Does Mother Know Best?

by Bailey on February 24, 2012 in Grace, Obedience

An anonymous commenter left this on my blog the other day:

What are your thoughts on the relationship between Christian teenage girls and their mothers? Several sweet and Godly girls I know, who are anywhere from 14 to 18, seem to have struggles with the way their mothers run the household. (Again, including me.)

Not that everything our mothers do is wrong, it’s just that we are all maturing and realizing just how many imperfections our mothers have. We all love our mothers, but for me personally, I keep seeing things that my mother does, taking mental note of them, and thinking, “I will not do that in my future household.” I know I am picking at my mother’s faults, and behind that is a load of guilt. All that to say I would love it if you wrote a post, stating your feelings and opinions on this subject.

I’m going to take a stab in the dark that the commenter disagrees with the tone her mother sets in the home—the Priorities, the Rules, the Important Stuff. I know the feeling of eyes popping open: “You mean my mom has faults?” I think the mother/daughter relationship shifts then, when mother comes down to the level of a human—finite and fallible. It then becomes very frustrating for a daughter to balance obedience and figuring things out for herself.

My response is not from a girl who has no opinions, who has a perfect relationship and who is fine substituting her will for another’s.

It’s a response from a girl who’s learned that being right or wrong is not the biggest factor in a relationship.

It happens sometimes every other day, mainly every day and mostly every hour or so where I’m sitting in the living room amid piles of books, blankets and baby dolls. Dust lines the shelves, dog hair flies everywhere, a boy has left a mud footprint by the door. Dusk is rolling in but the lights are still off. I’m sitting and I’m reading, chilling after doing blows with consumer math. And my mother enters, abhorred by the toys, the noise, the mess, the stress. Without fail, she asks me how I can live in such squalor. I look up surprised.

My motto is “Why do today what one can put off for tomorrow?” As long as everything is functional, there are no guests over and everybody’s having fun, cleaning the living room can wait till Saturday or at least when the babes ship off to bed. No point in multiple ten second tidies. To me, the house and the noise level doesn’t matter as much as romping with the kids; chores are on the bottom when it comes to spending precious time.

But my mother is very organized, logical and neat. She has chore lists hanging from a ribbon that all the homeschool mothers flock to first thing. She systematically plans meals. She disciplines herself to get up early and puts duty before pleasure. It bothers her greatly when things are amiss. She stresses getting the house in order so that we can all enjoy each other as a family afterward.

I resented this. I thought she purposefully tortured my existence by expecting around-the-clock clean-up. I grumbled all the time about how I was so not going to do this OCD thing when I grew up.

Surprise, surprise, a realization hit me on the head mid-grumble. Did my mother have all the proper techniques and approaches down? No. Did she have to? Well—no.

I think disagreeing with our mothers’ approaches in homemaking, child rearing and standard setting is the stay-at-home daughter equivalent to piercing one’s belly button. We want our space. We want our own personhood. And that’s good—that is, after all, the goal of training homemakers: teaching them to be good keepers of their own homes.

However, in this truth of growing up is a pride lie—the one that turns detergent brands and chore lists into a huge rift between mother and daughter. It’s the lie that the real issue is “she’s not doing it right” instead of “I’m refusing to show grace.” It’s the lie that a mother is deserving of criticism and disrespect because she’s imperfect.

Daughter, you’re imperfect too.

Once a daughter realizes her mother is imperfect and once a mother realizes her daughter can be imperfect too, the most beautiful relationship springs up. A daughter can share her ideas with her mother, communicate her feelings and concerns, without being guilty of rebellion. A mother can accept ideas and change her approaches without feeling threatened by a young upstart.

When I stepped back from the immediate woe of setting book down and picking toys up, I realized that much of what makes our home unique comes from my mother’s orderliness—the very thing that drove me up a wall. Everyone compliments her on our well-kept home and her organizational skills. She’s an absolute whiz at taking command and transforming chaos to calm. I’ve learned to appreciate that and go easy on the criticism.

