Q: When our extended family gathered a couple of months ago, I felt overshadowed and inadequate around other women. My sisters and female cousins all have satisfying careers, but I'm just a mom. Sometimes I feel like a complete failure.
Jim: Mothers often have a way of seeing their own shortcomings and minimizing the role they play in their kids' lives. I don't believe those perceptions are accurate, but I can certainly understand what drives them. On the surface, there's nothing glamorous about chasing kids around the house, fixing meal after meal and stepping on toys scattered down the hallway.
But I agree with author Lisa-Jo Baker, who says mothers are modern day superheroes. Their capes may be a little tattered at the end of a long day of laundry and runny noses. Still, moms deserve superhero status for all they do for their kids.
That's because there is nothing ordinary about motherhood. Moms aren't simply changing diapers; they're molding character. That's what inspired poet William Ross Wallace to pen the verse titled "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World." His point is that beginning at birth, a mom's influence has profound impact on what any person -- and especially the "great and powerful" -- will eventually become. Every famous world-changer has had (and will have) a mother.
Directing the course of a child's life is no easy task. That's why on any given day a lot of mothers may feel like they're doing a terrible job. But remember this: Motherhood isn't hard because you're so bad at it. It's hard because -- like no other role in life -- it requires sacrificing your own wants and desires on behalf of others.
So, please, give yourself some grace. Laying down your life for your children takes more than "just a mom." It takes a superhero.
Q: My wife left me last year, and our divorce was recently finalized. I have custody of our young daughter; she dreads going to see her mom now, but I know it's necessary. What can I do?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: After a marriage ends this way, one of the challenges that may arise is a child's visit to the other parent's home. Anger or other factors can create this fearful reaction from a child. But it's not always easy to sort out, especially with young kids. Children often don't understand the complexities involved in divorce. As a result, they may feel like they must choose one parent over the other.
You can do several things to help your daughter face her worries about visiting. First, listen and take her feelings seriously, even if you don't fully understand yet. Is she upset at her mom for leaving? Is there something else problematic about their relationship? Are there issues with your ex-spouse that create safety concerns? Your child's fears will lessen with reassurance that you've heard what she has to say, you have her best interests in mind, and you want her to feel secure.
If feasible, respectfully let your ex-wife know how your child is feeling and recommend they get some help to repair their relationship. And let your daughter know that you're always available for a phone call home if she wants it.
The unknown and the unfamiliar can be fearful for children. Work on your relationship by listening and making time for your daughter, while encouraging her to try to have a good relationship with her mom. Reassure her that you're doing what you need to cope with what's happened.
Our staff counselors are available to help in situations like this; call 1-855-771-4357 or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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