The parenting class that I began attending several weeks ago has been full of revelations. Truth be told, there is so much wisdom packed into this class, I am having a hard time assimilating it all. And writing about it has proven to be very difficult as each nugget of wisdom leads my mind down a dozen divergent thought-paths. However, I have discovered that this class is doing more than teaching good parenting tips.
Our group is fairly small, yet there is great diversity within it. We have single parents, veterans of child rearing, and couples with multiple small children. Some of us have kids on the cusp of leaving the nest, while others are still nursing wee ones. And over the weeks, as convicting or painful topics come up, our vulnerabilities can’t help but show.
After the lesson one evening, a young mother asked me a parenting question. It was an easy one to answer, as it spoke to a topic I was very comfortable and familiar with. Then she asked another question, and frankly, I was stumped. I had no experience with the difficulty she was dealing with and thus had no good advice to give her. I left feeling vaguely unsettled. I’ve been a mother for some time, surely I should have some sort of wisdom to share.
I pondered this and prayed for my new friend as I headed home. I realized that, no matter how much experience I may possess, I cannot truly understand the daily difficulties my friend is facing. Conversely, she could never truly understand the trials that I face as a mother. In this sense, we are all very much alone. Each family contains a unique combination of personalities, temperaments, and gifts. While we all need to train our children to God’s moral standard, the ways we go about doing this may be vastly different.
We can never fully put ourselves in the position of another. So what then, as mothers-in-arms, can we do for each other?
We can stop judging each other.
Stop judging the mother whose child is unruly. Perhaps she has not yet learned appropriate tools and tricks for gaining control.
Stop hating the mother whose children are perfect. You don’t know what private struggles they bear, or how hard they’ve worked for the harmony they enjoy.
Stop snubbing the lenient mommy. Perhaps her temperament, or her own upbringing make it difficult for her to be authoritative.
Stop judging the strict mommy. You don’t know what demons from her past may be shaping her decisions.
Stop being hateful to the mother who seems to have it all together. Her insecurities may be legion, or she may be ruled by perfectionism.
Stop being critical of the mother who is falling apart. We have all been there at one time or another.
Let’s be honest here. We have all done this. We judge other moms based on the foods they feed their children, their preferred methods of discipline, their outward appearances, and the educational choices they make. If there is anything worthy of criticism we will find and exploit it, even if only in our own minds.
I’m not one to see the Devil around every corner. I can get into enough trouble on my own, thank you very much. But if there is any sin cooked up in Hell’s own kitchen, it is this subtle smug judgment. It masquerades as holiness, or perhaps as ‘concern’ for someone else. But in reality, it is a self-righteous cancer that rots our consciences and spreads to others. It is destructive to our friendships, our own psyches, and our relationship with the Lord himself.
Become a cheerleader.
What would happen if, instead of tearing each other down, we vowed to become the personal cheerleader of every mommy we know?
How about praying with that mommy who is obviously falling apart? Or the one whose teenager is in full rebellion?
How about offering a word of encouragement (not advice, mind you!) to the mommy who is in the toddlerhood trenches? Haven’t we all felt the despair of drowning in diapers and snot? The bone-deep weariness that makes us wonder if we will ever feel rested again?
And what if we could rejoice in the victories we all work so hard for? Victories are won every day in potty training, overcoming bad behaviors, good grades, getting over the never-ending winter colds, and seeing our children exhibit the character of God himself. Shouldn’t we rejoice together for every hard-fought battle that is won?
What if we were to simply come alongside each other and give one another the freedom to cry, or laugh, or scream, or brag (just a little), or rant when the need arises? How would that revolutionize our mothering years?
As I thought about this little group of people, all striving to be better for their children, I was struck by how blessed I am to be a part of it. My spirits lifted as I realized I do not always need to have the right answer. I am not called to be the all-wise mothering wizard. I am called to listen, laugh, or mourn with my fellow mommies; to help carry their burdens, and allow them to help carry mine. I am simply called to love.
“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10, NIV
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15, NIV
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24, NIV