Not too long ago I was at a baby shower and we’d come to the part of the event where we were all supposed to go around the circle and give advice on motherhood. I was the only one at the shower who was not a mother so when it came my turn, I felt a little ill-equipped to be giving advice on something I had never experienced.
But as I was thinking about what in the world to say I realized that I’m actually pretty well able to give advice — not as a mother, but as a daughter. I couldn’t give advice based on where I’d failed in the past or what I wish I had done differently, but I could look at the example of my mom and say a few things that I knew made up a great mother. From the outside looking in, without fear of failure or self-consciousness to color my view, I can see what makes a good mom.
We live in an age where a mother is quick to base her worth on the cuteness of her child’s birthday cake, her database of quick, fun, and easy meals, the shabby chic decor of her house and her ability to come up with good rainy day activities for her perfectly behaved children.
In short, it’s only taken a few years of internet and social media for the worth of a mother to be measured by how well she can peruse Pinterest and the internet.
But my mom is simpler than that.
It’s not that she never homemade a birthday cake or did crafts or refinished furniture. It’s not that she overlooked the little things, it’s that she focused on the big things. She didn’t focus so much on all the “womanly” and “motherly” things that she forgot that being a mother actually means caring for, bringing up, and teaching another human being.
And as I look back on my childhood, it’s not the homemaking and the DIY and the hand-painted pink bows on my ceiling that stick out to me. It’s the million other things that she did consistently. It’s the actions she did and the lessons she taught me that didn’t
get eaten or ripped or thrown away or painted over. And every time I feel like a failure as a human being and a wife for not getting the tangible little things right, I’m encouraged by my mom, and I remember the simple things she did as a mom that taught me how to be the right kind of person.
She taught me how to listen. Mainly from spending all those years listening to the ramblings of her chatty daughter. Through all these years, I’ve always felt important, like what matters to me matters to her. And seeing that in her makes me want to make someone else feel just as special.
She taught me to see God in everyday life. When we watched TV shows or movies or listened to music or read books, she always saw how it related to God, how it related to a Spiritual life, and she talked with me about it. She asked my opinion. She came to me on my turf and let me see God in my everyday life.
She taught me to be me. She never tried to force me to be a specific type of person. She never tried to control me or keep me where I was. She encouraged me to be the best possible version of myself — whoever that was.
She taught me to open my home to others. Our house was always open to my friends. It wasn’t perfect or spectacular, but it was always open.
She taught me to be wise with money, but she also taught me that all the money in the world is no good if you’re too petrified of spending it to live your life.
She taught me to try to live healthy, but she also taught me that sometimes we have to enjoy our lives outside a calorie count.
She taught me to work hard, do my best, and be kind to everyone.
She taught me not to let the expectations of others box me in.
She taught me to love God with my heart soul, mind, and strength.
She may look at these things and say “Yeah…but” and proceed to list all the things she could have done better, all of the things she didn’t get perfect at the time. And that’s ironic because when I tell her all the ways that I don’t measure up to what I think I should be, she tells me to give myself a break. To focus on the important and intangible stuff like love, faithfulness, laughter, friendship, and joy. And that’s what she’s done the 27 years she’s been a mother.
This lesson goes far beyond motherhood or womanhood. It’s a lesson to all human beings.
We never live up to our own expectations or to the expectations others have put on us. We’ll never get it all down perfectly. The perfect version of ourselves that we’re chasing doesn’t exist. But living a life that matters, that cares about and teaches others and changes lives is usually pretty simple. My mom has taught me that by example.