By Charlene Notgrass
When I was in the second grade, my parents entered me in a beauty contest. Mother gathered layers of baby blue tulle onto a satin bodice to create my first evening gown. She curled my hair with skinny rubber curlers. While we girls waited in a school classroom, someone snapped my picture. The black-and-white photo shows my curly hair, long gown, and big smile with two front teeth missing.
I don’t remember what it was like to walk across the stage or how I felt when I didn’t win, but I do remember comparing myself with another girl. Her dress was pink and fancy and came from one of the big department stores in Nashville. Mine was simpler, homemade, and blue. I felt second best.
My feelings about my homemade dress have changed since 1959. I’m not ashamed of it anymore; it is a sentimental keepsake. My blue gown, made by my sweet mother, is in a closet, waiting for my granddaughters to wear it for dress-up someday.
Comparing myself with other women is still a challenge. As much as I want to be like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way,” I am much more like Jo in Little Women, “hopelessly flawed.” I have a desperate need for grace.
Do you feel inadequate, imperfect, hopelessly flawed? I’ll tell you a secret: You are, I am, and so are those mothers to whom we compare ourselves. That’s why Jesus died. Do you think you have to be perfect to do a good job with your children? God doesn’t think so. Stop and think about the woman God chose to be your children’s mother. Out of all the women in the world, out of all the women in the history of the world, He chose you.
Cherish your role as a mother. Don’t let your feelings of imperfection keep you from being what your children need. Those feelings can rob your children of something they need very much: you. Pray. Trust. This is God’s work you are doing. Remember that He understands all, He is able to help, and He loves you. You don’t have to carry the whole load. Give yourself grace.
Do you compare your children to other children? Your children need grace too. God made each one in His image but He didn’t use a cookie cutter. Some children learn calculus with ease; others are good with their hands. Some learn to read when they are four, others when they are eleven. Some grow up to be skilled engineers; others become compassionate caregivers. Trust God’s wisdom in making each child the way He did.
One of the beauties of home schooling is that you can tailor a child’s learning to help him become the person God intended. Teach him. Be patient with her. Wait when he needs you to wait, push when she needs you to push, but never try to press your child into someone else’s mold. Accept each individual that God has created and put in your care. Give your children grace.
If we play this comparing game long enough, we might actually find people who make us feel not inferior, but superior. Do you sometimes look at other mothers, shake your head, and wonder why they do this or don’t do that? Do you wonder why their children act the way they do? Do you judge some mothers because of how they home school and others because they don’t home school?
Remember that we don’t all have the same story. We don’t have the same challenges. Perhaps the women we are judging are doing the best they can. They might be learning every day what “normal” is because they grew up in troubled families. They might barely be holding on in their marriages. They might be struggling to rear hurting children whom someone else has abandoned. We only see part of the picture. Only God knows the whole truth. He is the perfect judge. Give grace to other mothers.
God began giving grace in the Garden of Eden. Thousands of years later He inspired the last words of the Bible: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Look at that tiny word all. God offers grace to everyone who seeks Him: you, me, and all those other mothers. Let’s be mothers of grace—mothers who seek God with all our hearts, mothers who raise children to be the people He created them to be, and mothers who have the grace to let others do the same.