sister Beck, Elder Holland, and President Packer all spoke.  You can’t complain about opportunities like that.  (By the way, Sister Beck basically told young moms to stop spending so much time on the computer and to turn our attention to our children.  She reminded us –who am I kidding?  She reminded me— that the computer is simply a tool, just like a dishwasher or washing machine, and should not be a distraction.  It was one of those aha! moments for me– rebuking enough to be a little uncomfortable, but encouraging enough that I felt inspired by the counsel.)  Anyway, life is good at the moment and we’re starting to fall into routines and feel comfortable on our new journey.  There’s been stress, yes, but I know we’ve been blessed.

It is human nature, I suppose, to seek elsewhere for our happiness. Pursuit of career goals, wealth, and material rewards can cloud our perspective and often leads to a lack of appreciation for the bounteous blessings of our present circumstances. It is precarious to dwell on why we have not been given more. It is, however, beneficial and humbling to dwell on why we have been given so much. An old proverb states, “The greater wealth is contentment with a little.”

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philip. 4:11).

Alma instructed his son Helaman, giving him counsel that all fathers should teach their children: “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:37). Alma says, “Let thy heart be full of thanks unto God.” The Lord desires that we give thanks. In Thessalonians we read, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thes. 5:18).

… We should constantly strive to increase our gratitude. Gratitude may be increased by constantly reflecting on our blessings and giving thanks for them in our daily prayers.”  ~Steven E. Snow, “Gratitude,” Liahona, Jan 2002, 49–51