I didn’t know my heart could be so full.
One look at my newborn’s tiny face, and I knew all my future choices would revolve around how best to care and provide for that little one. As I studied those little hands and feet, I was struck by the great privilege and responsibility of guiding a human through life.
I realized that this little life—literally—depended on me. So I poured hours of thought and effort into every decision. Do I breastfeed or bottle feed? Potty train at 2 or 3? Send to nursery school or keep at home? Be a stay at home mom or work outside the home?
It was hard to make those decisions. That’s why my husband and I surrounded ourselves with family and friends who loved us—whose insights we trusted.
Sure, we had our moments when even those close to us disagreed with our choices. Doting (but dubious) grandparents sneaked cookies and cake to our firstborn when we had expressly told them not to. Friends watching our kids for the weekend would let them stay up way past their bedtimes—even though we told them they’d wake up grumpy. But we knew our family and friends loved us and our children.
The Shame of Parent-shaming
What was most discouraging was the unsolicited advice I received from strangers and acquaintances.
I remember when a passerby overheard me venting to my friend about my three-year-old. “He refuses to take naps,” I complained as I shook my head, unwilling to believe it myself, “and he insists on only eating hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
That’s when I heard the stranger behind me clear her throat and say, “Excuse me, but have you ever considered that you are the problem?”
Twelve years later, I was made to feel the same blame when I told a coworker that I was having trouble getting that same child out of bed for school.
His solution? “It’s simple. Just give him his own alarm clock.”
Gee, did he really think we didn’t try that already?
What is it with parent-shaming, anyway? Motherhood and fatherhood are not a competition. No single parenting style is the winner. God has created us all as unique individuals, and while certain parenting practices might not suit our family, they may work well for others. It is devastating to be judged for something you put your heart and soul into.
When our parenting style was judged by others, my husband and I were reminded that it was God’s opinion that mattered most of all. So we asked God for wisdom on a daily basis in prayer and held on tight to his promise to be with us each step of the way.
Joshua 1:9 says, “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” What an encouragement to know of his faithfulness to us—especially while we were in the trenches of childrearing.
If you are struggling to keep yourself above the fray of unwanted parental advice, remember that raising kids is a God-sized task, and God is there for you. I encourage you to pray daily for God’s wisdom, grace, patience, and perseverance. And while you are at it, consider praying for the parents you come in contact with, whether in person or on social media. Here are some verses of encouragement and perspective to get you started:
Colossians 1:11-12 (GNTD)
May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light.
Romans 12:12 (GNTD)
Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
James 3:17 (GNTD)
But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.
Hebrews 4:16 (GNTD)
Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
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