The best gift I’ve ever gotten from my children was a yellow sticky note left for me on my kitchen counter. It read, “We love you.”
I can guess what you might be thinking. “Really? The best gift? Not the Christmas ornament with your firstborn’s handprint preserved in clay? Not the wall hanging with the names of every family member spelled out like a Scrabble game board?”
I did love those gifts, too. But the "we love you" note was the best because my children gave it to me on a day I was so very unlovable as a mother.
I’d had one of my typical mom meltdowns. I’m sure there was yelling and door-slamming involved. And, I’m sure I freaked about something that was, in fact, nothing. Truly, I’m sure my daughters snuck off to their rooms to commiserate about “mom being a mom”…and to write me this note, which they surreptitiously left for me to find.
All of which is just to say that I’ve had more than my share of bad days as a mom. I’ve had to learn how to reset my defaults…to reprogram my thinking. If you’re having a day that’s headed toward bad in a hurry, here are a few things to tell yourself that might bring it around to good.
1. God cares about moms.
I believe God has a special place in His great heart for moms, as evidenced by this lovely passage from Isaiah:
“See, the Sovereign Lord…tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:10a, 11, emphasis added).
2. A bad day does not make you a bad mom.
The pursuit of perfection in motherhood seems like an honorable goal because we know a terrible, wonderful truth: THIS JOB MATTERS. A lot. So when we miss the mark, we’re tempted to overgeneralize and overreact: a bad morning becomes a bad day, and a bad day becomes bad motherhood.
But oh mama, with God, there is grace. Yet if achieving some level of “good” as a mom is a goal we pursue above all else, it is an idol. And Jonah 2:8 is starkly clear that grace and idolatry cannot live together in the same spiritual house: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
I don’t want to give up grace that could be mine. I don’t want you to give up grace that could be yours. And it’s not about giving yourself grace nearly so much as it is about receiving the grace Abba is offering. Take it, and then pour it out onto the people who call you “mom."
3. Now is a good time to pause, praise, and pray.
When I’m staring down a bad day on my motherhood journey, I tend to go into frantic-mom mode: running around, pinging from uncompleted task to uncompleted task, jabbering incoherently to myself. What I need to do instead is hit the pause button.
I need to praise God for who He is and for the blessings He’s given me, including the children and the home that usually “inspire” my busyness. And then I need to pray for strength and patience and perspective and hope. (For starters.)
4. All the little things you do make a difference in the big picture.
On a day that seems ripe for a do-over, it’s tempting to focus on the constant tasks that demand our attention and are never, ever truly “done”: laundry, dinner, driving kids places, baths, bedtimes… But woven into this fabric of daily life are the interactions and loving gestures and words of teaching and encouragement that shape soul the soul.
“Parenthood is a partnership with God. You are not molding iron nor chiseling marble; you are working with the Creator of the universe in shaping human character and determining destiny” (Ruth Vaughn).
That’s some big-picture perspective right there.
5. It’s okay if your day is a “just get through it” day.
A few years ago, when my parents, my siblings and their families, and my little family and I were all on vacation together to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, my sister taught us a new card game. I don’t remember the name of the game or how it worked, but one goal of it was to earn points. On one of her turns, my sister ended up with a low score of just a few points but remarked that it was “better than zero.”
Since then, “better than zero” has become a life litmus test of sorts for us: if something is “better than zero,” that’s often good enough. Of course, I know you’re trying to make the most of your time and opportunities with your precious children.
But some days, anything better than zero is a win in and of itself, and it’s just fine if today is one of those days.
6. You’re not supposed to be able to do this on your own.
There’s a phrase floating around in the mom social-media world these days that says, “You are enough.” It’s meant to encourage us, but it always rings hollow to me. I read it and think, “No, I’m not.” But here’s the thing: I’m not supposed to be.
God did not create us to be “enough” on our own. Indeed, He created us to need Him. And, He puts it this way in His Word:
“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
The idea of God’s power being “made perfect” is not an indication it’s lacking anything; rather, “made perfect” carries the idea of completion. It’s as if the best backdrop for God’s power to show itself off is our weakness.
Next time you’re having the kind of day you’d like to trade in for a new model, do a little “boasting”: “Hey, God! Here’s all my weakness! I’m primed for your power!” It’ll be the perfect package.
7. Your kids will remember the love
My teenager started her birthday one year crying in her bedroom. It was, thankfully, not my fault: the weather was decidedly not in favor of the beach plans she’d chosen for her celebration, so a complete revamp was necessary.
We hastily constructed Plan B and set about putting it into action. At the end of what had started out as a very bad day, our birthday girl pulled her big sister and me in for a hug and told us, “I had a wonderful day. I felt so loved.” And I thought, “That’s IT, isn’t it?”
Oh, mama, I’ve been through a lot of days with my kids, and I want you to know this: at the end of the day—good days, bad days, any day, every day—love is what your children will remember most.
I’ve still got that sticky note from my daughters tucked away in a kitchen drawer for safekeeping and future reference. It reminds me of what was true the day they gave it to me and of what, mercifully and beautifully, is true now: love wins the day, on any kind of day.