Dear MOB Society,
I’m at my whit’s end. I get to be a work-at-home mom, which I thought would be an amazing way to stay super involved in my children’s lives. As it turns out, I think it might be less stressful to leave the house! I simply can’t get it all done, and I feel like just quitting everything. I’m such a failure. Can you help?

 small boy from washer

Have you ever been tense and rigid and feel as if you’re going to break if one more responsibility is placed upon your shoulders? Do your boys do regular boy things: running, jumping, sword-fighting, and trailing mud through your kitchen . . . and you snap? Your voice comes out in a roar. Lightening bolts shoot from your eyes, and you make some unreasonable demand, such as, “If you make one more sound, no snacks for the rest of the month!” (And both you and your sons know you’re being completely unrealistic.)

I’ve been this person before tense, rigid, under so much pressure that I felt as if one more feather-tipped-arrow-stuck-in-the-tree will make me crack. The problem starts with unrealistic expectations about my schedule.

  1. I become rigid, thinking I should be able to do more than is humanly possible. This is where tension comes from: me trying to do too much with too little time.
  2. And then I beat myself up when I fail. I give myself a hard time for not being able to achieve what was impossible to achieve in the first place. (Can you relate?)

The answer is being more flexible with what I expect I can do in my day. How? Here are four ways:

  1. Give myself grace just as God gives me grace. Why do I insist on being harder on myself than God is? It only brings fretting. I not only withhold grace from myself. I also withhold it from others. I pack my schedule full because I think that’s what will bring me worth. Yet, when I give myself grace—when I see myself as God does (already worthy)—things change. Grace means knowing I’m not perfect—I’ll never be perfect—but I am loved. It’s knowing God has a good and perfect plan for me and my family. Seeing myself this way completely changes my day. I don’t need to perform because I’m already enough.
  2. Praise my family. If I want help from my husband and kids, I need to affirm their efforts, even if those efforts are not what I consider perfect. My sons get discouraged when they try to help and I tell them it’s not good enough. If I’m causing my kids to stress over my unrealistic expectations, then I’m creating rigid little people who are brittle and break easily too! When I praise my family for their efforts throughout the day there is joy in service. And joy trails peace right behind it.
  3. Choose to be intentional. Being intentional means asking a few questions:
    —What is the most important thing that I need to accomplish today?
    —What do I need to do to accomplish it?
    —What do I need to “let go” to accomplish what’s more important?
    —What do I need to cut from my daily to-do list to make time for the most important things?
    In the war between rigidity and intentionality I replay this phrase in my mind: “Set yourself up for success, not failure.” When I understand what I need to release in order to achieve what’s most important, then I’m making wise choices, right choices. I’m choosing my path, instead of letting the path veer off in its own direction.
  4. Keep a godly attitude . . . in spite of life. True success comes when things don’t turn out as planned. When the house is a mess, the kids act up, I miss a deadline, somehow I’m able to keep a godly attitude that makes it a successful day. It’s then I realize this journey isn’t about one day, one moment. This journey is about love, faithfulness, obedience, and service for the long haul. Keeping a godly attitude makes me flexible because it gives God room to work when I’m at the end of myself. All of us come to the place where we cannot be flexible and realistic on our own . . . that’s when it’s important to turn to God. When we have Him, He will remind us what’s truly important in our day.

Do you want to be more balanced, more flexible? Check out my new book, Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-home Mom.

Tricia Goyer

This post is part of our first series of 2014, Hope for the Messiness of Motherhood. Find all of the posts in this series here.

The entire month of January 2014, the MOB Society (for mothers of boys) will be offering hope for the messiness of motherhood as they address real reader's feelings of failure as a mom. Join us!