In which I write a letter to you, mama

Dear Mother:

There is no perfect mother.

If there is one thing that has tripped me up most as a mum, especially in the early years of this, it’s the belief that somewhere, out there, was The Perfect Mother. Sometimes she was my own mother. Sometimes she was someone online. Sometimes she was someone at church or at the playground. I’d see one brief moment of her life, or hear her speak, or see her kids, and think, I bet she never resents wiping bums or feels bored, I bet she never feels so tired that even her eyebrows are aching, I bet she loves every single minute of this mothering thing and I bet her kids listen to classical music and never bicker. I bet she’s a better mother than me. 

That just isn’t true, The Perfect Mother only exists in the land of unicorns. And the sooner you realise that we’re all in this together, that most of us feel guilty  or inadequate sometimes, that most of us will freely admit to feeling overwhelmed or tired, you’ll relax that death grip of high expectations on yourself to be perfect.

My joy in mothering these small souls was restored to me when I was released from the prison of comparison. That yearning to measure up, to be The Perfect Mother, masquerades as selflessness but really, it’s approval addiction, it’s people pleasing and you won’t be the only victim of it’s poison and its bitter need for control. 
Darling, you are mothering for an audience of One, and that One, he delights in you
And joy will come to you when you simply let that woman be the mother that she is, perfect or otherwise, and give yourself grace to figure it out as you go. Let yourself be all of the mother that you are – when you yell or get frustrated, when you ask forgiveness, when you feel your heart straining against your rib cage, all because of how he looks asleep in your arms, all because of the sound of childlish voices laughing outside, all because of the quiet nights in the monastery of the baby’s room, just rocking in a time outside of time, it’s all real and it’s all you and it’s all okay. There is grace for it all, it all makes you a mother.
There is no one right way to be a mother just as there is no one right way to be a person or a woman or a follower of our Jesus. Your child is your child. You are you. Let those two truths exist together. And let the Spirit lead you, like a wind, like the Word, like prayer and hope, like traditions and rituals, like change and newness, like hope and grieving. 
Mothering is organic, embrace the free-range life. Exhale. Relax the death-grip of comparison on your own soul, it’s crushing, isn’t it? Look to our Jesus, look to how he made you, look to the child he gave you, look to your family’s values and callings and gorgeous craziness and embrace it all. Move with freedom and confidence because you, my luv, you are not alone. 
We’re all out here, figuring it out together. Give yourself the freedom, the grace, the wisdom, the love and gentleness that you crave from others, and then turn around and pour it out, lavishly, on the mothers around you, as a sacrifice of grace.
I honour you as a mother. In fact, I think you’re just about perfect at it.
With all of my love,
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This letter is part of the Mother Letters project. My friends, Amber and Seth, are leading this project and I think it matters, I think you’ll find freedom there.
You’re welcome to join in. Just write a letter to a mother and link up here
You can buy the Mother Letters e-book here. (There’s even a photo of me and Evelynn Joan in there. And that’s an affiliate link.)

  • anna {girlwithblog}

    Thank you. from a new mama still struggling to physically heal from birthing my 4mo son, thank you. from a new mama who gets envious of other new mamas who are comfortably wearing jeans, thank you. from a new mama whose perfect babe screamed and cried for months when it seemed other babies never cried, thank you. from a new mama who is exhausted and trying to work from home and so unbelieveably in love with her first tiny, thank you.

  • Melissafedd

    Oh….so beautiful. Breathing deep on grace today…

  • Stephanie Fisher

    Thank you for these words. I think approval addiction only fades in light of the audience of One mentality.

  • Marybeth Thielke

    Oh i needed this right now! I just wrote a post similar to this, yesterday. Thank you for the encouragement to this weary Mama. Thank you! 

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    this is one thing I  love about you, Sarah. You always do make me feel that even in my imperfections, that I am doing enough. loving enough. being enough. your words are the kind I need to hear from girlfriends accross telephone lines, from husbands deep in the night, and from my own soul mornings when the sun takes awhile to rise. “Breath. You’ve got this.”

  • jennieallen

    It’s beautiful and freeing friend! Thankful for you.

  • Adriel Booker

    “You’ll relax that death grip of high expectations on yourself to be perfect.” Oh how every mother needs to find this place. I hope this letter will reach far and wide and deep Sarah.
    I’m choosing grace today. x

  • the Sooz

    I was just on a gorgeous morning walk all on my own, and for a quick second I let my thoughts go to…”I should be doing this better, and this, and that….”.  But I felt God stop me and remind me that I am my daughters Mama for a reason and to rest in that.  Then I came home to this beautiful confirmation….thank you.

  • bekka

    Wow.  You have written so many things that touch my heart, friend, but this one came at a time when I need it the most.  Thank you.

    Absolutely love this :)

  • love is all you need

    So beautiful, as are you and your blog! Thanks for sharing.

  • Kassie

    Tears in my eyes. 

    Whew…sometimes motherhood is so hard and I think I’m doing it all wrong, which is silly because my boy is still alive, still breathing… thank you.

  • Sarah Mae


  • Amanda Williams

    My prison of comparison seems to have many chambers. I’m releasing myself from them, slowly but surely, one by one. I have many to go, but with each bit of new freedom comes recovered joy. Only the grace of our good God can redeem the mistakes of a broken mother like me. BUT HE DOES. And he will. And I am grateful for your reminder of this today.

    Sending you a virtual hug.