Un-Motherhood (plus a sweet GIVEAWAY!)

Jun 17, 2014

“I want you to be our guest speaker for Mother’s Day.”

He said the words easily, no trace of hesitation. Was that a hint of enthusiasm?

I’d met him years before at a conference, a senior pastor from the northeast. He wanted to change things up, he said, to invite a mom to speak to mothers.

Novel idea, I thought.

Theirs was a growing, thriving church, filled with families. I’d be speaking at all three of the church’s services, and my message would officially launch their family-themed summer message series. No pressure.

It was huge honor and responsibility. I knew this, and relished it. Motherhood had been the dream I’d nursed since I held a baby doll and read Little House on the Prairie (four times). It was the reason I’d filled grade school notebooks with doodles of stick families and drafts of future baby names. And it’d become the one endeavor that absorbed my time and energy and emotion for two solid decades post-graduation.

And that’s when the thrill of the invitation ended.

For me, motherhood in reality looked far different than it did in my doodlings. Something more akin to un-motherhood. Sure, I’d had a houseful of cute children, made memories and snapped too many pictures. But motherhood also came with a few unexpected extras. Things like divorce, single parenting, step-parenting, mood swings (theirs and mine), rebellion, a runaway child, special needs, far too many visits to the principal’s office (theirs and mine), and conflict. Loads of conflict.

Even as I held the phone to my ear and listened to the pastor talk, one son (a fully intelligent and able son) was about to flunk out of school. Again. In spite of all the consequences and conversations. And that was just the beginning of the ongoing drama that was “The Cushatt Family.”

Suddenly my resume for Mother’s Day Speaker seemed weak. I was the last person a church should parade on stage. And I needed to let this well-intentioned senior pastor know, before he found out I was a sham.

Yes, a sham. That’s how well I thought of my mothering. I had good intentions, of course, and a splattering of good moments. But that didn’t compare with results. Parenting is a results-based business, right? And, at that moment, my results were entirely unimpressive.

I prepped to bow out with minimal humiliation, but before I could state my case, the pastor made his.

For starters, he saw my divorced status as a qualification. “That’s more the norm than the exception anymore. We need to reach out to the non-traditional family.” As for those struggling kids? The bad grades? The conflict and disappointment and visits to the principal’s office? “How many parents haven’t been there? We need that kind of authenticity. That will help the hurting mom more than anything else.”

It’s now been a few years since that speaking engagement. Even as I took the stage that weekend, I felt a twinge of unworthiness. Still, in the process of pushing through, I learned something:

Struggle and failure don’t disqualify you from ministry. Often it makes you ideal person for it.

For too long, I equated any kind of ministry with worthiness. And I measured worthiness according to behavior: both mine and my children’s. And I measured successful behavior according to day-to-day choices. Bad choices? I was the worst mother in the world. DCFS should lock me up. Good choices? I should write a parenting book. Maybe twelve. With great effort and finesse, I could vaccilate between the two extremes any number of times. On any given day.

But here’s the deal: My children don’t determine my worthiness. And I don’t determine my children’s worthiness. It’s an unfair weight too heavy for either of us to carry. Instead, worth is established by the One who “knit me together in my mother’s womb.” He created, he called, and he set forth a plan he promised would be good. For both me and my kids.

As for results? It’s best saved for later, when all the data comes in. If you try to measure motherhood too soon, you’re sure to be disappointed. Like the bulb that promises a lily, don’t look for the flower before blooming time. Beautiful things take time to grow. {You don’t have to have it all figured out today.}

I still don’t feel very good at this mothering thing. And I’m pretty certain I’ll never write a parenting book (you’re welcome). But let’s you and I stop measuring our success and worthiness according to the emotions and behavior of the moment. Instead, let’s lean into grace, into the slow unfolding journey, and into the Knitter of Babies and Grower of Lilies.

He knows how to bring all things to a beautiful end.

Untitled design

Today I’m giving away 3 (yes, THREE!) copies of Kathi Lipp’s brand-spanking new book I Need Some Help Here: Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. Need to know you’re not alone? This is 176 pages of PRESENCE.

