Free to Be
Do you know someone who seems to be “super-mom”? That person who leaves you in awe of their boundless energy and creativity? Or the instagram-mom whose life (and family) looks perfect in each photo? Or ever wonder how the mom with nine kids still seems perfectly sane and even happy? Do you, like me, sometimes struggle with wondering if you should be doing more or doing something different to be a better mom?
Today I am going to share a secret I am learning about being the best mom for Henry, my fourteen month old son.
Transitioning to motherhood was unexpectedly challenging for me after my son was born last year. I’ve wanted to be a mom since I learned what babies were as a little girl, and I love this new role just as much as I thought I would. But it was also hard. In addition to the physical exhaustion and trauma my body went through during the labor and delivery, there were the mental and emotional aspects to recovery, which often take far longer than the body to recover. It took about 5 months before I felt remotely back to being myself again, both mentally and physically.
As I talk to other new moms, I know that my experience is not out of the ordinary, yet we so often place unrealistic expectations on ourselves once we become a mom. Much has been said elsewhere about “mom guilt”, our tendency to compare ourselves relentlessly and judge others based on our own beliefs or experiences, and our social media driven culture often promotes this mindset. Have you experienced this in your mothering journey yet?
I often see another mom and immediately think “oh, I wish I was more like her”, or “wow, she seems to have it all together”, or “her life looks so pretty and perfect in her photos”, or “I would be a better mom if only…” and on and on it goes. It gets exhausting if we listen to that train of thought long enough, leaving us feeling inadequate and weary.
I am at my best as a mom when I am free to be me.
When I was younger, people told me all the time how much I was like my mom. It was a compliment then, and it still is today. She is amazing – an extrovert with energy for days, a wonderful wife, mom and grandma (Gaga, as the grandboys call her), loves to be around people (and the more the merrier), throws the best parties, is creative and artistic, has the capacity to thrive with a full time job and something going on every night of the week, is generous with her time, constantly hosts people in her home, and loves to give gifts.
All of that is wonderful, but little of that describes who I am. Thus, as I grew up, I started to think there was something wrong with me. I love people, but as an introvert I need alone time to recharge. I much prefer small groups to big crowds. I am terrible at gift giving (Amazon gift cards for the win!). I burn out quickly if I don’t have a couple nights at home each week with nothing on the schedule. My creativity skills are slim. Our alikeness comes in that we both love Jesus, share a passion for hosting people in our homes, a love of laughter, enjoy cooking and baking, and we look and talk alike.
I know another mom who is a super-mom. She had four boys in under six years (the youngest two are twins!), and is like a machine. Motherhood seems effortless for her. Super creative birthday parties, stylish clothes for the boys and herself, beautiful hair and makeup, gorgeous home, model-worthy photos, always out doing things with the kids, seemingly endless energy and life. She is amazing, really and truly!
But here is the truth: trying to be just like my mom or like my super-mom friend will not make me a better mom for Henry. It will only wear me out and leave me empty because that is not who I am or how I am wired. What he needs is for me to be exactly who God created me to be. The one who sings oldies and dances with him around the kitchen. The one who prioritizes a shower almost every day, because it helps me feel more human. The one who loves to be outside in the sunshine, but also thinks the library makes the best outing. The one who loves babywearing and breastfeeding and using cloth diapers. The one who is terrible at gift giving, but great at quality time. The one who looks forward to nap time so I can recharge for a few minutes. God chose me to be Henry’s mom, to steward and shepherd his little life, and He calls me to trust Him that who I am is enough.
Does this mean we should never strive to improve as moms? No, not at all. There is a major difference between striving to be a better you, and striving to be a different person all-together. Hopefully we are always open to new ideas, new ways to grow as moms and love our kids well. The key is to know how to take what serves our family and apply it, and leave the rest! As we continue to grow as mamas, let’s remember that our kids will have the best moms when we embrace who we are, who we were created to be, rather than trying to be someone we are not.
Emily Smith recently joined the Body & Soul team, serving as the Administrative Assistant to the President. She is passionate about seeing women walk in the grace and truth of the gospel, living out the life God desires for them. Before she got married Emily worked with Cru in Germany and Indiana, and then at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia, where she met and married her husband, Christian. They now reside in Richmond, Virginia with their son, Henry. When she has some free time, you will often find her exploring new places, hanging out in her hammock swing in the backyard, reading, going for walks, baking, eating dark chocolate, or playing board games with family and friends. She also loves to write, and you can read more on her personal blog over at amosaiclife.wordpress.com.
Administrative Assistant to the President
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