I spent the early days of my motherhood begging God to make me a better mother. I wanted Him to take away my anger and my outbursts. I was essentially asking Him to make me 'the perfect mother' - you know the one, she never raises her voice, is always calm, always knows the right thing to say and do, and always seems to have baked goods. The thing is, I don’t think she actually exists in real life, only within those curated little squares on social media.
I prayed in the morning, I prayed after my anger outbursts, I prayed at night, and I begged God every Sunday during worship. Make me a better mother. Take away my anger. Stop my angry outbursts. Let me be the perfect mother for my daughters. Please. I beg you.
Surprise. It never happened. Instead, I was given something even better. I was given clarity and a change of mindset. Ahh peace and joy. Thank you, Jesus.
I was given the clarity that I am a great mother, flaws and all, and there is no prize in guilt or shame. I was given a change of mindset - I realised focusing my energy on what I am not or what I don’t have won’t actually achieve what I was praying and striving for. Instead, I was reminded to be grateful and, as Paul said in Colossians 2, to be 'overflowing with thankfulness'. It is more than okay to be thankful for what you have, and who you are. It is a big fat lie we have been fed to be ungrateful with what we have and to always want more. Jesus wants us to be content and thankful for everything we have, and everything we have been given, and that includes who you are as a mother.
I am human and I am flawed. I will always feel anger - and feeling angry is not a bad thing! Being aggressive is, but having an emotion is not a flaw. Instead of trying to achieve an unachievable standard, I needed to accept myself completely and have grace. This in turn allows me to accept my daughters for who they are and have grace for them with their flaws and in their mistakes. I won’t ever be perfect. I will always be a flawed human, who will fail and make mistakes and that is okay.
We are not the sum of our mistakes, but what we do after is what counts. Take a deep breath, accept it, say sorry if we need to, and try and do better next time. That is all I can do, and then as I practice having grace for myself, I am teaching my daughters to have grace on themselves too. And ultimately, isn’t that what we want for our children? For them to be able to make a mistake, pick themselves up, say sorry and keep going. What was I teaching my daughters with my ridiculously high standards and beating myself up for being human? I was teaching them to do the same.
The feelings of inadequacy kept me rooted in an inward thinking about myself, instead I needed to root myself in faith in Jesus. It is easy to think feeling bad about myself is the honest and humble thing to do, but the shame spiral it produces was keeping me turned inward. Feeling thankful and joyful allows me to keep my focus outward, and that is an easier place to love and parent my daughters from, than the anxiety ridden place of feeling guilty for not being the perfect mother.
So instead, God gave me clarity and a change of mindset. And the reminder to be grateful for everything I have and for everything I am, to be overflowing with thankfulness for the great mother I am, for the skills and resources I have. Because honestly, who benefits from me beating myself up? From feeling guilt and shame? Not me, and definitely not my daughters. I am a better mother when I am rooted in Jesus and overflowing with thankfulness.
'So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.'
Lucy C. Budzynska is an Adelaide based freelance writer. She writes about Christianity, motherhood and mental health. Lucy lives near the hills with her husband and two young daughters. She is a Christian and this is the foundation of everything she does. In her spare time she drinks too many oat milk lattes, gardens and attempts to restore vintage furniture.