Nov 14

Not Her Best

2012 at 4:20 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood

As mothers we can sometimes feel overwhelmed because we think that, in addition to being an amazing mom, we should also be exceptional at something else, distinguishable from all the other moms out there by some trade or talent. We can be keenly, sometimes painfully, aware of our lack of specialized skill.

Many of us trained for a specific field of work only to leave it behind to come home with our baby; and then the field left us behind as we raised our children. We may see our husband excelling at his career or observe other women who seem to be exceptionally gifted at one thing or another, and because we haven’t distinguished ourselves in some way (we’ve been too busy cleaning toilets, running errands, reading children’s books, and pouring bowls of cereal), we wonder if we are really good at anything.

Twentieth century British author G.K. Chesterton has liberating insight for all mothers who feel pressure to excel in something besides caring for their children, husband, and home. In an essay entitled “The Emancipation of Domesticity” he observed that woman is a “general overseer” in the home, and as such, she must be able to do many things well—she shouldn’t have to worry about being “the best” at something.

“In other words, there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not ‘give her best,’ but gives her all….

The woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning [a living] by lecturing on botany or breaking stones….the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales—better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook.

But she cannot be expected to endure anything like this universal duty if she is also to endure the direct cruelty of competitive or bureaucratic toil. Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests.

This is what has been really aimed at from the first in what is called the seclusion, or even the oppression, of women. Women

were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad”

My fellow moms, let’s embrace the “larger plan” ordained by our Creator. Let’s not worry about being the best, but eagerly give our all to the broad calling of motherhood.

“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:27-29 ESV)