Are You Tired of The Hot Mess Mom?

“So, have you noticed that it’s a lot easier to take care of your home now? You know, since you’re not working anymore and can focus fully on your responsibilities?”

I smiled and thought, That’s not loaded at all. I said, “It’s been great to be on summer vacation, but I’ve actually felt like I’ve been able to balance a lot better in general.”

This blog has been quiet recently, but my life has been the opposite. I have three-year-old and a six-month-old. We just bought our first home, planting ourselves firmly in this Mississippi soil. My seventh year teaching just ended. I’m wrapping up my manuscript. My life has been insanely busy  — and in less busy seasons than this one, my home has been catastrophically messy. As loaded as the question seemed, it was a fair one. I’ve been honest about my homemaking struggles, and yet I continue to pile more things on my plate. How am I doing all of this without being a hot mess mom?

Hot Mess Motherhood

“I’m so sick of the hot mess mom stereotype,” so many Facebook posts read. “Where are the put together moms? The ones who don’t live in yoga pants, who are all caught up on laundry?”

I usually keep on scrolling, confident that this clarion call isn’t summoning me. When it comes to hot mess moms, historically, I’m the messiest.

I’m not saying that as a badge of honor, which I know was the type of hot mess mommyhood that folks usually bemoan. The ones who like to brag about how unkempt their house is, how bad their kids are, and how much they hate to have sex with their husbands. I don’t think it’s cool to be a hot mess mom. I’ve battled a lot of shame over who I am supposed to be.

It’s Hard To Struggle

In fact, I’ve spent most of my motherhood and wifehood battling deep shame over a housekeeping style that’s so Type B that it’s probably Type C. I’ve spent too many days motionless on the couch, listlessly watching time slip by, unable to move, feeling like it took too much energy even to breathe. Laundry and dishes have piled up to the sky as the thought of taking the first step towards them crippled me into inactivity. I felt this while working full time and I felt it while being a full-time SAHM whose only responsibility was the home.

Somewhere between being the single girl that everyone thought would make a stellar wife and mom and the birth of my second son this December, I realized that I really was a mess. The mess was physical  — piles of laundry, stacks of dishes, and a floor that hadn’t seen a vacuum in {redacted to maintain a shred of my dignity}.

But the mess was also spiritual. And it couldn’t be fixed by simply being a SAHM — having a job wasn’t my issue. My issue was one of identity.

Identity Crisis & Messiness

You see, throughout the mire of my unmet expectations for myself were peppered little internal signposts: a misplaced identity here, the clinical depression there, cultural expectations right here, and, all around me, the broken nature of this world.

I found catharsis in sharing those messy pieces, and I beckoned other messy people to me, opening wide my arms (metaphorically  — my introversion keeps the literal arm-opening at a minimum) to comfort the moms who, like me, just weren’t cutting it.

Maybe someone needed to hear the same thing I so longed to believe: that my womanhood is not measured by my baseboards. I certainly needed to remind myself that Jesus died to save wretched sinners, whether we’re all caught up on our laundry or not. I am more than my housekeeping skills.

But I’ve also realized that housekeeping skills are important.

Swinging Pendulums

Pendulums are wont to swing, and we tend to set up these neat and tidy little tribes. Hot mess mom, reveling in her mess, chucking the deuces at order and silently judging the Type A mom, who must be an unfeeling robot who doesn’t know how to chill or hasn’t dealt with whatever we’re logging through. Put together mom, idolizing her regimens, and harshly judging Type B (C? D?) mom, who could do better if she would just try. The antinomian and the legalist, both missing the heart of the identity that we have in our Savior and the gospel we all need.

Jesus saves us regardless of what we bring to the table. But he saved us to the uttermost, to do good works… like setting the table.

Hope For Hot Mess Mamas

Last month, we moved into my 90-year-old dream home, and I began unpacking.

And I’m almost finished unpacking.

That might not sound like much of a feat to most, but I’ve never been one to settle in. I’m always poised for flight, living out of a box, holding my relationships as loosely as I’ve held my brooms (or in the broom’s case, not holding it at all). But someone came over to my house the other day and remarked about how clean it was.

My house.

When I told my counselor, her whole face lit up.

“And I made a checklist the other day of things I needed to do before school ended.”

“A checklist?!” she exclaimed. “I’m trying hard not to show my shock. I’m so proud of you.”

Victories Don’t Define Us

And I was proud of me, too. I was proud of the swept floor, the candles burning, the mood music playing, and the tidy surfaces. Not because they define me, but because they define this season. And contrary to what the peanut gallery had assumed, this metamorphosis had landed right in the busiest season of my life  — I had a teething baby, a cranky toddler, finals, deadlines, moving, and homekeeping all thrown at me at once, and God gave me grace for everything that had been asked of me.

I didn’t do it perfectly.  Never that. Trust. But I did it, by God’s grace. And I learned a lot about Him and about myself in the process. I’m learning more about Him and facing my mom shame head-on, I’ve actually become more passionate about keeping my home — and creating a welcoming space where other women can come and sit at my table and receive the same hope I’ve been given in Jesus.

And the table is clean.

The Bible is full of commands to show hospitality. But that hospitality isn’t meant to point to me and my success or my skill, but to Jesus. And Jesus had a lot of work to do in my heart before I understood that.

Doing It All

My hot mess motherhood was always symptomatic of the deeper issues I’ve wrestled with. You could chart my depression in the dust build-up on a ceiling fan. And in that season, I didn’t need people to come in and be drill instructors, screaming at me to do and be, saying words like just and should. I needed help. I needed to be told that womanhood is more than tidy homes and window-dressing — that sometimes it looks like messy living rooms that are battlegrounds for joy.

And as that joy has been fought for, as I’ve done the hard work to reclaim it, my mess has diminished.

I’m no Martha Stewart. I doubt I ever will be. But I’ve begun to feel like life isn’t beating me about the head and neck, and that is a good feeling.

So that’s where I’ve been. Doing some hard internal work. Fighting. Losing. Fighting. Winning. All to God’s glory.

More To The Story

All of us have so much story swirling beneath the surface, whether those surfaces are spit-shined and polished or whether they’re covered in dust. And as women, we have to get beneath the dust or the shine and realize that the home is not the heart of our identity: Jesus is. And as he equips us to do the things he has called us to both inside and outside of our roof, yes we will wrestle with how to balance it all.

We will figure out which plates to spin and which plates to drop. Ask ourselves how much work is too much, and how much interaction outside of our children is too little. How much to open our doors and when it’s time to close them and take stock of what’s going on internally. We will soar, and we will crash and burn.

Simplifying our success to how much we look like Wonder Woman (especially on social media) is only a fraction of the story, and it so often keeps us from doing the hard work to learn how to look more like Jesus. Spit-shined stainless steel can often resemble a whitewashed tomb, just like a mess of laundry can reveal a messy, untended heart.

So before you judge the hot mess mamas or their put-together counterparts, the working mom whose home is pristine or the SAHM who is buried under undone housework, the Martha Stewart mommy who has it all under control, and the disheveled working mom who wants nothing more than to come home full-time… sit with her for a minute and learn her story. Ask some questions.

Just try to steer clear of the loaded kind.

Become Known & Loved Through Christ’s Finished Work

Read my 5-day devotional and discover how an identity rooted in Jesus can defeat your shame and fear of failing to live up to extra-biblical expectations.