Before I ever had children, I knew that one day I would wage war with an enemy who sought their hearts and souls. I anticipated battles ahead, knowing my children would test and defy me. But I never anticipated the mommy wars. I think I watched part of an Oprah episode years ago on competitive moms, but that was about it. I didn't give it a second thought. Not until I joined the club.
On and on, I tell myself whatever I think I need to hear to stanch the fear that I don't measure up.
Let me begin by saying the Mommy Club is a beautiful place. The moment you join, you find within your heart this unexpectedly raw capacity for love. All at once you are a protector, a nurturer, a defender of innocence, a storyteller, an imagination factory, a kisser of boo-boos, and a cheerleader forever. Even on the scrape-me-off-the-floor-with-a-spatula days, you are being sanctified and learning to see God's grace in a brand-new light. It is a special club, one I'm humbled and grateful to be part of.
But I'll be honest, there's one aspect of membership I don't like to talk about. It's the insecurity that bloomed inside of me somewhere along the journey. I felt it the first time I didn't know how to soothe my own baby. The first time I couldn't get her to eat her green bean goo. The first time she wandered out of my sight in public. I don't know exactly when the quiet voice began to whisper, Do you even know what you're doing? But I do know that initial thought was just a stone's throw away from this one: That mom sure looks like she knows what she's doing. And then there was the really quiet thought that always buried itself in a place I would never share with anyone: Maybe she's a better mom than you.
Imitation and Judgment
Here's my humble opinion: I think that thought is the deceptive heartbeat behind all the mommy wars. I think deep down many of us are just a little bit afraid that someone else is doing a better job at this whole thing than we are. We see All-Natural-Organic Mom who tills her own grains in the backyard, and Educational-Crafty Mom whose newborn knows sign language, and Just-Stepped-Out-of-a-Magazine Mom with super cute clothes and baby Gap model babies . . . and we cannot help but notice all the ways we fall short. So we resort to one of two measures, the first being imitation.
What if we knew in the core of our being that we don't have to measure up?
Maybe if I can just be like Super-Fit-and-Sporty Mom with sixteen percent body fat and color-coordinated Nike outfits, or Ultra-Organized Mom, or Über-Sweet-and-Godly Mom . . . The problem is we quickly realize we cannot be all of them all the time. The moment we pop on All-Natural-Organic Mom's hat, we bump into Crafty Mom whose kids have sculpted a miniature Parthenon over the weekend and we realize our kids have watched twenty hours of television so we could make Larabars from scratch. And even if by some miracle we can get Healthy Mom jiving with Educational Mom, when we drop off our kids at preschool we'll immediately notice that Just-Stepped-Out-of-a-Magazine Mom isn't sporting a crumpled T-shirt with craft glue in her hair. (And don't even get me started on what Coupon Mom might think if she saw how much we spent on groceries last week!)
Once we realize we can't be all of them, we resort to option number two—judgment. Of course, this is rarely blatant. I don't tell Sporty Mom I think she spends too much time at the gym; I tell myself Sporty Mom spends too much time at the gym. I tell myself it's okay my abs don't look like hers because she's probably not nearly as godly as I am. I tell myself it's okay I don't look as put together as Just-Stepped-Out-of-a-Magazine Mom because she probably spends too much money on clothes anyway. On and on, I tell myself whatever I think I need to hear to stanch the fear that I don't measure up.
We Don't Have to Measure Up
A few times I've seen the mommy wars go viral. Moms screaming at each other on television. A Facebook feed that erupts. A hateful gossip fest. Here is my theory: I picture the hearts of moms across the world like a really dry forest, the kind that people warn you not to strike a match in. They are dry because they're insecure and aching. They are exhausted and spent. They are longing to hear that they're doing a good job and what's more to feel like they're doing a good job. But because rest and truth and hope can be so hard won, these dry hearts are hazardous. Flick a spark in their direction, and the whole forest can go up in flames.
You don't have to be the best mom ever; Jesus accepts you.
James talks about these hazardous hearts when he writes, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel" (James 4:1–2). Do you feel it? The passions at war within your heart? The desire to be the better mom, the best mom, the perfect mom? Do you covet that other mom's giftedness, or resources, or temperament? These desires have probably never led you to commit murder, but if you're anything like me, they've probably led you to slander and gossip and judge.
But what if the hearts of moms were watered? Not sprinkled every now and then, but watered all the way down to their roots. What if we knew in the core of our being that we don't have to measure up? What if we took James' advice and humbled ourselves before God, drawing near to Him and allowing Him to draw near to us (James 4:8–10)? What if we took refuge in the gospel truth that Jesus Christ loves and accepts us just as we are (Rom. 5:6–8). That He is passionate about our children and will walk beside us, in all our shortcomings, to make us the kind of mom we need to be.
What if we could quit judging Skinny Mom or Healthy Mom or Crafty Mom and instead see them as Real-Human Mom in need of love and encouragement just like us? Then maybe the next time someone suggests you try her organic Ak-Mak crackers or mentions that she just finished a triathlon, you can smile genuinely because you may have no idea what an Ak-Mak cracker is, but you know who you are. Accepted. Redeemed. Treasured. One who has been born again to a living hope and an imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:3–4).
What do you say, Mom? How would you like to be Imperfect-Completely-Loved-Free-in-Jesus Mom? How would you like to be Don't-Need-to-Play-the-Games Mom? Capable-of-Genuinely-Loving-Others Mom? Guess what? That is exactly what Jesus died to offer you. Initially when I started thinking about this topic, I wanted to encourage you by telling you all the things I myself long to hear—that you're doing a great job, you're the best mom ever, everything's going to be awesome for you. But instead, I want to encourage you by telling you something far better: Whether you're doing a great job or not, Jesus loves you. You don't have to be the best mom ever; Jesus accepts you. And when everything's not awesome, you always have hope in Jesus (1 Tim. 4:10).