I went and spent some time with my friend Kari a couple of weeks ago. Kari is a huge role model of mine. She is an amazing wife and an amazing mother to 5 beautiful kids. [Check out her blog HERE.] I couldn’t help but wonder what Kari’s magic secret was to parenting her kids so well. So while picking her brain about different topics ranging from spanking to baby schedules to education, Kari said something that really blew me away. She said that parenting is a journey. All parents are on the journey, whether we are in the baby phase trying to choose between breastfeeding and formula or in the adolescent phase trying to decide between public school, private school and home school. There is no cut and dry perfect formula to being a parent. As Kari told me, 1 + 1 does not equal 2 in the parenting world. It is all a journey, there is no magic secret, and we are constantly learning what ideas and techniques work best for our family.
Kari was right. As parents, we are ALL on a journey. For some of us, we will choose to labor naturally in our home while others of us will ask for an epidural from the start. For some we will feed our babies with breast milk, and others will feed with formula. Some will implement Baby Wise techniques, others believe in attachment parenting. Some of us will use spanking for one child and time outs for another. And the beautiful thing is that ALL those ways are right!! God has allowed each of us the opportunity to be on our own unique parenting journey, and He walks with us and guides us as to what is best for OUR own family and each child specifically. And guess what? If a particular parenting method isn’t working for our family, then God will give us grace and guide us as we try out a different method. Rather than viewing the methods that didn’t work as mistakes or “wrong turns,” we should view those methods as steps taken along the way to better know what works for our families! After all, the only way to know what works is to try different things!
How I wish this had sunk in in December 2010 when my parenting journey began with my first pregnancy!
You see, I have a very systematic, perfectionist, type A personality. I have always believed that there is a perfect way of doing things, and if I didn’t do it JUUUST that right way, then I was doing something wrong and there would be consequences. So after 2 ½ years of parenting, I have tried so hard to perfect my techniques. I have tried to birth my kids perfectly, feed my kids perfectly, discipline them perfectly, play with them perfectly and eventually educate my kids perfectly. And in a society full of hidden food additives, whacky education systems, and growing to-do lists, there is just NO WAY to do things perfectly. The goal of perfectionism has totally crushed me and exhausted me as a mom. No wonder it has been a daily struggle to have a good attitude, and no wonder I have been exhausted no matter how much sleep I get each night! I have been aiming for an impossible goal, and the Enemy has been whispering “defeat” in my ear each day. BUT, thankfully, in His goodness, God has opened my eyes. He has set me free. He doesn’t ask me to be perfect! He just asks me to come to the table with what I have and let HIM do a perfect work in and through me.
In fact, I will even go so far as to say that my kids' futures are not even 100% contingent on the decisions I make as a mom now. [Gasp!] Sure, I’m still going to do my BEST to steward these precious lives that God has entrusted to me, but my kids will one day be responsible for their own actions. At a retreat at our church, one of the speakers made the point that even God parented Adam and Eve PERFECTLY, yet they still chose to sin. That was their choice! I no longer have to carry this burden. Praise God.
What I AM responsible for is allowing God to lead me in this parenting journey. If I choose to be led by the Spirit in my parenting techniques, then I will be doing what God calls me to do for MY particular family. And that is the BEST thing for my children, hands down. That means I don’t have to worry about that “latest scientific study” that correlates spanking to serial killing [over exaggeration]. I can trust that if I am obedient to what God is calling me to do, He will transform my kids’ hearts as they are being disciplined. If God gives me the green light for sending my kids to public school one day, then I can do that and trust that God will help correct what might be incorrectly instructed in the classroom. If breastfeeding isn’t working out for me [which it totally is by the way], and I feel led to switch to formula, I don’t have to worry that my child is going to become unhealthy. The Lord is going to make that formula perfect for my baby’s body. No study, no blog post, no book, no advice from any other parent can trump the place of God’s voice in my parenting journey.
Does this mean I am going to discard every bit of knowledge I find regarding parenting? No. I want to continue learning new things and implementing better and healthier choices for my family. But I now understand I won't learn everything overnight. And I now understand that what works for one family may not work for another. And if I read a post about a parenting method that doesn’t ring a bell for me, that’s okay. As I was encouraged at my mom’s group last week, I can let God speak what He wants to speak to me through other moms, blogs and books, and I can freely discard the rest. If any sort of condemnation or shame tries to slip in, I can ignore that feeling because it is not from God. I can read parenting blogs not to compare or criticize, but rather to see what others are doing and share in other mom’s journeys! You see, we are ALL moms on this parenting journey together. We don’t have to be perfect, and we can parent our kids in many different ways.
Thank you Kari for showing me that motherhood is a journey full of grace, new discoveries, and constant growing. May we all do the BEST we can on this beautiful journey God has called us to!