To enjoy motherhood, every woman needs to give herself permission to be free. What does that mean to a woman of faith?
I was flipping through channels, trying to find something fun to watch when I stopped on an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker.
I had never seen the show before, but since the boys were in bed, I thought I’d check it out. It’s a reality show where a matchmaker with personality named Patti matches single wealthy people, all claiming to be millionaires, with potential spouses.
One client carried a written, long list of qualities she wanted in her man, in her purse. The matchmaker took a lighter to the list and burned it in full view. She was shocked speechless.
Her list profiling her perfect mate kept her from enjoying any hope of romance. Patti said her client wanted to control the process of falling in love so badly, she was shut off from any real moments that were happening. Her list kept her from really seeing people for who they were. All she saw was how far everyone was falling short of her expectations.
As I was watching this young woman struggle with letting go of her expectations, I saw a part of myself in her.
I’m not talking about dating. I’m talking about mothering.
You see, I also carry a list.
It’s called the Perfect Mom List.
The Perfect Mom List
I didn’t put this list together for my mother or for anyone else. This list is for me.
Although I have to admit, I’ve actually giggled putting together a list of ideal qualities in my dream guy, I’ve actually never sat down to write one down for me, as an ideal mom.
To my surprise, a Perfect Mom List has somehow emerged. It’s made it’s way into my heart and it’s filling up discouragement in my head.
If you saw my Perfect Mom List, I think you’d agree. It’s not unreasonable, is it?
I want to always be patient.
I want to be super organized, so my home looks like a calm learning environment, where everything has its place.
I want to make creative meals, so my children and husband will clap their hands and be so excited to sit down and eat.
I should have endless energy and always delight in playing with my children whenever they want, even when both of them want to play different games at the same time.
I should be crafty with glue and construction paper, love coloring and drawing funny pictures.
I should love keeping the house in order, doing laundry, while lovingly providing counsel to my children when needed, yet drawing boundaries and discipline firmly when necessary.
Can you see how easily “want” really meant “should” to me? Can you see how this list deceptively became my Perfect Mom List?
The problem with this list is that it keeps me from seeing how God views me.
A Startling Discovery
This list keeps me from enjoying the moment and keeps my children from getting to know the real me.
Early in my mothering, when the struggle towards the 24×7 life a parenting hit a peak, a wise mommy mentor named Betty gave me this advice:
Just do what gives you joy — a joyful mommy is the best mommy.
It is godly to be joyful. It is godly to be at peace.
God wants you to have joy. God wants you to have peace.
Don’t do what robs you of joy.
Don’t do what robs you of peace.
I was definitely skeptical of her advice.
No. This couldn’t be. I objected.
Over time, as we continued praying and I went digging in the Scriptures, I started trying her advice out. I came to a startling discovery.
I don’t have to wait until the kids are older and I’m better at mothering.
I can have joy now — I can have peace now —IF I give up my list.
Stopping & Starting
Giving up my list meant stopping.
I stopped buying craft supplies that I hardly never use, that make me feel craft challenged and guilty.
I stopped trying to be the scrapbooking mommy that I could never be.
I started doing what felt natural to me — activities with my kids that gave me joy and incorporating time for myself that gave me peace.
I started taking my first steps to mothering without a list.
I was on my way to mothering by faith.
Mothering By Faith
When I let go of my expectations — and others’ of me — I realize that giving myself permission to be me at mothering is actually an act of faith.
When joy and peace guide me in my mothering, my heart is set free to enjoy my family. It takes faith to keep walking in that direction, even when we fall short and feel like we are failing.
The rewards of trusting God in us is the joy of knowing we are enough.
I am working on a new list now. I call it the How I Enjoy Mothering List.
Maybe I’ll show it to you sometime.
For now, I say burn that Perfect Mother List.
They say you only get one chance at parenting. I say, let’s take our one chance with God’s grace — first on the list.
Now, I load up the boys and let them run around the park, while I sit on the bench and eat grapes and goldfish.
“Christ has set us free to live a free life.
So take your stand!
Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”
~ Galatians 5:1
What list are you carrying?
In what areas is God encouraging you to “stop” or “start”?
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This month’s series is “Shots of Encouragement”. Yes, I’m thinking of you — the ones always lifting others and keeping others in mind. Let’s encourage each other as we fill each other’s cup.
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This Thursday’s Topic 6/30 :
What is one area you’d like a refill of encouragement? (e.g. work, parenting, marriage, friendship, ministry, faith, health, finances, or ___? )
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Next Thurday’s Topic 7/7:
Here’s the topic: What God has been saying to me in my “whitespace”.
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I feel that you are a mother with great insights to your children. I paused for a while about reading your list and thinking of my own list as a mother. Thanks for your wonderful idea and I really appreciate it.
