- the mom who played with her children
- the mom who read classic books to her children
- the mom who always looked put together
- the mom with the nicely dressed, matching, clean children
- the mom with the well-decorated, beautiful, organized home
- the mom who baked her own bread
- the mom who cooked whole foods from scratch
- the mom who baked cookies
- the mom who used natural medicines to keep her kids healthy
- the mom who read the Bible daily to her kids
- the mom with the well-behaved children
- the mom who was always calm and kind and loving
- the mom who was fun
- the mom who earned money from home without neglecting her family
- the mom with the happy kids
- the mom who met all her children's emotional needs
- the mom who devoted herself to her husband
- the mom whose children follow her through Wal-Mart in a perfect orderly quiet line
But that wasn't possible. I couldn't be all those things at once. No one could. I couldn't be fun and calm and keep our home perfect. I couldn't force my kids into a cookie-cutter mold of the perfect child and I couldn't make myself fit some cookie-cutter mold of the perfect mom. Whatever that is.
I had to choose ... happy kids and husband or perfect home? Happy mom or perfect food? I couldn't meet my children's emotional needs and cook three gourmet all-natural meals a day. I couldn't always be the fun mom and keep the home spotless. I couldn't be calm and loving all the time and fill my own introverted emotional tank without sometimes telling others they needed to wait. I couldn't do it all and be all things to everyone in the family ... especially as the family grew.
So I had to decide what is essential to me?
- children who know they are loved by God, and by their parents
- children who feel free to be who God created them to be
- children who are learning to obey God and their parents, albeit imperfectly
- a home that is filled with God's love even if the parents fail regularly
- a home that is safe and warm
- a home that is clean enough to be healthy and not totally embarrass me if someone drops by (okay sometimes we're still embarrassed)
- devoting most of my time to my family, and still leaving some time for myself so I don't burn out
- re-working my schedule to meet my husband's so we have time together
I gave up on the perfect mom image. I gave up on having perfect children. I gave up on being the perfect wife. But I can't just give up. I can't wallow in my own selfishness and laziness. I can't let the kids act out all their selfishness. I can't let the house succumb to the disorganization and chaos that 11 people in an 1800 square foot home creates. I can't ignore my husband and say "that's life in a large family."
There will be moms who have a cleaner or more beautifully decorated home than I do. There will be moms who look more stylish than I do. There will always be times when someone else's child is behaving better than mine. There will be moms who homeschool better than I do. There will be moms who are more naturally calm than I am and don't struggle to control their words. I just have to accept that.
Deep down I still believe that somewhere out there is the perfect woman who manages to do all those things I can't. If she exists, good for her. I'm glad that God equipped her to manage all of that. I just have to keep my eyes on God and His path for me in my family. Am I serving Him each day? Am I training these active, passionate, determined children He gave us? Am I doing my best? Sometimes I have to admit I'm not really doing my best.
So I thank God that every day is a new day, a new chance to start over and try again. I ask God to forgive me for making selfish choices. I forgive my family for not being perfect. I forgive myself for not being perfect. I ask my family to forgive me when I am not loving or kind. I don't focus on my failures, but on who I am in Christ. And I keep trying. Each day. Each week.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14