A mother truly is a many splendored thing. She is a nurse, counselor, cook, maid, chauffeur, comedian, magician, accountant, guard, preacher, teacher, and dispenser of all that is good. She loves unconditionally, understands her children, teaches correct principles, sacrifices selflessly, and works unceasingly. Yes, mothers are honored, revered, and made to be saints—perfect even. But are moms perfect? Is that what is expected of us, needed from us? Will we fail in our role if we are anything less? These are questions many mothers, myself included, have struggled with.
I once heard motherhood described as huge and scary, an act of unbounded optimism. It’s a beautiful and accurate description. We hope and desire to do what is best for our children, to give them everything they deserve. And though it seems a daunting task, we want to be the perfect mothers for them. But somewhere between our optimism and high (and often unrealistic) expectations is our imperfect mothering, boldly testifying that we are not the saintly mothers we think we should be.
Our optimism can then be overshadowed by guilt, doubt, fear, and perhaps even hopelessness. We worry our imperfections invalidate our strengths. We fear our mistakes might cause more damage than our good can compensate for. We ache at the thought that we are failing in our divine roles as mothers. We try our hardest only to feel like we are failing our children. We ask ourselves, How can I give them all they need if I am not all I think I should be?
Over the years, this question has haunted me, driven me, and brought me to my knees. Surely God would qualify me to be a mother to His children. Surely He would tell me what to say and what to do for these sweet, precious children because that is what He would want—for me to be the perfect mother to these perfect little beings. But my weaknesses and faults have often left me wondering, Can I still be the perfect mom for my kids, even if I’m not perfect?
Moments of Perfection
We are not perfect, but then, I wonder, can we have moments in our lives that are just that—perfect? The answer I submit is a resounding yes!
It’s been said that “the joy of motherhood comes in moments” (M. Russell Ballard, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2008). I believe it’s true. Motherhood is most assuredly filled with difficult times. We tend to hold on to them as proof that we are unworthy or incapable—that we are bad moms, even the worst moms ever. A mother’s mind can easily rest on her perceived failures and mistakes. It’s easier to believe criticism than to embrace compliments, especially our own. However, when we look at ourselves in the light of Him who brought us together with our children, we can see the moments of perfection that far outweigh the rest.
I had a moment like this during my daughter Grace’s 11th birthday party. We had an evening of fast food, roller skating, opening presents, and eating cake. At the end of the night, she looked at me with chocolate crumbs on her face (from a cake that, despite the hour I’d spent carefully cutting, layering, and frosting, still ended up looking like a tricolor version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa) and said, “Thank you, Mom, for everything you do for me. You are the best mom ever.” We both smiled. A moment of perfection.
My days, even the toughest ones, are filled with such moments. Like the time I held my Paige’s hair back while she threw up at three in the morning. When my 18-year-old son, Spencer, kissed me on the cheek before going to bed. When I explained the math problem in a way Grace understood. The time Paige had a nightmare and crawled into bed with me and took all the covers and breathed in my face, and I stroked her hair until she fell asleep. When Spencer said his first prayer (“Fadder, Fadder, nuku, nuku.” Translation: “Heavenly Father, thank you”). Or the time Grace and I took a walk and held hands as the wind blew in our hair. I cherish these moments, these glimpses into perfection.
I’m sure your life has been colored by beautiful moments of perfection. Moments like when you say just the right thing and the light goes on in your child’s eyes. Or when you’re reading to them as you snuggle together on the couch. As you embrace them after their hard-earned graduation from school. Or when, without provocation, they tell you thank you or that they love you. These are wonderful moments of perfection.
And sometimes your perfect moments might appear from the other side of the spectrum. Like the time you noticed the first stretch mark crawl across your pregnant belly. Or when you saw your first gray hair or the dark circles under your eyes from staying up all night with sick children. The moment you cried when your child told you they hated you because you were enforcing the rules of the home. The first time your child didn’t wave to you from the bus. Or the day the left home to be on their own for the first time. These moments are filled with the sacrifice, lessons taught, love given, and childhood growth. They are tough but still moments of perfection.
Looking back, I can see the moments of perfection in my own childhood. Like the time my friends were cruel to me and I cried to my mom, so she took me to get a shake and told me she loved me and that I was a wonderful young woman, even if they didn’t see it. Or the moment I ached so badly I thought I’d never recover and my mom rocked me in her arms and said, “If I could, I would take away all your pain and hurt for you.” It opened my eyes to just how deeply she loved me. Like when I dressed myself in stripes and polka dots for kindergarten and my mom complimented me on my individual style. Or the time she called me on the phone just to tell me she loved me. Beautifully perfect moments.
I like to think these moments are not punctuations to our mothering careers, separating the bad times from the really bad times, but they are the glue that holds it all together. They are the moments when God reaches down and works through us. They are moments when love trumps everything else. They are moments of perfection.
The Best Mom in the Whole World
I think it has been well-established that God does not expect us to be perfect moms. He expects us to be imperfect moms because, well, we are imperfect people. We are who we are because He made us this way—imperfections and all. God could have sent my children anywhere, but He sent them to me. That means something! That means my children are exactly where they need to be and are with who they need to be with. There is a reason I am their mom, and even if I don’t see it all the time, He does.
It is the same with you. Heavenly Father sent your children to you for a reason—and it’s not because you are the worst mom ever or even a perfect mom. It’s because you are you. Your talents, your gifts, your personality, your character—YOU are what they need. Sometimes we feel we are the worst thing for our children, but God knows we are the best thing for them.
Lead image from Shutterstock
For more from Michelle Wilson about the topic of mothering and perfection, check out A Perfectly Imperfect Mom, available on deseretbook.com. You can also find Michelle in A Beautiful Balance and Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat.