I became a mama at the age of 26. I was gainfully employed as a registered nurse and working with a parenting program. Babysitting was one of a handful of jobs I had as a teen. I naively felt prepared for motherhood. I had read the books and done my research. I was ready to meet our first little blessing and hold him in my arms.
He arrived after nearly 18 hours of labor. That alone humbled me. I had a birth plan. I knew how things were “supposed” to go.
I wanted an all natural birth and ended up with a pitocin laden induction and hyperventilated through a vacuum assisted delivery. It was not perfect and not at all what I had “planned.”
After all those hours, I held that sweet boy in my arms, amazed at the gift he was. I knew from that moment on I would do everything I could to be the best mother I could be.
Nearly a decade and three more children in to motherhood I’ve realized something I’m not proud of.
I’ve focused entirely too much time and energy on being the perfect mother.
Breastfeeding until 12 months? The pristine nursery? Spotless outfits every time we were in public? Pinterest worthy birthday parties? Sanitize every hard surface baby touches? I’ve done them all.
I’ve also failed plenty. Toddler poop in the kitchen floor? Check. Arrived at church to notice nothing my child is wearing matches? Yep. Driven an hour to a doctor’s appointment and realized I forgot the diaper bag AND arrived on the wrong day? Guilty. Formula fed my baby? Yes, and that’s 100% okay.
There have been life circumstances outside of my control as a parent: serious medical issues, no sleep, developmental challenges, and family illness. While I’ve experienced Hallmark moments, I’ve also had my share of “crying on the bathroom floor” days.
Here’s the thing, mamas: It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Ever. In reality, life will rarely play out in the neat and orderly fashion we might like. Again, that is OKAY.
I have learned this after many, many tears, prayer, and pep talks from friends. It is far more important to be what your children really need than a highly edited Facebook version of perfection.
What does your child really need?
If you find yourself trapped under the burden of perfection, consider these things:
1. He needs to know he is loved. By God, who created him and numbered the hairs on his head, and by his family. Accept his personality, quirks, and individuality.
2. Children need their basic needs met. This is food and water, shelter, and clothing. Not the newest and best of everything.
3. Your children need your affection. Even if you aren’t a “hugger” your child might be. Aim to give 5 hugs, high fives, or pats on the back a day.
4. Children need your time and energy. Get down in the floor and spend 15 minutes talking with, reading to, or playing with your child. As they grow, watch and listen carefully for cues as to how they’d like to spend this time together. Our 6-year-old likes to visit a local dulcimer shop just down from an ice cream parlor. I know this because he asks to go at least once (or 57 times) a day. Our oldest son prefers to frequent the library or book store (also close to a restaurant he likes).
5. Children need to know they have value. You might say, “I’m so glad you’re my little girl!” Or “I had so much fun with you today! Can we do this again tomorrow?”
6. Children need to be heard and know that you are there for them. This is foundational for the future. When they come to you at age 5 with a question or concern, take time to listen and respond thoughtfully. When they are 16, they will know they can depend on you for the same support. (I don’t have teenagers yet, but I’ve been one and worked with many over the years, and have found this to be true.)
I write these points from my failures and my experiences.
I’ve come to realize that I will never be perfect, but I can be the best version of me.
My “best” will fail and fall short, but I can see each failure as an opportunity for growth and positive change.
And that mama is the very one God wanted for these four boys. Therefore, I know He has equipped me with what I need to parent them. For example:
- The perfect Batman birthday cake gets smashed on one side five minutes after pickup from the bakery. I feel panicked and anxious that the party won’t be perfect. Mark’s solution? Create an “action scene” with other characters. God has provided me with a husband who supports and calms me down when I need it most.
- I’m feeling frazzled and am consequently not being as kind and patient with the boys as I should be. One of them perceptively asks, “Mommy, are you feeling stressed? We should pray about it.” I am often reminded of His promises to provide my needs from my children.
- Maybe I’m having an off day, or we had discipline issues during school time. I go to the mailbox and open it to find a sweet and encouraging note from a friend that absolutely turned my day around.
These are just a few simple examples, but I fully believe each of these illustrates a practical way that God equips me with what I need to navigate motherhood.
Do I still have hard days? Absolutely! But when those seasons of struggle and feelings of doubt creep in, I seek to remind myself of what my boys really need.
Most importantly, I mediate on God’s promises on those days when parenting challenges overwhelm me.
- King David wrote, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3. I read this and remind myself, “Our children are blessings from God. I am thankful to be their mother.”
- I often gravitate to Paul’s words in the book of Philippians. In chapter 1:6. “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” God has blessed us with our children and when we lean on Him for strength, guidance, and understanding, He will complete a good work in us. He won’t leave us struggling.
- In chapter 4 of Philippians is a favorite portion of scripture that I memorized several years ago. My tendency is to fret about things, but when I stop and seek God’s wisdom, I never fail to find peace in verses 6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
It is my prayer that my struggle with perfection will help you in some way, some how.
Have you faced this same struggle? As always, I would love to hear from you.