As I was stirring a quick pot of chili I made up for our dinner tonight, I was thinking about how nice it was to be cooking nourishing food again. I also thought about all of the times when life circumstances have derailed my good intentions, and I have not been able to feed my family the way I want, and the way that most helps them. It made me consider and think about some of the ways we interact with our food, our goals for our eating, and how we deal with guilt and shame when we fail to live up to those goals.
It’s a big topic, but one that I’ve been thinking about lately as I have just started to come out of about 20 weeks of barely surviving. Did I mention I’m 25 weeks pregnant? You can guess the reason I was “barely surviving” I’m sure. I’ve talked about my struggles with morning sickness (or in my case, all-day-sickness) in the past. We are thrilled and overjoyed to have another baby on the way (this blessing brings me to tears!), yet the morning sickness and overwhelming fatigue has been hard to deal with for most of this pregnancy.
And cooking? What cooking? Simply washing a plate off with crumbs on it could send me gagging over a bowl or the toilet. A scroll down Pinterest made me puke. Let’s just say spending any time cooking up anything other than reheating food and toasting bread has been out of the picture. In fact, making toast seemed like an overwhelming task at times.
I’m not saying all of that to say that I have the worst morning sickness in the world – I know I don’t. The fact is, this pregnancy was easier than most of mine, because despite how sick I could get, I did get a couple of hours of feeling slightly better during the morning each day. Those hours were spent enjoying time with my kids as much as possible before I was sent back to bed feeling as sick as a dog. This was a real gift. But it certainly didn’t get me in the kitchen again.
We’ve been through this before, and we survived okay. We buy the best packaged foods we can (things like raw cheddar goat cheese, fresh apples, and rice crackers for lunch) and my husband did a dance between making simple meals for the family, and buying food out for us from local restaurants that serve decent food. This pregnancy we were extra blessed to be a lot closer to places that actually provided foods that were safe for our many food intolerances, and used much better ingredients than most.
But we were all very sick of it by the time I got back in the kitchen. And one of my children who has tummy issues was having flare-ups again in different ways because the diet we managed to feed her – while adequate (and much healthier than many children eat) – still contained trace amounts of foods that she normally wouldn’t eat, and that was starting to take a toll.
That was both frustrating and sad for me, and I’ve been working on getting my stamina back up again so that I can get on top of dietary things that help her. And it was really tempting to let mommy guilt takeover in how I viewed the situation.
I know I’m not alone in that.
We mothers want to take as good of care of our children as we can, and how we feed our family is part of that. That is only magnified when you have a child, or children who are sensitive to their diets and need any type of special care. It’s magnified when you have children with specific health issues that you are using dietary means to alleviate, of which I know many of my readers are in that situation.
When we fail in what we’d like to do and don’t meet our standards in feeding ourselves or our children, guilt and shame can become a burden.
2 Common Responses to Failure
There seems to be two responses to this common problem. On one side you have the “pull yourself up by the boot straps” crowd who tends to put more weight on the guilt you already feel and want to shake you into action for change, even when the change is beyond you. On the other side, you have the people who use the word “grace” to be a magical phrase that erases all consequences of choices you make, and situations you find yourselves in. I’ve found neither side helpful.
On the one side, the people who make you feel more guilt can bury you in legalistic dos and don’ts, and if you ever exclaim that you can’t afford, can’t keep up on, can’t find the energy to grow your own/hunt your own, and live a 100% healthy lifestyle, you are met with disdain and “nothing is more important than your health” type attitude. This does nothing to help you sort out how to afford, get the energy for, and keep up on the many dos and don’ts.
On the other side, the “grace is the answer to all of life’s problems” bumps into my logical side. Don’t get me wrong. I believe 100% in giving ourselves grace (and that’s where this post is going). But grace doesn’t mean that by giving ourselves grace we somehow separate ourselves from the consequences of life, ill-health, or the inability to live in a centered healthy way. Yet, I see it used that way a lot. “Giving ourselves grace” is kind of this catch phrase for “believing that you can make all sorts of decisions, have all sorts of limitations, and yet face no negative side effects from them.”
No, giving myself grace doesn’t look like that. Reality doesn’t look like that.
What Grace Looks Like
So this is the place I’ve come to: Grace when faced with the inability to meet my goals or standards means accepting the things I cannot change and changing the things I can. It means looking at my life realistically and honestly and asking myself what I’m truly capable of accomplishing, and taking things off of my plate if I can’t do it all. It means acknowledging that I am not a demi-god or even a “super-mommy” but that I have my own limitations that I can’t always cross over, and that to be smart means learning to work within my limitations.
