Queen Mommy [Getting Past Perfect Book Club: Chapter 1]

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Welcome to the Getting Past Perfect Book Club! We’re reading Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood, by Kate Wicker.

Prayer time as a busy mother is rarely going to be of the contemplative variety. Accept that, and pray on. #GettingPastPerfect #bookclub

In the middle of one of those afternoons that drag by, the minute hand taking an hour to move to the next number, I wondered for the hundredth time that day why I wasn’t getting anything done.

The same load of laundry, started the night before, was still sitting in the washer and would probably have to be run again.

The same basket of clean clothes I’d been stepping over all day was still in the hallway, waiting to be folded and put away.

The breakfast dishes were still in the sink and two of my children were still in pajamas.

We hadn’t left the house all day – we’d been home together. Everyone had my full attention – I had been tending to their needs and helping them arbitrate their sibling squabbles all day long.

If time was moving so slowly, why wasn’t I being more productive?

It can be tempting to think that our days with our children should flow from one blessed, smiling moment to another, full of hugs and laughter and plenty of time to tend to the stuff of daily life, too (all those dishes and diapers and laundry that life creates).

In reality, on the harder days of dealing with what life brings, I don’t have time to get to any of those other things – I can barely keep up with what my children need.

Those are the days I’m hardest on myself.

When the same chore has been staring me in the face all day and I still haven’t managed to finish it and it’s time to get dinner on the table, the little voice in my head starts its refrain.

“You’re not enough. You’re not doing enough. You are failing to take care of your responsibilities here. You’re not modeling responsibility to your children. You’re not doing enough to get them to contribute. They’ll grow up not knowing how to run a household properly. And now you’re yelling at them? Oh, great – now they’ll be emotionally scarred for life, too, on top of being terrible slobs who can’t take care of themselves.”

On and on it goes, catastrophizing every little thing, telling me that I’m screwing everything up colossally.

All too often, I listen to it. I believe it. Its words become the background for the rest of my day, sometimes even the next day.

Where do we mothers get the idea that we need to do everything exactly right all the time?

Where do we get the idea that Our Highest Calling is to be Perfect Mothers?

In the first chapter of Getting Past Perfect, Kate Wicker examines these questions, sharing stories and struggles from her own mothering journey.

She dares to remind us that being Perfect Mothers is not our highest calling at all. We are called, instead, to be beloved daughters of God.

Her perspective here is refreshing in a Pinterest-perfect world saturated with carefully-filtered images of mothers who find complete personal fulfillment by totally immersing themselves in meeting their children’s every need.

I have struggled with this image of the Ideal Mother, especially on hard days when things don’t go well. Motherhood is sanctifying, yes . . . and all of us can use practice at emptying ourselves and becoming more servant-hearted where our families are concerned.

When we start expecting our vocations within our families to completely fulfill us, though, when we allow the duties of motherhood to define us as people, we are forgetting that God designed us first to be His children (and that our children, no matter how much we love them, are His children first and foremost).

As Kate says,

“When mothering and our children – like anything else of this world- become our ultimate source of fulfillment, happiness and identity, they can become a form of idolatry. In the midst of our noble desire to be selfless, good parents, it’s easy for Christian mothers to forget a simple but profound truth: the highest calling placed upon our lives is to know and love God with all that we have and all that we are.”

