Feb

19

2013

Christina Fox|10:00 PM CT

Motherhood for the Rest of Us

I remember sitting in a "Mommy and Me" class with my child, then 1 year old. All the other moms talked about the cute things their child had been doing. They chatted about the latest sale at their favored clothing store. They shared all the fun activities they had enjoyed and places they had visited with their children. Dressed nicely with makeup on and their hair styled, these moms seemed all too perfect.

And then there was me.

I sat there listening to their conversation but never said a thing. What could I contribute? After all, my child seemed to have an allergy to sleeping, he never sat still, and I was too miserable to notice anything cute he might have done. I couldn't remember the last time I wore makeup, and it's quite possible I wore the same shirt two days in a row. And they certainly wouldn't care to hear that I spent most days crying because I was so exhausted from following after a child turned energizer bunny.

Not All Together

Many days as a mom, I feel like a loser. I wonder if I missed out on some key information or skill that other moms have. I don't have things all together. My kids seem to always be at each other's throats, as though they are practicing for some sort of ultimate fighting match. I never seem to be on time, and I can't remember the last time I dusted. My life feels more like a whirlwind than the way life is portrayed on the peaceful baby commercials where the mom spends her day snuggling with her giggling child.

I don't like to be a mess. I prefer my life orderly and under control. I want an organized calendar and a to-do list with black lines drawn through everything. I want children who listen the first time and a house where everything's picked up. I want to leave the house early for every appointment. Being weak and helpless is admitting failure.

Motherhood in America is about doing it all, having our cake and eating it too. But no one can do that. We try and pretend that everything is perfect. We cover up our failures with new purchases and fake smiles. But inside our heart breaks, and we wonder if we'll even make it through the day.

Where I Need to Be

But when I turn away from looking at other people's lives and look to Christ, I find that I am just where I need to be. Jesus said he didn't come to save those whose lives are perfect, but those whose lives are a mess. He came for sinners, for those who know things aren't as they should be. These were the people he dined with, healed, and walked among. He met them right where they were, messes and all.

The gospel is all about grace and receiving something we never earned. And only when I come to him helpless and weak am I ready for his grace. I have to come to Christ empty and broken before he can fill me. I have to admit that I am sick before I can be healed. I have to stop trying to do things in my own strength before he can be strong for me.

All too quickly, the years have passed since that mommy and me class. I've since given up on perfect. I faced the reality that I don't have it all together. Instead of trying to do it all, I've learned to let God manage my days. Rather than mother in my own strength, I parent through my weakness and on my knees. Each day I come before God, broken and helpless. I give him my messy life as a mother and receive in return the grace of the gospel. I've learned to embrace my weakness and messiness, not because my failures are good but because they open the door to God's grace. And I'd rather wear dirty clothes and have my hair a mess than pretend life is perfect. Because then I get to wear the best fashion—the priceless, perfectly white robes of righteousness belonging to my Savior.

Christina Fox is a licensed mental health counselor, coffee drinker, writer, and homeschooling mom, not necessarily in that order. She lives with her husband of 16 years and two boys in sunny South Florida. You can find her sharing her journey in faith at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ToShowThemJesus.

  • Misha

    Encouraging post for sure! I am so thankful that in my weakness, Christ's power is made perfect. When I am weak, He is strong. Thank you for reminding me that I don't have to have it all together. I never truly will. I need Jesus to make it through everyday!

  • http://Lisatarplee.com Lisa

    Perfection is something I've struggled with greatly as a mom. It always fails me, because I never get it right and even if I come close, my child is on to the next phase and I have to start all over. I love what you say about looking at Jesus rather than the influences all around us. How awesome that he can take our perfect messes and give us strength and guidance for each challenge (which is everyday as a parent) we face. Refreshing post.

  • Brooke Kamke

    Thank you! Your words are balm for my soul.

