Cure for PMS (Perfect Mother Syndrome)

The other day, I zipped out for what I thought would be a quick trip to the grocery store.  It happened right there in the dairy aisle in front of the yogurt.  A toddler lost it, maybe, because his mother refused to buy the yogurt with the neon sprinkles.  Whatever the reason for the melt down, the little guy ramped up the octaves full tilt.  The young mother employed diplomacy to try to get her tyke to relent.  This young mother’s other two children chimed in with whining complaints of being bored and hating the grocery store.  I live in a small, rural farming community and the grocery store often serves a dual purpose: visiting with neighbors while grabbing the goods on my list.  I recognized the young mom from around town, which probably packed on another layer of humiliation for her.

The young mother and I made eye contact.  Her eyes expressed a fear that every mother on earth has felt, “I am really not sure I know what I am doing; I am not even sure I am any good at this mothering bit. Just before the first tear trickled down her cheek, I told her that I’ve been there.  I assured her that after decades of mothering, there are days when I am transported back to that place of motherhood insecurity.

After a few minutes, I watched her wheel the car-shaped cart, with two of her kids jutting out of the windows and one still screaming, down the aisle, and out of sight.

There are no perfect mothers.  But how are we to grasp that reality living in a culture where such a high premium is placed on perfection?  Perfect job, perfect weight, perfect marriage, perfect teeth, perfect, perfect, perfect…  Women easily transfer that benchmark of perfection to motherhood.  There isn’t a surgery that exists to create a perfect mother.  A woman might possess a chiseled nose thanks to cosmetic surgery or maintain the physique sculpted by a personal trainer yet remain at a loss as to how to fix perfect mother syndrome (PMS).

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Most of us arrive at motherhood clueless.  We inhale the top-rated books on how to survive motherhood or how to avoid the temptation of unleashing the tiger mom within us.  What happens when real life steps outside of the pages of the book and mothers are dealing with temper tantrums in the library, kids with learning challenges, sibling spats, or teens that make wrong choices? Yes, motherhood requires sacrificial love without any guarantees that all will have a storybook ending.  If we think it is anything less than sacrificial love, we are fooling ourselves. motherhood - blessing & sacrifice

Mary, the mother of Jesus, entered motherhood in less than ideal circumstances.  Mary, a poor, village peasant girl is chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world.  She willingly accepted the challenges that motherhood brought her way.  God chose Mary, an imperfect girl, to be the mother to history’s only perfect child.  From the human side, Jesus lived in a home managed by an imperfect couple.

Like many of us, Mary arrived to motherhood inexperienced and apprehensive. If the Son of God can be born to a flawed mother and reared in an imperfect home, why do women subject themselves to a standard of perfectionism in motherhood? Mary serves as the blue print to the grace bestowed upon mothers.

The cure for perfect mother syndrome is to spend more time strengthening our character which will influence the way we mother our children. Motherhood is a calling not a choice or preference: Regardless of how some of us came to be a mother, God through divine sovereignty chose and selected us to be a mother.  Celebrate that fact. There isn’t another mother who arrived to motherhood in a more unusual and shocking way than Mary. After her shocking news from an angel (again shocking), she then embraced the gift and even endured social chastisement from her community because of the pregnancy.

Pray for a meek and quiet spirit:  Daily, I need to acknowledge my need and dependence on God for the task of motherhood which I’ve been called. Seek to create a humble and nurturing environment, not a perfect one: Clay Trumbull, Christian author and spokesmen and dedicated to the evangelism of children offers a suggestion for parents in his 1890 classic book, Hints on Child Training, the atmosphere of the home must be full of pure oxygen of love to God and love to man.  It must be neither too hot in its intensity of social activities, nor too cold in its expression of family affection, but balmy and refreshing in its uniform temperature of household living and being.  It must be gentle and peaceful in its manner and movement of sympathetic interaction.

Along with Joseph, Mary gave Jesus a home, which although it was most unpretentious, was yet the only home He knew in the days of His flesh. Because of the character of Mary, we feel that her home was permeated with mutual trust and love and sympathetic understanding.

Saturate yourself and your children with the promises of God, true perfection: The instruction manual for imperfect mothers is already written, the Bible.  Mary used the scriptures of the Old Testament as she brought Jesus up in their simple, village home. We aren’t called to be perfect mothers, just like we aren’t expected to have the perfect house or perfect body.  We are expected to listen for the voice of God so that we hear Him when he calls us to do really difficult jobs like being a mother.  

