In our parents' day, if a woman wanted to be recognized as a good mom, she had to lay down all of her dreams, ambitions, and friendships and not think about them again until her children were launched. I'm not arguing that selflessness is a horrible trait; I just think that good moms know how to balance.
Good moms practice self-preservation
Without wandering too far down the path into evolutionary theory and Darwinism and then debating it against Christianity to determine which one is the absolute truth, can we agree that some degree of selfishness is required for mere survival?
Our mortal bodies demand food, water, and shelter (to say nothing of coffee that's still hot and a few minutes of solitude).
Good moms know how to balance their physical needs with their family's demands.
A couple of years ago, I went through this Holy Minimalist phase. I swung to the far left of my classic American upbringing and decided that the problem with myself and my faith was consumerism.
I purged and downsized and refused to spend a single dollar unnecessarily, because obviously Jesus commands this kind of social awareness from his followers.
One day, after a heated discussion about buying shoes, my husband threw up his hands and asked, “So how much is too much? How do you know when you have spent too much money on an arguably necessary item and crossed the threshold into sin?”
I didn't have an answer.
And in that moment, all of my anti-consumerism suddenly seemed a little obsessive. In that light, it all looked a bit too much like an idol - the exact thing that I was trying to decry.
But how much is too much when it comes to selflishness?
How do you know when you've chosen your own surviving + thriving too often and crossed the threshold into sin?
Conversely, how do you know when you're making a martyr of yourself? Look at me! So selfless, staying up until 3 a.m. making whimsical cupcake art for Susie's snack tomorrow. Motherhood is my highest calling, after all.
Good moms know the truth about grace
I can't say that I have a clear-cut answer for how much is too much, but I can tell you what I'm learning about who God is.
I have a degree in Elementary Education; it was my greatest dream to teach Kindergarten in a public school where the playing field isn't always level. I wanted to teach, I wanted to love the kids in my community well, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those babies.
And then I was very convicted to give it up and stay at home with my son.
I didn't want to. In fact, I was a little upset with God for even allowing the idea to come into my mind. I'm a teacher at heart; I can't imagine not being in a classroom every day. Why, God, would you prompt this kind of departure from the plan?
Not that I didn't want to be a stay-at-home-mom - I just didn't want the judgement and the tight budget that I knew were a part of the job description.
It annoyed me that people might think that I wasn't a capable career woman. I didn't want to lose the esteem that comes with being a professional at something.
But I heard His voice in my soul saying Trust me.
If you'll just trust me in this, I'll take your life even further than you imagined.
We just bought a house. Not an extravagant one or even a large one.
It's 80 years old, with bead-board walls and ten foot ceilings and uneven floors.
It doesn't sound like a very big deal; people buy houses every day. And we didn't buy it with a six figure income I pulled in from some amazing online business.
It wasn't gifted to us or anything incredulous at all. We applied for a mortgage, made an offer, and signed our lives away just as commonplace as you can imagine.
What does this have to do with anything?
When I was a little girl, I used to cut pictures out of my mamas cast-off Southern Living magazines. I cut out pictures of ancient farmhouses with bead-board walls and ten foot ceilings and uneven floors.
I prayed little-girl prayers that maybe one day I could have a home like that; a beautiful resting place to gather my people. I believed that I would because I believed that God cared about every tiny, senseless detail of my life.
And then I got older and I got realistic and I got taught to believe that God really only cares about our eternal choices.
I began believing that God was only in the business of moral conformity and that selfish little-girl prayer requests were an annoyance to this Father who commanded uprightness with fiery sincerity.
Good moms know how to balance grace and truth.
I actually forgot all about that shoe-box full of farmhouse clippings until the day I came across the real estate ad for a 1936 cracker house three miles down the road from my parents' home. My real-life dream.
We happened to have just endured a year-long endeavor to sell our current home after we felt very convicted to put it on the market.
(If you're feeling very convicted to do something irrational against your will, it's probably Jesus. He's a funny one.)
Practical tips for good moms who need help balancing
I said all of that to say this: we're all good moms.
And good moms recognize that a little bit of selfishness is a whole lot of self-preservation and that it's silly to imagine God is disappointed when we take care of our physical selves.
If we believe that the thing our kids need the most is a mom who is happy, present, and pointing to Jesus, then we will fight to keep ourselves so.
1. Stop multitasking
Mamas have to wear a million hats, but we don't have to wear them all at once. It's really hard (and really exhausting) to parent and do anything else at the same time. So schedule a night to have tacos with your girls and don't take the kids. Play dates don't count as friendship dates because who none of us can supervise our kids and also have a heart-to-heart.
Also applies to working, dating, sleeping, cooking, or really anything else. Sometimes you just need to do things without trying to keep little humans alive at the same time.
2. Establish a routine that works for you in the season that you're in.
Routines are especially hard to maintain when your kids are in that rapid development stage from 0-5. What works fine one month might not work at all the next. Instead of banking on a routine that might get hijacked, try establishing anchor points in the day that are non-negotiable but also fairly achievable.
3. Do something you love at least 2 times a week.
What do you love doing that feels like an extravagance you don't have time for? Making art? Going to the gym? Book club? Do it twice a week, and defend that time ruthlessly.
4. Every Sunday, write down 3 things you're looking forward to in the coming week.
Similar to practicing gratitude, this is how you practice anticipation. If you can't think of anything to look forward to, then plan something. Anticipation commands your attentions forward and keeps you focused.
5. Remember not to care about the things you don't care about.
Do you care about scrapbooking? Politics? Car seat safety? If it's not your thing, then remember that it's not your thing. Just keep on scrolling.
How are you balancing life as a mom without sacrificing your sense of self?