When You Feel Like A Less-Than Mother
“Lara, I think you’ve lost some weight.”
My mother-in-law’s words were a stake in my heart, though I know they were never meant to be. I finished zipping my jacket over my tiny baby bump. “Really? Maybe it’s just this jacket making it look that way,” I lied.
She verbalized the fear I had pushed away all week. I’m not gaining the weight I’m supposed to.
Nine weeks into pregnancy, morning sickness came. Though I had not thrown up yet, each morning I was greeted with nausea that stayed with me all day. For most, this would be considered easy—at least you aren’t throwing up everything you try to eat. But for me, the mere thought of vomiting was crippling.
My fears of throwing up are what started my life-long journey of anxiety. After my first experience with the flu as a young girl, the thought of vomiting gave me a visceral reaction. I would collapse into panic attacks—crying, screaming, sweating, shaking—anytime my stomach began to get that gurgling feeling. This fear became so strong that at times I refused to eat at all so I wouldn’t have something in my stomach to throw up.
The car ride with my mother-in-law was quiet as I nibbled a saltine. This is not what I pictured pregnancy to be like. Pregnancy was supposed to be exciting, full of pleasant surprises and sweet kicks in my belly. Instead, mine was filled with misery—reminders of the anxiety I had yet to conquer 15 years later as a grown woman. I felt like a weak child again, helpless to a fear that still held me in its grips.
God, why can’t I be free from this, even still? I prayed to myself, wondering and questioning with each silent plea: If I can’t conquer this anxiety, am I really ready for motherhood? How will I raise a courageous child, who can trust God in the unknown, meanwhile I still fight against this anxiety?
Momma, are you afraid that you don’t have it “together enough” to be a mom? Do you already feel like a failure when you see the put-together moms around you? Do you look at their perfectly still children sitting in the pews and feel like giving up?
Aside from my fears of throwing up, I have many other reasons to feel like a failure compared to my fellow mom friends. But God is giving me a new hope in him, and teaching me to stop looking around at others and start looking at him.
The Joy-Robbing Comparisons
It is a gift to be in a church with fellow mothers who love God and desire to raise their children according to his Word. It’s a joy to come alongside of them and to learn from their years of mothering, both by discussion and simply watching. We see in Titus 2 that this is God’s good intentions for the women in the body of Christ—that the older women would disciple and teach the younger.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5 ESV).
Sadly, we have the tendency to turn that joyful gift into despairing heartache by comparing rather than learning. Rather than looking up to these women, we begin to despise and envy them in our hearts because we do not measure up. We compare our children, our words, our methods, and our choices to see whether we did better or worse. This creates for competition rather than fellowship, and exhausted sadness rather than joy.
This is what our sinful hearts are inclined to do. But we must train them according to God’s Word. Rather than giving way to despairing comparison, we should strive to learn from one another as God intended, and encourage one another in Christ. It’s not a competition but a relay race of passing the baton to the next generation, cheering on those who are still running, and learning from those who have years of training under their belts.
The Only Life-Giving Comparison
There is only one we should be comparing ourselves to in every aspect of our journey: Christ. Comparing ourselves to other women can lead to pride. But when we compare ourselves to Christ, we see ourselves rightly: An imperfect sinner who can never measure up. We realize that no matter how hard we strive, we will never meet his standard of perfection. Maybe with enough striving we could come close to matching our friends, but we will never match Christ in his blamelessness.
Instead of despair, this comparison should bring us joy as we remember the gospel. Christ died for imperfect people. He died for moms who would yell at their children, who would become annoyed with their chatter, and who would make poor choices. He died for sinful women like us. And he rose again, paving the way for us to rise to new life with him. He lived, died, and rose in perfection because we could not. And though we are totally undeserving of it, he accredits his righteousness to our account, as if we lived it.
When we trust in Jesus’ work on the cross and repent of our sins, he renews our hearts and give us the Holy Spirit so that we can obey him. Our new desire is not to strive to look like that put-together mom in the pew in front of us, but to look like Christ in order to glorify him.
If you are stuck in the game of comparison among the women in your church, remember the gospel. Preach this to your heart. Begin comparing yourself to Christ. In every aspect of your parenting, your goal is not to look like your friends, but to look like Christ. To lead your child gently as Christ leads the church. To teach them to repent of their sins and turn to Christ. This is your goal, momma.
The Sweet Tension
I stared out the window of the car, watching the evergreens pass by.
There was a sweetness to this tension of still struggling with my anxiety even now as a soon-to-be mom. As much as I hated the fear and wanted to be free from it, it was a constant reminder that I will never be a perfect mom. There’s no “getting it together” before baby comes. I am a weak and sinful human being who will always struggle, and so will my sweet baby. In those times of weakness, my baby doesn’t need a put-together-mom. My baby will need Jesus. And in spite of my own limitations and how much carrying a baby has reminded me of them, my anxiety has also been the reminder that in all my imperfections, I can point my baby to the Perfect Saviour.
Originally written for Strength & Song by Lara d’Entremont.