Instead of feeling supported and encouraged by other mothers, we often feel judged, criticized and looked down upon for our choices. Instead of realizing that variety is the spice of life and differences make the world go round, we often think others should do exactly what we do. Giving advice, sharing experiences and comparing results is actually a joy and privilege we mothers have! However, when it turns to negative criticism and judgment we often alienate – or feel alienated – and that makes motherhood so much harder.
Mothers already have guilt as a constant companion and tend to judge ourselves against an unreasonably high bar. If we only share the highlights and never share the lowlights – or conversely only compare our lowlights to others’ highlights – then we are left feeling discouraged and like we don’t measure up.
I think that being a mother is the best thing in the entire world and I think that we mothers need to encourage other mothers. Those with wisdom need to share it with those seeking answers. Those who are hitting their heads against the wall looking for a solution need to ask those who are willing to offer some help and solutions. And, sometimes, we just need shoulders to cry on. Sometimes we just need someone to say “you are a good parent.” I believe that we should see it as a privilege and responsibility to be an encouragement to the other mothers around us. At times when I’ve thought I was going to crack it, a kind word of encouragement or someone saying a compliment about myself or my children was just what I needed to keep going.
How and why we can encourage one another.
(1) It’s biblical.
Titus 2:3-5 talks on the older women teaching the younger women. I think that, whether younger or older, we can learn from each other. There are times when I’ve had an issue with the kids and had no idea how to proceed. After sharing with a few friends I’ve come away with some great tips and ideas for how to proceed. I personally am of the mindset that there’s no point in beating my head against the wall to learn it’s hard if I can take someone else’s word for it. There are many verses in the Bible that speak on being supportive and encouraging to the church. Whether you are using wisdom, giving gifts, or verbal encouragement, all of us mothers can use some lifting up from time to time.
(2) Outside perspective.
Have you ever felt you can’t see the forest for the trees? When you’re in the trenches it can be hard to zoom out and take a larger view. One time I went to a friend for advice and his first words, and all he really needed to say was “zoom out, Rachel.” I was getting so worked up over the details (as us Type A’s tend to do) that I had no perspective. Whether it’s a practical matter like sleeping or eating issues with your child, or ideas on how to get rid of certain behaviors or implement certain strategies at home, hearing others perspectives and ideas can bring a wealth of knowledge. Often we try the same things over and over and need someone else – someone different than us – to throw a new idea into the mix.
(3) Realize you’re not alone.
Isolation and loneliness are killers. Particularly if you are a stay-at-home-mom and have relatively little (compared to your working days, anyway) interaction with others. If your children are sick or you are in a particularly busy season with young children you can begin to feel all alone. Then, you feel as though everything negative happening to you has never happened to anyone ever before. And while we know there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9) let’s face it, sometimes we need to be able to speak with other mothers who are going through similar things.
At one point when I really felt at the end of my rope I spoke with a few other mothers at church and – lo and behold – we were all experiencing similar emotions. Some were grieving the career they’d given up, perhaps indefinitely. Some were grieving the loss of control and order their lives used to have. Some were grieving the lack of sleep and the stress that comes with illness. Though we are all in different houses with different dynamics, I believe we all walked away feeling better knowing that we weren’t “failures” for needing a little uplifting.
(4) Be real and give yourself an outlet for support.
One of my
least favorite verses is James 4:2 NLT where it says “you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” Now I’m not talking about a new car or a pool, although I don’t see why God can’t bless you with those. I am speaking about the strength, perseverance, and endurance to go on when we think we are coming near the end of our ability to keep doing good. If we keep to ourselves and put out the appearance that we are fine (whether we are meaning to put out this vibe or not) it can rob us of the opportunity to receive help and love from others.
A while ago I was leading a Sunday evening women’s meeting at our church and shared my heart about being in a tough spot. Afterwards, women started offering support left and right and saying they had no idea I was struggling because I seemed so “together.” As they said that I was thinking, “ha, what a joke” but my lack of asking for help had meant I went a long time without any.
(5) Share what works.
There is a fine line between offering some advice and wisdom and coming across as critical and unsupportive of another mother’s parenting style. We are all different and we’ll all make different choices on how we run our home based on our personalities, beliefs and values. However, it can also be said that certain things work and certain things don’t. We need to be loving and have true compassionate hearts for our friends and sisters. When this is in place we will be the type of people who can offer some advice and wisdom without being judgmental.
I’ll write more on this later, but you can offer advice that is counter to someone’s current situation without having a “judgmental” heart. If I have a friend whose children are 11 months and still not sleeping through the night, I often very subtly ask a few questions and offer a few little tips. If they “bite” and seem interested and I can tell they see that I truly am thinking of their best interests, we can talk more. If they clam up and feel judged, I stop immediately and assure them I’m not saying they aren’t doing the best they can, I just wanted to offer a new perspective in case it was something they hadn’t heard.
We must not attempt to make others parent like us, but we shouldn’t keep pearls of wisdom and strategies that work quiet just because we fear others will feel judged. If everyone is consistently feeling “judged” by you then I’d say your delivery is probably lacking.
I have a big vision for raising strong and effective warriors for Christ. I know that to be the other I want to be, I need help and wisdom from others. My dear friend recently wrote a great post called Dragons and Damsels here on educating our children and how that brings glory to God. I want to extend an invitation to you mothers who have amazing testimonies, praise reports, stories, ideas and wisdom on how we can raise children to be strong, powerful, heroic and able to rescue others.