Sunday, October 26, 2008

Perfect Mother

Some time ago my daughter brought home something extra from school. It was a page torn from the the back of a magazine on which was depicted a cartoon super-mom complete with cape. In her innocent adoration of her mother, my daughter told me the pictured woman was me. I took comfort that in spite of all my failings, to her I'm a super mom. Then recently she brought home a worksheet about what she wanted to be when she grew up. I found it the highest compliment that she put it in writing that she wanted to be like me. The magazine page is in the back of my Primary binder (where I can stumble on it and be reassured while failing miserably at my calling,) and the worksheet is on the fridge where it has brought many a smile to my face and tingle to my nose.

I can only hope that my daughter keeps up her angelically forgiving attitude as long as I kept up mine towards my own mother. I hope that by the time she figures out how incredibly young, flawed, and inexperienced I was when she was growing up, I will have become a bit more like the person that she seems to see in me.

It's not an easy goal to reach, but then Iit is hard to find a definition of a good mother that is both desirable to me and attainable. For example, let me illustrate the skills and duties of the "perfect mother" in my culture.

The ideal woman must:

  • Keep an immaculate house at all times.
  • Decorate said house in crafts she's made with her own two hands.
  • Take her 3+ children on visits to the park, but make these trips learning experiences packed with science, sociology, literature, and art.
  • Teach each of her children 1-20 and a-z before entering kindergarten.
  • Have her children evidence perfect decorum on shopping trips, in church, at social functions, and certainly at school.
  • Read to each child every night before tucking them in, this is in addition to listening to them as part of homework.
  • Be spiritually balanced and ready to extemporise on gospel principles with no advance notice.
  • Cook gourmet meals from a pantry stuffed with whole wheat and legumes.
  • Maintain her own appearance at least at a 7, even if she wasn't a 10 in the first place.
  • Be employed in either a job, hobby, or volunteer work to "contribute to society."
  • Bake her own bread.
  • Be actively involved in church, holding imortant positions and going the extra mile.

The reader must be informed that these are the expectations of my culture, not my religion. Our church leaders are constantly telling LDS women that we should be kinder to ourselves. In fact, any good hearted man with half a brain would never place so many requirements on anyone.

The fact of the matter is, we do this to ourselves. In so many cases the guidance of our leaders is added to a list of chores instead of internalised. "After I clean the house and put the finishing touches on the charity event I need to practice having charity towards myself," we think to ourselves, and here's a shocker, we never get around to it!

So to my fellow exhausted and overworked LDS moms I offer this perspective. You are raising children, not a house. None of us will be judged on judgment day on the number of vegetables we masked with jello salad. The parable of the talents wasn't talking about toll painting, it was talking about spiritual gifts, Things like listening, forgiving, and sharing are the things we are to invest and reap the rewards of. He was telling us to use what gifts we DO have to build His kingdom, not that we are lacking if we do not develop more.

One of my dearest friends says she doesn't have any talents, and yet she is a really great friend and teacher. She greets new people at church all the time, she has a great shoulder for crying, she has a really positive attitude, she double fills her multiple callings, and she supports her husband in his good works. Now that's a good woman.
Personally, I sing, dance, paint, sculpt, plan parties, decorate cakes, sew, crochet, write, and make yummy Italian. My REAL talents, though, are my ability to love people and my desire to bring them joy. Those are the talents that God cares about me using, those are the talents that I need to invest myself in. The others are just fringe benefits to being me and ways to supplement my REAL talents.
What each of us needs to do is find out what her real talents are and invest herself in them. In our efforts to beautify the world we really need to start with making ourselves more beautiful inside. Make kindness a priority. Slow down just a bit.
The dishes will be there tomorrow, the laundry will always be heckling you from the couch, there will always be another meal to make, silver to polish, phone call to make... the world is not going to stop being so DEMANDING. You have to learn to tune it out, and get tuned in on the things that really matter.
Kind, meek, charitable, temperate, forgiving, long-suffering; those are the words that you want contesting for room on your tombstone, those are the skills that you need to master.
In Matthew 6:33 the Saviour admonishes his disciples "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." If they in their tasks as fathers, husbands, and disciples were to set aside the aspirations of their society and put following Christ as their first priority, how much might we prosper from a similar mindset?
Instead of wasting our time in search of perfection, if we took every moment and looked for the good we could do in it, then the perfection would come to us.
I know, I ask the impossible, I ask you to give up the pursuit on which you have based your identity. I ask you to somehow find the time to stop and think in each moment when you hardly have a moment to think. It's the only way though, it's the only way we are ever going to conquer this world.
Stop doing all the things that make a person the "perfect mother" and start to BE a more perfect person.


Jenni said...

Aww thanks for that post! You are always so uplifting & positive. I wish I could be more like you one day. :)

Aaron and crystal said...

You are wonderful.. even now in our separate far away lives , you seem to know what to say to make me feel better. I love you .

JerieH said...

I love you Sis. That was just what I needed today.