There is this idea I’ve got about motherhood. It’s that there is a perfect ideal out there, and that I’m the one not measuring up to it.
Not only am I a mom because I have kids, but my current vocation is motherhood. It’s the career I gave up working for (at least for now). Shouldn’t I at least be a little bit better at it? But the reality is: being a stay-at-home-mom does not make you a better mother.
Sure, I have my strong points as a mother. Everyone does. My kids get to thrive in a structured environment filled with routine and schedules and healthy food… because those are their mother’s thriving points. Apparently the fact that my kids go barefoot and have minimal screen time and maximum climb-around-outside time and regular story time and sit-down breakfast and dinner time almost every day means that I’m a great mother in some people’s book.
But I can do 10 things right and still feel like there are a 100 things I’m not getting right.
I just read an article talking about the importance of pretend playing with my kids. And I hate to pretend play (like better mothers do).
I just cleaned up half of my kid’s science experiment in the bathroom because I’m slightly compulsive about cleaning up clutter and I didn’t stop to ask why she didn’t drain the bathwater and left her lizard soaking (like better mothers do).
There are three dozen AWESOME ideas for playing and exploring with kids on my Pinterest board, and most days I would rather tune out than tune in and create something fun with my kids (like better mothers do).
I’m good at ignoring my kids in the name of “getting something done” and then snapping in anger when everyone’s patience starts wearing thin instead of stopping and listening (like better mothers do).
I often forget to stop and pray for or with my kids, and we are routinely falling out of devotional routines with our kids while I hear stories of crazy awesome dinner table conversations about matters of faith and life (in houses where better mothers live, of course).
I’m not sure I want to have more than two kids, because GOSH motherhood is hard and time consuming and demanding and I’m afraid I’m just to selfish to divide myself up anymore than I already am (like better mothers do).
The list could go on. And on. An endless judgement against my guilty conscience for the ways that I just don’t measure up.
You see, the truth is, motherhood doesn’t quite come naturally to me. There are instincts of course. And I chose this thing because I believe with all my heart that it’s important. But some days, there are 1,000 other things I would rather be doing. And I feel guilty for it. It’s a struggle daily to re-choose motherhood.
And then yesterday, through a conversation with a friend, it hit me. I’m not the only one to whom motherhood does not feel as natural as living and breathing most days. I know some amazing mothers. And most days? They aren’t sure if they are hitting it or missing it either.
I mean, I can see it. Even in their worst moments. When their kids are melting down and their houses are a mess and their dinner just came out of a box and they forgot the multivitamin and sunscreen this morning and the TV was on all day and…
I can see it. They are AWESOME moms. Not because their lives or kids are perfect. Not because they LOVE every second of motherhood (or even most parts of it if we’re really honest). Not because they can juggle work and kids and life with this otherworldly grace or ease.
But in spite of it.
Wanna know what makes a great mother? It’s not the clean house, the neat kids, the endless hours spent playing, the sit-down dinners, and regular family devotions and prayers. It’s not even liking motherhood or feeling particularly “called” to it.
Nope, it’s none of those things. What makes a great mother? It’s simply being on the journey.
Anyone can be a mother. And anyone can be good at it. It’s impossibly hard and eternally important, yet paradoxically it’s also the simplest and most mundane role one can ever embrace. You will never be humbled so low as in the pursuit of motherhood, yet find no higher exaltation or crown of glory in this life than stepping into these shoes.
Jesus himself modeled it perfectly. He lived fully on the journey- embracing who it was that God designed him to be exactly, and without apology (and not anything more or less). He…
“emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” (Philippiants 2:7-9)
That is all that is and can be required. That we be ourselves, and that we be in the pursuit of ourselves. Who it is God created us to be.
I know some moms who may not have it all together. They may not even fully know who they really are or are meant to be at this point. But their hearts desire, at the end of every busy and exhausting day, is that they are more fully alive. More fully themselves. Whatever that means.