Mother kissing her baby's feet.

WANTED: The perfect mother.

LAST SEEN: Crafting a seasonal back-to-school wreath for the front door from burlap and coffee filters.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Rises early to exercise; has a smile on her face and an encouraging Bible verse to share; bakes homemade bread; feeds her family an organic, non-GMO, gluten-free diet; effortlessly gets her children dressed each day in stylish outfits with their hair perfectly brushed.

She keeps her car immaculate as she delivers her delightful children to their academically gifted programs and traveling sports team games; is always perfectly dressed and accessorized; and can whip up her husband's favorite dessert at a moment's notice while maintaining a thoughtfully engaging dialogue about the latest world events.

The Reality

I roll out of bed at 6:25 a.m.; push the pile of clothes over to get to the bathroom; throw my hair in a ponytail; pull out four lunch boxes; start the coffee; trudge upstairs to wake up my girls.

The kitchen becomes Mathias Grand Central Station—loud and frenzied, from 6:40 to exactly 7:10 when our four sweet ladies head to the bus stop. Step inside and take it all in: breakfast choices, signing tests, bickering, brushing hair, preparing lunches, packing backpacks and sending everyone off with a prayer and a hug.

Then I make the bed, discuss the details of the day with my husband, kiss him goodbye and send him off to work. And finally, this introvert twirls around and takes in the silent grandeur and glory of an almost empty house—and eight hours at my disposal.

A New Season of Life

This is a new season of life for me, as our girls are all in school for the first time ever.

Before school started, I made a list of the ways I would use all the extra time I had. I was incredibly optimistic and thought about all the things I should add to the list.

  • Spend extended time with the Lord each morning

  • Exercise regularly

  • Look for ways to encourage my husband

  • Follow a consistent housework routine

  • Meet with younger ladies as well as my own daughters for discipleship and Bible study

  • Look for new opportunities to share my faith

  • Spend focused time pursuing my artistic interests

  • Start teaching art lessons to local kids

Right off the bat, there was a problem with this giant list. I'm not naturally disciplined or goal-oriented and I become easily overwhelmed with the addition of new pressures. As an introvert, this pressure comes in the form of a constant stream of self-talk running through my brain, all day long. I tire myself out listening and evaluating all the shoulds my brain throws my way.

"Should" is Not Your Friend

The "shoulds" start harmlessly:

You ‘should' be able to accomplish all these items on your list. These are worthwhile things. Other women are able to accomplish what they set their minds to do.

The problem with self-imposed, unrealistic "shoulds" is that they lead to guilt trips and discouragement when I can't keep up with my list. It finally hit me that "shoulds" are not my friends, nor are they the best indicators of how God wants me to use my time as a mom.

Disspelling the Myth About Motherhood

After some time spent failing to keep up with this list of my own perfect-mom qualifications, I returned to a passage that often corrects how I think about life. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul says, "I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; ... Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God."

Moms: God doesn't demand perfection, so why do we thrust this qualification upon ourselves?

Many times we fall for the myth that in order to be a good mom, we have to be perfect. This simply isn't true. In fact, we strive so hard to be like the mom described at the beginning, but the reality is this: she doesn't exist.

God doesn't call you to be a perfect mom, He calls you to be the mom He created you to be.

Knowing the gospel and that the power of the Holy Spirit is at work in me renews my mind and helps me discern what God wants from me. He gives me new desires (Psalm 37:4) and helps me think about what will best please Him and bring Him glory. I was never meant to conform to my self-imposed perfect-mom checklist, or the pressures society places on moms. God wants me to use my gifts and talents to bring Him glory, and to serve others.

My list is not meant to make me feel better about myself or to impress others.

Moving Forward in Imperfection for God's Perfect Glory

I plan to enter this school year with a better idea of how to invest my time for His glory by serving others, studying the Bible, praying, investing in my daughters, encouraging my husbandand sharing my faith.

In the large and small things, I will prayerfully live out my intention and priority to give myself as a "living sacrifice" and walk in God's grace when I mess up. I will embrace who God wants me to be—an imperfect, yet graceful mother.

Article courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

Page Mathias is married to Greg and is the mother of four girls. She holds a MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaches art.