Monthly Archives: February 2018

Mom Quandaries — How to Make Confident Choices

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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!

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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.

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img_00101-e1519397025274.jpgAnd 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?

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

  1. Articulate clearly what your options are. Write down the pros and cons.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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.
  9. Make your best decision and move forwardDon’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.
  10. 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.   

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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)

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Mom Guilt, and What Will Help

Mom Guilt.  I had my struggles with it when I raised my kids,

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But it seems to have hit today’s generation especially hard.

Yesenia

Celeste's family

When I surveyed my friends on Facebook about their Mom Guilt, the answers poured in.

“Oh man what do I not feel guilty about? There is so much contradicting advice to new mothers.  No matter how I do something it is easy to feel as if it is the wrong way.”

“I feel guilty during sleep training, when my baby cries for more than 5 min. I also feel guilty that I seem to struggle with finding a balance between taking care of her, meeting my family’s needs and school work/career.”

“I feel guilty about talents or strengths that I saw in my children that I did not nurture enough, or weaknesses that I did not discipline and help them overcome.”

“I feel guilty for overreacting, and for not playing with them every time they ask me to.”

Can you identify?  But what to do?  Dealing with Mom Guilt is like trying to get chewing gum off of the bottom of your shoe.  The more you try, the stickier it gets.

Our Mom Guilt is complicated.  But I’ve learned some things that will help, and I want to share them.

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LEGITIMATE GUILT V.S. ILLEGITIMATE GUILT

First of all, we need to figure out is whether our guilt is legitimate guilt or illegitimate guilt.  We’re plagued with remorse, but a lot of times we don’t need to be. I’m telling you, Satan has a field day with moms!  Just like the Bible says in John 8:44, lies are the devil’s native language.  Just like the Hebrew translation of his name, Satan is “the accuser.”  He whispers to us that we’re messing up, that we should do more, that other moms are better moms, that we’re damaging our children.

So how do we tell if our guilt is illegitimate?   We start by being honest with ourselves that we’re feeling guilty, and specify exactly what we’re feeling guilty about.  We have to see clearly what we’re dealing with.

That’s the easy part.  The hard part is seeing clearly whether the thing we did was wrong or not.

To address that, I’m going to recommend that you start praying about your guilt, “Father God, show me if it is true that I should have done better in this situation.” I’m also going to recommend that you ask for input from a trusted friend or family member.  Sometimes they can see more clearly than we can.  Plus, it feels good to talk about it with someone!

We can also tell if our guilt is illegitimate by looking at our motivations.  Does it stem from trying to please others?  From trying to live up to what they do?  Does it stem from trying to please ourselves?    You know, I think some of us are harder on ourselves than God is!

Here’s a verse that has helped me many a time, “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:18)

If we seek anything other than the glory of God, it’s going to trip us up.  But seeking to please God is an absolutely pure motivation.  It feels so good to say, “God, you are completely awesome.  I want my life to be praise for you, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.  It’s not so others will think I’m a great mom.  It’s not so I can pat myself on the back.   It’s so you will smile at me.  It’s so I can live out my love for you.”

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A huge source of illegitimate guilt is having unrealistic expectations.  One mom told me that she feels guilty anytime she goes against the “norm” of what motherhood says is acceptable, like when she chose formula over breastfeeding.  There are so many norms these days. We’re besieged by images of a mom should be.  In my day, we thought we needed to be supermom.  Now it’s like moms are supposed to have evolved through the increase in information to be the best moms in history!  There’s this constant message, “You should do this.  You should do that.  Should, should, should, should, should….”

Ack!  Here’s the verse that has saved my sanity,  “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3)

We have to quit thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought!  We need to have sober judgement and realize that we don’t have the ability, or the capability, to do everything we think we should do.

