I wish I had known my mom before 1984. Or maybe before 1974. Before her role became primarily wife and mother. What were her wild ambitions as a 22-year-old girl? What dreams did she bury while raising three kids? My earliest memories involve her brushing my curly hair, making me eat zucchini and corn, ensuring my bed sheet was tucked in, and enforcing an 8:30 p.m. bedtime. These mundane, ordinary, “mom” things offer me little insight.
I guess I never really thought about what made her a woman or what truly defined her until I got married. I had always viewed her as ‘wonder woman’. She was able to balance all the demands of family and church. But now, that I was faced with becoming a wife, I wanted to know who my mom was inside, what made her function, what desires she had. Since I found myself struggling in my new role, I craved her insight on my situation. I wanted to know how she had accomplished so much. I wanted to know what she had sacrificed.
When I got married, I thought I would be ok. I knew who I was. I knew how to be the person God intended. So I would have no problem in my new role…right? I mean, keep the house clean, make dinner, do the laundry—surely these things are straight forward and simple. I had watched my mom complete these tasks all during my growing up years. What could be so hard about it? I could do it. I could be her. Plus, I felt I could do more—keep my full-time job and attend college classes.
The problem arrived when I ran out of hours in the day. My mom had made it seem so effortless. I remember hot meals at dinner, clean sheets, and scrubbed floors. My mom did all this for us—her kids and her husband. She accepted limited help from anyone. She kept all our finances together. She did the grocery shopping. She ran the house. I naturally expected to follow her role. But as I began this walk with my husband, I discovered something I wish I had asked my mom.
I knew how to do the tasks. I just needed to know how to do this marriage thing. When my husband would do the laundry, I would feel guilty. When he did the dishes, I felt lazy. There was something wrong with these feelings. There had to be a balance. It was time to realize that being a wife was not being perfect, nor being on top of everything all the time. Nor was it being a carbon copy of my Mom. Being a wife meant being vulnerable. Marriage meant openness and honesty. It meant me being willing to take a partner. It was time to stop the over achieving. It was time for my inner competition with my mom to cease.
After all, what was I competing with? A cleaner house? Mustering up my guts one day, I finally admitted to my Mom the desire for cleanliness ruling me. This is what she blurted out:
“Sometimes you just gotta leave the dishes in the sink, and go spend some quality time with your husband.”
This came from my mom? The “you-must-have-a-clean-kitchen-before-sitting-down-to-rest” lady? I realized that maybe I was looking at this from the wrong angle. Maybe my mom wished she could’ve taken more help with the house stuff. Maybe she had wished she could’ve done a few things differently. That’s when I knew that I had short changed my own mom. She gave up her own goals, ambitions, and dreams, to be a full time mom. I think that is amazing, but she didn’t expect me to be like her.
Women are still under pressure from society to be a “certain way”. Society pressures us to be forceful at our job. We are to challenge ourselves and our bosses and our co-workers. In social circles, we pressure each other too. I listen to the women comparing themselves to other women who seem more in control. I speculate that the Christian realm has added more pressure to girls. We are expected to be the husband’s helpmeet, the P-31 gal, and a industrious Dorcas rolled into one package. We want immaculate houses, manicured nails, and size 0 waists. Somehow we still believe the old adage, “cleanliness is next to Godliness”. And we are living in a pressure cooker of demands. We become robots—living without joy and without the aid of God’s Spirit.
Maybe we’re spending too much time working in our careers, cleaning our houses, running errands. We are missing the moments of spending time with those we love. Of seeing the beauty in the world around us. Of noticing the joy on our children’s faces when they create artwork. Of listening to our husband’s laughter. Of experiencing our God’s glory.
I remember my mom reading her Bible in her rocking chair. I remember her playing the piano during the evenings at home. I remember her taking time to help a neighbor. She found something so much deeper than a career or a degree. She found a joy in living in the everyday moments. (p.s. she still does this….even drags me in for a pedicure upon occasion)
I’m not the only one who struggles to find balance. Maybe it’s time to stop seeking our worth in a job or in a clean house. Maybe we’re all just trying to be beautiful women, striving in our own ways to make something of ourselves.
I believe this firmly:
Surely we are deeper than clean houses.
Our souls were created for so much more.
And as my Mama would say, “Amen to that.”