three methods for becoming a miserable mom

stress momsIt was not the reaction I expected.

It was December 2000. I had just written our annual Christmas letter. My upbeat and glowing descriptions of our family life, sweet children and their adorable accomplishments made the Means family leap off the page. It was a heartwarming combination of Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie & Harriet.

I gave the final copy for my husband to read before I sent it out to the masses. Who — in a pre-Facebook world — were no doubt waiting with breathless anticipation for our latest updates.

He began reading and then chuckled.

Me: Why are you laughing?

Husband: I’m sorry. It’s just that I got to the part where you say how much you enjoy being a mom. It doesn’t really seem like it sometimes.


Me: (through clenched teeth) Really? Why do you say that?

Husband: Well, you just always seem so stressed out.

I wanted to be happy. I tried to act like I was happy. I actually thought I faked it pretty well — to strangers. But my family — even my little ones — knew the truth. I felt overwhelmed, stressed and completely inadequate.

I longed to be a mother. I loved my children dearly.

So why was I so miserable? In hindsight, I can identify three main methods I used to achieve mommy misery. If I had written the real deal in my letter all those years ago (instead of my June Cleaver version), here’s what I would have said about each one:

She’s Isolated! Melinda doesn’t get out as much as she should. When she does find mom groups, she feels like she’s in a contest, instead of at a support group. While she always leaves with a smile on her face, she feels like she wouldn’t even rate an “Honorable Mention” as she compares herself to the other “Blue Ribbon Mommies” in the room.

She’s A Circus Clown! If Melinda has heard it once, she’s heard it a thousand times, “These years go by so fast! Enjoy every moment!” So she feels really guilty when she doesn’t “enjoy a moment.” Like the 14,000th round of Polly Pockets. Or the 512th game of Go Fish! She feels like her house is the Big Tent and all entertainment and joy must be provided by her alone. So when someone’s unhappy, it must be her fault. And she pulls out all the stops to remedy it.

She Expects the Impossible! Melinda sets a very high standard for her momminess. But the reality is that she’s been seen chasing her screaming three-year-old down the aisles of Books-A-Million. And there’s a rumor that her not-quite-yet potty-trained son emerged from the bathroom on Sunday morning with his pants and underwear around his ankles. Talk about a church scandal. She aims for perfect and generally achieves exhausted survival — but with lots of hugs and kisses along the way.

More than a decade later, I’ve taken off the mask and learned to be real. The very thing I was most afraid of. And instead of being ostracized, I found others — just like me. I spend time with my kids, but I’m no longer hanging from a trapeze. And I’m now convinced that perfect is overrated. While God’s grace is often under-utilized. It’s what set me free.

Now that’s something to write about — no embellishing required.

What robs YOU of your mothering joy?

My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

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  • LOVE this post!!!! Thank you Melinda! I think for sure comparing can rob me and feeling like I have to give my children the world when all they need is my love and attention. love love love my friend!!

    • {Melinda} Thank you, Steph! Comparison is such a joy robber for me. I think Satan definitely uses it to derail us from God’s plan and purpose for us.

  • I think we all put a smile on sometimes when we don’t want to, I know that motherhood is stressful sometimes here, too! Visiting from Mommifried!

  • Well hello! I am So happy I found you over here!
    I had enjoyed reading you back at Confessions and then lost touch.
    I love this new idea! As I have written about,and experienced, being a mother of 5 grown children I “get it” and it makes life so much easier to admit how we really feel (most of the time :).
    Keep up the great work!

    • {Melinda} I remember you, Reyna! So glad you found me again! Thank you so much for your encouragement!

  • What a smart post and one I bet every mom can relate too. What a shame that everything needs to be a contest even a mom’s group. I’m not a mom, but I also learned from this post. Giving up on being perfect – the perfect employee, spouse, sister, daughter, friend etc. – having the perfect job, house or vacation sounds very freeing. I am going to give it a try.

    • {Melinda} I’m so glad this inspired you. Giving up “perfect” is hard and an ongoing process — but it is worth the freedom you get in return!

