I had an epiphany at 3:30am, after changing my toddler’s wet sheets and tucking him back in bed. I was thinking about how deeply grouchy I get toward the middle of January every year…
During those barren, icy weeks, when the Christmas stuff has been returned to the boxes and it seems our motivation to tackle schoolwork was packed up with it–that’s when everything feels like such A JOYLESS CHORE.
I do a lot of yelling and feeling sorry for myself during this S.A.D. season.
“Why can’t you guys __________?”
“Ugh, of COURSE something like this would happen today!”
“You know, I have better things to do than _________.”
The dishes never stay washed. The toys never stay picked up. The homework never gets finished. And the Mother never has anything nice to say.
And it finally occurred to me in the wee hours of this morning:
Doing a bunch of humble tasks every day does NOT necessarily lead to humility; it can also lead to bitterness.
Is that shocking to think about, considering how often women are praised for their “humble role” and their seeming ability to “do it all?” Is it weird to call the problem “bitterness” when the world usually calls it “overworked” and “underappreciated” and “deserving a break?”
I think we talk about the “humble” role of motherhood all the time, without stopping to wonder whether we’re actually mothering humbly.
And, the truth is, I have found myself caught in a Pride Cycle, which many other mothers may recognize, if they stop to think about it with me:
#1. The kids do or say something legitimately ridiculous, rude, or self-serving, which we must correct. They make messes–we correct it. They fight–we correct them. And the repetition begins to establish itself. (So far, so good.)
#2. Then we start to keep a running tally of how much work we’re doing, and it occurs to us that not many people could handle the same stuff we’re juggling 24/7…
#3. Eventually, everything we do seems like an ‘A’ effort, while everything the rest of the family does is an ‘F.’ Our standards become the All-Encompassing Standard of Righteousness for everyone else, and no one measures up…
#4. Everyone, especially Mom, gets grumpier and grumpier, because it’s exhausting being a perfect Paragon of Servant Leadership, surrounded by failures.
What was especially jarring to me was how quickly I was tempted to DEFEND my pride–almost immediately after I noticed it. I jumped right back up to step #1 and clung to the fact that my kids genuinely make bad choices constantly, and somebody has to lay down the law.
It’s actually hard NOT to feeling a bit superior, when the people closest to you are regularly using their beds as toilets. It would be false humility to pretend I’m not better than that, I reasoned.
So maybe it bears repeating that–yes–our children do things all the time that are objectively, honestly NOT GOOD, and part of our role is to set standards with consistent enforcement. (Sometimes our husbands and parents and siblings and friends at church do things that are objectively, honestly NOT GOOD, too.)
But, there’s a difference between having godly expectations for our whole family and having an ugly, Prideful attitude accompanying it.
How can we know when that line has been crossed?
Well, for me, it’s when I start spiraling in misery and barking at everyone nearby, as if my emotional and spiritual well-being depends on their cooperation.
Yes, it’s hard not to become wise in our own eyes, when little people are coming to us constantly for the solution to problems. (And, I mean, they are really eeeeeasy problems to solve.) But if we’re falling apart over something as easy as putting sheets in the washer, are we really that much more mature?
Who’s acting childish here?
The point is, I have been feeling very discontented lately. And I want to confess that publicly, because I finally realize the ugly sin which is hiding at the root of my bad attitude.
Our culture’s response when a mom starts confessing like this is to pile on encouragement to reassure the mom that she meant well.
“Yes, you DO work hard.”
“Yes, it IS frustrating when no one obeys your good laws.”
“Yes, your kids and husband SHOULD appreciate you more.”
But, this only serves to feed the sense of Superiority, so it ultimately leaves us feeling worse…
Our discontentment grows as we feel trapped in an unfair situation where everyone knows we deserve better, but they just can’t give it to us because they’re SINNERS. So the best we can do is try to forgive them for failing to make Motherhood as fun as it could feel, if everyone worked harder.
The only way to stop the pride cycle is to call it what it is and ask God for help keeping it in check.
Again, completing a long list of humble jobs every day won’t automatically lead to godly humility. Sometimes it leads to bitterness and self-righteousness, when we spend all our time meditating on how much better our lives would be, if we didn’t have to deal with OTHER PEOPLE’S sins.
Lord, help me let go of my Superiority and be lowly in spirit.
Help me recognize all the ways I’ve let pride take over my subconscious, especially when the culture likes to insist there’s such a thing as good/healthy/necessary pride. Weed out my self-righteousness and replace it with godly humility, to set my household free of this monster.
Set us free from the Tyranny of my Flesh.
Lord, you are infinitely more deserving of the recognition than I am. (Look at what an angry, graceless god I become, over the smallest stuff!) Please forgive my arrogance and give me another chance to be HUMBLED by my role, rather than continuing to spin in the cycle of pride and bitterness.