judge not, my friends, judge not.
no, i don't really think you are judging....just have that verse rolling around in my head (which is slightly miraculous that it is actually rolling around and not caught in the fog of exhaustion like so many other things!). but anyway...yesterday morning was a glorious MOPS morning--tasty hot brunch, fabulous ladies, and a delightfully humorous and genuine speaker, marla taviano (her site is www.marlataviano.com--not sure why blogger won't do my link right now...ugh!)...who just so happens to also be an author...and blogger. she spoke on an issue that is near and dear to my heart (not because i have it all under control, but rather because i so poignantly feel the real struggle...).
she titled her talk "non-denominational mothering"...otherwise known as the judging, comparing, mommy-guilting, etc. we can get so caught up in as moms. here is the article i wrote for "The Crib Sheet"--our MOPS newsletter publication.
“Mommy guilt.” It comes in different shapes and sizes. It can be the byproduct of genuine or imagined scrutiny from others. Googling the words brings up over 820,000 results. Even the most confident of mommies have surely had moments of insecurity over choices they’ve made.
Beth Moore’s recent Bible study on the book of Esther is subtitled, “It’s Tough Being a Woman,” and in the first chapter she makes the case that specifically, “It’s tough being a woman in another woman’s shadow”. This is all too true when it comes to motherhood. As if it is not a tough enough job, women can turn just about anything into a comparison game…breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding, working vs. staying at home, spanking vs. anti-spanking, home-school vs. public school…and the list goes on. Just the other day a friend had posted a comment about her daughter’s ear-infection on her facebook page. She was not seeking advice, but simply sharing what was going on; however, she opened a can of worms, and what ensued was a debate over 20 comments long regarding the merits and deficits of antibiotics—strong mommy opinions flying in every direction. Perhaps Moore’s statement could easily be rendered, “It’s tough being a mommy in another mommy’s shadow.”
Where does mommy guilt come from and what can we do about it? It seems guilt has everything to do with whom we are trying to please. If we are striving to please our peers (even the well-intentioned ones), we will always fall short. We are individuals, and just as God may be calling one family to follow one particular path, He may call another in an entirely different direction. While our peers (and even extended family) can be excellent resources for encouragement and support, they were never meant to be our audience for approval. Galatians 1:10 offers insight; “For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man?” We were not created to look for approval from man, and when we do so, we become easy prey for mommy guilt, comparison and competition.
The verse in Galatians also points us toward the solution to mommy guilt—seeking the approval of God. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 Paul writes, “…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God, who tests our hearts.” We are to speak (and act and make decisions) to please God. Knowing and fearing God is the key to victory in the battle of mommy guilt and comparison. At the core, the struggle is a worship struggle. Do you worship the opinion of man or do you worship God? In his book, When People are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch writes, “A growing knowledge of God displaces the fear of people.” As we move toward God and sit in His presence, the opinion of others and perspective of the world has far less influence and control in our lives; we are able to stop asking the question, “What are people thinking of me?”
okay...so those are some of my thoughts on the topic. and really, the MOPS meeting and this topic had great timing...coinciding nicely with Dr. Phil's working mom vs. stay at home mom show. i was feeding jillian wednesday afternoon and randomly turned on the TV...it was like a train wreck that i couldn't take my eyes off of...watching working moms and stay-at-home moms "square off" in regards to their choices, especially when he brought out all the working moms from the "control room" to weigh in on the merits of working...and, oh my, don't even get me started on the extreme-ness (is that even a word) and judgmental attitude of the chief representative of the stay-at-home moms. i will admit, i have strong feelings about staying at home with my children. i don't do it because i think it is fun or easy...i don't do it because we simply have oodles of cash and wouldn't know what to do with some extra money (can you feel the sarcasm dripping from that statement)...i do it because mike and i feel strongly that it is the right choice for our family, that it is where God has called me to be, AND because it is worth the sacrifice. BUT that is OUR choice...we are responsible only to God to answer for that choice...no one else. so, it seems to me i should allow others to make THEIR choice and answer to God for their choice...they shouldn't have to answer to me. God knows each of our families and circumstances...and He is gracious and loving...so perhaps rather than sanctimoniously trumpeting our opinion and passing judgment we could simply love one another with gracious hearts.
my MOPS table discussion definitely revealed that it truly is a struggle for each and every one of us...whether we express our struggle easily or internalize it, it is there. whether it is over the size (or organization and spotlessness) of someone else's house, the style or size of their clothing, the perfect behavior of their children...and on and on...we all have one or more areas we can tend to struggle with comparing in....or judging.
marla pointed out the reality that whatever we struggle with or feel most insecure about is what we notice in others. oh how true...probably because of the current trend to focus so much attention on how breast-feeding is best (and yes, i understand that it is) combined with my struggles with milk supply have always made that a "hot button" for me...an area where i continual fight insecurity. so yes, i will admit it, whenever i am in a room with a bunch of mommies and i pull out my baby's bottle i shirk a little bit...wondering what some of the breast-feeding mamas are thinking of me. not only that, but i have a radar for other bottles...as if somehow seeing another mom feeding her baby with a bottle will affirm my decision...as if somehow other mom's opinions and affirmation are more important than what God thinks of me. or, when i find myself in a crowd of breast-feeding mamas i often feel the urge to justify or explain..."well, i'm pumping because i struggle with low milk supply...and i just supplement formula"...as if somehow this makes me more or less of a mom...what in the world, why should i feel the need to explain myself?! absurd really...and yet, my heart struggles...i struggle to fix my eyes solely on jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.
and it isn't just bottle-feeding. it is discipline. it is weight. it is creativity and "fun" with the girls. and on and on and on. and truly, the bottomline is that when my eyes are fixing on others...comparing...they cannot be fixed on loving that person...or on growing and becoming more like Christ in my own life. in fact, the more we compare, the more we grow embittered, the more we make those women out as our rivals, the more we strive to become like other fallen human beings as opposed to our Lord. oh that we would be women who truly LOVE one another with the love of Christ...and women who fix our eyes on Jesus....that is my prayer for each of us today!