The Better Homes & Gardens Dream is Not How God Defines Success

By Anne Bradley Published on October 9, 2021

The contents of my purse are bizarre.

As a working mom, I need to be prepared for anything, so my purse is a reflection of what I think those things might be.

It’s also a record of past events — memories that haven’t made it to their final resting places.

It is usually home to my son’s rescue inhaler for his mild asthma and hand sanitizer for germs lurking around every corner. There is also a small stuffed animal from a past birthday party and notes I scribbled on a random piece of cardstock during church.

You’ll also find receipts from Target, where my family and I spent a rainy Saturday morning, and dry-cleaning claim tickets. These tasks are on a seemingly never-ending loop, but they’re reminders of my roles as a wife, mother, and economist — the roles of a juggler.

It’s the Little Victories

If I were aiming for success in the Better Homes & Gardens version of my life, I would clean out my purse every evening and dutifully file or throw away my receipts. Stuffed animals would make their way to the toy box. The nearly empty bottle of hand sanitizer would remind me to add sanitizer to next week’s grocery list.

I long for this version of life, where my dinner plates are never chipped and my house is always ready for unexpected company.

In reality, I feel like I deserve a Nobel Prize for getting two small children out the door with remotely clean teeth, fresh clothes, and a quick waffle. (No syrup because who has time for that?)

When these things happen without tempers flaring or a mini-meltdown from mommy or the kids, it feels like a victory.

And it is.

I know many mothers who feel each day is a win when they can extend a little more grace than they feel they can muster, or when they reserve the eye-roll for a situation that actually deserves contempt.

The Curse of Better Homes & Gardens

I’d be lying if I said I had it all figured out. There is a great deal I don’t know about my own life and the path I’m taking, and I think we can say this is true for all of us.

What I do know is that God calls us to do messy things. This will look different for each of us.

What God wants us to pursue and what our culture tempts us to chase are radically divergent. This is what I call the “Curse of Better Homes & Gardens,” where, as on social media, we highlight only the good, shareable moments of our lives.

The issue is two-fold: magazines suggest we should aspire to picture-perfect lives. Then social media urges us to compete with each other for these kinds of lives, reinforcing our self-doubt as things fall apart.

So what do we do?

We need to turn to Scripture to remember who we are, Whose we are, and how He defines success.

In her book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, Courtney Reissig writes that it’s easy for all of us — men and women — to get ourselves caught in the “comparison trap,” gauging our success by looking over our shoulder at others instead of looking up to the Lord and his standards. In an interview with the IFWE blog, she reminds us that our aim is to please God, not men:

Colossians 3:23–24 says: ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.’ The world defines success according to compensation, productivity, and glory for ourselves, but God defines success as faithfulness, knowing that we are working for him, not for men. Our only audience in our work is God and our only standard for success in his economy is faithfulness. We can all work ‘heartily as unto the Lord’ trusting that he is the one who is establishing our work and making it successful (Ps. 90:17).

Precious Moments (Are More than Just Figurines)

A couple years ago I was packing lunches and had given my son, Parker, and my daughter, Bailey, half of a bagel with cream cheese. I found them as they’re depicted in this picture, Parker on the stairs and Bailey on the floor. It was far from picture perfect (they’re eating on the floor, for crying out loud), but it was such a sweet, precious moment together.















This is what the juggle of motherhood is about — the sweet moments, not the perfect moments. They’re the cure for the “Curse of Better Homes & Gardens.” These sweet moments are glimpses of God’s grace.

My life is messy. Just look in my purse. My life is not neat and tidy and Facebook-ready, but it’s the life that’s been gifted to me and I am grateful for it.

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God asks each of us to live into who he has called us to be. He asks us to steward the gifts he’s given us with wisdom and gratitude.

Working motherhood is a juggle. It’s messy and filled with turmoil. It’s also precious.

It’s in these sweet moments that I see that God knows what he’s doing with me. Trust that he knows this for you, too, even when he asks you to do something that’s messy.

Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Oct. 18, 2017.


Anne Bradley, Ph.D. is the George and Sally Mayer Fellow for Economic Education and the academic director at The Fund for American Studies. She also serves as the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Originally published at The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Republished with permission.

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