It’s the end of a long day and you finally have all the kids in bed. You managed to hold it together and not yell, but it was close there at the end when the 7-year old defiantly refused to leave his Lego creations to get ready for bed and the teen’s anxiety about school and friends seemed particularly worrisome. You listened, comforted, and encouraged. You expertly navigated the Lego war zone without stepping on any “creations” and assured that 7-year old that you love him. You folded two more loads of laundry and wiped down the counters and table top where you noticed the baby had taken the crayons, luckily washable. There was a bill to be paid, an email to write, and a sleeping baby to check on. You dragged yourself through those final tasks of the day, watching the clock and praying that you could still get at least six or seven hours of sleep before waking up to do it all over again.
Does this scenario seem familiar to you? If it does, then you are probably a mother.
The nature of work at home is that it is never done. There is no paycheck and no bonus, no rewards or accolades. There is always more dust to wipe, more laundry to do, more meals to plan, and more needs of family members to fulfill. How can a mother know when she has been successful?
At the end of the day, how can you know you have been a good mom? Several years ago, I sincerely wanted to know the answer to this question for myself. I was torturing myself with my endless “to do” list, degrading myself with the chatter in my head about how “I should have” done this or that, and feeling quite angry about my hopeless situation. It seemed I could never get ahead, and I was miserable.
I prayerfully went to the scriptures to find direction and comfort. I felt inspired to include the guide for missionaries in our church called “Preach My Gospel” in my study. I came upon a passage about how to know you are being successful as a missionary. My eyes opened wide as I read about how measuring your success by the number of baptisms was not realistic since it involved the choices of others. Instead, the book stated that you can know you are successful as a missionary if you feel the Spirit working through you and if you feel love for those you serve. This statement hit me with great force as I realized that this was my answer. I could apply this to motherhood!
My success should not be determined by the cleanliness of my house or the choices of my children or husband, who were imperfect people. It is not to be measured by how many items are checked off my ever-growing list! Finally, here was a simple yet profoundly important measuring tool that I could use every day. I could simply ask myself, “Do I feel love for my husband and children? Do I feel the Spirit working through me?”
Basically, my whole world changed. I began to strive every day to feel the Spirit more readily. I noticed that I was more willing to stop, listen, and lovingly teach when unexpected teaching moments came. I was more apt to do my household chores with gratitude rather than disdain, knowing that I didn’t need to try to “finish.” I could be okay with doing the task in front of me and finding joy in that. I began to see my family members as blessings rather than burdens and their questions and needs as opportunities for me to teach and love them.
I still have a lot to do (although I refuse to write long lists anymore), and my house is never perfectly clean. I still have kids who need to talk to me late at night and more laundry to sort and fold. Every day there are meals to plan and prepare, and I have to think how to best manage my time and energy, but my eye is now firmly set on what matters. I am still learning every day and have a long way to go, but I try to let go of unrealistic expectations and simply love my children. I am so much happier when I do.
What is your experience in measuring your success as a mom? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.