Mothers are constantly hearing two competing messages.
The first message that often gets served to us is this: never ever leave your children’s presence, manage every detail of their lives, make sure they are always having new and enriching experiences, protect them from anything and everything, spend every waking minute being the “perfect” mom and keep them constantly entertained and happy.
But on the other hand, we hear from major female, supposedly “feminist” voices that we should lean into our careers, not step back from our passions, and not abandon the things that we loved most before we had kids, including keeping our marriages alive and passionate.
And this leaves us scratching our heads, because something has to give. A choice to say yes to one thing is a choice to say no to another. No person, woman or man, can be in two places at one time. Omnipresence is unfortunately not a gift granted to us mortals.
So we choose, one way or another, and then the guilt sets in.
So many voices would tell us that our motherhood role, this changing the world for one, is all that matters in our lives. That it is what we designed for, made for, created for, and that it is the pinnacle of our role on this earth. So many other voices tell us that we must choose to continue changing the world, and not allow our children to get in the way of that choice. We are liberated, strong, independent women, and no one can put us in a box.
Both sides leave us wanting, don’t they?
One side leaving us feeling truncated, frustrated, as though all that we were ever called to, educated for, and experienced in outside of motherhood never mattered. And on the other end of the spectrum, feeling as though our children are simply an inconvenience to be managed as we pursue our dreams. No mother goes one single day without feeling the weight of her choices, one way or another.
We are also assaulted by voices that are constantly telling us to “savor the moment” because time flies by so fast. So not only are we under the pressure of making every moment picture perfect, capturing it, and making sure it lives up to an advertising standard, but we are also now living under the weight of a nostalgia for the future, an aching sadness for something we haven’t even experienced yet.
What began as the power to choose has become a trap of perfection that we can’t escape.
I have two daughters, ages four and one. I leave the house two days a week to work, and I often work during naptimes, after they go to bed, and in the “in-between” moments of the day. They see me working, and they know it is part of my life, our life as a family. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. They don’t fully understand what I do yet, but I can’t wait to tell them someday.
In my life as a mother, I have chosen to walk the line. And let me tell you, it is a tightrope between two high rises. The stakes are high, and you sweat a lot. And wonder if you are doing the right thing, that maybe you should turn back. But once you are there, the thrill of it takes over. And you know you have to keep going.
I choose to be present with my kids when I am with them. And I choose to spend intentional time away from them to pursue my dreams.
I believe mothers are not only not hindered in their dual callings and vocations, but are given a special grace that allows them to be even more productive, more goal-oriented, and more focused than anyone else. I believe when it comes to pursuing our mothering and our “other” calling, we are not at a disadvantage, but we have several advantages.
Simply being in the presence of children causes us to open our eyes to the wonder of creation. We see things differently. We stop, we sit, we listen, we marvel. This is the wellspring of all creativity. If you ever feel “dried up” creatively, you need only to spend an hour with a toddler, pretending and exploring.
Our children teach us how to play again. And all innovation comes from the freedom we experience in play. Play is the furthest thing from wasting time- it is a needed and valuable commodity. Without play, we cannot come up with new ideas. We cannot remember what really matters. We cannot innovate. As moms, we experience every single day what major corporations such as Google and Lego spend millions to cultivate- a sense of play and wonder.
Mothers know that when the children are napping, they have a set amount of time to accomplish something. We do not have the luxury of putting off priority items until “later”- as moms, we don’t get a later. Later will bring with it a myriad of new responsibilities. We get right now.
This goes hand in hand with the above- when mothers do get any amount of free time, we know how to laser focus on what needs to get done. We know how to knock things off the list, and quickly. We have the ability to focus on a project better than a CEO in a boardroom on his (or her) third cup of coffee. And sometimes, when we need to, we know how to just take that time to focus on rest and self-care.
5) Planning Ahead.
Moms throughout the land know the panic that can ensue when caught out at a restaurant without a diaper needed for an accident, or the horror of forgetting a pacifier at home when your child is screaming in the backseat. We know the importance of planning ahead. We don’t forget one. single. thing. Because we can’t. We know that if we plan ahead, things will go much more smoothly when game time comes.
I believe that it’s time that we define our own version of success. We can devote ourselves to our children, we can create a loving, playful and joy-filled home environment, and we can do what God has called us to do outside of our mothering if we so choose. We can choose to live in the “both/and”… in the tension.
It comes down to this- the freedom to choose. Not based on guilt or fear, not based on the desire to please or heed all the competing voices. Based on your own family’s needs and your own calling. Every mom is so unique in her personality, desires, and motivations. And we have to start honoring that.
So mamas, consider this your permission slip to ditch perfect and be 100% yourself- unapologetic and unashamed.