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Kate challenges us in this chapter to remember that even in the busiest times of motherhood, “nurturing our relationship with God is nonnegotiable.” Our primary calling is to be in relationship with God- that’s what He created us to do. Finding time for prayer and quiet can be so difficult in the midst of life with children; as Kate humorously reminds us, “even the disciples followed Jesus when he tried to sneak away and pray.” Have you struggled to grow in your relationship with God as a mother? What strategies or practices have helped you to stay connected with Him when life is hectic and parenting is stressful?
  2. Kate says, “I am here in this beautiful, broken world to love and know God and to love and know others – not just the children entrusted to me but every single person I encounter.” Is it difficult for you to balance your children’s needs with the needs of others in your life (your spouse, your friends, your community, your church)? What ways have you found to make space in your life for the needs of others (besides your children)?
  3. Popular culture, even within the Church, sometimes leads us to believe that “good Christian mothers” will lose themselves in the process of mothering well. While parenting always involves sacrifice, Kate believes that if motherhood is “a mighty calling but not the only calling pressed upon you, you will not become a ‘nonperson.’” She advocates for mothers to find ways to share their gifts with the outside world instead of burying them. How do you view the issue of personal identity in parenting? Does becoming a parent necessitate putting aside your own gifts and goals, or is it possible to invest in your children and in yourself at the same time? Can you nurture your own dreams without being selfish while your children are young?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Prayer time as a busy mother is rarely going to be of the contemplative variety. Accept that, and pray on. #GettingPastPerfect #bookclub

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 2. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Getting Past Perfect Book Club page.

Copyright 2017 Abbey Dupuy

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About Author

Abbey Dupuy writes her life as a homeschooling mom of four. She muses about parenting, practicing gratitude and celebrating the liturgical year with her young family at
Surviving Our Blessings. In her spare time, Abbey enjoys running, knitting, coffee, and cookbooks, not usually all at the same time.

42 Comments

  1. It is definitely difficult to balance the demands made on my time. Since I homeschool my children and work for the church, they easily get the majority of my time. My poor husband, my friends and I myself get squeezed out. It was actually my dad who said to me not too long ago, “You need to get a girlfriend.” “I have girlfriends!” I defensively replied. But, as usual, he was right. You cannot have a real relationship if you do not spend real time with one another. So, this Lent, I have consciously been trying to make quality time to spend with my husband daily, even if it is just a half hour or so, cuddling up next to him and talking/ listening. I have also chosen a different friend every week to hang out with – at the coffee shop, going to see “The Shack,” or having over for lunch. I must admit, it makes for a happier me.

    • Kelly, I have also been focusing on intentional time with my husband daily. Part of it was shifting my morning routine in order to wake up earlier so that I could start my day the way I like to (with prayer and daily readings) and then spend time with him for a little bit as he eats his breakfast before getting ready for work. It is pretty much the only time of the day when it is just us, as at least one of our kids is typically up in the afternoons/evenings when we are back home from work and school. It has been a good shift.

    • I love your Lenten resolutions Kelly! I wish I lived close enough to go out to lunch with you!! And my “quality time” with my husband is very similar to yours, and is truly my favorite time of the day. I’ll take snuggling on the couch over a “date night” any day…

    • Being intentional about how/with whom we spend our time is so important. I can really relate to what you said about getting “squeezed out”- I tend to think my husband and friends understand because they are also busy and in the trenches with little kids, work, etc., but you’re right- we can’t grow our relationships if we aren’t spending time on them. I love your idea of hanging out with a different friend each week.

    • What a beautiful Lenten resolution! I hope you’re enjoying your friend time. Not too long ago I was falling into the trap of saying I was too busy to connect with some close friends, but I realized that we all have the same 24 hours and it was up to me to make better priorities and not allow these beautiful and important relationships to suffer. One friend and I started running early in the morning together (definitely not currently doing that with a newborn in the house). I had other friends whom I’d see at my parish Bible study. Some neighbor friends and I would get together and chat while our kids played. I made friends on the soccer sidelines since I have older children who were very active in sports. A dear friend of mine would occasionally call out of the blue and see if she could just stop by to say hi. These sort of impromptu visits used to make me twitchy because my house was never clean enough, etc., but now I realize hospitality and sharing is far more important. In fact, my little brother just asked if he could stop by with his daughter, and I was so happy to say yes. When life really is crazy and it’s difficult to find time for coffee dates, etc., then I make an effort to write snail mail notes to good friends. This nurtures the relationships without too much of a time commitment. Anyway, thanks for chiming in and reading! God bless you!