Kharie, thanks for stopping by!
Wow! This is a really wonderful post for moms! How encouraging! I definitely need to work on mothering by faith, and think I will probably come back to read this post more than a few times. Thank you for laying it out there in real-speak 🙂
PJ, it’s wonderful to meet another “mommy soldier” in arms! 😉
Thanks for the chance to be vulnerable yet again! I love that in being willing to share our struggles like this, we become more open to receive God’s truth as He speaks to us directly and through others in the community. In our freedom, we are also able to encourage others. SO Bonnie, thanks for your steadfast witness and BE encouraged that as you walk out your freedom from perfectionism, you are teaching by example to your children how to be free in who God made them. And that’s one of those things that makes a better mom 🙂
Dunlizzie, I’m so happy we have share this virtual place together that reaches us in our everyday experiences. Virtual letter writing, in my mind, don’t you think?! 🙂 *hugs*
What a great post! I have struggled for years with the “perfect mom syndrome”. I have burdened myself with all the “shoulds” you listed. Thanks for giving me permisssion to be me.
Lorie, so good you dropped by. Hugs, mommy friend!
Interesting post – yes, encouraging to those of us who long to be ‘perfect moms’ but chimes in with thoughts on perfectionism from a couple of weeks back…
The advice to do what brings joy and peace could fit any area in which we feel discouraged, couldn’t it? Something for the fridge door or the Bible bookmark…
Hey Angi, you’re insightful :). Yes, God continues to touch where we’re most vulnerable, weaving His encouragement in different areas.You’re a blessing!
Thank you for kind encouragement!
Boy, do we need joyful mommys! Way too many are stressed and grumpy! I dont think we encourage our moms enough. Despite their weaknesses and failures, left alone to their thoughts the negative sneaks in and wrongly brings them down. I call my mom every couple of days, just to let her know she is thought of and remembered.
Aw. David. That is so sweet! Trust me, your mom’s heart sings after every phone call. And yes, I don’t want grumpy or stressed! LOL.
This is a great post and should be required reading for all new mothers. Yes, there are always things we could and should do better, there are moments that get past us, but there is always grace. “Don’t do what robs you of joy. Don’t do what robs you of peace.” That sounds like some good soul care there.
Soul care. That’s great, Nancy. Gonna go look for more reflection on soul care. Thanks for that. I love our “conversations”. 😉
Please, please show us the new list. I’m drowning in hopes and expectations, trying to be a mother to three under four years old, and I’m lost. Cultural expectations have choked the life out of me, and I want to be God’s best mother to my children.
Oh, Char! I wish you were nearby – would have you come over. Make our kids some mac and cheese, and share some fresh fruit and cold glass of something with you! God, be with Char and lift her up!
Your insights are fantastic.
Such truth…now that all four of my children are adults two of whom are mothers I see how quickly the time has passed. I also hear what they remember about their mother…It is so interesting what they have taken away.
One of the greatest memories is having “fun” times cooking in the kitchen, having friends over and time together as a family. Simple things…important things…daily things.
You are right on the mark with this one girl…
I just love ya..
Tammy! SO excited and happy the door swung open and you’re here! *hugs* I know you know the challenges first hand, but I love how you encourage us with your lifegiving encouragement – among the mess, we can still make space to create memories with our children and our friends. I never stop learning from your example, beautiful friend! Your daughters are so blessed to have you there backing them in these early years! ooxx
I had one of those lists! It started when I was pregnant with the first boy, motivated by a brochure in the dr.’s office. The cover picture was a woman dressed in white, serenely gazing at her serene baby, also dressed in white. What a crock. Took me years to give it up! You are definitely walking in the right direction, mothering by faith. Joy and peace in mom create joy and peace in her home, in her husband, in her children.
Thanks, Suze! LOL. Yes, those mommy pregnancy classes really should be kinder and give us some heads up, don’t you think?! 🙂 Thanks for your words, friend!
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If only you could have seen me nodding vigorously in agreement as I read your post! Yes! My tendency toward perfectionism has led me to a similar “perfect mom” list. What I eventually realized is that I was combining the best traits I saw in my mom, the best traits I saw in my mother-in-law, and the opposite of every “bad” trait I saw in every other mom. Soon after I figured that out, I shared the discovery with my pastor, who smiled and said something like, “No wonder you’re depressed.”
He has since given me a great deal of specific advice, but I still work on being who the Lord wants me to be, rather than who everyone else wants me to be. Thank you for sharing your heart!
LOL. Oh, friend. That’s quite a list! 🙂 What a joy it is to share with each other. Thanks also for sharing on FB, Melisa!
