Dear Father Joe: I feel like a mom who is constantly failing.
Dear Father Joe: I don’t know how to deal with all the pressure I am feeling. I love my kids and husband so much, but I am constantly tired trying to get them to school and their practices on time.
I am so sorry for what you are dealing with. Please, please know that you are not failing. Do you know how I know? You care. You are clearly all in. It is my fervent hope that I can help you here by offering you these words and thoughts.
I believe that the key is to know that Jesus sees you. I really believe this. C.S. Lewis pointed out in one of his writings that God doesn’t just see what we do, He sees our context. He sees the demands and our desire to meet those demands. In the same way that you can see the efforts your kids put into things, He sees your efforts and treasures them, not because of your level of accomplishment but because of the love and effort you put into your vocation.
When we engage in the effort to know and rejoice in the fact that Jesus sees us, we will find it easier to free ourselves of our unjust internal demands.
With that, I’d like to move into some practical means for you to address the pressure you feel. As we fight the internal battle to trust that God sees and treasures us, we also need to look at the expectations we set for ourselves.
For example, what is your standard for you to be a “good mom”? What do you need to do or be in order to be at peace with your efforts? A lot of our expectations for ourselves come from what we experienced as a child or grandchild. We look at how mom and grandma did it and attempt to meet that standard. I’d like to explore that for a minute with a personal example.
In 2001, I was talking to a retired priest. I was sharing with him the constant pressure I felt with all the needs presented to me each day. I found then what I’m learning to be more comfortable with now — I simply will never be able to do all that is asked of me.
His response shocked me. He shared that his first many years as a priest were in many ways “easy and wonderful.” He said that there were more priests, fewer Catholics, and lower expectations of priests. He literally told me he did not think he could be a pastor in today’s world.
That was important for me to learn. I couldn’t live priesthood like he did because I wasn’t serving when he was. I know it sounds overly simple, but I invite you to really think about it because this is important.
My mom always pointed out that one of the reasons she and Dad were able to have a large family is because they had their own parents, brothers, and sisters nearby. They were never without help. The fact is, a majority of Americans live far from their parents and siblings. The result ends up being unlivable — do everything your grandma did with very few of the tools she had.
Not only that, but things are different with your kids’ experience of life, too. When I was in school, people recognized that sports just aren’t that important. Now, if your child plays a sport, it is all-consuming — a monstrous entity that requires a whole community to adjust its time and life to the growing demands. I would think that the internal and external pressure comes from how over-committed our kids are and how we have come to believe that kids need to be “all in” on sports and that mom and dad need to be at every event. In our efforts to love well, we end up unintentionally convincing our children that they are the center of the universe. That’s not good for anyone.
I invite you in this moment to pause and to thank God that He sees you. Rejoice in how deeply you are loved, how proud our God is of you, and how His love is not based on your success but fidelity. Ask God for the wisdom to know what He is really expecting of you — not the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself. Then, do your best to do what you have discerned is God’s will for your life and your family. That is what God wants for us — not the impossible standards of the world but the loving and merciful plans He has for our lives.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence!