Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Perfect Woman

Do you have a definition of what the "perfect mother" looks like? We all know she's out there, right? What immediately comes to mind? Here's an excerpt from the book I'm currently reading, "Toss the Guilt and Catch the Joy" by Merrilee Boyack:

"Clearly, she is a size six. No question about that. She has been married a long time to a really important man. He's the stake president (minister/bishop/pastor). And she's the stake Relief Society president (women's group ministry). And they have eight kids - four boys and four girls - evenly spaced. And she homeschools them all. Yeah, and they all play musical instruments - beautifully. And she's a, a,...a neurosurgeon, and she works out of her home, only part-time.

She has her family history done back to the Dark Ages (and is praying for help to find the rest). She sews clothes for the whole family. She has a huge garden and can most of their food. She makes a loaf of whole-wheat bread from her food storage every day. Her scriptures are completely marked and color-coded, and she studies them for an hour every morning and every night. She is taking a class in Mandarin in order to be able to serve a mission.

Her house is beautifully decorated and always immaculate. Her hair and nails are perfectly done. Her clothes are beautiful. She feeds the homeless every week, and she has created a foundation to help the entire country of Bolivia. She is making a quilt with 100 blocks for her grandmother, who is 100. And yes, all the corners of the quilt blocks match perfectly.

Shall we go on? It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet, somehow, we all believe that the Perfect Woman exists somewhere."

Feel free to add and subtract as you like to this list, but we all have this unrealistic ideal in our heads and in some way truly believe this woman is out there!

I laughed as I read this quote. First of all, I laughed at the descriptions that actually fit me! I bake fresh bread, I'm looking forward to planting my first garden and I can't wait to start canning my own food. I just bought a beautiful pattern to sew a baby crib sheet set, quilt, and accessories. I taught myself basic Spanish. I am very taken with the idea of homschooling. I fantasize about a day when my children and I can join in a family musical evening.

Second of all, I laughed as I thought of the women I know who seem very very close to my idea of the perfect woman. They seem to fulfill many of the above qualifications, plus a large list of things I consider also important.

But what I quickly realized is that any checklist we create for ourselves is nothing more than a trap. Even if the checklist includes worthy goals of daily prayer and scripture study, simply completing these tasks is not what this life is all about.

It isn't? But for a Christian woman, it is, isn't it? No? No. The Lord requires none of this from us. He doesn't want us to do anything. He wants us to be. Charity is the quality above all for which we strive. But charity isn't something you do, it's something you are. It's a love that is rooted deep within, that naturally reaches out to all our fellowman. "Life is a process to learn charity" Merrilee writes. Now, we will definitely learn to love through blessing our family as we keep house, or by coming closer to Christ through study and prayer, or by serving our fellowmen. But there won't be a compiled list at the end of our life. We will simply stand before Him and see if His image is "reflected in our countenance". Have we become charity? Have we become like Him?

One last note that I need to continuously drive into my poor, thick head: life is not a competition! I will be compared to absolutely no one in the end. I won't approach the pearly gates and see the "perfect woman" standing there holding a measuring stick. If it won't matter in the next life, then it doesn't need to matter now.

So, as mothers, embrace your calling with joy. Toss the guilt and catch the joy.

Guilt that I am tossing:
- the desperate, unending, and losing battle of keeping the house tidy
- family history (there's a season for everything...and this is not it!)
- trying to keep a schedule
- keeping the boys silent during church (hey, we're there, and that's a start!)
- the perfect garden. It's my first one and I just hope I can make one lettuce and tomato salad.
- a three year old that isn't toilet trained. Sigh.
- a one year old that still doesn't sleep through the night. Double sigh.
- boxed cereal, potato chips, frozen prepared meals and all those other foods that aren't great for you, but make life so much easier when you're tired, worn out and just don't feel like spending an hour cooking.
- the ponytail. I love to spend a little me-time pampering myself to look nice when I leave the house, but an hour with a blow-dryer just doesn't fit into my day anymore.

Joy that fills me:
- baking bread. Hey, it gives me joy, but don't think it qualifies me for perfection!
- sewing, in small spurts, really really easy projects that don't really need a pattern, or don't matter if you can't follow the pattern
- scripture study. Not always daily, but in-depth when I do manage.
- reading books, playing volleyball, going for a walk, chatting with a good friend, playing the piano, and a number of other activities that involve me spending time on myself.

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