Be Ready with Your Answer

“No man is an island, entire of itself” muses the poet John Donne. The opening line from the poem reminds me of an island in the middle portion of the Chesapeake Bay then dangles southward from the Eastern Shore of Maryland into the waters of Virginia. Our farm is a three-hour car ride and then a fifty minute boat ride from that island. I don’t visit this Tidewater wonder as much as I would like. The busyness of life gets in the way, but my heart stretches across the Bay to the Tangier Sound and on the island where generations of my kinsfolk called home.

Twenty years ago, Hollywood found the peaceful little island. Scouts for Warner Brothers throttled their glitzy vessel into the quaint harbor and docked their glam boat next to weather-beaten work boats. Film industry executives perused the island with the intent of making it a location for a romantic movie starring box office legend, Paul Newman. A few months later, Newman charted a boat and arrived on Tangier to see the place for himself. By the time Newman and his crew from Tinseltown arrived on Tangier, island council members reviewed the movie script and voted “not to permit the filming of the movie unless parts of it were revised.”

Know what you stand for and when opposition or challenge knocks at your door, be ready with your answer.

Crisfield
Photo courtesy of Neil Kaye, Tangier Island History Museum and Virginia Taylor

Allowing the movie to be filmed on the island would be an enormous economic boost to the humble island which was in need of a few modern-day upgrades. The council believed that some of the scenes in the movie conflicted with the moral convictions of most of the islanders, therefore possibly undermining what they “have stood for all these years.”

“It’s a dry island” as the locals say. In other words, alcohol is prohibited on the island. It’s been that way for centuries. The issue isn’t about the fact that restaurants on the island don’t serve alcohol or that tourists are discouraged from exercising a “bring your own bottle” policy. The deeper issue is conviction and Hollywood or Paul Newman couldn’t change that.

The Mayor met Goliath on a dock instead of a Philistine camp. Goliath brought the promise of riches and the hope of fame, but the Mayor retorted that “based on our religious values, we felt the movie was in conflict with the way we live.”

Tangier Aerial

Photo by Sheridan Alexander

Newman expressed disappointment about the rejection of filming the movie on the island. To Newman, “it’s a sad thing that the movie isn’t taking place on Tangier; it’s the ideal location.”

I suppose on the night the council members voted on the movie, echoes of Psalms 49 resounded through the town hall, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.”

Hollywood, the culture giant that ever so stealthily tries to dominate our world, creeps into our lives and before we realize it changes us along the way. This time, though, the giant couldn’t tempt or tantalize the inhabitants of an island that has been long referred to as “no man’s land.”

What will you say when the Temptress or the Giant come to call? Be ready with your answer because it’s not a matter of if they find you; it’s a matter of when they find you.

Parents equip your children and yourself to be ready with the answer when faced with a circumstance that challenges or compromises convictions in turn for temporal comforts and desires of this world.

The islanders wrangled with the Hollywood decision together, not alone and not necessarily in agreement with one another. In the end, declining Hollywood’s offer sent the message that the people care more about preserving their moral integrity and maintaining a moral standard means more than seeing the name of where you live in the credits of a movie most of the islanders wouldn’t even pay to see.

Tangier Church

Photo by Aubrey Bodine

 

This world is not our home.

Don’t allow a Giant to chip away at your biblical standards or cause a compromise. Fortify your defense.

Teach and talk about the courage of some of the hallmarks of the faith like, like Joshua, who refused to cower when he spotted the giants just over the hill and Daniel who sternly refused the culinary choices on King Darius’ menu. Their faith superseded fear or ridicule.

Build an alliance with a friend who will strengthen you and stand firm on biblical truths. The friend may not necessarily share the same convictions as you, but the foundation and measure for truth is the same.

Rules (legalism) and Convictions are not the same, so don’t confuse the two.

Pray for the wisdom of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove, Paul Miller writes,  “Jesus calls us to be wary, yet confident in our heavenly Father. We are to combine a robust trust in the Good Shepherd with a vigilance about the presence of evil in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.”

It’s true no man is an island, no one needs to go at life alone. Making that stand sometimes requires the support of community, a prayer group, a trusted friend, a spouse. Before Jesus started his ministry, he grabbed twelve followers and they hit the gospel road together. Jesus showed his band of brothers that if they intended to keep the gospel growing they needed one another, and they needed to love one another.

Let’s face it, the likelihood of Hollywood knocking on our door is slim. The likelihood that Compromise will tap on our heart is undeniably high. Just ask Judas, member of Jesus’ inner circle, who cared more about his fortune than he did God.

When you hear the tap. tap, tap of Compromise on your heart, be ready with your answer.