Last week somebody asked me to describe what it means to feel inadequate as a mom.
Somebody, I should add, who does not have children.
I didn’t know what to say.
It wasn’t an awkward question, considering it came in context of shooting a testimonial video for church. Inadequacy is what I live and breathe—this imperfect mommy existence, the one I wrestle with and fight for, love and lament, the life around which I’ve built a ministry and a fire in my gut.
But how could I explain all of that to someone who hasn’t lived it or walked closely alongside it, and therefore couldn’t possibly understand?
Truth is, I’m not so sure I understand it myself.
How do I describe how my heart aches just to gaze at two beautiful faces, a reflection of God’s image with their mother’s nose and Daddy’s chin, and wonder if I’m giving too much attention to my to-do list and not enough to their chatter and their questions and their silly made-up songs.
Or those moments when impatience bubbles up my chest and spews out my mouth in harsh words. How on my worst days I think they’d be better off with a mom who doesn’t yell.
Or the hours I just want to shove cotton in my ears and curl on the sofa with a novel instead of peeling oranges on demand and breaking up sibling fights. Is it terrible to confess that sometimes I just wish the noise would stop?
When repeat commands to brush your teeth now go unceremoniously ignored and my voice has no strength or authority. Then all it takes is one word from Dad and everybody’s lining up at the sink like soldiers. What the heck?
Inadequacy? Really? Doesn’t it start from the moment a child slips into this world, rooting for a milk supply that never comes, staring unfocused at a post-partum crazy woman who can’t stop the tears from leaking down her cheeks. A child whose desperate mother orders any expert baby book off Amazon that claims a no-fail method for shushing, soothing, feeding and sleeping.
Did I really want to divulge how often I cried on the sofa with a wide-eyed child in my arms, blaming myself for my own fatigue? Or the panic that gripped me while standing at the bay window waving bye-bye to Dad, swallowing butterflies down my throat, wondering how oh how was I going to do this alone.
Yes, I survived the endless, isolating routine of diapers, potty stops, crust cutting and boo-boo kissing. I battled the guilt of rolling Play-Doh, sliding down Chutes and Ladders, reading Brown Bear for the sixteenth time and not enjoying it as much as I thought a good mom should.
Then one day my firstborn grew into a lanky school girl learning to eat lunch away from home, learning to respond with grace when a friend insults her hair or her glasses. A whole new era of parenting envelops me now, and the best I can do is equip my dear ones with Bible verses about courage and kindness when really I just want to sit in the shrimpy desk beside my child and absorb every shock, deflect every cruelty, hug away every insecurity and heartache.
And you know what?
It’s not a bad thing.
Because a sense of limitation, of lacking, only reminds me that I can’t do this alone. I need God—to teach me, hold me, empower me, fill me, and to care for my children in ways I cannot.
After all, these little people are not just mine. They’re his. They’re on loan to me. God himself has assigned me the privilege of raising them.
He always knew I’d need his help.
Why should I expect otherwise?
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him,” (Philippians 2:13, NLT).
Isn’t that good news? When God gives us a job to do, he will also give us the tools to see it through. I’m still learning how to wield mine most days—peace, patience, kindness, self-control. And even though I had a hard time explaining all of that to my child-clueless video friend, I find comfort in knowing God needs no explanation.
My Heavenly Father understands me.
He understands you.
He knows our children, their every thought and need.
So where we run short, he overflows.
That’s the beauty of being inadequate.