  2. Over the years, I’ve found ways for some time for myself, mainly by staying up late! I’ve also made time to pursue my own goals with writing, but there’s always that tension of taking too much time from my family obligations. Over 20 years, I’ve found our marriage has probably taken the biggest hit. Without local family, close friends, or funds for babysitters – not to mention nursing babies and toddlers – we’ve had minimal date time. For 10 years or so, that was okay, but it’s really caught up with us. The glimmer of hope is that the oldest is about the age where he can be responsible for the younger ones, although the youngest is still not potty trained, which presents a problem.

    • Carolyn,

      I have been finding time for myself by doing the opposite – adjusting my body to waking up earlier. I have also decided that it is best for me to not turn on my computer in the mornings as I often get distracted, spend more time than I should and end up racing around for our morning routines. It has been making all the difference and making our mornings smoother for everyone because of course, I could relate to Kate’s thoughts in the introduction of how chaotic mornings can be and finding everyone’s shoes, coats, etc. and making sure everyone keeps moving. While there will always be the unexpected thrown into the mix, it has been helpful for me to realize what is within my control/what I could change to make the process smoother for my four girls and I (my husband leaves for work before I need to get the girls up). Our oldest two are actually quite a bit of help with our younger two now, so that has been such a blessing as they often help me during the morning routine.

      • Older kids are a blessing! I’d love to get up a littler earlier, but I can’t out-wake my kids. I can’t think of once in 14 years I’ve gotten up early hoping for quiet time that one or more kids wasn’t up within 10 minutes. I’ve sort of given up on that one! Lol.

        • I’ve only been able to successfully get up before my kids in the last few months, and it doesn’t always work…they’re often awake and can play quietly together for a few minutes while I collect myself and get the day started. Some days, though, it’s like everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and they’re already arguing before the sun is up…and on those days, there’s no quiet time to start the day! Usually by the time they’re all tucked in, I’m so tired I just want someone to tuck me in, too…but my husband and I do try to hang out and do something for a little while to spend time together after the kids are in bed. It’s definitely a challenge.

    • Hang in their Carolyn! As an empty nester, I can promise that you’ll actually miss these busy times, but to be honest, this phase of being a mom is pretty awesome too!

    • Your comment really touches my “all too familiar with your situation” heart. And guess what? My oldest of our 4 kids is now ready for college, and we still have no money or time for date night. But, I will share two great Catholic Studies that have really been my saving grace…the first is the women’s Bible Study, Walking With Purpose…I WISH I had this study when my kids were small because it a) gets you out of the house b) has you meeting other women c) has CHILD CARE! But the BEST part…it reinforces so much of what Kate Wicker so beautifully assures us…that we are beloved daughters of God, and that our identity is not about what we are (ie Mom) but rather, WHOSE we are. The second is BELOVED, a study on marriage that my parish has offered…it is a once a month date night WITH FREE DINNER AND CHILD CARE!!!!!! My husband and I get to meet other couples, watch an inspirational video on marriage, and have meaningful discussion. I encourage you to look these two programs up and see if they are at your parish or a parish near you.

      Thanks for the beautiful reflection and thought provoking reflection, Abbey…the days when laundry piles and weird mini van smells bother me the most, are more often than not, the days I have taken my eyes off of Jesus. Like Peter, who shifts his gaze from Jesus to the ocean below his feet, I often find myself sinking below the waves, reaching out my hand, and begging Jesus to save me. My prayer for all of us mamas is to keep looking up….that way we miss the mess on the living room floor, and find rest in the arms of our Father! A win win! Looking forward to the next chapter…LOVING this book!

      • Oh, how I wished our parish offered child care during an event! They did once about 8 years ago for a Bible study, and we took full advantage. (I think the only volunteers they’re able to get are teens and there was some issue with them not having all the clearances/background checks, etc.) We were able to do a Dave Ramsey class at a local Methodist church several years back only because they offered child care at all of their programs.

