Moms tend to compete, but this is not a game God calls us to play. Out of an ironic combination of pride and self-doubt, we compare notes on everything, trying to see how our parenting measures up. Yet scripture tells us:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
I am not sure how it came to be that instead of supporting one another through this incredibly full, fun and frantic season, we feel we must fight for the prize of “Best Mom.” But arguing only leaves us feeling empty at a time when we need community.
I found myself in the midst of an online discussion on the pros and cons, blessings and curses, of a hot parenting topic. I was astounded by how quickly fists were raised and battle lines were drawn. It became clear that a respect for opposing positions was not a part of the exchange. Instead, personal attacks began, and women (moms!) turned on one another, viciously attacking each other’s ability to parent. It was awful. It was harmful. And it was unnecessary.
A dear friend of mine began her family before we did. When I went to visit her and her newborn, I listened intently not only to what she was doing but also why she had chosen to do those things. I remember listening to her talk about baby-wearing, nursing, co-sleeping, swaddling, and a myriad of other topics. Her early mothering philosophies impacted my parenting immensely. There were things that she was trying with her sweet new baby that I thought would work for me and things that were not a fit. But talking with her about all those decisions helped me to think through many things that I would need to figure out.
What if, instead of listening with a critical ear, we began to hear one another’s stories openly, looking for what we might learn together? What if we set aside our desire to prove ourselves to one another and decided instead to journey alongside? Because the truth is, there are a lot of ways to do this work. There are a lot of ways to love our children, to meet their needs, and create a home. And we are all working very hard to care for our families.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
What would it mean if we began to value that work and affirm each other instead of fight for a prize? Would we find ourselves somehow lessened? Or would we finally discover a support system of parents who can hear and help during this most important time? We may have to do more than retreat to our own corners. We may have to step out of the fight and start cheering on one another as teammates on the same journey.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster