The alarm clock glowed midnight when I crawled into bed after being up for some time with a needy child. I burrowed into the covers, seeking comfort, seeking sleep.
My husband rolled over. “Thanks for being a good mom,” he said, his voice foggy with sleep.
His words startled me. He who sleeps through nearly everything awoke to say this? I huffed—in laughter, in surprise, I’m not sure which. “In what way do you mean?” Why do I question every compliment?
“You take care of him.” He sounded exasperated, as if it should have been obvious. In the startled silence that followed, his breathing deepened and slowed.
I blinked at the ceiling, remembering my manners too late. “Thank you,” I said to his oblivious form.
Tired as I was, sleep should have come quickly, but I lay awake, cradling his words to my heart: Thanks for being a good mom.
Life had been topsy-turvy lately. At times, the demands of motherhood overwhelmed me, made me doubt my ability to handle it with grace and patience. Could I do it? Hardly. I failed so often.
Every day, I worried I wasn’t doing enough for my family. I felt guilty when I couldn’t keep after my responsibilities. I lay awake on nights such as these, weary to the bone, and remembered all the times I should have spoken more gently, acted more kindly, smiled more frequently.
But he thought I was a good mom.
Is it enough to be a good mom? And while I was thinking about it, what does a good mom do? Lying in the dark, I held up that last question and scrutinized it.
It wasn’t hard to answer.
- A good mom follows God and obeys His commands.
- A good mom respects her husband and seeks to please him.
- A good mom loves her children and takes care of them.
Christian mothers are required to shoulder these three responsibilities regardless of who they are and where they live. Beyond these three, I could name many other duties and expectations, but they were cultural demands placed upon me because I’m an American Mennonite housewife, not because I’m a mother. These expectations are activities such as housecleaning every spring and fall; canning pickles, jams, and five types of tomato sauces; gardening; baking bread; and keeping every closet, drawer, and cupboard organized. Yes, it would be nice to do all these things, to be efficient and self-sufficient, to be always caught up and kept after—but if I do these things, I am being a good seamstress, gardener, organizer, baker, and housewife. None of these activities mean I’m being a good mom, no matter what my Mennonite culture might otherwise say.
Not that there’s anything wrong with these activities. Many good moms are—for example—excellent gardeners and bakers. But my success as a mother is not dependent upon my ability to raise magnificent vegetables or decorate elaborate birthday cakes. I do not have to excel at everything to be a good mom.
Being a good mom is not complicated, but I tend to make it so. I obsess over the many details of living and play internal comparison games with other mothers’ accomplishments and grow discouraged with my inadequacies. I need to stop it.
You know what my problem is? I don’t want to be a good mom. I want to be a perfect mom. I want to do it right and do it all and do it so that others are impressed with my ability to train my children and keep my house. I want perfection. Being good isn’t good enough.
No wonder I get discouraged.
My pursuit of perfect motherhood is not only impossible, but it is also rooted in pride and must be yanked from my heart. In its place, I need to plant the seeds of humility, service, and contentment.
When I climb into bed each night, I need to ask myself: Did I follow God today? Did I respect my husband? Did I love my children? If I can say yes to these questions, then my day was a success.
I will have been a good mom, and that is good enough.