Confession is something that has always intrigued me about Catholicism. Not only are your sins wiped clean each week, but you also get the chance to sit with someone, one on one, and pour out the contents of your heart.
I suppose the closest thing we have to that in Judaism is Yom Kippur. But, Yom Kippur is only once a year, and our confessions don’t go to a flesh and blood human, but into the ether where they may or may not be heard. And, even if there is a God up there listening, how can he ever really understand what it is to be human—to be created with desires and needs that make any semblance of perfection impossible?
So, today, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to confess to you, my fellow women and men, mothers and fathers, Jews and gentiles, with the hopes that you will understand and forgive me, as only other flawed humans can forgive.
1. I hide from my kids. The other day I saw a new mom holding her baby and gazing at him with the most adoring smile. It brought tears to my eyes. I was that mother once. The one who couldn’t get enough of my little ones… no matter how often they cried or how little they slept.
But as they’ve grown older and needed me less, I find myself moving away as well. Perhaps it’s a defensive measure for the day when I have to let them go completely, or perhaps it’s just a selfish desire to make time for myself. But, these days, I find myself spending more and more time escaping. I watch with guilt as other mothers volunteer in the classroom or engage their kids in complicated crafting projects. I want to be there for my kids, and I do think that I am in the most important ways. But, I could do better.
2. I am lazy. Oh so lazy. Instead of doing laundry or scrubbing the floors, I slip off to quiet corners to read or write, or sometimes just play on my phone. I know that domestic chores are an important part of being a stay-at-home parent, but still, I can’t bring myself to do more than the bare minimum. Growing up in a messy house, I’ve developed a high tolerance for clutter and chaos, but it’s not fair to the rest of the people I live with to not try a little harder to create a peaceful environment for them.
3. I don’t find motherhood rewarding enough. I struggle with this a lot. When my kids were little, they were my whole life. If their needs were met, I was satisfied. But, now I need more. So much more. While I do watch their accomplishments with joy, being a mother no longer fills me up completely. When I listen to other mothers kvell about their kids, I feel pangs of inadequacy. They seem so satisfied and complete in their role as mothers. Is there something wrong with me that I need to write and socialize and have adventures separate from my family? I’m not sure.
4. I am jealous of my single friends. Jealousy is my least favorite word… so, it is with great trust in your compassion that I use it. I got married and started a family fairly young. Perhaps not having the experience of being on my own for very long is what causes me to idealize the single, unfettered life. When my single Facebook friends post pictures about new loves or overseas adventures, I have to work hard to get past the envy that I feel creeping into my heart. Even as I type these words, I am tempted to diffuse them with how much I love my husband and kids and how much I appreciate all the wonderful experiences of being a wife and mother. But, the point of this is to confess, not to justify my faults.
5. I don’t do enough to help the world. For the first time since becoming a mother I have a lot of time on my own. Much of that time I use for working, writing, and volunteering, but still, there are many hours that I spend simply dreaming. There are so many people in this world who are hurting, so many causes that could use my extra time. I know that I can do more.
6. I don’t believe in God… I don’t think. I added this one as a nod to the spiritual aspect of confession. But, there is also a component of guilt involved. I come from a long line of fiercely faithful people. Sometimes I feel like I am disrespecting my ancestors by not being more pious. So, I try—again and again—to make faith a part of my world, but every time my efforts fall flat. As dreamy as I can be in my head, my feet are still firmly planted in logic. And that logical side just won’t let me believe that there is Someone up there who would allow so much pain in this world.
I’m imagining you out there, reading this list, shaking your head, judging me. But, I’m also going to imagine you smiling. At my humanity, at yours, at all the ways that we are tragically and beautifully flawed. And I’ll use that smile to forgive myself and try harder to do better—not to avoid penance, or to please God—but to make the world a nicer place for you, my fellow humans.