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Thriving Motherhood Does Not Look Like Pinterest

I just want to remind every mom out there who is feeling weighed down by all the imperfect mom guilt.

Marla Szwast
May 14 · 5 min read

Life is messy.

Pinterest is a photo-op. It shows us the best possible outcomes, tied up in a bow. Completely Staged. Even my messy photo for this graphic isn’t really messy enough. Come on, walls that white with no marks? Nothing stacked on the chairs or strewn about the floor? The cookbook carefully square to the edge of the counter? The toddler not holding the bowl of batter and tipping it to see what happens?

That is ok. I am not knocking Pinterest. But seriously, I wish messy half-lit pics could be popular. So you could have an example of what it really looks like.

If your life looks like Pinterest, I am seriously worried for you.

But if it looks like mine, messy, colorful, and so busy you sometimes forget to breathe, I am here to remind you, THIS is thriving!

(But go ahead and take a deep breath.)

What’s the point of living if you can’t make a mess doing it?

I was listening to a webinar of Sarah McKinzie (of Read-a-Loud-Revival) a few years ago and she challenged listeners to grab a pen and quickly jot down the first word that came to mind when they thought about what they would want their adult children to remember about their childhood.

I wrote messy.

Then I laughed and shook my head.

How could I want that? But I also knew instantly that I did want it. (Even though I love a clean room.)

Thriving parents embrace freedom. We make our own life, our own daily rhythms, our own family culture, just how we want it.

Creation is messy. Sure you start with a pretty empty canvas, but by the time the masterpiece is done, there is paint everywhere, dirty water, turpentine, goopy rags, and stained brushes.

Art is messy. Life is art. Parenting is life. Parenting is messy.

So, let’s take those Pinterest ideas and be inspired by their beauty. The art of objects placed perfectly for a happy photo. The clarity of graphics and bullet lists.

But let’s not try to cram our own lives into those graphics or bullet lists, that would be degrading to our lives. Those things are there to lift our lives up, not confine them.

Take a minute and think about what thriving means: To grow or develop well or vigorously.

Humans need a lot of things to grow vigorously. We are not plants, who need only sunlight, water, and soil.

Our kids need a variety of healthy foods, lots of movement, music, stories, sunshine, water, love, and learning. That ignores some basic needs such as shelter, clothing, and ipads…but I digress. And also leaves out some basics which are becoming controversial such as chores and free time, but which I personally believe are cornerstones of childhood thriving.

To provide for so many things does not fit in a pot. The mess is uncontainable.

I am not saying we shouldn’t clean it up. But rather that we should accept that life is messy and the amount of mess we have to clean is in proportion to the amount of thriving that went on in our home that day. Maybe sometimes instead of feeling guilty or angry over the mess, we can just smile and lift up a grateful heart in thanks that our children were able to do so much thriving. Of course, after that blissful moment, we call the kids in and tell them to clean up their mess, it’s almost bedtime.

Because moms need space to breathe and that doesn’t start till they are in bed.

Like Jamie C. Martin suggests in her new book, The Introverted Mom, let’s define our own terms for thriving motherhood. That means letting go of a Pinterest perfect life and thinking about what is really important to you.

“We can’t talk about successful motherhood unless we also bring up the high expectations society places on moms. Somehow it’s our responsibility to mold our kids’ educations, financial futures, physical health, spiritual health, emotional health, and mental health, ensuring they thrive at all times. Viewed this way, any struggle our children have reflects poorly on us. Any immaturity signals our own weakness, not just a developmental phase for them to work through. Any public misstep is a humiliation, instead of something to giggle over behind closed doors. Any encounter with a difficult person means we failed to protect them.” Jamie C. Martin, The Introverted Mom, Chapter 12- a beautiful success — On Defining For Ourselves What Really Matters

Marla Szwast

Written by

A mom who writes, in the cracks of time, between educating, chauffeuring and feeding half a dozen kids. https://www.jumpintogenius.com