          • Your friend is absolutely right! I think many more parents would come out to parish events/meetings if there was babysitting available. (Now you’ve got me thinking how I can help make this happen in my parish.)

          • I agree, Abby! Parishes must support mamas because we are supporting the future of the Church! Also, many thanks for writing this beautiful reflection. God bless.

          • For some parishes it’s a bit tricky to deal with child care because of insurance issues and liabilities. It’s sad, Our MOMs ministry couldn’t offer child care because of these issues. 😕

      • Our parish has a subscription to Formed, so I watched Beloved on it and loved that program. It would have been nice to watch in a small group with others at the parish as you did.

        Walking With Purpose sounds good too. I had not heard of that before. I just bookmarked it to read more about it later.

        • Danielle Bean also has a great study geared toward moms that’s really inexpensive and not super time-consuming, and Tami Kiser (of Smart Martha) has recently released a great study for parishes that caters to all sorts of women and covers myriad topics. My only complaint with WWP (which I’m on my fourth year with) is some of the lessons take a lot of time and seem more suited for women in a slower-paced season and/or less hands-on season of their lives.

          Here’s the link for the Momnipotent study: http://momnipotentstudy.com/

          Tami Kiser’s Relationships Series link: https://catholicconference4women.com/

  3. I really liked this chapter. Over the last couple of years I have had a clearer sense of my non-negotiables that really link to self-care and maintaining a sense of peace in a busy life. Over time I have noticed that the most powerful forms of self-care have been related to my relationship with God. Though I do not have less responsibilities or less on my to-do list, I have realized that it makes the difference between feeling like I am drowning and a sense of peace (or at least comparatively more peaceful).

    The area I have been pondering most right now is actually opposite to the chapter. I am trying to decide on whether I am doing too much and need to focus more on my family. In previous years it was more of a career/family tension, but now it is trying to figure out faith/family/career and how they all intersect. It is of course an on-going process of reflecting on what I need to eliminate and fine tune in order to have my life align to my priorities.

  4. Abbey, I love what you’ve done with this opening part of Kate’s amazing book. This particular question (#3) “Can you nurture your own dreams without being selfish while your children are young?” led me to muse today about the time when I started CatholicMom.com – what began as a hobby in our home (and still lives here, but in many other homes too) to help me to better know my faith, but also other moms, has indeed led all these years later to my life’s dream. I never, ever could have imagined it… in those early days, I would “work” before my kids woke up or while they were at school. I often felt guilty that my home was not clean enough or that I didn’t focus enough on domestic things. But I can see looking back that feeding my spirit by creating something so special was indeed also a great gift to my sons, who had a mom who felt fulfilled, passionate and happy. Lots to say on the questions you brought up! I’ll be so excited to watch our conversation on Kate’s book unfold!

    • Lisa, I’ve thought often about what it must have been like for you in the beginning compared to how things are now with CatholicMom! God has really blessed your work and all the time you put in during those early morning and school hours. 🙂 I know we are all grateful that you stuck with it when things were hard – your work turned out to be a gift to so many. I’m so thankful for you.

    • Lisa,
      I enjoyed reading more about the early days of Catholic Mom and how the way it unfolded was a surprise for you. I have been thinking a lot about those unexpected twists and how we just need to do the next thing, stepping forward in faith one step at a time.

