I was at our neighborhood park one evening by myself last spring, with then four-month-old Aidan in a carrier on my chest and my older four children running (and swinging, and jumping) wild and free. While we were there, a beautiful young family pulled up with three children in tow, all under four, I guessed. Eventually, the sweet other momma and I struck up a familiar conversation.
“So you have five?” she asked me increduously. “You look so calm.”
And then the followup, “So where are the big ones in school?” And then, “I actually homeschool the older three right now.”
And then (the inevitable), “That’s so amazing. I could never do that! I am just not a patient enough or organized enough person! You’re a Supermom!”
It’s always hard to know what to say.
Ya’ll…if I had a quarter for every time somebody has said to me, “I can’t imagine you ever yelling!”
It’s amazing how I’ve heard this from mothers of every age. So many of us are quick to think we have been the worst at this job.
Every single mother ever has her hands full, unless maybe she’s got a full-time nanny (and cook, and chauffeur, and maids and private tutors) to do most of the work for her. That or the perfect husband and children, of course.;)
They say that we do violence to ourselves when we compare ourselves to others. I was in spiritual direction a few years ago, going on and on about basically being agonized with doubt…because I was comparing myself to others. In the middle of my monologue, my spiritual director pretty much just stopped me mid-sentence. “Erin,” he said, “You should never compare yourself to anybody else. You have no idea what other people are going through or what their real life is like.”
We unknowingly put people on pedestals, make generalizations and assumptions, and paint pictures in our heads about them based on a curated highlight reels or quick judgments put together by our insecurities. That’s what happens we go into our thoughts alone–without Jesus.
And I could write a whole ‘nother blog post about how we all just have different gifts. (Actually, I’ve already done that once.:) What makes one person light up may be the last thing another person would enjoy doing. A gift one mom can give to her kids may be impossible for another family. But who says the gifts God knew you could give to your kids aren’t exactly the ones they need?
We have to train ourselves to take great ideas and inspiration from others, even to take delight in the successes of others, but not to fall into the dangers of comparison that so often steal our joy and skew how we see our life.
Having so many people get this idea that I probably never yell has been an eye opener.:) I have seen other people put a Supermom cape on me so quickly, based on the very little time they’ve known me, or the little they know about me. Just to be candid, many times I’ve met people who have read my blog or heard me speak in person or on the radio (where naturally they’re going to see more of my best self). Some of those people have this idea of how wonderful things must be in my house.:) I get it, though. I’ve met a few of my favorite bloggers and speakers before, too! But we’re all just regular people, aren’t we?:)
But back to me being this calm, perfect-looking mom in public…the truth is that when I’m out in public with my family, it’s easier for me personally to be calm. I think a lot of people don’t think about it like that. It’s a gift, I guess, of having lots of introvert in my personality.:) I am deathly afraid of losing my cookies in front of people, for some reason. My introverted friends and I have discussed this over and over again, trust me.:) I even dread being in labor, and that’s just in front of the doctors and nurses!
I would be mortified beyond belief to have other people see what I act like when I’m at my weakest–when I’m safe within the walls of my home. It’s not pretty! Michael knows. And probably my parents, whom we lived with for two years. Also, maybe my retired neighbors who have probably heard a lot more crying and screaming from our direction than I’d like to think about. All of us have to work on being the same best-version-of-ourself kind of person in all areas of our lives, don’t we?:)
You know, rejecting comparison is not just about telling insecurity where to go. I’ve been learning this past year that I’ve got to take all of those emotions to prayer, and not just beat them down with a stick and pat myself on the back. Admitting that I’m feeling insecure, or second-best, or overwhelmed, or scared, or weak, is important and spiritually healthy. God has a lot to say to each of us.
I think that one thing He loves to tell us is that He is pleased with us in many areas. For some Christians, I think it’s very easy to feel like we’re on the right track if we’re hard on ourselves, or if we can name lots of things we need to work on. That’s a temptation for me, at least.
But my good, good Father wants to tell me, “Good job, my precious girl!” when I’m on the right track, just like I want to tell that to my own children. He doesn’t want me to walk through life constantly beating myself up about how far I have to go, or how imperfect have been my efforts.
When I want my kids to really hear what I want to tell them, I say, “Give me your eyes.”
The next time you go to church, or even just in a moment of prayer in your home before a cross or crucifix, give God your eyes. Look at Him. Let Him look at you. Stay there until you feel His love, and His delight in You, and His mercy. What does He want to say to you about how He sees you and your life? What does He want to say to you about how pleased He is with your pure intentions and your big-hearted efforts (despite how messy or imperfect you think they are)?
When we are affirmed in how much we’re loved and delighted in–apart from our performance–it’s a little harder to fall into doubt through comparison. We walk more confidently.
I don’t know how I do what I do, ya’ll. I have my hands and my heart full to overflowing every single day (just like you!).
Five years ago (pre-homeschooling and two babies ago), I would have had an anxiety attack if I’d seen a page in my planner from this week! (Then I would have double-taked and had another anxiety attack when I realized I’d be pregnant two more times in the next three years! Ha!)
God works it all out, though…it sounds mysterious and pie-in-the-sky, but it’s the truth.
I do a lot of reminding myself of the Truth.
The Truth is that He’s weaving an incredibly beautiful tapestry, but I can only see the back of it right now–the part that has threads criss-crossing and knotting up and looking like a mess.
That I am only a little piece of that tapestry (a tapestry that is NOT all about me).
That He loves my loved ones more than I do.
That where He guides, He provides.
That I cannot do anything to make him love me more…or less.
And that when I am overwhelmed or anxious, I only need to do what I think I should be doing in that moment, and leave the thought of all the rest to Him.
God is certainly the only one with a cape in my life. 🙂
[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity…” -2 Timothy 1:9