If the internet is to be believed, I am utterly failing as a mother. I’m not serving my child homemade, organic foods cut into cute shapes at every meal. We’ve never taken him on a real vacation, let alone visited another country where he would be exposed to different cultures and languages and lifestyles. I don’t concoct elaborate Pinterest-worthy activities to entertain him, we rarely make crafts that involve anything other than paper and some crayons, and I have no clue how to sew a rogue button back onto his dress shirts. I’m not a team mom, or a room mom, or a mom with a demanding day job, or an over-the-top party mom, or even a super chill, go-with-the-flow mom.
I see all of these aspirational “mom types” filling my Instagram feed and plastered across the blogosphere, and occasionally I have an actual Super Mom sighting out in the wild. (Wild being the aisles of HEB where Super Mom—let’s just call her SM—effortlessly navigates a grocery cart piled high with toddlers, while a baby hangs out in the carrier strapped to her stomach, and a well-behaved preschooler walks by her side.) While I certainly admire these SM’s (whether real or Instagram-filter-enhanced), seeing them in action definitely leaves me feeling less than. Less than a good or even adequate mother. . . less than all the other moms. . . less than my own potential.
It’s no surprise, then, that I cling to honest admissions from other mothers who acknowledge their own shortcomings. In her book Introverted Mom (full review to come), Jamie Martin talks about trying to find her footing as a new mom, and the numerous mistakes she made as she attempted to tackle the things she saw other mothers doing with grace and ease.
“It takes a while to figure out who you are . . . as a person now that the lifelong job of raising children has forever altered your identity. We find ourselves mostly through trial and error. The errors don’t mean you’re doing something wrong; they mean you’re one step closer to knowing yourself. Our society has made an idol of getting things done, making that our top cultural priority.”
She’s right! I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m not being productive (especially in all the ways I perceive moms are supposed to be productive), I feel like I’ve let my family down. But Jamie goes on to suggest that, instead of looking to what other parents are doing as our measuring stick for success, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I doing what’s MINE to do?” Answering this simple question will help us focus on what is important without constantly feeling pulled in all directions.
So, what’s mine to do right now? Love my child, delight in him, read with him, care for him while also encouraging independence, and teach him how to love God and others. Support and love my husband, spend time with him each day and work together to lead our family. Serve as a safe and comfortable incubator for the twins, providing them with the nutrition and rest that they need. Keep my house decently clean. Make sure that my fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy foods, and that my family is eating three well-rounded (if not entirely imaginative) meals each day. Spend regular time in God’s Word and in prayer. Occasionally share my words on the internet. That’s it! If I’m checking off all of my personal boxes, I can rest assured that I’m doing enough. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Of course, this is a snapshot of my To-Do list for a very short window of time. Soon, what’s mine to do will look different. Feeding and caring for two newborns will be added to the list; regularly writing online will likely move down to the “icing on the cake” category for a time. My list will continue to change as my children get older and more independent, and again when they leave the nest. Instead of focusing on what I will do then, or on what other moms are doing now, I need only keep my eyes on my own current list.
I believe God stretches and grows us by asking us to do things that feel beyond our bounds of capability—things that He will empower us to tackle. But I also know that He has gifted each of us differently, and that He doesn’t expect any one of us to check all the boxes all the time. He gives each of us the grace to handle what is on our plate RIGHT NOW. And when we give our best to what is in front of us, He is able to use us in unimaginable ways in the lives of our family members, our communities, and beyond.