To Every Mom Who’s Ever Fallen Off the Wagon (Welcome to the Club)

“I give up.”

That was me two days ago. I was standing in the bathroom holding my son’s soaked pants. Potty-training was going horribly. We were six months in and I was desperate. Besides that, this same son still couldn’t put on his own shoes, couldn’t buckle his seatbelt, and still resorted to screaming instead of talking. I had poured so many hours and so much energy working with him on these things that taking a step back didn’t seem like an option. It felt like failure. It felt like falling off the wagon. Again.  

Lately I’ve heard a lot of moms talk about falling off the wagon. In the old days that term referred specifically to alcoholism, but it has broadened into meaning not following through with a goal. Can you relate?

Recently I talked to a disappointed mom. She had set out on a huge fitness venture, gotten halfway through, and quit. The kids got sick. She was up every night taking temperatures and didn’t have the energy during the day to exercise. 

I knew exactly how she felt. Earlier this year I set up a plan of everything I would cover in school with the kids. It was grand. It was preschool on steroids. About two weeks into my plan it started to crumble. Now, six months out, our school day looks nothing like my original plan. 

What happened? 

Moms, every day there are thousands of opportunities to fall short of our expectations. So while you’re sitting there in the dirt, looking around and wondering how you fell off the wagon yet again, here are three things to consider: 

1. It’s a chance to reevaluate your expectations of yourself. Moms are notorious for setting up goals and routines that aren’t always the most realistic. If you’ve fallen off the wagon recently, reflect on whether or not that wagon was the right one for you. Does your fitness routine reduce stress or add stress? Are your standards for a clean house blessing your family or burdening them? We get discouraged when we start something and can’t keep up the same steam – but that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Don’t be disappointed if something you thought would last forever only lasts for a season. Life is made up of seasons. So you only stuck to your diet for three weeks instead of fifty years? You still did something good. Be thankful. Look at what you accomplished (no matter how small) and say, “Thank You, Lord, for giving me the strength to do that.” And then use that as a stepping stone to evaluate what works for you in this season of life. Don’t get discouraged – get realistic.

2. It’s a chance to reevaluate your expectations of your kids. Standing there in the bathroom thinking about all the things I wanted my son to do differently I realized I didn’t want him to be different at all. I just wanted him to be him. He didn’t need to accomplish potty-training and dressing himself at any particular time. He just needed to be loved for who he was. In that moment I wasn’t falling off a wagon anymore – I was leaping from it. “Get me off of this thing!” The time I spent trying to pressure my son to fit my agenda would be much better spent cuddling him and building his confidence. Sometimes we are frustrated by our kids’ failures when they aren’t actually failures at all. Do you keep falling off the same wagon with your kids? Maybe you should let that wagon pass you by for now. Try again when they are ready. 

3. It’s a chance to fall hard onto Jesus. 
There are some wagons we need to get back on over and over again. Staying off is not an option. Things like consistent discipline, time in God’s Word, and speaking kindly to our kids and husbands. Those are the falls that hit us the hardest because we know in our hearts what we should be doing. And that’s where Satan is poised and ready to strike. He loves it when we’re face down in the dirt, overcome by the weight of our failures, too weak to get up again. But that’s right where we meet grace. That’s where we fill our dry cups with mercy and drink long and deep of forgiveness and love. And we get up renewed, ready to get back on the wagon, knowing we will fall again, knowing Who’s arms will catch us every time.  

There’s no real giving up, moms. There are only periods of rest, times of redirection, and many trips back to the fountain of free grace. 
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
Galatians 6:9

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2 thoughts on “To Every Mom Who’s Ever Fallen Off the Wagon (Welcome to the Club)

  1. Thank you so much for this poignant reminder. I just recently let go of trying to get my 3.5 year old son potty trained. The daily, err, hourly battles were getting to be too much. Sometimes we just have to give these struggles over to God and know that He will resolve them in His time. As I try to teach patience to my little ones, I know I am the one who needs to learn it most.


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