On Being a Good (and Terrible) Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day, today’s post is Mother-y. It’s about something my kid said that seemed especially prophetic. A word from the Lord for mommy:

Last night in the car as I pulled out of the Goodwill parking lot my daughter London began weeping. Two seconds before she’d been fine and now she was practically in the fetal position, her cheeks tear-smeared, her little face fallen.

I looked suspiciously at her sister and then back her way. I said, “Honey, what’s wrong?” 

She looked not at my forehead and not at my chin but directly into my eyes and said, ”Sometimes I just don’t feel like you take care of me.”

In case you’re wondering how it feels for your five year old to tell you you don’t take care of her three days before Mother’s Day, well, it feels like poop.

I am a good mom. I have no reservations about saying that. I take my kids to the pool and the park and the library. I set up playdates. I make them their favorite foods for lunch and buy popsicles and read books and let them wear princess dresses to the grocery store. When they puke, I clean it up. When their rat escapes from his cage, I find him. When they want to be a unicorn at their birthday party, I dream up both a costume and an excuse for said costume so my kid doesn’t look crazy.

I tell them stories about God and every once in a while let them off the hook for their bad behavior because of their Romans 7 “sinful nature.” I pray with them and bless them at night. 

My kids know The Lord’s Prayer by heart, they often say “please” and they eat vegetables.

So I’m a good mom.

And I’m a terrible mom.

I get distracted by Twitter on my phone and ignore my kids until London finally says, “Are you listening to me?” and I act like I was. I sometimes hide in the bathroom because I’m tired of answering questions and because I’m an introvert and because I cannot handle parasitic relationships. I arrange for screen time to be in the morning so I can sleep in an extra hour because I don’t do 6:30 am or 7 for that matter. I don’t do it. I buy my girls cookies at McDonald’s in the drive thru so they won’t complain while I wait in line for my third diet coke of the day. I strategically avoid pretend because it makes me uncomfortable. I forget things, like drinks for their lunches or class cupcakes on birthdays. I sometimes scream into the inside of my elbow when I feel overwhelmed or when Eve won’t stop putting her feet in my face while I read.

Being a mom is a lot like being a human. As the Apostle Paul writes,  ”I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I feel that way a lot. 

I want to take better care of my kids. I want to play more and listen more. I want to get really involved in a My Little Pony reenactment. I want to stop hurrying, pushing everybody out the door with my Final Jeopardy countdown voice. I want to stop saying, “We’re going to be late.” I want to spend less time on Facebook.

But I don’t always do what I want to do. 

There are two ways to approach my failures and both ways are right:

Sometimes, I need to give myself grace. Because I’m human and because there are only 24 hours in a day and because kids are born critics. 


Sometimes, I need to woman up and be a better mom.

Every day I’m called to do both.

When London said that yesterday, about me not taking care of her, I pulled her into my lap and asked what she meant. She said she didn’t like that I slept in the morning when she wanted to play with me. She said we never had enough time to play or make art or pretend.

And of course she was wrong. Just the day before we’d been swimming at the pool, both girls pretending the entire time to be puppies, me doing my best to play along. Later, we read books in the hammock and jumped on the trampoline. I scored them on their best “moves.”

She’s a kid. She exaggerates. Grace.

But then she was right; our days have gotten so crammed with obligations I feel like I couldn’t spontaneously pretend if I wanted to (which I don’t—but I should). Maybe I could stop filling up the planner and going to bed at 1 a.m. Maybe I could act like a responsible adult, get out of bed and brew a cup of coffee. 

So I said, “Alright. I’ll start waking up with you in the morning.”

She said, “For real?”

And I said “For real.”

Yesterday morning, before the Goodwill incident, London gave me this:


Yes, that’s me, mom of the year. Under the picture, she said I was as “pretty as a princess” and that I drive a car really well and that I write great stories. 

So I’m doing alright. 

And I need to get better.

Perhaps you can relate.