On Rejecting Being Enough in Favor of Love

Dear Beth,

My mom died today.

Sigh…so why am I writing to you? I have been thinking about it ever since you started your 40 Days of Grace series. To honor my mom by writing to someone who speaks for moms, to moms. Someone who speaks to broken moms, to tired and weary moms. To those of us who are up in the night comforting our babies, chasing away monsters and kissing hurts. Those of us who love our children with all our heart but just know we are messing them up somehow.

I don’t have an answer, Beth. But I have a perspective. A perspective of a not so perfect mom. One who found herself single with 2 kids and a broken heart. A mom who cried for days, weeks and maybe even months when her husband left. There have been times in my life where I thought that defined her and her ability to parent.

But I was wrong.

Sixteen months ago when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I started reexamining things. Looking at my mom, what kind of mom she was, what she did for me.

What I found…was me.

All the fears I have, all the times I feel I have failed as a parent or yelled at my kids too much or let them go a week without taking a bath. When I let them eat Poptarts and drink soda and watch too much television, I just know I can do better but sometimes it is so hard. That was my mom. Trying so hard to be the best parent she could be but always struggling with feelings of not doing enough.

I am not alone in my journey as a mom, but my mom was. When I think of my mom during that time, I remember her getting up every morning and reading her Bible while she drank coffee. Then she would get ready for the day, make our lunches, get us up and out the door to school. She would then go to work herself. She would come home to a messy house and dinner to fix and kids to help with homework and get them to bed. She did this day after day, and on weekends she got to do the yard work and laundry and grocery shopping. Sometimes she cried through it or yelled through it or got impatient with us. But she did it. Every single day. My mom was there, present and participating in my life. And I knew. I knew I was safe and loved and that she would always be there for me, no matter what.

Your blog speaks to my heart in so many ways. And comments from other moms who are trying to hold it together shows me I am not alone in my struggles.

My mom told me a couple of months ago that she didn’t feel she did enough for me. That she should have been a better mother.

How many times have I thought with this my own children? That I am not doing enough. That I fail them all the time.

But I have had a lot of time over the past 16 months to think about this. And what I was honestly able to answer my mom? I am who I am because of her. Because of her love and sacrifice for me.

So now, when I am in the trenches and I wonder if I am doing any good at all, I think of my mom and I know my kids will be okay. They will be okay because I am okay. They will be okay because I had a mom who taught me how to be a mom. It was messy and hard but she did it.

She wasn’t a perfect mom but that didn’t stop her from being the best.

She was.

And I will miss her every day.

Kristin

 

Oh, Kristin.

Oh, friends.

I just…

I am undone.

This letter is such a gift. And I can truly think of no better way to honor a mama than to release other mamas from the chains of “enoughness” that bind us.

I spent Monday in bed.

I was so tired.

So tired.

I got the kids off to school and then I looked at my coffee maker and it all was just too much. Too much effort to measure out the coffee. Too much effort to remain upright. 

So, even though the dishes were piled to the ceiling and the laundry was even higher and there was writing to do and a shower to take and dinner to plan and kids’ schedules to review and bills to pay and messages to respond to, I went back to bed.

I climbed into bed and I pulled my not-so-clean comforter over my head, and I slept.

I woke up at 10:00, and then I said, “Fuck it,” and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 11:45, and felt panicked and guilty, and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 1:15, and leapt out of bed, ashamed of myself. Fully rested for the first time in weeks, and deeply ashamed.

“You’re a waste of breath today,” I said to myself, and that’s when I caught myself.

Because if any of you had remained in bed for a day, I would have championed you and congratulated you and said, “JOB WELL DONE, mama,” and I would’ve meant it down to the tips of my toes and beyond.

But grace for me? That is much harder to give.

And so I’ve spent these past few days thinking – again – about what it means to be enough. And, geez, I know I am SUCH a broken record about this. It’s just that this illusion of being enough and doing enough and am I mom enough? creeps up on me when I’m not watching. When I’m not keeping active vigil. When I let down my defenses and forget to be a friend to myself. To be kind. To be affirming. To be forgiving. To treat myself like I’m a human being, flawed and fabulous, and worthy of endless love.

My friend, Heidi, put a message on my Facebook wall today. She wrote, “Beth, thank you. Whatever you are dealing with that makes you sometimes wish things were different (as we all do at times), I’m so glad you are exactly you with your exact life because what you are putting out there is GOLD. It is so needed. And it can’t be faked. Thank you for the virtual beer and actual laughs tonight–the divine is pouring through you.”