  • So beautifully said. Real is what counts. Real is what touches hearts. Real is what lets those around us feel like it’s okay for them to be real. If we could all just be more open it sure would help a lot of us heal.

    Thanks for your beautiful thoughts. Happy Sharefest.

    • {Melinda} Yes, if I had only known how freeing and healing it would be to be transparent, I would have started doing it a looooong time ago! Thank you so much for stopping by today.

    • {Melinda} I think the comparison trap is what isolates so many moms! Will go over and check out your blog post!

  • All three of the things you mention are ripe for making moms unhappy. For me, when I found good girlfriends with whom I could be honest, all three began to melt away. I wasn’t isolated anymore, I realized that they weren’t engaged and adoring every single second of parenting, and that nobody is perfect–even people who look so on the outside.

    Fantastic post!! –Lisa

    • {Melinda} I agree, Lisa … I think isolation is at the root of so many of other mothering struggles. When we have a community and we can share our struggles, it makes all the difference!

  • When I’ve had a frustrating or stressful day at work, I sometimes don’t want to do anything when I pick up the kids and head home. Those are the days when the kids want me for everything. I tend to them begrudgingly and pray for bedtime. Being a mom is so rewarding, but it is tough at times. I love what you said about taking the mask off and being real. That’s the only way to get through some of the difficulties of motherhood. Great post

    • {Melinda} Thank you, Hope … I’m glad this was encouraging to you. Yes, I found “pretending” too exhausting after a while. We love our kids and we do our best with God’s help. We’re human and He knows that. 🙂

  • Oh so many of us feel like that sometimes! Overwhelmed and frustrated and inadequate. Can you imagine if we sent out newsletters like the fake one you wrote?

    • {Melinda} I think the response would have fallen into two camps — some would have judged, but many others would have probably said, “Wow! I’m not the only one!” And that’s the first step to freedom! Feeling like we’re not alone! 🙂

  • So here’s a great example of an HONEST Christmas Greeting “From our family to yours…”
    (I was recovering from a full hysterectomy and double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery…and we were all sick with colds.)(Good times!)

    ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
    All creatures were stirring with colds and coughs and whining and crying…
    Fighting and boredom and the house slowly shrinking…
    Because all were sick, knowing all too well
    That Christmas at the Carter home is another day in… Heaven!

    No cookies or dips to snack on at all
    It’s all we could do to not let the house fall…
    I in my PJ’s, and hubby in his cap
    Can’t settle down for a long winter’s nap…(sigh)

    The house is a mess through the days of our plight
    No wipe for the sink that got puked in last night
    My boobs are steal plates as my head crashes like thunder
    Will Santa manage to crawl through the pillage and plunder?

    Another Christmas it seems is our Carter tradition
    Of sickness and stuck-ness in our life’s rendition
    Of “Miracle on Bunting Court…”
    May we petition?

    But we don’t loose our sight of people we love
    They give us so much
    We thank God above.
    Is it Wonder or Wise Men that share Christmas Cheer?
    Well I wonder in our wisdom if it will come this year…

    But for now I must work to make something feel right
    Maybe some mac and cheese will help us tonight.
    I’ll read from the bible
    Of the Christ child’s birth
    And we’ll sing songs that remind us of
    What it’s all worth.

    We’ll find the spirit if it brakes all our backs
    And hope that St Nick will follow our tracks…
    ‘cause as bad as it gets, it can get even worse
    So we better move on from our stage of remorse.

    The kids will be happy with gifts they will shout!
    Because we are broke, mom and dad are without.
    But the love of our family is deep and for good
    So Christmas will rise in His Love, as it should.

    • {Melinda} Oh, Chris. I can’t imagine what you were going through at that time. I think at certain dark points in our lives, it just takes too much energy to “pretend.” I am SO grateful that God brought you through that time and to the other side. As usual, you were able to express what you were feeling so well in words. Love those last two lines … yes, that’s what we have to cling to, right?

