I didn’t plan on working. And I didn’t plan on staying at home. To be honest, I didn’t have much of a plan at all when I went into marriage. We were still in school and young when we got married, and children seemed a long way off into the future.
I had worked in various jobs since graduating from college, but when our daughter was born on our seventh wedding anniversary, I suddenly felt the weight of work in a new way: working meant being away from her, and being with her meant being away from work.
As a teacher at the time, her birth in May was convenient; I had the whole summer to get used to being a new mom. But the months sped by with unnerving speed, and before I knew it, I found myself in orientation meetings that August, combing the schedule for an opportunity to relieve my engorged breasts. I slipped away to pump during a break and tried desperately to keep milk from dripping onto my work slacks.
It was my first taste of the tension of being a working mom.
UNABLE TO REACH PERFECTION
My work looks different now. I still teach, but from home, and I write when I can. But it’s still work, and I hire babysitters to watch my kids during the week. Not long ago, I worked in our guest bedroom while a young woman in our college ministry played with my son for four hours so I could meet deadlines and finish projects for clients.
I heard him laughing in the family room and felt the ache of desire to hold him and be with him. Instead, I turned my attention back to the computer screen and plowed through more assignments. That same tension I felt when there was breastmilk on my slacks is the same tension I feel even now when I’m at home working in my sweatshirt and glasses.
For me, the tension of being a working mother is a constant reminder that I can’t be perfect. I can’t be everything that I want to be—full time mom and entrepreneur—and do it all well. There are always dishes in the sink and piles of laundry waiting to be folded. There are always more client projects I can work on, and there are always more books waiting to be read to my children. There are always more conversations I want to have with my husband and more crafts I want to complete with my daughter.
I try to be better at everything, and yet I can never reach perfection. Something’s always falling short.
This is the struggle of being a working mom. But this is also the struggle of being human.
THE TENSION OF IMPERFECTION
We constantly live in the tension of knowing that we aren’t doing everything well. No matter how much we might be succeeding in one area of life, there’s always sin that tugs at us in another. And it’s a painful tension—feeling the truth that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) who is perfect, but being consistently unable to attain the perfection we long for.
The tension between who we are and who we want to be is constant. We want to be perfect. And we want to live in a world that is perfect—free of pain and unstained by sin and brokenness.
Maybe, as a working mom, that tension is more obvious to me on a daily basis, because I am acutely aware of all that I’m not doing. But maybe not. Maybe we all feel it, all the time.
Maybe, as a stay-at-home mom, you feel that tension when your temper flares with the kids you prayed so hard for.
Maybe you sense that tension when you scroll online and feel the pang of jealousy over someone else’s life.
Maybe you weep over the tension of children who left your womb or this earth too soon, crying out to the Lord with tears you fear may overtake you.
Maybe you fight that tension when your husband wants to connect sexually and it seems like you have nothing to offer.
Maybe you taste that tension every time you enter church as a single parent and see everyone else’s wedding rings.
Maybe you hate that tension when it seems like everyone else is chasing their dreams and you’re barely making it out of bed.
Working mom, stay-at-home mom, divorced mom, single mom, loss mom, special needs mom, yearning to be a mom, or not a mom at all—whatever type of woman you are—we all carry the tension of imperfection. We know what it’s like to not be able to do everything—or even anything—well. It’s impossible.
We can’t do it all. We don’t have it all. We constantly fall short.
PLACING OUR HOPE IN THE PERFECT ONE
But there is One who made the impossible possible—One who lived a life that never fell short. Jesus lived the life none of us could live by fulfilling every requirement of the Law and by fulfilling every desire of the Spirit. He was—and is—perfect. He spoke the truth, set people free, and offers salvation to everyone who believes and calls upon His name (Romans 10:13).
Christ Himself resolved the deepest tension of the human heart—that aching gap that we feel when we long to be perfect but can’t be, when we long to have it all together but never come close. He resolved that tension by paying for our sins at the cross, and by making the way to know God not only possible but joyful.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
It is that grace which allows us to live in the tension of life with hope—hope that we are becoming more like Christ as we walk with Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), hope that we have all that we need for this day (2 Peter 1:3), and hope that there is a day coming when all of the tension we experience will melt away when we see Him face-to-face.
Until that day, we can know and trust that Christ is helping us to live in the tension of our daily lives with His strength and love to carry us.
We don’t have to be perfect because we have all that we need in Him.
How have you experienced the tension of imperfection in your own life? Share with us in the comments.
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Yes! I feel this all the time. As a mom to five and writer myself, there is always something I am not doing! Like you said. And if I focus on those things it can be pretty discouraging. But fixing our eyes on Jesus and his “enough ness” reminds me that I wasn’t meant to be enough.