Thou, Oh Lord, are a shield about me. You’re my glory, and the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3).
Parenting, especially mothering, is full of challenges. Moms of future grown-ups–do you ever go through life wondering if you are good enough? If you are cut out for the long haul that mothering entails? If you would amount to anything worthy of mention? Do you find yourself hiding your sins and shame? Do you secretly compete with the beautiful, got it all together mom next door or mom at church?
Good news–you are average and doing great!
Mental health professionals face this kind of vulnerability with clients everyday. It’s what makes our work sacred. When our helping really meets the clients’ needs, they are uplifted and we are fulfilled. Win-win.
Conversely, when all of our efforts fall flat due to a misstep, miscommunication, or misplaced skill, then we start doubting ourselves. People struggle with self doubt all the time. So do mental health professionals who are experts at helping, but who, like the best physicians, can still occasionally have a bad day, misdiagnose, or mistreat. Each person, no matter how professional or how specialized, has only lived once. And each day is a new day. Therefore, no one is an expert at living well even if they’ve managed to survive longer than the average human life span.
Mothering is a full time job whether we work in the office or work at home. Each child is unique, made in the image of God, yet full of human needs and wants. Raising up a child from infancy (or adoption) until independent living status is attained requires a lot of grit and stamina. It is sacred work in which we come face to face with ourselves. We realize our shameful inadequacy without the covering of a professional title. Christians depend on the grace of a perfect, loving God to lift our head up.
Sometimes, we get no affirmations from our kids. Some parents don’t even get appreciation from the child’s other parent, due to a broken relationship or dysfunctional marriage. Oftentimes, moms feel drained, like we are giving without much reassurance that we are doing it right or that it will one day pay off. Mother’s Day, birthdays, and other major holidays may be fraught with disappointment and grief rather than the supposed celebrations that they are meant to be.
So, when I’m in the sacred space of another mother’s vulnerability, I find myself reassuring her by confessing that this is hard work for me, too. And that I have not done it perfectly well either. With all my trainings, education, and CEUs, I still mess up from time to time. While there are some better methods of engaging our children or disciplining them (as I share about in my book), there is no one-size-fits-all perfect intervention that works in every situation all the time.
Therapists still succumb to human frailty. Experts also make some mistakes that in hindsight were preventable. You have most likely hurt the hearts of your children despite your deep love for them. I, too, need to apologize and seek forgiveness from the little ones that I am raising. All moms (and dads) have more to learn.
So after fretting quietly, mourning, and grieving, I proceed up and about, because God is the lifter of my head. No one else is. No one else can play that role for me.
Who lifts your head when you are down? Who raises you up when you fall? Who uplifts you when you falter, yet again?