What does it take to be a successful mom? What does it mean to be a successful mom? Who defines success? How do we know if we’ve arrived or if we count as “successful”?
Especially as stay-at-home moms it can be so hard to know how we’re doing because we look at the standards and the definitions of success that come from the business world or the personal achievement world. We know those are not our worlds, yet we don’t know where else to go for an understanding of how to get more done, how to better influence our people, and how to measure our successfulness.
Let’s look at why we feel like failures and why we feel discouraged, and why that’s all part of the package of actually being faithful in our roles as mothers at home.
We all feel like there’s too much to do, more on our plates than we can never get done, and that’s one reason why we feel like we are not successful in our roles as stay-at-home moms. But, with the right perspective and the right expectations (the right standards) we can see that our situation allows us scope to grow, the ability to expand our capacity to mature, to become more sanctified.
After all, we ourselves, and our situation, are not stagnant. And whatever situation, whatever skill level, whatever is currently happening in our lives is not permanent. It’s always changing. Sometimes change and stretching situations feel like problems, but they often aren’t.
Success as a stay-at-home mom is measured by growth and maturity and sanctification and faithfulness. All of these elements work together in our roles and our lives as mothers and increase our effectiveness.
- If you feel like there’s just too much to do,
- If you feel like you need to up your game,
- If you feel like you are dropping too many balls,
- If you feel like you need to minimize your life, but it doesn’t seem possible right now,
Then maybe it’s time to expand your capacity, to increase your ability, to grow and stretch.
It’s maturity and growth that we’re being called to, and sometimes, I think we assume that we can master our life. We can be in charge. We can be completely competent and capable. So if we don’t feel competent and capable in our life, we need to cut back until we do.
Certainly, there can be times where we can legitimately cut back. But feeling like you are not up to the challenge and so you want to cut back is probably not the right approach. Such a reaction is probably coming from the perfectionism that trips us up and holds us back.
Perfectionism that says you need to be able to be fully in charge in the situation. You need to be completely capable of doing this job perfectly, of fulfilling this role excellently. When it becomes plain that you’re not, perfectionism says to stop and eliminate until you are fully in control.
Instead, we need to answer that feeling with knowing what we’re called to do. I’m just called to be faithful not necessarily successful in the world’s eyes.
But what does success in a day, in our life, really look like? And who defines what a successful day is? Who defines what a successful mom is? A successful life?
A successful person (according to the world) is completely in charge of everything determining their life, always calm, always completely competent to handle everything that comes their way.
We don’t feel that way. So we think something is wrong. However, feeling like we can’t handle what’s coming our way can also be seen as a challenge that we are being called to meet, not so we can accomplish it perfectly and successfully on our own. Rather, we see it as a call to growth and maturity and change and sanctification.
So, of course, God’s the one who defines what success is for our day, for our life, for our roles and responsibilities. We are not called to be in and of ourselves all that we need to be because we can’t. We aren’t.
We are called to faithfulness, and a part of the faithfulness is recognizing that we are weak and not capable of handling everything that comes our way. Yet we have a dependable, fully capable God who gives us the strength that we need, not necessarily to be the most awesome version of ourselves, but rather to be loving, faithful servants who are ready and willing and excited to see God be awesome in our lives and not us.
To be dependent on God and to grow in sanctification (which Scripture says in several places is God’s will for our lives) is our call that we can be faithful to and successful in. Sanctification is growth in holiness and in love of God and neighbor. That doesn’t look like success a lot of times in the world’s terms, but it does look like growth.
Growing our capacity for love and faithfulness is not necessarily doing all the things with calm awesomeness. The awesomeness is God’s, not ours. God is in control of every situation in our lives, and He is the strength and salvation and love that we need.
So every time we come to a point in our life where we feel inadequate, then we’re in the right spot because that’s the truth. We’re realizing the truth of the matter. We’re not capable, but God is. We can rely on Him to work through our feeble efforts.
Stress brings on perfectionism and perfectionism brings on stress. Yet we can remember that we’re not called to calmly and completely handle everything in and of ourselves, but also we are not called to stressful anxiety.
Anxiety is actually called out explicitly in Scripture as a sin. And so when we find ourselves falling into stress and anxiety, we know that we can give that up, we can we can repent, rejoice, repeat. We can recognize that anxiety is a sin, that self-sufficiency is a sin, and we can successfully repent of those things because of Christ.
So success is not that we fulfill all of our duties perfectly. It’s that through our duties we walk in repentance and faithfulness and love with God.
Being made aware of our sin through the relationships around us, through the work, doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with the work or the relationships. We need to become aware of the sin, the problems, the weakness that we have, so that we can be continually more and more sanctified.
It’s all part of the process. It’s a feature, not a bug.
When I feel conviction, this is all part of the plan, and we’re just going with that plan, which is God’s plan and not generally ours.
We can have a successful day if we have repented and rejoiced and repeated that process over and over. Success isn’t defined by life looking the way I wanted it to look. We haven’t ruined anything by a bad decision. We don’t ruin God’s plan when we mess up, and we don’t make it impossible for ourselves to move forward in obedience from that point.
There’s always a right next step. No matter what missteps have happened, it’s always possible to take the next right step. That’s why repentance is generally that step which isn’t wallowing in guilt at all. It’s turning and it’s relying on God and He’s providentially in charge of all things, so we can rest in His control and give up our own.
When we are working on improving our ability to wrap our heads around our actual responsibilities and duties, we can do that with calm and trust and rest instead of stress and perfectionism, thinking that you have to be in control for it to all work out.
Improving habits and skills is not about getting to some certain end goal at which point you’ll be awesome and on top of everything all the time.
If we’re waiting for that and if we are looking for that and judging our success by that standard, we never have success and we fall into discouragement and frustration and overwhelm. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Instead of focusing in on the struggle as a problem, we need to see that what’s hard and what we’re working on is what God is teaching us right now and what we are growing by.
When we get the hang of it that, we’re not going to be at some amazing plateau or finish line.
When you pass one test, there’s just going to be a lesson and another test. We take it for granted when teaching children, but we need to remember to have empathy and sympathy for them in it while realizing that we really still in the same spot ourselves.
Yes, if you stop learning and growing, you’re dead.
Let’s keep learning and growing and not looking for an end-point plateau version of success. Success is learning and growing, every day.