Why are we so heavy with guilt? As moms, this seems to be a running theme — whether it is guilt about our children, our marriages, our houses, our work — it seems as though we all carry an invisible burden that we are constantly not doing enough. We fall short, and we beat ourselves up for it. We crumble to the weight. I want to change that: instead of guilt, heavy and burdensome, I’m choosing Grace, easy and light. I want to embrace my inadequacies, bear them with my loved ones, and offer them up as sacrifices.
The Working Mother’s Research Group just published a report of a survey it conducted with both working and stay-at-home-moms and it found that well over half of both groups experienced guilt about the cleanliness of their homes. Working women felt guilty about the amount of time spent with children and women at home felt guilty about not contributing financially.
This week I also read a study about praising our children. There was so much in it that I want to think about, but one finding of this study had to do the type of praise a child recieves. It suggested that for more resilient children, and therefore more resilient adults, as parents we need to be less generous with person-based praise and more generous with process-based praise. “Kids praised for their efforts believe that trying hard, not being smart, matters. These kids are “resilient” and take more risks.”
To me, these two issues are interwoven. The idea that we feel pressure for perfection, and then guilt from not reaching it, suggests that we lack precisely resiliency the second study applauds. It seems to me that we are motivated by feedback, and feel as though we fall short when we don’t get the positive feedback that we were anticipating. Having grown up as part of this over-praised generation, this makes sense to me.
I don’t get a high five every time I put dishes away. My children won’t have any concept of the energy and effort I spend on them until they are well into the process of raising their own kids. I’m not going to get a Thank You for enforcing boundaries, giving rules and expecting manners. If I’m super lucky, and it’s a good day, someone might say Thank You for cooking dinner as we sit down for grace before the meal. The lack of praise could lead me to believe that what I’m doing isn’t good enough — that I need to pile on the guilt because there is more that I should be accomplishing, different ways of meeting others’ needs. But I know better. Though there are plenty of areas where I fall short as a mother, as in life, I know that I love my family and I am committed to them. My shortcomings allow for me to receive Grace — His, and theirs, too. It allows me to be human to my Little Ones, to show them that they, too, are worthy of His Grace.
Of course I want my Little Ones to be proud of who they are. But I want them to know that there are not loved because they are Smart, or Strong, or Athletic, or Beautiful. They are simply loved. And I want them to pursue excellence in all things, and work hard, not because of the praise they will receive, and how it in turn will become part of their identity, but because of the chance to seek a challenge and apply themselves to the best of their abilities. To learn how to fail, and allow themselves to picked up again, without the guilt. I want them to truly know Grace. Isn’t that resiliency?