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Have You Done Enough? Parenting This Side of Heaven

“Are you Mom enough?”

The title was almost more jarring than the photo that accompanied it: a young, beautiful mom breast feeding her nearly four year old, on the over of Time, 2012.

Am I Mom enough? I wondered, while inwardly the contents of my bra were wincing in a painful sympathetic reaction.

Well, let’s hope I’m Mom enough because I’m all my kids have as far as moms go. There aren’t any spares lurking in the closet, and they can’t trade me in at Walmart even if they wanted to (and threaten to).

But am I Mom enough? Really? As my kids would say, really? I mean…really?

Mom Enough

Of course not. I miss the mark nearly every day, in some mommy-ing way. I yell ten minutes after saying I won’t, I bribe good behavior when other methods fail, I snap for silence when some small fry just wants attention, I make arguments worse, I forget to be the mature one quite frequently.

I worry that they watch too much television or that they don’t get to watch enough. I wonder if the organic peas they ate for lunch will cancel out the plastic tubes of frozen high fructose corn syrup masquerading as Otter Pops in my freezer.

I fret that I am single-handedly ruining them and maybe a public school official would do their personalities justice. I worry that they’ll be abused when they go to someone else’s house to play. I worry that they have too many chores, or not enough. I worry that they won’t want to have their own kids someday because I probably don’t make it look appealing enough.

Little worries, big worries, so many worries.

But what’s the good of refusing to let high fructose corn syrup invade their bodies, if I forget to nourish their souls?

Who cares if they’ve never touched infant formula and breast fed past the typical 6 month age, if I fight with their father all day long?

Does it matter – really matter – if I choose homeschooling for the educational opportunities if I squander the time with them, resenting their constant presence?

Regardless of whether you work outside the home or not, give birth by an elective Cesarean Section or go all natural in a blow up tub in your living room, send your kids to school or keep them home, feed them organic free range food or boxes of macaroni and cheese, spend your Sundays in a mega church or in no church, or let them wear skinny jeans or demure jean skirts, the truth is it’s not really a measure of how much we love them.

Oh, it may feel like it is. But it isn’t really.

I know moms who put their kids in public school and it was a huge testimony to how much they loved them. How can that be? Well, the world in their house was falling down. The safest place to be right then, was not at home. On a less dire note, plenty of people don’t homeschool because they know it would fray an already strained relationship with their kids.

I know moms who couldn’t handle the emotional pressure of breast feeding when you added it with the postpartum depression they were already trying to cope with. Love to those babies was bought in a grocery aisle and came in a bottle (probably full of, gasp, BPA plastic).

And what about the moms who didn’t even keep their babies, instead giving them away, hoping against hope that they would find another woman who could do for their child what they could not? There’s no bigger love than that, but they, nor the stranger who took their baby in, won’t make the cover of Time magazine.

Contrarily, I know women who co-sleep, wear their babies, cloth diaper, and tandem nurse on demand, but in spite of how much it appeared they had it all together, they were failing in other areas. They were exhausted to the point of hospitalization or their marriages were falling apart.

Something has to give.

Always.

Why?

Because we are on this side of Heaven.

Parenting This Side of Heaven

We all know children are different, and so are moms. Why do we try to force ourselves to be like one another? My child is nothing like your child and you are nothing like me.

I don’t really care if you nursed your three year old, and I don’t mind telling you I gave up on cloth diapers by the third baby.

It’s not a pre-requisite for my friends to have taken the Bradley Method of childbirth classes, nor is it necessary to hide the non-organic fruit when I stop over. I won’t ask you to use a nursing cover up around my kids because that’s your choice, and I hope you won’t panic if Guns and Roses is on in my minivan when I drive your kids somewhere.

Sometimes I get carried away by these Mommy Wars myself. I was teetering on attachment parenting when I had my first baby, eighteen years ago; interested in natural birthing, holistic medicines, and other granola, extra-crunchy ways of life. I was the only woman in my circle of friends who decided to have a home birth.

I was told my baby would die and it would be my fault.

I was one of the only ones to breast fed, at all, much less to the one year mark. I remember sitting on the floor of the church bathroom, trying to nurse in a nasty environment, while all the other new mommies got to sit around in public, cheerfully feeding with bottles.

I felt so left out.

Years later I spoke to one of those moms and she said that was a terrible time for her too: she felt horribly guilty for not breastfeeding. Of course, we were all too insecure at the time to just admit those feelings.

Soon thereafter, after extensive research, I decided not to vaccinate, and I lost friends. Once again, none of these friends ever said a word to me…they just faded away and I didn’t know why until nearly a decade later.

We knew girls were cruel in middle school, but what we sometimes forget is: those girls grew up.

And they became us.

Loving Imperfectly

As Christians, we should be above this sort of petty rivalry. Yes, co-sleeping may be your love language and that’s amazingly wonderful. Enjoy it! But it won’t make your children into adults who automatically help the elderly cross the streets.

Breastfeed for years if that’s what floats your boat, but your baby isn’t getting a free pass to Heaven because of her extra strong immune system. Snack on GMO free treats all day long, but they won’t grow your child’s ability to love the lost.

I guess what I’m saying is: it’s all well and good. It’s pure and lovely, when not taken to extremes.

But this world is not our home anyway…and at the end of it, I don’t care if my kids are sugar free, chubby or thin, full of cow’s milk or breast milk, homeschooled or not, tattooed or ultra-modest, have a college degree or not, I just want them for all eternity.

I want them polite and kind, self controlled and smart, brave and adventurous, loving and gentle, full of dreams and cookies, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Wait, that’s Superman. Able to build tall buildings then; you know, if that’s their thing. Or topple them. Or deliver pizzas. It doesn’t matter to me.

Because I loved them with a flawed, imperfect love and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

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