This isn’t really a matter of acknowledging that “mother knows best” and that daughter needs to check her opinion at the door. This is a matter of understanding the fundamental beauty of homemaking—every woman’s home looks different—and the fundamental freedom of grace—love covers a multitude of sins. My mother’s home is not a perfect one but mine will certainly not be either. But it’s her home, right now, and she runs it the best she knows how—aided by a boatload of experience learned the hard way.

And if I’m perfectly honest, I might be bothered by dog hair if I was a homeschooling mommy of nine too.


Bailey is a seventeen-year-old homeschooler in love with anything literary or theological. The second oldest of nine children, she finds joy in romping with her younger siblings, scribbling in her ever-expanding notebook and trying her hand at the home arts.

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Sue February 24, 2012

I could identify with the commentor’s question, and thought to share a line on how the Lord worked in my heart regarding this. I like the way you said it, Bailey: the bottom line isn’t “My mother is wrong”, but “I’m refusing to show grace”.

I remember times realizing that my mom isn’t perfect and thinking those things too, that I will never do that one day when I set up my own home. It caused me difficulties until I realized that no matter who’s right, and what I think my mom did wrong, THE LORD WANTS ME TO HONOR HER AS MY MOTHER REGARDLESS OF THE IMPERFECTIONS! It changed my whole attitude towards my mom and towards the issue too! 🙂

Jamie February 24, 2012

I’m well past my teen years, but this post struck a chord in my heart. Despite being married and having a home of my own, I spend nine months moved back in with my parents a few years ago during my father’s health crisis just trying to help them keep the world together. That period of time nearly broke my relationship my with mother.

It wasn’t until months later as I healed emotionally and prayed deeply through my anger and resentment that God really opened my eyes. My mother is human, and like many women she has long-buried hurts, heart-wounds from misunderstandings and miscommunication, soul-deep fears and carries frustration and resentment in her heart over expectations and goals long held dear but still denied or unrealised.

If I were walking through any of those situations or struggles with a friend and the perspective a little bit of distance can bring, I’d have had so much more grace and compassion! My first response would have been to love on and weep with her. But because I was so close to the situation it was easy to take her responses personally or feel like I needed to defend myself.

Guilt – mentioned by the anon commenter cited in the post – is a distraction, designed to keep us from focusing on and moving forward in the right and proper responses to something. Don’t accept it! Ask forgiveness, and then set your eyes on a better choice. Try to understand why your mother does something. Practice loving her through the frustration – it’s good practice for when you have kids and a husband who will need you to do the same. 🙂

abba12 February 24, 2012

I’m much like you. The house should be ‘tidy’, but I don’t understand women who find themselves up till midnight cleaning, or constantly picking up house. I’ll never understand why anyone sees a need to mop daily, and as far as I can tell, you go from clean shelves to dusty shelves in a week, but after that first layer of dust accumulates so quickly, it never really looks any worse until the spiderwebs appear, so why bother wiping off the layer of dust weekly? It will just be back tomorow, is it worth that work for a day or two dust free? I dust monthly *cough, sometimes, cough* and really don’t notice much difference.

Don’t get me wrong, I clean, my house is most certainly hygenic and usually fairly clean in regards to dust and buildup, the floor is picked up at least daily, and occasionally we even find a mop somewhere! But while some women seem to spend, excluding kitchen duties and dishes, 3 hours a day cleaning house, I spend perhaps 40 minutes, most of that on clothing, and 1.5 hours on a saturday when we do weekly and monthly jobs. I’d much rather spend an hour playing with my children and an hour doing something for myself than 2 hours cleaning house when, to me, it makes almost no difference to vaccum daily as it does weekly.

Sometimes I feel like a bad mum because I’m NOT run off my feet like I’m ‘supposed’ to be.

