This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura.
Laura: Hey guys!
Emily: And this is fun, because if you’re listening to this in your car or while you’re doing dishes or on a walk, you should know we’re in front of a live audience right now.
Laura: Yeah! We’re not in Emily’s closet!
Emily: It’s fun, because we’re recording live at my home church, Grand Avenue Baptist. It’s the church Laura grew up in. We have deep roots here: pastors, older women, peers who have shaped us over the years.
Laura: This church is a gift. I see some mugs here, let’s pull these up. So you can buy these if you’re here in person. But for our listeners: we’ve had a lot of questions about a Risen Motherhood shop online. A lot of our stuff sells out really fast when we do our once-a-year sale. Next fall, be looking for the shop! Watch social media; that’s where we’ll post updates on that.
Emily: I want my free shirt.
Laura: Emily’s obsessed with swag. She’ll vox me, “Where’s my stuff? Where’s my stuff?” She always wants to know when it’s coming.
Emily: I always want to know when I’m getting my Risen Motherhood t-shirt.
Laura: It will come. [Laughter]
Emily: I have bigger questions tonight, Laura.
Laura: We have a way bigger question.
Emily: This is a huge question. This is a question every mom asks. It’s one that keeps us up at night. It can make us toss and turn. It can put that pit in our stomachs.
How do I know if I’m a good mom?
Laura: This is the mother of all motherhood questions.
Emily: And I think some of us ask this in different ways. One way is, “How do I know if I’m enough?” We wonder if we’re meeting our children’s needs and if we can say we’ve done a good enough job as a mom.
Laura: Or maybe you’ll see that other sweet, cool mom and you ask, “Am I as good as her?” We wonder if we’re doing as good as another mom because she’s good. We ask, “How do I know if I’m like her?”
Emily: As I ask myself this question, I think about it as a spectrum of needs. At the beginning of the day, I’ll tally that I’ve fed them, got them where they’re supposed to go like school. They’re clothed, they’re hugged, and hopefully I’ve been loving to them. You get to the end of the day and you think you’ve done pretty well meeting all their needs. But then I realize there’s this whole laundry list of things I didn’t get done but feel pressure to do. The thing that always reminds of that is the calendar that comes home from school. You’re supposed to color every night—
Laura: You’re supposed to read for 20 minutes! [Laughter] Our kids go to the same school so I know this chart she’s talking about!
Emily: No matter how good of a day, the chart is still empty.
Laura: Fail. Yep.
Emily: And they also didn’t play outside long enough. There’s always a list of things I didn’t get done; the list is kind of infinite. No matter how many needs I meet, I didn’t meet enough needs.
Laura: Yes! I know you’ll relate to this part. Even if on my very best days I actually get it all done—I read for 20 minutes and color whatever it is—
Emily: Wait, it’s for one slice of pizza.
Laura: My son is very motivated for that slice of pizza! Those personal pans at Pizza Hut—
Emily: Wait, is it a whole pi...never mind.
Laura: We’ll talk about this after! [Laughter]
But no matter if I can do all those physical, tangible things for my kids, there’s still that Christian moral standard. Was I kind? Was I patient? Tender? Merciful towards my children? Much more than once that day, I can look back and find a time I definitely wasn’t. I may meet the outside physical measure of being a good mom—very rarely, but it can happen—but I can’t meet the inside standard. I’ll always fail.
Emily: One thing we want to get at as we discuss some of the things we struggle with is the reality that the definition of a “good mom” is elusive. If we’re going to answer the question, we have to be able to answer What is a good mom? That’s going to change for everyone. We want to walk through some things our culture says or thing we believe makes a good mom.
Laura: Well, I did a little bit of research, because I love research. In a 2017 Time Magazine article, “The Goddess Myth,” it talked about how every mom—especially when she first becomes a mom—builds a goddess mom who is perfect and good. She builds it through her doctor’s advice, influencers, her mother, or somebody she really respects. Culture recognizes that moms feel guilt and failure because they can’t meet whatever the standard is. Even though the standard is arbitrary and different for every mom, culture recognizes no one can meet this standard; it’s a myth.
Emily: It’s interesting how we put this together in our minds. It’s totally natural and normal that we’d look around at our own mom, mother-in-law, favorite aunt, or friend we think does it really well and piece together the image of what a good mom must do because this is what all the moms we respect around us do.
Laura: Or even if you don’t make it from a woman you know. Maybe you want to provide your kids with a better life than you had—that’s the standard. If it can be better than what you had, that’s a good mom. Maybe it’s about intentions; that’s a common one. If your intentions were good, that means you’re a good mom because you’re trying.
Emily: To go along with that, I think one we hear a lot in Christian culture is to try really hard to be really good and when you fail, just give yourself grace. Just try and then give yourself—
Laura: Super grace!
Emily: Yeah, like feel good, warm fuzzies when you fall short. The reality is, for a lot of us, these images change daily. We’re so fickle. One day, it’s this specific thing.
Oh! We forgot one: the methodology one.
Emily: So this would be “if.” I’m a good mom if...and you can fill that in with—
Laura: Co-sleeper. Babywise. Organic food. Junk food.
Emily: Junk food? Oh is that a method? [Laughter]
Laura: I don’t know. Probably. [Laughter]
Emily: I’m a good mom! I’m a good mom! [Laughter] Okay, let’s get back on track.
Laura: Go listen to our food episode!
Emily: What we wanted to get down to is clearly this impacts all of us. This reality that we’re not measuring up to whichever standard it is leads to all kinds of hard feelings, emotions, guilt, and shame in our lives.
Laura: A little more research for you. Mental illness affects one in nine mothers. Depression in young, expecting mothers is 51% more common today than it was 25 years ago. In that Time article, they did a survey to beef up the article. Seventy percent of the participants said they felt pressure to mother in specific ways, and over 50% felt guilt and shame when things didn’t go according to plan.
Emily: We want to ask this question tonight, or whenever you’re listening, because we think there’s an answer, a better question, and hope. Let’s jump in a layer deeper and ask why we’re so concerned with knowing whether or not we’re a “good mom.”
Laura: We want to walk through a very ancient story that has so many truths for us today. In the very first pages of the Bible, God created the heavens and the earth, man and woman. The woman was able to bear life, sustain life; she was made to be a woman and in Genesis 1:31 it says, “God saw everything he made and he declared it ‘very good.’” That means man, woman, the possibility for Eve to be a mother was declared very good. The question of, “Am I good mom?” was settled. In that moment, God declared that to be true.
Emily: The hard thing is it didn’t stay that way. We know Adam and Eve had one thing God told them not to do in the garden: eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were tempted by this. They thought maybe there was something more that God hadn’t given to them. They wondered if there was additional good to be had. So they broke that commandment and ate from that tree, and sin and brokenness entered the world. It severed that reality of God’s very good creation that he had pronounced over them. It’s interesting because their response was to go and hide from God in shame and try to cover themselves. They tried to be away from him, which is really similar to the kind of response we have today when we realize we don’t want to stand in God’s presence because we don’t feel very good.
Laura: Because of sin, we actually can’t be the kind of mom God designed us to be. We can’t be the kind of woman God designed us to be. That’s because of a variety of things. There are things outside of our control: broken relationships with your husband, children, in-laws; death, disability. Things that feel like they’re constantly working against us. Then there are also things within our control in our hearts—the way we respond to our circumstances. They’re riddled with sin too: we’re not patient with our family, not longsuffering with our children, don’t show mercy, don’t offer grace; we’re unorganized, ficke, hot-cold, in-out, non-committal about things. All of this tends to push against us, against the design God originally had for all of us.
Emily: We were talking about this question, “Am I a good mom?” by thinking of a mirror and a fun house. I don’t know if you’ve stood in front of one of those—
Laura: Or maybe it’s like standing in front of a cheapo mirror we all have in our closets from Target for $10. If you put it this way, you look really skinny. So I like that mirror.
Emily: Those are great mirrors. [Laughter] No matter what way you shape shift, in the fun-house mirror something is always knocked out of shape and looks distorted and ugly. You can see this image of your reflection; it’s not that you can’t see yourself as a woman, but you’re trying to make something look good that’s not. It’s always going to be ugly and distorted no matter how you try to shape your body.
Laura: That’s a really good picture for how we can’t measure up to God’s good standard for who we should be. I think, at some level, all of us feel this. Whether or not we acknowledge the fact that there’s a true purpose and design for us, we can feel dissension. There’s a place deep in our bones and souls that we know something is bigger. Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, names his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.” God’s presence has been made known to all since the creation of the world.
Emily: So we want to take this reality and question and longing to know we’re good—not that we’re just a good mom, but that we’re good. What’s the hope for that? Hope is a person, hope is Jesus. This is God’s Son who came to earth as a man. He actually lived a perfect life; he did everything right all the time. He was without sin. He wasn’t just a good man; he was a perfect man. He did all of that on our behalf.
Laura: Jesus knew we weren’t perfect, but he came anyway to save us. He took his perfect record and gave it to us. He went all the way to the cross, he died and rose again in three days. If we believe it in our hearts and confess it with our mouths, in God’s eyes, we actually get Jesus’ perfect record. We can’t meet the standard; we’ve never been able to and we’ll never be able to. Jesus did that on our behalf. He went into the courtroom of God and said, “I give them my record so they can meet the standard.”
Emily: What’s really encouraging for us is if we believe that, we actually get help and begin to change in motherhood. We don’t have to focus so much on if we’re measuring up or not. We can say, in Christ, we have measured up, and we have the helper, the Holy Spirit, living inside of us to help us walk through this life.
Laura: We still live with the effects of sin, even if you’re in Christ. You still feel this tension, you still mess up, and you realize this world is not perfect. That’s where we have the help of the Holy Spirit. When we fail, we can know our status as a daughter of the King isn’t in question. God isn’t going to ask us to jump through a hoop or do something really special to earn our status back. Our status is secure and it lasts, so we can strive to grow and change—not to become a better mom but to become more like Christ.
Emily: The question we want to fixate on is not, “How do I know if I’m a good mom?” but it’s, “Do I know and love the One who makes me good?” That’s really who we need to have a relationship with and know. Like Laura said, it’s really not about motherhood, it’s about us as whole women being before the throne of God, seen as holy and fully good in Christ.
Laura: So we can go back to that fun-house mirror, or my IKEA mirror. When you think about that, what has actually happened is Christ took away that distorted mirror we’re trying to look into to figure out what good motherhood is. He’s replaced it with this perfect image of who he is. Now, when we look into that mirror, we see our righteousness and eternity is secure in him, so now we can strive and follow after Christ, not this distorted image of motherhood. Ultimately, our goal is to be transformed day-by-day into Christlikeness.
Emily: When we fixate on Christ and we look into the mirror and see him, and he becomes our focus, it actually frees us up to do good to others. I like to imagine how much mental space frees up in your heart and in your day when you’re not constantly trying to judge if you meet whatever image you’ve decided on for that day as a “good mom.” It frees us up to pay attention to our children, to grow, to love others, to have joy and peace in circumstances when things don’t go exactly our way. There are all these incredible fruits and joys that come out of having that question settled.
Laura: I love that. There’s so much fruit that can happen. If my identity is secure in Christ, and I know I’m saved in him, then when I see some sweet mom doing some sweet stuff, I know it’s okay and I’m content with who Christ made me. I don’t have to feel jealousy or frustration or that not-enough-ness. I can be a better steward of the gifts God has given me, because I’m not pouring them out in an effort to be this rockstar mom. I’m pouring them out to make good for the Kingdom.
Emily: If we’re looking into this—well, no analogy is perfect.
Laura: She loves analogies.
Emily: But I have to give that caveat.
Laura: She’s like, “They always break down. Every single one.” [Laughter]
Emily: Okay but when we’re looking at the mirror, we’re looking at Christ. We’re focused on and fixated on him. So our lives can also get wrapped up in him. It’s self-forgetfulness when we’re not always staring at our own reflection. Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the more I stare at my own motherhood and try to fix it, I just can’t. You only get more and more entangled. But fixing our eyes on Christ and this redeemed, new person we are flows out into every role and relationship that we have. That’s really neat. The other day, while processing through these things, I said to Laura, “Redemption is not this isolated incident. It impacts everything else in our lives.”
Laura: Amen. So, if you’re struggling with this question, we know this is a hard concept. It might feel like, “I get the concept, so what’s next?” The first thing to ask yourself is, “Is Jesus my King?” For many of you in here, you might be able to say that you remember a time you asked Jesus in your heart and all that. But this is a great question to constantly reask yourself if Jesus is your King today? Right now? Who is on the throne? I know for me, a lot of times, it’s just me up there. So reasking yourself that question is always a really good place to start.
Emily: And because these are such big concepts and we’ll continue to struggle with this throughout our lives—
Laura: And this is a 20-minute show. [Laughter]
Emily: And this is a 20-minute show. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and do something that isn’t consistent with how Jesus would respond to others, so it’s going to be this lifelong battle and an area we continually need to grow and change. We have to have other people around us. We weren’t meant to do this alone. It’s important to get plugged in with a community of believers who can help keep your eyes on Christ.
Laura: Of course, studying your Bible and understanding this for yourself with a first-hand knowledge of God will always grow your love and understanding of how this plays out. And prayer. Even just a simple prayer of, “Help me, Lord,” or “I want to understand.” God promises he will answer us, be near to us; he hears us when we pray.
Emily: If you’ve listened to the show for awhile, you’ll recognize this term: preach the gospel to yourself, which is effectively what we did this evening. It’s remembering all those truths. Laura and I have repeated this so many times; I don’t know how many episodes we’ve recorded now. Guess what? I still need to repeat through it every week, and sometimes every single day. If you’re struggling, always go back to that remembering—what is the truth?
Laura: It’s remembering the story we told you tonight. Lastly, see the long-game. We keep saying, “You’re not going to change over night!” I think we have to remember God works on a timeline that’s much different than ours. If we were to snap overnight, I’d learn nothing. I’d be like, “Rockstar!” [Laughter] Thankfully, God works through hard things and slowly over time. Trust that long-game of the Lord; he’s growing you day-by-day more into Christlikeness.
Emily: Sometimes we think we’ve got this, now we’re ready for our circumstances to be really different. But we may wake up and nothing has changed. That’s the very place God wants to use us and transform us into Christlikeness—even in the midst of hard things.
Laura: We hope you can take a nugget from this and remember the next time you’re asking, “Am I good mom? Good enough for my kids?” you can remember instead to ask yourself, “Do I know and love the One who makes me good?” Even that sentence is preaching the gospel to yourself.
Emily: It’s re-fixing your eyes on the only One who can make you good.
Emily: Well, thank you guys for listening. You can find our show notes and other information at risenmotherhood.com. You can follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks to our live audience and to our listeners!
Laura: Thanks, guys!