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.