Every once awhile, I break away from organization tips, homeschooling ideas, and simple recipes to encourage other moms with something that is on my heart, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the way our social connections have seemingly created an environment where we oftentimes feel the need to explain or defend our parenting decisions to one another.
Someone posts a photo on Facebook of their child eating packaged baby food. You know the scene: a cute picture where the baby is smiling an adorable toothy grin as a puree of green beans covers their face, their hands, their high chair, and quite possibly all the nearby walls in the eating space. Instead of being able to simply share all the cuteness in this particular photo, the mom feels compelled to explain why their child isn’t eating homemade baby food – green beans that she not only pureed herself but grew in her own personal organic garden.
Someone shares a photo of their kiddo via Instagram – maybe the cutie pie isn’t wearing shoes or doesn’t have their coat buttoned or isn’t completely strapped in their car seat. The image features a smiling sweetie pie that couldn’t be any cuter if they tried, but because the mom is [already] sensing the questions coming her way, she feels she must add a disclaimer to her caption explaining that the shoes simply weren’t on yet…or the child kept unbuttoning their coat…or she was right in the middle of getting everyone strapped in to their car seats when the photo was snapped.
Have you noticed this phenomenon? Have you experienced it yourself at some level?
As a blogger, I am constantly receiving feedback, comments, advice, etc. from readers – most of the communications are kind and encouraging, but there are times when someone has made assumptions (simply from glancing at a photo or quickly browsing a post) and felt the need to correct me in some way. All of this comes along with being willing to share your life in a public forum such as this, but I realize that this is also happening to other moms – moms who didn’t sign up for it like I have. Whether they feel scrutinized by friends and family who follow along with them on their personal social media accounts or whether they might be sensing this type of thing in real-life, face-to-face scenarios with people they know and love, it makes me sad to think that women are experiencing a constant pressure to explain themselves or defend their choices.
Different personalities handle things like this differently: Maybe you are someone who is able to let unsolicited input from others roll off you like water on a duck’s back. Or maybe this type of thing really bothers you and makes you question your every move – resulting in you second-guessing your parenting decisions (everything from the green beans to your child’s choice in college).
As women of faith, I think it’s important for us to remember that as Christian moms, God has called us to love our child and point them to Him.
That’s the job description.
Think about it:
#1 – Love your children.
#2 – Live in a way that brings your children face-to-face with Jesus.
But our culture has added so many things to the list:
#3 – Carry your baby in a Ergo at all times.
#4 – Don’t use the crib bumper, but definitely use the wipes warmer.
#5 – Potty train by 16 months. Having trouble here? You’re not using enough essential oils.
#6 – Begin preschool activities at 18 months. They don’t want to sit still? Surely something must be wrong.
#7 – Make sure they’re reading by age 4. It’s not working? You’ve let them play on the iPad too much.
#8 – Sign them up for at least 2-3 different sports leagues each year. Travel teams – for scholarship purposes, of course.
#9 – Don’t forget the music classes. Twice a week – no less.
#10 – Enroll them in 6-8 different summer camp sessions.
#11 – Make sure they are bilingual – at least.
#12 – They’ve not been to Disney twice this year? You’re kidding, right?
#13 – Dance classes. Horseback riding lessons. Chef Academy. Don’t miss out!
#14 – High-end bedroom furniture. Name-brand clothing. Can’t afford it? Clearly you need to open an Etsy shop so you can make extra money.
#15 – Smart phones as soon as they ask for them.
#16 – A car that shows up all the cars their friend’s received when they turned 16.
#17 – The.most.expensive.college – You want them to BE somebody.
And in all of this, the joy of parenting gets lost…and the simplicity of childhood is obliterated.
Moms, may I encourage you today to take a step back from all of the expectations you feel…all of the judgment you have sensed…all the need to explain you might have experienced in your parenting journey so far, and will you join me today in walking in the confidence that comes with resting in God’s intention for the parent-child relationships in your home?
Are you loving your children well?
Are you living in a way that points them to Jesus?
These areas alone should be where our focus remains, yet Satan wants to so badly distract us from those things – filling our hearts and minds and schedules and must-dos with everything but creating space to love our families well and bring them face-to-face with their Creator.
Let’s acknowledge the truth that we KNOW but so oftentimes forget: God very specifically created you to be the mom He intended for your children.
Do you feel weak in some area? Friend, you are not alone. I so badly struggle with being impatient and short-tempered with my family – especially when I’m tired. I HATE that about myself, but in my journey so far, God is teaching me that He wants to take those specific weaknesses of mine and FILL them with Himself. Where I am tired, He wants to be my strength. Where I am impatient, He stands ready with the Fruit of the Spirit…if I will allow Him to shine it through me. Where my temper flares, He wants to calm my soul and rejoice over me with singing.
