Good Moms Do It All and Other Motherly Myths
About the Guest
Are the pressures of motherhood wearing you out? Author Karen Ehman shoots straight about the myths of motherhood, including the lie that good moms do it all. She encourages women to be realistic about how much time they have and to focus on the things that really matter. Karen tells listeners how she and her husband found balance juggling the activities of their three kids, and reminds women to step out of the chaos, while welcoming simplicity.
Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and New York Times Best-selling author. Described as profoundly practical, engagingly funny and downright real, her passion is to help women to live their priorities and love their lives as they serve God and others. Karen writes for Encouragement for Today online devotions that bring God's peace, perspective,...more
Karen Ehman encourages women to be realistic about how much time they have and to focus on the things that really matter.
Good Moms Do It All and Other Motherly Myths
Bob: As you are raising your kids with all of their activities, things ever feel like they’ve gotten out of control? Karen Ehman says, “Guess who’s responsible for that?”
Karen: We let it get to be a rat race rather than teaching our kids to just, maybe, be involved in one or two activities and not sign up for every single thing at church and at school. I feel like, sometimes, we’re raising a generation of kids that just—it’s all about them: “What activity can I be in?” And we don’t build in time for service as a family: “Go rake the lawn for the neighbors instead of going and being in another sport.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If you cancel some of the activities your kid is involved with, trust me, they’ll be okay. We’ll talk today about how you can dial back some of the pressure you feel as a mom. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you think your wife Barbara, when you were raising your kids—did she feel the pressure that moms feel today to do it right /—
Dennis: Oh yes.
Bob: —to do it perfectly?
Dennis: Oh yes. I mean, I watched it happen. There was comparison back then on all kinds of fronts between how you’re disciplining your child, how you’re feeding your child, what they wear, what they look like, and then, where they go to school.
Bob: “Are they taking tap dancing?” “Are they taking gymnastics?”
Dennis: Oh yes—athletic development—
Dennis: —mental development. I mean—
Bob: Music lessons.
Dennis: —everybody knew if you read 15 to 30 minutes a day to your child, he or she will become Einstein—[Laughter]—I mean, it’s automatic / it’s absolutely automatic.
Well, we’ve got a guest here on the broadcast that—well, she’s unmasked ten myths about motherhood. The book—
Bob: These are really near-truths. They are not untruths / they are near-truths.
Dennis: There really are some points of truth in—not all of them—
—because I think some of them are dead-wrong—that’s just all there is to it.
Dennis: But the name of the book is Hoodwinked. It’s by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk. They’ve outlined these ten myths, and we talked about a few of them earlier. I think this one is really all false: “A good mother can do it all, all at once,” and I would add “all the time.” [Laughter] No mom does it all, but it seems like all mothers feel the pressure to do it all. Don’t you think, Karen?
Karen: We do. We feel that pressure, not only externally, but we put it on ourselves too. We think we need to be the one that’s teaching our children, and clothing our children, and disciplining our children, and running them here and there, and just doing all of it. And we—like you say—do it all, all at once. All that makes us is—not a supermom—it just makes for a worn-out woman.
Bob: Well, and here is part of the challenge with that—because you’ll walk into one mom’s house, and it’s pristine—it’s beautiful, it’s clean, everything’s in order.
The house looks like the photographer came yesterday to take the pictures for Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Dennis: It’s not Better Homes though, today, Bob.
Bob: What is it?
Dennis: It’s Pinterest®.
Bob: So, you look at that, and you think, “Gee, I wish my house would look like that.” Then, the next place you go—you are with a mom, and her child just plays their recital piece perfectly on the piano. You think, “Okay; I’ve got to get my kid to do that.” Then, the next place you go, you’ve got a child who scores two goals in the soccer game to win. You come home at the end of the day, thinking, “Beautiful house, music lessons, soccer star—we must accomplish all of it.” Well, it took three women to make that happen. The one with the beautiful house—her kid hasn’t touched a piano in months; you know? So, it’s really a collective expectation that no mom can accomplish on her own.
Karen: Yes, we take the best of what we see in each mom—the best of them: “They are really great at cooking,” or “They’re a fabulous house-keeper,” or “Boy, are their kids smart!
“She teaches them Latin when they are in second grade,” or whatever. We take the best of all these moms—their strengths—and we somehow stack them all in a row and say that we need to do all of those, and we need to do them all right now or our kids aren’t going to turn out right.
