Last New Year’s Eve, we sat around our dinner table and each took turns creating goals for ourselves, and for our family—well, except for our little one. He’s a bit too young to determine goals. For him, the goal might have been to eat more candy, and I’m pretty sure he did just that (aka: parent fail). Anyway, after deciding what we should work on for the coming year, I sealed up the slip of paper in an envelope titled, “Family Goals” and stuck it on the refrigerator. There it stayed for the last year—no one thought about it, looked at it, or even wondered about it.
Tonight, I exclaimed, “Time to open our Family Goals envelope!” and the kids came running like a herd of cattle at hay-time. Most likely, they did not remember what their goals were, but boy, they were certainly interested in learning if they accomplished them.
Opening up the envelope, I read out loud what each goal was. As I went through each one, I noticed the look on everyone’s faces. Yeah. Can we say “EPIC FAIL”? True to our nature, we gave an awesome “E” for effort, set new goals for this year, and sealed them back up to be stuck to the refrigerator. My husband and I did acknowledge to our children that “At least you recognized that you partially met some of them, and were honest about not meeting the others. That’s important.” Right? RIGHT…wink, wink.
And then it hit me. I might have just completely failed as a mother this past year. My thought, “If I was doing my job as a mother, I would have encouraged them all to accomplish their goals.” For goodness sake, I would have accomplished my own. Sure. I met one (sort of) literally within the last two hours, but the rest of them…forget it. I completely failed. To give an example, one of my goals was to count to ten when I am angry. Again, EPIC FAIL.
As the kids ran out of the room just as quickly as they rushed in, I had another thought. “Where are we as a society that chooses to define motherhood by “if you do this, or do that, or be this, or be that, or breastfeed, or not breastfeed, or home school, or not home school, or only eat organic, or not eat organic, or do all of those cool things on Pinterest, or completely abandon all social media, or yell, or not yell, or stay home full time, or are employed outside of the home, or send to private school, or send to public school….or whatever….then you are a good mother?” I mean, come on. No pressure, right? And, do any of these things truly define motherhood?
After working in child welfare for many years, I can assure you that if you are clothing, feeding, protecting, providing an education, and waking up each day with the determination to show love to your children, then you are doing a good job. If you recognize your faults, have failures and successes, and embrace your children with a twinge of hope, then you are exemplifying all that motherhood brings.
The truth is that none of us are perfect in this journey. We make goals, we fail at them. We set boundaries, we allow them to be broken. We say, “If you do that one more time…,” and then we don’t always follow through. I am pretty sure our mothers went through the same things. I often get a little bothered when I hear people talking about parenthood these days, and how all of today’s children are just “spoiled,” “not goal oriented,” or whatever label is put on them. I suspect the same things might have been said about every generation of children (even us, gasp…no way). Parenting is hard enough as it is—let alone having to judge ourselves against the often misrepresented images of motherhood that we see on any given day.
As part of the family tradition, I did set two goals for this year, and I am going to do my best to work on them. However, if I fail, or if my family fails at accomplishing their goals, then so be it. It doesn’t change anything. The very fact that we are setting goals, having a discussion about them, and admitting a few areas we need to work on is just fine with me.
Hey, Moms. I’m speaking to you. Let’s not judge. In this new year, perhaps we should all set a collective goal to not define mothering by what we think society wants. Let’s stop judging each other by the standards of what we think is the “best.” Let’s recognize that it takes all types of mothers to parent all types of children, and let’s be okay with that. Let’s be true to ourselves. Let’s be who we are; the junk, the goodness, the failures, the successes.
Let’s just be Moms who deeply love our children, who protect them, who whisper messages of hope, who discipline, who steer in better directions, and who wake up each day embracing our children with the hope of a better day; regardless of what others think.
From my heart to yours, Happy New Year. May this year be filled with lots of laughter—at the mistakes, at the successes, and at ourselves.
Caroline is a mother to three children through adoption, and a strong advocate for foster care. At the age of eleven, Caroline underwent an emergency hysterectomy in order to save her life. Since then, she has known that she would never have biological children.
In 2006, Caroline and her husband, Bruce, became foster parents and quickly accepted the placement of a newborn baby boy. Through their journey of foster care, they learned so much about the needs of children, and were greatly humbled by the experience. They went on to adopt their daughter after fostering her, and recently adopted their youngest boy in 2013.
Currently, Caroline works for a Christian child welfare agency in Missouri. Caroline shares her life experience about foster care, adoption, barrenness, and faith on her blog barrentoblessed.com.