Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Walking the desert of motherhood in search of validation
My husband stood in the middle of the toy store, watching me pace the floor. I was trying to find the "perfect" toy that was fun, educational, and not something that would end up in the junk pile going to Good Will in a few months. The toy was for my girls' Easter baskets and if I had been on the ball, I would have ordered what I wanted on Amazon. But even with Amazon Prime, I had passed the horrible cut-off "2 business days" window and I was pacing this stupid store one business day before the holiday.
It had to be something not too grand, but still something happy that could actually come from a huge fluffy Easter bunny. I wanted to make my 4 yr old and my 20 month old smile.
It took a while and sadly some grumbling before I realized what the problem was. I told my husband,
"I want the girls to like what we give them. It makes me feel like a better mom."
Somehow, if the girls liked what I got them for Easter, I would feel validated as a mom.
The word "validation" echoed around in my mind for hours. What does that mean? Why don't we as moms always feel validated? We are doing God's work right? Raising children, teaching them to love, and be upstanding members of society? So, shouldn't I feel good about myself? But, looking at how my life has changed since having kids, helped me realize, being a mom can feel like one long drought in the Validation department.
When I became a mom four years ago, I quit my job of being a kindergarten teacher. As much as I liked the job, it was stressful teaching and taking care of other people's kids. It occurred to me that if I was going to raise kids, they would be my own. I was done with that part of my life. However, quitting came at a price. I now made no money. My husband took over financially. Though we somehow made it work, it has been really tough to no longer feel like I add to our family's income. Somehow, my wages were validating.
Another change in my life as stay at home mom, is that now I don't have the same co-workers I once had at my other jobs. If I want to "chat around the water cooler" I have to seek out those chances, arrange schedules, and then try to talk to my co-moms all the while being interrupted constantly by my kids. (bless their hearts, they have nothing to say until I open my mouth to speak to another adult!)
I also don't have a boss telling me anymore that I am doing a really great job and to keep it up. Now, I know spouses can be very validating. But in my husband's defense, most of the time he is so tired and overwhelmed from working all day (like I am) that validating my efforts at home isn't always the first thing on his mind. But maybe someday, someone will put my face on a plaque and hang it outside, saying Most Valuable Employee. Maybe I could get a gift card to Target too. I mean my husband gets incentives at his job. I could think of some lovely shoes that could be my incentive. :)
Everyone also knows when you have children, they don't exactly take the time to thank you for such a well planned dinner or activity. My baby doesn't ever thank me for getting up in the middle of the night and making such scrumptious bottles, even though I KNOW she can sign thank you! My kids might have their moments when they are hurt and cry just for me or when they randomly exclaim (usually after they have had a ice cream or a happy meal) "Mom, I love you!" Truthfully this helps, but it is not too common of an occurrence, at least in my experience.
So, truth be told, validation for moms is a little scarce. But this morning I got thinking. Maybe this is why women are so competitive as moms (I'm speaking of myself here). Maybe this is why we care so much about what other moms are doing. Why we are always trying so hard to be perfect, and why it is so frustrating when our child makes a bad choice. I remember being so embarrassed in our music class when my little girl was going through her hitting phase and smacking other little kids on their heads, for NO REASON. For heaven's sake, I wasn't hitting anyone so why did I care? Because I wanted to be validated as a mom. I wanted to have a perfect child and I wanted others to think of me as a really "good mom."
I knew I needed to take my questions to the Lord. I like to get up early and say my morning prayers before the kids are up and when I can truly talk to my Heavenly Father. While praying this particular morning, I was feeling a lot of shame for how often I scream and yell at my kids. One minute I think I'm doing ok and then I get so angry from some stupid mess or when my little one (just after a bath) repeatedly puts ranch dressing in her hair to get my attention. I hate the competitive side of me or my judgmental side. I also hate how often I take things personal.
Then it occurred to me that no one else's opinion mattered. I was spending far too much time trying to make everyone happy and feel good about myself. I wanted others to validate my mothering. The only thing that really matters is what God thinks of me. I don't have to care what others do. Their validation doesn't matter. God is the only one who knows my heart and He knows what I need. I don't need comparison and I don't need wages. I don't need to read every blog out there on how to have a perfect 3 yr old or how to make 500 slow cooker clean meals that will prevent cancer.
I can make my decisions with Him and His opinion is all that matters. Don't get me wrong...I think it helps to talk to other moms and make the effort to reach out. I also think reading blogs and learning new things, sharing ideas and so forth can do wonders. Validation from friends and family also helps a great deal, but in the end, it isn't what matters. It is just icing on the cake. The real point it to rely on the Lord, be close to Him, and understand His counsel to me. That way, I have God validating me and helping me. I never have to worry about doing something to please another person. My best is all He asks of me.
Neil L. Andersen wrote a talk a few years ago entitled, "What Thinks Christ of Me?" He says, "I testify that as you love Him, trust Him, believe Him and follow Him, you will feel His love, and approval. As you ask, 'What thinks Christ of me?' you will know that you are His disciple; you are His friend. By His grace He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself."
This was His answer to me. I didn't need an expert to evaluate my daily job. I only needed THE expert. I need Him.