  • http://www.desiringvirtue.com Jessalyn Hutto

    What great reminders Christina. I love that posts like this are being published at The Gospel Coalition website because the blogosphere can be a dangerous place for women! From crafty mommas to epicurean mommas to DIY mommas, there are mommy bloggers everywhere who seem to have it all together. Usually the pictures are only capturing a good moment from a good day and the posts rarely-if ever-share the MANY terrible moments from difficult days! This is not reality, but just like the supermodel whose body, hair, and makeup we compare our own to, we accept them as our grid to be measured by. We are all so fallen and live in fallen families. Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ who saves us and, day by day, beautifies us-conforming us to his image so that we can be better mothers with each passing moment.

  • tricia

    What a breath of fresh air, at last someone who is honest and sincere.

  • Jeri

    Wow, I really needed to read this today. Thank you for your honesty. It's refreshing to know that I'm not the only vulnerable mother out there without all the answers. God has put a desire in my heart to raise my son to be a wonderful man of God, but I find that my imperfect parenting causes me to feel so much frustration and guilt. My husband and I, through tears of frustration and sadness, gave our burden of parenting over to God last night in prayer. We realized that even through our own best efforts, our son just seems so lost and the ONLY one who can save him is Jesus. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable to those Moms out there. I, for one, am encouraged. His Grace covers ALL. Bless you.

  • Kay

    I agree that it is God's grace that helps me as a mother. But I also think sometimes that godly moms who are just more organized get a bad "rap" for looking like they're put together. What others may not know is that for me, showering, getting dressed, putting on makeup, and doing my hair is not for others. But for ME. When I've spent time in the Word as well as taken care of myself physically, I feel better. And it helps me to parent better. I've had people judge me for looking like I have it all together, when in fact I struggle in areas they can't see. So, while I agree that we shouldn't be comparing ourselves to others, we also should not criticize others (not that you're doing that in this article) for being organized and having goals. Because I think a lot of Christian moms need grace but also a kick in the pants to be more organized (not in a legalistic way) so that they are pursuing holiness and personal growth as well as godly parenting. Just to give up and say parenting is hard and I'll look awful and my house will be a mess until my kids grow up is often (but not always due to extenuating circumstances) this: a lazy cop out. God gives grace, but He also wants us to be disciplined. I have kids, and I have have counseled many families as a mental health therapist. From those therapy sessions, one thing I've seen direly lacking is discipline. In the end, grace+discipline=a plan for order, for God's glory, where we're not competing with the world for "having our cake and eating it too" but to make an impact with the family we've been blessed with who will show the world Jesus. We will never have it all together, but we need to stay driven and purposeful.

    • http://www.desiringvirtue.com Jessalyn Hutto

      Really great points Kay! I know that Christina would agree with you. Grace is no excuse for lack of discipline but it should fuel our pursuit of holiness and discipline! :)

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

      Must we really stay "driven"?

      I'll give you purposeful, but I refuse to be driven.

      • Kay

        Yes, Karen, I must say "driven" because otherwise the slide into purposeless, passionless parenting is too simple. It's a slow fade. So I'd rather stay driven.

        • Melody

          Well the judgement of disorganization as laziness might be why people get defensive. I know I beat myself up plenty when I was younger trying to measure up to the people that it came easy for. What I have learned from the years is that it is very much like the emperor without clothes. I am not perfect but I have clothes.

          I will never allow myself to be driven to be like someone else that is not supported by scripture. I will submit to my Lord to be used in the way that He wants me to be so you can just keep your foot to yourself. Thank you

    • Michael

      Kay, my wife and I appreciated your comments. "Grace + discipline is a plan for order." Our God is a God of Grace and Order and He does discipline those He loves.

  • samantha

    I needed this. cried. such beautiful truth. thank you.

  • yolanda

    thank you. thank you. thank you.

  • http://www.hiveresources.com Melissa Deming

    Christina, thank you for sharing this post. To often I parent on my strength. The reminder to parent through the cross is eternal.

  • nive

    So well said Christina.I resonate with Jessalyn comment too.I dread looking at moms blogs.

