When my baby was brand spankin' new, I read somewhere that, "Motherhood is not a competitive sport." and I thought, "So true.", felt a little relieved and went on my merry way, la-la-la-ing down the lane of newborn euphoria (and sleep deprivation).
Today my son is 6+ months old and while looking up the definition of another word online via Merriam-Webster, I saw the following in a sidebar detailing user-submitted words and this was number one (don't even get me started on the fact that THIS was the first user-submitted word on the list! You think this isn't serious? Think again.)...
"Sanctimommy". The definition is as follows:
"A mother who points out perceived faults
in the parenting of others."
I am pretty sure I'm not the first mother (new or otherwise) to be confronted, bombarded and overwhelmed by a mother (or two) who apparently have it all figured out. They may be still in the hospital recovering, with their snoozy newborn in their arms or they may be on baby number five. It doesn't matter. The results are the same: they make you feel as if you're a bad mother because you don't do things they do (or do things they disagree with.)
I believe this to be something that is almost at an epidemic proportion. It's something that has affected myself, my friends and apparently people all over, as I have come across blog after blog about how someone was judged over this issue or that. We're making each other carry burdens we were never meant to haul around and causing one another to cry unnecessary tears.
A young mother is made to feel miserable because they can't breast feed; apparently they didn't "try" hard enough. Or love their baby enough to try harder. If you choose to bottle feed you are "lazy". Someone is made to feel archaic for choosing cloth diapering over disposable. Another is brought to tears because she has chosen circumcision for her son and someone else screams out at her that she has "maimed" her son. If you're induced (even for medical reasons), if you have an epidural, if you have to have a c-section, if you don't even think about a home birth, if you don't have your baby immediately thrown onto your chest post-birth... the list is endless.
And don't get me started on the yards of talk about how medical professionals are "in it for the money". Then there is the hot, hot (and personal) topic of vaccinations - do you follow the current, recommended schedule? Do you choose a delayed schedule? Do you opt out altogether? What about H1N1? Is it really a conspiracy?
As if having a baby isn't hard enough all by itself.
I'm a big believer in boundaries. I fully believe you have to have them and if you don't, not only are you kind of miserable, but you make those around you feel miserable - and small - because your insecurities are driving you to an elevated level of unfairness. I was once so boundary-less that it was just plain sad. I mean, really. And now, being on the other, other side, it's very refreshing. The grass on the other side of the fence can just stay on the other side of the fence.
Once you establish boundaries for yourself (for your marriage, your children) it becomes much easier to respect the boundaries of others. Because you have boundaries, you want them honored, which makes you kind and understanding of the fences others have forged. Typically people who disrespect others either don't have boundaries of their own or may simply lack a "mouth governor" as one of my old friends used to say. There is always the subject of pride, arrogance and supposed superiority. But I believe all those stem from a lack of boundaries in yourself, causing you to not understand or show kindness to another's rights.
If I make a choice for my child, it should not work you into a tizzy (unless I am beating my child in an aisle at Walmart - then you can get as worked up as honor and decency demands). I am my child's parent - I am who God chose for this little life. There is a difference between friendly support and advice, encouragement and quite another to have an attitude that it is "your way or the highway". That is not an appropriate - or Godly - thinking pattern to have in any area of life. Unsolicited advice is just that: unsolicited. Be careful of where you jump in and cast stones.
When I mentioned to a close friend (and a man at that!) that I was working this topic into a blog he applauded me. He has observed this type of thing and he's not even married. How's that for a wake up call, ladies? We need to be very, very careful about our efforts to proselytize other mothers and undermine their God-given right to parent their own children. What we should be doing is encouraging and alleviating fears. Not whipping each other into a frenzied snit over who or why started their child on solids at 4 months vs. 6 months or who does or does not use a pacifier.
