I tell you, from the moment you become a mom, your head starts to spin. All of a sudden you are faced with all of these critical choices. Do you breastfeed? For how long? What if it doesn’t work? Do you have your baby sleep in the same room or bed as you? Do you let them cry? Do you use cloth or disposable diapers? Do you spend the extra money to go organic? What do you do when your child gets older and hits, throws a tantrum, bites or screams? How and when do you discipline them?
The thing is, you’re so caught up in a whirlwind of chores, childcare and exhaustion that you can’t even think straight to know how to make these choices!
You think that it will get better when they get older, but then your mind is reeling from trying to keep up with all of the activities, and the clutter, and the piles of paper that accumulate every time you turn your back. You’re trying to decide what kind of schooling your children should have, and how to keep them from fighting, and how to get them to do chores, and what to do when other kids are mean to them.
And you’re sure you will get relief when they’re teenagers, but somehow there’s even less time. And there are even more difficult decisions. When can they start dating? How do you prepare them for college? What do you do about bad influences? How much do you control where they go? When should their curfew be? When can they drive? Who can be in the car with them? Will you be the world’s strictest mom, or the person they can talk to?
As moms, our life is a quagmire of Mom Quandaries. It’s up to us to make the right choices so our children will grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted, responsible, successful and have faith. It’s too much! In fact, each choice feels like too much because we feel the weight of our child’s future on our shoulders.
So moms, I giving you the advice that I would give to my 20 something self as I picture her sitting in a disheveled house, surrounded by rowdy kids, and feeling completely inadequate to determine what to do.
I would give her these verses:
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Prov. 16:3)
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:6)
Sister moms, God has our back! I can’t state it strongly enough. If we will continue to commit our lives to him, HE will work with the choices we make and help things go well.
Our stress comes because we can’t believe this. It’s too scary. There’s too much at stake. So our decisions become too much about us, and not enough about God. We put enormous pressure on ourselves to make the right choice. We act like it’s all up to us. Because when it comes to our children, we have to stay in control. We can’t leave things up to chance.
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5
We really, really need God to be a big part of raising our children. And because it’s so hard for us moms to let go, my next piece of advice is to pray, pray, pray!
“But I don’t have any time,” you say. “My children get up at the crack of dawn.”
I remember one time when I was at the end of my rope. My youngest daughter was a baby, and she wasn’t gaining weight. I was so worried and afraid. She cried all day, and my days were this crazy blur of trying to take care of her and trying to stay on top of my other two toddlers. I finally got up one morning at 4 AM, and just prayed, and kept praying until I could finally trust God. Yes, I was exhausted for the rest of the day, but I had a peace that was worth it.
And that is what we need, as moms. I know, this blog is supposed to be about making decisions, and Mom Quandaries. What I am saying is that you can’t make good decisions unless you find a way to truly give it to God.
Next, you need to seek wisdom from the scriptures. When I had that third baby, I remember how I would finally get all of the children to sleep at night, and then, instead of just collapsing, I would read the Bible like a starving person, looking for that thing that would click and give me some kind of hope or strength to keep me going. I always found it.
And then I wrote it down. I kept a list of “life-saving” scriptures. I would read them whenever I needed to keep my sanity.
Moms, this is so vital. We need truths that will ground us, so we can make decisions from a good foundation. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.” (II Tim 3:16 NLT)
These truths tell us the core principles of a life that really works, not a treadmill kind of existence. They remind us that if we do all kinds of great things, but forget to love, it is worthless (I Cor 13); that we actually need to lose our life to save our life (Luke 9); that we have to guard against putting our children ahead of God. (Luke 14:26)
These truths also keep us from giving way to fear.
Fear plays such a huge part in decision making for moms. You know, we didn’t used to be Nervous Nellies. We were willing to try all kinds of stuff without thinking of the consequences.
But now, as moms, we see the peril in every situation. We see the accidents waiting to happen. We see the health concerns. We see the bad influences. We see the potential for our children to go in the wrong direction and ruin their whole lives! (Yes, we are drama queens.)
Fear is why we have a hard time making decisions. So here is the sum of my advice to moms about decision making: you have to make a decision out of faith, not fear.
“You are [Sarah’s] daughters if you do what is right and refuse to quiver in fear.” (I Peter 3:6)
You have to make a decision out of faith that God is with you, and he is good, and you can rely on that goodness. And then you need to hold tightly to your faith. Because there will be times when it will seem like it’s all falling apart and your child is hurdling towards a chasm of danger. At that point, everything in you will scream that you need to take matters into your own hands.
