Twice this week I’ve been in contact with women who have made some very different mothering choices than mine. My initial reaction was to feel like – if her choices are “right”, then she must think mine are “wrong”.
What is it about other women’s mothering choices that makes us defensive?
Don’t get me wrong, in neither of these cases did the women say my choices were bad. But in my own mind, it seemed implied. Like I was “less” of a mom because I made a different choice. Ever been there?
I’m pretty sure you have at some point. It could be over any number of topics – how you discipline, working outside the home, what you feed your kids, whether or not you homeschool – whatever.
So my natural reaction was to defend my choices (in my mind, of course). To start listing all the reasons why my choice is the right one. And I think this is what starts the “mommy wars” – you know, the historical “taking sides” on issues like working outside the home.
But after I thought and thought about this, I decided maybe I needed to step back and see what lessons I could learn instead. Not only what lessons I could learn from these moms in order to become a better mom, but also what lessons I could learn in communicating / responding to moms who have made different choices.
Each of us want to be the best mom we possibly can. No one wants to feel judged, and I certainly don’t ever want to make another mom feel “less” because of her choices.
So here are my tips to go on the offensive against automatically being defensive when discussing mothering issues with a mom who may not have made the same choice as you:
- First recognize God’s sovereignty. Isn’t it possible that both mothering choices, in whatever context, can be “right”? After all, our families are different. We are different. And if God can make everyone completely unique, can’t he make our choices completely unique, and yet right for us? Acknowledge that although you may feel strongly about something, God does not lead us all down the same paths. What is right for me may not be right for her and vice versa.
- Analyze why I’m defensive. I need to ask myself whether or not my choice was in fact God’s will for me and my family at that time. If I made the choice without consulting Him, it’s very possible I could have made the wrong choice – and maybe that’s why I’m feeling defensive. On the other hand, if I’m certain it was God’s will for me, then the defensiveness is just a knee-jerk reaction and I need to move on. (Don’t know if it was God’s will for you? Just ask Him – and be persistent in asking!) Then I need to ask God if the choice I made is STILL His will for me and my family NOW. I think God can lead us in different directions at different times in our lives. What may be right for our families now may not be right next year. Things change and God will reveal that to us if we remember to acknowledge Him.
- Keep an open mind. Instead of feeling defensive about something and totally dismissing it, consider whether or not I might learn something from this other mom. Can I improve my own mothering by taking some tips from her? I strongly believe that God puts women in our lives that we can learn from. For example, maybe she doesn’t believe in spanking, but you do. She probably isn’t going to change your mind, but is there a different discipline technique that she uses successfully that you could add to your repertoire?
- Be careful about what I say and how I say it. If we say “my way is the right way” and don’t acknowledge God’s sovereignty in her life, we are removing any chance of learning from one another. My rule for myself – particularly when I talk about my choice to stay home with my kids – is to offer my story ONLY when asked specifically for it or when the woman I’m talking to has expressed that she is feeling confused in that area and I think my story might help.
So that’s what I’ve come up with. I think I can boil it down to this: remember God is in control, be sure I’m following Him, be gracious, and be open to learning!
If anyone else has tips, I’d love to hear them!