  • http://simplystriving.wordpress.com Nikki

    let God manage my days...parent through my weakness on my knees...girl. yes. I'm striving. and one day we can compare our knee bruises...:) {HUGS}

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  • Kathy

    Thank you for encouraging us to be humble. Counsel without the gospel of grace is incomplete counsel to me. Thank you for the reminder about grace.

    • Ruth Li

      I remember one line in New Testament tells that Jesus said to people: no one unlike this child can enter into the Heaven. It resonates with that people are sinned and powerless, comparing with the reality that all human try to struggle and make a difference with their strengh in order to glorify themselves. The child refers to the fact that we should confess our weakness and can not do self-salvation, and acknowledge God as our father will restore our relationship with him, and a son will restore his right to petition to God to embrace any grace.

  • Michael

    Well written article and beneficial. I am a husband so my natural tendency is to try and provide a solution. My wife and I have three blessings (4, 2 and 10 months) from the Lord. We use a game plan that both of us can agree upon. Growing Kids God's Way by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzio and my wife has looked into the accompanying Mom's Notes. This helps us to lead in a way that provides order and direction. The material the Ezzio's provide is very involved, but it is has been well worth the effort. It helps us address the daily issues that come up in a pre-planned way. By following the Ezzio's game plan in training up our children in the way they should go we are able to spend more time focusing on the heart issues that come up on a daily basis, which of course are many.

    • Rachael Starke

      Speaking as someone with older kids, and past history with GKGW, I'd gently recommend that you keep some other "frameworks" in view as your kids get older. My experience, and that of many others, was that it is this very basic desire for a "model", and the tantalizing offer of those like GKGW, and a misreading of Prov. 22:6 as a promise, that lead to precisely the kind of burden Christina, myself, and many others fight to overcome.

      • Michael

        A game plan is important. The sooner the better. Rachel what other "frameworks" would you recommend as your kids get older? My wife and I read Babywise and went through GKGW by Gary Ezzio before our first child was born. We and a number other couples experienced such great results with Babywise. Kids all sleep through the night within 3 to 4 months, which means Mom sleeps through the night and everyone is better off. My wife and I both agreed to this game plan and we have found it very reliable in the first 4 plus years. What insights can you provide with GKGW that is not beneficial as your kids get older?

      • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah Anderson

        Oooooo... he didn't just go there, did he? (insert finger snap, head wobble, and sassy voice)

        Let's see how long this takes to turn into a hornet's nest. :-)

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

          Not to worry, Hannah! No swarms. The readers of TGC are filled with the knowledge of gospel grace. They are going to spot the problems of Ezzo's philosophy of parenting right away, like this one, that still takes my breath away:

          "“To obtain for our children the spiritual and saving blessings comprised in the gracious promises of God’s Word, we must believe and be faithfully obedient. Without faith, we have no title to any blessings of promise. Without obedience, we cannot
          expect the favor of God and the communication of His grace on our children or on our efforts. God is not obligated to extend His grace to those who know to do right but fail to do so."

          (GKGW, pg.214)

          Michael, can you see the problems with this sort of framework?

          • Michael

            I am definitely not looking for a fight. We are all trying to love our children and raise them in a way that gives glory to God. Growing up in an unbelieving household and being called later in life spurred me to seek out a game plan for my family. My wife and I are also currently trying to read through Grace-Based Parenting together. This book seems to be highly promoted by TGC and it seems to be highly respected by others here. Again I am not looking for a fight for the following comments as I mention GKGW again. I may have a new version of GKGW but on p 214 of my copy it is talking about Building a Healthy Family.(GKGW, pg.214)We found that scripture is used often in GKGW in order to support the Ezzio's theories. The quote you mentioned on p 214 would not be one that we would agree with. GKGW is 254 page textbook on parenting in a way that seeks after God's plan for family. Is it the perfect plan? No! It is a plan that we prayerfully use with the hope of being led by the Holy Spirit. Like all books it places second to the Bible in our family and everything the Ezzio's write is viewed in light of the Bible itself. We have chosen not to write off the book because some people don't like the Ezzios or that they may be off on this page. Check out the internet on the Ezzios and you will find people saying things against this book as well. But people say things against Piper and others on the TGC. However, we received our first insights from GKGW on things like couch time, parenting inside the funnel, family identity, seeking to raise your children to God's standard, five minute warning, bribing parent, esteeming others, only by the grace of God, three candy speed, siblings and conflict... to name a few.

