If Motherhood Isn’t a Competitive Sport, Then Why Do We Beat Ourselves Up?

Guest Post written by Kresha

Most days, life is overflowing. Overflowing with goodness, overflowing with activities, overflowing with… well, life. Some days that’s wonderful, but most days I end the day with more than a bit of discontent and guilt gnawing at my heart.

This isn’t the type of guilt that comes from true wrongdoing.

This is competitive guilt.

I feel guilt for not having a tidier home, for having too much stuff, for not being more frugal, for not being more organized, for not sharing hospitality more often, for not having brilliant insight and wisdom to share with my husband in every situation, and for not being the type of mother who knows exactly what her children need all the time.

We humans are amazingly competitive and whether we acknowledge it or not, we tend to size ourselves up in comparison to other people on pretty much every front, and now that I’ve been a mother for nigh unto six years, I would dare say that motherhood is the most competitive sport of all (though few would admit it).

As moms, we compare and rank ourselves by how many children we have, our birth stories, financial earnings, handmade crafting abilities, how much we cook from scratch, how we choose to educate our children, how much we volunteer, how early our children start reading and writing, and the activities of our husbands. The term “household manager” has come to take on new meaning.

Social media hasn’t helped, either. Due to the internet, we no longer merely compare ourselves to our in-laws and the moms we see around our neighborhood, but we can compare ourselves to anyone who has a blog or a Facebook presence. These are women who have multiple children, have spotless homes, have large blogs and businesses that have thousands of followers, and have husbands who are hunky, adoring, funny, and compassionate. They’re endlessly creative, smart, thrifty, and patient. Their children are intelligent, well-behaved, and TV-free. These women keep it all together – the Ultimate Home Managers – all while working full-time or homeschooling or running the Parent Advisory Committee at their children’s school.

Social media not only gives us the vicarious peek into other mother’s lives, but makes us feel guilty if we’re not publicly announcing our own mothering accomplishments as well. Every day we see evidence of our own shortcomings and somehow, we always find someone who is doing it better, more creatively, more patiently than we are.

None of these things are intrinsically wrong, of course, but the guilt that invades us when we feel we don’t “measure up” most definitely is. Keeping my house clean should come from a desire to make it a healthy place for my children and to have it be a welcoming, comfortable place for family and visitors alike, not for proving that I can be a Super-Mom too.

So I am here to say – ENOUGH!

It’s time to shed the guilt that invades (and pervades) our spirits as mothers. Let us look at it squarely in the face, acknowledging it for what it is, and then ask God to root it out of our hearts. Let us live joyfully, deeply grateful for the bounty of messy blessings that do abound in our lives, and understand that our contributions are significant and sufficient. “My grace is sufficient for you,” Jesus told the Apostle Paul in a vision, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Let’s also redefine this paradigm – rather than asking ourselves if we measure up to other people, let’s ask ourselves if we’re measuring up to our calling. (Surprisingly, that’s much more manageable, as Christ has much more grace for our faults than the Social Media Mavens.)

Motherhood is indeed a vocation, a job undertaken with great intentionality and deep purpose, and our calling is to glorify God, to keep our children safe, and to instruct them in the ways of wisdom.

What a relief. And what an incredibly practical way to nourish joy in our homes.

Would you agree that motherhood is a competitive sport? Do you struggle with comparing yourself to other mothers and feeling as though you don’t measure up?

Kresha Faber is the chief writer and blog editor at NourishingJoy.com, a website dedicated to real food, sustainable living, natural homemaking, and joyful parenting. She is the mother of three young children, the wife of an incredibly good man, an opera singer, a cloth diapering instructor, and an avid researcher. She and her husband share a passion for living life thoughtfully and intentionally in response to God’s grace in their lives and she loves to share good meals around a very large table. 

Image by Jeffery Turner

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Comments

  1. Meant to say I needed the honesty from everyone.

  2. Well said! I loved this, “Let’s also redefine this paradigm – rather than asking ourselves if we measure up to other people, let’s ask ourselves if we’re measuring up to our calling. (Surprisingly, that’s much more manageable, as Christ has much more grace for our faults than the Social Media Mavens.)”