To be entered to win, leave a COMMENT below and share this post to one of your social media feeds. {Make sure you link me so I can see it!}

And to SWEETEN the deal (because what mom couldn’t use an emergency stash of something sweet and yummy}, I’ll include a little extra something along with your book. Dontcha just love surprises?!

UPDATE, 6/22/14: WE HAVE 3 WINNERS! Congratulations to Sundi Jo, Heather Thorpe, and Stacy Cholas, winners of Kathi Lipp’s book I Need Some Help Here and a sweet surprise! Check your email for a note from me, and we’ll get your goodies shipped out ASAP. May your mothering chaos be shared with friends and seasoned with more than enough HOPE! Much love to you, fellow mamas. ~Michele


Free Book Giveaway!

I Need Some Help Here!

Do you ever feel like an un-mother or un-father, and completely unworthy of the title? 


  1. Julie

    Michelle, you are always the best at revealing what so many of us feel. We so want to be the best mom, kind all the time, but life and emotions get in the way and we yell, say unkind things and then live with the regret and shame. I always try my best but my actions don’t always show it. I will try to have more compassion for myself when I fail.

    • Michele Cushatt

      I’ve been mothering for twenty years. You’d think I’d be better at it. 😉 But it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done (well, that and marriage!). With every year I grow more grateful for grace, and hopefully more likely to extend it.

  2. Rabbi Evan Moffic

    Michele, thank you for this beautiful and insightful message. When we love being a mom or dad, we can be tempted to see our whole purpose as filling that role, and the “results” as indicating our worthiness. You’ve given me another way to think about it.

  3. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Michele…my children are grown. They are loving, funny, each successful in their own right. But each one, in their own “sweet” way, gave me all my gray hair.

    At seventeen I can guarantee you I was not a very good mother. Then several things all aligned to make me a mentally ill mother. Then divorce, single motherhood, remarriage, step-parenting with an emotionally abusive, controlling, “Christian” man. Another divorce. Those things scarred my children. My heart carries the guilt about those years to this day. But…my children are all on the other side of it all, all grown up. And the things I did well? The things I did right? The love I gave them? They were enough…enough to launch loving, funny adults out into the world who love God, love me, love each other, and love their own children (and their own grandchildren!). We do our best and God takes care of the rest. Thank you so much for being so open and authentic.We need your voice in the world.

  4. lisa evola

    Sister ~ I can so relate to feeling like a sham. I’m embarrassed more often than I even care to think about. We see our children’s choices as our failures and live constantly in the shame. I know I do anyway. Next year I am going to be homeschooling my “able” 10th grader in hopes that we can get through a year of education without teachers looking down their noses at us (him and I both) It would be nice if we could separate our responsibility in these matters, but I’m not sure it is possible…..God give me strength! We’ll get through it….and probably laugh one day!

  5. Sundi Jo

    I’ve been working with a ministry lately that reaches out to Single Moms. The struggles so many of these women deal with, trying to measure up, playing the roles of both mother and father. It’s been a humbling experience to see others walk alongside them and let them know they don’t have to do life alone.

  6. Mackenzie Sheahan

    Michele I love this post!! I sat here and realized that I have learned to embrace my past & mistakes because I know God can use it to help others and reveal who God is. My mothering skills on the other hand….I have been holding on tight to the guilt and the shame instead of finding freedom in this area of my life as well. None of us are perfect, I just need to realize that doesn’t make me a bad mom. I love that women like Kathi and you are being vulnerable and asking us to join in the conversation!! I need some other moms who are not perfect to keep me sane!

    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, Mackenzie! What an encourager you are. Yes, you’re absolutely right. God can use even our mistakes … even our mothering mistakes. Nothing is wasted! Sometimes it tough for me to believe, but the evidence throughout the Bible is staggering. I’m banking on his covering grace.

  7. Heather Thorpe

    Love it!! So funny, Joe Boyd, fellow CBC alum, did a Ted X Cincinnati talk about…… failure. It is what we all experience and I LOVE your authenticity…. and I love you!!!

