The Woman I Want to Be

laundryI lie to my kids’ pediatrician. Every time we visit, I’m told to fill out a form about their health and home life. There is a question about how much time they spend watching TV each day. I always say, “20-30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week.” In reality, they watch at least 30 minutes a day so I can take a shower and get myself ready without interruption.

The other day, we drove past a McDonald’s, and my 20-month-old started chanting, “Nugget! Nugget!” Every time we are out running errands, my 3 year old requests “something from the window.”

My laundry room is a disaster. It is nearly overflowing with piles of (mostly clean) clothes. I somehow cannot find the time or motivation to keep up with the “folding and putting away” part of laundry. I know this is one of my husband’s biggest frustrations with my homemaking.

I look at the reality of my daily life — not the one I pretend to have on facebook, where each day is filled with homemade food, reading stories, and having deep theological discussions with my 3-year-old in his perfectly clean and organized room — and I am embarrassed at the kind of mother I’ve turned out to be. I imagined myself being so much better. My children were never going to have the grease of a french fry touch their pure little ducky lips. They were not going to know who Elmo was, or throw temper tantrums on the rare occasion when they don’t get to watch Go, Diego, Go! because I’ve woken up before them and taken a shower. I was going to have a clean, organized home — one that would be “company ready” at all times, in case someone were to drop by.

And then there’s the issue of my temper. I would never have believed that I could get so frustrated with a 3-year-old, especially one with beautiful, wide brown eyes, and the sweetest gum-revealing smile — especially not my own sweet baby. But, if I’m honest, I will say that I can understand how some mothers hit their children. That is a terrible thing to write, and think, but it’s true. I can understand wanting to get your frustration out in any way you can, and sometimes that means squeezing your toddler’s arms tightly. I have done it. I have wept with the knowledge that I cannot undo it. Each time I try to teach Marshall that “if you wouldn’t want someone to do it to you, you shouldn’t do it to them,” I know that I have shown him the opposite lesson through my behavior.

I know some excellent mothers. Television, to their children, is truly a rare treat. Their children eat their vegetables and read books all day long. Their laundry is folded daily and their houses are clean (even their floors). I see them deal with disobedience with patience, wisdom, and kindness. They homeschool their children, and stay on track, even with math. They don’t leave their babies in the care of other people so that they can have “me-time” or so they can work outside the home, or exercise. Yet, somehow, they still manage to shower everyday and dedicate time to their own talents. They are the women I want to be.

And then there are the “mommy blogs.” The women who write these blogs seem to truly have it all together. “What a discouraging day,” they write. “I was only able to finish one quilt in the midst of classically educating my 10 children, tending my organic vegetable garden, cooking 3 gourmet meals, and baking a few loaves of bread to give to the homeless. And my makeup was a little smudged, so I fear I failed at making myself pleasing to my husband.” These blogs are meant to exhort and encourage, and I’m sure they do that for many people. For me they inspire defensiveness and discouragement. But I probably need an attitude adjustment.

But I’ve had something of an epiphany lately — I can still be a good mother, even an excellent one, and not look exactly like these women that I so admire. Yes, I should aspire to do the best I can, and learn from those who are setting good examples, but I don’t have to be perfect in order to be a good mom. I just have to be faithful. And I know that the truth is, these women have their own struggles and areas of weakness. They are not perfect either, and focusing on them instead of Christ is a form of idolatry and will only lead to more discouragement and failure on my part.

There is value in realizing our limitations. If we think we are able to do it all, we might try it, and that could leave us so divided that nothing truly gets the attention it deserves. It’s true, my children have eaten McDonald’s enough times to recognize the golden arches and chant, “Nugget! Nugget!” They have watched enough TV that sometimes I hear Marshall shouting, “Diego, go! Diego, go!” during his nap. They have worn fleece pants and shamed me by the amount of dog hair that sticks to them. But they also request fruit for their snacks, and have even occasionally asked for a salad for lunch. They truly love books, and I think they would rather sit and listen to stories than watch TV, if they were given a choice. And although they bicker, they truly love each other. My bedtime conversations with Marshall often center around Jesus, and he is the one choosing the topic.

So, though I’m working to dramatically change our eating habits, and trying to get up earlier so they don’t end up watching quite so much TV, I’ve realized that it’s okay if our home doesn’t look exactly like the homes of those I admire. If I spend the time I have in the mornings in prayer and getting a little writing done, that might be more important than taking a shower, and I might be able to keep my temper better. And it’s okay if my children stay at home with their father while I go teach ballet. It might even be important for them to have that time with just their daddy. It is not being lazy or throwing my work on someone else if I am gone for a few hours a week in order to do something that is personally fulfilling. Even writing that I feel a twinge of guilt, but I must convince myself that it is not selfish for me to write or dance because those are some of the passions that God has given me.

And, in the absence of a “mommy blog” that reflects the reality in which I live, I’d like to take a cue from Anne Lamott and “write the thing I’d like to come upon.” So this is my mommy blog. The one with the dirty floors, overflowing laundry room, and the temper tantrums that cannot be blamed on the toddlers. And here is my first epiphany — my first attempt at “risking wisdom” in hopes of encouraging someone — while we ought to learn from the wisdom and experience of other godly women, trying to look exactly like another mother will cause us to fall short of who God intended each of us to be. Because God didn’t create me to be you or you to be me. He likes variety. He doesn’t want me to be perfect in the world’s polished sense of the word. He wants me to be perfect as in “complete.” And the only way I can do that is to be faithful to walk in His presence each moment — to strive to obey Him, and come to Him in repentance when I fail.

  • Daniella

    I like it.

  • Stephanie Pedde

    Love it! I’m right there with you, down to the laundry and the drive through! Although my 19mo old can’t talk, but she’s eaten McDonalds so much in the car that when she sees a McDonalds cup she immediately looks to see if there are cheeseburger bites in it.

  • Beverly Eland

    I love you, Megan. I’m right there with you with the temper, though I’m sure mine is worse. Thank you for the encouragement.

  • Brandi Bruno

    Definitely encouraged…. 🙂

  • Lisette Keller

    Megan, you have always been an inspiration to me. Your wisdom and honesty are invaluable. =)

  • Johanna Hartenberger

    Beautiful. I’m so blessed to read this, even while I don’t have kids or husband to make a home for, your honesty is convicting. Particularly idolizing other women when Christ is the only promise of hope – so poignant! Many thanks Megan!

  • Auline

    Oh, girlie! You are such a wise woman. Love you and yours. xoxoxo