There is a reoccurring theme in my favorite show “The Middle” that I love because it is so realistic. Frankie Heck, the main character and mother of three, is often belittled by her neighbor, Nancy Donahue, who has a talent for making Frankie feel like an inadequate mom. Nancy is on top of everything, never seems stressed out by parenthood and has trouble sympathizing with others who do. One scene in particular stood out to me recently. As a mother who rarely tastes success, Frankie is proud and excited to tell Nancy that her eldest son, Axl, has landed a life guard position for the summer. Nancy is quick to one up Frankie, exclaiming that her son has a job with a state senator. She then goes on to berate Frankie for how she handled a situation with her youngest child, Brick.
I’ll tell you something. I am like Frankie’s twin separated at birth. We couldn’t be more a like in many ways. We love our children and would do anything for them. Yet despite our best intentions, are always late, always frazzled, always feeling like zeros on the motherhood scale. Each mishap that befalls her makes me want to reach into the screen and give her a comforting hug and words of reassurance. “I know how you feel, Frankie, I know how you feel!”
But, to the main point of this post. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering lately what kind of community I will find once we move to Chattanooga. I’ve been richly blessed with many amazing friends in Atlanta who know me well and love me anyways. They know I’m a frazzled mess and wear my heart on my sleeve. Whether they are as transparent as me or not, whether they are disorganized like me or not, they accept me and love me. They never put me to shame for my many inadequacies. They don’t expect me to be supermom and they know I do not have that expectation of them.
The longer I do this motherhood gig, the more determined I am to encourage mothers to be real. To stop trying to impress other women, whether in real life, on social media or both. There is nothing more sad or unfortunate to me than mothers who are killing themselves trying to look like they have it altogether. What is the point? It takes so much time and energy away from more important pursuits. It can foster pride which breeds an inability to sympathize with moms who do not “fit the bill.” Is that the mission we’re here to accomplish?
If I could give a list of my “must haves” for new community this coming year, it would dwindle down to this main desire: I don’t want perfect friends. I don’t want to be trying to break in with women trying to show me that they have it altogether. I don’t want to be feeling forced to try to prove my kids are all brilliant too or my house is usually spick and span as well, just not today. (Or ever. But you know what happens sometimes when you’re trying to pretend imperfections are really just a one time thing). The list can go on. and on.
Increasingly, I believe the only way to accomplish community that is true, rich, life giving and frankly, worth having at all, is to ditch perfection. When we feel we have to don different skin for other women, it’s miserable. It is counter productive. Better no community at all than that which kills the spirit.
For any potential mom friends in Chattanooga, know this. You can be late and I won’t care. If you homeschool, I’m not going to judge your techniques or how your children compare to mine. If you do not keep a spick and span house, don’t feel you have to make it look as though you do when I come over. More importantly, I’m (pretty sure) I’m not going to make you feel inadequate. I’m not going to share methodologies with you, unless you really want to know. (Even then, I’d have to admit I don’t have many which might disappoint you. Sorry). If you lose your cool with your kids in front of me, well, that’ll just prove that truly we are all desperate sinners. Oh why do we all try so hard to look as though we are squeaky clean and awesome?
One of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp, encapsulates my thoughts perfectly when she writes, “God doesn’t ask me to be perfect; He asks me to praise. I don’t have to have smudgless windows and empty laudrey baskets and gleaming toilet bowls! I don’t have to have a perfect life, all problems solved! I think I hear the Hallellujah chorus! I simply have to have a grateful heart to give him glory.”
God offers us freedom from performance. Freedom. Let’s allow ourselves and other moms to drink of that well as much as possible, fueling one another for the days and years ahead!