The Perfect Woman

I’m 37 years old and have two small children.

Just when I would feel like I was getting on top of things, my babies would change again.  These early years are so crazy.  Kids are in a constant flux of phases.

With our first, I had a job where I could have our baby at work with me.  It was both awesome and ridiculous.  I was neither a mother nor an employee.  I was a terrible collision of the two.

With our second, we reduced our living to bare bones and I’m at home.  Here and there I pick up some freelance work but mostly I am a full-time housekeeper and early childhood educator.  Ha! Just kidding.  I do very little housework or educating.

One word to describe my adventure of a mother of two?  Unravelling

I noticed it when our son was still young… Someone would ask me to meet for a play date. Or we’d run out of milk and I’d have to go to the store. Or someone would ask me if my kids were hitting their milestones…  My edges would start to fray. A loose thread would pull and my seams would start to open.

Too much.  It was all too much.

I know that I seem like a total lightweight.  I know that mothers all around the world raise dozens of children with no problem.  I know that there are women who feel their best when they are simultaneously pregnant, nursing and homeschooling.  I am a huge fan of women like that!!  I’m just saying, two kids is a lot for me.

I talked to my mentors and peers.  Some shared that, secretly, they were feeling the same way.  Some others had great suggestions… get organized, get a routine, read a book by so-and-so, stop being selfish, get a grip, get out of bed, put your kids first, come on – you can do it!

Don’t be offended, please, but those great suggestions made me want to die.  During those conversations my chest would get tight and my heart-rate would go up.  To recover I would lay on the couch while the kids watched tv.  Yep.

When our second baby was 6 months, I went to a neurologist (part of an ongoing quest to work out why I have numbness and muscle atrophy in my arm and leg) who gave me a prescription for massage.  His gentle eyes were teary as he said to me, “You are at home all the time with two young ones.  You are exhausted.  At least at these massages you can be alone without your kids.”  (Note:  A huge thank you to my wonderful husband who rearranged his work schedule to be able to drive me to those appointments and entertain the kids.)

Is that really what I needed?  An hour of kid-free time twice a month?  That would help?  Well, those massages were pretty glorious but they didn’t change anything.

I keep hearing women, especially mothers, talk about the importance of being good at what they do.  One mom I know recently said, “This is my full-time job and just like with a paid job, I have to be able to prove my worth to show I’m a good employee.”  I have to say, she’s pretty awesome at what she does.  She is a genius in the kitchen, she does awesome daily activities for her kids, she has an incredible cleaning routine, and she has really great hair.  I’m a huge fan of her.  She also said that she is battling depression and feels like a robot.

Um.  Did someone make an idol called “the perfect women?”  Are we all supposed to be bowing down to it?

Who gets to define what a woman is?  What a mother is?

There is a huge amount of pressure on women and mothers to be “good”.  Sadly, the definitions of “a good women” and “a good mother” are ever-changing and the majestic pursuit of it has gained a cult following.

A few years ago, a young mom told me told me that she had to end a friendship because the friend had a sticky floor.  She said that a sticky floor displayed an out-of-balance life.  She did not want to be friends with someone who was out of balance. I recently watched a friend close her heart against her grandmother because she couldn’t endure any more judgemental comments about her small children.

What in the world is going on?  Why have we allowed ourselves as women… and our powerful opportunity of influence… to become so twisted?  What has happened to the beauty and strength of our womanhood?  Why aren’t we flourishing?

1. The Knowledge of Good and Evil

God’s original design of us did NOT include an ability to judge things as “good” or “evil”.

“But the LORD God gave him this warning: “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen 2:16-17)
…the serpent hissed. “God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. (Gen 3:4-7)

Of course this passage is talking about our human condition on a high level.  Can we put that aside for this conversation and talk about something on a personal level?  Don’t we all walk this path that Eve pioneered?  I take the fruit and eat each day.  I use my knowledge of “good” and “evil” to judge myself and others.  This knowledge skews everything… my eyes are opened to a life of comparison and judgement, and I look at myself and feel shame at my nakedness in front of the eyes of others.  So I string together all kinds of coverings… achievements, methods, a clean house, sweet children… and hide myself beneath them.

This is not a life of joy.  This is a life of hiding. And of pointing fingers.  This is no life at all.

2. Mary and Martha

Somewhere along the way the Christian community has bought into a “this AND that” ideology.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it — and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

I feel like I see a terrible idea in our lives:  We should be both Mary AND Martha.  Martha should have been on top of things and should have had the dinner prepared ahead.

