Monday, December 23, 2013

Giving Up The Perfect Mom Image

As a mother I've struggled with wanting to be so many things.  I've wanted to fit "the image" of the perfect mother, in all its many definitions. At least the ways that I defined it:
  • 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 fail.  I mess up.  Sometimes I let the house get too messy.  Sometimes I focus too much on my tasks and refuse to read to the kids.  Sometimes I neglect my husband by focusing on the kids too much or focusing on me-time too much. Sometimes I forget that my children are young and expect perfection from them. Sometimes I get cranky and yell and blame others. Sometimes I fail to give grace to my husband, my kids, or myself.

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

April E.

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