Motherhood is a time where many women feel the pressure to do everything perfectly. Though some of that pressure is self-inflicted, much comes from others. Most moms can relate to feeling like we are living under a microscope with people watching us and waiting to criticize us about anything that they do not agree with or understand. It could be the disapproving glance of a nosy lady at Target because your child is misbehaving publicly or incredulous looks if you choose to continue nursing your toddler.
Our relationships, even at church, can often be a source of discouragement. You might have chosen to co-sleep in the midst of a community of people who mostly sleep train. Or, maybe you chose public school rather than homeschooling. Even though we believe our choices are what is best for our family, we struggle with doubt. When we have insecurities, it doesn't mean we are wrong in our decision, it is often the result of wanting to do things the right way. This is especially true on difficult days where we are prone to question ourselves and our convictions. These insecurities only intensify when it seems we are under scrutiny from others. It makes it hard to have the support, unity, and confidence we need in order to walk through motherhood.
Relationships require openness to share without inhibitions and humility to listen to each other without judgment. We are often placed in situations which inhibit the growth of meaningful relationships. When we get together with a group of moms our discussions can easily center around the stance of the majority. Moms who make “against-the-grain” choices can feel obligated to either change their approach or be silent about the differences. Maybe you find yourself within the minority or the majority today in your circles.
Those in the majority need to recognize that when most discussions negatively amplify the differences in parenting choices, it's difficult for relationships to form. If those in the majority focus on proving their point of view or always making distinction between their approach and the way another family does something, it perpetuates the normal, everyday insecurities of those in the minority. Instead of standing with those who need support on difficult days, at times we use it as an opportunity to prove that our parenting style is best. Imagine a mom, worn out from a long week of parenting who just needs a few words of direct encouragement but instead receives passing comments like, “that's just what you get when you choose X.”
For those moms in the minority, we can sense the need to change or shut down. As if there isn't opportunity to be open and honest about our failures or doubts. We work ourselves into a mindset that we should only share our successes, so that we can defend our choices to those who are quick to critique us. We must work to continue to be transparent.
Freedom is found when we recognize that there is not one right way for many decisions. Each mother has special gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. Each family and child is unique. Our methods, situations, and experiences do not all have to be the same in order to support one another.
We can come together united by the common thread that we love our children, want them to know Christ, and see Him to be honored in our home. This is where we can find true unity together, as we speak to the heart of those who need our support and point each other to the God of all comfort for help.
Four Steps to better Support One Another:
1. Be a good listener and ask questions before offering advice or an opinion
This sounds so simple, but I think we all struggle with wanting to express our opinion about something before really understanding another person. Listening to another mom, asking her questions, and seeking to encourage her before we offer advice is so huge for building unity. This is such a practical way to love on another mom.
2. Be available and reach out
If you know another mom is having a rough week, reach out! Send a text, bring her a cup of coffee, ask her if there is anything you can do to encourage her. None of us are very good at asking for help, especially when we're tired or overwhelmed, so be the one to initiate it in a loving and genuine way.
3. Be open and glean from moms who do things differently
Don't shut down when you know another mom does something differently than you. Ask her about how she does things, and learn from her. Even if it what she's doing isn't right for your family we can still learn so much from each other. Having a humble heart builds unity.
4. Be patient with those who disagree with you
Whether you are in the majority or the minority, you have to pray for patience as you interact with people whom you may not understand. Patience is needed to respond immediately if someone questions your decisions. Patience is also needed to not jump to conclusions about a mom's motives for her approach.
There is beauty and joy to be had when we stop fighting over specific methods and unite in our common goal. Let's not miss out on this joy.