When daily failures become life lessons

by Laura Polk

If there were a midterm exam in motherhood, I’d fail it. My lecturers? Three too-intelligent-for-their-own-good mini-versions of my husband and myself. That’s right, our three school-age children. Surely, they would enjoy poring over the long list of mummy mess-ups that translate into an F, checking off each mistake with a big, red permanent marker. OK, maybe I’m being hard on myself. I’d probably get an F+.

It seems that no matter how hard I try, I’m never good enough for this job. No matter how early I get up (the first one to rise) or how late I challenge the clock (the last to bed), I never seem to get it all done. On the rarest of occasions, when I actually accomplish everything I’ve planned, I still do not have cause to celebrate.

Before the trumpets blare, I discover that I’ve just dropped off a car-load of sniffling children without having given them their medicine. Or it dawns on me that only one of the three little blessings has brushed his teeth. Or worse, as they head into the freezing cold, I realize that three warm winter coats are still hanging neatly by the door.

My brain often feels fuzzy. Most days I’m grateful for the ability to run on autopilot. Although I have to admit, I’m not sure who’s driving this thing.

In any given week, I can spend up to 33 hours driving to and from activities or waiting in the car park for them to end. Believe me, I’ve timed it. Of course, that’s after work, laundry, grocery trips, doctor visits. . . .

Activities that my children showed interest in when they first began slowly turn into drudgery more often than I’d like to admit. And, of course, once we start something in our house, we finish it. That’s the rule. And I’d like to know whose idea that rule was, anyway. Oh yeah. Mine. Mine. MINE.

Why does it seem as though so many others are able to tackle motherhood with ease when I’m barely able to dry my own hair? Am I failing? Will my children’s lives turn into disasters by the time they are 15, while local supermums watch and discuss my misadventures from afar?

I don’t think so. In fact, when I take a good, honest look, I see that I am not alone. On the other side of the street, I notice mothers with sticky fingerprints glued to their new jumpers. In fact, if I could sit in on even the master of all mums, she would probably have a secret closet stuffed with undone laundry, forgotten homework papers and even a small shirt on which someone has blown his nose.

The truth is, I’m the only one in my family being hard on myself. I’m not sure that my children even notice my small daily failures. They’re not grading my performance with a red marker. But they are teaching me incredible lessons about motherhood—lessons that are exhausting and often hard to accept. They’re showing me that I must rely on God to carry out this job.

No, their clothes might not be perfectly pleated as they sit in front of the church at children’s time. But later at lunch, when I draw a picture of the world’s best elephant (really, my son thinks so), I’m as happy as a primary school student heading home with straight A’s—which, by the way, is what my primary school student gave me on my last paper as we played school together.

Other Resources You May Find Helpful:

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  • Parenting: Scary Journey or Fun Ride?