  8. Lily Kreitinger

    We hold up that “Mommy score card” too high. I found that the worst is when we look at the next mom and feel like we’ve failed because our children are not as “accomplished” as hers, and even more so when other moms judge and criticize our choices. My most recent ‘discovery’ has been that I am raising adults, not children. Novel idea. I think it has been around for a while 🙂 Being authentic, accepting and giving grace, and being supportive of each other seem like a much better way to un-mother together. Blessings to you and your beautiful family, Michele!

  9. Marie

    Even though I’m a grandparent, I’m continually learning. My daughters are grown and I still question all the decisions I made in raising them! I feel I have a second chance with the grandchildren, and I love to share ideas with, and be a support for, my daughters as they parent!

    • Michele Cushatt

      3 cheers for the always-learning grandparent! Way to live it out, Marie. 🙂

  10. Dawn Kerr

    Thank you! FRESH air for my suffocated soul! God bless you for being hope & comfort for “the rest of us”. 😉

  11. Luna

    Oh I much rather hear a message from an honest messy mom than a mom who acts as if she has it all together (because who really does have it all together anyway?) That was a wise pastor and I’m glad you share the truth.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Haha. Well I am most definitely a messy mom! Ask any of my 6 kids, and they will verify. 😉

  12. elaine

    My first time here. This “Un-Motherhood” post is spot on. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Nice to “meet” you Elaine. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. stacy

    No truer words! Somehow you manage to put my thoughts, doubts and fears into words. Words that, instead of breaking me down (like my inner voice tries to), encourages and elevates this momma back to the place of, “I can do this!” “I’m not alone.” And yes, the jury is still out and probably will always be. But I’m slowly learning it’s about moments and the journey. Not about the results and how it looks on paper. Lord knows, on paper we are not a pretty picture. Thank you for your amazing words. I can’t wait to read Kathy’s book! 1

  14. Chris Moss

    Thank you. That is all.

  15. Amy

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing!

  16. LindaN

    Would love to win a copy of your book as a gift to a young family just starting out. Parenting never ceases to surprise with it’s highs & lows, but a little forewarning goes a long way in helping us to roll with the punches & come up smiling for the joy beyond all joy.

  17. Angi Kolthoff

    Loved this post! As a SM I often wonder what Im doing wrong that I don’t see different results. I appreciate the reminder to lean into the Knitter of babies:)

    • Michele Cushatt

      I’ve been the SM, too. And all that responsibility weighs heavy on the shoulders. Keep pressing on, my friend. With you.

  18. Shaunae Motley

    What a wonderful and timely book!!! All too often, I’ve felt as if this motherhood thing is not my cup of tea. In my professional world, I fight hard everyday to save everyone else’s child, while my own is slipping away… After many prayers and conversations, my little one and I are atill standing!!! Thank you for sharing your story. Although I’ve only read the excerpt, I’m excited about reading it soon. If possible, I’d like to enter to win one of your free copies. If chosen, I’ll share with my both my professional/personal network – I’m a champion for youth development and family strengthening! All the best many blessings for future success.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Entered. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with your circles! It’s a good book to pass on. Who doesn’t need a little parenting encouragement?!

  19. Renee'

    I happened to see your post on twitter and decided to click. Thank you for the inspiration…I needed to hear this today. God works in mysterious ways.

  20. Elaine

    What a great post!!!! Thank you;)

    • Michele Cushatt

      You’re welcome, Elaine. Glad we’re in this together.

  21. Crystal

    Once again, Michele, you jumped right into my chest and cradled my heart in your hands. I have often measured my own success and worthiness by the emotions and behaviors of the moment. Today, I’m going to try to change that!

  22. Sally Ferguson

    Oh how I can relate to feeling unworthy. When life doesn’t meet our expectations, we think somehow we’re at fault. Shouldn’t there be someone we can blame?! But learning to roll with the punches and come back up fighting for our kids, we also find purpose in parenting. Thanks for that reminder!

    • Michele Cushatt

      Blame is a thief, isn’t it? Always trying to rob us of joy and peace and the ability to move forward. Especially when we’re blaming ourselves. Thanks for your insight here, Sally.



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