Let’s look at this a little more.  First of all, let’s look at our abilities.  Each of us has unique strengths and weaknesses.  Why is it, then, that when we become a mom we think we’re supposed to be good at everything?  I love the reminder of I Corinthians 12, “If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. . . In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”  This passage makes it plain that we each have something that we’re good at, and that is vitally important.  It also reminds us to not feel shame for not being able to excel at what someone else can do well.

Here’s an example.  I have a friend who suffers from mega guilt because she is often late.  Now I’m not saying that she shouldn’t work on being on time.  But I love that she is one of the few people I know who is good at being present.  She’s not always anxious about the next thing she needs to do.  She gives each person her full attention.  You feel important when you’re with her.  This is an awesome strength!

You have awesome strengths too, but they may come with a weakness you don’t like.

But speaking of time management, let’s talk about our capabilities.  We all have our schedule demands, so even if we do have the ability to do something, we may not have the time to do it.  In addition, we each have differing energy levels and health situations.  Some of us do better with nine hours of sleep, and some of us are wide awake after six hours.  Some of us can keep going all day and through the evening, and others of us are completely pooped by lunch time.  Be honest with yourself.  What can you realistically expect out of yourself?  I’m not giving you a license to be lazy.  But don’t allow yourself to feel guilty if you’re not wired to be Miss Energizer Bunny.  Don’t tell God that you should have been created differently, or be in a different situation.

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LEGITIMATE GUILT

Now that we’ve dispelled some of our illegitimate guilt, let’s talk about legitimate guilt.  Legitimate guilt comes from not doing the important things that you have the ability and capability to do.  But what is important?  We can think of twenty things that seem vital and necessary. I mean, this is our children we’re talking about.  How can it not be super important to see to their health, their education, their character development, and their need to be loved?

We have to make time periodically to reevaluate.  We have to prioritize. 

And God has to come first.

Here is one of my favorite verses, because it’s such a good reminder for me,  “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Ps 127:1-2)

Moms, if you’re not putting God first, all of the efforts you are putting into parenting can be in vain.  Putting God first means making time for personal devotion and church attendance.  It means obeying the Bible and teaching your children to do the same.

It’s the same principle as Matthew 6:33.  Seeking the kingdom first helps everything else to work out.  If you feel guilty because you’re letting other things in life crowd out God, this is legitimate.  It’s the important thing you need to address over the urgent demands.

The next priority is your marriage.   You made a covenant with him that is holy in God’s eyes.  You vowed to cherish him.

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So how is it that your husband got moved to the back burner?

I’m going to pass on to you what was stressed over and over to me: your husband comes before your children.  Yes, I know that your children’s needs are more immediate.  But God designated you to be your husband’s helper. (Genesis 2:18) That doesn’t mean to be his little wife slave.  It means you are in a singular position to support him, believe in him and build him up. What you say and do affects him more than the words and actions of anyone else on earth.

That is why God commands us to respect our husbands.  (Eph 5:33) They need our positive reinforcement, even if they don’t ask for it.  They need to feel like they are important to us.  And they’re not going to feel this if we don’t treat them like they are worthy of our time.

So if you feel guilty because you’re not making time for your husband, or not meeting his needs, you have legitimate guilt.  Be intentional.  Schedule them in.  Try to drop what you’re doing when they desire your attention.  I’m telling you, with the strongest conviction of 37 years of marriage, that it’s worth it.

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And THEN, you can decide what you can do for your children.  Top the list with spending time with your them.  In almost every statement about Mom Guilt, women wrote that they wished they spent more time with their children.  One mom lamented, “I think the biggest thing I feel guilty about is lost opportunities. When I realize that the day has slipped away and I didn’t spend my time the way I intended to, or when the months and years slip away and I don’t have as much to show for the time (in terms of relationship building with my children, character training, homeschooling, etc.) as I had hoped.”

So this is something we want to consciously work on.  Again, we need to have realistic expectations.  We often can’t spend as much time as we’d like to.  But knowing that we are making this a priority will go a long way towards assuaging Mom Guilt.

