The first thing that a mother (who has been negligent in training her children) must do is to confess her failings. She needs to confess this to herself, to her Lord, to her husband, and finally to her children. If necessary, if you are concerned that you will slip back into lazy ways again, you must find someone else, outside of your family that your husband is comfortable with, for you to be accountable. Someone who will not be afraid to ask the tough questions that you need to have asked.
Humbling yourself is hard. It is one of the hardest things that a mother can do. However, if you cannot do this first thing sincerely, then honestly, you will not continue to grow as a mother. You will continue to operate in the lackadaisical manner that brought you to read an article like this in the first place.
So, do it already!
BITE SIZED PIECES. You cannot overhaul your entire life overnight. If you could, it would not be healthy! Imagine what would happen if someone who was 200 lbs overweight decided to lose it all in a month… and DID. The results could be fatal! The same goes for trying to become someone else overnight. It will not work and the failure that you will feel will make it less likely for you to try again.
What does this mean in practical terms? Pick one area and master it. Sometimes as you master one thing, another naturally comes along. That is fine. Do not fight a natural progression. But, for the most part, it’s best to simply find the area that you know is your weakest and fight it with all of your might. Study scriptures to encourage you. Train yourself to fight your tendency to give in. If you need to learn to not let the phone rule your day, then PRACTICE. If you need to get up before the children get up, then GET UP. Do it one day. The next day, you can do it for THAT day… until finally it is a habit and voila!
If you try to change your tone, get up for each infraction, limit your computer time, have a daily quiet time, do school diligently, train the toddler in one thing a day, and have their meals made of whole foods tomorrow… you’ll quit before noon.
Give yourself freedom to fail. “WHAT”. I can hear you now. “FAIL”, I cannot fail! You can, you will, and you need to be prepared. Handle it with grace. “I knew this was going to happen. I do not have to let it characterize my life. I can simply repent, confess, and turn away from the sin of … fill in the blank. STOP expecting perfection from you, your children, your husband… only the Lord has the right to expect perfection from us and even HE says that ALL have sinned!
When you fail, stop. Do not continue in your failure. Think of it like a diet. Your diet allowed two cookies for a treat on Friday night. You are on your fifth. There are two options open to you. You can wallow in your ‘failure’ or you can stop. Realize you ate too many and repent! Put the bag of cookies away. Give them away. Throw them away. But for heaven’s sake, you don’t have to wallow in it.
Take good care of yourself. I hear it again! “WHAT!” Trust me, I mean it. Get plenty of rest. Eat good food with liberal amounts of chocolate during certain times of the month. Take a walk around the block when hubby walks in the door. Do your hair, wear something that makes you feel happy, and if you wear cosmetics on a regular basis, GET EM ON!
Learn to smile at your children. Learn to look into their eyes and really ‘see’ them. Touch their hearts… and let them touch yours. Deeply. Do not let your work around the house create haste in your interaction with your children. They need vast quantities of your time. Quality time IS quantity time. Make sure that your relationship with your children is genuine, loving, and second only to your relationships with the Lord and your husband… and make sure they KNOW it. Do not just let them ‘hear it’… make sure they know it!
Begin Children’s boot camp. Work through it systematically. Remember, your children are your most important job right now. Forget outside ministries… they ARE your ministry. Forget hobbies… they ARE your hobby. If they are fairly well trained and need brush ups, don’t force them through more boot camp than they need. BUT, if they seem reluctant, slow, or frankly resistant… commit yourself to the ‘full deal’.
Review each of the steps above on a fairly regular basis. If you are brave, ask your children if they think that they are important to you. Ask them if they see you putting them before outsiders. Ask them if they think you spend too much time sewing, reading, writing, crafting, on the computer or on the phone. Ask your husband how he thinks you are doing. Ask the Lord. Sit before him and ask Him. “Am I being negligent in this area? That one? Please bring to my remembrance anything that I should confess and repent of.” I assure you that it is a painful but eye opening thing to remember shushing a child to answer a phone call from your friend. (Caller ID is a good and bad thing both!)
In all of this, you’ll find interruptions, road blocks and frustration. How you handle these things shows what your character is. If you don’t like what you see, giving up just lets the flaws in your character to win! Don’t let them win! Change what you don’t like. If you got impatient, calm down and try again. My children have heard me say, “I don’t like how I sounded right now. Let’s rewind” and then I go on to say things how I should have. Do it!
I’ll end with this quote from Annie Keary that I found in a book by Elisabeth Elliot “Keep a Quiet Heart”.
“I think I find most help in trying to look on all interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline; trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work, one’s work for God, consists in doing some trifling, haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day.”
Personal note: Please do not allow occasional lapses in diligence to override you with guilt. We all have bad days. We all have weaker areas. Just do not let your weak areas or bad days turn into habitual abandonment of your job as a mother. A perfect example would be medicine that you are supposed to take at regular intervals. Often, the bottle will tell you that if you forget to take it, take it as quickly as possible. If you are close to your next dose, skip that dose and do not forget again. This is how we should view our ‘hiccoughs’ in parenting. Try to view them as a bump in the road, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on going!