Currently, one of the books I’m reading with great interest is Perfect Madness by Judith Warner. She discusses the “mess” so many talented, high-achieving women in suburban Washington, D.C. (and elsewhere ) have found themselves in. Their husbands work a zillion hours to support an upper-middle class lifestyle in an outrageously expensive area. She purposely excludes from her discussion the lives of single mothers and women earning less than the stated lifestyle. Their problems are a totally different variety.
It would be refreshing to hear a Christian author tackle the same topic in a well-to-do [or even plain old middle-class] area for Christian mothers. Sadly, Ms Warner has no real contact with this group. She does vividly use the tragic Andrea Yates story to illustrate “Motherhood as a Religion” gone amuck. What follows are some of what I hope that writer would deal with.
This is not meant sarcastically. It’s not pointing fingers in any bad or disrespectful way. It is, however, “shot from the hip.”
I wonder how a Christian author would summarize the “Mess” Christian Moms have gotten themselves into? Women who must have a home as perfect as Martha Stewart’s while homeschooling and hiding a career that pays real money although done at home? Women who run the home school co-op in such a fashion that not just “any” children—not even any Chrisitan children—get in? Women who stay in marriages with husbands addicted to internet porn or online gambling. Women stuck in shacks with debt-free maniac husbands and an endless stream of children emerging to form full quivers. Women who can’t get out alone—even to the bathroom!
What about mothers who MUST work—husband or not? I can here people. That’s “Sad.” If only they’d be frugal. Make their own laundry soap. Shop the coupon deals at CVS and Walgreens, hit the resale shops, Dave Ramsey themselves into a coma? Feed their family TVP. Grow their own everything.
What about women left alone to raise children? Left alone—thru divorce they didn’t seek or thru death? [Yes, husbands do still die.] How do they deal with the pressure to be Martha Stewart. and to homeschool their kids to love “Pilgrim’s Progress” and quote more chapters of the Bible than the 10 P’s in a Pod family? How do they scrapbook their child’s every waking moment, journal their faith and keep faithful to their attention to both their prayer request list and their 18 different to-do lists? And what if they can’t maintain their weight thru obedience to “full” and “empty” as God ordained? Do they dare take their children to Easter Service if they don’t have matching smocked outfits? Handsewn, of course, at the heirloom sewing store? Tuck them in each night under polar fleece throws instead of heirloom quilts?
What about the angst that comes from not knowing if you truly have a Walk with God? Maybe you’re making it all up? Or maybe you really are “hearing little voices.” [Sidebar time: nothing has ever made me so made as Chloe Bryer in The Close when she snickered at a woman with a “personal relationship” with God]. What if you can’t abide Beth Moore of if Ann Graham Lotz gives you the creeps? How are you to cope? What if “Bible Study Fellowship” is about as relaxing as a pelvic exam and you dread it with the same anxiety you used to have for calculus but have to go because you got a slot and are the envy of the waiting list?? What if you can’t think up a way to make a cactus out of a milk jug for the VBS Corral? How will people respond to you if you take yet another carton of deli potato salad to the pitch in? Or worse—call and have a pizza deliver [and use a credit card to pay for it.] What if you “Weekend To Remember” was memorable for all the WRONG reasons? What if you secretly listen to Classic Rock instead of Focus on the Family while you are NOT doing your dishes?
What if, as a Christian mother, you think vaccinations ARE ok , that buying your bread at the store or at least using a bread machine is good? Or if you can’t stand even the thought of breastfeeding? Or WANT to co-sleep? Of really do enjoy Oprah….and about 17 other things on tv each day?? What if instead of tv you are addicted to blogging?? What if you think Enzo or the Duggars or both are just plain nuts? What if you think the public schools are just fine and wish you could stick your kids out at the bus stop and stop the whirling doubts of the curriculum fair in your mind? Wordly Wise? Vocabulary Vine? Saxon? Teaching Textbooks? Classical? Charlotte Mason? Abeka? Bob Jones? What if you yearn to try, just try….even just sneek a peek, at “Secular” materials to have a break from the Bible once in a while. Heresy I know. What if you can’t ever understand the King James version and do your BSF homework in the Message for speed?