And maybe there is something you need to do. But don’t ever let go of God’s hand. Don’t ever stop having faith that he is with you, working on your child’s behalf. Don’t be tempted to think that if you can just make the right decisions, you’ll keep your children safe. Because our faith isn’t in our decisions, it is in God.
When I was raising my children, I thought I could figure it all out, and do everything right, and my kids would turn out great. So I gave my life to God, taught my kids all about him, got them involved in the church, and helped them have good friends and activities.
But they still had some majorly scary bumps. It was a very low time.
Here is the verse that sustained me, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (II Cor 12:9) I realized that I couldn’t figure everything out, but that his grace was enough to get me through, one day at a time.
The best decision you can make is to trust God, each day, that he will give you exactly what you need to raise your children for that day. He may not show you how to fix everything for the rest of their lives. But he will provide the direction, wisdom and intervention you need for the day. Just like he gave the Israelites manna in the desert, which was only enough for the day, he will give you your daily bread.
In conclusion, the goal of this blog is to help you look to God in decision making, and not get stuck in all of the pressures and fears. But I do want to offer you some practical nuts and bolts as well. Let me leave you with a few things that may help as you face your maternal dilemmas.
- Articulate clearly what your options are. Write down the pros and cons.
- Articulate your core values. It’s easier to make a decision when you’re clear on what is important to you. Weigh your pros and cons accordingly.
- Determine your long term goals. It’s helpful to see where you are aiming. Then you can determine which steps would best get you there.
- Count the cost. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:8) This verse has to do with following Jesus, but it’s still a good principle. Look at what your decision will require of you, and decide if you can realistically give what is needed. When you do this, be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. Our emotions have us wanting to do all kinds of wonderful sounding things, but when we act on them, we’re like, “What was I thinking?” For instance, when I had my first child, I loved having a baby so much I thought it would be great to get pregnant again right away. Boy, did I not count the cost! It was very hard.
- Ask, “What would I regret the most?” Often, what helps me make a decision is asking myself which path I would wish I would have taken.
- Ask for advice. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22.) There’s such pressure these days to figure it out on your own. But God says it’s good to get all kinds of input. I don’t know how I would have raised my children without the wisdom of older, godly women. But here’s what’s funny to me. I just watched this documentary on new moms in China. They go stay at a mom hotel for a month and pay someone to come help them with the baby. The tradition is to have their mother in law help, but, as one mom explained, “times are different.” They don’t want the old school voice of experience. They want the current “expert.” Are you like that? Will you listen to the voice of experience, or are you only interested in the current experts? We tend to mistrust authority and the old ways. But God decreed that the older women are to teach the younger ones. (Titus 2:3-4)
- Determine the spiritual impact. How will this choice affect your walk with God? Will it make it harder for you to have time for personal devotionals or church attendance? Resolve to act on your belief that if you seek the kingdom first, everything else will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:33)
- Keep it in perspective. Is it really so important? Is it the hill you want to die on? I know one woman who was determined to breast feed her baby. Nursing didn’t work for her, but she could pump. Yet the pumping took so much of her time, and she kept with it for so many weeks, that it really did a number on her sanity and her marriage. We get in that kind of crazy zone when we’re moms. We need perspective to get out of it.
- Make your best decision and move forward. Don’t obsess. Don’t dither. We keep trying to make the perfect decision. So we make no decision. We don’t need to be rash, but we do need to push through and act, and then trust God that he will make our path straight.
- Fast. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Fasting can give you spiritual clarity and move your heart to trust more.
As I look back at my mind-muddled self of 30 years ago, I want to tell her the same thing that I want to tell you: be more at peace. Love God, and trust him, and teach your children to do the same. That is the really important choice, not the stuff you’re stressing over.
I think of King Solomon, who was said to be the wisest man. He went after wealth, knowledge and accomplishments and gained them all. His conclusion about them was, “Everything is meaningless,” and that whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep his commandments.” (Ecc 1:2) The sad thing was that Solomon didn’t hold to this wisdom. “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” (I Kings 11:4a) The really sad thing was that his offspring paid the price. As a consequence, God took the kingdom away from his son, Rehoboam. (II Kings 11:11-12)
Sister moms, let us resolve to never stop looking to God. That is what our children really need.
Yes, fight for your children every day. But then take a deep breath, put your hand in Jesus’s hand, and walk forward with assurance. Our days of mothering may seem crazy, and the Mom Quandaries may seem impossible, but His grace will always be sufficient.
“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (II Chronicles 20:12)
“Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” ( Ps 143:8b)