Nourishing Joy in the Home: Competitive Motherhood
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Most days, life is overflowing. Overflowing with goodness, overflowing with activities, overflowing with… well, life. Some days that's wonderful, but most days I end the day with more than a bit of discontent and guilt gnawing at my heart.
This isn't the type of guilt that comes from true wrongdoing. This is competitive guilt. I feel guilt for not having a tidier home, for having too much stuff, for not being more frugal, for not being more organized, for not sharing hospitality more often, for not having brilliant insight and wisdom to share with my husband in every situation, and for not being the type of mother who knows exactly what her children need all the time.
We humans are amazingly competitive and whether we acknowledge it or not, we tend to size ourselves up in comparison to other people on pretty much every front, and now that I've been a mother for nigh unto six years, I would dare say that motherhood is the most competitive sport of all (though few would admit it).
As moms, we compare and rank ourselves by how many children we have, our birth stories, financial earnings, handmade crafting abilities, how much we cook from scratch, how we choose to educate our children, how much we volunteer, how early our children start reading and writing, and the activities of our husbands. The term “household manager” has come to take on new meaning.
Social media hasn't helped, either. Due to the internet, we no longer merely compare ourselves to our in-laws and the moms we see around our neighborhood, but we can compare ourselves to anyone who has a blog or a Facebook presence. These are women who have multiple children, have spotless homes, have large blogs and businesses that have thousands of followers, and have husbands who are hunky, adoring, funny, and compassionate. They're endlessly creative, smart, thrifty, and patient. Their children are intelligent, well-behaved, and TV-free. These women keep it all together – the Ultimate Home Managers – all while working full-time or homeschooling or running the Parent Advisory Committee at their children's school.
Social media not only gives us the vicarious peek into other mother's lives, but makes us feel guilty if we're not publicly announcing our own mothering accomplishments as well. Every day we see evidence of our own shortcomings and somehow, we always find someone who is doing it better, more creatively, more patiently than we are.
None of these things are intrinsically wrong, of course, but the guilt that invades us when we feel we don't “measure up” most definitely is. Keeping my house clean should come from a desire to make it a healthy place for my children and to have it be a welcoming, comfortable place for family and visitors alike, not for proving that I can be a Super-Mom too.
So I am here to say – ENOUGH!
It's time to shed the guilt that invades (and pervades) our spirits as mothers. Let us look at it squarely in the face, acknowledging it for what it is, and then ask God to root it out of our hearts. Let us live joyfully, deeply grateful for the bounty of messy blessings that do abound in our lives, and understand that our contributions are significant and sufficient. “My grace is sufficient for you,” Jesus told the Apostle Paul in a vision, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Let's also redefine this paradigm – rather than asking ourselves if we measure up to other people, let's ask ourselves if we're measuring up to our calling. (Surprisingly, that's much more manageable, as Christ has much more grace for our faults than the Social Media Mavens.)
Motherhood is indeed a vocation, a job undertaken with great intentionality and deep purpose, and our calling is to glorify God, to keep our children safe, and to instruct them in the ways of wisdom.
What a relief. And what an incredibly practical way to nourish joy in our homes.
I once read that our problem in this area is that we compare our behind-the-scenes selves with everyone else’s highlight reel. I’ve never forgotten that, and repeat it to myself each time I start to “over-compare”.