And after I stopped sitting with my head bowed at my computer, humbled and touched and incredibly grateful for silly people who take the time to be unreasonably kind, I wrote her back. “I’ve been struggling again with “enoughness” lately. Being enough. Doing enough. And I’m especially grateful right now for your reminder to put “enough” aside and recognize, instead, the divine which flows through us all.”

Which is the exact moment that Kristin’s letter pinged in my inbox, and why I fell to pieces, and why I wrote:

Oh, Kristin.

Oh, friends.

I just…

I am undone.

I am not here to sell you on God, folks. I know some of you believe in God, and some of you don’t, and I figure it’s God’s job to convince you, not mine. So whatever. But I am totally, completely, unabashedly convinced it’s my job — my calling — to remind us we are, every last one of us, loved. Made in Love’s image. Worthy of abiding Love. Called by Love to be love to one another. And to ourselves.

This is the antidote to the relentless pounding of enoughness; that we allow Love to enter in.

Can we honor Kristin’s mama today by doing that? By allowing Love a way in?

Marilyn

In Loving Memory
Marilyn Williams
August 4, 1944 – February 1, 2014

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
27 comments
  1. […] Which is where we often find ourselves, isn’t it? Inside this pressure cooker, self-imposed and otherwise, to Be More. To Do More so that we ARE More. To quiet the demons of Not Enough.  […]

  2. […] someone who’s struggled sometimes with being enough and other times with being way, WAY too much, I find that the people I’m closest to are those […]

  3. Wow. Just wow. Thank you, Kristin. Thank you, Beth. I needed to hear this today.

  4. Amen.
    xoxox

  5. Thank you, Kristin and Beth. Kristin, I felt I was reading my own story as I read yours. Thank you for reminding me that I need to tell my mom how amazing she is, before the chance is taken from me. Big hug for you, and for Beth.

  6. Kristin. Beth.

  7. Thank you. Just, thank you both.

  8. Oh, Beth. I could have sent you this letter, and I SO feel your response. That was my Mom, and it’s coming up two years since she died. So many days I feel un-done and not enough. But her example leads me to be present and there for my boys, no matter how hard it is.

  9. Oh, I try so hard to not cry at work.

    I was (once again) lamenting that I. CANNOT. DO. ALL. THE. THINGS. Just today, in fact. And absolutely dreading that my son’s friend is coming over this afternoon to work on their science project. And I got up early to clean some of our slop because this boy’s house is beautiful, and clean. And I texted the boy’s mom to nail down our plans and it went like this:
    Me: So, do we need to pick him up, or is he coming over at 5? And my house is disgusting, I clean on Saturdays, and I wasn’t home on Saturday….I can’t keep up with my guys.
    Her: He can go home with (my son) and I will pick him up at 5 from your house if that works. Cathie, really know that I don’t care, or have any judgement about how your house looks. I know and feel that pressure from a lot of people in this town, too (the phony ones.) Your real, down to earth, un-phony friends don’t care and you can count me as one of them.
    Me: I love you.

    I don’t know who would ever judge her….she is adorable and her house is beautiful. But that’s part of the grace thing, isn’t it? Why can’t I extend that to myself?
    And the mom thing….Oh my-I am looking at my mom in a totally different light. She had 5 kids and a sick husband, and she was THERE every day, doing what she had to do. This post has helped me feel a little more forgiving of her “moments.”
    As usual, you rock.

  10. So beautiful. So poignant. Let’s honor our mothers, ourselves, and Marilyn Williams today.

  11. Thank you Beth for the reminder to extend Grace to ourselves. I too quickly truly offer Grace to everyone else and an ridiculously hard on me. Thank you.
    Prayers and hugs to Kristin…

  12. Bless Kristin’s lovely mother.Tears even thinking about the first sentence & hoping & praying its never one i have to write myself after having already lost my father.i am glad,so glad she is finding a so called “silver lining” in her time of grief,i know how it is to be in the midst of such grief & I am grateful your site is allowing me to extend a “virtual shoulder” to all us who have dealt with Kristin’s pain.

  13. Beth: can I just say; I love you. Kinda like a girl-crush, only not the creepy kind. The divine IS flowing through you, and by touching others’ hearts the way you do with your words it continues flowing all around, making the world a much better, more wonderful place to be. Just be. I wanted to sleep today, and I was sick enough with a cold to “justify” it, but I didn’t want to “fail” my family’s never-ending needs and so I stayed up and soldiered on, but tomorrow I totally plan on saying “fuck-it” for once…the bills can wait and the kids will survive even if we are out of tortillas for one more day and I’m going to take a nap! The look in the eyes of Kristin’s Mom is so piercing it’s beautiful to know that as we struggle to do the best we can, it’s more than enough.

