It’s not about being able to do it all as a mom. We cannot be perfect mothers but we can walk in authentic motherhood. What would that look like for you?
Mamas, we just can’t get it right in this culture, can we?
We’re expected to be present in our children’s lives full-time, to document heartwarming moments in Instagram perfection, and to contribute to the finances by working or having a “side hustle.” At the same time, we need to serve our families homecooked (organic!) meals, show up to all our kids’ sporting events looking put together, volunteer at church, and have enough time, energy, and money to have a weekly date night with our husband.
Can you do it all? I thought I could. I really thought I could be perfect if I just tried hard enough. I just needed to find that perfect balance, that magical planner and budgeting system and shoe organizer. I needed to work harder. Maybe I could sleep less. Maybe I needed to multitask more. Sound familiar?
Of course, the truth is that we’re looking for a solution to the wrong problem. We can’t do it all, not because we’re failures, but because we’re finite. God has set limits on the human body – and the human brain – and we have to accept those, and learn how to work within them. This process can bring a lot of unnecessary guilt. But trying to do everything – and failing – brings guilt, too.
If Mama Ain’t Happy
There is a better way to think about this, though, and Rachel Norman’s new book, If Mama Ain’t Happy, is a great place to start. Rachel had five children in five years. She was involved in all kinds of activities, lived on three different continents, and homeschooled her kids. Then she got a devastating diagnosis.
Did that word stop you in your tracks? Cancer has a way of doing that, of stripping away all the busyness that is consuming us, of forcing us to focus on the present and the important.
In other words, lifting the burden of guilt and allowing us to see more clearly. To evaluate what really matters. To discover all the worthless things that were stealing our time and energy.
The experience of having cancer and wrestling with those factors makes Rachel’s book authentic and helpful. Here are some of the topics that stood out to me as I read If Mama Ain’t Happy.
Some Tips to Authentic Motherhood
Setting boundaries is a way to protect your family.
And your sanity. Sometimes it feels selfish to draw a line and say, “I can’t take that on,” but God has not laid the weight of the whole world on our shoulders. “Every mother on earth has limited time, emotional energy, physical energy, brain space, bandwidth, and abilities. The key to living a peaceful, happy life is recognizing your own limits and respecting them.”
Be true to who God made you, rather than some external standard.
Our Creator loves variety, and He has designed us to be individuals, with our own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. It doesn’t really matter if we mop our floors as frequently as our neighbor – or that Instagram influencer we follow.
“It’s not that we should never aim to do things well. We couldn’t do that even if we wanted to. We each have preferences on how we like things done based on our personalities and temperaments. Depending on our individual giftings, we will naturally strive for excellence in some areas of life. It’s how God made us.” Rachel reminds us that God has laid out the important standards for us to follow in his Word: being honest, patient, loving, and faithful.
Deal with and accept emotions rather than stuffing them.
“Our emotional basement is where we shove all the emotions and feelings we don’t want to look at. It’s the place we put the things we aren’t ready to deal with and don’t like. And throwing everything down there works for a good long while because, after all, basements are pretty large.”
But eventually, as Rachel points out, the basement fills up. And soon all of those unpleasant emotions are spilling out into all the other areas of our lives. Learning to feel and deal with our emotions, rather than ignoring them, isn’t easy. But it’s an important part of becoming a healthy person, one who can handle the stresses of everyday life.
Caring for yourself is not sinful, it’s honoring to God.
There is a strong trend of glamorizing self-care, making it look vital to get manicures and schedule Caribbean cruises. But Rachel says “… treating ourselves is not the same thing as taking care of ourselves. Treats are pleasurable activities we do on occasion for a little bit of escape.”
Treats have their place, but the work of real self-care is far more important – and less exciting. In the same way that caring for our children glorifies God, prioritizing sleep, making the effort to eat decent meals, and filling our minds with good things shows that we believe God’s handiwork is good. You’re made in His image, Mama. Neglecting our needs can be a backward form of self-righteousness because we’re saying that we don’t need the good gifts God has created to nourish our souls and body.
I really appreciated If Mama Ain’t Happy. It reset my perspective on authentic motherhood and helped me evaluate my priorities. There are a few questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what you’ve read, and apply it to your own life. I hope it’s a blessing to you, too!
Moms are more depressed and anxious today than ever before. They desperately want what’s best for their families, and they’re good at taking care of the kids, the house, their husband, and everyone else . . . except themselves.
Today’s moms simply don’t know how to take care of themselves. They hear conflicting messages from society that make them feel that meeting their own needs is selfish.
Rachel Norman gets you, Mama. She knows how much you love your kids. And how, day after day, you put your family’s needs first, which means your own needs come last or don’t come at all.
Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books, music, or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended resources!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
[ with warm thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in this review ]
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