Sunday, December 23, 2007
"What's a Mother To Do?!"
My excitement was quickly overcome by nervousness, however, as one of the first things I read said that the risk of miscarriage is highest during the first three months. I read about what foods I should eat and be avoiding, and began to worry since I had eaten a "forbidden food" the night before. "Oh, no!" I thought after reading another article, "I haven't taken any prenatal vitamins yet and I'm five weeks along!"
Welcome to my life: I am an information addict. My husband, elated by the news that we were going to have a baby, soon became my sounding board for all of the new information that I read about daily. He also wanted to read all that he could, so he could be an educated and helpful partner. We attended classes together, stayed up late reading What to Expect When You're Expecting, and talked to our baby through the womb. In all of our efforts, however, I never realized that we were becoming slaves to our new knowledge. We began to put our trust in what the doctors and authors were saying about our child, and found ourselves questioning every decision we made, wondering if it was the right decision or not.
When we finally announced to the world that we were expecting, we might as well have hung a billboard from my belly that said, "Please Deposit All Unwanted Advice Here!" We got tips from other parents on everything from how my labor and delivery should go, to what the best stroller was to buy, to what pediatrician to choose. While some of the advice was very helpful, much of it was conflicting advice, which confused us even more. Suddenly we realized we had some important decisions to make: Epidural or All-natural? Breast milk or formula-feed? Circumcision or Not? Vaccinations or no vaccinations? Return to work or Stay at home? Put the baby on a schedule or feed on demand? And eventually, Put the kids in school or home-school? We both felt like the questions were endless.
One night after our baby was born, my husband saw me tearing up after I put down a book I was reading. "I just feel so inadequate," I explained. "Everything I read is telling me that I am not doing enough, and making me question every decision we make for our child." "Honey," he responded, "you need to stop reading so much!"
There are conflicting opinions on virtually every topic related child-rearing out there. Part of the confusion is that so many well-meaning Christians can have such opposite viewpoints on the same topics. It is amazing to me to hear the judgmental attitudes that so many Christian mothers have towards their sisters-in-Christ who choose to do things differently than themselves. Many of these woman try to use Scripture to back up their personal choices, making others feel almost as if they are "sinning" by making a different choice. One thing is true: we are all women just trying to do our best. We are trying to find out what works for us. And we may find that what works for us is not what works best for someone else.
I now have two young boys, and I continually find myself in conversations with other mothers about these decisions and choices that we all have to make. While the Bible does not clearly tell us the solution to many of these questions, the Bible does give us wisdom that can help us in making our decisions:
1) We are not to live in fear.
Much of the information we are given as parents is fear-based. "If you don't do this, then this bad thing will happen to your child." Whether you choose to feed your child organic food or not, or vaccinate your child or not, the ultimate reality is that each of our child's lives are in the hands of God. He determines the course of our lives. Psalm 27: 1 says, "The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?" We can also apply this to our lives and say "of what shall I be afraid?" God does not want our relationship with our kids to be driven by fear. He loves us, and we do not need to constantly be afraid that something bad will happen to our kids, because their lives are in His hands.
2) Our trust cannot be in ourselves, but in God.
Our children are gifts from God. They are His children, even more than they are ours. He cares for our children even more than we do. If we are putting our trust in anything on this earth to protect our child, our trust is in the wrong object. That is not to say that we should not do everything we can to protect our children, but our trust needs to be in Him instead of in our own efforts. Is our trust in the choices we are making, or is our trust in God himself? Psalm 20:7 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." Today we could (jokingly) say, "Some trust in Babywise and some trust in breastmilk, but do we trust in the name of the Lord our God?"
3) We are not to have judgmental attitudes towards other parents.
It is tempting to look down on other parents who have different viewpoints than our own. After all, you think, "I have done my research and I know more about this." However, unless it is a life or death issue, Christians have room for disagreement in parenting, and we need to be okay with that. Matthew 7:1-2 states, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Each parent is responsible to God for how they raise their children, not to us. We are instructed not to judge, and leave that job up to God.
Each day I am humbled by the realization that God has given me two beautiful boys to raise, and I cannot claim to know more than my sister-in-Christ, despite how much I have read and researched. God has not called me to become an expert on parenting; he has called me to love my fellow believers. That calling is one I hope to be found worthy of.
*All Scripture references taken from the New International Version.