Like any new mother, I had a normal amount of insecurity tied to duties I had never done before. It’s normal to feel clueless or scared as our children walk through various stages of growth. The wisdom needed for each season is always shifting.
But the insecurity I’m talking about today has less to do with mothering skills and more to do with my mindset as a mother. I’m talking about caring too much about what others thought of me.
Here are a few trains of thought I rode when my children were young:
- My college friends think I’m stupid for getting married instead of finishing school.
- My home school friends think it’s a compromise to put my kids in public school.
- If my church friends saw my house right now, they’d think I’m not a virtuous woman.
- My relatives think I’m a fool for having another baby.
- “The world” doesn’t value what I do as a stay-at-home mom.
This kind of thinking undoubtedly stemmed from the subtle and not-so-subtle advice and suggestions I received from many well-meaning people, people who loved me and were trying to affirm my gifts or protect me from harm. It also came from moms whose choices were different and who were having great success. It’s hard not to absorb legitimate concerns. It’s tough following a path that others we respect think is wrong.
In general, mothers are some of the most criticized beings on the face of the earth. Everybody’s an expert on how we ought to be living. Social media now provides a steady stream of ideas from friends and random bloggers (including me) that call into question any decision we could make about anything. If we’re insecure, we take hints to heart and question our methods constantly. We feel accused, judged, prosecuted, and persecuted. It leads to conformity and decisions tied to fitting in. It’s a miserable way to mother.
The opinions of others certainly caused my to question my decisions and God’s will for me. And it lead to constantly defending my choices about breastfeeding, work, birth control, food, education, money, priorities, and on and on and on. Now mind you, I rarely actually said anything to defend my lifestyle. I just debated in my head with my mother-in-law, my neighbors, my pastor, my extended family, and society at large.
As my children have become young adults, insecurity still rears its ugly head about:
- where they go to college and the careers they choose
- what kind of weddings we can throw for our many daughters
- how well I’ve aged (or not)
- how well positioned we are financially as we look ahead to retirement
While people’s critical eyes and stupid statements may justify our insecurity, we ultimately can’t blame others if it makes us miserable. As women of God we have an answer: We have to grow up and out of our dependence upon human praise:
- Shallow adults try to keep up with the Joneses
- Teenagers bend to peer pressure
- Middle-schoolers follow the crowd
- Babies crave the warmth of their parents’ validation
Mature women, on the other hand, walk confidently with God and follow his lead with boldness and joy regardless of what others think.
I am far more secure now than I ever was before. I’m older and confidence comes easier. Besides that, my happy, productive, godly children validate the way I chose to raise them. But I sure wish I had understood sooner that it was the Holy Spirit guiding me into my Father’s will, molding my heart and my family. I would’ve felt less misery and more joy.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, Ithought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. I Corinthians 13. 11
View from the top: The first photo below from 1990 was taken in Florida when Kellye and I visited my grandmother, Ethel Bernina Meredith Grissom. I loved my grandmother dearly, but she offered her opinion freely. “You have such a good mind. It’s a shame to waste it” (in reference to being a stay at home mom). Kellye’s birth definitely incited deep criticism about our growing family. At baby #4, Joe and I had clearly crossed a line of acceptability! Another relative came out and said, “Joe just needs to put a condom on it!” Wow.