“Am I a bad mother?” the young woman whispered in the passenger seat beside me with tears in her eyes.
I froze. How could I answer this impossible question? Her son—our foster baby—was in our care because of her very real problems and failures to meet his needs. Yet in that quiet, honest question, her mother’s heart to love her child was revealed.
I mumbled a response, dropped her off, and went home to my other four kids with her question burning on my heart. Am I a bad mother echoed relentlessly in my mind for days.
I was shaken by the truth that her question was exactly like my own.
My heart carried a list of regrets for the ways I, too, had failed as a parent over the years. No matter how I chased after the trophy of “perfect mom,” it was always out of reach.
As mothers, we struggle with insecurity from the day we hold the positive pregnancy test in our hand. We wonder if we have the strength to endure our baby’s delivery. Our newborn’s needs feel overwhelming and they seem so, so fragile in our arms. Toddler tantrums, elementary math homework, and teenage attitudes expose our lack of patience and understanding. At every age and stage, it’s clear we just don’t always have what it takes.
I know I’ve slapped a label of “bad mom” on my chest when we hit the drive-thru for the third time in a week.
When I unloaded harsh, angry words on my little girl.
After I accidentally pinched my son’s fingers in the door.
With the news my child failed a class.
When I forgot to show up for pick-up from karate class.
While filling my daughter’s prescription for anti-depressants.
When I punished one child for a sibling’s mistake.
For switching to formula instead of breastfeeding my first baby.
After another day of letting busyness keep me from praying for my kids.
When I discovered the bullying my daughter suffered at school.
For putting my to-do list over connecting with my kids’ hearts.
The list could go on. I’d guess yours could, too. Yet when Am I a bad mother? runs through my head once again, I think back to what I told our foster baby’s birth mother. I simply said, “That’s not the right question.”
Am I a bad mother can only leave us stuck in shame and self-doubt. It puts the focus on ourselves and our insecurities instead of our children’s needs and emotions. It’s looking at the regrets of the past instead of the steps to move us forward. The question blocks our view of our true identity as God’s chosen mothers to the precious gifts in our arms.
This Mother’s Day, let’s ask new and life-giving questions.
When you think you’re not enough for your kids, look up and take your doubts, insecurities, and wonderings to God in prayer. Let’s cry out to him with these powerful questions:
Will you forgive me for failing to love my children like Jesus loves me?
How can I meet my child in their pain?
Will you give me the courage and wisdom I desperately need?
Can you help me let go so my child is free to grow up and fly?
Will you keep making me new and breaking the destructive patterns of the past?
What does my child need most from me in this moment?
Will you help me to see my son or daughter through your eyes?
Who do you say that I am as your daughter?
Our God is so kind. He never said we had to be perfect mothers because he is the perfect parent to you and me. He holds forgiveness for our sins against our children. God offers grace when we feel too exhausted and weak to parent for one more day. When our kids have needs we can’t meet, he stands ready to provide. In the confusing and countless decisions we face for their health, education, schedules and social lives, he holds wisdom for the asking.
Today, let God’s love tear off the label of “bad mom” once and for all. You are his Beloved. His treasured possession. (Deut. 7:6) His daughter chosen before the creation of the world. (Eph. 1:4) No matter your mistakes and regrets, you are his and he will never let you go. (John 10:28) You are being transformed day by day to be more Christlike to your children. (2 Cor. 3:18) Yesterday is gone and today is filled with mercy and hope.
My prayer for you this Mother’s Day is that you will feel loved, nurtured, and cherished as God’s daughter.
I pray you will be filled up with His comfort and blessings just like you fill your kids’ plates with food and their shelves with clean clothes. In your wounds and bruised emotions from this difficult year, I pray you’ll feel wrapped in God’s arms as he whispers, “It’ll be okay. I’m here.” If you feel confused about the direction your life is taking, I’m praying you put your hand in his and let him lead you like a child. I pray for freedom to play and sing, nap and read, laugh and celebrate your heavenly Daddy’s deep affection for you as his daughter.
You are His. You are loved. It is well.