Motherhood is when perfectionism hit me hardest.
If you’re a mom who resonated with that opening, I’ve got the cure for you today. Jessica Kastner, author of Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet: Finding Grace and Laughter When Motherhood Gets Real, has some wise words for how to overcome perfectionism in motherhood. Please welcome Jessica to the blog today!
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Ah motherhood. The place where our girlhood dreams of baby cuddling and tutu shopping collide with the reality of public tantrums and sanity droughts. Even the most prepared, most maternal of moms be all out shocked at the let-down that ensues when our visions of how we thought this would fly fall drastically short.
Big picture: we know we’re blessed beyond measure, and wouldn’t change a thing (okay we’d sleep more). But when you’re in the thick of those “challenging” moments, wondering when you actually bathed last, or found yourself talking to yard squirrel while home and lonely with baby, it can be hard not to feel like you’re either doing something wrong, or falling short of friends continually Instagramming their smiling offspring in non-stained shirts. I battled with feelings of disappointment and inadequacy early on, but now three boys in, after a decade of mothering, these three truths that have really helped me experience lots more joy while enjoying my kids.
Focus on what makes you great.
I burn meals. My laundry skills equate to clothing abuse, and I cannot, for all that is good, keep track of school/sports activities. I used to feel so frustrated by the fact that I seemed be missing this motherly chromosome allowing others to enjoy “mommy and me” craft time and managing to remember school holidays.
I slowly realized I might never be a shoo-in for the school’s “room mother,” (thank you, Jesus) but God has shown me how to appreciate the parts of me that do make a great mom. My kids might think potatoes come from a box, but we have dance ‘til ya drop worship parties in our house, daily, and I have no problem putting my chores or work aside to jump on the trampoline with my boys or lay star gazing atop the shed roof. It’s all about the memories and quality time we spend with our kids. Of course we should always be praying to improve, but by focusing on our strengths and celebrating how we rock it, as a mom is key.
Nothing will ever be perfect if kids are involved. Period.
And the sooner we accept it, the better! Whether it’s a birthday party, family picnic, beach trip or shopping venture, our experiences and outings with kids are very rarely as easy or perfect as we imagined. I don’t care if the sun is shining, the kids are freshly napped and you have a venti macchiato in hand, heaven can turn to disaster in the less than two minutes after baby takes a digger on the cement sidewalk or an older sibling needs a ride two hours before planned. There goes that playdate in the sky.
When we learn to live in the moment and not get hung up on the guaranteed wrenches thrown into our day, we become much more joyful, relaxed moms.
Find your own mother style.
I don’t believe there’s this magic, one-size-fits-all way to mother. The longer you’re a mom, the more you learn to craft your own style and approach parenthood in a way that suits your personality, and your kids’ needs. I think new moms and even some of us veterans get tripped up by feeling our home life has to look a certain way based on our childhood memories, delusions of grandeur, or comparison to friends. But since no child, mother, or set of circumstances are exactly the same, and since nothing (sweet Moses, nothing) prepares us for motherhood, we’ll never have it all “right.”
And just like any form of art, imitation stinks. If you’re a homeschooling mom with night owl kids, let ‘em stay up past ten if that works. If you find dinnertime to be more like veggie-eating boot camp-swallow now or else!-then start making fruit and kale smoothies with a side of bread for dinner, every night. It’s less than ideal at times, but allowing ourselves to approach every part of motherhood, with a blank canvas, really thinking about why and how we do things, can be very freeing, and much more conducive to joy.
Here’s to a great fall, with more laughter, and less perfection. The whites will gleam and the steak will be tender in heaven, that’s for sure.
Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist and a contributor for Beliefnet.com, Huffington Post’s Christianity blog, and CBN.com. As Connecticut’s coordinator for Straight Ahead Ministries, she shares God’s message of hope by leading Bible studies in juvenile detention centers. When she’s not on the trampoline with her three boys in her hometown of Southington, Connecticut, Jessica offers her commentary on Christian life at www.JessicaKastner.com.