Dennis: And we’re comparing from a distance. You’re not up-close and personal. You really don’t know what’s going on behind the curtain.
Karen: No; exactly. In fact, one of my mentors used to tell me: “Stop comparing your insides with somebody else’s outside. You’re just seeing their best foot forward behavior—the good parts of their lives, what they would put on Pinterest or Facebook®. You don’t know what goes on in their home. You don’t know the things that they struggle with and the things that they aren’t good at.”
Dennis: The pressure is relentless. You tell a story—I assume it’s you / you coauthored the book. Was it you that got the phone call that caused you to go to the bedroom, crying, and your husband thought somebody had died?
Karen: Yes! The phone rang one afternoon. It was back when my husband worked afternoons and all our children were small. The oldest ones were being homeschooled. We were all at home on this afternoon.
I was kind of cleaning up the lunch dishes—that’s when we had our big family meal since my husband worked nights. The phone rang, and I took the call in the other room and came back crying.
My husband said: “What in the world?! Did somebody get in an accident? Did somebody die?” I said [mimic crying], “No, Senator Garcia—his office called and asked if I’d make two dozen cookies for the election results party; and I said, ‘Yes.’” I just bawled; and he thought, “What in the world?!” But the reality was I had let my plate get so full of outside commitments that just making cookies tipped me over the edge because I had no time left because I was trying to do everything all at once.
Dennis: So, what can a husband do to help with this myth?
Karen: Bake the cookies. [Laughter]
Bob: There you go!
Dennis: Don’t just eat them!
Bob: Lighten her load a little bit.
Dennis: Don’t just sample the dough—[Laughter]—get in there and help her make the cookies, wash the dishes, put the kids to bed so she can do that. I am serious about this.
Bob: Well, and you suggest in the book that, in addition to dad helping out, there are some things a mom needs to do.
You say, “Instead of trying to be supermom, just be a super mom.”
Bob: And there is a difference between being supermom and being a super mom.
Karen: Exactly. Whatever that looks like for you—what your strengths are—capitalize on them. The things that are your weakness—farm it out. I should have said, “I would love to donate. I’ll have the bakery send over some cookies,”—
Bob: That’s right.
Karen: —or something. But we have to be realistic about how much time we have and what we can handle in our life because I think we don’t think about this one word—limitations. A mom has limitations, and there is a breaking point. We just continue to pile more and more things on our plate—be a “yes” person to everybody that asks us. We say, “Yes,” because we want to be liked. Especially, I find women who stay at home—often, they are looked at like they have all the time in the world. So, they get asked to do a lot more things sometimes. I know I fell into that trap when I was an at-home mom before I worked outside the home.
We say, “Yes,” to all these things because we want to be liked. We think we’re capable; but we need to really ask, “Am I called to do this?”—not just, “Am I capable?” because we have the curse of capability.
We’re capable of doing lots of things and doing lots at the same time; but there is a breaking point where we need to just stop and say, “No.”
Dennis: You compare motherhood—in fact, this is one of your myths—to a mom being a NASCAR race driver / that she’s engaging in the rat race.
Karen: Yes; and that’s another one of those almost-truths. Motherhood can often look like a rat race, but it doesn’t have to be. We need to learn to say, “No,” to things; and we need to learn to not let our kids be involved in everything.
I tell you—it used to be in our culture that success was determined by what kind of car you drove or what neighborhood you lived in. Now, I really feel that family’s often measure success by how busy we are. Just think about standing on the sidelines of a soccer game or football game; and you say, “Oh, how’s it going?” “Oh, good, good. We’re busy, busy. Oh my goodness—Janie’s in dance lessons, and Sammy’s in soccer. Then, they both do this, that, and the other thing outside the home. We just never eat dinner together anymore. We’re just busy running from one thing to the other.”
We let it get to be a rat race rather than teaching our kids to just, maybe, be involved in one or two activities and not sign up for every single thing at church and at school.
Bob: This is really a call to reevaluate, and reprioritize, and learn how to say, “No,” to some things that are good but not best. You’re going to have to look at: “What’s the prime goal? What is it that you really have to win at?”
Dennis: And Bob, this is where I just want to call the dads: “Step up. Lead your family—love your wife / protect your wife. Sometimes, you have to protect your wife from herself.” She will schedule the kids—
Bob: You speak as one who had experience in this.