Where do you struggle? Know that the Father stands ready to work mightily through your weakness. In our own strength, we are not enough to fulfill the task He has called us to, but if we will allow Him to step in and flow through us as we serve, we will experience His working in our families in a way that is not possible outside of HIM.
Maybe you have parenting questions that go beyond the ERGO baby carrier or where your child will attend college. Maybe you have questions, concerns, and fears about something big – something really big. In Lysa Terkeurst’s book The Best Yes she offers a great checklist for thinking through any questions/decisions we face:
- Have you been reading and praying through God’s Word lately?
- Have you been applying God’s Word to your [decisions]?
- Have you sought godly counsel and insights from wise people who know specifics about your situation?
Are you struggling with a parenting decision – or a decision of any kind, for that matter? I love Lysa’s encouragement! What a great list:
- Begin with God’s word. If any of you lack wisdom… We simply can not know God’s heart for us if we are not reading his Word. It’s impossible to be in relationship with Him if we are not communicating with Him – and His Word is THE WAY He speaks to us and gifts us with direction in our decision making.
- Apply God’s word. Be hearers and obey… One of the hardest Scriptural commands for me to follow is, Be still and know that I am God. When I feel it’s time to make a decision, I get all revved up – I am a woman ready to take action! I want to see things happen…and they’d better happen fast. (Remember how I mentioned being impatient?) But God doesn’t always want me busying myself in that way. Sometimes (most of the time), He is clearly calling me to be still…and wait…and listen to a whisper…a whisper that is coming, but I’m oftentimes too stinkin’ LOUD and BUSY to hear it – and then I have the nerve to ask why He isn’t answering me.
- Seek wise counsel. In chatting with other moms, it seems that many of us are quick to make decisions based on advice from friends…or what other moms in the neighborhood are doing…or where our kids’ friends are going to be…or how many other families have made the same choice…or what works best for our wallet. But God’s wisdom doesn’t usually line up with man’s ideas.
His ways our higher, so let’s go higher!
Let’s rise above looking to all the wrong places for affirmation regarding our parenting decisions, and let’s rise above the need to always be explaining ourselves and defending our decisions to others. Maybe they are judging us unfairly OR maybe we just feel like they are (when maybe they’re really not). Either way, let’s walk in confidence – not in a prideful or arrogant manner, but with a sense of security that exemplifies humility. Knowing that because we are IN God’s Word – walking in TRUTH and seeking His wisdom, we are making choices that please our Father’s heart: the only thing that really matters!
In our family life so far, two decisions stand out as being big ones for us. #1 As God began to gift us with children, we knew that I would stay home with them full-time. and #2 As our oldest entered the preschool years, we began homeschooling. These are personal choices that we have made based on what we feel God wants for our family at this time.
I oftentimes receive e-mails from other moms: I want to stay home with my baby, but… and I want to homeschool my kids, but… are two very common things for me to see in my inbox.
If you’ve hung around this space for long, you know I am passionate about mothers rejecting cultural norms and being present with their babies and that I have a heart to see children receive a Christ-centered education in whatever way works best for their family. I make no apologies about sharing these parts of myself here on my blog – my personal space where I publish thoughts from my heart and invite you in to a friendship with me whether we agree or disagree.
While there are times when visitors leave my blog feeling angry or hurt, that is never my intention. I would never want my readers to make decisions based off of something I have done or said – or feel the need to defend their parenting decisions to me. The heart behind this blogging space is to point others to the One Who stands ready to guide them on the path He has designed for their family. No matter your choices – whether they are the same as mine or not – my number one goal is to inspire you to love Jesus more each day and discover creative ways to infuse your home with passion for HIM.
I cringe when I see other full-time moms sharing posts that have been designed to convince the world of what they’re really worth as a mom…or other homeschooling parents sharing sarcastic memes that communicate an attitude of superiority – all in an attempt to defend their choices to those who may disagree or misunderstand. I mention these two specific things simply because they are pieces to our current story. My point? Let’s stop feeling a need to defend our parenting decisions and let’s focus more on carrying ourselves in a manner that points others to HIM. Will we always get this right? No. Will our intentions always be accurately perceived? No. Will others always be fair? No. Will friends and family always be respectful of our choices? No. (I speak from experience – and I’m sure many of you can relate.)
Do you feel sidetracked? Constantly seeking the approval of your mommy friends? Or your social media followers? Or your in-laws?
Let it go.
There’s only One person we should be aiming to please, and unless I’m mistaken, He has never mentioned what kind of green beans to feed our babies.