Whether it’s being a stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom or work full-time outside the home mom, being a mom is a tough job. Doing the laundry, potty-training, sleep-training, and after school pick-up, the “to do” list can seem never ending. Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) was created to help encourage and equip moms of young children to realize their potential as mothers, women and leaders. It was founded in 1973 and today serves millions of moms in more than 40 countries. We caught up with MOPS President and CEO, Mandy Arioto to talk about motherhood and her book, Starry-Eyed.
As a mother of three children, Arioto knows first-hand the trials mothers face. Throughout Starry-Eyed, she challenges mothers to confront the “ghosts” in their past, accept their failures, relinquish control and ultimately recognize that no one is perfect.
“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:17-19
Arioto opens up about how she had to stop “trying to be perfect,” in her book.
“For me, the trick of regaining my perspective and joy in mothering is permission to live freer. Free from clenched hands. Free not to always need to be in control. Free to do life my own way, not how everyone else is doing it. And free from being held hostage by the myth of perfection. Perfection is annoying and frankly no fun. I find perfection is at best an illusion and at worst a lie.”
In our interview with Arioto, she shared with us a practical example of how she gave up control and it left her wearing bikini bottoms.
“I have to work really at that because I really like to be in control and have everything organized and together. I work hard to put myself in situations where I am not in control. Just this week, I decided that laundry wasn’t going to be the boss of me so that means that I’m wearing bikini bottoms instead of underwear because no one in my family has clean underwear. I have to give myself permission that not everything is going to go exactly how it should all of the time. A couple of months ago, I decided that I was going to take a hip-hop dance class. It triggers me to be more free not only in my body but also I have to let things go in order to get out and take a dance class. [I have to let go] and have fun. I find that I really have to weave in intentional practices like that in order to allow myself to be free and have fun. I have a couple of self-imposed rules. I spend 15 minutes with each kid looking at them in the eye and having conversations with them. Having that time with each kid, really frees me a lot. It gives me permission to laugh with them and be silly. It’s really an intentional process on my part because I have a tendency to be serious and focused. I have to work hard to live free and be open-handed.”
Throughout the book, Arioto talks about the challenges mothers face including insecurity and infertility. She also balances it with sharing light-hearted personal stories including hiding in the bathroom so she didn’t have to share the last brownie with her kids and sending her child to school dressed for pajama day only to realize it was the next day. By sharing trials and triumphs, she hopes that readers like MOPS attendees will stand together in support for their fellow women who are in the throes of motherhood.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
In Starry Eyed, Arioto reflects on how our culture idolizes the pursuit of happiness and shuns pain.
“We live in a culture that idolizes personal happiness. We are told to pursue self-improvement at any cost. We are supposed to be so content, so fulfilled and happy all the time—and if we aren’t perpetually blissed out, we are somehow failing. That narrative isn’t useful for any of us. Because pain doesn’t mean we are doing life wrong. It just means we are doing life.”
Stop trying to be perfect! Stop trying to check everything off your task list. Rather than compare yourself to another mom or friend, take time and reflect on how God views you. Look up verses that talk about who you are in Christ. Thank Him that we are made perfect through Him. Thank God for making you who you are and ask Him to help you appreciate the differences that you see in others. Take time to get to know those that you think are “perfect.” Through getting to know them, you will learn that they are probably not “perfect.”
Instead of pursuing happiness, pursue God. Take time today to pray for your family and for God to bring order to your day. Ask Him to help you to be content with what you have. Look for ways that you can bless others. It can be an act of service. Cooking a meal for another family or sharing some gently-used clothing with a friend. God wants us to be stewards of the things entrusted to us. He wants us to recognize that everything we have ultimately belongs to Him.
Thank a mom! Whether it is your mom or a mentor that has been like a mom, take time today to write a note or call someone that has had an impact on your life. Ask God to show you how you can bless her through an act of service. You don’t have to wait until Mother’s Day to let her know that you appreciate her. Surprise her with flowers or her favorite meal.
To read our entire interview with Mandy Arioto, check out our upcoming issue of Risen Magazine.
Starry-Eyed releases August 30, 2016. For more information, visit http://www.zondervan.com/starry-eyed.