Today’s post on faith and parenting comes to us from the wise, witty, and winsome Sarah Bessey. Sarah is one of my favorite writers EVER—the kind whose work I can always recommend, even before reading it. If you aren’t already subscribed to her blog, do yourself a favor and sign up.
Sarah lives in Canada—the west-coast—and works part time for Mercy Ministries of Canada, an organization that supports young women that struggle with life-controlling issues like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, depression, physical and sexual abuse and self-harm. She and Brian have been married for eleven years and have three children. You can follow Sarah on Twitter here. Her post today is a re-post, originally written for the Mother Letters project.
There is no perfect mother.
If there is one thing that has tripped me up most as a mum, especially in the early years of this, it’s the belief that somewhere, out there, was The Perfect Mother. Sometimes she was my own mother. Sometimes she was someone online. Sometimes she was someone at church or at the playground. I’d see one brief moment of her life, or hear her speak, or see her kids, and think, I bet she never resents wiping bums or feels bored, I bet she never feels so tired that even her eyebrows are aching, I bet she loves every single minute of this mothering thing and I bet her kids listen to classical music and never bicker. I bet she’s a better mother than me.
That just isn’t true, The Perfect Mother only exists in the land of unicorns. And the sooner you realise that we’re all in this together, that most of us feel guilty or inadequate sometimes, that most of us will freely admit to feeling overwhelmed or tired, you’ll relax that death grip of high expectations on yourself to be perfect.
My joy in mothering these small souls was restored to me when I was released from the prison of comparison. That yearning to measure up, to be The Perfect Mother, masquerades as selflessness but really, it’s approval addiction, it’s people pleasing and you won’t be the only victim of its poison and its bitter need for control.
Darling, you are mothering for an audience of One, and that One, he delights in you. And joy will come to you when you simply let that woman be the mother that she is, perfect or otherwise, and give yourself grace to figure it out as you go. Let yourself be all of the mother that you are – when you yell or get frustrated, when you ask forgiveness, when you feel your heart straining against your rib cage, all because of how he looks asleep in your arms, all because of the sound of childish voices laughing outside, all because of the quiet nights in the monastery of the baby’s room, just rocking in a time outside of time, it’s all real and it’s all you and it’s all okay. There is grace for it all, it all makes you a mother.
There is no one right way to be a mother just as there is no one right way to be a person or a woman or a follower of our Jesus. Your child is your child. You are you. Let those two truths exist together. And let the Spirit lead you, like a wind, like the Word, like prayer and hope, like traditions and rituals, like change and newness, like hope and grieving.
Mothering is organic, embrace the free-range life. Exhale. Relax the death-grip of comparison on your own soul; it’s crushing, isn’t it? Look to our Jesus, look to how he made you, look to the child he gave you, look to your family’s values and callings and gorgeous craziness and embrace it all. Move with freedom and confidence because you, my luv, you are not alone.
We’re all out here, figuring it out together. Give yourself the freedom, the grace, the wisdom, the love and gentleness that you crave from others, and then turn around and pour it out, lavishly, on the mothers around you, as a sacrifice of grace.
I honour you as a mother. In fact, I think you’re just about perfect at it.
With all of my love,
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Check out the rest of our faith and parenting series - it's pretty darn amazing, if I don't say so myself.