family life

maternal ‘never-do-enough’ syndrome

Kaslo to Italy to October 2013 536 Italia 2013 026 iPod 387

I would like to know why moms are hard-wired to feel guilty toward their littles.

We never do enough.

No matter the healthy meals we prepare, no matter the oodles of bedtime stories we read, or the time we spend planning their educations, we know we haven’t done it right enough, long enough, well enough, because they can’t get enough.

Psychoanalysis would suggest that my first paragraph means I feel I never measure up as a mother. No psychoanalysis required: I already know it! Not that I don’t do plenty right, but I’m keenly aware that their little hearts need and want more than I give.

I certainly don’t have enough time to perfect my patience…only thirteen years left for practice, and though I’ve come far, I’ve got a long way to go.

My kids always want me to listen to one more story, to intervene between their squabbles, again, to do just one more thing, to ‘look’ just one more time. I mostly do it, but I don’t always do it.


I have a few other things going on.

And somewhere about nine each night, I don’t even want to.

Are you shocked? If you are, I want to know your secrets: the unending well of giving.

If you’re not shocked, then how do you deal with it?

I have learned to do a few things for myself that give me a bit more energy though, like deleting things that others’ tell me I need to do to live a meaningful life…they might spiritualize it, and explain why God’s Word says such and such, but I no longer buy it. God considers my needs as much as anyone else’s. They might think something is valuable, while I  do not.

I am acquainted with a lot of people, as we all are, but I can’t invest meaningful relational time with all of them. So I have to pick and choose. I hope that the ones I care to pick and choose also choose to pick and choose me too. The people we choose to include in our inner circle, though, have a profound impact on our day-to-day, so we have to choose wisely.

I have learned to do a few things that I want to do too, like flipping through the first five minutes of random Netflix flicks. I study impressionist art with the kids, along with geometry and prepositions, read classic stories before bedtime because I like to. I listen to TED talks in the morning and yoga mid-morning.

I insist I have a quiet time in the middle of the day, just to deflate, think, read or write. No interruptions allowed unless someone’s on fire or wants extra chores.

When all I hear from myself is bickering edginess, it’s time for me to take a break. When every day sounds like a PMS day, out I go. When an hour away for grocery shopping seems relaxing, I know I’m imbalanced.

When I get out of balance, I enlist my husband’s childcare abilities for an afternoon away. I don’t feel guilty about that. An hour of shopping alone is a preliminary way to come down from the busy. Then with a tall non-fat latte in hand, I wander the aisles of Chapters until I feel a creative drive to take pen and journal in hand and soothe the soul–a healthy antidote to my overwhelm.

How do you keep an internal balance?

3 thoughts on “maternal ‘never-do-enough’ syndrome

  1. Yes, all of this. I can’t say I always deal with Mom-guilt well, but I’ve mostly resigned myself to the fact that I am and will always be an imperfect mother. My kids may have hang-ups as adults that are partly my fault. Scratch that. They will. God knew who I was and where I would fail as a mother and still specifically chose me to be my kids’ mother. As Aslan would say, “That’s their story.” I’m learning to be confident in His choice.

    My strategies for caring for myself are similar to yours. I don’t usually take time during the day for myself, however, as their bed times encroach into more of my evening, I find I tend to stay up unhealthily late to grab what quiet moments I can. Perhaps day time me-time is a possible solution.

    • Yup, the longer I do this I realize why non-homeschool moms go cross-eyed at the thought of what we’re doing.

      I used to joke that there was a lump sum post-high school for their therapy.

      As long as I’m willing to ante up I’ll be ok…this approach seemed funny cause I didn’t really think I was causing THAT much trouble.

      Now I realize this full-on parenting is all about ME learning my stuff. And the issues THEY have, well they won’t even entirely understand their troubles until they’re much older, but those troubles will be theirs.

      And then they’ll have things to learn from my imperfections and I’ll have to listen to their hearts for things I might not have understood. (Of course, Im not including their imperfect contributions in this conversation).

      And God-willing there will be a lot of grace given, received and happily ever afters…

  2. So true. Not one of us moms will ever be perfect, but with Gods grace we can continue on being the best we know how to be.

    We need not beat ourselves up for past mistakes but to continue trying to be the best for our children that we can. They will understand later as you mentioned. They are too young right now but as they grow up into adults and have their own children they will soon understand.

    Taking time out for ourselves can give us the peace and quiet we need to be refreshed to start the day all over again.

    Take care and stay refreshed. You have four beautiful and wonderful children.

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