Anyway, my point is, I’ll bet I have at least one child who thinks things would be far more efficient if we just dusted every morning or some other crazy notion like that 😛 And… well, I’m not sure what I’ll do about that, I just hope she offers me some grace in being different.

rebekah February 24, 2012

I did not leRn to have grace for my mother’s immperfections or homemaking style till after I was married. We get along now, but I would have benefited from this wonderful advice to lay down my pride and agenda to make a friend. This would have prepared me better for having grce on my fellow homemakers as well, an issue God has had to work carefully in me. What a fantastic post!

Heather Mac February 24, 2012

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on a most delicate issue. Your post has provided an excellent “spring board” for good discussion with my own DD. Have a blessed day!

Heather :) :) :) February 24, 2012

Beautifull written 🙂 🙂 I think the “love and grace” part is the most important thing to remember when we look at how our mom’s do things versus the way we think they should be done 🙂 🙂 Great post 😉 Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

Jacki M. February 24, 2012

Having a daughter than can see what doesn’t work for her is a blessing. That means that as a parent you have raised someone who is her own person, with the daughter extending grace towards her mother, you know the Lord is in her heart. What a blessing indeed!

Brooke February 24, 2012

This is an excellent post! I love the last part where you show the product of grace is being able to share ideas with each other! I am a Mom of three little ones and I try to listen to the advice people give me respectfully,take what I can use and mentally toss out the rest. I love talking to my Mom because we can bounce ideas off each other and be so honest with each other. 🙂

Annalyn February 24, 2012

Can I just copy/paste what I wrote a while back about my relationship with my mom?

When my mother was my age, I was 15, old enough to remember what things were like- how mouthy and moody I was, how wild and rambunctious my brothers were, how challenging things were for my parents…

Now that I’m an adult in my own right, I feel my mother’s faults and flaws actually make her more approachable. We both know that neither of us is perfect… and THAT’S OK!!! We commiserate over our mistakes. We rejoice in our triumphs. We point out strengths and qualities we appreciate in each other (making each other cry in the process, lol).

christie elkins February 24, 2012

This is very beautifully written! I pray my four year old daughter grows in a young woman who fears the Lord and loves his Word. Thanks for your post! (And the “Tangled” reference is well timed around here–we watched that movie for the 1st time last month!)

Colleen G February 24, 2012

Excellent response.

A Mama's Story February 24, 2012

Did I read this correctly? This was written by a 17 year old? If so, WOW! You are blessed with a wisdom beyond your years. You hit several nails on the head, at least in my own life, and I pray you will continue to be a blessing to others.

Cindy February 24, 2012

I so wished I had had your level of insight and maturity when I was your age. Instead, by then I had made many, MANY grave mistakes in my life and was out on my own. My rebellion started full blown when I was 13, but the seeds of anger and the “seeing my mother as imperfect” had started at a very, very, young age.
I so hope that with my 2 daughters, I will be able to develop a better relationship than I had with my mother. I honestly didn’t think it was possible, but I am seeing now, that there are indeed daughters who love their mothers, like you. Thank you.

Amanda S February 24, 2012

“when I have my own home” – is actually now. Not when you move away from your parents – because (I’m assuming the marriage thing here) then you will be keeping your husbands home and doing things to please him, his way more often than not too. The when is now. Ask how are you being accountable for that? How are your room and your relationships looking? Perfect? I think we need to move away from the way “we” would do things and simply practice Gods way of doing things. Dusting daily may not be necessary but it also may be if God brings you into a situation that calls for it (ie a particular husband, a child with allergies, a very dry and dusty environment) – so its good to have the necessary skills and abilities to care for your home – but being slow to offense is a whopper we really need to have under our homeskills belt. Meal plans and daily routines, chores, discipline of our children – looks different in most homes, but its only useful if its bringing a blessing – but the perfecting of a meek and quiet spirit is more highly prized by God and that is what should be being worked out in our lives more fervently – gentleness, kindness, generosity. Those things when THEY are seen more easily in your home rather than mopped floors and homebaked lovelies will mean God is truly glorified. (personally I’d like to manage both well) So whilest we pick the speck out of others eyes, theres a real chance that we aren’t practicing the very things we’ll need most in our “own” homes and you have a wonderful opportunity to do that under your mothers imperfect authority. Consider your home Gods perfect training ground for you – your parents Gods perfect teachers for you – and continue to practice honor and love which I dont think we can ever claim to have enough of. (ps – i’m not sure too many mothers consider their ways perfect either so it might even be a conversation you could have with your mum about her journey too) x