It means being willing to re-evaluate my life and see what is working and what’s not working, and changing things up when I can.
It means being painfully willing to admit that I may know 100 amazing and wonderful things I “should” be doing for my family (and all of them would be wonderful, it’s true), but that we have neither the energy or resources to do all of them, so I must prioritize. It means being at peace with the imperfections of life, and accepting life’s curve balls and doing my best to make the best of all that I do have.
That’s grace.So friend, if you also find yourself in the messiness of life feeling guilty for failing to meet the goals you’d like to, give yourself real grace. Not the kind that tries to trick you into thinking that you can do no wrong, but the kind that accepts your limitations and helps you prioritize and move forward.
That’s where I’m at – moving forward with grace for the messiness of life that mixes up the joyful things (like babies) with the hard things (like morning sickness), cooking again, straightening out upset tummies (already greatly improved), and trying to do a better job balancing life’s demands while accepting my limitations.
- When a healthy diet doesn’t translate into a healthy baby
- What difference can a healthy diet make?
- To the suffering undiagnosed, I know you’re not crazy
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Congratulations! Praying that the Lord would calm your queasy stomach and give you the energy to meet the needs of your family. Thank you for this post. As always, I am blessed and encouraged by your humility and grace. Many blessings, Sharon
Thanks so much, Sharon! I am finally feeling more like myself again, but still have to be careful to eat frequently (and it was a bit of a disaster to attempt to grind up liver the other day, haha!). So glad this post was encouraging.
Your words are like a breath of fresh air to me! Your dear family is fortunate to have such a wise wife and mommy. Congratulations on your newest addition.
Thanks, Eileen. I feel very fortunate to have them too. 🙂
Beautiful! I went through similar struggles when pregnant with my second, trying to take care of the dietary needs of my first. Thankfully, we are in a much easier chapter of life now. Well, I have a toddler, so I shouldn’t say “easy!”
Haha, oh yes, that is a busy stage, isn’t it!
Congratulations Kimi! I’m 21 weeks pregnant with number three and finally feeling mostly functional after months of fatigue and throwing up. This is exactly what I needed to read today. 🙂
Congrats on the pregnancy, and I’m so sorry that you also deal with morning sickness and fatigue! It’s such an amazing feeling when that starts to drift away.
Thank you so much for this post! I started feeling better around 24 weeks (I’m 30 now) and I definitely needed to read this. 🙂 My little boy keeps asking for his bread and I have felt so badly that I just couldn’t make it. He has a lot of food allergies, many of which are anaphylactic and I cannot buy a bread that he can eat. I really need to make it for him at least once before this baby comes and I’m too tired again! 🙂 Congratulations on your pregnancy and may your last 15 weeks (or so) be wonderful! 🙂
That must be so hard! I was so relieved that we found a local bakery that made gluten-free bread that my daughter could have. Kudos to you for making it through without bread to fall back on!
And congrats to you too. 🙂
Thank you for writing this. I am 10 weeks pregnant with my second and have been nauseas since week 6, I know for me it will be at least several more weeks before I start to feel better. I know I don’t have it as bad as some, but my formerly nourishing diet is totally derailed and there’s just not much I can do about it right now (doing the best I can)! It is refreshing and helpful to hear another mom offer encouragement to give grace.
So glad that this was refreshing to read. I wasn’t sure when I wrote it if it would come across as too much of a “downer”. So I’m relieved to hear that it’s not. “Doing the best I can” is a sort of theme around here….;-)
Well said! Thanks for this. As someone who is not a mom yet (but hopes to be in the future) I definitely put little tidbits like this in the back of my mind. That being said, it is totally applicable to daily life. We need to learn to have grace, work hard and have fun. If we can’t enjoy or work or the process in getting to where we want to go… it seems superfluous.
Kimi, your post was very good to see. Our family of 8 has been eating healthfully for the last 14 yrs but during that time we have had three pregnancies and a myriad of moves due to job changes, so I have been in the position of knowing the right things and not being able to accomplish them quite a number times. And yes, seeing the suffering of health due to not being able to always eat the ideal way is painful. However, we have 6 beautiful children who are growing up seeing these difficult times and they are very united and supportive of each other and of their parents whom they have seen trying to do the right things. It is humbling to accept when we can’t do things perfectly and humility is the foundation of virtues. So we shall continue to pray for the grace to accept even those less than ideal times in our lives. Praying for your family too!
