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The Perfect Mother

What is the perfect mother? Perhaps you are a mother, or would like to be one. In that case I bet, without spending much time thinking about it, you have a very particular vision of what the perfect mother is to you? 

For me I would have imagined a smiling, caring, kind, gentle, playful, patient woman who not only looks put together but can cook, clean, craft and create with ease. One surrounded by her loving and loved children whether they’re reading a book, baking, creating or watching an interesting insect on the doorstep. One who is present and connected, emotionally regulated, calm and ready to weather the emotional storms little ones find themselves in. One who loves God and is patient yet practically adept for any mothering scenario. No pressure, right?!

Becoming a mother was what I had always wanted. I believed, since I was a little girl, that this was God’s plan for my life. The thought simultaneously excited and settled me. It felt right. It felt like my purpose, my vocation, my calling: who and what I was created to be. I married in 2014 and brought our first baby, a little girl, into the world a year later. Time ticked on and our family grew from one to three children, the addition of two boys, in 2017 and 2020. I was feeling stretched, to put it mildly. The idea of being the mother I wanted to be along with cooking all meals from scratch, my kids actually eating those meals, keeping on top of housework, finding answers for my husband’s failing health whilst also trying to find my way with homeschooling and oh then we decided to add a vegetable garden into the mix. All of this in those early years of marriage when trying, together with my husband, to get into the swing of setting up our own family system. And of course life happening all around with the highs and lows that it brings, the most poignant of which for me was the loss of my father in 2020. On the outside, the ideal of my mothering dream may have looked like it was being fulfilled but interiorly I certainly was not living the dream. How I felt day to day, together with how I was behaving in my role as a mother, felt worlds away from the very specific ideal I had imagined. What went wrong?

With the benefit of hindsight I know what went wrong and what needed to change to make things better. I have changed these things and now, with four children and probably more responsibilities, my interior life - and thus the attitude I’m demonstrating on the exterior - are wildly and positively different. I am now much closer to the mother I’ve always wanted to be. Not all day and certainly not every day; but most of the time. I am not the perfect mother, nor will I ever be. But I am a good enough mother, and I am dedicated to becoming better day by day. 

The changes I made were simple, but not easy. The result has been the injection of joy into daily life, a consistent feeling of serenity rather than overwhelm, and a sense of fulfilling my purpose in an inspired way. It did not happen overnight. It happened with small acts of imperfect progress, daily. And it requires discipline and maintenance. The change that was required was a change in mindset and in the order in which I tend to things in my daily life. 

The mindset, specifically, that I had to let go of was that of perfectionism. Holding on to unrealistic expectations; comparing myself and my life to other women; and over-functioning by taking on more responsibility than my God-given duties and obligations required of me so that everything could be done just so… These were all causing me incredible emotional pain, stunting my spiritual growth and preventing me from being the mother I had the potential to be.

When I allowed myself to really look at my life and how I was feeling, I began to see the pain caused by holding on to this very specific self-authored template of the ‘perfect mother’. I was rigid in my ideas and expectations of what and how things should be done. I wasn’t allowing God to show me the way He wanted me to be. How He desired things to unfold in my life, for my personal happiness and for His greater glory. Achieving anything short of my specific notion of perfect made me feel like a failure. It was this pain that brought me to my knees and I finally remembered to bring God into my troubles. I wanted to be a better mother, I just didn’t know how. So I asked!

Therefore I say unto you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you”. Mark 11:24

In answer to my prayer, I remembered that God has provided, for us all, a guide on our particular path. For mothers, there is none better than Our Lady. Why was I attempting to create my own template when the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, THE perfect mother has already shown us the way?

Our Lady was immaculately conceived; free from original sin from the moment of her conception. She is the most perfect woman ever created, most perfectly reflecting God’s image and likeness. Though we are mere imperfect humans, tainted with original sin and living in a society much different to the time of Our Lord, we can nonetheless look to the Blessed Mother of God as the role model we need in our lives. It is by choosing her as our guide that we can learn to refocus our attention on what is important in our role as mothers today and allow ourselves to prune away the many distractions that serve to take our attention from what truly matters.
We do not know much about the life of Our Lady, but the little we do know is all that we need. The most important of which is her fiat. She said yes to God. Even with uncertainty regarding how God’s plan would unfold in her life, she said yes. She did not let her own ideas of the path her life ought to take stifle her growth in relationship with God and the fulfilment of His will. She did not waste time worrying about how things would come to be. She surrendered entirely. She said yes and allowed God to work in her life. She let God lead. Our fiat is giving God permission to take over and work in our lives. Letting go of control in favour of intimacy with Him.

Aren’t you tired of trying to make everything work out just so? Of feeling like you have to do it all? Wouldn’t it be a relief to give the reins back to God? God wants us to be happy this life. We can learn to trust Him. In holding on tightly to our perfectionist ideals; our high expectations; our comparisons of ourselves to others; we are keeping our minds and experiences in life narrow and preventing ourselves from being taken where God wants us to go. Letting go of our idea of how our lives should go and surrendering to God’s more perfect plan is truly liberating!

And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word, And the Angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38

Change will not happen overnight. Change happens when we make small acts of imperfect progress; doing the next right thing and leaving the rest to God. There will be mistakes; there will be slips into old habits and familiar patterns; there will be failures. We can allow these to stop us and prevent our growth, or we can turn to Our Lord’s Passion for inspiration and guidance for how to continue: 
Jesus fell under the weight of His cross, several times. But He did not give up. He stood up and He continued. Sometimes by calling on Our Heavenly Father for strength. Sometimes through the mental fortitude provided by the presence of His supporters - His Blessed Mother; Saint Veronica; Saint Mary Magdalen; His disciples and the women who were mourning His pain and impending death. Sometimes through depending on another person to share the burden of the cross, as we see in Simon of Cyrene. Allowing Himself to draw strength from Our Father and the community surrounding Him, Our Lord fulfilled the Heavenly plan of Redemption. 

Ask for the strength you need. Lean on others
. Your yes to God will look different to every single other mother on earth. You, your children, your husband and your circumstances are different to all other mothers. Your personal relationship with God is different to all others. Allow yourself the freedom of not comparing. Allow Our Heavenly Father to author your life. Allow Our Heavenly Mother to be your guide, your confidant, your strength, your refuge. Let go of what is holding you back and hold on tightly to Our Lady’s motherly example. 

Take care of you and Let Truth Bloom!

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