    As women, as Christian women in particular, we should be spurring one another on with encouragement like this without making one another feel “less than” or not quite up to some artificial standard. At the end of the day, Jesus cares more about the state of our hearts than the state of our homes.

  3. yes…but…SOMETIMES what I could pass off as ‘mommy guilt’ or competitiveness is really God convicting me that I have work to do (not ‘Pinterest style’- just improving in my vocation)

  4. Amen! My mom and I were talking about this very thing one day. It’s hard enough to be a mom but has the age of blogging added even more pressure-I think so! But at the end of the day I can only do my best. I think God understands that I’m not a cloth-diapering, baby wearing, exclusively breastfeeding til 5, only organic buying, cooking from scratch 100%, growing all our food, using only herbal alternatives momma. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and loves me in spite of them. I (and all mamas) need to learn to do the same! Stop the guilt…He doesn’t expect us to be Supermom…just super moms to our little ones!

  5. Great post! I am a new mom. My daughter is just two months old. I am already finding myself getting caught up in the comparison games even this early!! How long my friends baby is sleeping at night, how much breast milk my friend is able to pump etc etc. Enough already!

  6. I totally do this to myself. Although I think everyone else is doing all those amazing things I want to do as a mom and wife (cook, spotless home, reading 3 books a week, creative date nights, etc.), the truth is we’re all just trying to survive and do the best we can :) Even though, I realize this, it still doesn’t keep me from beating myself up or wishing I did things like so-and-so does. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to stop!

  7. I’m there too. While I love blogs like this, I can definitely let those amazing women’s achievements make me feel inferior. I had my babies in hospitals with epidurals, even though I originally planned natural births. I don’t buy all organic produce. I let my daughter watch TV more than I would like (and I feel constantly good and guilty about it, but I still do it). My writing almost always takes a back seat to just about anything else in my life. I secretly love store bought junk food. I refuse to part with my highly chemical laden deodorant. I don’t use facebook and twitter, at least in part prove a point (though I’ll probably have to breakdown and do it eventually). At the end of a difficult day I’d much rather plop myself in front of Netflix than do something more productive. Sometimes I feel totally out of place in the natural foods, natural parenting, blogging world.

  8. I definitely needed to be reminded that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I have found myself struggling with “competitive motherhood/wife hood/homemaking.” This post has also reminded me that I need to be careful with my own words and actions so as not to cause others to fall into this struggle. Not that we should hide our gifts or who we are, but maybe instead of posting about every awesome thing we do as a mom/wife/homemaker, or what our awesome little kids do, think about how we can encourage others and bring honor and glory to God. Are our words/deeds being put out in the open so that we feel good about ourselves? Are we furthering the kingdom? Are we encouraging others in grace? Basically, as Christians, we need to be intentional. Because He is who we live for and who we answer to. Anyways, thanks for this encouraging post! :)

  9. I love this. I struggle with this. I keep trying to remind myself that everything could look perfect, but that doesn’t garentee happiness or health.

  10. As a mom who is not very “creative”, I often find myself feeling like I don’t measure up in that area compared to other moms I know. Thanks for sharing! This post was so encouraging for me.

  11. Amen and amen! We are called to live according to God’s standards, not the standards of Pinterest or someone’s blog. We are called to be authentic and genuine people. That’s tough, but achievable.

  12. This has been on my heart for the last couple of months! Thank you for the wonderful article and wake-up call!

  13. This was a great article. With the creation of Pinterest, I feel even more pressure to feel the need to cook the recipes I see my friends repin, make the cute crafts, decorate my house a certain way, and do all of the fun “kid activities” that are listed! I finally realized that as long as my husband and kids are happy and healthy with the way things are, all of those “fun looking” things don’t matter.

    • My hubby and I have frequent discussions about the idolatry Pinterest can easily lead to, along with the feeling of inadequacy as a mother/wife/homemaker!

  14. I find myself doing this often, and every other mom I know struggles with this issue as well! Thank you for such an encouraging and well written post. I so needed it today!

  15. I have definitely felt myself comparing myself to others. It was most difficult with my first child. Thanks for the great reminder to stick to our callings!

