It's more than just being testy after a bad day. As moms, we've all experienced days that go something like this: The morning starts off with spilled milk and sticky crumbs on the kitchen floor, progresses to tomato juice dumped on the carpet, includes a stopped-up sink and a visit to the emergency room, and finishes up with the dog meeting a skunk. Throw in a call from your husband telling you he's bringing company home for dinner--"just something casual, hon."
That's a bad day, and anyone would understand if a mom was a bit testy at the end of it. Being testy can be a reasonable response to the way things are, sometimes, but sometimes we moms are more than a bit testy. Sometimes we really mess up.
Sometimes-- for a lot of different reasons--we are reckless, or clueless, or just plain mean. We're spoiling for a fight. We indulge our sarcastic streak. Our families suffer for our thoughtlessness and mistakes. Sometimes, for a little while, we just don't care.
We blame the kids or we blame our husband. We blame our mothers, the neighbors, or the girl at the check-out counter. We blame just about anyone or anything else that allows us not to take responsibility for our own actions and failures. We justify our own behavior, even if only to ourselves.
After all, we're the mom, right? Right. And that is why we feel so bad, later on, when we realize just how much we messed up.
Whether it was an honest mistake, or something we did purposefully, messing up has consequences to our families, our friends and to ourselves. Sometimes our carelessness causes harm or serious pain to someone we love. Or, our mistakes disappoint them. Perhaps our bad attitude causes someone we love to try on a bad attitude for themselves.
What do we do then? What do we do when we've run over the cat with the car because we were in a hurry? How do we handle it when we forget our daughter's kindergarten Thanksgiving feast? How do we respond when we hear our sarcastic attitude coming out of our son's mouth?
These are the moments we are glad our families cannot fire us. Because we supervise our own work, it is up to us to fix the mess. We must come up with our own remediation plan.
We can begin by acknowledging, to God and to ourselves, what we did wrong. It is tempting to excuse or justify our behavior, but not helpful. We must take responsibility for our own actions.
Then we can ask forgiveness. This involves admitting to those we've hurt that we know we were wrong, without making any excuses for our behavior. It means asking them to pardon us. It means accepting their forgiveness, and going on.
That is the most public part, but there is a private, inner work that must be done, too. This involves forgiving ourselves, and it can be tough, especially if there are consequences for our actions that affect others more than they affect us.
If we fail to forgive ourselves, we will spend a lot of time regretting our faults and resenting our failures. We will forget the things we've done well. We'll get tired of trying to do better.
Forgiving ourselves is like clearing the path so we can go on. Before we move on, though, it is good to spend a bit of time reflecting about how things went wrong. What did you do that got you into this mess? Was it worth it?
Develop an action plan for avoiding this situation in the future. Do you need to work on correcting your attitude? Are there anger issues you need to address? Have you been feeling sorry for yourself?
Or, do you simply need to pay more attention to what you are supposed to be doing? Have you been preoccupied with things that distract you from your job of mothering? Are there parenting or home management skills you need to upgrade?
Evaluate what happened, consider how you can do better next time, and implement the necessary changes.
Your children will see in your response and reactions a real life demonstration of how to deal with mistakes and messes. They will learn that forgiveness is a vital part of family life. They will experience the importance of making the best of a bad situation and going on. Then, when they mess up, they will have some idea of what to do.
About the Author
Holly Schurter is the wife of John, the mom of eight, and the grandmother of ten, as well as a Hearts at Home volunteer. To read more of Holly's work, visit her two blogs, Notes From Home and Grandma on Board.
Copyright Hearts at Home 2008, used with permission.