My husband found this article for me and it got me thinking about the Church and the Mommy Wars. You would think that a group of people who united together under the premise of having the same beliefs about sharing the love of Jesus with the world around us would be able to agree to disagree on minor topics like cloth diapering and breastfeeding. But as this article points out, this is apparently not the case. I do see the irony the writer of this article points out, that we have created a culture where it is socially unacceptable to criticize the behavior of others in so many ways, yet people have no problem telling you what you are doing wrong with your children.
I think that with a few exceptions, most parents are trying to do the best they can. But obviously not every philosophy works with every child. We use cloth diapers, in part because it’s less expensive and helps subsidize my ability to stay home with my daughter, but also because we feel it is the better environmental choice. It is the best choice for us. But for another family, where laundry facilities are limited or the budget is not as small, paying for premium disposables that the daycare center will more happily use may be the better option. I can wish that they would give cloth diapers a chance, and perhaps even believe it to be the better choice financially and environmentally, but ultimately I trust that they know what is best for their family.
This however gets even more complicated when dealing with families within the church. As members of the body of Christ we are encouraged to build each other up, as iron sharpens iron. Sometimes this means offering advice, though preferably solicited, to someone if we think it will ultimately help him or her. In my own church I have seen these conflicts reflecting a new generation of parents who are dissatisfied with their own parents’ attempts and want to do things differently. This is also a casualty of allowing the culture to dictate how we raise our children rather than the faith that we claim in the center of our lives. How you chose to discipline your child is between you and God. We need to try to avoid being pressured by the latest expert or the old traditions. Each has advice to give, glean what you can, and move forward from there. Too often I see people gravitating to the “traditional” or “modern” ways of doing things as a knee-jerk reaction rather than a thought out approach to parenting. No, I’m not criticizing their choices, they are theirs to make. Perhaps it is too much to hope that our choices, whether right or wrong, would be made for the right reasons. Parenting like everything else goes in cycles. What is popular now will probably be out of fad for a few years and then be repacked and repurposed and called new again a few years after that.
So how do we as Christians fulfill our call to build others up according to their needs without descending into full blown Mommy Wars? Perhaps it is more about a spirit of love both in the advising and the receiving. When my daughter wouldn’t sleep at night, opinions were a dime a dozen, both from parents and non-parents. But the best advice I received was from those who shared out of empathy for my situation, offered their support no matter what choice I made, and then stepped back. Advising a mother struggling financially that cloth diapers might save her money and offering to help her get started is great. Dropping hints every time you are together and/or berating her for not choosing your way, the “better” way, is just smarting for a Mommy War. At the same time, part of taking advice from others is adjusting the attitudes of our own hearts. Just because someone gives me advice with the wrong attitude doesn’t mean the advice is bad. I need to learn to hear the words more than the tone and weigh them through prayer, the same as I would if I was being given advice on how to improve my devotional life. As Christians our call to build each other up doesn’t exclude parenting, but we need to be dutiful to examine our own hearts both in when and how to offer insight and how to receive it when it comes.