I know a woman who can be very difficult to be around. The truth is, sometimes I just can’t stand her. She has been short-tempered with my kids and dismissive and rude to my husband. She loses her patience, tends to overreact, and can be really defensive. Yet, I still love her. Over the years, I have learned how important it is to forgive this woman on a regular basis.
You see, that woman is me.
Growing up, I had many aspirations. I imagined becoming a teacher and then went through a phase when I just knew I was going to be a veterinarian. I dreamed of becoming a best-selling author and also of playing basketball in the WNBA. While my professional dreams changed several times throughout my youth, there was one dream that stayed consistent from the time I was a little girl.
I always knew I wanted to become a mom.
After a frustrating and painful year of wondering when or if this dream would ever come true, two pink lines finally appeared on a pregnancy test. I was over the moon. While I was pregnant with my first son, I fantasized about what motherhood would be like. I imagined spending hours together in the rocking chair, he and I blissfully taking in the wonder of each other. I imagined sweet toddler giggles and the memories we would make together playing in the backyard and at the park. I pictured the milestones and the birthdays and adding a brother or sister to our growing family. I just knew motherhood would fit me like a comfy pair of slippers.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine crying my eyes out when my husband left for work because I had to spend another day on my own with a colicky baby who seemingly couldn’t be comforted.
Never did I imagine the intense guilt I would feel mixing up a bottle of formula in a room full of breastfeeding mamas when my own plan to exclusively breastfeed didn’t work out.
Never did I picture becoming so frustrated with my kids I felt like a volcano about to erupt.
Never did I think I could feel so much love and yet so much resentment and pure exhaustion at the same time.
Here is the thing about motherhood. It can bring out the absolute best in us, and I wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything in the world. But at times, it can also bring out the absolute worst parts of ourselves.
I wish I could say as my kids have grown, I’ve learned how to be a perfect parent. But just when I feel like I have it mostly figured out, a new age or stage arrives with unexpected challenges. I’m still learning, and I still make plenty of mistakes. I still get frustrated and lose my cool. I lie in bed at night and think about those moments during the day when I could have made wiser or kinder choices as a parent.
But in this process of loving, and failing, and growing, and failing some more, I have learned how important it is to forgive myself so I can move forward. In early motherhood, I let those moments of perceived failure overwhelm me with shame and guilt. I let those negative feelings mire me down in the muck, and it was hard to move past them.
Now, when I screw up, I apologize and ask for forgiveness from my children. Asking for and receiving forgiveness from them is like a balm to my soul and is so important. But then I take it a step further.
I look in the mirror, into the tear-filled eyes of a woman who is trying her best to love her family well, and I offer her forgiveness.
I give her the grace that as parents, we all need and long for.
I have learned to forgive myself, and it has made all the difference in the world.