When Idealism Gets in the Way

Note from Kat: This post is from monthly contributor (and our new HelloMornings Director!) Katie Orr.

I’ve had this love-hate relationship with nutrition over the years. Most of my early twenties were spent finding the ideal diet. My meals consisted of salads, vegetables, whole grains, and fresh fruit. I ate very little meat, most of which was fish or chicken. I kept the carbs at bay, avoided high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

Healthy eating pursuits

This was fun and easy way to eat, as a single woman in a big city. I was able to keep this going for several years into marriage and mommy-hood. My husband found the steal-of-the-year, a Champion Juicer for $15 at a garage sale (Oh yes he did!) and I would make vegetable juice for us all to drink. My son and daughter’s baby food was home-made, and I breast-fed until both of them were well into their first year of life. When my oldest was seven months old we went to Asia for 6 weeks and I even made his baby food there!

Fast Forward to French Fries

It is now about four years from the end of that “golden age”. My kids eat a piece of candy every day. My third child was on formula and ate peas from a jar. McDonalds and Hungry Howies are in our diet just about weekly. Need I go on?

There are many factors to the changes. As our family grew and job situation changed, it quickly become too expensive to eat as well. We were up-rooted five times in 6 years and lost all semblance of “normal”. There was also a year of living with (wonderful) family who didn’t quite understand the whys behind our lifestyle. The area in which we lived changed from the artsy suburbs where healthy choices abound, to more rural areas where “greens” are boiled in pig fat and served brown. Did I mention that somewhere along the lines I began my struggle with depression?

I just became too weary to fight for what was healthiest.

It’s Gotta Be All or Nothing

The juicer stayed packed away, I ignored nutrition labels, and what was healthiest was replaced with what was easiest. I gave up the pursuit of the “ideal” stay-at-home mom, but the guilt ate at me every day. It was a struggle to know the way I was “supposed” to be living, but not doing it. Ignorance is bliss took on a new meaning to me; self-condemnation abounded as I was constantly aware of what I “should” be feeding my kids.

What I feed my kids is just one of many layers of the “shoulds of motherhood” I struggle with. You see, I tend to focus on all that I am NOT doing. Instead of noticing the things I do as a mother that are meaningful, important, and astonishing, I look at my failures, short-comings, and dysfunction—and I let them define me. I’ve gotta be all, or nothing.

God has graciously intervened, and I am learning to see that my worth is not determined by what I do or don’t do. I cannot be it all—the perfect wife, mom, and homemaker—and I am in the process of removing all the ideals—the “shoulds”—from my  to-do list. Because that list will never be accomplished by any one woman. Nor should it be.

Finding the Right Amidst the Wrongs

So, today I am going to focus on the things I still hold on to in our diet. I am going to celebrate the things I am doing “right”, and ignore all the “wrongs”.

  • We eat fruit; cold cereal and fruit is our breakfast staple. My kids regularly ask for an apple or orange for a snack. They love fruit and are (mostly) content to eat it.
  • Vegetables are a big part of our diet. My oldest son will eat spinach and other baby greens with nothing on them—and likes it! My daughter asked me for a whole cucumber yesterday as a snack. My two-year-old is finally starting to eat the spinach and not throw it on the floor! (Now THAT is a cause to celebrate!)
  • We often get FRESH vegetables, fruit, fish and eggs. Living in a rural area, EVERYONE here has their own garden. We’ve had salads from greens that were picked just hours before. Watermelons given to us fresh from the vine. We even have our own (itty-bitty) organic blueberries bushes in the backyard. My husband has tried his hand at fishing with the local boys and brought home dinner for the evening. Tonight I am buying a dozen free-range chicken eggs from a boy in our church.
  • We don’t eat much meat. We have swung a bit back and forth with this over the years, but of late we are getting back to eating mostly chicken, turkey and fish; we serve many meals sans meat.

Finding a New Ideal

While our diet may not be perfect, I am doing something nutritionally right. Instead of wallowing in everything I am not or cannot be, I am trying to take a more balanced approach to what I focus on. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

So, we will eat hot dogs at the ball field and drive through McDonalds because it is cheap and convenient. I will let my kids enjoy sugary treats and the occasional Sprite (especially if I can get them to do something for it!) and their snacks will not have to pass my hydrogenated-oil inspection. Nutritionally, it’s not ideal, but it is ideal for getting through these crazy, early years of motherhood.

Although, I did recently find the box with my Champion juicer in it, so look out carrots!


What ideals of motherhood do you struggle with? How have you settled into your own ideal? What “right” are you doing amidst your “wrongs”? Share it with us in the comments.

