Feeling the Perfect Mom Pressure?
By Leslie Ludy
Exercising early in the morning isn’t one of my favorite things to do. At 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I’ve found that I really need the extra motivation of someone peppy and excited reminding me to work hard and push myself. On one of my favorite morning workout DVDs, the energetic instructor encourages her viewers with the statement, “Don’t ask less of yourself – ask more! Just when you feel like giving up, that’s when you need to think like an athlete and push even harder!” Hearing that little reminder always helps me “go the extra mile” even when I least feel like doing so.
When it comes to a work-out coach, most of us appreciate being exhorted to work hard and give our very best. We wouldn’t have much respect for an exercise instructor that said, “You don’t need to try very hard this morning. In fact, you should probably just take it easy on yourself today! Why don’t you just forget about working out and go get some extra sleep!”
Yet, when it comes to motherhood, we would usually rather hear the statement “take it easy on yourself” than “rise up and give your very best!” Christian moms today are often drawn to messages that imply, “Oh you poor thing. Your life as a mom is so hard! God loves you just the way you are – you don’t need to change a thing!”
This causes me to ask the question…
…why do we readily accept the “go after a higher standard” approach in areas like physical fitness, yet balk at anything that would suggest we could be doing better in our mothering?
I believe it’s because we moms so often feel the suffocating pressure to pursue “motherhood perfectionism.” It’s all too easy to start comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we’re always falling short in one area or another. Whether it’s viewing the spectacular homemaking skills of other moms on Pinterest, observing supermoms who’s homes seem to run flawlessly, or measuring our decorating abilities against a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, the temptation to become insecure in our mothering and homemaking role is never ending.
But I have discovered that there is a big difference between the world’s pressure toward motherhood perfectionism and God’s pattern for motherhood excellence. One is based on human strength; the other is supernaturally enabled. One is based on people-pleasing; the other flows from a personal relationship with the King of all kings.
If you are feeling pressure or condemnation in your motherhood role, remember that the solution is not to swing in the opposite direction and embrace mediocrity. Rather, the solution comes from shifting our focus from the world’s pattern to God’s, and trusting Him to equip and enable us to fulfill the sacred calling that He has placed upon our lives.
Let’s take a look at the difference between motherhood perfectionism and God’s pattern for Christ-enabled mothering:
Perfectionism says: You need to impress everyone with your children’s impeccable behavior, your dazzling home management skills, and your flawless family life!
Christ-enabled mothering says: Stop trying to impress other people and live instead for the applause of Heaven. His opinion is the only one that really matters. As Paul summarizes in Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”
Perfectionism says: It’s all up to you! You need to figure out how to become the godly, hospitable, nurturing, frugal, healthy, disciplined, organized, giving, creative mother that God wants you to be. If Proverbs 31 is the picture of a truly godly mother – you better get your act together, and quick!
Christ-enabled mothering says: The only way to truly become a godly woman is to stop trying to perfect, and instead become completely dependent upon the only One who is. We must lean wholly upon the grace of God for this high calling – believing that what He calls us to, He equips us for. By His strength, we can live lives that would otherwise be impossible, and we can do it without exhaustion and burn-out. Why? Because it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. (See Gal. 2:20)
By the enabling grace of God, we can be set free from the unhealthy pressure of human perfectionism while embracing and pursuing His pattern for excellence in our motherhood role. If you aren’t sure exactly how to shift your focus from perfectionism to Christ-enabled mothering, here are some practical ways to begin.
1.) Ask for His Grace
Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” If you feel exhausted or frazzled in your motherhood role, chances are you are leaning a lot on your own efforts and abilities rather than letting the grace of God enable you to do the work He has called you to. Remember, grace is more than the merciful hug of God; it’s the enabling strength to live the victorious life He has called us to live. This applies to the calling of Christian motherhood. Don’t try to muster up the willpower or energy to be a better mom. Rather, take each area that you are struggling with, lay it at Jesus’ feet, and ask Him to pour His grace over that area of your life, so that you can rise up to a higher standard in His strength and not your own. 1 Peter 4:11 says “ If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.” Godly motherhood is truly a ministry and calling from God. May we never forget that God supplies the ability to carry out His calling upon our lives when we look to Him and not ourselves.
2.) Guard Against People-Pleasing
While social media, mommy blogs, Pinterest and other such mediums can offer encouragement and inspiration to moms, they can sometimes also be pitfalls of perfectionism – whether we are posting on them or browsing them. Prayerfully consider whether any of these areas are causing you to fall into a trap of impressing others or comparing yourself to others. If they are, ask God to direct you in whatever practical changes might need to be made to this area of your life (i.e. spending less time on social media, avoiding certain types of social media, using online platforms to point others to Christ and not yourself, etc).
3.) Study Heroic Women
We don’t often hear testimonies of heroic, victorious Christ-centered womanhood these days. But taking the time to study the lives of Christ-enabled women throughout history can go a long way in expanding our vision for the calling and impact of godly motherhood. Some of my favorite examples of godly mothers include Catherine Booth and Elizabeth Fry. Both of these women had numerous children and yet they influenced the world tremendously for Christ. Their secret was in not relying on their own strength, but on the enabling power of God. Read more about these amazing women at www.setapartgirl.com. If you are struggling to gain a vision for what Christ-enabled motherhood can look like, I encourage you to study the lives of these and other great women and be encouraged and inspired of what is possible when a woman submits her life completely to God.
When you deliberately choose to become set free from the unhealthy pressures of human perfectionism and embrace the life-giving, hope-filled pattern for godly excellence, motherhood can go from mundane and mediocre to beautiful and victorious. Truly, God’s ways are perfect!
Leslie Ludy is the wife of Eric Ludy, the mother of six exuberant kiddos, and a bestselling author and speaker. She is passionate about helping women bring Christ into the center of every area of their lives, including motherhood. Leslie’s bestselling books include When God Writes Your Love Story, Authentic Beauty, The Set-Apart Woman, and Set-Apart Motherhood. Leslie is the founder and director of the Set Apart Girl Magazine—a beautiful resource that inspires women of all ages toward Christ-centered femininity. Visit our sister site, www.setapartgirl.com to learn more about Leslie’s ministry. And for more of Leslie’s powerful articles on Christ-centered motherhood, visit www.setapartmotherhood.com!