I need to admit something. I have mom guilt. A lot. I put way too much pressure on myself in regards to raising my children. I thought I was doing better in that department, but recently it’s come to light that I still have a ways to go.
Here’s what happened.
I’ve always been a stickler for a good bedtime routine for my kiddos. Brush your teeth and wash your face every night and get to bed by midnight. I have teenagers so mid-night is early, like really early.
Quality sleep happens before midnight. I remind my kids of this every night. “Did ya read that on Google?” my oldest loves to taunt. No, I didn’t, as a matter of fact. It’s just basic knowledge that my mom passed down, and they didn’t have Google back then. She probably read it in Woman’s Day magazine in the 50’s or maybe her mom told her. Anyway, everyone knows it. Midnight is the official cut off.
So when summer rolled around and my teenage boys started staying up all hours, it unnerved me…a lot. Even though they were temporarily relieved of their academic duties and the pandemic made going just about anywhere impossible, they should still be getting their rest.
One morning, as I entered the kitchen, the boys smiled and proudly announced that they had not yet gone to bed for the night. I was aghast. My husband? He found it hilarious.
Do you know what my next thought was? I kid you not, my next thought was…ju-vee. Yes, the next logical step after staying up all night in the summer playing video games is ju-vee. Juvenile detention—the incarceration of teenage hoodlums.
I agree it may not be a direct link from A to B, but as I saw it, they were well on their way unless they turned things around. My oldest son assured me it would take him one day, one 24-hour period, to turn his sleep schedule around for the start of school. I’m gonna check Google. I don’t think that’s physically possible.
I admit, even for me, it was a drastic leap, but just the fact that it crossed my mind shows me I have more work to do. I’m worrying all the time! And my boys are far from criminals. Unless playing the tuba in the middle school band is a precursor to crime, I think my 13-year-old is doing ok. And my oldest son? He is rocking high school and has one more year left before he attends college. I don’t see life on the streets in his near future either.
I just want my kids to be healthy functioning adults that contribute positively to society. And for that, they need their rest, rest that occurs before midnight preferably and clean teeth and washed faces.
But you know what? If I’m being honest, I don’t think I was worried that my children were one click away from a life of crime. Nor was it about clean teeth and faces. In fact, I don’t think it was about them at all. I think it was about me and what their actions said about me.
I have certain expectations for my children, for their own good, of course, but I tend to use those same expectations as a way to judge my performance. Their grades, their accomplishments, their habits—all signs as to how I’m faring as a parent. And if I’m failing as a parent, I’m failing as a human being.
I realized that what I actually feared that morning in the kitchen was judgment—other people finding out that my boys were staying up late playing video games, goofing off and enjoying summer break, instead of training for a marathon or starting up their own lawn care business or traveling abroad like I imagined other teens were doing.
It was about my fear of failure and my fear of what others would think of me if they found out. But you know what? I don’t really care that my kids are relaxing and enjoying their summer break. They are great kids and even though I rarely say it, I think I am a pretty decent mom.
I still think I’m right about the quality sleep before midnight thing, but I also agree that I need to relax more and trust God more and stay off Facebook more. It doesn’t matter what other kids are doing, and it doesn’t matter how I “rank” against other parents.
My worth is not based on what time my teenagers go to bed, or if they floss or wear clean undies. It’s not about their grades or their choice in friends. It’s not connected to my children’s performance at all. It is founded in God’s love for me. God’s love for us.
And you know what? Since my kids are all awake and starving at midnight and my husband and I sound asleep, they have learned how to make pancakes and they take turns being the “chef.” It wasn’t how I imagined them learning to cook, but whatever it takes, right?
So for all the moms out there who fear they are bad moms, I’m here to tell you that you are not. Continue to guide your children the very best you can, but more importantly give them to God. He is far more capable than we are and He doesn’t freak out when they stay up late or skip a shower. In fact, nothing they do can thwart His plans for them.
And your worth? It isn’t tied to your performance. It isn’t tied to your kids’ performance. It has already been determined. It is unwavering. So next time you start judging yourself based on your children’s actions or worrying that you are failing as a parent, take a deep breath and know that God’s got this and you are deeply loved.
“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Is 43:1-2 NIV
Amy, I loved your provocative blog! You nailed how parents often feel (especially moms) regarding their children being a reflection of them, but realizing that we are all very different. Made me think, even though my kids are way grown and out of the nest! I so enjoy your writing!
Thank you, Karen, for your thoughtful words! Your support means the world to me.