One of my closest friends just had her first baby and she was fearful that she might have to have a c-section and forego the plans she had for a natural birth. And I told her, "No matter how that baby girl gets here you have STILL given birth." How sad that we've set each other up to feel that if we don't do it x + y + z then we haven't really done it. That baby girl is here, now, safe and sound and my friend is a wonderful little mother. She had that baby. It doesn't matter how. I find it sad that she even had to worry in the first place. That she even had to fear for a second that somehow she was failing at this "baby thing" when so much about pregnancy and birth is very much out of our hands.
There are a lot of books and websites out there touting this method or that for raising healthy, happy, strong children. But they are all from one person's standpoint. It doesn't matter if they are a doctor or not - they are still human. And humans don't know everything about everything. When it comes to wanting to know what you should really focus on when raising a child, I think you need to look deeper than just the superficial (and even sometimes important) outward things that affect our children.
The Bible says a lot about husbands, wives, and families. We know that children are a blessing, a heritage from God (Psalm 127:3). We know that we are to teach them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and have God's Word before our eyes in our homes and to be diligent about teaching truth to our children (Deuteronomy 11:18-21). We know children are to be obedient to their parents (Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20) and that parents are to not frustrate or embitter their children (Colossians 3:21).
I don't see anything in there about epidurals or using infant Tylenol.
My point is not to say that these things are not important - they are. And with all good things there can also develop an excess. It's very important to be an informed mommy - I fully believe that you need to do the research on things and come to conclusions that you and your husband are in support of and trust are the best for your child. That is your prerogative as parents. But I really think mothers need to stop focusing on the temporal things (where to have your baby, whether to vaccinate, choosing what to nourish your baby with, etc.) and validate and uplift each other regarding eternal things. I think we're way too focused on the here and now.
Titus chapter 2 is a very powerful scripture and I think it would be prudent (isn't that a great word?) to pay attention and implement the things that are true into our relationships with other mothers and let the excess go:
"But as for you, teach what
accords with sound doctrine.
Older women likewise are to
be reverent in behavior,
not slanderers or slaves
to much wine. They are to
teach what is good and
so train the young women to
love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled, pure, working
at home, kind, and submissive
to their own husbands, that the word
of God may not be reviled. Show yourself
in all respects to be a model of good works,
and in your teaching show integrity,
dignity, and sound speech that
cannot be condemned...
for the grace of God has appeared,
bringing salvation for all people,
training us to renounce ungodliness
and worldly passions, and to live
self-controlled, upright, and godly
lives in the present age, waiting for
our blessed hop, the appearing glory of
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ..."
~ excerpts from Titus 2, ESV
Becoming a mother is hard enough. We shouldn't be making things more difficult or painful or daunting for one another. That is the opposite of what we are commanded to do - so why are we more apt to wag tongues and "tsk tsk" and point fingers? Are we insecure? Do we lack proper, healthy boundaries? Are we making ourselves and our knowledge feel so important so we can gain popularity or attention? Are we treating each other with respect and honor? Are we teaching each other in the things that God says we should or are we too focused on current trends and popular scares of the time?
We're all trying to do the best we know to do. We need to put aside legalistic mandates and focus on what God is calling us to focus on as mothers: raising children who fear and love Him. Being a mommy is about way more than Veggie Tales vs. Baby Einstein. Stop majoring in the minors. Being a mommy is a big deal, but I think we're missing the goal when we treat motherhood like the competition that it was never meant to be. Scripture is clear that we are supposed to be supporting and encouraging one another. Not forcing opinions over personal decisions and convictions.
The topic of bullies in the playground seems to be a big deal these days. What about bullies on the sidelines? What about the mommies who aren't playing well with others and sharing? Maybe we, as mothers, need to get back to the basics.
Maybe we all need a time out for awhile until we can learn to play nice with each other.
"If you've gotten anything at all
out of following Christ, if His love has made
any difference in your life,
if being in a community of the Spirit
means anything to you,
if you have a heart,
if you care... then do me a favor:
agree with each other,
love each other, be deep-spirited friends.
Don't push your way to the front;
don't sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside, and help
others get ahead. Don't be obsessed
with getting your own advantage.
long enough to lend
a helping hand."
~ Philippians 2:1-4, The Message