Giving Up Exorcist Mom

Caryn: So I went 40 days without Diet Coke. Today I could drink it—since I only gave it up for Lent—but I won’t. I kicked that habit to the curb, baby. And I’m not going back to that evil, wicked temptress. I may need to take up smoking or find some other vice, but Diet Coke won’t make me that crazy, craving woman at 9:30 am any more. At least for now.

All this to say, I realized during this period of Lent that indeed there are areas of our lives in which we Revolutionary moms can and should grow. I’m not saying all of us need to kick the Diet Coke (I know you’d rather lose a limb than your morning D.C., Carla), but I think it IS important every now and again to look at our lives, see the things that maybe aren’t too healthy for us and chuck them. Lent is a great time, of course. But it’s not the only time.

For instance: I reconnected with a mom I know from my son’s baseball. I loved her last year (she’s smart and outgoing and always wears cute hats and has cool hair, for what it’s worth) and was excited to chat with her again. Anyway, we were talking about beverages or something and that lead to Diet Coke, my giving it up, how I think it is evil and makes me fattier, yada, yada. And this leads to her saying how she gave up yelling for Lent. She realized she was turning into the “Exorcist mom” too often and needed to get a grip.

Her experience in the giving up of yelling was remarkable, she said. She’d spent time praying when she felt like yelling and was experiencing some real growth.

Huh. Of course, I have just a TOUCH of an issue with yelling and becoming a total Exorcist mom when life gets crazy and I get stressed. And yet, it hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that it was something I could—and should—simply “give up.” I realized I needed to “do better,” but I hadn’t ever thought to commit to letting go of it completely.

So I might try. I might follow her lead and just give it up. I’m thinking some prayer and breathing and a stretch or two in its place may do the trick.  Perhaps do better with my daily Scripture reading. Or, the smoking thing might actually help…. [I feel the need to put in a big old, JUST KIDDING here. I hate smoking. I realize it’s practically child abuse to smoke around children…. So in case you felt the need to mean comment about this—I jest.]

Thoughts, Carla?

Carla: I ran out of Diet Coke today and am already getting a little panicky trying to figure out when I’m going to be able to head to the Super T to get more. So clearly, I’m not giving that up any time soon. However, I like where you’re heading with this. I think we all recognize the obvious “vices” we need to limit or eliminate from our lives. But there are so many little failings that we somehow find ways to justify.

I am a pro at explaining why I have every right to be crabby on any given day–I’m under-appreciated, I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 12 years, I have a deadline, the kids are on my nerves. And while all of those things might be true from one day to the next, they really aren’t good reasons to be mean to people I love.

What gets tricky for moms is figuring out how to both accept that we aren’t always going to be the kind of moms–or people–we want to be and giving ourselves some grace, and still working on those pieces of ourselves that aren’t where we know they ought to be. In The Myth of the Perfect Mother, I talk about motherhood as a practice of spiritual formation. And this is exactly what I mean.

So much of what we hear and read about motherhood focuses on the kids. But motherhood is as much about our growth and formation as it is about our children’s. We are shaped and changed by parenting–in good ways and some not-so-good ways. On our best days, we become more patient, more compassionate, more selfless. On our worst? We are angry, short-tempered, stubborn.

Formation happens when we are intentional–like a mom who breaths in patience and exhales frustration–about building up what is good so that it crowds out what is not so good.

So tell us friends, what practices do you have that help you become more of the person you were created to be?

Update: If you want to hear more about Carla’s take on the spiritual practices of parenting, check out her conversation with Doug Pagitt here.

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