Perfectly imperfect: Being the mom God created you to beWritten by Carol Cuppy
What's inside this article
The perfect mom
Sarah had her hands full with three kids under the age of six. The two boys and a girl were constantly on the move and had their hands into everything. Sarah loved her kids more than anything, but she was always exhausted. It was all she could do some days to sneak in five minutes for a shower. Taking the time to do her hair and makeup? Forget it! Besides, she needed that half hour to run another load of laundry, pick up the toy explosion in the living room, and pop something in the oven for the church bake sale. She didn’t know how her neighbour, Jessica, managed to get it all done and be the perfect mom.
Jessica had three kids of her own but never seemed short on energy. Her hair and makeup were always picture perfect. She was always dressed to the nines, not sporting sweatpants and a hoodie like Sarah usually did. Jess had dinner on the table at six o’clock sharp every evening and that was after she worked a full-time job and squeezed in a workout. And all those photos that Jessica posted on Instagram? They couldn’t showcase a more perfect life if Norman Rockwell had painted them.
How did Jessica do it? She appeared to be the perfect mom. Sarah, on the other hand, struggled to brush her teeth in the mornings while her kids were hanging off her arms and legs, begging for attention. Every day, Sarah compared herself to the other moms who she assumed were knocking it out of the park. And every day, she felt more and more discouraged.
Pressure for perfection
A recent survey found that out of 13,000 people who were interviewed, 60 percent of moms felt like they were failing, especially during the first year of parenthood. Many moms feel guilty because they can’t live up to the standards of perfection that society constantly preaches. Visions of the “perfect mom” are displayed in movies, magazines, and on social media. They give us a long laundry list of all the things that we need to do and be in order to be a perfect mom ourselves. And we lose ourselves struggling to check off every box on that ever-changing list.
The truth is this: There is no such thing as a perfect mom. It’s a myth. A fantasy.
Even those moms who we might perceive as being perfect – like Sarah perceived Jessica to be – are just as imperfect as you and I! These women have their own struggles, their own fears and their own failures. We just don’t see the whole picture.
A matter of perspective
Social media, especially, has made it easy to control which parts of our lives we show the world. For instance, imagine you have an apple in your hand. One side is perfect with its glowing red skin. It looks positively delicious. On the other side, a bite has been taken out of the fruit, exposing the inside. If the apple is photographed from the unblemished side, no one can tell that there is a piece missing from the back. From that perspective, the apple looks perfect.
That apple can represent the lives we lead as mothers. We often choose what to show the world, and so do our friends and neighbours. When we look at other moms and see perfection, it is important to remember that they are in the same boat as we are. They desire the best for their children and they, too, are striving to be the perfect mother to their kids. Every mother faces struggles and challenges each and every day. We all fall short of the target that the world has set in front of us.
Perfection is subjective
Remember the laundry list of things that we need to do and be in order to obtain “perfect” status? That list is always changing and is incredibly subjective. Put five people in a room together and everyone will have a different opinion of what perfection looks like. For instance, imagine two potters are sitting next to each other creating a clay vase. The first potter may believe that an absolutely symmetrical piece of pottery is perfect, and so she strives to make her vase as symmetrical as possible. The second potter may believe that abstraction is perfection, and so she works to create a vase that looks as if it has stepped out of a Picasso.
When the two potters examine each other’s work, they will see flaws because their idea of perfection has not been met. The same goes for motherhood. Everyone will have their own ideas and opinions of what a perfect mother should look like. Many of those opinions will contradict each other. If we try to please everyone, we will always fail.
Perfect moms, perfect kids
Not only do we feel tremendous pressure to be perfect mothers, but we feel pressured to have perfect kids. The world leads us to believe that if we are succeeding at being a perfect mother, our kids will turn out to be perfect kids who will grow up to be valuable, contributing members of society.
Your kids’ value is not determined by how perfect of a mother they have, or how perfect they are. God has placed a tremendous value on each life independent of such criteria. As a mother, you can teach them to contribute to the lives of others. They can grow up into amazing men and women who can change the world, all without the pressure to be perfect.
If we are too busy striving to be a perfect mom, we are missing opportunities to connect with our kids. Our attention is focused on everything else, but not on them. And your kids will notice. Our children will quickly learn that they have to live up to certain expectations. By constantly chasing perfection, we are teaching them that anything short of perfection is failure, and that failure is not acceptable. Our kids can come to believe that if those expectations and that level of perfection aren’t met, then they haven’t earned our love. And since perfection can never be met, they will constantly feel as if they have failed.
Holding our kids to this standard of perfection can push them into rebellion and strain our relationships with them. It could, even, impact their relationship with God. We must be sure, as mothers, that our focus is on loving and teaching our children, and not on the pursuit of perfection.
God made us to be perfectly imperfect
So what is the good news in all of this? It’s that God made you to be perfectly imperfect!
As believers, we have been made perfect in Christ. Our sins have been erased and we have been made whole in him. You are perfect in his sight. God created you to be exactly as you are – with all your strengths, weaknesses, quirks and imperfections. He intentionally made you to be the mom that your kids would need. Think about it: God could have given your son or daughter to another mom. But he didn’t! He gave your kids to you. He knew that your kids would need the perspective, life, and love that only you can offer. You are the perfect mom for your kids!
The world may tell us that we need to live up to certain expectations of perfection. God’s expectations look entirely different. It’s important that, as mothers, we focus on his ideals of perfection in our lives, and not the world’s. Focusing on him can bring us peace and direction as we mother our children.
I’m not saying that it will be easy. Even with God at your side, we will face stress and challenges as we parent our children. We will question our worthiness as a mom. Remember: God created you for such a time as this. And he created you to raise your kids with passion and purpose.
How, then, can we lean in to God and create reasonable expectations as we try to be amazing mothers? Here are some ideas that can help set up those expectations and show our kids that we are more focused on them than our ideals of perfection.
Should and shouldn’t – setting reasonable expectations
If you were to sit down and write out the list all the things that you feel you should do in order to be a perfect mom, what would your list look like? How long would it be? What expectations did you list?
Take sixty seconds and jot down as many things as possible that you should do to be the perfect mom. Sixty seconds up? Stop. Now take a look at all those things you “should” do. For example, you may have written, “The laundry and dishes should always be done.” Or perhaps you wrote, “My kids should always be well groomed.”
When we say the words should and shouldn't, we are planting unreasonable expectations of how things need to go in our minds. When the laundry isn’t done, or the kids have just splashed through a mud puddle, we feel like we’ve failed. That failure is a strike against the perfection we’re seeking as a mom.
Instead of using words like should, shouldn’t, always, and never, try using words like “could.” This helps us to have grace and patience when things don’t go as planned. For instance, “My kids could help with the chores.” When something comes up that alters the plan, we will not be so harsh on ourselves. The word could allows for wiggle room in our plans and helps us set reasonable expectations.
Being the perfect mom
Remember that God created you to be unique. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by him (Psalm 139:14). He designed every nuance of who you are; you are perfect to him. Lean into God as you walk along this wonderful journey called motherhood. Trust him to guide you in what is best for your kids. Remember, you are the mom that your kids need.
You are doing a great job at being a mom. The important thing is that you get up every day and you keep going. You keep loving your kids and showing them that you are present. And you are demonstrating the steadfast love of Christ while you are doing it. You are being the mom that God created you to be. And that’s what makes you a perfect mom.
© 2020 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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