I strolled through a local art gallery one fall morning and spied many amazing creations: vibrant oil paintings and earthen pottery pieces. Beautiful hand-blown glass objects. But the one that most caught my eye was a breathtaking mosaic.
A mosaic is a clever creation where hundreds of seemingly broken pieces of colored glass are purposefully arranged to create a collage. If you step back and view the piece in its entirety, a picture emerges.
Well, it isn’t just in museums where we spy mosaics. Many of us have formed a mosaic in our minds of the perfect mom. We have collected tiny pieces of information, mentally arranging them in our mind to form a snapshot of what a good mother should be.
Was there a mom in your childhood neighborhood who always fed the kids on your block fresh-baked cookies and glasses of lemonade? Clink.
You deposited in your mind’s bank that a good mom does that effortlessly and cheerfully.
Did you recently visit the home of a new friend who has children about the same age as yours? Her home was void of dust and clutter-free. Your mind migrated back to the scene you left at your house: breakfast dishes still on the table, peanut butter smeared on the counter, and a trail of crumbs on the floor that would make Hansel and Gretel squeal with glee. Piles of dirty laundry. Dirty children too. Clunk.
You determined a good mom can keep the house-and the kids-clean at all times.
Piece by piece we have crafted in our imagination a stunning mosaic of what a good mom looks like. But there is one teensy-weensy fact we forget about mosaic depictions. They are not real.
And though a mosaic may be lovely to look at during a leisurely stroll through a cultured art gallery, a fictitious mosaic of motherhood is a horrifying sight for a woman who is trying her best to do this mothering thing.
The mosaics we’ve formed often perpetuate many untruths we begin to believe. Here are 10 big ones I’ve seen in my quarter-century of parenting:
Mothering Is Natural, Easy, and Instinctive
Oh boy. This perspective makes us feel like a failure if we can’t figure out why our baby is crying or how to nurse them successfully. Before we only needed to worry about feeding ourselves, not using our own bodies to sustain the life of another human being! While the desire to have children may be instinctive, how to care for them isn’t always so. We will need help learning to mother. Speaking of nursing….another myth we believe:
The Way I Mother Is the Right (and Only) Way
Breast vs. bottle. Cloth vs. disposable. Public school vs. private or homeschool. Working mom vs. stay-at-home parent. When we feel that we have cornered the market on how to raise kids, we erect fences between ourselves and other mothers when we could be building bridges instead. I’ve seen friendships fractured over the issue of sleeping. Is the real issue whether or not your baby sleeps in a crib or sleeps with you? Or is the more crucial issue not who is sleeping where, but who is sleeping! Know what you believe but give others the space to believe-and behave-differently.
I Am “Just” a Mom
This phrase devalues our important role in society. Remember, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Don’t sell yourself short believing you are “just” a mom. You are invaluable and are helping shape society.
This next one is the flip side:
Motherhood Is All-Consuming and All-Fulfilling
Resist the urge to tether your identity to being the mother of so-and-so, wrongly surmising that being a mom is your only gig. This rarely ends well. Take delight in your role, but don’t lose yourself while raising your children.
Oooh…this next one causes so such stress:
A Good Mother Can Do It All, All at Once
Negative. Maybe we can have it all, but not all at once. Motherhood has seasons. We have to shift and rearrange, managing the tension between home and outside commitments. The sooner we embrace this fact the better. For us and for our children.
Motherhood Is a Rat Race
Feeling frazzled? Motherhood doesn’t have to be a rat race. Slow down. Say “no” once in a while. On the home front, learn to work yourself out of a job. I say if a child can operate a cell phone, they can learn to run the washing machine. (You put your feet up and sip a latte!)
Everything Depends on Me
Feel the pressure to be everything to your children? You cannot possibly fulfill all of their needs. Learn to provide healthy role models for them. Teach them to form bonds with other people and to learn to solve problems on their own. Your goal is to raise an independent adult, not create a clingy child.
Motherhood Is Luck of the Draw
Sometimes we are tempted to believe that motherhood is a crapshoot of sorts; that we try our best and hold our breath. But mothering matters. Keep on keeping on. The time you pour into your kiddos counts!
I Have to Do It All Right, or My Child Will Turn Out Wrong
We moms need to stop stressing about doing everything perfectly, fearing that if we make one slight misstep we have ruined our children forever. This wrong belief only prevents us from enjoying the journey of motherhood. Let’s pinky promise to try our best and yet give ourselves grace whenever we feel we’ve failed.
And finally, the mother of all lies (pun totally intended!)
My Child’s Bad Choice Means I’m a Bad Mom
Your child is going to goof up. Break the rules. Or maybe even break the law! You are not a failure if your toddler throws a temper tantrum at the grocery store or if your teen winds up in the principal’s office. Do not tether your identity to the choices of your child-whether stellar or stupid. Their choices-and their behavior-are their own.
The sooner we smash the mosaic of the flawless mother, the sooner we will embrace the imperfect yet perfectly wonderful honor of being a mom. We will unearth the magic in the mundane and find our hearts full. Our houses still messy maybe-but our hearts so incredibly full.