Diana February 24, 2012

Growing up, I had a long laundry list of all the things that my mother was doing wrong in parenting, homemaking, you name it. That list lasted until our eldest turned about two, and I was plunged into hardcore parenting – and realized that not only was I not so hot as a parent, but I was not even keeping up with my mom. Having done it for a bit now, I am much more into showing grace for my mom’s foibles – she did an awesome job for where she was coming from (and probably better than I’m doing).

Lisa Maria February 25, 2012

Beautifully written Bailey…you’ve answered this reader’s question with so much wisdom and tact. As the mother of 21 yr old, 19 yr old and 15 yr old daughters, it was good to see the daughter’s perspective. I know I’m not perfect but my children’s judgement of me does hurt. I guess all mothers want to continue being loved and adored by their children as they were when they were little. There is no love so unconditional as a child’s. I absolutely agree that grace is vital part of the parent-child relationship…its something I’ve been trying to show my own children. Hopefully when they read this they will recognize it for themselves and come to understand that love does indeed cover over a multitude of sins.

Thank you for a wonderful article and God bless you!

Laura February 25, 2012

My mom and I have always had a good relationship and respected each others household decision. But I had a hard time understanding my mom’s emotional and relationship decisions, until I realized that she was not just a person, but a woman, and she has hurts and regrets as well. After I was able to see from her eyes what she’s been through, now I see her as strong and wonderful, not weak and cowardly. And my heart hurts for her. You can’t have compassion for someone until you can see through their eyes. Thanks for this post, you’ve reminded me to call my mom and tell her I love her!

gail February 26, 2012

This is a beautiful picture of real life. Thank you for sharing your heart. You placed your mother in a very God-honoring light all the while telling of the struggles young ladies encounter. This is how God meant relationships to be! ~♥

His.talmidat February 27, 2012

I, a mom of 3, happen to be spending a few weeks at my parents. Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. As I face many of the things that drove me crazy as a kid, I think of grace and sigh with a giggle instead of a grumbly heart. What you say is true and if we don’t learn it while under mom’s roof as a kid, God will make sure we learn it eventually! Thank you!

Jamie (@va_grown) February 28, 2012

What a lovely response to the question! We don’t have to agree with our mothers, but we are called to love and honor them anyway. Perhaps it’s a training ground for the love, respect, and submission that comes between a husband and wife later? You never get to run your house COMPLETELY your own way. (As our recent dust up about paint colors illustrates!) 🙂

Seeing the daughters’ side is a great perspective too, though. I DO want to raise my daughter to be a thinker, and a problem-solver, and a homemaker in her own right–not just a copy of myself. It certainly brings up the question of how I can give my daughter freedom to explore ideas, options, and creativity within the bounds of our home to hone the skills she’ll use outside of it and not just give her a list of “chores” and expect everything to be done my way. What are the important things I feel MUST be my way, and what can she be given rein to experiment with in her own way?

Celena May 31, 2012

Wow, what a point Jamie. So incredibly true. My daughter is a young 3, and we are pretty similar in a lot of ways… and I can see us knocking heads a bit as she gets older. I needed this post, because it’s so true. If I can value her ways of doing things and her priorities, as long as the things that need to be done get done, why does it matter? Does it matter if she brushes her teeth before she picks up her room at bedime? No. Does it matter if she wants to sit on the floor to read her bedtime stories instead of in her bed? No. Does it matter that she wants to vacuum BEFORE she helps dust? No, not really. So instead of arguing with her over the little things, I will try to be more patient and just let her do them, offering help/guidance when needed. She always amazes me because she is so much more capable than I give her credit for. Thank you for the reminder!

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