Several days ago, when winter was still heavy on us, before the springtime air rushed in and refreshed every fiber…I had one of those days when everything felt like entirely too much. I scurried in the door on that bitter February morning, and could still feel the wind cutting through me and stinging my nose. But something cut deeper still, swept right through and left a mess of me…
Too many of my things that morning came from a place of “should” or “have to.” Too many of my things came from wanting to be productive, a “good mom,” to have something to show for my day, or to win some imaginary battle for someone’s approval (that was likely never in danger).
There is something in the air that presses on a mother, making her feel that the weight of the world is on her shoulders and like she has to do it all right.
Pressure piles, and says “Do all the things.” Guilt sinks deep, and says “You are never enough.” Sometimes this thing turns my eyes inward and threatens my joy.
Do you feel it, sister?
And no matter what “they” say…the “shoulds” and “have tos” are shifting sand. I don’t know about you, but I need some more solid ground to stand on.
I have to think it’s getting harder to be free in this mom space. Courageous women have fought long and hard to lay claim to the freedom and value and beauty and equality given us by God, from voting rights and sports and career and salary and leadership and in all the ways…
We are equal! And all one in Christ. (Gal 3: 28)
I love how Jesus so beautifully offered equal love and acceptance and value and appreciation and calling to the women he encountered, in a culture that said and did the opposite. Jesus was the first on the battleground of women’s liberation…women’s freedom.
Heaven rejoices as women find their voice…the voice they were always meant to have.
But I’m afraid that somewhere along the way, motherhood shrunk into the shadows a bit. Now that women can do anything, we can too easily feel pressure to do everything.
The world is loud with all we can and should do.
If you listen to the noise, you might feel pressure to have the babies and the perfect body; to be strong but not prickly; to do the house, the laundry, the cooking, the teaching and shepherding; to do the sports, the girl scout troop, the volunteering, the picture-perfect Christmas cards, the leading, the hosting, the crafting, the blogging, the class cupcakes and Valentines; to have the dream career, earn the full-time income and do the full-time mom thing (or one or the other, depending on the day); to be a fun friend and an adoring wife, intelligent and professional, but not too uptight. Also, be a laid-back mom, but not so laid back that your kids get rowdy, or hurt…
And, by the way, the noise says that most of this is just a side note to what you’re really doing with your life.
I’m exhausted just writing it. And, you and I both know that list could be so much longer.
It feels like expectations have been added, but none removed. I’m not talking about working because you love it, or because you’re providing needed income for your family. I’m not talking about making time for the things you love, and how it leaves your schedule a little full. I’m not talking about Saturday mornings full of the joy of watching your little people run their hearts out on the soccer field.
I’m just trying to put a name to whatever it is for each of us that brings that gut-deep hollowness that says “You’re not doing enough.”
One of the things that inspired me to begin writing for mothers is this thing I see happening to our spirits…this pressure to do All The Things.
On days when it feels a small miracle to put on clothes, All The Things still press in on me.
At times in my mom journey, I have found myself in a perpetual cycle of self-criticism. I feel weak if I get help with cleaning, or less-than if I have to say “No” to the baseball league or piano lessons, as it feels that everyone else has their children in sports and lessons of every kind from about age 3.
You might feel inadequate because other moms seem more on top of life, or you think the other moms must never yell at their kids, or because the other moms went organic. Or you haven’t greeted your husband well, or hosted the dinner, or showed up to the party, or returned the phone call…and it all weighs on you.
Maybe you feel guilty for not keeping up with doctor’s appointments or homework or the kids’ dental hygiene. Maybe you showed up at the doctor’s office and fumbled over birthdays, or found out your child had a fever you didn’t know about. Or, like me, you didn’t know the answers to half the questions about whether your child knows his last name or the parts of his body.
Since when is this a milestone? I missed the memo.
We might compare ourselves to the mom who has daily devotions with her children, or the one who wears real clothes and mascara every day. Or we envy the mom whose body snaps right back after having a baby.