        • http://www.kerenthrelfall.com/ Keren

          This comment made me COL (chuckle out loud). ;)

        • Rachael Starke

          Oh, Hannah, our dear brother Michael isn't to blame, it's me!

          Michael, in the spirit of wanting to remain closely tied in to Christina's post and keep all hornets happy and quiet in their nests, this part of Christina's post gets to the heart of where the GKGW approach offers, and, yes, often provides, short term benefits, but possibly promotes long term challenges:

          "I don't like to be a mess. I prefer my life orderly and under control. I want an organized calendar and a to-do list with black lines drawn through everything. I want children who listen the first time and a house where everything's picked up."

          The GKGW approach definitely helps with that, for babies and toddlers who also, by God's grace, can be taught those things, which definitely help make our lives more pleasant. But the challenges come when we confuse those good things with ultimate things, namely that our children need not just the law, but the gospel. And other challenges come when we see other parents struggling mightily with fussy babies, or rebellious toddlers or preschoolers, and we're tempted to pride and judgmentalism because "they're just not growing their kids God's way." While some children do do well with the GKGW approach, others do poorly - NOT because of any deficiency on the part of the parents or the child, but because of health or temperament issues.

          Other books which may provide some balance are "Give Them Grace" by Elyse Fitzpatrick (which I have read and heartily endorse), and "Grace-Based Parenting" (which I have not read, but have heard good things from trusted friends). Both books have as their theme the idea of parenting our children the way our Heavenly Father "parents" us.

          • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah Anderson

            In keeping with Christina's lovely post, there's a particular proverb that my husband and I cling to in the midst of the chaos:

            Proverbs 4:14 "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
            but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox." :-)

            Parenting young children is, by definition, messy, unpredictable, and life-draining. And yet the fruit we reap as we acknowledge our need (and our children's need) of grace is so abundantly worth all of it.

            And fwiw, loved "Grace-Based Parenting."

          • http://truthinweakness.blogspot.com tanya @ truthinweakness

            "the challenges come when we confuse those good things with ultimate things" -- wonderfully said, rachael.

          • Melody

            As a mom of eight and now daycare provider of two's and unders I can confirm what I learned from my eight. No two children are alike. Just when I think I have seen it all something new pops up to put me in my place.

            With my own I had the range of following exact rules with child #2 and #3 (twins) to the point of putting a TV and VCR with Winnie the Pooh in the bedroom to get child #6 to sleep in his crib without keeping the teens awake that had school the next day.
            Child #6 is a wonderful godly young man (most of the time) despite my desperate measures to just survive.

            I think basically raising children is like anything else in our spiritual walk. Look up and not at each other. Do not compare our children to everyone else's. Be honest about our walk with God including our mistakes so that they can benefit from the treasures in our cupboards. And know that God looks at our hearts and not the outside stuff that we do.
            Isn't our walk supposed to be about admitting that we don't have control in the world - only God does. If you don't learn it when your children are little then you learn it when they are big and you send them out into the dangers of the world.

            Not growing up in a Christian home I understand the need to do something different. Looking back I can also see that God saved me anyway. And I recognize how He used my circumstances. That is what really matters. He takes messes and works miracles.

  • Callie

    This was just what I needed to read today. My baby never seems to want to take a nap and fusses most of the day. By the time my husband gets home most days, I look like an overtired, frumpy bag lady, haha. I told him today it would be a wonder if I made it through this week and he sent me this article to read, along with a text, "Your strength will not be your own!" Thank you for being honest about what it's really like.

    • Melody

      I don't know how old your baby is but some of them just take longer to learn how to relax themselves.

