“Mommy never plays with us because she is always getting ready.”

Ouch.

Those were the words my 4-year-old told my husband yesterday as they were playing on the bed in the midst of a tickle fight.

Words like that cut deep. When I heard them my heart sank.

At first I became a bit defensive. I was NOT always getting ready. I DID play with them. I was ready to fight my 4-year-old on that.

Then not long after, an immense amount of guilt covered my heart. Guilt that was quickly turning to shame. Words like I am not doing this right, I am not good enough at this, and I am a bad mom began to consume me.

If I let those statements stay there and if I let the shame continue, the words my daughter said of me would just be more words that bring me into a state of self defeat.

I had a choice.

The words were not to be ignored. But they weren’t to give me shame, either.

I thought for a while. What could she possibly mean by “always getting ready”? I haven’t showered in two days, I take about five minutes to make myself presentable in the morning, and I’m currently still wearing my bath robe (no bath was taken) so clearly she isn’t talking about getting myself ready. Then I thought about when we are getting ready to go somewhere. I realized this phrase was used more often at this time. Mommy’s getting ready to go. Mommy has to get the bag ready. Mommy has to get the snacks ready. Mommy has to get baby ready. Mommy has to get dinner ready.

Yes, it’s true. Mommy IS always getting ready, isn’t she?

You got me, little one.

The truth is, I do have to “get ready” for quite a few things in a day. The truth also remains, my daughter wants me to play with her.

With these realities in mind, I begin to form a plan. A plan that involves more playing with my 4-year-old. A plan that looks forward to being the best mom I can be. Not because I was a bad mom before for “always getting ready”—but because I’m never perfect but always striving to meet the needs of my little ones. If one of them asks for more playtime with Mama, I’m not going to allow guilt to overtake me. But I am going to allow myself to learn, to grow, and to listen to the ones who are counting on me.

Sometimes our 4-yearolds call us out. Sometimes it’s legit, sometimes it’s totally off the map (they ARE four, after all). Either way, we should always be mamas with ears that hear, mamas who grow and learn, and mamas who protect their own hearts. We don’t need to fear the fact that we have been doing something wrong, we only need to fear a heart that can’t be grown.

We will never be perfect mamas, but we can always be mamas who work at being the best for their little ones. Instead of allowing such statements to shame us, we can allow them to shape us into mamas who continue to care, listen, and most of all love.

You may also like:

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I’m Not a Perfect Mom, But I’m Raising Happy Kids

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Esther Vandersluis

Esther is a Canadian writing from Hamilton, Ontario, living in a sea of pink as a girl mom to three. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/beautifulalarm) where you will find writing for stay-at-home moms, moms with littles, sleep-deprived moms, moms feeding babies, and babies with failure to thrive, all under the umbrella of faith in Jesus Christ.