Motherhood and Failure

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I read a really good article this morning and it is timely for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

Are Women Really Saved through Childbearing?  

During the anguished time when a woman from my church was trying to conceive, she asked for prayer from a Christian coworker. “She flat out told me that I wasn’t getting pregnant because I didn’t have enough faith. I wanted to hit her,” my friend said. Another friend was repeatedly told, after each miscarriage, “It must be that God has a reason.” She was sitting next to me in our small group when an older woman, herself childless, beamed at my pregnant belly and said, “What a blessing, so many babies in our church!” The older woman then looked around and said, “Isn’t it wonderful, how God is blessing us?”—all the while benevolently unaware that my friend was not only grieving her lost children, but would most likely never have more. If I was uncomfortable, wanting to hide my belly and change the subject, my friend was shattered.

People who mean well can say the cruelest things and I think Mother’s Day can be especially emotionally challenging for moms even without those cruel words.

There are so many feelings wrapped up in motherhood.  For those suffering infertility, there is heartache.  Those of us who have suffered miscarriage/stillbirth understand that pain and loss.  We remember the choice words that were said.  Some were meaningful, others very hurtful.

My blog has opened my eyes to a lot of different hurts and I am so grateful to those who have been vulnerable here.  One group of people I have been getting to know better are singles, whether by choice, death/divorce, or not by choice.

What is it like for a single woman on Mother’s Day if they had wanted children, but that hasn’t been an option?

Do the natural yearnings of motherhood wane or become more unmistakably strong for the single woman?   I suspect there are both.

For some mothers, tomorrow will be a day of sadness as they remember the death of a child/adult child.  Where would that child be now?  What would they be like?  Are they in heaven?

Of course others will have sadness because their own mothers have passed away.  Was their relationship a good one?  If the relationship was not good, was there unresolved conflict that didn’t get dealt with?  Are feelings of guilt still present?

About 15 yrs ago, I co-facilitated a ladies bible study group.  There were a lot of women there who were older than me.  I was struck at their prayer requests.  At that time, I was a mom who was nursing a baby and had kids up to the age of 13.  These other moms had adult kids, with quite a few being empty nesters.  Some of their adult kids were not doing well as adults.  While I was being awakened in the middle of the night because my hungry baby wanted to nurse, some of these moms were being awakened in the middle of the night thinking and worrying about the bad decisions some of their adult children were making.  Motherhood is tough.  It is relentless and agonizing.  The difficult times come at very inopportune times.  But we slog on.

For me, especially this year as I have had to come face to face with some awful truths that I have participated (unknowingly) in harmful influences which have hurt my children.  Boy, this is painful…….. and more tears flow . . .   Do mothers’ tears ever have a stopping point?  I haven’t found it yet.

mom

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The picture you see above is of my mom and dad and me as an infant.  I was 10 days old in the picture.  This is the only picture I have of my mom and dad together.  They divorced when I was one (I never saw him again).  My mom has a story to tell.  She had a story before I was born.  She had a story of when she met my father and got pregnant.   She hid his drugs, he beat her up when she was 7 months pregnant which caused her to go into labor.  I was born 9 weeks premature.  I should not be here today (I have a story).  My mom has gone through domestic violence, rage, divorce, and trauma in her motherhood journey.  Her story is not over.  Even last year, she had to deal with an adult daughter who got sued by a pastor.  She didn’t plan on that.  It was dumped on her.

Proverbs 31 has been the model for Christian mothers/wives.  You know, she probably had her “quiver full” of children,  only got 2 hours of sleep and she did everything including praising her husband at the city gates even though he very well could have been a jerk.  That woman could do no wrong.  Well, you know what – – – hearing that on Mother’s Day is not very uplifting or encouraging to me.  It is guilt-producing and makes me feel pretty lousy.  I feel like a “mom fail” many times.

How do I (we) deal with a day that honors us when we know we have failed so badly?  That’s a tough one.

How can we express love and compassion and grace to all moms – moms who have failed and moms who have succeeded?

How would Christ honor us moms (or women wanting to be moms)?  I think He would meet moms/ladies right where we are – – in our joys, in our struggles, in our sorrow and pain.  He would meet us even when we are at our ugliest.

I want to do that kind of honoring of moms and women (including you singles who haven’t had babies) on Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you precious ladies!  You are not perfect.  Christ knows that and He accepts you as you are.

