I want to start off this series of Motherhood posts with a bit of honesty and truth. But there is some tricky truth to mothering. So allow me to lay down the ground floor here with some notes on failure.
Every mother, and I do mean EVERY mother, will at some point in her mothering career feel that she has failed. Maybe this has been on my mind this week because I have had a few of those points this last week. The reason every mother feels this is really quite simple. We judge our success (whether consciously or not) on how well our children do in life. And since no child or person is perfect and at some point each of us fails, so then each mother of each child also feels she has failed.
The real trick to conquering this feeling of failure (which I am sure is sent from the Enemy of all things good) is to recognize that our success as a mother is not based on our child's choices. Kids are supposed to mess up. That doesn't mean we are failing, it means we have opportunities to succeed by helping them learn to do better next time. And the longer it takes to help them overcome their weaknesses or shortcomings, the greater the eventual success right?
So whether your child gets in trouble at school, or acts inappropriately at some social function, or hits someone, or lies, or steals something, or develops a drug problem ... whatever the extent of your child's failure, we must realize that there is only so much a mother can do. Even the perfect Mother and Father have had murderers and dictators and rebellious spirits as children. For every person has to make their own choices and in the end they will be responsible for their own actions.
Our job as mothers and our success in that job ought to be measured on how well we have applied the knowledge we have available to us based on our current abilities at any given time. Perhaps an example or two will illustrate.
A mother now would be considered unfit for piling all of her young children and babies into a car without any car seats and taking them out on a busy city street. 35 years ago, people did not have the same knowledge, laws, or baby gear and this was the normal course of behavior. Is my mother's generation a generation of failures because they didn't use car seats? No.
A mother who is sick and in her bed knows that she ought to go help her child to be obedient when she gives a command. But if her body is not able to get up and go help the child learn this lesson, is she a failure as a mother? No.
We do the best we can with the knowledge and abilities we have. That is how we ought to measure our success.
And you know what? Even then we will still sometimes fail. Because we too are human and we mess up. Sometimes we get tired or angry and we say or do things we know we ought not to say or do. Sometimes we neglect to do things we know are important because we forget or get too busy with less important things. It happens to us all. And all too often we beat ourselves up about it.
But even that self beating is coming for an Enemy source. Because the Truth is that a Way has been provided to help us be better and perfect our efforts. When we repent of our mistakes, apologize to our child or children and to God, and make our best efforts to change and do better next time, the Atonement of our Savior can heal the wounds of our mistakes and make up for our failings.
As one who has felt like the ultimate failure and has felt the deep wounds of her own mistakes, I am a witness to the power of the Atonement to heal our hearts and make us whole. We may always have to live with the physical consequences of our failings, but the Atonement can heal our heart if we so desire.
"God made our hands washable for a reason," my mother always said as she would clean up icky messes of childhood. And I would add that God made the love between a mother and child nearly unbreakable for the same reason. So that when we make messes in our mothering, the Love between us and our children can help us clean up the mess and forgive each other with hearts cleansed by the Savior.