Our family has had to make similar concessions during the last several months too, due to my 7th pregnancy. Feeling rotten for 20+ weeks, having chronic anemia (as usual), and then having a pregnancy rash starting at 20 weeks and finally under control now at 32 weeks. I finally had to realize that I need to FEED my kids rather than make plans for nourishing meals only to be waylaid to the couch at meal-prep time. So I finally started to buy a few easy to heat up or prepare meals to keep on hand. Not entirely nutritious, but served with fresh fruit or veggies at every meal helps. Plus my older kids can prepare meals too, so this has been a time of slowly teaching them new kitchen skills. My 12 year old daughter now cooks a healthy meal every Monday night.
I loved this post and am trying to figure out how to make it all work for me. I am 70 years old with 4 children that I went thru a lot of what you are talking about here. But all four made it thru to strong and healthy. I remember the day I made the “bit switch” in about 1972 (eeks) when I picked up a pamphlet at my local HFS that listed all additives and possible consequences. When I read that this and that could cause chromosome damage I literally screamed out, “I SUPPOSED TO FIND OUT AFTER MY GRANDCHILDREN ARE BORN THAT I CAUSED CHROMOSOME DAMAGE IN MY CHILDREN. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN”. l literally threw out 99% of the stuff in my refrigerator and cupboards that very afternoon. The beginning of food trauma for my family. I became the weird wife and Mom. But we made it thru. All children grew up healthy (halleluyah!!) and my eight grandchildren show no signs of chromosome damage caused by ingrediants caused by “food” that should really be illegal, and marked with a skull and cross bones.
BUT, now it is my turn to take good care of me and I am failing miserably. My digestion and apparent needs are much different than they used to be. And just yesterday my doc did some bloodwork and said I am seriously nutritionaly DEPLETED. Ensure time? egads, what ever happened to taste? I thought I was doing all the right things for me, but the tests say no.
Soooooooo, any ideas for simple (major operative word here), nutritious meals for seniors cooking for self only. Probably need a whole menu of what it looks like for a week.
meant big switch not bit.
Thank you for this post. I have had similar, long, challenging pregnancies. So good to hear I’m not the only one to “start over” after the morning sickness passes. That was so hard for me during my last pregnancy. God bless you and your beautiful family!
Thank you so much for this post. I am leaving a very busy period of time myself and need that grace too. The momma guilt was weighing me down tonight, as I consider the length of time I’ve put off implementing dietary changes for my daughter who I know will be helped by them, and who I also know will rebel against them. Thank you for the support, and many congratulations to you as you enjoy your pregnancy!
Your blog is one of my favorites, and not just because I love all your recipes. You express yourself honestly, with grace and humility. I hope this doesn’t sound too weird but I’ve always thought of you as a kindred spirit.
It’s so important to remember that we are not just physical beings, but body AND spirit. My life’s mission is to raise as healthy a family as I can within the confines of my abilities and resources. When my endeavors to achieve ‘perfect health’ leave me stressed out and exhausted, I know it’s time to take a step back, re-evaluate, and allow myself to ‘fail’ if you will in some areas so I can regain my sanity. Otherwise, by all my striving, I’m actually tearing down in the very area I’m attempting to build up. For me, THAT is the grace I’m slowly learning to give myself. You put it beautifully. We mamas need the reminder to have grace for ourselves just as we give our children grace.
And a big congratulations to your whole family!!
Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Thanks so much, Sarah! I smiled at the “kindred spirit” comment. It made my day!
And I agree, being stressed out helps no one’s health!
Congratulations! I wish you a happy, healthy pregnancy. I’m not a Mom, but I needed this post too. This summer, the cat that’s been our sole dependent and loving companion for 17 years experienced a retinal detachment, blood clot, and the onset of kidney disease all very quickly and is now receiving geriatric care and we’re monitoring her quality, which fortunately seems to be good enough that we don’t have to say good bye quite yet. Between stabilizing her, guilt over bonding with the outdoor cat that adopted us at the same time, changes at work, and the heat waves we were having, my anxiety cycled into a depressive state and I had a hard time focusing, let alone plan and prepare decent meals. Considering that diet plays a big role in controlling my mood, it felt terrible to be so off-track. Now that the fog has lifted, I’m getting back on track with planning and preparing, but it’s been hard to not beat myself up for not just picking myself right up. Even though the circumstances are different, your Grace is exactly what I’ve been needing to give myself.
I’m so sorry to hear about your poor cat! Losing pets is always so difficult, but I’m glad that you still have some time with her. Grace, “true grace” to you, friend!