      The theory is that they will cry shorter and shorter periods of time if you tough it out and let them cry. It's true. I have seen it.
      What they don't tell you is that some kids can last hours. The other thing is that there are children that will increase their time of screaming to be longer and longer each day.
      That was one that I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen it myself. I knew she was tired. She was grouchy, rubbing her eyes and clumsier. She just didn't know how to relax herself. It took a couple of weeks and I thought I would lose my mind.
      Once she knew how to relax I could just put her to bed. Then she took two naps a day until she was two. Another thing I had never seen or heard before.

  • http://www.treasurecoastpca.org Pastor Chris

    A wonderful reminder to fix our eyes on Jesus & not on those around us who seem to have it all together.

  • cassie

    "Today I felt like I was holding everything together from the pieces that broke from the moment before." I had written that as my status on Facebook right before I "stumbled" upon this article. Thank you for your honesty and for allowing Christ's power to shine in your weakness. It is amazing how beautiful He can make the messiest day become.

  • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

    Christina, I didn't have time to thank you earlier for this wonderful article. How I wish I had read something like this twenty five years ago when I felt like an utter failure as a mother-- to have someone who echoed my feelings exactly.

    The only thing that preserved my sanity was my wonderful husband, who did not care how the house looked, or if I looked like a mess too-- he just extended grace. He just wanted my heart to be right with God, and that I'd greet him when he came home with a smile.

  • Audrey

    Thank you for the reminder to focus on God's grace that is greater than my sin and weaknesses rather than the apparent successes of other moms.

    However, I have learned so much from what some successful moms have to say; so I'm grateful to them for sharing their successes. And even if they don't share their problems, I assume even the outwardly together have bad days and seasons.

  • http://www.onmyway2organized.wordpress.com Liz @ On My Way To Organized

    Oh, how much I love this! Taking it all before the cross and alowing him to guide us. Ps 25:5 "Lead me in your truth and teach me,for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." Thanks for reminding us that "perfect" is not the goal!

  • http://truthinweakness.blogspot.com tanya @ truthinweakness

    dearest christina,

    you have just summed up the Lifeblood of my blog. a story that began with intense struggles just like these as a young mom with a colicy baby, then more recently continued when i was left incapacitated for months on end -- with not even the strength to lift a spoonful of soup to my mouth.

    "I parent through my weakness . . .
    I've learned to embrace my weakness and messiness, not because my failures are good but because they open the door to God's grace."

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  • Kay

    Read this article (http://jenwilkin.blogspot.com/2012/10/dear-moms-jesus-wants-you-to-run.html?spref=fb) and believe God's grace but DON'T GIVE UP trying. Don't blame laziness on grace.

    I highly recommend the following books.
    Heaven at Home: Establishing and Enjoying a Peaceful Home, Ginger Plowman
    Am I Messing Up My Kids? And Other Questions Moms Ask, Lisa TerKeurst
    Grace Based Parenting, Tim Kimmel
    Instructing a Child's Heart, Tedd Tripp
    Shepherding a Child's Heart, Tedd Tripp
    The Mommy Diaries, Flint
    Family Life, Charles Swindoll
    Successful Christian Parenting, John MacArthur

    I do NOT recommend the Ezzo's Growing Kids God's Way books. I have read enough of them and dissected them as part of a group project in grad school to figure out it's a lot of digging to get just a few choice nuggets of helpful advice.

  • Britney

    What a great post. We are all doing our best, but it often doesn't feel good enough. Even other moms seem to struggle with giving some of their mom friends grace. Thank you for understanding how sometimes things are well put together,working wonderfully and sometimes we drop the ball. Thankful for your reminder of God's grace.

  • http://www.modernmia.com Modern Mia Gardening

    Thank you, Christina. I needed this reminder today.

  • Clarice

    I'm grateful for this article and how it points to our daily, moment by moment need for Christ. How often I forget and strive in my own strength. So, thanks for this. A wonderful reminder.

    On the flip side...