  5. Question 3 really struck a chord with me. I admit to falling into the trap of feeling inadequate as a mom because I was not totally dedicated to motherhood to the exclusion of all else. But the most important lesson I learned in graduate school was how necessary it was to my own mental health to have some pursuit that was absolutely not connected to what I do all day. When I was a student, that was being part of the RCIA team at the university and being a musician at church. As a mom, I have continued my work as a volunteer parish musician, and my husband has always encouraged me to pursue other interests, whether that’s just getting out for an hour to the library by myself or attending a photography class. (And he’s the one who did pew duty with babies and small children so I could play and sing at Mass. He’s a keeper!)
    My kids have grown up knowing that I like to read, write, cook, take pictures and play music–and that I don’t like to wash floors (and that’s OK!)
    I think that by having reasonable amounts of time to dedicate to other interests, I was able to be a better mother. Two of my children (so far) joined me as musicians/singers at church at various times. It was a wonderful gift to be able to share that ministry with them.

    • I love seeing how kids recognize you as a person with individual interests and hobbies as they grow older. My older kids know that mom’s things are reading, writing, baking, and some other things. I’ve never really been “given” time for myself by my husband or anyone else, but I learned to squeeze it in or do it alongside of the kids.

    • Oh, Barb…I long to be able to sing and play music at Mass again. Maybe I could work up to it by getting back to being a lector, first. 🙂 Child wrangling in our pew is slightly less demanding than it used to be when the twins were babies and toddlers.

      • I don’t know how old your kids are, Abbey, but the folk group at the parish where I’ve been for 10+ years is super child-friendly. We moved rehearsals to my home (since our instruments are portable) so people could bring their kids to play while we practice. This way no one had to chase their kids around the church. Parents who sing in the group bring their kids to sit with the group during church. Some of those kids have moved along to become altar servers; others continue to sing alongside their parents. This has helped to build a terrific community among the folk-group members and the member retention level is high.

        • Barb, that is such a fantastic idea. My older ones (5, 5, and 8) would love to sit up there with the choir and would sing along. It’s never occurred to me to ask about this at our parish, but maybe I will.

          • Go for it! I will tell you from (many) years of experience that school-age kids are much better behaved in church when they have something to do. If they are serving in the choir or at the altar, they will focus more on the Mass as they use their talents to serve God. It’s a win for everyone.

      • It took me about 2 1/2 years after my first daughter to go back to singing at mass but after my second one I jumped back in less than 2 months after having him. My husband is definitely a trooper for wrangling the two kids while I sing, but it makes my heart happy to be up there. I always invite my daughter up for the last song and she loves that! Someday we’ll actually practice the song ahead of time so she can really sing along.

  6. Wow! Thanks to everyone for the great conversation. I can relate to so much of what is being discussed here. There have been seasons – when I had lots of little ones at home – that I stayed up far too late for “me” time. Before my fifth was born, I woke up most days around 5 am to pray and exercise (and sometimes I stayed up too late as well!).

    I currently am a Bible study leader for the Walking With Purpose Study at my parish. We do provide child care, although Charlie stays with me at this point and my older kids are at school now. I’m in a good place where I do have more self-care time, but there was a time when I sacrificed sleep (which I unfortunately need more of than some people do) to have some time to unwind, exercise, pray, or even sit down and eat something other than a protein bar. This ultimately ended up backfiring on me and leading to burnout. Looking back, I wish I would have been better at asking for help during the day – even if I just had someone come over for an hour. I could not afford child care when my kids were really young, but there were friends I could have leaned more on. I’ve become very good at asking for help these days!!! Once upon a time I poured everything – even my sanity at times – into my family and sometimes neglected my basic care. I also had it in my head that BEING A MOTHER WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I DID AND THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERED. But now I’ve see that that way of thinking is dangerous for everyone from my children to my husband, and from God to me. There has to be some balance. I’ve had to recognize that it’s important for my kids to see that I use other talents outside of the home, that I have relationships with girlfriends, that I go to Bible study, and that my husband and I have regular date nights ( with a new baby in the house these are currently at-home date nights, but even our 12-year-old is expected to be up in her room early on those nights, so my husband and I have time for each other and can enjoy a glass of wine).

