I studied all the wrong things in school. Based on my daily life, I would have been much better off had I studied nursing, nutrition, defensive carpool driving, physical therapy, and child psychology. Some housecleaning and organization courses might also have come in handy.
Unfortunately, my degrees are in international relations, journalism, and theological studies. As a result I often feel like I spend most of my day doing things for which I am wholly unprepared.
Take some of today’s challenges: navigating the tiny lanes and aggressive, rage-filled parent drivers at summer camp dropoff and pickup, addressing my 2- 1/2 year-old daughter’s burgeoning smartphone addiction, helping my older son get back to full strength after a series of injuries to his left foot and leg, and beating back the chaos and disorder three kids home for the summer leave in their wake. I’ll be honest. I’m not very good at any of those things.
There are things in this world I can do well. It’s just that I don’t get to do them a lot these days. So even after almost twelve years of being a mom, I still often feel like I’m unprepared, that I’m not good enough at this job. And to make matters worse, just as I start to feel like I’ve mastered or at least become proficient at one part of parenting, another new challenge pops up.
I think many of us share this feeling, that we could be so much better at motherhood. We want to be better. But of course parenting is such an all-encompassing, round-the-clock job that it’s hard to find the time to step back and intentionally try to improve at any one aspect of it. This is one job that is pretty much limited to on-the-job training.
Yet my theological studies background does come in handy sometimes in daily life. It helps me see the larger importance of all the little things I do, even driving in that wretched carpool, because God cares about the tiniest details of our lives.
My faith helps me to recognize that doing things we don’t like, things that make us uncomfortable or that we don’t feel prepared for or good at, is how spiritual growth happens. God calls us to do all kinds of things we don’t think we’re ready to do. Take Moses. Or John the Baptist. Or Jesus. I could go on.
My faith tells me we can and do get better, that if we allow it, Christ can transform us day by day into the person, the parent, that we long to be.
My faith also helps me see that although there are many parts of motherhood in which I don’t feel proficient, there’s only one part of motherhood where that really, truly matters, and that’s loving my children. I do just fine at that. I’ll bet you do too.
This afternoon, my daughter and I were playing with Play-doh, and she asked me to make a pig. The object that I presented to her wasn’t a very good pig. Truth be told, she insisted that it wasn’t in fact a pig. Nevertheless, I think I can safely say that my lack of artistry did not dampen the fun of the moment for either of us.
Life might be easier or less stressful if I only had to do things I already felt good at, but perhaps it would be a little bit boring. It certainly wouldn’t allow as much space to learn and get better. Today, in addition to producing a pig-like creature, I managed the dropoff, I hid my smartphone, I did Pilates with my older son, and I picked up a lot of toys multiple times.
Tomorrow I will likely do many of the same things, maybe a little bit better. And while I may never feel like I’m really good at any of them, they certainly do get less daunting each time. I could be better, of course, but for today I am good enough.
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. ” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17