I have recommended a particular book to many women with whom I have counseled. The title of the book is “Captivating” by Staci and John Eldredge. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It is the book that can truly help a woman see herself as God sees her and to understand how much God loves her.
Last year one of the young ladies that read the book at my suggestion came to me after she finished and said, “You know that chapter ‘Mothers, Daughters, Sisters?’ I was praying and felt like God said to me ‘This is Edwina.’ He didn’t elaborate and she didn’t have anything to add except she thought I should re-read the chapter. So I read it again and a third time. As I came upon a statement that made me stop and think, I would journal about it.
Today’s blog is about this chapter. All quotes from the book are in italics and all credit is given to Staci and John Eldredge.
One of the statements that struck a chord with me was “all mothers fail their children to varying degrees.” Ouch. There have been so many times that I’ve said “I’m a failure as a mother” or “I’m a lousy mother” or words to that effect. In fact, I’ve said that so many times to my darling husband that he has gotten really upset with me. I realize, of course, that no mother is perfect. I suspect that even Mary, mother of Jesus, had her moments, although the Catholics would probably disagree with me on that one.
In this statement, “all mothers fail their children to varying degrees” what is the definition of “fail?” To not live up to our expectations of ourselves as mothers? Or to the world’s expectations? Is it to not live up to our mother’s expectations of how we should raise our daughters? Does failure mean to not “be there” when our children need us? Who determines if we are failing? Who makes the rules? Us? Our mothers? Society? God? Failure – is it not one thing to one person and something totally different to another?
The easiest answer to all of these questions is to not ask the questions and just let the statement “all mothers fail their children to varying degrees” stand. Don’t analyze it – just accept it. But that’s not enough for me.
Perhaps the key is the term I’ve not questioned “varying degrees.” For example, suppose a mother has to work on the day her 8 year old daughter is debuting in the school play. Normally, the mother is able to attend all of her daughter’s functions; however, this time she was not able to be away from her job during the time of the play. Will the daughter be disappointed? Probably. Will she be emotionally damaged for life? Probably not. This one incident should not damage the child emotionally for the rest of her life. The mother, on the other hand, will probably feel like a failure but the daughter will not look at it that way.
Suppose another mother never goes to any of her daughter’s school functions, is rarely at home and when she is, she doesn’t pay much attention to her daughter and never tells her that she loves her. Will her daughter be hurt? Yes. Will she be emotionally damaged for life? Yes, without a doubt.
So here is the crux of the matter: we are going to fail our children – no question about it. It doesn’t mean we are failures. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our children. It means we are human. When we fail our children, it means we have made a mistake. It doesn’t mean we aren’t doing the best we know how to do. It means that’s all we know to do.
I don’t think any mother sets out to deliberately fail her children. But there will be times when we do fail them. That’s when we go to them and tell them “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fail you.” Apologizing will accomplish three things: 1) it will diffuse their anger; 2) it will help to heal any wounds our failure caused; and 3) it will bridge the gap between us and our children.
Are we failures as mothers? No. Will we fail our children at some point in their life? Yes. God has called each of us to be ministers of reconciliation. And that ministry should start at home. With our children.