It seems that mothers and babies are labelled as soon as possible. Breast-feeder or bottle-feeder? Cloth nappies (diapers for my American readers!) or disposable ones? Dummy (pacifier!) or no dummy? We make decisions for these tiny humans and then get asked about it, compare ourselves (and our children) to others and spend half the time wondering if we made the right choice. Or is that just my experience?
I don’t necessarily believe other people are actively going out of their way to judge our decisions and let us know what they think. We all have our convictions and opinions. Some of us like to express that. Others of us just think it (I would never do that with my child). I think parents in general need to cut themselves some slack. Stop worrying about what others are doing with their kids, and continue carefully and prayerfully considering what is right for yours.
The factory setting
I have spent a great deal of my life (unfortunately) caring a bit too much about what people think about me, and also my children. I still do it and probably will do it after this post has been published. I am a people pleaser by default. If you could reset me to my factory setting, I would be right there with a smile and ‘yes, I can do that’, not wanting to upset anyone. But what I am learning is I can be kind, gracious and respectfully disagree with others. And it might ruffle feathers. It might cause offence. But I stand by my convictions.
With so many voices available to us and the information overload online, everyone has something to say. It’s overwhelming. Often there seems to be an absence of grace. Can we respectfully disagree without putting the other person down, giving them the silent treatment, cancelling them? Can we speak words that build up and encourage, whilst not vilifying them? There is a lack of critical thinking (there are many ways at looking at this – let’s look at it from other perspectives), discussion and hearing the other point of view. We are all desperate to be heard and want validation and proof that our way is the right way. We may share our view out of a sincere concern. But it’s not right to put someone down because they come to a different conclusion.
Fear of others or the courage of convictions?
As parents, we have a responsibility to care for, nurture and lead our children. This may be worked out differently from family to family. For us, one of the ways this works out is we are going to home educate our children. Home education may bring all sorts of thoughts and feelings to mind. In another post, I’d love to share some of my reasons. Not to prove a point, but simply to share another aspect of life and parenting. There’s actually a lot of wonderful (and hard) things I’m learning. I understand it’s not the right choice for every family and it’s not always possible to do so. But for our family, it is the right choice for now.
Being a home educating parent and a Christian can feel like swimming upstream. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a way that God is at work refining us all. It’s hard at times and there are moments of doubting and questioning. There’s always the temptation to go to that default position. The factory settings of the heart comes with the setting ‘fear of what others think’. Thankfully, God’s Word points us to a better change of heart that only He can work out in our life. The life of a Christian should beat to a different rhythm than the world around it.
Galatians 1:10 (ESV) says, ‘For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.’ Proverbs 29:25 (ESV) says, ‘The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.’ Psalm 118:8 (ESV) says, ‘It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.’ As Christian parents we are to look to Jesus always and not strive for the approval of others. That does not mean we do not engage with those who hold a different opinion, but we do so with gentleness, kindness and respect.
We look to the Lord to help us live out our convictions. At times, we will need to respectfully disagree with others. But in all things and at all times, we are to trust God, serve Him and rest in Him as our refuge. Take heart in who God is and what He has done as you parent your children and seek to follow Him in the strength that He gives.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!’Psalm 31:24 ESV