My 10-year-old son asked his brother, “Don’t you think mom is the best mother there has ever been?” (I immediately sensed a hidden motive in that sappy setup.)
“Well, I don’t know,” replied the 7-year-old. “It’s probably Mary, Jesus’ mom.”
Clearly, he missed the cue from his big brother—the simple prompt for agreement, setting themselves up for a potential afternoon treat in return for flattering me. Nope. He sided with Mary as if that was the hyper-spiritual answer that would get him an Icee.
I’m not disagreeing that Mary was a wonderful, honorable mother and had to overcome countless challenges. She worked hard for her recognition. But just for fun, I engaged them in a lively discussion about the sinless nature of Jesus and reasoned that his mother didn’t have to work as hard teaching him to obey as I’ve had to work with the two of them. I felt I made a good case, citing examples of poor attitudes and disrespect for authority among my children. I even recalled an instance (okay, many instances) in which my kids rolled their eyes and complained about having to go to church. Surely, I argued, Jesus would never have put his mother through those shenanigans. I must be the winner, right?
“You’re right,” he admitted. “Maybe she wasn’t the best mom in the world. I’m not sure who is.” He said it with a serious face, which meant I didn’t even make second place on that day. That’s mom life, isn’t it?
Many days I feel like I’ll never measure up, despite my best efforts to do it all right. Don’t they see how I’ve cared and provided for them all these years? Why couldn’t he just fake it and say I was the very best mother in the history of the world, the supreme winner of all motherhood competitions, and the reigning champion of parents?
At first, I was humorously prideful and slightly annoyed by his inability to name me the “best” mother. I thought about the funny conversation on the drive home and came to a conclusion. There is no single “best mother.” Sure, some moms are doing a more intentional, purposeful job of parenting than others, but no one gets the trophy. We’re all just moms, trying to keep calm and mom on.
Do you struggle with motherhood as a competition? Let me extend a hand and help you out of that hamster wheel that’s wearing you out. How often are we racing toward a finish line that doesn’t exist? We try to sprint ahead of the next mom in an attempt to inch out a tiny lead over her discipline method, organization, or upkeep of her home. We suffer Pinterest exhaustion at every holiday and school event. We kick and scratch our way through an invisible contest to be crowned the “best” mother, only to discover it belongs to no one individually.
Motherhood isn’t a matchup against one another. In fact, we are better together. I’m a stronger mother because of the women I link arms with. I am more to my kids when I make it less about how I stack up with other moms. Want to be a better mom? Stop making it a competition and join the sisterhood of women working together to raise a generation of Christ followers.
Was Mary the best mom? Of course. And so are you.
Iron sharpens iron, and one *mom sharpens another. —Proverbs 27:17
Lysa TerKeurst hurt my feelings. Oh yes she did. And the Invisible Me actually slapped her. She didn’t do it in a fifth-grade-mean-girl-way. But she stepped on every last nerve I had and now my heart is soft and I’ve cried most of the day. Thankyouverymuch, Lysa. I wasn’t even wearing waterproof mascara. Way to go.
On a recent family vacation I took along her book, The Best Yes, to read in the car. (I’d highly recommend it for any woman who is breathing.) It was a message I knew I needed to hear. Skipping across her words about the dangers of saying yes to everything that comes my way, I received her gentle warnings and instruction with ease. Then she did something that made me consider throwing that adorable book cover out the window to its destructive death along Interstate-70.
She said “You won’t ever be able to keep up with unrealistic.”
How dare she.
The context was in regard to trying to please other people. I read that section a couple of times until I felt the familiar, gentle nudge of the Spirit tell me “And Kim, YOU won’t ever be able to keep with unrealistic either.” That’s when my perfectly applied mascara went awry. I work very hard at keeping up with unrealistic. In fact, I wear myself out.
Boy, oh boy. That hurt. It hurt because I needed to hear it, in the same way an alcoholic needs to be told they need help. I’m a pretty typical firstborn, complete with self-confidence, a love of structured routine, leadership and determination to get things done. I also have a big need to please people and a huge fear of failure. Wow, don’t I sound so laid back and relaxed?! Unfortunately, those things spin together to weave a tapestry of unrealistic expectations. And I impose them on myself and others, albeit silently. Oh, and let me add…I sometimes offer little or no grace when a human falls short. Now, who wants to be my friend?! 🙂
I have unrealistic expectations for my housekeeping, my cooking and my parenting.
I have unrealistic expectations for my husband, for my children, for my friends.
I have unrealistic expectations about what I can commit to, get done and emotionally handle.
Having high expectations is not the same as having unrealistic expectations. One gently pushes you toward greatness. The other pushes you toward insanity. I had ignored the difference.
This familiar scripture comes to mind. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I’d like a little of His sufficient grace to fill in all the gaps left from me trying to be perfect, and consequently demanding this of others. Sign me up for some of Christ’s power restin’ on me!
It’s a new year, and a good time to chill out on punishing people and myself for not living up to my unrealistic expectations. How about you? Are you trying to keep up with unrealistic? Like me, have you inadvertently punished the ones you love for not being perfect or berated yourself for not being super human?
I need to submit my sin of trying to keep up with unrealistic
to God and let Him heal my heart. For the sake of my call to Christ and for the ones I love. And maybe so I can go back to liking Lysa Terkeurst again…