Halo Mary mothers

Photo: Alex Pasarelu, Unsplash.

In the nursery at church I see them, hair combed soft away from their foreheads, gentle faces bent to their babies, clothed in dresses of beige or blue. Halo Mary mothers, I call them. With their long dresses and soft faces, they look as though they are designed for motherhood. 

I forget that I wear long dresses too, and that maybe my face is soft as it bends toward my baby. I don’t feel like the epitome of motherhood they seem to be. I don’t feel like a Halo Mary mother. 

My church hair is often a bit frazzled and fuzzy. Little dots of breast milk spattered my laptop screen for months after I was done nursing my first baby, because I nursed her while typing and never got around to cleaning it. I have been known to nurse my babies at the supper table or — what’s even less Halo Maryish — while dashing around the kitchen preparing it. 

The other moms — I am sure of this — move through their days in holy rhythm. Sleep, eat, play. Sleep, eat, play. I start out with good intentions but end up feeding my baby in bursts and patches through the day, a bit here and a bit there, sometimes when he wakes, sometimes when he sleeps. 

And my daughter — by the time church lets out, her ponytails are strewn all over her face while the other little girl just her age leaves the sanctuary with neatly combed hair that curls up at the ends. 

And that little girl smiles and says hello to people. My daughter just looks away. 

My Halo Mary comparisons blow biggest at mommy group, the monthly gathering of women with preschoolers from my church. 

I love getting to know other moms in a similar stage of life. But often I leave the meetings with a feeling of vague insecurity and a wish I could have been more authentic. 

Those moms seem more spiritual, more centered on what’s truly important. And yes, they share their own struggles, but they seem to me professional mothers, while I am just feeling my way. 

“When they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense,” Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 10:12). 

Some of the Corinthians, like me, were focused on appearances. They compared Paul with more flashy Christian leaders whom Paul dubs “super apostles.” Paul came up short. 

If they were so focused on appearance in others, were they also focused on appearance in themselves? Were they, like me, paralyzed by alternating superiority and inferiority complexes, always checking to see if others approved?

“For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved,” Paul wrote further down the page, “but those whom the Lord commends”
(2 Corinthians 10:18).


When I stop thinking about those other moms and how I measure up, when I ask instead, “What does God think of me?” — that is better. 

I place myself in a quiet broad plain alone before God, and the insecurities fall away. God sees me. God knows me. 

I am quiet here. 

Halo Mary, of course, is not a real mother, but a composite of all the best features of the mothers I know. Maybe the Apostle Paul would call her a super mother. 

And the correct picture of myself is not a frazzled and frumpy failure — nor the graceful goddess gliding through the kitchen I feel myself in other moments — but somewhere in between. 

Here in the spot I stand before God, I remember the simple things God asks of me, the things that I know at my deepest heart’s level, the things that I always — with God’s help — have the ability to do. 

I suspect that my children will mostly turn out the way they turn out by watching and listening to my example. 

They will decide whether I am true or not true, whether I love them or don’t, whether they want what I have or don’t based not on my Halo Marying but on what they sense is genuine in me.  

Do I enjoy my children? Do I love them sacrificially? Do I walk in dependence on God? Do I live in humility and honesty? 

My son coos, lips upturned, tiny bright eyes lighting and watering, and my heart dips.

Babies know.  

Lucinda J. Kinsinger

Lucinda J. Kinsinger writes from Oakland, Md. The author of Anything But Simple: My Life as a Mennonite and Turtle Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!