Are you a better wife or a better mother?

by:Michelle Rouse Fox


I often ask those I’m counseling “are you a better wife or a better mother?”  No one has yet to answer “well, I’m best at both!”  Although I’m sure there are plenty of mother-in-laws out there that would be happy to tell you that she is in fact, best at both! But really, think about this question.  What do you think you are better at being?  A wife or a mother?  Most of us are doing a fantastic job, knocking it outta the park job on most days, of this, I have zero doubt.  But deep down, when we lay down at night, one outweighs the other.   This is a good place to make it clear that when I ask “are you better at …”, I do not mean perfect.    


For me personally, I answer this question with, “I’m a better wife.”  My earliest memories are of me walking down the hallways of my house with a white towel draped over my head pretending to get married!  I married a little later than some, but by today’s standards it was just right.  I was 31 and I assure you, my veil was not made of terrycloth.  I was so happy to be married and so in love with my husband that I set the bar very high for myself in our first year of marriage.  We both gained weight in that first year because I was so happy to have someone to feed because of two things to know about me, I’m Southern and I love to cook.  And cook I did!   I fed him like he was a farmer!  I mean, meat, potatoes, bread baskets and dessert EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT!  He gained 25 pounds, but he needed to gain back at least 20 and I gained 15 and needed to lose at least 20!  I also fed his other appetite!  I’m sure you don’t need me to spell this one out right?  (Insert eye roll and gag reaction).  But, I did, almost Every. Single. Day.  (Someone get this woman a trophy!)  Then, right before our first wedding anniversary, I got pregnant.  Shocking, I know.  So into motherhood I went with the same level of enthusiasm as I did wifery.  I made up that word, its new, feel free to use it anytime. 


I have a fantastic mother, growing up I felt like she made life magical for me.  Except when she made me sleep in pink curlers so I’d look like Shirley Temple (I had no clue who that even was till I was ten!). My mother was Pinterest way before it existed.  Her philosophy was that every day was ordinary so take every opportunity to make special days extraordinary!  And she did!  Valentine’s Day was one of my favorite days of the year.  The day would start with a little heart shaped box full of chocolates, and then at lunch I’d find another Valentine’s from her, followed by dinner where she would find a way to make something in the shape of a heart.  And birthdays!  Did you have a musical birthday plate that slowly spun your birthday cake?  No?  Gee, I’m sorry.  I did and I’d give anything if that silly, spinning, musical plate was still around somewhere!  It was fantastic and the whole day on my birthday was like a national holiday!  But really, shouldn’t our birthdays really be ….A NATIONAL HOLIDAY?  I totally give you permission to take the day off!  Have at it!  You do you like never before cause it’s your birthday, woman!  So my point here….my mom, she was spectacular at the mother thing.  So in my mind when baby #1 showed up, my goal was to do at least as well as I thought my mom had done (and continues to, she’s still keeping the bar high.)


High achievement is not an ongoing thing in my opinion. In school, I never once looked at the Valedictorian and wanted to be that, heck, I don’t even think I wanted to be that girl who got all A’s and B’s.  I was the one that just prayed for a passing grade.  But why is it, when it comes to being in the roles of wife and/or mother, we want to be the best in the class? For me, it started out just wanting to be everything I had dreamed of being as a wife and wanting to be just like my mom as a mother.  Yet, somewhere along the way I developed a need to be the Valedictorian of both.  I can just cut to the chase and tell you what heals any mom of this exhausting need….having 4…FOUR!!! children.  I’m not certain because I haven’t tried, but I think having 4 husbands would be a sure way to heal the need to be Valedictorian of Wifery too!  But I really can’t suggest this as a wholesome therapy or remedy.


Getting a little older, a tiny bit wiser, more than a couple of babies and only so many hours in the day has helped me let go of needing to be the best mom or even as good as my mom.  Currently, I’m in a season where being a mom is all I get to do and I feel more like the girl back in college who prayed for “just a passing grade.”  Because of life circumstances (job), my husband is living in one state while I and our 4 children are living in another.  Being a wife is where I find identity, I’m better at it, it comes more natural to me and if I have to choose, I enjoy it more than being a mom.  I LOVE being a mom, no question.  It just requires more thought on my part.  It’s a lot more work for my brain, emotions and mental stability.  Did I mention that 3 out of my 4 are boys?  Yeah, so there’s that.   So right now I’m in a season where focusing on my children and being as good as I can be for them is what I have.  It’s my identity right now.  I love doing all the extraordinary things for my kids and I will when I can, but we are also in a season of “survival” without daddy around.  Yet, I do not want to waste this season of growth for me as a mom or for them as children because it’s hard, like Bruce Willis in Die Hard kind of HARD.  


So, are you better at being a wife or are you better at being a mother?  Whatever your answer is and I know not everyone is a wife and many are not mothers, but whatever role we are in, we can become stronger.  And by stronger, I do not mean perfect or high achieving.  Stronger can mean getting leaner in the things that we say yes to, the things we allow our family to say yes to.  Stronger can mean going out and finding community because, as  women, as human beings, we need community.  Stronger most definitely is not more Pinterest on your to do list. Stronger is trying and sometimes failing, but learning from our failures and missteps.  Stronger is making a choice to do it better the next time. Stronger is making the choice to be relational, to be loving when all we want to do is scream, give the silent treatment, slam doors and cuss a little…or a lot.  You know what stronger looks like for you.  We all know what we need to become stronger.  It’s like walking into the gym and having an idea what weights we should use.  We know better than to go for those big wagon wheel weights that the big ugly burly guys use and then drop loudly for the entire world to hear.  I mean, we just know better.  We also know that too little weight is just a waste of time, so don’t play.  And just like going to the gym to build strength takes time, effort and deciding to use our time and energy to reach our goals, building strength in our roles and relationships takes time, effort and deciding to use our time, and more importantly, our mental and emotional energy.  And keep it real!  Just like when the good majority of us aren’t walking into a gym so that we can compete in Miss Muscles of American because we are realistic and because, well, why?  Know who you

 are and what you are capable of, but don’t flake out because you can’t be someone else or do it (whatever your “it” is) as well as you think someone else is doing it.  And all this only works….”this” being a stronger version of ourselves in the roles we play, when we give grace to ourselves…and to others.  Whatever roles you are in, don’t be afraid to ask yourself “which one am I best at? And in which role(s) do I want to become stronger?”  


Yippee-ki-yay mama’s, Yippee-ki-yay!  (That’s another Bruce Willis thing; obviously I’m in the thick of things.  Isn’t there a movie titled “Die Another Day?”  Yep, that sounds about right!)