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32 comments on “Motherhood and Failure

  1. Mother’s Day Services will be easy on me this year, as it will probably involve mimosa’s at brunch somewhere that I can be myself, and my family can be relaxed and happy. That has not been our experience at church for a long time, unfortunately. I hope it is a day of love for you and your family, Julie Ann. Peace and good will, SS

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  2. Julie Anne,
    I’m moved by your transparency. Thank you for sharing about the wounds you have endured as a mother, as a woman, and speaking about wounds you have seen others carry. Appreciate you and your heart.

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  3. I only knew my mother-in-law for less than five years before she passed. She was a wonderfully thoughtful lady who had raised four children, three very solid Christians and one not so much. Her husband was not a good provider and was occasionally mildly abusive, to the extent abuse is ever mild. For the years that she was alive, I sent her flowers on my wife’s birthday, thanking her for both birthing and raising the gift that my wife is. I truly miss my mother-in-law, and she has been gone more than 25 years.

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  4. Our son recently got engaged and we have only met his fiance via Skype, and may not get to meet her in person until just before the wedding, given all of the time constraints and the distance. But our lovely daughter-to-be sent a beautiful living flower arrangement to my wife for mother’s day.

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  5. It’s true. We all have a story and we all have failings. I used to beat myself up for those failings, but one day I learned, really learned, what Paul (the Apostle) said, “I don’t judge myself”. No, I do not shrug off my faults or mistakes, but the Lord really taught me how to love the little girl inside of me as He does, and I could, from that day on, lay it all at His feet for real. The way my children honor me on Mother’s Day is to let me do what I really want to do that day. They don’t take me out for a ‘nice dinner’ on Mother’s Day because I hate it. I hate having to sit around and wait a long time for a table. I do get (silly) made up ‘cards’, even now that they are, well, into adulthood. Like the made up “rain check” for a restaurant I’ve read about and wanted to try. And so we have a good time planning and anticipating. One day, who knows, I might floor my children by telling them I want to go out for dinner on Mother’s Day 🙂

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  6. Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday for me. I love my mom but life with her is… challenging. Most of my friends are “newlywed or newly-bred” and that is hard for me to watch. I have made the decision, with my doctors and therapy team, that pregnancy is not a safe option for me at any point in the future. Any pregnancy has the potential to cost me my life or at the very least my ability to walk. Its frustrating being in a group of women extolling the virtues and joys of motherhood/pregnancy knowing that I will never get to experience it. I don’t dare speak up because someone always reassures me that she is confident that God will work a miracle in my life. I know He is capable of miracles but I also believe that He doesn’t ask us to take unnecessary risks with our health to prove our faithfulness. Instead I choose to celebrate the many women who have helped raise me and love me, whether biologically related or not. That celebration includes the women I meet here and learn from on a daily basis.

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  7. Mandy, I’m so glad you feel comfortable here and most importantly in the place where God has you. Your words speak for many and they have touched me. Thank you.

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  8. O, Julie Anne- This is beautiful!

    May God Bless your dear Mother’s heart. Sounds like she has suffered some of the same things my Mom did. My Mom died in August, so this is my first Mother’s Day without her. I miss her so.

    We had a complicated relationship when I was growing up, and I honestly thought for years that I had no feelings for her, well, acceptable christian ones, that is. I was angry and I didn’t like her. Then I came to Christ at 28 years old.

    I learned what the bible had to say, I tried to forgive her with an act of my will, I prayed my heart out to God, to help me feel the feelings of forgiveness, after all I had forgiven her…

    He finally answered my prayer, But it took a long time. I was in my mid 40’s when my heart caught up with my decision to forgive her.

    Fast forward to two years ago, after a hospital stay & 21 days in nursing home a decision had to be made. My sister wanted her to stay in the nursing home. Mom begged me not to leave her there. With much prayer & seeking input from a friend of mine who was taking care of both her parents I took the jump…

    I brought her to my home and nursed her back to health, she lived with us for almost a year. I had the sweetest moments with her, was it was hard? O, yes. She had chronic diarrhea and one morning exhausted to the bone, gagging, I cried to Jesus, I just can’t do this. He filled my soul with a compassion that was staggering, whispering that as I cared for her it was as if I was caring for him. The gag reflex was gone, and I loving washed her as if she was one of my babies. Don’t get me wrong I still had days when I thought what have I gotten myself into, but then the memory of that moment would float back up and I slogged on. (Hope this isn’t too long) Happy Mothers Day.

    Hallmark needs to declare a Happy Women’s Day for all the women who are not Mothers, they are loved, worthy, beautiful creatures also.

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  9. Oh my, Gail, you did not include a tissue warning with your response. Wow – that was beautiful. My mom has a similar story. She cared for her mom with Alzheimer’s for several years until her death. She, was never able to discuss the pain from her growing up years, but through that experience of caring for my grandma, she was able to love and forgive and see her mom in new eyes. It was beautiful. I highly respect my mom for showing love to my grandma who was unavailable emotionally to my mom. She has taught me a lot.

