| By Father Joe Krupp

Dear Father Joe: I Feel Like a Mom Who is Constantly Failing

I don’t know how to deal with all the pressure I am feeling. I love my kids and husband so much but I am constantly tired trying to love them, care for them and get them to school and their practices on time.

I am so sorry for what you are dealing with. Please, please know that you are not failing. Do you know how I know? You care. You are clearly all in. It is my fervent hope that I can help you here by offering you these words and thoughts.

I believe that at core, the key is to know that Jesus sees you. I really believe this. C.S. Lewis pointed out in one of his writings that God doesn’t just see what we do, he sees our context. He sees the demands and our desire to meet those demands. In the same way that you can see the efforts your kids put into things, he sees your efforts and treasures them, not because of your level of accomplishment, but because of the love and effort you put into your vocation.

I love that Jesus tells us “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall have their fill.” I urge you to think about the fact that Jesus sees your hunger and thirst and not only treasures it, but promises to fulfill it.  

When we engage in the effort to know and rejoice in the fact that Jesus sees us, we will find it easier to free ourselves of our unjust internal demands. I have prayed this prayer often: “Jesus, I believe you see me. Let that be enough for me.”

We simply have to know the love and mercy of our God for ourselves, and know that he only asks of us what we are able to give. If we cannot love and forgive ourselves and acknowledge God’s love for us, we could easily fall into the trap of dealing with our pain by inflicting it on others. We can end up being controlling and demanding people who require too much of ourselves and others. 

With that, I’d like to move into some practical means for you to address the pressure you feel.  As we fight the internal battle to trust that God sees and treasures us, we also need to look at our expectations of ourselves.

For example, what is your standard for you to be a “good mom”? What do you need to do or be in order to be at peace with your efforts? A lot of our expectations for ourselves come from what we experienced as a child or grandchild. We look at how mom and grandma did it and attempt to meet that standard. I’d like to explore that for a minute with a personal example.

In 2001, I was talking to a retired priest. I was sharing with him the constant pressure I felt with all the needs presented to me each day. I found then what I’m learning to be more comfortable with now – I simply will never be able to do all that is asked of me.

His response shocked me. He shared that his first many years as a priest were in many ways “easy and wonderful.” He said that there were more priests, fewer Catholics and lower expectations of priests. He pointed out that getting in touch with a person required a lot of work and time, so people had a lot more respect for people’s time. He said he spent most of his early priesthood “being a priest” – praying Mass, hearing confessions, growing spiritually so that he could help others do so. He literally told me he did not think he could be a pastor in today's world.

That was important for me to learn. I couldn’t live priesthood like he did because I wasn’t serving when he was. I know it sounds overly simple, but I invite you to really think about it because this is important.

My mom always pointed out that one of the reasons she and Dad were able to have a large family is because they had their own parents, brothers and sisters nearby. She flat-out told me that she and Dad could never raise a family now like they did then. Why? They were never without help. The fact is, a majority of Americans live far from their parents and siblings. The result ends up being unlivable – do everything your grandma did with very few of the tools she had.

"Ask God for the wisdom to know what he is really expecting of you – not the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself.”

Not only that, but things are different with your kids' experience of life, too. When I was in school, if you played a sport, you had a practice Monday through Friday that lasted an hour and a half at the most. People back then recognized that sports just aren’t that important. Now, if your child plays a sport, it is all-consuming – a monstrous entity that requires a whole community to adjust its time and life to the growing demands.

I would think that the internal and external pressure comes from how over-committed our kids are and how we have come to believe that kids need to be “all in” on sports and mom and dad need to be at every event. I believe with all my heart that we only succeed in creating narcissists when we convince ourselves that our kids need us at every game, and fighting every battle for them at school. In our efforts to love well, we end up unintentionally convincing our children that they are the center of the universe. That’s not good for anyone.

I invite you in this moment to pause and to thank God that he sees you. Rejoice in how deeply you are loved, how proud our God is of you and how his love is not based on your success, but fidelity. Ask God for the wisdom to know what he is really expecting of you – not the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself. Then do your best to do what you have discerned is God’s will for your life and your family. That is what God wants for us – not the impossible standards of the world, but the loving and merciful plans he has for our lives.

Enjoy another day in God’s presence!

Father Joe Krupp is a former comedy writer who is now a Catholic priest. @Joeinblack

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