What wonderful advice your friend Betty gave! I want to carry this thought into the other areas of my life. See, I have more than one “perfect” list! The perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect church volunteer…Arghh! Joy tends to dissipate when it is spread too thin!
Thank you, Bonnie. I always delight to see your newsletter in my inbox. I know I will always enjoy your words and be stretched a little by them too. And that’s a good thing!
“Joy tends to dissipate when it is spread too thin! ” Even when dropping comments, you can’t help but write as a poet of the heart. 🙂 Laura, I feel we’re writing virtual letters, don’t you think? I always enjoy your company. Makes me smile *hugs*.
Phenomenal post, Bonnie. I love your heart, and I love how you put the things of God so simply. Can I be like you when I grow up?
Aw. Kelly. I love “growing up” together. Your poetic words and photos to match – they make my soul dance and sing. They move me. 😉
How wise you are becoming as you heed His voice and lean into His ways. Yes to joy! No to guilt. Let the list burn.
“Let the list burn.” I love how you help me stand up tall, friend!
This is SO much a lesson I need to learn. Only 10 minutes ago I was beating myself up for not being ‘perfect mother’. I think it’s because I’m working through a 31 Days of Prayer for Your Children and had started to see it as 31 Days of Instantly Becoming the Best Mother in the World and Raising Perfect Children!
Love it. Thank you!!
Oh, Sarah! We all totally relate. You got me chuckling. Laughter is good shared among friends. Blessings, my mommy friend! 🙂
You don’t know how much I needed this today, but God did. So grateful for these words of encouragement. After a year and a half my daughter (14) came home to visit. My mother and her cooked up a scheme that I was abusing her a year and a half ago. The week I took over the youth ministry at church. Go figure. Well, she came home to visit and I let her go stay with my mother in law overnight. While there she told them I sleep all day and she had to watch my other three kids. LIE. Satan is the father of them. So she left without saying goodbye. Her father picked her up from my mother in laws house. He never even called me to talk about it. My mother was there. My husband and I will never trust our mothers again. They have both been highly abusive in the past. They will lose out on seeing their other three grandchildren so we can keep them from their abuse. I keep asking what I did wrong, but I did not do anything wrong. I have fibromyalgia, I still am a great mother, I am a dual enrolled college student, I am a minister, I am a writer, and I love my children beyond words. Today I tear up the list that says I have to be what my mothers say I have to be. I also tear up all the lies of my own list. I choose joy and peace. I choose to rejoice in the other three children who held me as I cried yesterday and told me I was a great mother. Sorry this was so long. I am again thankful for your post and to Jam with you on Thursdays.
Melinda! There is no greater gift than the on you shared here — your heart. God is in it all. He sees EVERYTHING and He is wise and good to sustain us. I hope this weekend, you have a chance to enjoy some respite and may God continue to be in the midst of your family. I’m sorry you have to go through this, but God will be faithful to see you through.
Wonderful advice for moms and dads and everyone. He created us for joy and sharing our joy. When we model that our kids feel free to live in and share their joy as well. Great post. Thanks Bonnie!
I’m so glad that came through. Moms and dads… and all of us who can be swayed by our “lists”. So great to see you here, Jason. I hope you have a great 4th!
Oh do I have lists! Great Teacher, Wife, Friend…. you name it I have it. It has been hard to learn to give myself the grace to be imperfect. The grace to know that some things just are not worth the stress.
Thank you Bonnie!
Hi Katie! God keeps us busy, learning to melt into Him! 🙂 *hugs*
Oh dear Bonnie, I think that mothering is a gift that you don’t think much of until you’re pregnant for the first time!
I’ll email you a poem that someone shared years ago with me….once I’m away from my grandgirls and back home again…and once I find it! Lol
Live in the moment, be a lifelong learner, facilitate discoveries with your kids and love well…pray with your kids and for your kids…and don’t let them think you never make mistakes! You’re already a great mommy because you love God and serve your family as into the Lord…
Now step away from electronic devices and go snuggle a kid!! 🙂
Thanks, Marina! 🙂
This is so good, Bonnie! So refreshing to be reminded of these things. I liked this … “When I let go of my expectations — and others’ of me — I realize that giving myself permission to be me at mothering is actually an act of faith.” And this … “They say you only get one chance at parenting. I say, let’s take our one chance with God’s grace — first on the list.” Thanks!
Hi Cherry! Saw your post submitted for the jam. Can’t break away at your place. Thank you, friend!
I so get this. I struggle with failure (against my self-imposed high standards) especially as a child of God and as a mother.
I want to be a mom that my kids saw as oozing love, not lists. And joyfilled because of Christ.
Thank you for this post!
It’s nice to know we have mommy friends in the foxhole together! 🙂 Thanks, Caroline!
