You all have been hearing from me a lot during the book study, and I wanted to give you a chance to hear some other voices from women who I both love and admire. They all have messages I know you’ll want to soak in deeply, so I’ll give them the spotlight through September.
You’ve heard her voice with me on Grit ‘n’ Grace, but I wanted to give you a written dose of my brilliant and fun friend, Cheri Gregory. Please welcome Cheri!
I swore I would never be an “After all I’ve done for you …” kind of mother who burdened her children with guilt.
I just wanted to be a loving mom who did nice things for her children.
Until I did nice things for them, and they failed to react with smiles of gratitude, that is. Or, worse yet, acted grumpy or upset, which was decidedly not in my plan.
I wanted to do nice things for my children so they would be happy … or at least that’s the story the People-Pleasing Bully told me. But with People-Pleasing running the show, it was impossible to tell truth from fiction.
It’s taken me years to realize that I didn’t care so much if my kids were happy. I did nice things for them mainly because I could not tolerate them being upset. I needed them to seem okay so I could feel okay.
When they weren’t happy, I didn’t want what was actually best for them. I wanted, and did, whatever would cause my own upset, triggered by their upset, to abate.
Thus, all the “favors” I did them. Thus, my resentment and bitterness. Thus, both my children floundering after they left home. All my “niceness” actually set them up for failure to launch.
I truly did not think of myself as a “helicopter parent” or “smother mother” or “stalker mom” during their high school years. But I was all of these. I jumped in to help too quickly. I didn’t let them fall flat on their faces. I didn’t let them pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and figure out what had happened let alone how to prevent it in the future.
Instead, I meddled, rushing in to cushion each fall.
My reasons were understandable: I had experienced inappropriate pain and disappointment as a child and a teenager, so I was determined to keep my children from suffering as I had. But in protecting them from the inappropriate pain and disappointment, I went overboard and tried to protect them from all pain and disappointment.
While my kids were in high school, I thought that my “involvement” would produce wonderfully high GPAs that would snag scholarships that would launch strong college careers.
I was wrong.
What happened is that both my kids snagged thousands of dollars worth of scholarships but lost them all during their first year. Both were kicked out of the Honors Program.
I’d created the nice illusion that all they had to do was show up, be their wonderful selves, and everything else would just happen. My daughter sank into a depression her freshman year when she discovered that, on her own, she could not figure out how to keep clean laundry in her drawers, let alone stay on top of homework, let alone keep the GPA to maintain her scholarships and remain in Honors. Jonathon, already an introvert, retreated into gaming for similar reasons.
I now wish they’d spent their final two years of high school as dorm students at the Christian boarding academy where I teach, instead of living at home. Getting away from me would have fostered greater independence. They would have learned many life skills and gained the maturity that comes from not having their own way all the time.
Yes, I would have missed them. But my job wasn’t to hold onto them as long as possible or keep them as comfortable as I could. My job was to facilitate their maturity and autonomy. Had I focused on that long-range goal, they would have been spared unnecessary pain and struggle their freshmen and sophomore years of college.
But People-Pleasing never let me think beyond the present. People-Pleasing kept me hyper-vigilantly alleviating the immediate discomfort of each moment. So when they struggled during their freshman year of college, I blamed them for wasting our money.
Because, of course, after all I’d done for them …
* * * * *
As God’s been leading me on this journey of breaking up with Perfect, I’ve found that Galatians 1:10 applies to all my relationships, including (and sometimes especially!) my relationships with my children:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Pleasing God means breaking my snowplow parent habits of clearing the path in front of my kids. It means learning to let them experience necessary growing pains rather than protecting them, and myself, from discomfort. It means that I no longer work so hard to avoid disappointment but trust God to carry my children—and me—through through it.
And it means trading my “After all I’ve done for you…” martyr attitude for an intentional focus on all He’s done for us and is still doing in us.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. She speaks and writes from the conviction that “how-to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Her goal is to equip women to relate and create with less drama, more delight.
Cheri is the co-author ofThe Cure for the “Perfect” Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver and the upcoming Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity.