February 1, 2017
Pressures of motherhood
Kendra remembers hearing news reports when she was growing up about extremely competitive mothers cited for bullying or physically hurting their daughters’ competition. One mother even went as far as attempted murder over a cheerleading spot for her daughter.
Kendra has always been thankful she didn’t have to grow up in those situations and now that she and her husband have their first child on the way she wants to keep life in perspective just like her mom did. However, Kendra is already feeling her own level of pressures and the temptation to compare herself with others. She isn’t worried about becoming one of those mothers she heard about in the early ’90s, but she is concerned about balancing it all.
Will she be a good mother? Will she be able to do well in her job while also keeping up with all that has to be done at home? Will she be able to focus on her family solely without worrying about what others around her are doing or are saying she should be doing?
The advice — most of it unsolicited — is pouring in from so many people. How does she avoid getting overwhelmed?
Moms should focus on building each other up instead of competing
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
Television shows from the 1950s and ’60s often depicted families with a dad who went off to work every morning, a mom who stayed at home all day cooking and cleaning and kids who headed off to school or out to play each morning with a “see you later” and a quick kiss on the cheek.
Though some look back on that period with nostalgia, the “traditional” family shown on television was less common than you might think. According to Pew Research Center, in 1960 just half of children were living in a household with a working father and a stay-at-home mother who were in their first marriage. By 1980 only 26 percent of children lived in such a household, and by 2014 only 14 percent of households fit the “Leave It To Beaver” model.
As children increasingly grew up in dual-income families where both parents worked, a battle began to brew between moms who stayed at home and moms who worked outside the home. A 1986 book coined the phrase “mommy mars” to describe this choice faced by many women. Since then, however, the phrase has been used to describe differences of opinion on everything from how a baby is born to how it is fed to how it is put to sleep.
For most moms, the advice begins as soon as others are aware of the pregnancy.
“I was never more keenly aware of others people’s opinions than while I was pregnant with my first child,” said Lisa Keane, clinical director of Pathways Professional Counseling. “Even a common well-intentioned question like ‘When is the baby due?’ could take a rapid negative turn. Once I told a sweet woman that I was six months pregnant, and she responded, ‘Oh, really? You look like you could have that baby tomorrow!’”
After her baby was born, Keane said other issues quickly became hot topics of conversation and criticism.
“When I talked to other new moms, I heard the same questions: ‘Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?’ ‘Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding?’ ‘Are you working or staying home?’ ‘Is she a good baby?’ And it seemed that each of my answers were quickly followed with unrequested advice or personal opinions about what I should be doing based on what that person felt was best,” Keane said.
Christine Hoover, blogger at DesiringGod.org and author of the article “The End of Mommy Wars,” asserts “there is an inherent danger in gathering moms in a room: we immediately compare notes regarding our children’s milestones, personalities and sleep habits. Really though we are comparing ourselves, wondering if we are good moms and if our children reflect that.”
Keane said she felt judged as each comparison made her wonder if she was making the right choice for her baby. Her confidence in her own mothering skills faltered, but her counseling skills also kicked in.
“Quickly I realized all of this could lead me down a wrong path of feeling like a bad mom who was going to ruin my child forever if I made one wrong choice. All the pressure felt heavy and overwhelming, and it was unnecessary,” Keane said.
Many mothers find themselves with similar feelings about their life choices. In a 2014 study, Barna Group reported that a majority of women (59 percent) are dissatisfied with their balance between work and home life. Among moms with children still at home, the rate of dissatisfaction increased to 62 percent. The study found that 8 in 10 moms feel overwhelmed by stress and 7 out of 10 say they do not get enough rest.
Christian women are not immune from the comparisons, according to Barna. The same study found that when practicing Christians compare themselves to their friends, they are 13 times more likely to say they are better than their friends when it comes to parenting skills. They also feel superior in physical appearance and overall quality of life.
“The traps of comparison can ensnare us very quickly,” Keane said.
Instead of heading down the negative path of comparison and criticism, Keane said moms should be looking for ways to help each other strike a better work and life balance.
‘Encourage one another’
“As moms, we should be focusing on building one another up and supporting one another,” Keane said. “In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul says, ‘Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.’ He was reminding the Church to live their lives as God had called them to live. Part of living a life called by God is to encourage and build one another up. What do you think a working mom needs to hear more: criticism and judgment or encouragement and love?”
Ultimately the concept of mommy wars is a spiritual issue, Hoover argues.
“The gospel of Christ holds no place for comparison. We are all equally in need of grace and we all equally receive it as a gift from God. In regards to mothering, the gospel clearly applies: None of us are good enough mothers,” she writes.
Fortunately, through Christ, God offers moms grace in mothering just as in other areas.
“He has given us principles in Scripture as a framework for mothering. He also has given us the Holy Spirit to individually lead and guide us in mothering our unique children,” Hoover writes.
A Christ-following mother shares a single goal with other Christ-following mothers, Hoover writes — “that our children know and worship God.”
“To end the mommy wars in the Church, we must learn to apply the gospel to our own mothering and also to the mothering methods of others,” she says. “When we know God’s grace, we stop looking for validation from others for our methods and we are able to extend grace to others. We celebrate and respect the different gifts and styles of mothering as we move toward a common goal.”
Professional counselor encourages moms to let God, His Word be their measuring stick
By Lisa Keane
Special to The Alabama Baptist
Mommy wars are nothing new to our current society. They are birthed out of the traps of comparison and have been around for ages. The reality is that all parents have different life stages, circumstances and situations that dictate what they can and cannot do as a parent. There are working moms versus stay-at-home moms, breastfeeding versus formula feeding and sleep trainers versus nonsleep trainers. This is just a short list of groups who are often pitted against one another in these wars of comparisons and opinions.
Why do we do this? Because we want to be able to justify our choices as being the best and to accomplish this sometimes we feel the need to put down the choices of others. We typically act this way without even realizing we are devaluing that person’s choices. Most families are doing all they can to keep their heads above water and make it through each day. When they are put down or judged for how they are handling different parenting crossroads, this can cause undue stress, which is especially unhelpful because many moms are already stressed.
An exhausted parent whose child is not sleeping well does not need to hear about how your child has always slept all night or all your great ideas for getting that child to sleep. What they do need to hear is that you know they are trying their best. Maybe you could ask questions that would invite advice or offer to watch the baby while they nap. There are many ways we as moms can support, love, pray for and be there for one another regardless of what parenting choices we make. This is how we neutralize the mommy wars and fend off the daggers of comparison and judgment.
While you may make a choice to keep your opinions and advice to yourself, what will you do with all the unsolicited advice or influences of social media that will come your way? We cannot control what other people do or say, so it is vital to filter these communications and make sure you are not allowing your own internal mommy war to take place. We all internalize the things that we hear and see and allow them to influence how we feel. But an important step in that process is to weed out the words that are not healthy and not based in truth.
As a therapist, I see firsthand the damage of unfiltered words or social media comparisons on a person’s psychological health. One counseling technique I found myself using as a new mom was to focus on Philippians 4:8. If I left a conversation feeling overwhelmed or judged, I would try and measure those thoughts against Paul’s advice: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
If my thoughts did not align with these guidelines, I knew I needed to replace those thoughts with something true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable or worthy of praise. It was not an easy task to do as an exhausted new mom, but it was a necessary step to keep the internal mommy war at bay.
When I became a parent, I gained a new, deeper understanding of my need for Christ in my everyday life. Parenting is hard regardless of circumstances. Parenting is exhausting and some days the only fuel I have comes from Scripture or prayer. What I know to be true as a therapist and as a parent is this: All you can do is the best you can with what you have.
Spending quality time
Be fully present with whatever time you have with your children. Make sure they know that you love them, not just by your words, but also by spending quality time with them. Take care of yourself so that you have something to give to your children when you are with them. Don’t allow other people’s opinions or ideas dictate how you feel about yourself. Instead let God and His Word be your measuring stick.
Editor’s Note — Lisa Keane, LPC-S, is the counseling clinical director for Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry that helps individuals and families seek solutions to their problems through professional, affordable counseling from a Christian perspective. Pathways is a ministry of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries. For more information, visit pathwaysprofessional.org or call 1-866-991-6864.
Tips to help stop the mommy wars
- Think before you give your opinion. Better yet, listen to a mom. She might just need a sympathetic ear to hear her struggles.
- Stop trying to compare your life to others. Your life is different. You have different circumstances, choices and abilities. There is no exact comparison.
- Leave judgment behind. When judgmental thoughts arise about choices other moms are making for their children, remind yourself that you are an outsider with only a glimpse of their lives. Replace the judgmental thoughts with a prayer of thanks for that mom and the love she has for her children.
Source: Birmingham mommy Lisa Keane
Being a mom: ‘honorable position, one designed, appointed by our own heavenly Parent’
By Kathi Macias
Adapted from her book on motherhood
The Bible relays to us the lives of a multitude of amazing women like Rebekah, Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary who grappled with the issues of motherhood. Many of these individuals would have considered themselves failures as mothers, even as we sometimes do today. Yet God included their varied stories in the Scriptures for several reasons, one of which I’m sure is to help us navigate our lives today and stand with sure footing as we lead children, grandchildren — even others’ children in our communities of caring — down the right paths.
Motherhood is an honorable position, one designed and appointed to us by our own heavenly Parent. True, the responsibilities of wearing the title of mom are great, no matter our age — but the rewards are even greater.
One Scripture familiar to mothers is Proverbs 31. However, one of the biggest problems we have as women when we read Proverbs 31 is the feeling that we can never measure up to this anonymous yet seemingly perfect woman who is pure and godly, devoted to her family and community, successful in her business ventures and tireless in her efforts to serve everyone and everything around her. When we read her glowing description and then look in the mirror, the inevitable comparison for us “not-so-perfect” wives, mothers and women can be more than slightly discouraging. It doesn’t have to be.
When we take time to carefully examine this remarkable woman’s life and begin to understand who she really is — or at least who she represents — we can then begin to find great comfort in having her as a role model.
‘The perfect woman’
Perhaps the most likely explanation for the fact that such a prominent woman of the Old Testament is left unnamed is that she is simply too perfect to be any one particular individual. Instead she may be an ideal composite of the perfect wife, mother and businesswoman, embodying most of the admirable traits of other Old Testament women and typifying what we as modern-day women also would like to reflect in our own lives.
Understanding this “perfect woman” as more of a composite of many women, rather than a portrait of one, makes looking in the mirror and searching for her reflection a lot less discouraging. And yet we can still find ourselves coming up as seriously deficient in the comparison game if we aren’t careful to remember one very important point: Even the most devoted wife, woman, mother and/or businesswoman can’t do it all — and certainly not all at once. In fact, God never designed it to be so and doesn’t intend for us to try.
We all have seasons in our lives and we may very well find ourselves in different seasons than those with whom we compare ourselves — and particularly so when that comparison is with the Proverbs 31 woman. Remember this woman had financial means that many of us don’t possess. She had servants so she may not have had to make all the beds in the morning or fix breakfast for the kids before they left for school or water the plants or take out the trash or remember to toss something in the slow cooker before rushing off to work.
Life is busy and we all get caught up in it. Living in a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps,” “I can do it myself,” “more is better,” “time is money” society, it’s easy to become deceived into thinking we have to “do it all” and “be it all” all the time and at any cost, when in reality successful life is more about timely priorities and wise choices.
I can’t help but believe that if I had a chance to ask this virtuous Proverbs 31 woman the question about how to handle the changing seasons of life with grace and wisdom — something she was quite obviously good at doing — she would answer something like this: “Slow down. Enjoy the season you’re in and stop trying to rush through it to the next one, for it will arrive soon enough.”
Be faithful today
No one person can live in all seasons at once. But God can and He does. Knowing this fact enables us to breathe a big sigh of relief, to stop living in regret, gazing in the mirror and seeing a big “F” for failure stamped on our forehead because we think we don’t measure up. It enables us to realize that all we have to do is be faithful today, in the season and circumstances of life where God has planted us.
Editor’s Note — Kathi Macias is a speaker and award-winning author of more than 40 books, many of which are available at newhopepublishers.com. This article was adapted from “Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today” by Kathi Macias. Copyright 2009, New Hope Publishers, Birmingham. Used by permission.
“Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan
of God” by Gloria Furman
“The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart for Eternity” by Sally Clarkson
“Face-to-Face with Lois and Eunice: Nurturing Faith in Your Family” by Janet Thompson
“Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role” by Erin Davis
“Set-Apart Motherhood: Reflecting Joy and Beauty in Family Life” by Leslie Ludy
Compiled by Carrie Brown McWhorter