    I agree with you about a Happy Women’s Day. I have a hunch that a lot of these women who may not have had their wombs filled have instead invested in the lives of others much like a mom does.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Gail. Happy Mother’s Day to you, friend!

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  10. J.A. I hope I get to meet you and your amazing Mother someday, if not here, than on the other side for sure!!

    Mandy- Reading your words touched my heart, how sad that must be. Not to be able to share…
    “I don’t dare speak up because someone always reassures me that she is confident that God will work a miracle in my life.” You sound like you are the miracle, what a remarkable & gracious attitude you have.

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  11. Such a beautiful post, Julie Anne. Just what I needed to read today. This weekend has been hard. Nothing like a contrived holiday to remind you of how unHallmark-like one’s life is 😉 I appreciate your words so much-your honesty about your own story, and your sensitivity in thinking of others for whom this holiday is tough.

    Gail, your story of caring for your mother made me cry as well. What an incredibly beautiful example of being the hands and feet of Jesus. It encourages me to keep praying for my mother who doesn’t yet know Him. And to rejoice in every opportunity to serve others when it is tough. That encourages me with some very specific challenges I’m facing and was just what I needed to read right now.

    Mandy, thanks for sharing. I can relate, for different reasons. I will keep you in my prayers this weekend.

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  12. RP – You are partly responsible for opening my eyes to the life of singles. Thank you for that. Hallmark is overrated. Give me real and transparent people any day.

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  13. Thanks for making a space to be heard 🙂 I love that we can talk about such similar topics and arrive at a similar place, though our backgrounds are so different!

    A thought just occurred to me: What if instead of idolizing the family unit and gender roles, the church in America were to take a step back and re-evaluate how they have treated women, and both repent and also give breathing room for women to simply BE?

    I envision that instead of the paranoia some have of the traditional family deteriorating, both traditional families and non traditional ones (single parents, singles, widows and widowers, families by adoption and fostering, “families” that consist of friends who have become family, etc.) would actually be strengthened.

    Whether a woman has 10 kids or 0 kids, whether she is married or not, whether the people she ministers to are blood relatives or not, we could all know our worth in Jesus and encourage one another in that work, instead of putting unrealistic expectations on one another. Stay at home moms could be free from the church culture placing the expectation of perfection on them. Working moms could feel free to express their God given talents in both work and home without being silently judged. Single women could thrive in their work places and not be treated as though this is their practice work for real life. Women who have no families at all would be genuinely loved (but not pitied) by other families and valued for who they are, not what they do.

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  14. Part of your post is about parents failing. It is heart rending.

    All parents fail.
    But all is not lost.
    Sometimes out of utter defeat, a success can arise.

    Here is a story of one of my failures. I wrote it back in 2010 when I was addressing the failures of Quiverfull and Patriarchy and how they offend the little ones and how they refuse to admit the failure and the sin of their doctrine.
    (hope this is okay to link here)

    http://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/2010/12/offending-little-ones-part-2.html

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  15. This is from Sallie Culbreth. Lean into the Mother Heart of God today. Posted at STIL Waters Facebook Group.

    Greetings!

    Whether She Nurtured or Failed You
    Whether She Loved or Abandoned You
    Whether She was a Saint or a Sinner
    Today Is Yours.
    Let No One Rob You Of That.

    Lean into the Mother Heart of God
    And Celebrate those People
    Who Have Been There
    For You.

    Mother –
    Whether Man or Woman –
    Celebrate the
    Tenacious
    Courageous
    Ferocious
    Heart of Love
    Today

    That is Yours,
    That is You.

    Blessings from Sallie and Anne

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  16. RP May 11, 2013 @ 7:46 PM Indeed, what if? Amen. I agree that it is a blessing that we get to come to this space to talk, such a safe & healing place.

    Mara- Enjoyed reading that part of your story. Your words took me back to how
    I blew it with my eldest. When I started to wake up to how out of control I was, I took her to a christian therapist and gave my daughter permission to share how I was impacting her.

    I felt so embarrassed sitting in the waiting room, knowing that I would have to join them the last 15 minutes of the session to process… I needed to be humbled. I still hear the therapist words that paved the way for me to grow up.

    She said: “You get into cat fights with your daughter, yes, she knows how to push your buttons, but you are the adult and you are the one who can model to her how not to verbally fight back.”
    She was 14, now 32, our relationship is good. I learned how to say how sorry I was, if I did blow it, and I did. Something, I never heard from my parents.