  16. DianeinTX says:

    I heartily agree with everything said in this post, especially: “So I am here to say – ENOUGH!”

    Sigh . . . and then I read the bio at the bottom:
    “Kresha Faber is the chief writer and blog editor at NourishingJoy.com, a website dedicated to real food, sustainable living, natural homemaking, and joyful parenting. She is the mother of three young children, the wife of an incredibly good man, an opera singer, a cloth diapering instructor, and an avid researcher. She and her husband share a passion for living life thoughtfully and intentionally in response to God’s grace in their lives and she loves to share good meals around a very large table. ”

    Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled guilt. . . .

    • I hear you. But, that’s just who she is, with her particular interests and passions. I’m definitely not an opera singer, or a cloth diaper instructor, I research less these days than I did when I only had 1 or 2 children, nor do I enjoy cooking and entertaining as much as she does. I have my own strengths and skills. And in my case (and I can’t speak for Kresha, because I don’t know her personally), for all of the writing/blogging, gardening, homeschooling, skin-care product making, etc. that I love to do, I’m entirely NOT crafty, don’t enjoy decorating, can’t sew, do not keep the cleanest house, hardly ever bake or make special desserts or fancy meals, etc. Most of us have some areas of expertise or skill, and then a whole lot of areas where we don’t “measure up”.

      The thing about blogging in the public eye is that people see our strengths and the areas where we excel, but they don’t see everything else. A whole lot of real life, messes, failures, and weakness exist behind these computer screens. You catch a glimpse of who we are, but really, only a glimpse. If you knew me (or maybe Kresha) in real life, maybe some of that guilt would fall away. In addition to reminding women not to compare themselves, I find that we bloggers also need to continually remind our readers that we are REAL people, with faults and limitations and that we don’t do it all. Ever. If our lives sound too good to be true, then just remember that you’re only seeing a small percentage of the true picture. So please, no guilt. Just imagine us writing our blog post bios in the middle of a really messy kitchen and maybe it will help you to see through how perfect they might sound. :)

    • Diane,

      Oh, goodness!

      First, thank you for your insightful comment. You’re exactly right – in the process of introducing myself, I only mentioned “highlights” from my life, I didn’t mention any “lowlights.” I certainly didn’t write those things to elevate myself in any way, but I did want to point out what makes me unique.

      And that’s the whole point. We are each unique and God has given each of us different opportunities and different callings. I never set out to be a cloth diaper instructor – it’s merely a wonderful way God opened a door and helped me provide a little bit of income for my family in a way I enjoy. And hopefully each of us knows what we do well and what we do not do well. I for one relate very much with the other moms here who have mentioned that they’re not “creative” or “crafty” – I’m not either. I messed up sewing a plain pillowcase once. Seriously – no joke.

      I would love to hear what YOU do well and what YOU’RE proud of in your life, because I would suspect that God has blessed your family and the world around you through you.

      And I’ll second what Stephanie said – Please, no guilt. We all have our faults and limitations. And now I’m off to my (very very messy) kitchen to figure out a very late dinner.

    • Diane, you’re hilarious. :) I hadn’t read the bio. It does seem a little ironic after reading the blog post. Oh well…what she said is still true.

    • DianeinTX says:

      Thank you for your replies Stephanie, Kresha and Sheri.

      I do tend to beat myself up and feel like an utter failure most of the time on all fronts. It seems like I am a guilt addict. As I usually can’t go a day without messing something up to the point that I feel guilt.

      I know, I know – “There is no condemnation in Christ”. But I have plenty of condemnation for myself.

      Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband of 25 years that loves me no matter how messy the house or how much I don’t get accomplished. And I have 4 beautiful, healthy kiddos who forgive their mom for loosing her temper, way more than they should have to. And, of course, I have a Savior who loves me and has paid for all of my failures on the cross.

      I know I am blessed beyond measure. Just wishing I could live my life so that I am a blessing to those around me instead of a burden.

      • Well, the article was a relief for me. And I have to say, these comments from Diane, Stephanie, Kresha and Sheri were a blessing as well. Diane your last comment really resonated with me. I think I’m the same exact way, I want to be a blessing. I needed the honestly from everyone. I will read this article and comments over and over again. Thanks all.

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