how to be a good mother

My house is rarely clean.

Even if you were to ignore the piles of clutter that have been sitting for inordinate lengths of time (in some places, years!) around my house, my house would still be rarely clean.  Certain jobs I do regularly because the health of my family depends on it, such as washing dishes, laundry, and taking out garbage.  But jobs like folding laundry, sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, and decluttering — well, those often get put off, or ignored altogether (as in the case with de-cluttering).  Dust bunnies pile up in corners of floors.  Cobwebs get longer.  Windows get dirty.  Dust accumulates on furniture.

My house cannot be considered “clean” by any stretch of the imagination.  But, you know what?

I don’t care.

Should I care more than I do?  Perhaps.  But for better or for worse, I don’t.

I clean up more when company comes, but if it’s a choice between staying up late to clean and being awake to enjoy my guests the next day, I choose being awake.  I clean up when things get really dirty, and spilled messes get cleaned up right away because I don’t want the mess to get tracked all over the house and get bigger, but I’m just not overly worried about a clean house.

My house does not define me.

Now, I’m not saying everyone should live as I do, but I do think that many women in the world today use the state of their house as a definition of their success as a mother.  I don’t think that’s a good standard against which to judge one’s mothering abilities.

Mothering is so much more than just putting food on the table, doing the laundry, and keeping the house clean.  It’s nurturing and shaping little minds and hearts.  By definition, being a mother means you have a child under your care.  That child (or those children) only have once chance to be a child, and YOU are the right mother for YOUR children.  Do you really want to spend your mothering time overly worrying about the state of your house?

Okay, so mothering is about our kids.  With that in mind, should we base our success as mothers on how our children turn out?  What about children who don’t regularly demonstrate the behaviors that you want them to?  How many times have you reminded your kid(s) again and again, and how often does they do the same wrong thing again?  Or what about mothers whose kids grow up to be the kind of people their mothers really hoped they would NOT turn out to be — Are those mothers failures?  I don’t think so.

The behavior of her children should not be used as a definition for a woman’s success as a mother.

In fact, I don’t think we should hold ourselves up to “good mother, bad mother” standards at all.  All of us mothers are in unique situations with unique children, and we’re all doing the best we can.  Are we all doing the most best that we could at every possible moment?  Of course not!  That’s impossible!  We still live in a sinful world, and nothing is going to be perfect this side of heaven.  Futhermore, while perfection is a nice goal, an all-out pursuit of perfection will only frustrate everyone involved.

But God gave each mother the right children for them, and he gave them to each mother at the right time.  When we trust that God knows what he’s doing, that frees us to then focus more on raising our children rather than keeping a clean house.

And what’s our most important job to do in raising our children? (Of course, hopefully we’re raising our children with the help of the our children’s fathers.)

Our most important job is to do all we can to train up our children as Christians and teach them about the salvation won for them by Christ.

If we show them their Savior, as well as why they need that Savior, we will have done well as mothers.  Other lessons naturally go with the teachings of Christianity, such as honesty, kindness, self-control, and the like.  But those character traits can be taught without Christianity, too.  So, the most important thing we can do for our children is to teach them the truths about God.

So clean when you can, but train your child in the Christian faith even more diligently than you clean your house.  Don’t be afraid to say “no” to outside committments that drain your energy for mothering.  And don’t berate yourself for taking time for yourself, too.  Take naps. (Because honestly, how many of us mothers really get good sleep every night?  [crickets chirping]  I thought so.)  Do something just for yourself.  Call a friend.  Remember to smile.  Be good to your hubby.  And worry about a clean house when your kids aren’t living in it anymore.  🙂