Motherhood has to be the hardest job on the planet but I think it is getting harder. Not harder in the it-hurts-to-push-this-baby-out sort of way. Not harder in the must-lug-gallons-of-water-to-the-stove sort of way. Not harder in the pray-my-children-survive-the-polio-epidemic sort of way. No. In many ways, motherhood has gotten considerably easier. Medical advances and indoor plumbing and labor saving devices have done wonders for the daily life of the average mother. These advances have made life easier and given us free time and kept us from looking like worn out pieces of beef jerky by the time we are 40. But they have come with a cost and that cost is driving us crazy.
I had my first child in 1990. Back then I was faced with a few choices: Natural childbirth vs. intervention, breast vs. bottle, stay-at-home vs. work, and cloth vs. disposable. That was it. For me, the choices were easy. There were not categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories. There was no internet to tell you the pros and cons of each decision you made. You just did life. You just lived.
Even then, in these most basic of decisions, people could get defensive. It wasn't all fun and games. There were awkward moments. I held to my mothering principles with much more vigor than I should have. I failed to be as gracious to those who chose a different path . . . or had the path chosen for them. But looking back that seems rather mild compared to the coming storm.
Fast forward a few years and the Great Parenting Debates took over. For the first time I started to see parents treating each other with absolute scorn. No longer were women just a little defensive over their choices. What came next was out and out war.
Parenting programs took over churches. Cultural cliques were formed overnight. Parenthood, and motherhood by extension, became a matter of "doing it right." Schedules and disciplines and programs ruled the day and your success was judged by the behavior of your children. Those who succeeded at the program gloated in their success and gave out exhausting and exalted advice, all with an air of superiority and self-righteousness. Those who just couldn't get with the program were left feeling like desperate failures as parents.
By 1996 I had 4 kids who were as poor at following programs as I was at implementing them. Our life was just . . well . . . chaos. But it was fun chaos, most of the time. I do remember on more than one occasion being totally overwhelmed and wanting to run off to Montana . . . ALONE, and even once when I actually wished I were deaf, but looking back, I do not have one single regret that I failed to get with the program.
Fast forward to today. I have lots and lots of friends on Facebook who are young moms or young moms-to-be. The choices they have before them are astronomical. The websites, the mommy blogs, Pinterest (oh EVIL Pinterest). The stakes are high. The expectations are huge. The consequences of every little decision are supposedly so dire. At least that is what they say.
Somewhere along the way we began to believe a lie. And it is a LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL. The lie that there is one right way to be a mother. The lie that we must make every RIGHT decision or the consequences will be catastrophic. The lie that we can control our children's lives. The lie that being a failure as a mother is a fate worse than death.
Run, I say, RUN to pick up your Bible. Turn to Micah 6:8 and read aloud what it says. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does The Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
No mention of childbirth techniques or clever birth announcements. No mention of diapers, cloth or not. No mention of schedules. No mention of highchair manners. No mention of education. No mention of medical advances or food sources. No mention of anything specific at all.
God does not require of you to be a perfect mother. The minute you begin to gloat over your successes or wallow in your failures you are using the wrong measuring stick.
So if you want to put your baby in all organic diapers and grow and make your own baby food, go right ahead. If you just gave your toddler a can of cold Spaghetti-os for lunch, no problem, you are in good company (even if no one else admits it). If you can homeschool with delight and your kids thrive in the environment, good for you. If you feel that a professional teacher may be a better choice for your child, you may be right. If you are concerned about vaccines and decide to withhold them, fine. If you are concerned about communicable diseases and feel that having immunizations are in the best interest of your children, go for it.
We are limited and finite and can only do so much. God created us with different strengths and weaknesses, gives us different resources, places us in different circumstances. This one-size-fits-all-robot-Stepford-mom stuff is robbing us of our joy and pulling us away from what we were created to do: To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
With sympathetic love-
A Worn Out Mom and Kindred Spirit
P.S. (added 3/14/13): Wow! This letter has been read by more people than all my other posts combined—and then some! Thank you to so many who have passed it along. (If you found this post encouraging, you might also read Broken Mother's Day. And my previously most-read post, No Words, Just Tears.)