In addition to working through Boundaries with Kids I have also started a book called Motherhood: The Guilt That Keeps on Giving by Julie Ann Barnhill. Her premise is that moms naturally feel guilty for not “being_____” for their children. In a mother's eyes any shortcomings on the part of the child or children is the direct result of her parenting. Part of the summary on the back cover of this book says “On your way to the peaceful valley of Grace you'll discover...
*the difference between false (imagined) guilt and real guilt
*the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations and overconfidence
*God's path to less guilt and more grace”.
My hope for myself this semester is to settle more comfortably into motherhood, and single motherhood at that. My children are special, are valuable, and I seem to forget to tell them that. My ex-husband used to literally say, “I told you I loved you when I married you. If that changed I'd let you know.” And it did, and he did, but the point is that I do not want to parent the same way- where the only things they hear from me are corrections. The Hebrews have the right idea when they give 10 blessings for 1 rebuke. God extends grace to me, I want to extend it to others- and if I cannot start in my own home...
In the introduction to this book the author talks about how she got to the point of writing the book. She was teaching at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group and the topic had to do with moms and being good moms, what that meant, and what part guilt played in mothering. Due to conversations she was overhearing in the discussion groups she stopped the activity and changed the question to, “What do you not feel guilty about as a mother?” The room grew silent. In a room full of women no one could answer that question. What a sad commentary on motherhood. Not that I would have been any different had I been there. How would I answer the question? Up until about 5 years ago, I would have said I didn't feel guilty about the amount of attention I gave my children, about the time I set aside for them, about the love I showered on them.
About five years ago my former spouse voluntarily admitted himself into a mental health facility for suicidal tendencies. Our marriage went rapidly downhill after that. Looking back now I am not sure when I stopped lavishing attention on my children. Part of it has to do with their ages and the fact that teenagers naturally pull back from their parents, but a big chunk of it does not. In fact, a dear friend asked me recently when I grew hard-hearted toward my children. My initial response was denial that I had done that, but because the person asking is a dear friend and I know has my families best interest at heart I began examining the issue. They were right, and I don't know when it happened. So now I have a choice- I can either feel guilty about yet another thing, or I can allow God to begin to transform me from the inside out as I work through my boundaries and my guilt. In the end my prayer is that my children and I come out of this portion of our life journey with a stronger bond with each other and a deeper appreciation for the grace of God.