Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The illusion of the "perfect" woman - Part 1

I have been thinking a lot lately about the role of wife and mother.  Having talked to many ladies about the issues that we face, I think that there are a few important things that I would like to share about.  They are things which we all need to battle against, and make sure that they don't prevent us from living the God-honouring life that we SHOULD be living.

I am going to start today with the subject of unrealistic expectations.

I think that this area of life can be a real hindrance in our Christian walk, and more specifically as wives and mothers.

We are surrounded today by many, many helpful resources.  Websites, books, courses, seminars, all devoted to pointing us to how we "should" be living.  Many godly women seek to give guidance about all things related to marriage and the home.

Most of these resources are excellent.

Many of them give Biblical advice on the role of women, and attempt to give practical advice on how to implement the wisdom of God's Word, in our every day lives.  There is much wisdom contained in the resources they provide.

Then, there are resources about managing our lives, on a practical scale.  Many of these are written from the angle of someone who has an interest in one particular area - healthy eating, home organisation, scheduling, home education.  What they say is good, and often stems from an experiential perspective, which is so incredibly useful.

I am NOT dismissing the benefit of these resources.  In fact, they can be an incredible blessing and help to so many.

I believe the trouble comes when a woman looks at these resources and decides that it is the "perfect" standard to which she must attain.  Following the reading of such a book, a woman can easily become fixated upon reaching similar standards and achievements for herself.

"If _________ (insert name of published woman) can achieve a life with 10 children, a pristine home, all my fruit and veg grown in their garden, eating no processed food, making all her own clothes, home educating to the nth degree......" (the list could go on....)

It can easily become that this "perfect wife/mother" picture formulates, and if we don't tick all the boxes, we have somehow failed!

If this is you, even in the slightest, STOP!!!

The first thing you need to do, is to take a step back and breathe.

Then, ask yourself why.

Why are you trying to meet all the standards you see around you?

Are you doing it because others are doing it?

Are you doing it because you think it's the "spiritual" thing to do or be?

Are you doing it because you think it's best for you, because it was best for someone else?

The ladies who write these books would be horrified to be put on a "perfection" pedestal, but it's where other women seem to place them! Women who are so desperate to turn around their lives, because they are unhappy or discontent, that they will go to enormous, and often unrealistic, lengths to achieve the life they see in others.

I think that there are some sensible steps that we need to consider taking.

We need to take out the Bible, and use that as our measuring stick  

If the Bible does not spell something out as a command to us, we are under no obligation to follow it.  In fact, if someone tries to tell you that something they feel personally convicted about should apply to your life too, they are in error themselves.  I could tell you an abundance of great reasons as to why I homeschool, but I will never tell someone else they are sinning if they don't.  I would not consider telling someone that they are inferior or less spiritual if they make the decision to send their children to school.  I would desperately hope that no-one would ever think they should home educate, JUST because I can wax lyrical about why it's great for us!!

The same applies to any conviction or decision that is not a direct command in scripture.  Unless you are convicted by the Lord to do it yourself, you shouldn't choose to do it based simply upon the choice of another to do it.  It's a recipe for disaster.

We need to speak to our husband's about what THEY think we should be doing

I have known women who have worn themselves thin, trying to be the "perfect" wife and mother.  Then, when they have checked with their husband about what THEY expect, it's WAY less than they were exhausting themselves, trying to be! In fact, they discovered that their husband would prefer that they were happy, calm and living a more simple life, than rushing around, trying to keep up with the latest housewifely "trends", in a manic and exhausted state.

It's far more important for you to have a positive outlook, and a serene demeanour, than to have a family that looks like it jumped out of of lifestyle magazine, whilst you feel like you are going to tip over the proverbial edge.

We need to look at the family situation that God has placed us in, and then make choices accordingly

Do we live in a town, with no garden worth speaking about?  Then, maybe dreams of self sufficiency need to be put on the back burner.

Do we have 5 children under the age of 5 (or something similar)?  Then, maybe we can't have that spotless house with all the children sharing a chore schedule.

Do we have some older children that are needing our time and attention with schooling, as well as pre-schoolers?  Then, maybe we can't follow that one-to-one, 9-5, pre-school programme that we thought looked fantastic.

There are so many ideals that we can see around us, which are good in and of themselves, but they may not be the "right fit" for our family.  Seeing what someone else does is all very well and good, so long as we don't make that our own standard, without thinking that it fits for them, well, because they are THEM! People don't always share their great ideas because they think that EVERYONE should be doing the same - only that it may help someone else.  We can't do all that everyone else does.  It just isn't practical or feasible.

What does YOUR family need in life?  Once you have established that, then you can decide how to go about it to your best ability.

Try not to have too many plates spinning at the same time

Having searched God's Word, and prayerfully considered your own family situation, you may have seen that you need to work on certain areas.  DON'T try and solve them all at the same time!  If you know you house isn't very neat and tidy and you also need to work on making some food changes, don't try and do it all at once!  If you decide you need to start getting up a bit earlier and that you also need to work out some better scheduling, don't do it all at the same time!

The more unrealistic your goals are, the less likely it is that you will be able to achieve even ONE of them.

Don't be tempted to follow every new idea that someone else comes up with 

You can end up spending your whole time chasing great "new" concepts, which you MUST implement in your home.  Your husband and children will end up with a wife/mother who is constantly dotting from one "great idea" to the next, and never sticking at one long enough to make a real difference.  Alongside that is the consideration that the new way may not be necessary at all!  Just because a new way worked for someone else, does not mean you have to abandon the way that works just great for you, in favour of the new one. As tempting as some new, gorgeously dressed up idea may seem, if you have a way of doing something that works just fine, there may be no need to change it at all.

Finally, remember that it's good to make changes when you need to 

I'm not for a a moment suggesting that the shed load of great advice is not worth having, or that you should plod along the way you have always been.  Changes are good, if they are necessary  Advice is great, if you need it and it's relevant. In fact, sometimes a little change is all you need to make a big improvement.

More than anything else, remember that there is never on this earth a perfect ANYTHING! We are all sinners, living and functioning by God's mercy alone.  We must, as God's Word dictates, do our best in all that we do.  However, to think for a moment that there is some perfect woman out there, that we should or could become, is an illusion at best, and a depressing stumbling block at worst.

Let's keep looking to the Lord, seeking to honour Him in all we do, over and above what anyone else is doing.  

I will soon follow on from this, dealing with the reality of when our lives are not picture perfect.

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