      • It was one of the hardest years of my life…not so much because of the surgery, but because my children (especially Cass)were so sick through it all. I look back on the blurr, and think only- ONLY God could have brought me through it all. Cass was so sick up til the moment I went into surgery…I had nothing left in my body and thought it would never hold up. But it’s during those seasons of life you live on your knees. And desperately grasp on to Him at all times. In the end, it was really all about my sister. It still is…

      • BTW- It was actually meant to make people laugh. I sent it to everyone via email Christmas Eve and literally giggled my way through the Holiday stuck in pain at home thinking about it. I always love to make humor a part of every struggle. It really lightens things up! I still laugh at this poem. Cause it’s so true but with a twist of pathetic comedy that was my home! My world. And it’s always important to just be in the moment, whether dancing or crying… you’re living it. So surrender to it.

    • Chris, I love that! I think I’m going to print it out and stick it with my Christmas stuff. I love the authenticity and how clearly your faith shines through.

  • Oh yes!! I have tried (in vain)to wear the appearance of perfect. How much more so when it is my JOB (home daycare provider) to look like I must adore everything child related! Thank you for the encouragement. Loved it!

    • {Melinda} Thanks, Kari! I’m so glad it encouraged you. You have a hard, but very important, job — both as mom and childcare provider. I know you do both well! 🙂

  • This blog always speaks to me. It is so nice to not be alone in the universe! We all put on masks, and it can be hard to stop, but once you do – ahh! The freedom! 🙂 You find out that yes, some will still judge (those are generally the ones wearing more masks than you are), but most, most relate completely! We find strength to press on knowing that we’re not alone. So awesome! 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my blog on my SITS Day, too! 🙂

    • {Melinda} That is so true … usually the ones who judge ARE wearing more masks than we do! Glad this spoke to you. Always enjoy and am encouraged by your thoughtful and insightful comments, Julie! Enjoy your SITS Day!

  • Gotta love those Christmas letters that make everything and everyone sound so perfect! We’ve all been there! I actually got a FB message the other day from one of my daughter’s CCD teachers, singing her praises and saying “enjoy your hard work!” My husband started laughing and said message her back and tell her “you’re right, raising our daughter IS hard work.” Motherhood is a blessing and can most definitely be a challenge at times!

    • {Melinda} Absolutely … it’s hard work mentally and emotionally. It’s helped me to see that I can be a good mom and still not always achieve the results I want for my children. It keeps me on my knees. I responsible for being a mom to the best of my abilities and leave the results — good and bad — to God. He knows them a lot better than I do! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  • I totally understand what you mean. I went through motherhood with a mask. What people saw was not the real me. I had to be better than what others expected. I look back now and I think of all the times I could have been less than perfect and happier. I’m a grandma now, and I am working on having more fun, loving the opportunities I have with my grandchildren, and not worry about being perfect. There is no re-wind button. We only get one chance. Have a blessed day.

    • {Melinda} You’re right, Vicki — the whole reason I have such a heart for moms is that I want to hopefully save them from the frustration and mistakes that I made. So that they can truly enjoy motherhood and their children. I’ve heard a lot of grandparents say they love grandparenting because there’s less pressure and more fun!

  • If I were to add #4, it would be “she isn’t true to herself.” It took FOREVER for me to realize that I was just never going to enjoy crafting with my kids or playing board games. Well, actually, that took about 5 minutes. What took forever was figuring out that it was OK to NOT TO THE STUFF I CANT STAND. There are plenty of people in my children’s lives that enjoy crafting and board games. It doesn’t have to be me. If I don’t enjoy crafting without my kids, then why on earth did I think it was a good idea to craft with them? I only did it because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do as a mom.

    • {Melinda} Yes, Susan! So true … I thought I had to be a “good mom” but that definition was so messed up! Forcing ourselves to be who we’re not doesn’t make anybody happy.

      • “Forcing ourselves to be who we’re not doesn’t make anybody happy.”
        I may just have to frame that and put it on my wall. It's huge. It might rank up in the top ten of things I want my kids to learn.

        • {Melinda} Yes! It’s HUGE because it affects so many other aspects of their lives and relationships, doesn’t it? Because if they’re being someone else they can never be who God designed them to be.


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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