Leave a Comment



  • thank you SO much for sharing this! I can relate very much, to the “I used to eat that way”, to the “we’ve moved more rural where it’s just hard to find things”, to the “finances have changed and now we’re feeding 10 and it’s expensive to eat that way!”. And MOST definitely to the *guilt* of NOT eating that way! For years I was in a very tight-knit group where eating “that way” was equal to godliness, and it was downright un-spiritual to eat french fries! We’ve left, but the guilt followed… thanks for reminding me to look at all that’s *right*! I keep remembering that God pretty clearly said (in the NT even!) to not call any food He has provided “unclean”, and that there’s a reason we “bless” our food, and to be grateful for the abundance that allows us so many choices that we can nit-pick (but to refuse to nit-pick (0; ) !

  • Thank you, Katie. So often we hear from books, blogs, websites, churches, other Mommy “friends” about things that we should be doing and when we aren’t, guilt is heaped upon our heads.
    This is so refreshing and encouraging to focus on the things we do well and the things are ARE doing, rather than the plethora of things we aren’t. (Like when I gave up on cloth diapering. Ha!)

  • Laura says:

    Oh I know this struggle. As a diabetic I have swung from healthy nut to I quit trying. A few years ago, God told me to let it go. It was a process but now our diet looks much like yours and honestly, I think being more flexibly makes others more comfortable around us! Thanks for sharing.

  • rolanda says:

    I have three children, ok well two kids and one young adult, she’s nineteen. I struggle with these same issues, we’ve been working really hard to cut sugar, eat less processed food, and generally watch what we are putting into our bodies. It seems like there is always something I am struggling with, something I feel I am not measuring up to with regard to motherhood. I don’t have lots of extra room, so my kids don’t have an amazing crafting area. They have some things but it get spread all over the kitchen and…sigh, it’s not my favorite thing to do with them. And going with the them of the article, I did play baseball in the yard with them and their friends yesterday afternoon! My young adult actually joined us, which is interesting because she never does that, and we just told her she has to find another place to live, her last day is Thursday…a whole different set of ideals that turned out entirely differently than I had hoped. She dropped out of college and uses marijuana regularly! Ye-haw, while all my other friends are celebrating the successes of their young adults we are kicking ours out. We’ve given her many chances, she was a good student, nationally recognized athlete and loved Jesus…my how things have changed. We’re casting her out into the big world and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, says she’s going to sleep in her car. Praying for God’s protection and her instinct to succeed kicks in. Prayers appreciated. I know I did the best I could, I love her, and always will.

    • Lauren Nicole says:

      Rolanda, You have made a very loving choice by sending your child out into the world to become the person she is meant to be instead of trying to control her actions. I will pray for your family to have the strength to weather whatever path He takes you on from here.

  • Kristin says:

    Thanks for the reminder to focus on what we’re doing right. I needed that! I won’t get into particulars, but diet is actually where Satan is hitting hardest right now. Like you, we include fresh fruits and veggies. Our kids (most of them) will eat spinach – and love it! We limit pop and candy, but they do get one item a day from the “treat jar”. So, today, I will choose to focus on what I’m doing right… with one eye on what one small thing I can change next. 😉

    • Katie says:

      “one small thing” is a great way to put it! Change takes a long time, but how I so often want it to be overnight!

      • Kristin says:

        I’m am the same way… I want it ALL to happen NOW. The last few months I’ve realized that trying to eat that elephant all at once always causes me to crash and burn, but one bite at a time usually works quite well. 😉 (How’s that for some mixed metaphors. LOL)

  • Liz says:

    Thank you so much for writing this… I struggle with balance and often define myself by my nutritional failures. I would never say any of this out-loud, but you are in my head 😉

  • Amy says:

    Just have to say that your salad picture looks exactly like my work dinner this past week. Thank you Costco. My favorite add on to that is the Salmon patties in their freezer section, great protein. I’ll cook up a frozed chicken breast too sometimes. MMM its only breakfast and I can’t wait for my dinner tonight at work.
    Thanks for the reminder to focus on what I am doing right.. so often I feel like I fail in every aspect, I know it is not true, but Satan has a way of making one feel inadequate. I am providing for my family, I show them love daily and they see my devotion to God.

  • Great post! The food area is the one I struggle with the most. I’m a fitness teacher and many of my co-workers are very into the low carb low fat etc etc diet and I am just not at that ideal way of eating. Nor do I really want to be. What is hardest for me at this point is eating and feeding my family more natural and organic foods without having to feel like I have to be all or nothing. And yes Amy “thank you Costco” for making this a more budget friendly challenge!

    • Katie says:

      Something about organic that makes me feel like if I don’t have it ALL organic, that none of it is worth it. Not sure why I feel that way, as the feeling is not as bad with sugar, or other things.

      I think it might have to do with the extra expense. Like, if I pay extra to get the organic carrots, but not the apples, that they are all just canceling each other out.