What if your husband IS a domineering Ass Hole? And you are Smarter than he is and you DO want a divorce? What if you husband is gay? How do you deal with this. After all, you are supposed to be Trusting God. What if your husband become a debt free zealot and moves you and the kids into a 29 year old mobile home and brings home goats that you are to milk?? How do you really KNOW this is God’s will? What if you LIKE birth control? Sadly, what if you are really convicted that birth control is wrong and hubby says NO MORE KIDS?
As a Christian mother the angst-giving facets of Christian life can overwhelm just as completely as those of the worldly Mother. Instead of getting into the Perfect Preschool its into the perfect homeschool support group or home Church? What if you can’t stand crafts or your idea of decorating is to leave the paint color that was there when you moved in and never bother to adorn your table with anything but dinner? What if you HATE candles?? How about not ever wanting to help in the nursery? Or be anywhere near the Junior High Sunday School Room? Can’t face another women’s retreat or marriage seminar? Does the phrase “Sermon Series” send shock waves of lethargy thru you? Do you just want to push the kids out at the park and gun the minivan over the next hill and on to…say…Wyoming? Just to be ALONE for a while. Just to think your OWN thoughts and not what you SHOULD be thinking?
This is not meant in any way to be sarcastic. We as Christian Women are told that Jesus set a “higher standard” for us all. Two weeks ago my pastor confessed that he had never developed the habit of “daily quiet time.” A pastor. Bible College Graduate. Or course, in some Churches [happily not ours!] he would be fired faster than Ted Haggard was for his little indiscretion. Other Churches would blame it on his wife for chewing gum in Church, not hanging out rocking babies in the nursery and for WORKING ….at.a.JOB or for letting her daughters dress like normal high schoolers. I blame it on …..HONESTY. Give the man a break—he willingly drives a beat-up old minivan.! [ok, that is a joke. He does drive it, but I’m seriously doubting the “willingly” part. Not with that hair and that tan!]
We set ourselves up in the mold of the very perfectionism we claim so loudly to eschew. Yet who hasn’t witnessed an overly stressed Christian Mom hiss at the ball field—“shut up and eat your nachos—that’s dinner” and UNDERSTOOD. There’s a limit. We are supposed to smile and Volunteer. Smile and Study the Bible to Seminary levels. Smile and memorize Scripture. Smile and teach ourselves Koine Greek. Smile and mentor younger women. Smile and never say No to husband. Smile and Never say no to Church. Smile and never say no to our children. Smile without anti-anxiety or mood-elevating medications. Smile and go quietly insane.
What if, like a friend years ago, you had to hide a six-figure career by saying you “help” a friend with their “little” business…..that almost went public because you made way more than your husband? What if your husband only made it to and thru law school because you rewrote his papers when you typed them? What if ? What if? What if? What if all these “what ifs” were real fears gnawing at your brain night and day? What if you found the courage to ask for prayer in Sunday School and people looked out the window in shame and a few “friends” earnestly hugged you and told you Bible verses to focus on? What if you had to drive 100 miles to be sure you didn’t run into anyone from Church, BSF, Co-op or Homeschool Support Group or your husband’s accountability group when you filled your Zoloft and birth control each month? What if you did earnestly thank Him for the Ritlan that makes your 8 year old tolerable?
God tells us “Do not worry about your lives” and “who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life.” This is His Truth. But he made us imperfect. How do we conquer that innate imperfection and accept his Grace? Accept that in spite of raising goats, or kids that won’t read or a husband who spends way too much time “checking his stocks” online, God really does care about each and every one of us as individuals? How do we accept that we truly are blessed? That he really, really does know the plans he has for us to prosper? Or that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that accepting Him is all we are asked to do.