Byz-y Mama: You Are Not Enough. For Real.

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Dear Mothers,

I want to tell you something: you are not enough.

Young Housewife, Alexey Tyranov

“I bake bread for you, I wash your clothes, I string garlic, and I even manage to look this good. What more could you possibly want, child?”

You may wake up at dawn after almost no sleep to take care of the children who kept you up all night.

But you are not enough.

You may be horribly, exhaustingly sick and use your last ounce of energy to keep the baby fed and well for one more day.

But you are not enough.

You may do all the laundry, cook all the dinners, and put all the toys away.

You may bathe the children after returning home from a hard day’s work at the office.

You may pay the bills on time and keep an immaculate house.

You may blog and write books about all the tips and tricks you’ve learned to become the supermom that you are today.

But you are not enough.

You may tenderly kiss your child goodnight and tell them I love you at all possible moments.

But you are still not enough.

I have a theory that the reason we tend to feel “not enough” as moms has far less to do with “mommy-shaming” and far more to do with the fact that it’s, well, the truth.

Let me phrase it a little differently:

We are not and never will be enough for our children or for anyone, nor were we meant to be, simply because we are not God.

Only God can be enough.

Take heart, dear mothers, in knowing that, when the voice inside whispers–or sometimes screams–to us that we are not enough, it is 100% right, and this is the way that it should be. 

Knowing this, especially the last part, is not only for our personal peace but for the good of our children.

Think about it: when we act as though the very balance of the universe somehow hangs on the enough-ness of our actions, how will our children understand that it is God who keeps the universe in its order?

When we pat ourselves on the back for every accomplishment but approach our faults with an unholy anxiety because they threaten our enough-ness, how can we expect our children to confront their sins with confidence in God’s redemption of their every action? When our prayer life dwindles but activities overflow on our schedules, or when we approach prayer as merely a nicety, a service we offer to God, what will our children learn about God’s enough-ness?

In short, when we behave as though we are or at least ought to be enough to for ourselves and for the whole world, to what or to whom will our children learn to turn for a savior? Will they learn that God is the Giver of Life Himself or will He simply become another person they–like us–are trying to serve and to save? 

On the other hand, what if, in those moments where we realize that we are not enough, instead of consoling ourselves with pithy sayings about our enough-ness, we cried out to God for help? What if we tried our best and shrugged our shoulders or even–GASP–laughed at the places where our best didn’t meet every need and prayed for God to fill in the rest? What if we asked for help and let our children see it?

What if we prudently discussed certain sins and shortcomings with our children and asked their forgiveness? What if we took the time to teach them about God’s forgiveness and then demonstrated our belief in it by going to Confession with an attitude of confidence in what God will do there, not in simply how we will make our confession? What if we gave our children every opportunity possible to experience God’s life-giving Spirit in liturgies and in prayer at home, to experience for themselves that He is enough?

What if we moms started praying the Jesus prayer as often as possible for ourselves? What if we prayed for our husbands and our children?

Yes, these things are all so much easier said than done. Let me be the first to confess that I have failed at making prayer any kind of priority lately, both on my own and in praying with my family, time and time and time again. Then there are those absolutely crazy moments wherein I run around yelling like the world will end because my baby’s room is still not finished, and why can’t my husband @#($&@#$($%ing figure out how to organize the baby clothes?! (Sorry, Husband, I know you were just trying to do something nice. And sorry to our Housemate who most likely heard my colorful diatribe because I thought no one was home).

You and I will probably spend the rest of our lives learning how to embrace the fact that only God is enough, but I’d like to think the task is worth the effort. At the same time, I suppose the whole point of this is to know that even our best efforts are meaningless without God’s help.

Take heart, dear mothers, and know that you are not enough. But God is. He is the truest lover of our children and lover of us all.

Not moms.

Koimesis_Icon_Sinai_13th_century

Christ cradling his Mother’s soul, an image from the Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos

Copyright 2014, Brittany Balke

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3 Comments

  1. So beautifully said and inspiring! I was having a rough day a few weeks ago that refused to end. It ended with me nursing a crying one-year-old with tears coming out of my own eyes. Finally, I admitted I wasn’t enough and by the end of a rosary, my son and I both were at peace. It can be hard to remember, but it is so true. If not for our children’s sake, for our own sanity.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that, Violet! (And sorry this response is coming so late! I am working on replying to comments a little more promptly here).

      It seems so cliche to say, but parenting is tough! I know the feeling of having those rough few weeks that refuse to end, and I’m sure lots of moms and dads would say the same, ugh. In all honesty, I have had to revisit this article multiple times lately because I keep forgetting what my role really is in all of this, especially when things get tough.

      BTW–My one year old is also nursing, like, many many times a day and night. I wasn’t sure when you mentioned the nursing one year old on a tough day if you were struggling with weaning or something along those lines, but I thought I’d throw it out there that I have a toddler who refuses to wean, like, by any amount, and it is hard! 😛 These babies and their demands…

  2. Pingback: Byz-y Mama: You Are Not Enough (again) | CatholicMom.com

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