Yikes.  And so we combine God’s Truth with social requirements.  For example:  God says to show hospitality (e.g. Heb 13:2) and we ADD on to it “cleanliness is next to godliness” (NOT IN THE BIBLE).  The fruit of this awful combination is women who are unique and necessary parts of the Body of Christ don’t feel that their homes are clean enough to have guests.

Shame on me for every allowing human concepts like that to define me.  (Can we all agree?  It is very dangerous to add man’s ideals on to the Word of God.  I’m thinking about time after time in history when men pursued their own desires and did terrible things in God’s Name.)  Women, our Creator is the One who gets to define us.  And His definition is beautiful.

Funnily, when I shared these thoughts with one of my dearest friends she said to me: “You don’t let your messy home stop you from having people over.”  WHAT!!?  I totally clean before she comes over.  HA!  My best attempt at doing the “good” thing is unimpressive.

But she is right about one thing: I won’t let my messy home, my messy life, my messy self stop me from being who I was created to be and doing what I was created to do.

The answer finding a great life is a “Him”, not a “how to”.  The journey to a life of joy and freedom is done with God.  And the goal isn’t to do everything right. (Including parenting, by the way.  There’s no such thing as parenting your kids the “right” way.) The goal is to be in relationship with our Father God as we wrestle through the things of life.

How should you discipline your children?  There are a bunch of great books and lots of wise mothers who have gone before us.  They are great resources!  Do not ignore them!!  But in the end, you and your children are unique and God wants to walk with you through it.

How should a women’s home be kept?  Clean? Sure if you like it that way.  Hospitable? Yes. And to those who say, “A messy home is not enjoyable for me to visit so they are not being hospitable if their home is messy.”  You’re judgemental and you should stop it.  If you love cleaning your home, go for it!!  But no one else should have to be just like you.  We should all be aware that there are probably things about us that other people are having to turn a blind eye to in order to enjoy being around us!

Of course there are things that are no okay… like mothers who are negligent or abusive… or homes that are so dirty that they unsafe for inhabitation… but have we let those kinds of issues dominate our freedoms?

Let’s totally rock this world by encouraging and highlighting each other’s unique gifts and beauty.  We are all called “women” but the way we apply our calling is unique.  Some of us are also called “mother” but the way we apply that calling is unique.  Let’s be advocates for each other!

Over the past few months I’ve started to love me.  I can’t believe I’ve lived so long not being a fan of myself.  I’m seeing the beauty of my personality, gifts, passions.  I’m seeing that God crafted me for beautiful purposes.  Bit by bit, my fraying edges are healing.  Is the opposite of unravelling, ravelling?  I’m feeling it.

P.S. I didn’t have enough sleep last night.  My kids have been really raw today.  I’m not sure my blog will have any flow or make sense today.  Why did I go ahead and write it if I’m feeling this way?  Because I’m not letting my messy life stop me.

8 thoughts on “The Perfect Woman

  1. Serenity says:

    So freeing! And you are welcome in my messy home any time. I promise, I won’t even clean up before you come! 🙂

  2. Katherine says:

    AMEN! If anyone knows about messes WE do. 😉 Gotta keep that JOY in the process. That honors God the most. 🙂 Today, I looked on the mirror and said, “God help me love myself the way you love me, and NOT get captivated by who I think I am supposed to be. Well said, indeed! We are gonna have lots of kids, but not because I am great at it, but because GOD is faithful and restores. He heals us, encourages us and grows us as we go. He is so faithful my friend and sister in GRACE!

  3. todayiprayed says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! Thank you for the encouragement! My life is quite often “messy” by others standards, but more often than not, it is blessed with an abundance of freedom, children, life. I wish that my house was cleaner, my life more organized, but i find that if i completely pour my life into these things, my relationships suffer. When clean houses and organization trump relationships, life fails. This is not God’s desire for us. He desires for us to be in relationship with Him and with others. Great encouragement today!

  4. Reese says:

    Loved it! It is so true of the mothering journey, making your way daily through the curve balls, routine changes, kid messes, sleepless nights and monotonous days… It is rewarding but it is as much a chaotic balancing act that no one is excellent at! Love how you capture the realness of it all In your writing and the grace motherhood teaches each of us for ourselves and others In this busy season of life. I have learned to stop comparing myself and judging and have started focusing on my strengths and giving grace and encouragement to other
    moms. I remember being so stressed out as a new mom, trying to do everything right and keep up with the ” standard”. Over the years i have become a much more relaxed grace giving mom. We all have our areas of
    strength… I really relate to your struggles and
    live by the motto” a spotlessly clean house is a sign of a wasted life!!” Lol! I’d rather enjoy these young kid years and focus on my strenghts then strive for motherhood perfection in misery!! Hugs!

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