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