      That just sounds absurd, doesn’t it?!

  • Great post and great reminder. I follow a 80/20 rule. We eat very well 80% of the time, so if we are at a friend’s house, or a baseball game, it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t want food to become an “issue” for my kids, but I also am cognizant that we don’t let that 20% slip to 30% or 40%, etc. It’s easier since they are still little (5 and 8), but hopefully the healthy base I am installing will serve us well into the teenage and young adult years!

  • your story sounds similar to mine. when i was put in a place where I absolutely *had* to let go of many, many, ideals it was so freeing and I was able to even trust the Lord more than I ever have in my life. I have learned to hold onto my ideals very loosely…i find the most important ones come to the surface and are what i should be putting the most effort into. so many mamas need to hear this message. thank you for sharing….

  • Darcey says:

    I totally agree. I was always all or nothing till I had my kids. I was always looking at ways to eat healthy and do the right thing. I really got into the whole “green” way of living. Then I let it get out of control. I found I had to give up some of the things I “believed in”. The kids don’t drink organic milk anymore, although I wish we could afford it. It became way too expensive as the kids got older and alot harder. We do the same as you do and try our best. Thanks for this post.

  • Katie! Thanks for sharing your sweet-heart! I Love This . . . Because I Needed to hear it ~ again! Balance is sooo important & I’m sooo Easily Un-Balanced. ;D Your sentences resonated in my heart & I heard my own voice echo in your words. I used to ‘do the healthy thing’ too. Then, “life hit us from behind”. Now, 13 yrs later, I’m trying to re-learn the healthy living ideas that I Believe God wants for each of us as His children.

    One lesson you reminded my of is that life is a process & all we think, feel, say & do needs to be balanced. And all of it needs to be balanced with our Trust in God that He IS in control & looking out for us And our families. For He created us & all we need….also~He knows my heart that wants to be all He created me to be ~ He also knows the guilt I am smothered in. I will have a serious talk w/ my guilt & insist an a Balanced MakeOver! ;D

    This Honest, Insightful & Encouraging . . . & may I add “BRAVE” sharing by you, Katie [&Kat] as well as, Each of these Lovely Momas commenting IS a Balancing Weight that we Women & Momas Need!

    Well, Kat & Katie, here’s 1 more thing I didn’t want others to know but telling anyway…*gulp*I am an ‘all or nothing’ Wife&Mom, have become Un~Balance & ahem…on the edge of going off the ‘healthy eating/living’ deep end. Being pushed to the edge by guilt & fear. Wow…that was a close one! God had perfect timing!

    *Thanks for Giving a Sister your hand of Encouragement! All time is God’s time and there’s nothing I can do about ‘stolen’ years but I can do all things [This Day] thru Christ who strengthens me! [Phil4:13]

    Love Ya! Susie 🙂

  • SYoo says:

    My biggest struggle in motherhood has been cleanliness/tidyness/ whatever the opposite of a clutter-bug is- that has been my constant struggle (besides being a procrastinator). Everyday it gets me down what I didn’t do yet, what is not clean, how the house looks…. Could I instead reprogram myself to say well I am still maintaining an “A” GPA right now or I managed to turn in my assignment on time or only 1 day late (at least I completed it with genuine effort.) With the house, maybe I could instead say – well I invited a lonely neighbor over for dinner and cleaned up the kitchen a little bit today. I don’t know. This is hard. This is a tough area ladies.

    Great article and points.

    • SYoo, I am the same with the cleanliness too. We need to start a support group of sorts for this. But finding the right in the midst of the wrongs is so helpful to see that while we can’t do it all, we can do something. Something is better than nothing, right?

  • SYoo says:

    @ Joyce,

    I would DEFINATELY be interested in this. I don’t know how it would work, maybe it could work in the same format as like the Hello Mornings Challenge? Every day it could be what did you clean today? Reminders and encouragement to get it all organized and find a place for everything, and then maintenance. In fact I was mentioning this for the first time to my Aunt today that I had a problem in this area she said she did too. She said maybe she would talk to me regularly to see if I “sold a bag of old clothes today, what did you do?” I thought that was a great idea. If you know of something that exists like this already, please pass that on. Thank you again for responding.

    • SYoo, A great site that I have found that does a Small Thing each day is Home Sanctuary. I had found it back when I just had my first little baby and it was too overwhelming to get everything done. If I just did the Small Thing that Rachel posted each day, it was at least one thing more than I would have done had I not found the site. :p

      • SYoo says:

        Again thank you. I will admit I had really hoped someone would reply with a suggestion and I LOVE this suggestion! This is just what I was looking for, at least to get my started- to which I am in the “overwhelmed” stage so nothing gets done!

