Monday, September 6, 2010

Navigating Mom World (and why sometimes I'd rather do it sans other moms)

A friend of mine recently posted an innocent status to her facebook profile asking people who knew her to pray that her newborn son would eat and sleep a little better.  By the time I even read the status, there were so many replies it took me 10 minutes just to read them. All but one of them included unsolicited advice about breastfeeding. Join a La Leche league group, call a lactation consultant and, of course, that oh-so-Churchillian adage to "nevah, nevah, nevah give up."  As someone who thought that nursing was just about the most difficult thing I've ever done and whose child wanted nothing to do with it, I myself received a lot of unsolicited and, frankly, demoralizing advice. The last thing you want, when you already feel like a failure, is for about a hundred people to help you understand even more deeply how much of a failure you actually are.

Why do women do this to each other? Why do we, upon reading a simple status, a simple plea to listen and hear, immediately unload our entire experience and opinion on the unsuspecting shoulders of a sister? Why is it so hard to just listen, to just pray in response, to just love people without feeling the need to hear our own selves talk, to contribute our own personal feelings on any and all subjects?  I know I have this tendency myself and am praying hard that God would keep my mouth closed, unless I'm specifically asked to weigh in.

I've been a mom for almost four years now. Some of those days, in fact many of those days, have been among the most delightful of my life. There were some, though, that have been among the most challenging. Kids don't come with instruction books. Parenting takes a lot of trust, involves a lot of mistakes and, mostly, calls for a lot of hope that God is doing more work in my child than I could ever do and that love will cover over a multitude of my own parenting sins.  When I've kept my eyes on Him, I've experienced more peace in parenting than I could ever hope for, even when I'm still not sure about the answer to a specific problem.

A lot of my own glitches with parenting self-confidence, however, have mostly arisen after conversations with other moms. What could be a helpful community of people messily trying to raise their kids and love each other well in the midst of it often turns into insipid competition and overly-opinionated advice giving. "My three year old is reading, isn't yours?" "I think it should be a law for all women to have to breast-feed for the first six months, don't you?" "My 2 year old is 4 feet tall, isn't yours a little shrimpy?"   Ok, ok, I've never heard that last one, but I wouldn't be surprised if I did.  I wonder what parenting would be like without the internet, without pediatric percentiles to make us virulently aware of every little pound and 1/2 inch on our childs bodies and without so much of our need to play the comparison game.

I for one am hoping that the Lord will continually make me a better listener, both to Him and to the women and men around me who are just trying to love their kids well and trust God in the process.  Maybe one result will be that I myself won't fall into that comparison game- both for myself as a parent and for my child's sake! What freedom that would be.  

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