I read so many articles and blog posts about being a mom, motherhood, motherdom, mama power, etc. Everybody has their angle, their take on how we survive this whole parenting business and still feel like we have worth, like we can make it through the day, like we can actually enjoy our children. Being a mother is such a huge part of what I do. Wait, no. It is a part of EVERYTHING I do. I eat differently because I’m not really ever sure I am going to get to finish my meal. I sleep differently, because I need to ensure that I am ready to jump out of bed if I hear my child crying in the night. I dress differently, to cover my mommy belly and to make sure that if I spill on my clothes, I can wash them or it isn’t a costly mistake. I think differently, talk differently, shop differently, pray differently. Motherhood encompasses my existence.
I read a lot of posts about feeling OK that I am a stay-at-home-mom or how much value I have because of all the unpaid things I do. I read articles about how it is or isn’t ok to give them french fries, or to let them watch TV or how many books I am supposed to read with them per hour. I am constantly getting information on how I can be better or how horrible I am. I read blogs about making sure I have time for myself, for my husband and for sex. Am I dressing nice enough? Doing my hair and makeup everyday? Being well rounded and reading my bible regularly? Is my house clean? Is my husband happy? Not only these exterior voices but even my interfamilial feedback—aka screaming, crying or laughter from my kids and spouse–are all a part of interpreting the value of my mothering. The value of my existence.
But really, it all comes down to this question for me, which lives between my ears every night after my head hits the pillow, “Am I a good mom?”
This question plagues me. I lay and evaluate my actions for that day, week, month, and lifetime. Maybe I shouldn’t have yelled so much today… Oh man, the kids haven’t eaten ANY vegetables in a few days… We watched more than the doctor recommended maximum of 2 hours of TV…I lost my temper more than once…The house is a mess…I am a mess…I am in a bad mood…I have no time for me…I am so hungry and I ate too much chocolate and drank too much coffee…We didn’t learn a new bible verse this week…I didn’t fold the clothes…I didn’t make a thank you card for grandma and I haven’t sent great grandpa a birthday card from the boys…I let them negotiate too much…I said ‘no’ too many times…I didn’t hug them before they went to sleep…I could write a book full of these phrases that run through, on and on and on….all leading to the starting and devastating possibility that, no, I am NOT a good mom.
The thing I am realizing is that, it’s a dumb question. It’s a ridiculous question. It’s an impossible to answer question until I stop looking at the world, my kids, and my community to answer it. Our value cannot be found in the smiles of our well dressed, well adjusted, clean, fed, well behaved children. Nor can it be found in our loss of baby weight, nicely done hair and makeup, perfect house and marriage. The answer comes from our Creator, the God of love, who is love.
The question shouldn’t be about my performance or the accomplishment of my tasks to build a perfectly presentable family. The question should be about love. “Am I a lover?” Do I love God and am I showing love to Him throughout my day? Am I treating my children with love through affection and discipline? Am I showing my husband love and respect in the day and the night? Am I having grace for myself and loving me and my own body, soul and spirit?
I find that if I ask myself the right questions, then I really know the answer to how I need to shape my life. It’s not about being good anymore, its about the condition of my heart. That’s what God is looking at anyways, so why should I put my energy and attention anywhere else?
If I let love in and make it be my metric, my gauge, I am really allowing God to help me become more like him in all these areas of my life. Now the dirty clothes don’t seem to be such a weight on my shoulders and the mac and cheese AGAIN for dinner, not the worst choice in the world. With even that last sentence, I am able breathe better and rest in the arms of a Love I know from God.
As moms and, lets face it, simply as people in this harsh and critical world, we need to let love in, let it run the show in our hearts and lives. We need to stop giving ourselves performance evaluations and heart palpitations, but we need to breathe in the grace and love from God and exhale it on to our kids and families. AND THAT is how you are a good mom.