        Thank you again,

      • Sejana, You’re welcome! Looking forward to seeing you over at the Home Sanctuary community. =)

  • Kristen S says:

    I also find that I focus on all the things that I “should” be doing. Thanks for the reminder and new perspective today to focus on the things that I am doing. It’s so easy to live in condemnation, but that’s not where God wants us to be.

  • As I was driving home from preschool today, I heard my local Christian radio station (WBGL 104.7 FM) talking about your blog. So I logged onto their facebook page and started reading your post about “the should-haves”. I, of course, can relate. I think this is how we know we are being the best MOM we can be….we question and analyze what we do or what we have done. I pray for times that I can TRUST GOD and just enjoy the decisions we make for our kids, instead of analzying them….and sometimes I do. I just pray for more of those.

    What also caught my attention in listening to the radio was your commitment to eating fruits, vegetables and grains in the pre-mommy stage….and not so much now. I agree, my family tries our best to eat as healthy as possible, but with life being busy and mommy getting tired, it isn’t always possible, (and “fast choices” are the necessity sometimes). Which is why I am thrilled that 6 months ago, I found a Whole Food Nutrition Company who has been helping my family “bridge the gap” between what we are eating and what we should be eating. It is called Juice Plus. If you are interested in learning more about it, please email me.

    Blessings to you and your family. And blessings on all the “rights” that you are doing!

    • Katie Orr says:

      Thanks, Lorene. I took Juice Plus in lieu of prenatals with my second child, and we have considered going on it as a family, but is just not in it he budget for now. My best friend is a consultant as well, and they have enjoyed the benefits of it!

  • DRS says:

    Just what I needed to read today. Thank you so much for sharing your heart- it blessed mine! Also, the links to your posts about your struggles with depression and being a stay-at-home. They so resonated with me today. I sat down at the computer a little bit ago feeling completely discouraged and like a total failure-so tired of the chaos and my imperfection and how UNdreamy life is some days. I felt too weary to even pray for something encouraging. But God knew what I needed and this is where He brought me- and I am encouraged for today, just knowing other people have been through these same struggles of guilt and depression. Maybe I can find some things I’m doing right, as well… Thank you!

    • Katie Orr says:

      Oh, I’m sure you can find plenty of things you do right! Your kids love you, and you are the only one who can love them the way a momma can. He IS working through you to do His purpose in their hearts!

      Be encouraged! You are not alone in th is struggle, and He is SO GOOD to give us what we need when we need it, isn’t He?!

  • eva says:

    I needed this article! I have read it everyday since! I have that all or nothing problem but now im working on it 🙂 Just finished working on my mom mission statement this morning….it will definitely be a work in progress.
    Thank you! I love Inspired To Action…..it truly inspires me…God is working through you with all of this, what a blessing this has been to soooo many!

    • Eva, That is so great that you got your mom mission statement done. Take it a step at a time. And you’re right…I used to have that all or nothing mentality, and it wasn’t working for me. We just have to focus on what we are doing that’s right, and keep at it.

    • Katie Orr says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Eva!

      Thankful He can use each of our journeys to encourage others for His glory!

  • […] tendency to be all or nothing and thus give up if surroundings cannot be […]

  • […] When Idealism Gets in the Way – Does negativity seem to weigh you down? Do you always see what you are doing wrong? Kat shares how she is looking at the good things she is doing to keep her family healthy. […]

  • […] time to connect with God through journalling and Bible study. So, I decided to just let it rest—this feeling that I should be able to do it all—and I now enjoy my morning time, just as it […]

  • […] I don’t have to play the game of the Christian do’s and don’ts. I don’t have to go on mission trips and serve in the nursery. I don’t have to be a perfect momma. […]

  • […] could not find success in my “achievements” at home—keeping the house clean, feeding my children well, or not yelling at them—because I ultimately failed in those never-ending […]

  • […] list. I can easily become discouraged by all I am not doing well-enough, instead of focusing on where I am succeeding. Don’t […]

  • valleygirl says:

    I agree on so many levels w this post and can really relate….and yet I still feel the need to push past convenience and do what is best regardless. I can’t look past the hydrogenated oils knowing what I know. I can’t bat my eye past GMOs. Sometimes I think I know too much. Praying over our food has taken on new meaning. It’s necessary as our foods are laced w so many evils that wreck havoc on every system in our body. It’s not a “moderation” issue when it causes cellular irreparable damage that can be passed down generationally. I wish I could find a balance. But I seem to be stuck. No we don’t eat perfect. But boy do I work at it. Everyday. And I will continue to do so until I cannot any longer even if it means less sleep, more money and more time needed to prepare. I guess it comes down to priorities and this is an area where I feel very called to show love to my family and our future generations.