You’re a mom, NOT a monster. Yet how often do your mistakes become your reasons to feel evil and ugly?
This struck me as I was reading Feeling Good, a mood therapy book that exposes destructive thinking habits. While author David Burns uses “monsterizing” to describe how we label others who make us angry, my thoughts immediately turned to my terrible habit of labeling myself negatively.
When you describe the person you’re mad at as “a jerk” or “a bum”… you see him in a totally negative way. You could call this extreme form of overgeneralization “globalizing” or “monsterizing.” …When you write people off this way, you catalog in your mind’s eye every single thing about them you don’t like and ignore or discount their good points. (p. 157)
We moms monsterize ourselves for many reasons, but these five struck me most.
- When we are tired. Why have we made being tired a crime? Why do we expect to mother without margin, breaks, or breakdowns? Sure, fatigue is sometimes the reason we get angry or impatient. It’s also the reason we refuse to play another round of Uno; the reason we skip pages at storytime; the reason we let the youngest off the hook, much to the distress of older siblings who endured our strictest standards. I understand that we feel disappointed that our bodies say no when our emotions say yes, but none of this means we’re monsters. It means we’re human.
- When we forget things. Ever missed a child’s game, recital, or appointment and condemned yourself to death? Ever forgotten to bring cupcakes to homeroom? Ever allowed an important registration or payment deadline to pass? We all forget things, but we’re not monsters because we do. Some of the most loving moms forget to pick up kids from day care and school. Not monsters. Just moms.
- When we feed our kids processed food. I’m all on board for healthy eating, but sometimes you gotta stop at 7-11 to grab some jerky and Cheetos. It’s not poison, it’s just processed. Most likely, if your conscience is on fire for grabbing snacks, you are probably dishing up plenty of leafy greens to make up for it. There’s no way your kids will consider you a monster for serving them junk food. They will definitely consider you a diva.
- When our kids get sick. If you’re reading this blog, I am 100% certain you would never, ever choose to give your child a fever or broken bone. Did you let them go outside without enough clothes? Maybe. Were you distracted when they climbed up on the counter and fell? Maybe. But these normal occurrences are not the result of moms being monsters. Monsters don’t weep and pray over sick children like moms do.
- When our children can’t have everything they want. Deep down, we know our kids don’t even need half the stuff they want, but because we want to minimize our monsterness and maximize our fairy godmotherness, we dole out goodies, rewards, toys, electronics, parties, lessons, clothes, trips, and whatever else we perceive to be symbols of mommy provision. Saying no does not make us monsters. Neither does having modest means. We are moms, not Santa, not fairy godmothers, and certainly not God. He manages to provide for our children in ways we never could.
As Dr. Burns so aptly states, monsterizing leads to discounting positive attributes. For moms, that means dismissing the selfless, wise, and loving things we do for our children 90% of the time, in order to focus on the 10% of our failures and flaws. This reel of blunders is like a criminal record that follows us year after year. As children grow up, the list gets longer and longer unless we’re willing to rip it up. My own habit of writing off my strengths not only sabotaged my joy and self-esteem at home, it carried over into my job. I spent very little time celebrating my successes, and tons of time regretting and ruminating over my missteps. Thinking of myself as stupid and unworthy was simply my default mode.
I hope you’ll choose freedom from the dangerous tendency to define yourself as a monster because it just isn’t true. Not only do your children seek your reassurance when they think a monster’s under the bed, God compares himself to a mother when he describes his comfort and care. What greater affirmation can there be for us?
You will enjoy her prosperity, like a child at its mother’s breast. The Lord says, “I will bring you lasting prosperity; the wealth of the nations will flow to you like a river that never goes dry. You will be like a child that is nursed by its mother, carried in her arms, and treated with love. I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child.