We’ve all heard the rosy stories of homeschooling moms who love their children, love homeschooling, love their husbands, love to cook and sew—they just love, love, love! Life looks like one big happy Sunday school picnic. They are all smiles. They are fulfilled. They have it all together. They have all the answers. They never blow it.
They are often written off as being out-of-touch, judgmental, and not “real.”
Then, on the other end of the spectrum, we hear of moms who are heralded as being “transparent” and “real.” From them and their supporters, we hear all about the messes, the chaos, the challenges, the times they blow it, the frustration, and the awfulness of their parenting journey. They seem to gain popularity for vividly portraying their lack of control, lack of enthusiasm, lack of skill, lack of patience, lack of creativity in problem-solving, and lack of satisfaction with their lives.
Many follow them because they are seen as real.
On the “real” blogs, you’ll find comments that sound something like this:
“I just have to thank you for being so real. My house is a mess, I’m in my sweats, and I haven’t had a shower for three days. I just got done scraping peanut butter off the couch . . . again . . . and only heaven knows what my kids will do next. I’m so glad I’m not the only mom facing these types of problems.”
Or “I’m so tired of unreal expectations. My husband wants the house clean and dinner on the table when he gets home and I feel so much pressure when I read about moms who seem to have it all together like that. I mean, really, there are other things I want to do with my days. It’s so refreshing to read a blog post about a ‘real’ mom!”
Are the blog posts and comments like that “real”? Well, if by “real” you mean true, unfortunately, they probably are. But if by “real” you mean the way things have to be, then I say no! By glorifying and focusing on the hopeless, helpless, senseless, mind-numbing, nerve-wracking, distasteful aspects of their parenting experiences, these moms give a very unreal picture of what Christian parenting and Christian family life can be.
Now, before you get upset and turn the page, please hear me out. I’m going somewhere with this, and I’m definitely not saying we shouldn’t be authentic with each other. We should be. More on that in a moment.
Marriage and family are God’s plan for most of us, and He tells us that children are a blessing. Blessings don’t ruin our lives, they add to them! Working through challenges doesn’t weaken or ruin us, it makes us stronger and better. So no matter how things are going right now in our lives, I believe we always need to look at God’s idea of family and embrace it as real—and as we do, we need to always strive to reach His real for our lives.
As we’re on that journey, we need to be very careful about where we go for advice, support, and ideas on marriage, parenting, family relationships, and homeschooling. Because when things aren’t going well, it’s all too easy to just accept what we are told is inevitable or normal. It makes us feel accepted, which is far nicer than feeling like we need to change. But ultimately, the consequences of accepting what we need to be changing are negative. We need to make sure that we don’t get mired down, accepting and settling for the negative “real” we see in someone else’s life. Instead we need to strive to prayerfully find ways to improve. We need to always get back up after falling, and by God’s grace, continue working toward His goals for our lives.
Real life is sometimes messy and less than our idea of perfect. Illness, financial woes, personality conflicts, learning disabilities, sibling rivalry, and many other things can strike and complicate our lives. If our children are living and breathing, they know how to work on our last nerve—and try to do so on occasion. Certainly, we all fail from time to time. And when we do, our failures need to be looked at realistically—not to define us and stick us somewhere we shouldn’t be, but so that we can learn a better way to do this thing called life.
When we’re in a hard spot, or when life is just not working out like we hoped it would, we need to cling to what is truly real—and that is that God has the wisdom, power, and grace to help us in any and every area of life. As much as lies within us, we ought to be striving to get better at our jobs of wife, mother, and homeschooler. It may be real (true) that we’re in a tough spot, but what is truly real is that God has a way for us to successfully get through the tough spot. That is the real we need to focus on!
But what about when the hard spot we’re in is because we’ve personally blown it? The good news is that when we go to Jesus and admit that we messed up, we find forgiveness and grace—not condemnation! And He doesn’t just leave us to wallow in a hopeless mess of our own making. He has the power to change us and to make a way for us to grow and become better. By His grace, we can follow Him—and make it through victoriously.
Back to authenticity. Yes, there is a time to be “real”—to share our less-than-stellar moments. Yes, it can help other moms out there not to feel like complete failures when they blow it. But our goal shouldn’t be to throw a big authentic pity party for ourselves and those around us. Our aim should be to lift each other up and point us all toward Christ.
Some of the blogs, books, and articles I’ve read almost seem to glorify the chaos of motherhood. In the course of trying to help others or show their “realness,” I’m concerned that they are giving a very negative view of motherhood and may actually be causing struggling moms to stay mired in their mess instead of helping them find constructive ways to deal with their situations.
The question is, what are we focusing on with our authenticity? Are we giving God the glory by declaring our dependence on Him and His ability to help us through, or are we just focused on ourselves and our struggles?
The fact of the matter is, children are eternal beings—and God has entrusted them to us for a short time. We can choose to stress and look at the difficulties and selflessness that parenting brings, or we can glory in the wondrous thought that through the difficulties that come with parenthood, God is working through us and in us—loving us, helping us, changing us! That is pretty awesome!
So what kind of “real” do we embrace? Do we lay it all out there in its glaring ugliness and say, “This is how my life is. I blew it big time. My kids and husband are driving me nuts. I don’t clean my house. I don’t get a shower or get dressed for days on end. I’d give anything for more ‘me time.’ I’m not happy, and I can’t change it”? Talking and thinking like that may be transparent, but it focuses on hopelessness, and for a Christian mom, it is not “real” in a true sense.
But when we say “I blew it, but by God’s grace, I’m going to get back up and try again” or “Yes, this is a tough time, but I’m trusting God to lead me through it,” then, even though our lives may never be as perfect as we like, when we look to God and by His grace live in His strength, we will have a heart and a life that is really real. May that be true of all of us.
Kari Lewis is the mom here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married for thirty-eight years and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment in late 2002. More recently, she’s been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com
Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.