    I’ve also found that as my kids get older, I can do things that I once considered “me” time with them. This is a huge blessing and advantage of having some older kids around. My introvert and I, for example, love to read or write beside each other (she’s easy as an introvert because just doing a quiet activity beside me counts as quality time). I have other children who really like art, so we will sit together and color (coloring is very therapeutic for me!). I also love to be active, so the kids and I enjoy doing a race or two a year together, or we shoot hoops outside. This counts as fun for us all and revving up my heart helps to refuel my tank.

    When all my kids were little black holes of need, I was very fortunate to belong to both a moms’ group at my old parish that offered childcare as well as a homeschooling co-op that gave me both a social and spiritual outlet. When we moved to a smaller town, I didn’t have those resources, and I was very lonely for two solid years. I homeschooled at the time and was always home alone with my children. I prayed I would find some true friends nearby. Now I have some of the greatest neighbors anyone could ask for. We pray, laugh, drink wine together… I know how blessed I am, and I frequently say a prayer of thanks for these women. I will say a prayer for all you moms out there who haven’t found a true friend or an outlet yet. Or those moms who are so busy with keeping house and making sure their toddlers don’t kill themselves that they can’t even remember what “me” time is. Hang in there.

    I apologize for the rambling comment. I actually had a rough weekend and past week because my husband was MIA. I had big kid soccer games, a nursing baby, and tired not-too-big-yet-kids, and this morning my 5- YO was upset with me because I didn’t do laundry this weekend (the kids were lucky they were fed!:-)). So my brain is mush, and I’m starting my Monday a little less perky than usual. But I’m about to crack open my Blessed Is She Lenten study, and rest in God’s word. Remember, God is always there even when you don’t feel His presence and can barely stop long enough to catch your breath.

    Oh, and just to make every mom out there feel a little better about themselves, I was late getting my four older kids to school, and my 5 YO hopped out of the car with bare feet. Sheesh. Living the minivan dream. 🙂

    God bless you all! You’ve got this! Thanks for reading along.

  7. Absolutely loving the book already! So last night during adoration, as I was praying my rosary, I was on the last decade of the joyful mystery of “Finding Jesus in the Temple” and contemplating this when mother Mary really just opened my eyes to this. How many times have I heard this story? Tons! But now I am a mother of two and I finally GOT IT! Mary lost Jesus. She lost him! If Mary, God’s chosen one, could lose Jesus (and be upset when she finally found him), then expecting myself to be perfect at all times is just unrealistic! Which, of course, led me back to this book.

    I appreciated the reminder that I am God’s beloved daughter first. But that also loving and serving God is not single focused. I can be in relationship with God and praying and graciously accept interruptions as an extension of my love and service to Him. I may need to practice that gracious part though!

    There was so much I want to reread it just to absorb some more!

    • Hi, Monica. I’m grateful you’re reading along and enjoying the book so far! I actually had a similar epiphany about Our Blessed Mother and the “Finding of Jesus in the Temple” event and actually write about it in the “I Am Woman! Hear Me Roar” chapter! I hope that my reflection on Mary resonates with you as well. God bless you!

  8. Thanks for the honesty and charity you are all showing each other and the world – such a testament of Motherhood with a capital M:) I relate to so much of what each of you has been saying and as I am dealing with kids/adults ranging from 21 – ready to graduate from college and get “out into the workforce” – down to kiddos still in my homeschool grade school – I feel all the inadequacies and challenges you mention. I have gone from the extreme of allowing myself no person time – and nearly going crazy – to struggling to find a balance between my needs, God’s will, and the kids’ rightful call for my attention. I’m often overwhelmed – but I am getting more accepting of that reality. Since John died, I am constantly attempting things I am not qualified to handle – yet handling them in any case. As plastering tape around a leaking stove pipe attests! (Yes, I got it fixed properly:) I suspect that God is not looking for perfect, He is holding out for the highest love we can offer – sacrificial love – a supernatural gift only He can offer to us, and we pass along through the Holy Spirit. Continued blessings on you all.

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