To enjoy motherhood, every woman needs to give herself permission to be free. What does that mean to a woman of faith?

I was flipping through channels, trying to find something fun to watch when I stopped on an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker.

I had never seen the show before, but since the boys were in bed, I thought I’d check it out. It’s a reality show where a matchmaker with personality named Patti matches single wealthy people, all claiming to be millionaires, with potential spouses.

One client carried a written, long list of qualities she wanted in her man, in her purse. The matchmaker took a lighter to the list and burned it in full view. She was shocked speechless.

Her list profiling her perfect mate kept her from enjoying any hope of romance. Patti said her client wanted to control the process of falling in love so badly, she was shut off from any real moments that were happening. Her list kept her from really seeing people for who they were. All she saw was how far everyone was falling short of her expectations.

As I was watching this young woman struggle with letting go of her expectations, I saw a part of myself in her.

I’m not talking about dating. I’m talking about mothering.

You see, I also carry a list.

It’s called the Perfect Mom List.

The Perfect Mom List

I didn’t put this list together for my mother or for anyone else. This list is for me.

I have to admit I’ve actually giggled putting together a list of ideal qualities in my dream guy, but I’ve actually never sat down to write one down for me, as an ideal mom.

To my surprise, a Perfect Mom List has nonetheless emerged. It’s made its way into my heart and it’s filling up discouragement in my head.

If you saw my Perfect Mom List, I think you’d agree it’s not unreasonable... is it?

1. I want to always be patient.

2. I want to be super organized, so my home looks like a calm learning environment, where everything has its place.

3. I want to make creative meals, so my children and husband will clap their hands and be so excited to sit down and eat.

4. I should have endless energy and always delight in playing with my children whenever they want, even when both of them want to play different games at the same time.

5. I should be crafty with glue and construction paper, love coloring and drawing funny pictures.

6. I should love keeping the house in order, doing laundry, while lovingly providing counsel to my children when needed, yet drawing boundaries and disciplining firmly when necessary.

Can you see how easily and quickly “want” became “should” to me? Can you see how this list deceptively morphed into my Perfect Mom List?

The problem with this list is that it keeps me from seeing God's view of me.

A Startling Discovery

This list keeps me from enjoying the moment and keeps my children from getting to know the real me.

Early in my mothering, when the struggle towards the 24×7 life of parenting hit a peak, a wise mommy mentor named Betty gave me this advice:

Just do what gives you joy — a joyful mommy is the best mommy. It is godly to be joyful.  It is godly to be at peace. God wants you to have joy.  God wants you to have peace. Don’t do what robs you of joy. Don’t do what robs you of peace.

I was definitely skeptical of her advice.

No. This couldn’t be. I objected.

Over time, as we continued praying and I went digging in the Scriptures, I started trying her advice out. I came to a startling discovery.

I don’t have to wait until the kids are older, and I’m better at mothering. I can have joy now — I can have peace now – IF I give up my list.

Stopping & Starting

Giving up my list meant stopping.

1. I stopped buying craft supplies that I never use, that make me feel craft challenged and guilty.

2. I stopped trying to be the scrapbooking mommy that I could never be.

I started doing what felt natural to me — activities with my kids that gave me joy and incorporating time for myself that gave me peace. I started taking my first steps to mothering without a list. I was on my way to mothering by faith.

Mothering By Faith

When I let go of my expectations — and others’ of me — I realize that giving myself permission to be me at mothering is actually an act of faith.

When joy and peace guide me in my mothering, my heart is set free to enjoy my family. It takes faith to keep walking in that direction, even when we fall short and feel like we are failing.

The rewards of trusting God in us is the joy of knowing we are enough.

I am working on a new list now. I call it the How I Enjoy Mothering List. Maybe I’ll show it to you sometime.

For now, I say burn that Perfect Mother List.

They say you only get one chance at parenting. I say, let’s take our one chance with God’s grace first on the list.

Now, I load up the boys and let them run around the park, while I sit on the bench and eat grapes and goldfish.

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” ~ Galatians 5:1

Bonnie GrayThe Faith Barista, serves up shots of faith for everyday life. Pull up a chair. Click to share a comment or subscribe by email.