If you have followed Hargraves Home and Hearth for very long, you know that one of the topics I am passionate about is exposing the problem of the mommy wars and their effects upon the church. Well, today, rather than merely exposing the problem, I want to offer some specific solutions. Below you will find 5 tips geared towards helping you jump off the mommy wars train. I pray that they prove helpful to you, friend, as they are proving helpful to me in my ongoing daily quest to resist engagement in the mommy wars.
1. Realize That the Problem is not Without; it’s Within
The mommy wars bear much rotten fruit. On the one hand, you have bickering and prideful, pharisaical attitudes of looking down on other mothers for how they do things differently than you. On the other hand, a sense of insecurity over our own parenting choices grows due to how we have been treated by those who disagree with us. Though on opposite sides of the spectrum, neither of these issues is a problem of what the other mother is doing in the scenario. They are a problem of the sin within our own hearts. Pride and a tendency to look down on another mother is evidence of the sin within our own hearts. Likewise, when we allow other people’s opinions of our parenting choices to get us down, to intimidate us, and to make us fearful, we have a heart problem in that we are not being strong in our faith in God and His direction in our lives. We ought always to be looking to Him and Him alone for direction and approval as to how we should do things and trust that He will lead us in the path that is right for us. When we do so, then we can be confidant that we are doing what we know is best for our own children and be happy in that, no matter what anyone else thinks (or has to say!) about it. When it comes to the mommy wars, the problem is not so much the other person and what they are doing, but you and how you are responding to it. I don’t know about you, but that thought really convicts me!
2. Be Humble and Teachable
I think this is the hardest one for someone like me who loves to research issues related to parenting. I like to be well-versed in, and aware of, the various methods out there, which ones are best, what the implications of them are, how to implement them, etc. We all just, as Sally Clarkson would say, “want that magic bullet” that will make everything go well, right? So, we scour the internet and books on various topics pertaining to tending to babies, bringing up toddlers, etc. and once we have found the methods and practices we deem best, we hold on to them with a vice grip and disdain anyone who would dare come in and suggest another way. Now, while it is true that folks need to be careful in how they present their opinions, it is likewise true that we need to be humble and teachable. What we think is best may not always turn out to be best. The Book of Proverbs repeatedly praises the character quality of being teachable (a character quality which requires humility). We should be about embracing knowledge and ongoing learning and growth in areas of parenting, rather than being so staunch in our ways that we are not able to bend and grow. Something else that helps when it comes to remaining humble and teachable is just remembering that studies are constantly, constantly changing in regards to methods of baby care, especially. When my mom had me and my brother, the recommendation was always to put babies to sleep on their belly in order to prevent their heads from going flat in the back. These days, people are all about putting babies down on their backs in order to prevent suffocation. At the end of the day, look to the Lord, not the ever-changing standard of man. Do what is right for your own baby. Understand that all babies are different and will have different needs. Anna always slept swaddled on her back as a baby. James can’t stand being swaddled and doesn’t sleep well unless he is on his belly. Allow the Lord to mold you and teach you through each of the the very different, unique babies He sends your way! 😉
3. Understand the Nature of the Gospel
The mommy wars are muddying our understanding of the Gospel and of what constitutes a good mom. Understand that you are not declared righteous or characterized as a good mom based upon whether you vaccinate or not or whether or not you use pacifiers. These have nothing to do whatsoever with our standing before God. We are declared righteous in God’s eyes through the blood of Jesus on our behalf. That’s it! We musn’t add any other qualifiers to it, lest we become like the pharisees and foolishly uphold and embrace man-made laws and traditions. There is no work or parenting choice we could ever make which could change how the Lord views us if we are truly His. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” If we are saved, then we are completely and totally free from the condemnation of God. And whether or not we co-sleep with our babies and whether or not we breastfeed them is not going to change that. Likewise, we mustn’t look down on other Christian mamas and condemn them for their choices in these non-Biblical (in the sense that they are not taught in Scripture one way or the other) parenting methods. If we are doing so, then we are adding to God’s Word, which He expressly forbids. Which brings me to the next tip,
4. Know the Word
This is so, so crucial, ladies! We must know the actual Word of God through and through. Not only so that we can understand that these parenting methods are secondary, non-Scriptural issues and so therefore we can more easily treat fellow mamas accordingly with grace and understanding, but also so that we might truly be about the actual work of a good mom – that of bringing up her children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and teaching God’s words diligently to them (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). The Lord is far more concerned about what we are teaching our children and how we are treating others than He is about whether or not we sleep train our babies. We need to stop making mountains out of molehills at the expense of those things which actually are of utmost importance! We need to be more concerned about teaching Bible verses to our children than we are about following a ten-step method for perfect sleep training success. We need to be more concerned about following the model of Titus 2 and respecting and seeking to hear from our elders in the faith, those women who are older and wiser and who have gone before us, than we are about whether or not they practiced the parenting methods which are right in our own eyes. We need to know the Word! It is of paramount importance. Of far more importance than being kept up to date on the latest parenting ideas or studies (which, again, are always changing!), is regular study of God’s Word, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
5. Assume the Best of the Other Person
Lastly, we need to seek to always just assume the best of the other person. We need to understand that we do not know what goes on in that other mama’s home, we are not privy to what that mama’s own unique baby prefers and thrives under, or what is in that other mama’s heart as to what her reasons are for doing things the way she does. When people see fit to judge you and your parenting choices and yet they don’t even bother to know the why that is behind the way you are doing things, it is hurtful. Case in point, I know full well that there are folks out there who vehemently disagree with my giving my baby a pacifier. This goes against their belief system when it comes to bringing up babies – they believe that a baby bothered by something ought to be tended to at the breast rather than just given a pacifier as an “easy out”. What those same folks do not know is that, when James was going through the worst of his gassiness, nursing him was not an option in those moments of pain. He didn’t find comfort in being nursed. He was in pain and did not want to eat. If I tried to nurse him, he would cry and cry. If, however, I laid him on his tummy on my lap and gave him a pacifier, he would stop crying and start to instantly feel better. I mention this to illustrate the point of how important it is to assume the best of the other person. We don’t know what goes on behind their closed doors, so it is not for us to jump to conclusions about what they might be doing “wrong” in our eyes. We need to assume the best of our fellow mamas – vaccinating mamas are not out on a mission to chock their children full of toxins and chemicals; non-vaccinating mamas are not sitting around hoping their children will be ridden with a bunch of different diseases. No! We mamas are each simply seeking to do the best we can for our own children, the best we know how. We each want what is best for our children and we want them to thrive. We need to remember that when we are tempted to disdain another mama for how she is doing things.
When we feel so strongly about one parenting method or another, it can be far too easy to jump to judgement of mamas who don’t do what we do. Trust me, I’ve been there more often than I care to admit! But this needs to stop. We, as Heidi St. John would say, have “bigger fish to fry”. There are bigger issues going on in our culture today and in the church today than whether or not a mama has her child extended rear facing in the car. Should we seek to help other mamas out and share what we have learned with them on these various topics? Sure! But, if we are going to do so, we need to be careful that we are doing this in a spirit of grace, humility, love, and service. No more beating each other over the head for the specific choices we are making in these non-Scriptural, secondary issues. Let’s instead focus on those issues that our Lord truly is most concerned about – those things He actually addresses in His Word. In so doing, we will begin to more easily jump off the mommy wars train and, perhaps, be able to lend a helping hand to our fellow mamas who want to do the same.
God bless you, mamas!
Until next week,
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