  14. A prayer of peace for Kristin and a thank you to you, Beth, for showing us time and time again what Love looks like.

  15. For so long, I kept pictures that I love off of my FB wall for fear of what others might think – are they judging the piles of laundry or loads of dishes in the background? I was tired of taking the strategically placed pictures and re-creating events so that we could take the pictures again without the markered up walls and finally, after following this blog for a time, I said “Fuck it.” I started capturing life as it happens – dirty floors and all. And, you know what? I’m ok with the mess. Because I know when I look back on those pictures I’ll see the smiling faces in the foreground and if I notice the background at all, it will make me remember how much of a struggle it parenthood was.

    So… Can we play a game? Can we (all of us not-enough-but-its-going-to-have-to-be-enough mamas?) I suggest we inundate Beth’s FB with pictures of our real, everyday lives. I want to see laughing kids and smiling parents and crazy pets, regardless of the dirty dishes and stray socks in the background or foreground, if my house. (Maybe for anonymity, we can FB message her a pic and she can post it on her wall and/or blog, as opposed to opening ourselves individually to criticism on FB.)

    Let’s all come together and say, “Here’s my life” and “It’s not perfect” but “It’s enough” and “I’m Ok with that.”

    1. I am SO down with that!

  16. I sit here my throat aching with unshed tears, because if I start balling my eyes out my kids are going to think Im crazy…well crazier than they already do anyway. I struggle with enoughness everyday. Between 40 hour work weeks and kids and dinners and laundry..well you all know the drill, I just lose it every now and then. I will admit it..I throw temper tantrums…2 yr old feet stomping, yelling, crying temper tantrums…because, well If I dont I might explode 🙂 Then I feel bad that my kids witness my meltdowns. I too lost my mother just 2 yrs ago. Kristin’s letter and your response makes me feel just a little bit better about my enoughness or lack there of. Thank you !

  17. Kristin,

    I’m so sorry you lost your mom. Hearing her story and yours touched my heart. Seeing her picture brought me to tears. Your mom loves you so much–you know that because of the way you feel about your own kids. Peace.

  18. I lost my dad four days ago, and my mom three years ago. In between, I became a parent to two school aged kids. I feel like I have even less leeway for messing up with them, because they had such a hard start in life, and need me to be modeling unconditional love, not freaking out and losing my temper.

    But this–yes, okay. You know what? My mom was far from perfect herself, but she loved me fiercely, and I knew it every single day. My dad came from a family of chilly distance, and he covered us with warm love. Everything I value about myself is a gift from them. What I am doing as a parent, as a wife, as a teacher, as a global citizen, will never be perfect. But it is enough.

    Thank you for the ugly cry.

  19. First, prayers for Kristin and her family. Her mother sounds like an amazing woman, and my heart breaks that she is gone.

    This “enough” thing is killing me. Every day, I look at my two kids and my wonderful husband and freak out about baby #3 that will be here in a few months. The miracle baby that wasn’t supposed to happen after my husband’s cancer. And instead of being in awe and grateful, I’m terrified because I feel that I’m not “enough” for the two I already have. My house is a mess. My kids don’t eat vegetables every day. I sometimes lose my temper. This post is a good reminder that I should take to heart, so thank you.

  20. In Loving Memory of Marilyn Williams, Amen.

  21. Thankyou. Enoughness is destroying my insides lately. As i look around what looks lije the aftermath of katrina and some other clothes tornado i think how useless am i. As i sit and play wii with my kids because dealing with the overflowing mess in my kitchen is just to much. I try to figure that the time spent with my kids is more important than being able to find clean clothes or walk with out tripping over stuff. Yet there is still the drowning feeling of utter failure of a person because it seems right now i cant get out of the hole. I cant get enough right to float. Or even to breath. Hopefully a tomorrow soon i will do better.

  22. I am, for a rare moment, speechless. But I have dropped a chunk of my heart here for Kristin and for you and for anyone who needs it. Filled with love, and aching, and understanding. So much understanding.

  23. Whenever I read a post of yours I know I am either going to laugh, cry or both. Today was the tears turn. Both the letter and your post are so well written and uplifting in a time of sadness. Your blog truly does enrich my life, and gets me thinking that I really am a kick-arse mum – because if we love our kids, we all are.

  24. I am just sitting here crying. I struggle with “enough” every day. Even though I know God and his deep abiding unconditional love for me on the cross when I didn’t deserve it. We do need the reminder to treat ourselves as we would treat others and accept grace for ourselves.

    Thank you.

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