    I'm a Mom of two boys ages 4 and 2. They are a difficult joy to mother. Yet in addition to being their Mom I make time to cook, clean, craft, even blog. Does that mean I'm dishonest about the trials and troubles of mothering two crazy boys? Is the fact that I manage my home AND do things I enjoy automatically condemning to women that are really struggling? It can sure feel that way at times...But I would suggest that those women are probably living in self condemnation already (as I often do myself).

    I'm growing weary of what appears to be the villainization of moms who love to cook, sew, craft, blog, etc. As if they are presenting the average Mom with some kind of trap. As if they are "dangerous" to the average Mom or "dishonest" about their daily lives. I wonder if humility is just needed all around--for the Moms who think they can do it all (does any mom really think that?) and the judgmental attitudes of women who condemn *themselves* for lack of schedule, cleanliness, productivity, etc.

    Thanks again for this wonderful article. I needed it this morning.

    • Kay

      I agree with you so much! I too am getting tired of "the villainization of moms who love to cook, sew, craft, blog, etc." My view is this: you make time for what you enjoy; you prioritize what is important to you. (For some, they may value a well-ordered, clean house and time for personal interests; for others, they may value watching tv and pinning on Pinterest). As moms we can all be insecure, but it's getting ridiculous when moms judge other moms for having a schedule, keeping a clean house, or making time for her personal interests. It really boils down to insecurity. And instead of the moms dealing with their own insecurity and finding their esteem in Jesus, they attack other moms who seemingly have their lives a bit more ordered than they do (even though no one is perfect). The real problem is comparison: the thief of joy. Then, like you said, condemning ourselves, and then almost demanding God's grace for every un-disciplined choice we make as a parent. God gives grace in our weakness. But we should be aiming to let God turn our weaknesses (self-condemnation, insecurity, laziness, jealousy) into strengths for His glory. And our good.

      • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

        Kay,

        As a woman with lived experience of post-partum depression I have to say that I find your comments very unhelpful, and uncharitable. And surprising for someone who is a therapist. I know that if I had read your comments at the time, I would have had my sense of failure exponentially increased by your implication that my struggles were a "lazy cop-out" or that I was just 'insecure/lazy/jealous'. Or "lacking in discipline". Or that I was almost "demanding grace from God."

        I am so glad that when I had my own post-partum breakdown, my friends really, really got it. And my husband too. They prayed and ministered to me in real tangible ways. No shaming or guilting, just grace. And for a former perfectionist and Martha Stewart wanna-be, the end of my unrealistic expectations and my plastic smile was the best thing that ever happened to me -- as I describe here: http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/out-of-darkness-light/

  • Clarice

    "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23

    The word "whatever" is pretty broad! If you pin, pin heartily, unto the Lord. If you clean, clean heartily, unto the Lord. If you sleep, sleep heartily, unto the Lord. If you play, play heartily, unto the Lord... applying this to every aspect of life as a mom really puts the lid on both legalism and laziness. The Spirit directs us as we commit *whatever* we do to Him.

    There is no inherent sin in watching a movie during nap time or pinning on Pinterest while the kids have a snack. And there's no inherent *holiness* in sweeping the floor, baking a cake, or planning a party during nap time either. So...it's all about the heart, and it's all about Jesus. :)

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  • jj

    This was such an encouraging read. I struggle with a sensitive conscience and it's easy for me to beat myself up over not being the kind of mom I want to be.

    One thing that is helpful for me is remembering that it's God's kindness that leads me to repentance. There are areas where I need to grow but it rarely helps to compare myself to another woman and try and adopt her method of doing things (not that I'm never inspired by the wisdom of my friends but hopefully you know what I mean). I need to be myself and the best motivator I've found so far is reflecting on God's kindness to sinners, both revealed in the word and experienced in my personal life.

    It worries me that so many women express feeling judged by their peers and by things they read online. We should celebrate one another's differences more than we do. Organized women are a huge blessing in so many ways, but so are 'messy' women. I've found that my more scattered friends are often the first to drop everything and help in a bind because they aren't so used to an orderly life :) Granted, the heart behind our behaviors do have sins that need to be addressed, but we aren't all supposed to be the same.

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