Dennis: Well, Barbara was very competitive. She liked to see the kids compete, and we pretty much agreed the kids would—with six children, we would have one sport per child because, if you’re not careful, you’re only going to be a couple of ships passing in the night—
Dennis: —running kids all over town to gymnastics, soccer, basketball, football, baseball—
—whatever the season may be—and really may not have much of a family at all.
We had a date night, and I would have to say—this was our sanity in raising six children. We got together on a Sunday night, and we would pull our schedules out—we would look at where we had been, we would decide how far we could go and how fast we can run this race. We were constantly tossing things overboard, getting rid of commitments, and evaluating what we had committed to do. We could not do it all.
It’s back to the previous myth—nobody does it all, and you are comparing from a distance. You just think the other families do it all. There is a bunch they are not doing.
Karen: And I know, for us, one thing we did with our kids was—we said they could have one major and one minor each year. So, they had one major thing they wanted to do—one sport they wanted to be in or extracurricular activity. Then, they could pick one other one; but after that, they were done. If they wanted to be in a third sport or a third activity, they had to cough up the money and pay for it themselves.
—she had two activities. She was in drama, and she was in volleyball; but one year, she also wanted to play soccer. Why?—because all of her friends were playing soccer. She hates to run—she didn’t want to be in that sport, but she didn’t want to miss out on the fun. She’s very social. So, we told her she could be in it if she coughed up the money and arranged rides because we were at our limit for the shuttle service at our house.
After about three practices, she came home and she said: “You know what? I really don’t like soccer. I think I’m just going to go to the games and cheer my friends on instead.” I think us making her invest that money really made her make that decision on her own because, so often, we just get out the checkbook and we keep writing checks, and allowing them to be in unlimited amounts of activities, and they just keep signing up for it.
The other danger that I see in it, too, is—I feel like sometimes we are raising a generation of kids that just—it’s all about them: “What activity can I be in?” We don’t build in time for service as a family: “Go rake the lawn for the neighbors instead of going and being in another sport.”
Dennis: That’s what I wanted to speak to. Maybe, some parents, who are independently wealthy, and they have all the money they can cough up for all these sports and everything.
You know what? You’re still the parent. You’ve got to help them get through childhood and, frankly, allow for some time of innocence—allow them to play in the front yard / go exploring outside. They don’t always have to be in organized competitive sports, or academics, or whatever it may be. You be the parent—set the direction and remember your kids are looking to you to protect them from what they don’t know about.
Karen: So often kids today don’t know how to interact with a whole group of kids unless there is a coach with a whistle or a teacher telling them what to do. We need to let them just go play kickball in the neighborhood like we used to when we were growing up—just that downtime of interacting and being kids.
Bob: We’re talking to Karen Ehman today. She is coauthor of a book called Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why They Need to Knock It Off.
As you’ve said about these myths, there may be a kernel of truth in some of these myths.
One of the myths you deal with is the fact that how your kids turn out all depends on you. There is a kernel of truth in how our kids turn out is related to how we do, as moms and dads; but they are still their own people; aren’t they?
Karen: Well, actually, a couple of the myths that we wrote about touch on that. One is that: “Everything depends on me.” We think that we are the end all, do all, be all to our kids. We have to provide for their every need, be their only source of encouragement, their only source of teaching them anything. It just makes us be plum worn-out when we think it all depends on us.
I know one thing that was suggested that I do—that I did—that I’m so glad I did—was I prayed for all three of my children that, by the time they were 12 years old, they would have a mentor in their life—someone who had the same morals and values that my husband and I have—that were strong Christians / that would point them to Scripture, but that were not us.
I saw this, especially, in my oldest child / my daughter when she was a teenager. She would have something that was tumultuous / a little bit of drama in her life and needed to talk to somebody.
She always didn’t come to me—sometimes, she went to Ms. Ellen. And you know what? I learned to be okay with that. I don’t have to be her everything.
Karen: I want my kids to get used to going to others for godly counsel and not think that I have to solve all their problems and just be everything to them.
Bob: And in fact, having Ms. Ellen’s and others around is a great asset for parents because, sometimes, your kids will hear the person outside of the home saying something and they will listen with different ears than when they hear Mom saying it.
