Momming: Is great too much to ask?

Written by Trisha Sheffield
Published on May 07, 2021

In the filtered reality of social media, setting “great” as a standard for motherhood feels like a lot of added pressure. 

But let’s be honest, no one wants to read something about how to become an average mom or striving for the low bar of “just OK.” 

While the word great is more than a little boring as far as adjectives are concerned, it’s a word I kept coming back to because of what it didn’t say. Namely, it wasn’t about perfection or striving for some idealized image of motherhood. 

And while the word great is highly generic, it implies effort, and that’s the part I like. I’ll never be a perfect mom, but with a posture of prayer I can yield myself to constant growth as I become the mother, but also the daughter, God calls me to be. 

Being a great mom isn’t a passive journey. It’s deliberate, imperfect, and filled with trial and error, but it’s also marked by a lifetime of love and learning, an evolution through different seasons of parenting. 

It’s the type of mom I hope to be—it’s the model my mother and my mother-in-law have given me. 

Appreciating a mother’s love 

Growing up, I know I took much for granted and easily overlooked my mother’s love and devotion. And in many ways, I don’t think I fully understood what it meant to be a good mother until I became one. 

When I aligned my experiences as a young mother against my mom’s, only then did I begin truly to appreciate her struggles and sacrifice. So as we approach Mother’s Day, it makes me think not only about my mother and mother-in-law but also the women and friends in my life whom I consider to be great moms. 

It reminds me to be grateful—grateful for the gift of motherhood, grateful for a loving mother, and grateful for the moments and memories we’ve shared. 

Intentionality and availability

Although I know I’m not alone in this, 2020 was a difficult year, but not for the reasons you might think. You see, in the summer of 2020, my mother suffered a heart attack. 

It scared me for a variety of reasons, but it also made me acutely aware of time. In our youth, we feel like we have all the time in the world with futures that stretch long across building careers and starting families, but the truth is we don’t know (James 4:14). 

Yes, age tends to bring a heightened level of awareness and reflection, but I also don’t want to look back and “wish” I had interrupted my life for the people who mean the most to me. As a result, I’ve tried to be more intentional. 

While I sometimes wonder about God’s plans for my life in this aging parent and empty nest season, lately I’ve been drawn to the idea that maybe for now it’s about availability—to serve, to listen, to sit, to enjoy. 

Seeking God

For many of you, thinking about your mom stirs positive memories—for some, though, I know it brings heartache. Feelings of loss and sadness, perhaps the burden of fractured and unhealed relationships, can fill Mother’s Day with the weight of mixed emotions. 

I have friends who walk uneasy lines with their mothers, so I recognize the struggle. If that’s you—if you have an earthly parent that has left you hurt and disappointed—remember you have a heavenly parent who loves you perfectly. 

In her article, What Does the Bible Say about Mothers?,” Danielle Bernock put it this way: “The best lesson we can learn about being a good mother is to seek to become more like God.”

Three qualities of a good mother 

So by now, you’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to get around to answering the question of what makes a great mom. While we each might have slightly different ideas about what makes a great mom, these are the ones that bubble to the surface for me. 

1. A great mom listens. 

This isn’t always the easiest thing to do. As parents, we tend to be quick with our advice. But good relationships come with balance. When I’m talking to my husband, I’m not always seeking his advice or asking him to problem solve—often I just need a sounding board. I need him to listen. It’s the same with our children. 

I think it’s important—and hard—to remember this as we interact with our kids, particularly as they become independent adults. However, the Bible is not silent on the topic of listening, as it applies to our relationship with God and with others. 

• “Be not rash with your mouth . . . . let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV). 

• “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2). 

• “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

• “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19). 

2. A great mom nurtures and equips.

To nurture our children is to provide love and care while helping them grow and develop (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). It includes training, equipping, and preparing them for life ahead (Proverbs 22:6). 

Of course, there’s balance in every season of parenting as we learn to navigate the push and pull of child development, but there also should be an element of comfort and safety that children find in their mom’s presence. 

And, by the way, this doesn’t end when your child graduates college. At every life stage, I have learned from my mother. 

It’s not heavy-handed or overt. Instead, she continues to equip me with the example she sets and the loving guidance she gives. From my mother (and mother-in-law), I have learned the type of mother-in-law and grandmother I hope to one day be.

• “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). 

• “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). 

• “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26). 

3. A great mom disciplines. 

Can we all agree that our aim in motherhood is not about being the “cool” mom or our child’s best friend? 

Boundaries are necessary, and it’s with loving discipline that we best guide and protect. I love spending time with my mom and my children—we have a great relationship, but we are not peers. 

That doesn’t make it “less than,” but it does make it different, as it should be. 

• “Do not withhold discipline from a child” (Proverbs 23:13). 

• “But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother . . . . Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:15, 17).

• “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1). 

Greatness with effort and prayer

Just three things? Well, no, the list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but, for me, each of these qualities aligns with what it means to be a great mom. 

It’s not a checklist, and it’s not intended to omit the importance of sacrificial love and asking for and giving forgiveness—each one an important characteristic of great parents! But when these things are missing, relationships tend to go awry and roles get lost. 

Regardless of the example your mother set, ultimately, we each have a choice. Just because you didn’t have a good mother doesn’t mean you can’t be one. I can point to a few friends who have made purposeful parenting decisions in order to give their children a radically different upbringing and not repeat the past. 

I, too, try to parent from failure, correcting or adjusting from past mistakes, both my own and my parents, not because my childhood was bad but because I want to make things better. 

I imagine—and hope—my children will do the same. I’m not a perfect mother, but that’s not my goal. I’m striving for great, marked by effort and prayer, so that if nothing else, my children will see God’s love through me. 

Live perfectly imperfect

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Trisha Sheffield

Trisha Sheffield and her husband Doug live in North Texas and have two adult children, Lauren and Mason. Each member of the family is a graduate of Texas A&M University, so on game day weekends in the fall, you’re likely to find at least one of them in Aggieland. For over 10 years, Trisha has worked independently as a freelance writer, and in 2019, she began a personal blog as a way to encourage, challenge and support others in their steps of faith. She is active in her local church and leads a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) discussion group. Additionally, she serves on several local boards, including CoServ Electric, the Lewisville ISD (LISD) Education Foundation and PediPlace, and is a former LISD Trustee and member of Texas A&M’s Aggie Parent and Family Advisory Council.

Read more about Trisha

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