Make a list, in order of priority, of the other things you would like to do for your children (and for your life, that’s a whole other subject).  Decide what you can do, and resist the temptation to try to do more than that.

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ONE MORE THING — IMPATIENCE

The second highest source of guilt for the moms I surveyed was their loss of patience.  One mom shared, “I feel guilty constantly but what makes me feel the most guilty is when I sin in front of my kids (for example yell at them).”

On one hand this is legitimate guilt.  It’s our responsibility to work on our self-control. We can’t place the blame for the lack of it on the behavior of others.  We can’t excuse it by saying we’ve had a bad day, or that our PMS is making us crazy.  Jesus said,  “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.”  (Mark 7:21)  Maybe we don’t have evil thoughts, but we do need to work on our heart.

On the other hand, we need to remember that God is gentle and kind with us, so we need to be gentle and kind with ourselves.  I love that the fruits of the Spirit include goodness, gentleness and kindness. (Gal. 5:20-21) That means those are characteristics of God.  And it’s comforting that Isaiah 40:11 says, “He gently leads those that have young.”

So if you do or say something you regret, apologize (even to your child).  And then let it go.  Don’t let Satan use the guilt to open your ears to his lies. It might be true that you lost your temper.  But it’s probably not true that you are a terrible mother and you are ruining your child.

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CONCLUSION — LEARNING TO BE CONTENT

In conclusion, all of this is easy to say, and sooooo hard to do!  Because Mom Guilt is complicated.

Do you know what one of the biggest things is that I still can struggle with Mom Guilt about?  It’s that I didn’t give my youngest daughter better opportunities in extracurricular activities.

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I had two older children, and their sports travel teams took up most of our time.  So I sometimes put my youngest daughter in activities that were easy on the schedule.  I wish I had put her in the harp lessons across town, like she wanted at one time, or more advanced dance lessons.

As I reflect on this, I realize that it’s kind of an irrational guilt.  On one hand, I know I was trying really hard to juggle a lot of things.  But on the other hand, my daughter means the world to me, and I wanted to give her the best.

And that is why I think we have so much Mom Guilt.  We want to give our children the best, and we feel bad when we don’t, no matter what our abilities or our capabilities are.

When is all said and done, we have to realize that we’re never going to parent perfectly.  Yes, we need to strive to do what is most important.  But if we’re making an effort to do that, we also need to give ourselves a break.  We’re good moms!   We’re loving our children.  We’re making a lot of good parenting choices.

One of the hardest thing about being a mom is having the ability to be content.  This passage speaks to our struggle so well, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Phil 4:12-13

We always hear the last part of this verse about being able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. But do we remember that it is referring to contentment?

It takes a lot of strength to be able to be content, and we have to fight for it.  Just like we need learn to be content with what we have, instead of wishing for what we can’t have, we need to learn to be content with what we can do, instead of wishing to do more.

In material things, the Bible says that food and drink are all we need to be content.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  (I Timothy 6:8)

In parenting, I’m going to say that putting God first and actively loving our children are all we need to do to be content and free from guilt.  When I started raising my children, I had loads of Mom Guilt.  But over the years, I learned to make these two things a priority.  I came to have much more peace.  I didn’t do them perfectly.  But having the confidence that I was doing what was most important made a huge difference in my sense of well being.

Mom Guilt. We all struggle with it.  But it doesn’t have to dominate, or dictate our lives.  Let’s fight for the joy of motherhood, with which we have been blessed!

Let’s put these into practice:

  1. Ask yourself, “What specifically am I feeling guilty about?”
  2. Pray, “God, should I feel guilty about this?”
  3. Ask someone you trust, “Should I feel guilty about this?”
  4. Look at your motivations. Who are you trying to please?  Seek only to please God.
  5. Ask yourself if you have realistic expectations, according to your abilities and capabilities.
  6. Determine what is most important, and make sure you are taking steps to do it.
  7. Reevaluate and prioritize on a periodic basis.
  8. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
  9. Pray to have the strength to be content with what you can do.

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“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

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