by Beth Foster
Years ago, as a young wife and a new mother, I had an encounter that changed my entire outlook on motherhood. One cold December morning, a neighbor and fellow mom said to me, “You just have it all together.” She said spoke these words on quite possibly the worst day of her life- the day her husband told her he was leaving her, their daughter and unborn baby for another woman. She had run next door to my house when their argument escalated and she feared for their safety. I saw this woman, completely broken, on her knees in my doorway, sobbing uncontrollably and through broken gasps telling me what happened.
As we waited for the police to arrive I took her and her toddler into my living room. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and my house was decorated for the season. This was this woman’s first time in my home, and the first thing she said when she saw my living room was, “Oh, you have such beautiful furniture! And look at your gorgeous tree. You already have presents and everything! Your home looks so elegant and established. And you have a new baby.” Then through sobs and tears she said, “You just have it all together.”
As I sat next to her, I said what I have since repeated to other women numerous times, “No one has it all together.”
When she walked into my house she took only what she saw in front of her and thought that was the whole of me. She didn’t know that the reason my house was clean, my tree was up, and my furniture polished was because the night before I had hosted a Christmas party for my husband’s office. I had spent the entire day before cleaning, dusting, cooking, decorating and trying to prepare my house. I felt terrible that she thought this was my norm, because it wasn’t. This one picture she had seen of me, wasn’t me. I was a mess. I felt a mess, I thought I looked a mess, and as the mother of a newborn I had no idea what I was doing. I was the one who thought she had it all together.
This comparison has happened often over the years. A friend will tell me how organized I am. (I assure you, I am a lot of things, but organized is not one of them.) I will tell her that I wish I did arts and crafts with my kids as much as she does with hers. She tells me she wishes she could keep up with laundry like I do. I will see another mom’s pantry and wish I could keep mine organized like she does. She tells me she wishes she could travel as much as my family.
It is our nature as mothers to want to be the absolute best we can be for our children, our husbands, our friends- but in doing so we often assume that we are failing where others are succeeding. So often what we actually see isn’t the whole person. Especially in the age of social media- it’s easy to take that collection of literal snapshots to “construct” that whole person in our minds.
A few years ago on Easter Sunday I watched my Facebook feed as many of my friends posted pictures of themselves with their children all dressed in their Sunday best in front of a perfectly manicured flower bed with blooming annuals. I finally ended up posting a picture of my two children dressed for church. My oldest, who was four at the time, is looking down and laughing while she holds my one-year-old, who is literally turning purple while screaming and trying to snatch the Easter bonnet off her head. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’ve had fellow mothers tell me since that this little dose of realism was what they needed.
It is a humbling and overwhelming responsibility to be a mother. It is natural to want to do your best. We don’t want to fail. The love for our children is so great that we tell ourselves that we cannot fail.
But remember, the Creator of the universe who hung the sun and moon, who set the planets in their orbits and filled the seas- saw you, knew the real you, and blessed you with the high calling of motherhood. Her knows you, and He chose you.
While I can get discouraged by reading a lot of the “Mommy Blogs” of women who seemingly have it all together, I am never discouraged when I read about the Proverbs 31 wife. She is everything to which we as women and mothers should aspire. (Proverbs 31:10-31)
“The Wife of Noble Character”- as she is referred to- is everything I want to be as a wife and mother. But if you look closely at that passage, nowhere does it say that she has a perfect house, that her children don’t write on the walls with indelible ink, or that she doesn’t get tired. It says that, “She works with eager hands,” not that her work is perfect. “She speaks with wisdom,” but it doesn’t say that she has all the answers. It says, “She is clothed in fine linen and purple,” but it doesn’t say that she always looks like she just stepped off the runway. And, most importantly, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” If we look past the surface we know the truth: we are all broken without Jesus. I know I am everything my children need in a mother, but I am nothing without my Savior. He is the One who will sustain me, guide me, and love me.
As I write this, I am sitting in my house surrounded by moving boxes. My children are eating fast food, and I’m looking at the collection of dust bunnies that were clinging to the TV, window treatments and pictures for who knows how long. If you catch me on a good day out at the park you may think I have it all together. If you get to know the real me, you would know for a fact that I do not. I lean on Jesus Christ because I know that He is all I need, and He is in control. In that way, motherhood has been the most spiritually fulfilling time of my life. I go to the Cross daily to pray for my children and my husband. I pray that God will make me who I need to be for them. They are my focus- not other moms.
A wise person once told me that everyone has problems. It’s true. I’m not perfect, my kids aren’t perfect, my husband isn’t perfect, but my Savior is. If I strive for perfection, I fail. Instead, I run to the feet of Jesus. And we can know the real truth- that while we might not have it all together, with Jesus we have it all.