SUCH a great post, and a great reminder in how we let “lists” dictate our lives and our journeys! Thank you for sharing!
Hi Lindsey, it makes me happy knowing I have sisters to share the journey with! Out with those lists! 🙂 Loved your “sometimes” post, btw. Simply delicious to my soul. What a beautiful heart you have!
So glad I found you! Can’t wait to link up next week (Thursday came and went, but it was my birthday so I’m not complaining!) Thank you for sharing that what we choose to do with the opportunities and challenges of mommying should be motivated by love and joy. We get so sidetracked, don’t we? I have a five-year span between my first two kids and my second two – I feel like God gave me a do-over. I have so much more fun now! I wish I could have known how to burn the perfect mommy list sixteen years ago!
That’s great, Alyssa! God is great at giving us do-overs! Look forward to jamming together!
I’ve been a mom for a bit longer than you and never realized that I’ve doing that same thing! You are wise beyond your years and thanks for sharing your encouragement!
Beth, it’s an encouragement to share this virtual space together, talking about what’s close to our hearts. Which you do so generously on your blog!
I would say…my list is “the man of my dreams”. I started making this long list a month ago after going through a hard break up. I’ve come to realization that I may not need this list or should I say I don’t need the list because this perfect man cannot be found in this fallen world. I just need to put my faith and trust in the Lord to know that He is enough for me. =)
Ideals are great so long as they do not blind us from reality and under-appreciate what we are doing. Mothering is daunting but also a gift. By letting God guide us through the responsibility, perhaps we can never go wrong. Great post, btw!
Oh I think I have done this list in my mind ..but it n ever worked..although I tried…
We just can’t be perfect….and we can’t expect others to be perfect either just like this aspiring woman having her list of an ideal man…
But we can we can improve ourselves with this list. We can do better, we can organize things, making it just a REMINDER.
For me i never ambition that i become a millionaire all i want in my life is simple and can be able to have time with my family,for now i am working as a full time blogger at the same time i can give the needs of my daughter and i am very thankful that my husband is very proud of me. in addition to get a perfect mom for my daughter i make a list just to organized my time with my self, family and work. thanks for wonderful and inspiring article.
My Perfect Mom List would only contain my mother’s name, Isabel. She’s not a perfect person though, she nags sometimes, did not want to do the chores, but where would I be without her. She loves all of us. And she never forgot to teach us to be God-fearing human being. I think what I mean is that to be perfect in any field of career you just need to be yourself. Ciao! 😉
I really admire and appreciate your thoughts,Your thought are so profound,filtered,well fabricated and exactly related to the practical reality.I must say that mommy mentor Betty gave you a best advice to become a best mommy.I’m 100% agree with you that joy and peace are the best guides for better mothering,because with peace and joy you can actually enjoy the every single moment with your family very well.Thank you for sharing such a good and considerable content with us.
Wonderful advice! I am giving up the flower beds and rose bushes all over the yard because they do not bring joy.
I want to be a relaxed mommy who takes advantage of the moments.
Well, THIS just proved you can find inspiration ANYWHERE! I love how this episode inspired you to write this post, Bonnie….it’s a good ‘un :).
I need to preface this comment by saying that I am a Christian and my profession is chaplaincy within the fire service.
I loved your post but all I kept thinking about was the reason why I have this list in my head is because of Proverbs 31. I see the bumper stickers everywhere. I hear snippets from the the Proverbs 31 ministry on our Christian radio. I feel for many Christian women, this chapter in the Bible makes us feel like we have to live up to this unattainable model of a woman. I know whenever I see anything that has to do with Proverbs 31, I start mentally beating myself up because I am hardly able to stand up to what that woman could do in the first 2 verses, much less the whole passage.
As women, we put a heavy burden on ourselves to be the best wife and mother, especially as mothers. As Christian women, I feel like the standards are even higher. It’s hard sometimes feeling like have to hold myself up to this ‘perfect’ woman. I wish that there had been a chapter that followed it that talked about what this woman was like on a bad day. That I could relate to!
Thanks for the post and thanks for sharing your insight!
Oh do I have a list 🙁 And the hard part is, that in the midst of it all, I don’t even know what truly brings me joy anymore. I really don’t have any “happy” ideas to make it all go away. My kids are driving me NUTS and I don’t know what to do about it.
[…] Share this:EmailPrintFacebookLinkedInTwitterGooglePinterestMoreRedditDiggTumblrStumbleUponPocketLike this:Like Loading… Filed Under: Life Notes Tagged: blogs, Christian, Christianity, faith, Life, Life Stuff, people, Religion/Belief About kristinemacKristine McGuire is an inspirational author and speaker, sharing her testimony and encouraging others in their walk with Christ. Comments […]