While spending time with my husband and brother recently, I said: “I don’t know if either of you know this, but I can sometimes be a bit rigid.” They laughed, because it’s true. I laughed, because it’s true. It was a good, lighthearted moment.
But now, a few days later, when reflecting on that rare time spent together (my brother lives several states away and was with us for a brief visit), I realize that even my ability to say that, and then to laugh about it, is actually a marker of a significant amount of growth over the past couple of years.
Some of the pieces of my past have led me to tend toward wanting to control as many variables as possible in my life. Things not going according to plan used to have the ability to send me into a spiral of anxiety. I’ve been doing a lot of work to dig deep into these things in order to not pass them along to my children.
I used to measure success by how many things I accomplished on my to-do list, and whether the kids and I got everything done by sticking to my self-imposed schedule.
Emphasizing the Wrong Things
I’ve been learning, sometimes through fire, that all those things, like getting tasks accomplished when I hoped, or even getting everything done at all, puts an overemphasis on the things of this world, including time, productivity, and what I perceive to be ‘good’ behavior from my kids. I was in danger of sometimes falling into the trap of thinking “My kids are well behaved, so I must be doing a good job as a mom.”
It didn’t leave a lot of room for flexibility, or mistakes, or, the most important of all, all of our journeys to, hopefully, sainthood.
My ultimate goal as a mother is to help my children grow into the people God created them to be. To become the saint God intends them to be.
So I’ve been working very hard to flip my normal tendencies on their head. How about, instead of seeing a conflict between the kids as some kind of failure, I see it as an opportunity to teach them how to apologize, forgive, and then make amends. To take a moment of sin or selfishness and support them in facing it head on and doing the hard work to overcome it.
Sticking to a schedule or having everything go exactly according to plan is of such small importance compared to their souls.
A New Way to Measure Success
At the end of the day, I’m working toward measuring success in an entirely different way than I have in the past. Instead of asking if everything went according to my plan, I’m trying a new question.
And that question is this: “Did I support my children in their journey toward becoming the people God created them to be?”
Even if the kids fought every ten minutes. Even if the kitchen is a mess. Even if we only got math done and nothing else for homeschool. Even if I’m exhausted. I want to see my kids in heaven. I want them to go off into the world one day loving God and seeking Him all the days of their lives. That is, unequivocally, the most important thing.
There are so many messages bombarding us mothers these days about what “good” motherhood looks like. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of comparing, of pushing to do more, of measuring up to some standard of success someone else has set for us or that we’ve set for ourselves.
An Example in the Saints
If anyone else struggles with rigidity, or the great tendency to view the immediate moment as the most important thing, please know you aren’t alone. It’s hard, when we’re in this skin and inside of time, to maintain a view of the eternal.
Even Saint Zélie, mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, had bad days. In one of her letters, she writes: “Oh well, that’s the day so far, and it’s still only noon. If this continues I will be dead by this evening! You see, at the moment, life seems so heavy for me to bear, and I don’t have the courage because everything looks black to me.”
But she also said this: “For me, our children were a great compensation, so I wanted to have a lot of them in order to raise them for Heaven.” And she did raise her children for heaven.
That is success as a parent. That is the ultimate goal. May we ask God for the grace to see each and every day in light of the eternal, and do the same.
Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Mom.