I don’t know you, your story, your past, your dreams and your longing for the future, but whomever you are, there is one thing I know about you – you deal with accusation about who you are and the work that you are doing with your children. You deal with it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. It may be so normal to you that you don’t even recognize it when it happens because it seems like it’s you talking.
I’m talking about those words, those thoughts, the ones that creep and crawl through your ear, into your mind, then deep into your heart where they live.
You didn’t spend enough time with your kids today.
Your kids don’t eat enough veggies.
You haven’t showered in three days. What’s wrong with you?
You’re wasting time, you should be doing more, be productive.
You’re a bad mother.
These are accusations, and all of us hear them.
I’ve written parts of my story, I’ve written thoughts and ideas, I’ve written a lot about the process of motherhood for me in the past weeks, but today’s topic is different. Today I want to warn you because whatever your gender, your stage, your family or work situation, whomever you are – I want to tell you that an accusation left alone is the small fire that will burn down a house, it is the tiny vial of poison that will take a life in an instant, it is an unseen pest that will destroy a whole field of crops before harvest.
Accusations require immediate and total action – these are not simple, harmless words, they are words that undermine the core of our being.
The first accusations I remember hearing in my own heart were when I was young, under 10, usually they came through the words of other people in my life, adults, school mates, influences, You talk too much. You’re not beautiful. You’re too dark. You’re not nice. You’re not kind. You’re selfish. So many words, so many ways in which they took root in my soul, I grieve every day of my life that I believed those words.
Please understand that an accusation isn’t the same as something in our life that really does need to change. One of the many differences between Husband and I is the amount of uncleanliness we can tolerate. He likes a clean living space. I do, too, I just don’t like staying on top of cleaning projects. When we talked about it, he never made any comments about my character, who I am, or my work ethic, he only respectfully asked me to keep certain areas of our apartment a bit cleaner than they were (and I was usually the one responsible for the messes).
It was constructive, helpful and empowering – it provided a path forward for me. The conversation helped me to know what he needed and what I could do to help.
But accusations are different, for me usually they come in the form of “you” statements, here’s what the cleaning accusations sounded like:
You can’t keep a clean house. You’re husband is disappointed in you. You’re a bad wife.
These are words about identity, and they do not offer a solution.
Brene Brown is a shame researcher who is one of those “it” people right now. One reason I appreciate her work is that it is based on research, and her conclusions are startling (read more about her on her site and watch the TED talks). I’ve started reading “Daring Greatly” and it has been an outstanding read, and I loved this TEDx talk of hers. Her talk offers a helpful distinction between words of guilt and words of shame – words of guilt indicate that there is a problem, words of shame say “I am the problem,” put in a different way, one gives us the ability to change, and the other offers no room for change because if who we are is the problem, then what hope do we have (my paraphrase).
Everyone deals with accusations, but I find that women deal with them in a totally different way, and once you start having kids, the accusations – for me, anyway – just go through the roof.
You’re not breastfeeding, you’re a bad mother.
You had an epidural – you missed out on what childbirth really feels like.
Your child doesn’t nap – you’re a bad mother.
You let him cry too long – you’re a bad mother.
She doesn’t sleep because you won’t let her cry – you’re a bad mother.
Your child is screaming in the supermarket – you’re a bad mother.
Did that muffin have sugar in it? Your child is destined for bad health. And you’re a bad mother.
Your husband is away for the week – you will not be able to survive taking care of two kids while he’s gone.
The only way I can get through my day and not be taken under by these accusations is to tell them to stop.
You will have no control over me.
This is not true.
And then to speak words of life, words of truth, words of strength over myself.
I make good choices about what my children eat, and it’s fine for them to have a bit of sugar.
This week won’t be easy, but God knows what I can handle and will not give me more. I can do it. I can do this.
My child can scream if he wants – it means nothing about what kind of parent I am.
I will make wise, informed, compassionate, gentle choices about how my babies sleep – this is part of my role as their parent.
The way my children were born does not determine the kind of mother I am.
I am the only mother these two boys have. I’m not perfect and do not strive to be perfect. But I will love them, serve them, enjoy them, teach them to the best of my ability. Yes, we will have amazing days, and yes, there will be days I wish to forget, but those days are not an indictment on me or them as people.
I am a good mother.
And I say it, out loud sometimes, other times in my head, but I have to keep this tape of truth playing all the time because if I don’t, it will only be a bunch of lies and accusations that fly around in there. There isn’t enough time, friend, to spend the little that we do have listening to what is false.
Every day, every moment spent listening to accusations will only drag you down as a person, as a parent, as a spouse, and the irony is that it will not motivate you toward any kind of change. No, this is wasted time spent in self-doubt, self-pity and worry – don’t do it. Don’t go there.
Listen to the truth. Speak the truth. Believe the truth. And put yourself around truth-telling people.
What accusations are you entertaining today? What words of truth can you use to deal with them?
This post is Day 17 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)