Social media can be a flood of perfect pictures and extravagant birthday parties and family outings and magazine-ready living rooms and put-together mamas. As we take in pretty images of other’s lives, we have more material against which to judge ourselves and our families.
And the isolation that often comes with the little years can distance us from other mom’s hearts that say “me too.” When you’re alone, it’s easier to trust your snap judgments that have you convinced you’re the only one falling behind…the only one failing.
I have to believe that our days as mothers are not meant to be shadowed by guilt and regret and self-criticism, by comparison and pressure.
The pressure to be a certain kind of mom – or all the kinds of moms – leads me to do all kinds of things I don’t need to be doing. I can wander into the dangerous zone of boundary-less-ness, feeling like I should do everything and be everything…
There is this illogical drive to be all the most perfect versions of a mom – to somehow have the best parts of every mom I’ve ever met. I want to be the crafty mom, and the organized mom, the creative mom, the let-your-kids-cook-with-you mom (AHH!), the PTA mom, the easygoing “they’ll be fine” mom, the mom with the color-coded calendar, and the spontaneous road-trip mom, the clean-house mom and the mom who is totally present for the puzzles and dance parties. I want to be the mom who always responds quickly to her friend’s text messages and the mom who is not on her phone when her kids are around.
I want to be the right kind of hostess – the one with the idyllic calm, the homemade snacks and the fresh coffee.
And the right kind of wife – or every kind of wife – the perfect housewife and the wife with exciting dreams, the elegant and fun wife, and the wife unfazed by the undignified nature of days full of spit up and temper tantrums. I want to be the wife who is not caught up in her appearance and also the wife who can walk confidently and feel sexy after five babies.
I can easily fall into a continuous state of failure.
The cards have been dealt on the handful of things I’m good at and all the ones I’m not. I think freedom is just being the one kind of mom and human God made me. The necessities of life go on, and I actually can’t be in all the places at once. I think freedom looks like letting myself just be in the one place doing the one thing.
“Be everything to everyone” makes me bitter. It makes life feel arduous, and I begin to choke on every need or demand anyone has of me.
If I let myself live under this kind of pressure, it leaves me longing for easier days, for affirmation, and frankly, for everyone to leave me alone. This is the pressure that makes me want to run away. Those are the days when the constant comments at the grocery store about how my “hands are full” nearly crush me. Do you have days like that, friend?
Mamas, we must make a strong choice to reject these lies of pressure to do and be All the Things, and we must be washed in a new truth:
We were never meant to be everything.
If the weight of being everything is on our shoulders… If we were meant to fix the world for our children and everyone else… If it was our job to save their hearts, and satisfy them in every way… then Jesus died for nothing.
We were made human and finite and dependent and weak, on purpose. Raising our children to believe that their mamas can do everything and fix everything and be everything is a surefire way to lead them into the heart of disappointment.
But teaching our children how to move slow, how to trust that we were only meant to be in one place at a time, how to be free to be weak and in desperate need of a Savior.
This is a lesson that lasts.
And their Savior Jesus will never disappoint.
We were never meant to be everything. And we cannot write the whole story of the lives of our children. Under the loving care of the Infinite God, we have a specific and limited role.
As mothers, we were given a measure of authority, but God holds their hearts and spirits. As humans, we have an opportunity to partner with God in beautiful works…
but we run ourselves ragged in vain.
God has the role of winning the hearts of our children. Jesus came to save their souls. Our Father in Heaven holds them. He knows where each precious child fits.
The Almighty God has the role of being everywhere at once. We can just be in one place. If we choose the wrong one, He can handle keeping the world spinning another day.
Today, be free to be just the mama you are…good at the things you’re good at and not at the things you’re not.
Today, be free to be in one place at a time.
Today, let your Heavenly Father carry the weight of the safety and future and faith of your children. Let God hold all the people and places that seem to need you.
The pressure is off, sweet friend. Go, enjoy your freedom!