I have five children. Each one of them is as different as the next, and I have spent my mothering years marveling at the way one God created such beautiful diversity in my children. It thrills my heart to watch their unique personalities develop because I know that each of my children is a special, one-of-a-kind creation by my artist-God.
I understand that children were custom-made by a God who makes all things well.
But I have struggled to accept the fact that He does the same thing with mothers.
Somehow, I have created an image in my mind of what a good mother should be, and she is everything I am not. She is the play-date mother, the birthday party planning mother, and the bedtime story mother.
But I am the mother who goes shopping for her twins’ birthday presents at 9 pm on the day of their birthday. I am the mother who can’t remember when the last time was anyone bathed and who is so done with words and little hands touching me and people in my space that by the end of the day, I’d rather clean out the garbage disposal with my bare hands than read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie one more time.
I have spent eleven years beating myself up about it, too. I am selfish, I am antisocial, I am not what a good mother should be. I should love tucking my kids in to bed at night. I should adore snuggling. I should not hope all the other mothers cancel before I have to host the play-date.
I thought I carried this burden alone, but perhaps a friend knew of my inner struggle when she pressed a book into my hands at church one day. It was a copy of MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths.
I looked at it and thanked her, but I was heart-raw over my insufficiencies and my perceived failings. I choked back a sob when I saw it. But I opened the book when I got home because I knew she would ask what I thought.
That is when my view of my parenting changed. From the very first page of the introduction, entitled “Breaking Through the Myth of the Ideal Mother”, my heart began to heal.
The book, which is not overtly Christian, affirms the very godly idea that each and every mother is uniquely—differently—created. Her God-given personality colors everything she does, including parenting, which is why no two mothers mother in exactly the same way. It’s like we’ve all been given a different set of crayons. The trouble is, we often value one color over another. The point of this book is that the blues are not any better than the reds. They’re just different, and that difference is wonderful.
With the help of the first section of the book, I was able to identify my mother style “colors.” I began to understand why some things, like bathing my children, are hard for me. Other things, like coming up with ways to entertain the children on rainy day, are as natural as breathing.
The truth is, every personality has strengths and weaknesses (even that personality I idolize). The author takes great care in affirming the benefits and highlighting the pitfalls of each type of mother so that we can all stop feeling guilty about who we aren’t and start embracing the gift of who we are.
The second section deals with the other personalities in the home. Differences in personality can cause conflict or misunderstanding in the home, or they can bring great joy and fulfillment. The trick is to value and work with those differences.
This section was particularly helpful for me in understanding the needs, motivations, and values of my direct-opposite child. Learning to understand this boy, who seems to be made out of different clay, has helped me to create a family culture that is satisfying to both of us.
The final section of the book puts all the pieces together in very practical ways, like whether or not to work outside the home and how to avoid stress. It is at this point that I wish the book had a Christo-centric focus because I never want to make any parenting decisions apart from Him. However, it is easy to infuse those beliefs into these final chapters and glean from the author’s wisdom.
It has been several years since I first read this book. The difference it has made in my confidence as a mother has been so invaluable, I find myself recommending it to other moms and earnestly hoping they will read it. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t measure up, that you’re not a good mother, or that you are somehow sacrificing all of yourself for your family, please read this book. You will come to understand your custom-made personality, appreciate your mother style, and learn to color your home with the crayons God chose just for you.