    I look back now, and am thankful that she pushed the limits with me, she helped me to see how sick the strict rules of our church were and how I tried to enforce them on her. Like Julie Anne’s precious daughter Hannah, my daughter was my teacher.
    Now, I am going to make a meal to celebrate Mother’s Day with my daughter and her husband, and my adorable grand babies.

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  17. Have a wonderful day, Gail. I love reading your story. Yours is a story of hope. It’s never too late, is it? And now look at what you’ve got. yea!!!

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  18. was only able to scan the post and comments, but am signing on to wish all the women here a Beloved Mother’s Day. . Thank you for all your love. And even the mothering you give to creatures not of your seed.

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  19. Thank you for this, JA.

    As a perfectionist (worst trait to combine with parenthood, imo) who has infinitely adored her children from Moment #1, the years and years of real and perceived failures at this, Our Most Important Job, have threatened to overwhelm me at times.

    I really pray that future generations develop a more grace-filled, forgiving, and realistic picture of motherhood

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  20. Pingback: Motherhood | Seventeen 20

  21. Hi ladies,
    Care for a man’s point of view? No? Ok, then how about mine instead? 😉 I like Mother’s Day cuz it’s a day my wife gets what she wants. She gets strokes at church and a positive sermon. She gets to see the brats. She gets what she wants for lunch and/or dinner, whatever I can afford. She hates eating out on Mother’s day cuz she hates lines and crowds. Today she wanted chicken enchiladas and honey walnut prawns. I told her I’d be happy to get them both but one would be cold and soggy. She decided on Chinese and we broke the bank. The brats came over and we grazed for a few hours.
    The Proverbs 31 woman is as much a myth as the Eph 5:25 husband is. I think we know this. It’s written by king Lemual’s mother. I think he’s a mythical character. The key phrase is “Who can find her?” I think the answer is “No one cuz she doesn’t exist.” It’s just a model; something to strive for, like the rest of the bible is for men. But don’t beat yourself up. It’s unattainable. When I was single I would read Proverbs 31 and say “Yeah. Right.” If there was such a thing as a Proverbs 31 woman she would want an Eph 5:25 man which I ain’t. I’m not even in the same ballpark -er- I mean the same mall as that guy, if he does exist.
    One last blah. Please don’t hold it against anyone for praising motherhood. Nobody knows your hurts until you tell them.
    By the way, I hate Father’s Day.

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  22. Thanks, Gary. This part cracked me up:

    Today she wanted chicken enchiladas and honey walnut prawns. I told her I’d be happy to get them both but one would be cold and soggy. She decided on Chinese and we broke the bank.

    I might have to do a post for father’s day just to get your response 🙂

    Readers: I do want to point out that this “Gary” is not the same person as frequent commenter, Gary W.

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  23. Gary–That was priceless! I just read that out loud to my husband. That is a classic. I may use that sometime, when a situation suits, ya never know.
    I cracked up first when you said: “She gets to see the brats.” 🙂 Oh my you crafted a winner!!

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  24. Barb, Gary is very talented. This is the same Gary who wrote up the 50 Ways to Leave Your Pastor I posted recently. Great sense of humor.

    I know – – the brats – lol. haha!!

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  25. Julie Anne,

    You ask, “How do I (we) deal with a day that honors us when we know we have failed so badly?” It may be that our failures must be great in order to bring us to great crisis–that great victory may be won. Through the crises in your family, and I am thinking especially of the time when your daughter, Hannah, decided it was time to establish her own home, you have chosen the way of love. Others, in their resentment, might have chosen to punish with anger and rejection. The fruit of your love is that, from the little we know about Hannah, we can see that she is full of courage, grace and love. Your victory is great indeed. Nor is this your only victory.

    Because there may be others who cannot so easily find victory flowing from their mistakes, I am actually somewhat reluctant to offer these words of encouragement. Yet it is my sense that those who comment here have found, and are finding, the way of love. This in and of itself is great victory, though much pain may remain for many.

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  26. Thank you for that, Gary W. Yes, the victory is great. I’m so thankful that love won. I was being brainwashed and could have easily gone the other direction. I cannot even fathom the thought.

    And speaking of Hannah, I got to her all day Saturday. We got pedicures and had lunch together. That was a special treat as she lives hours away.

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  27. I’m a little late (again!) but Happy Mother’s Day to all you ladies here! I spent my day on the couch watching 3 movies ~ my husband and kids blessed me with food and a quiet afternoon! Thank you Julie Anne and to all who share here and have encouraged me with your stories and similar life experiences. I know the Holy Spirit ministers here to all of us!

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