Karen: That exactly happened to us. Sometimes, she would come home from Ms. Ellen’s house and say: “Mom, I talked to Ms. Ellen. She really thinks that I should do ‘x’, ‘y’, ‘z,’”—or whatever. I’m thinking: “Are you kidding me? I told you that six months ago!”
Karen: But she didn’t hear it from me. She needed to figure it out on her own. She’d hear somebody else say it before she owned it and did it herself.
Dennis: And sometimes, single men and women—who are in college or, maybe, out of college and starting their own lives—can be a good surrogate aunt or uncle for our children.
What we have to do is make our home available for them to come over and have dinner. That happened a lot with us as we raised ours. I had guys—who worked with me, here at FamilyLife—and they’d be over at the house helping me prepare for something we were going to host for the ministry. My kids feel like some of those guys were big brothers / they were part of the family. It’s all in how you are hospitable and encourage these folks to come to your place.
Bob: Well, and that’s healthy. It’s healthy for your kids to see that diversity and to see that there are other grownups who think like Mom and Dad. It’s not just crazy Mom and crazy Dad thinking that way but to know that there is a broader community out there who feel that way.
But the truth is, Karen—at the end of the day, we mark our kids indelibly, as moms and as dads. When we look back from our vantage point—look at our parents—we know that, maybe, we mark our kids by being absent / maybe, we mark our kids by being unloving with harshness.
There can be negative marks that are left on a child by the things we do or the things we don’t do. In the same way, we have the privilege of helping to mold and shape the thinking and the character of a child.
That’s not insignificant, but we also have to remember—and I know this because we raised five kids and they turned out different and they made different choices. One child grows up this way—obedient and following the rules. Another child grows up, pushing against those rules. I’m going, “It’s the same parents, but it’s different kids”; aren’t they?
Karen: Yes, and we need to learn to not tether our child’s choices to our identity because we do that so often. They make a good choice: “Yay! I’m a great mom!” They do something wrong, “Oh, I stink as a mother.” We get our emotions all tied up into it.
We need to model for them making good choices. We need to let our kids see us going to God to help us make our choices, but we need to realize the results are in their hands. Whatever good comes of them is not necessarily because of me—
—it’s in spite of me—and it’s because of God’s grace in their life. Of course, I want to try to impact them for good and show them the way that leads to a life that honors God; but I can’t get so tied up into it that, if my child decides that that’s not the way for them, that I feel like it’s my fault. I need to be obedient and leave the results up to God.
Dennis: You do. And I just want to go back to something we’ve touched on here. I really agree with you that parents shouldn’t think it all depends upon them. But there are certain things that do depend upon the parent. You need to take responsibility to teach your child about God, to teach them how to handle the traps they’re going to face as they go through pre-adolescence and adolescence. You need to help them understand sexuality—who they are, how they’re made, how God made them. You can’t delegate those things out formally. You’ve got to assume responsibility and pray that God adds the building blocks to your son or daughter’s life as they grow up.
Bob: Well, this goes back to what we were saying. There are so many things you can do as a parent, but there are a handful of things you must do. It’s separating the can-do from the must-do that is the prioritization that a mom has to regularly go through because we can get—moms and dads—we can get seduced by the can-do and leave the must-do in the dust just because we didn’t stop and think about it.
Karen: One thing I have learned to ask myself is, “What can only I do?” Yes, there are some things that someone else can do for my kids; but only I can be the one to do some of the things that Dennis just mentioned. Ask yourself, “What can only I do?” and focus on those things. Leave the rest—you know, if they don’t get done, that’s fine / or if you have to farm it out—get the cookies from the bakery because your child needs you to—
Karen: —talk through something important in their life with them that day. It’s okay. We can’t do it all.
Dennis: Your identity doesn’t need to rest on whether your cookies were made from a 100-year-old cookie recipe that goes back four generations.
Bob: That has flour that was milled from grains from the Middle East that are full of nutrients that you don’t get anywhere else.
Dennis: Yes; exactly. But I’ll tell you what does matter—is where your kids get their marching orders about how they are going to view dating, and the opposite sex, and how they’re going to go about establishing a relationship. And it’s why, Bob—we created Passport2Purity® / Passport2Identity™—a couple of tools that parents use to equip their kids to handle these issues.
And I know you are talking about here, Karen—you’re talking about parents assuming too much responsibility. I just want to go back to what we talked about here about those things that are your responsibility.
