Nothing on this earth scares me more than the mother who has it all figured out. You know the type. She lurks in church nurseries, grocery store aisles, and chat rooms and tells everyone how it is. She looks for opportunities to educate you from her limitless vault of parenting knowledge. Her expertise includes everything from the benefits of baby Mozart to the dangers of Santa Claus.
The mom who has it all figured out thinks of herself as a superhero, a heroine of safety and a child advocate par excellence. If she hears your child crying, she will assume it is because you are doing something wrong. Fear not, incompetent mother! She will tell you exactly how to fix it.
This woman asks no questions and takes no prisoners. In less time than it takes you to diaper a baby the wrong way, she will turn your confidence into self-doubt and guilt, with an extra shot of shame.
The mother who has it all figured out, as well-meaning as she may be, is a prison warden dressed up in high heels and pearls. The checklist she uses to measure you by is a snare. It holds you captive to a false gospel that says if you just do everything right, you will be good enough. She readily provides a formula that doesn’t require any faith or very much love. It reduces parenting to an external standard by which you can measure yourself and judge others.
Even though you know better, you’ll be tempted to listen to her because you really do want to be a better mother and she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. In between all the rules, she has some pretty good advice. She’s got the books to prove it and all those lists make everything sounds so…safe.
The trouble is, there is no formula. There is no standard. Even if you could find one, you’d never be able to measure up to it. External standards cannot help us because they are based on the every-changing ideas of fickle and faulty humans. Just as soon as you get one standard under control, someone comes along and changes it.
What’s worse, you will find yourself struggling to stuff yourself into a standard that just doesn’t fit. It’s worse than trying on swimsuits right after Christmas dinner. No standard takes into account the uniqueness of individual parents, children, and circumstances. If you try to measure yourself by it, you will be weighed down with insecurity, guilt, and failure because the only thing an external standard does is make you aware of your need.
There has to be a better way!
Thankfully, there is. Not only is it better, it’s much simpler. It is so astonishingly simple that you will be tempted to think there must be more to it. You will be tempted to add more to it. Because you’d think that for all the arguing we do over the rights and wrongs of raising kids, and the viciousness with which we proclaim our opinions or judge other parents, the Bible would have a lot to say on the topic. But it doesn’t.
In fact, it says very little. It’s kind of shocking how quiet God is on the whole subject of parenting, especially since raising godly kids is kind of a big deal. In fact, the whole of God’s parenting advice can be summed up as follows: love God, then love them.
That. Is. It.
It is shockingly simple, a little scary, and altogether delightful.
In between those two greatest commandments is a whole bunch of free space to live and move and have your being in your home. You are free to be you in your parenting and to let your kids be free in their kid-ness. There is nothing in there about schooling options, organic food, or music choices. There isn’t! God figures that if we take care of the love part, and I mean really take care of the love part, everything else will fall into place.
That means that what is in the best eternal interest for your child might not be the same thing that is in the best eternal interest of my child. In fact, they might be the complete opposites! What works for my family as far as scheduling and activities might be the very death of your family so we can all come together and stop holding each other to standards that just don’t fit.
We are free!
The only thing that binds us is love, and that is an altogether freeing thing to be bound by. Love always seeks to please God. Love always desires to serve the interests of others before ourselves. Love asks “What is the very best thing?” not “What is the easiest thing?” Love is the best and only parenting formula because it is the only one that always fits. Always.
When love rules, we can appreciate the different methods and ideas of other mothers without being obligated to do them ourselves. We can figure out what works for our family without making it a standard for everyone else.
Do you feel the joy in that? This means you can stop parenting for someone else! You can stop parenting someone else’s way!
The mother who has it all figured out might tell you differently, but this is truth: As long as you put love first, you are free to parent in the way that allows you to enjoy your children the most.
That is freedom.
Please join us on Monday for Day 9: Avoidance
For further thought
1) If external standards cause us to feel guilty and insecure, why are we so tempted to accept them and put them on others?
2) Not all parenting advice is bad. In fact, much of it is good. The problem comes when we take good advice and make it a rule or a standard by which we measure our worth as a parent. If we don’t measure up, we despair. Are you trying to live up to a standard set by someone else? How does the freedom you have in Christ change the way you’ve been trying to parent?
3) Take some time to ask God for wisdom and strength to parent out of love, not external standards. He promises to give wisdom to those who ask, and He desires that we abound in love! When you pray to God for the things He desires you to have, He always answers .