Okay, moms: Who’s the best mom you know? And what makes her, y’know, stellar?
I wonder what the highest standard for motherhood is in your group of friends. Is it clear where you should be sending your kids to school, or what educational concepts they should have mastered? Whether you should vaccinate? Whether you use essential oils or antibiotics? Which programs your kids are enrolled in, how your daughter’s room is decorated, or what cute ideas you found on Pinterest for her birthday party?
I’ve only been back in the States for a month, so maybe I’m picking up on the wrong vibes. But—I am picking up on some significant pressure that we both give and receive from each other as mommas. Maybe you’re insecure like I was as a young mom, and sometimes still am. So much is imploding in front of you, despite your utter exhaustion. I admit to a wee bit of wicked consolation when another friend has a pile of dirty dishes that’s kind of erupted all over the rest of the kitchen, or when her kid also has a head-turning meltdown in the housewares aisle.
The “shoulds” of motherhood are more than ever before. Before my oldest was born, I pored through tomes by the American Academy of Pediatrics, What to Expect, Focus on the Family. Honestly—I was so overwhelmed with information and the possibility that my child might choke on/drown in/get cancer from/contract salmonella from the world that I was, well, paralyzed.
Perhaps I should just lock myself with my child in a rubber room (manufactured without BPA) well-stocked with video monitor, organic food sliced into non-chokable pieces, age-appropriate educational and eco-friendly toys, a private tutor, homeopathic medicines placed out of reach, and Scripture memory CD’s playing in the background, right? Upon exiting, the child could be misted with hand sanitizer, followed by sunscreen.
And then I had kids. That is to say, then I found out that the quantity of what I could actually control and mandate about my child was even smaller than I thought. My kid pooped in the closet. My other kid pulled up a stool to the kitchen counter, tore open a package of drink mix, and sprinkled it around the house like fairy dust.
My point: Motherhood is a pressure cooker anyway, starting with Mommy Boot Camp when you get home from the hospital. (Someone reminded me that sleep deprivation was used to brainwash POW’s in the Pacific theater during World War II.) But sometimes the Christian pressure cooker is even worse, because of the high stakes we tether to our choices. Well, grinding your own flour gets the most of the nutrients God put into our food. Homeschooling allows me to best disciple my children. A regular date night ensures that your marriage is top priority.
Am I the only one who finds it a little too easy to pencil in some laws where God hasn’t put any? To think, Well, if she really examined her convictions and priorities, I think she’d come to the same place.
Control and law have always been a lot easier to manage than grace—and the breathtaking diversity of the Body of Christ. If you’re like me, you’re prone to giving a little too much credence on all the voices weighing into your life. Maybe you’ll find encouragement in Galatians, too:
Am I still trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ…It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (1:10, 5:1).
Do not give up the unique voice and makeup God’s crafted you with for the specific children He gave you. Everyone else’s voices are only helpful as far as they help you to love God and your family better. (To clarify, fear and anxiety do not help you love better!)
There are few better times in life than motherhood to both provide and accept a pool of grace for each other as we link arms. Girl, as long as you’ve got God, you got this. Like God does for us, we can create a culture where we’re accepted so we can pursue excellence–rather than performing so we can be accepted. Practically, this might look like
- Saving advice for gentle, face-to-face (not social media!) suggestions that follow genuine questions to understand and perhaps switching “shoulds” to “coulds”.
- Choosing carefully what you choose to wholeheartedly “sell” to others, which can sometimes cause less confident or open personalities to feel unseen or insecure. Some of us are more persuasive than others, which can feel militant or overwhelming to less forthright personalities.
- In our own thoughts and considerations of other moms and kids, choosing humility and open-mindedness–what Peter calls “unity of mind” (and my husband dubs “charitable judgments”).
- Ask questions to understand, more than you tell, suggest, and advise. See here for ideas to be less judgmental and more discerning—and here for ideas to welcome authenticity in your relationships
Of course we’re going to have suggestions and ideas for each other. That’s what standing together is all about: You’re not alone. The idea isn’t to add fabric softeners to all your opinions so everyone feels accepted. We simply want to care more about the person and her specific situation—even more than we care about what we see as what that woman should do (in our extremely limited knowledge of the 360⁰ of her circumstances, pressures, resources, and demands).
Without love, our good advice is a resounding gong; a clanging cymbal. Judgment isolates. Love unites and strengthens. Even more than flawless parenting, we’ve got to embrace each other in the broad spectrum of our weaknesses, strengths, convictions, and circumstances.
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