Here’s the thing about being a mom: you constantly have to make decisions. From birth onward, it’s nonstop – feeding decisions, sleeping decisions, schedule decisions… and before long, decisions about issues like discipline methods, potty-training, (pre)schooling. Is there a realm of life besides parenting in which the decision-making quotient is as high and as consistent? I can’t think of any.
Most moms, virtually all the moms I interact with, care inordinately about their kids and want to make good decisions in raising them. We reflect, ask advice of those we respect, read (perhaps), and – for Christian moms – pray. And we try things out with our kids and take some cues from them – their personality, styles, needs demand.
My point is this: as parents, we are deciders in our households, making judgmental calls daily. We are In-Home Judges. This is part of our calling as moms and dads – to employ wisdom in the day-to-day living of our lives as we follow Christ. But there’s a funny paradox here, because the reality of our being childrearing judges within our homes should not equate with becoming judgmental of other moms who parent differently.
Who among us hasn’t felt judged in our mothering, at one time or another? We’re bottle-feeding when we should be breastfeeding. Our kids aren’t sleeping through the night yet when other same-age infants we know are. Junior is ill-behaved in public, bringing disapproving frowns. We aren’t a full-time stay-at-home mom OR we are (both fodder for judgment there, depending on the company). Among critical-spirited segments of society, moms can be the worst.
And in a way, this makes sense. Many moms carefully set their priorities carefully and then pursue and guard them diligently. Thus they have good reasons to be ardent defenders of the Way They Do Things. There is nothing wrong with this… but it’s a short step from here toward a negative spirit toward others who parent differently.
An old friend ofwith kids similar ages to mine recently started a daily blog about her daily life. She’s a pretty avid Attachment Parenting-style mom, which I’ve found fascinating since I don’t parent that way. Her blog piqued my curiosity so I poked around online to learn more about AP thinking- particularly Christian expressions. I couldn’t believe the strong statements and even vitriol I uncovered. Attachment parenting is either the only way a mom can lovingly parent her child… or the spawn of Satan. There was barely any middle ground. And, I reflected, this is often the way interaction on parenting issues, from feeding to sleeping to disciplining to extracurriculars, goes down — it can be a battleground.
Don’t get me wrong: parenting issues do matter, a lot. I’m not saying “it’s all the same in the end” because I don’t think it is. I’m saying we need grace and a generous spirit toward moms who do things differently than we do, even as we walk out the parenting paths we believe God has called us to with purpose and conviction.
We moms need to take Jesus’ words at face value: “Don’t judge… As you judge others, you will be judged.” I can be as critical toward others’ parenting style as the next mom, but I’m trying to keep these words in mind – and this too: “Judgment without mercy will be shown toward anyone who has not been merciful; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
So what does this look like in practice in a mom’s world? It may mean not providing advice or input to another mom unless it is clearly welcomed , and then adding something like this: “This is how we do it, and these are the reasons we do it this way, but it may well look different in other families.” I’m working toward this.
In one post, my AP mom friend (who isn’t a believer) wrote:” I disagree with that mom’s methods, but who am I to judge another person’s life work?” I don’t think God could have said it better Himself. So here’s to seeking God’s wisdom in all our in-home parenting judgments while extending grace rather than judgment to other moms in their parenting.