Bob: Well, it’s in that list of the must-do’s—the things that—
Bob: —we’ve got to make sure we cover, as parents. You know, we had a dad who came to us, years ago, after taking one of his kids through Passport2Purity—
—he said: “You know what? If you gave me about four or five things like this to do with my children, as they are growing up, I’d be so far ahead of most parents.”
So, after we’d done Passport2Purity, we said, “Let’s design another experience like this for parents and 14-/15-year-old kids, who are struggling with: “Who am I?” “What am I good at?” “What should I be doing with my life?” “How do I fit in with others?” So, we said, “Let’s create a couple-of-days getaway, where a mom can take a daughter / dad can take a son, and you go off for a couple of days and you talk about “What’s your identity?” “Who did God make you to be?”
Our listeners ought to find out more about Passport2Identity when they go to FamilyLifeToday.com because we’ve got information about it there. I would also encourage you: “Get a copy of the book, Hoodwinked, that Karen Ehman has written, along with Ruth Schwenk.” It’s Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off. Hopefully, it’ll help some moms—just read the book and go:
“Okay; alright. Take a deep breath,”—because that’s what you were going for; right? At the end of this book, you want moms to just kind of go [inhale], “Okay, I can do this; and it’s going to be okay.”
Karen: Give themselves some space, and give themselves some grace, and just keep showing up, and being the best mom that you can be for your unique children.
Bob: We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, by phone, the number is 1-800-358-6329; or you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
And there is one other myth that you talk about in your book that a lot of women have told you they buy into this myth, and it’s one you’ve wrestled with too; right?
Karen: Yes, and that is the myth that my child’s bad choice means I’m a bad mom. And that means—whether they are two years old and they are pushing down a kid in the ball section at the fast-food place, where they are supposed to be playing happily, and now they are the ball room bully—
—or maybe, they’re in middle school or high school; and you get a call from the principal that they are sitting in the office, busted for a prank they thought was completely—
Bob: Been there.
Bob: Know what you are talking about; yes.
Karen: I don’t have any experience with that anyhow. [Sarcastic grunt] Or maybe, they are an adult child that has made a really crucial choice that’s made a big difference in the trajectory of their life. Now, you’re beating yourself up, thinking, “It must be something I did.” We tether our child’s choices to the core of our identity—then, we decide that we’re a bad parent—or if they make good choices, we think: “Wow! We really rock as a parent!”
We need to know that we need to model good choices for them, pray that they will make good choices, teach them how to do it—how to go through Scripture / how to get godly counsel—but know that they are their own. We are all going to stand before God someday. We’re not going to answer for what our kids did or what our parents did. We’re going to answer for what we did.
Dennis: Being a successful mom is committing your children to God—
—studying the Bible, praying, asking God for wisdom, doing the best job you can in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, and then, leave the results to God. You cannot guarantee the results of how your child is going to turn out. As one person said, if you want a guarantee, go buy a car battery because you’re not going to get a guarantee with a kid. They have their own will / their own way—it’s part of the mystery—but also part of the challenge of raising the next generation.
Bob: And it’s one of the reasons why we’ve got to routinely adjust our thinking, as parents, and remember what the Bible teaches about the assignment God has given us, and what’s true, and keep doing what we’ve been called to do and trust God that He is in control.
Again, I would encourage our listeners to get a copy of Karen’s book, Hoodwinked. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Karen—thanks, again, for being with us.
We need to say, “Congratulations!” before we’re all done here today to our friends, Wayne and Crystal May. The Mays live in North Carolina. Today is their one-year wedding anniversary. So, they’ve gotten through the first lap in this relay race that we call marriage.
At FamilyLife, we’re all about celebrating anniversaries. This is our 40th anniversary, as a ministry; but we really want our focus to be on all of the anniversaries that have been celebrated over the last 40 years as a result of how God has used FamilyLife in the lives of so many people. And we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who partner with us to make this ministry possible. We appreciate your support as we seek to bring practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family every day on this program, on our website, through our events and our resources. We’re grateful for you joining with us in that effort.
You can make a donation to support FamilyLife Today online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—
—make your donation over the phone; or mail your donation to us. Our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how you can teach your kids to know God in more than a superficial way. Bruce Ware is going to join us to talk about how we teach big truths to young hearts. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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