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Are We Raising Marthas? Why We Must Stop Raising Daughters To Excel in Everything

Every mom I talk to agrees that we have too much on our plates. The never-ending loads of laundry. The endless mental to-do list. The pressure to make an income, raise good kids, keep an organized home, and cook Pinterest-worthy organic meals. It’s all just too much.

Though, I’ve noticed something interesting about our mental and emotional stress. Whenever I get together with other moms, we all admit we’re overwhelmed and can’t seem to prioritize things we wish we could (like health, rest, exercise, fun, etc.). But that’s where it stops. We kind of laugh it off and say, “Everyone feels this way, right? Life will be better one day, and then I can do XYZ.”

Whether we’re feeling pressure from culture to do it all or we’re putting pressure on ourselves, most modern women can agree we have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

But here’s the big problem: Our children are watching. If we’re struggling to find balance and rest, how can we expect them to? 

What if we’re putting our daughters in that same box? The one that tells them they can excel at anything and everything. The one that says anything a boy can do, you can do better. 

These are the messages our daughters are receiving, and I’m not sure it’s healthy. I did a quick Google search for “quote shirts for girls,” and right away, I found shirts that read, “Girls can do anything,” “Girls run the world,” and “Queen of basically everything.” 

We wonder why anxiety and depression are on the rise in our children. But the answer is simple. We’re raising daughters to be Marthas. 

You may be thinking, “Lauren, what in the world is a Martha?” In Luke 10:38-42, we read about Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha. 

As we read, we see that Martha was overly busy. Distracting herself with serving while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His every word. Martha came over to Jesus, and she is like (I’m putting my own dramatic Lauren twist on it), “Ugh, can you believe my sister? She’s making me do all the work. I’m exhausting myself taking care of everything, and she’s just sitting here! Jesus, make her help me!” 

Our children are watching. If we're struggling to find balance and rest, how can we expect them to? Raising daughters to excel in everything is dangerous!

Jesus’ response is surprising. Luke 10:41-42 reads:

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha felt overwhelmed with her to-do list. She kept busy because she thought that’s what was required to be a good hostess. But Jesus says she’s missing the point. 

What if we’re missing the point? 

When we sign our daughters up for piano lessons, soccer, dance, art, gymnastics, chess club, and swim team, what are we telling them? At the root of it, what’s the reason for our busyness?

Now, don’t come at me. I’m not saying all extracurricular activities are bad or wrong. What a blessing it is to learn how to play the piano, move your body, and work together as a team.

The problem is when we take it to the next level and put unspoken (or spoken) pressure on our girls to do it all and do it all with excellence. 

We must pause and ask ourselves: Why do we sign our girls up for all the activities? Is this what we really want? Is this what they really want? What is this teaching them about their worth? About what’s most important in life?

The good news, we can always change. Even if we did certain things in the past, tomorrow is a new day. God’s mercies are always new! If you find yourself raising daughters who are turning into Marthas, don’t panic! But be intentional about pausing. It may be time to put on the brakes and ask Jesus for His wisdom.

Action Step #1: We pause and evaluate

Of course, having goals and dreams for our children is natural. Parents often say they want their children to have a better life than they did. They want them to experience things they weren’t able to. It would be weird if we didn’t have hopes and dreams for our kids. 

But we need to be careful we don’t take it too far. And we do this by pausing and reflecting on what we’re consciously and unconsciously telling our children about how they should be spending their time. 

If our heart’s desire is to see our children walk with Jesus we must ask: where is church, community, Bible study, worship, and prayer on our priority list? Is it first? Or are we trying to fit it in the cracks of our schedule between practices and homework?

Take time to pause and evaluate how things are going. Ask yourself:

  • Do our values line up with our schedules?
  • Have I paused long enough to assess what our routines tell our kids about what we value? 
  • Are we going at lightning speed and doing ALL THE THINGS because we feel like we have to? 

When we debated whether we should homeschool, many people advised us that we could take it year by year. At the end of each year, we can reassess and ask ourselves: Is it working for our family? 

We can do this with our daily lives, rhythms, and schedules too. We CAN change. We can reevaluate and pivot. But to do that, we must first pause and see if our priorities align with our reality.

Our children won't be mentally and emotionally healthy when we're on the hamster wheel of stress. When raising daughters we need to be intentional about what we prioritize!

Action Step #2: We must get off the hamster wheel ourselves.

As I mentioned at the beginning, we can’t expect our children to find balance if we don’t do it first. Truthfully, for most of my life, I’ve been busy. I swam competitively year-round, worked and went to graduate school, and said yes to everything that excited me. Being overstimulated and overwhelmed became a normal feeling.

I know this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. I didn’t realize how much busyness could impact my mental and emotional health until I wrote my book Unshakable Kids. I knew the last part of the book needed to address home life and how we could realistically put into practice the emotional and spiritual principles I talked about in the book’s first part.

As I researched and wrote Chapter 11: Rhythms of Rest, I knew something needed to change in my own life. I didn’t like our rhythms, but I always told myself, “This is just how it is with three kids and a husband who works a lot.” I didn’t believe there could be another way. 

But slowly, God broke down those lies, and we made some significant changes in our family. My husband took a new job (one where he didn’t have to work weekends and holidays), and we started homeschooling. Of course, these decisions had layers. There were many reasons for the change, but definitely part of the discussion included finding more rest in our days.

We grew tired of the hamster wheel of stress, and we wanted off. It’s possible to choose a slower life. You can change your life, but make sure to give yourself in grace in the process.

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Action Step #3 We must give ourselves grace.

Often, when we have a revelation, we expect change and progress immediately. But rhythms and routines aren’t built in a day, and change may be slow. And that’s okay! 

The first step is always recognizing the problem. The second step of taking action may take more time and intention. 

Give yourself grace in the process. That may mean engaging in positive self-talk. Instead of saying, “Look at everything wrong,” write out a list of everything that is going right!

And please, please do not compare your journey to someone else’s. Each one of us has a unique calling from God. I can guarantee your family’s schedule won’t look like mine. Stay in your line. Press in and ask God what’s best for your family. And then have the courage and grace to chase after His best for you and your family!

Do you struggle with raising Marthas? Or being a Martha yourself? Share your journey with us in the comments below. How are you raising daughters and finding balance and rest in a busy world?

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