Monday, August 12, 2013

Words, Faith and the Mommy Wars

What a week for breastfeeding moms this past week has been! We've just completed World Breastfeeding Week, and I honestly can't recall a single week where so much has been written about mothers breastfeeding in public. Much of it has truly been constructive, but some things I've read (especially comments on articles), even from breastfeeding advocates have been filled with inflammatory language and insults.

Unfortunately when it comes to areas where mothers are prone to disagree, many women feel threatened and end up hurling abusive language at the other side without regard to what damage their words might cause. Whether the debate is over breastfeeding, scheduling, parenting style, mothers working outside the home or any other aspect of being a mother, it seems very difficult for some women to see that there are MANY good ways to be a mother.

Accepting and Supporting Each Other Despite our Differences

Recently several mothers have come up with a unique campaign that we would all do well to embrace. Breastfeeding mothers actively show support to their formula feeding counterparts, and vice versa. Some would be quick to say, "How can we support the decision to formula feed when breast is so much better?" Perhaps we need to take a moment to consider the fact that some mothers really do struggle with supply. Rarely, a baby may actually have a health condition that precludes breastfeeding. Unless you know all the details of a mother's struggle, you really can't understand her decision. I have worked with moms who did everything in their power to make more milk, but still had to rely on 1 or 2 formula bottles a day. I guarantee you that those moms did NOT love their babies any less than the mom who was exclusively breastfeeding!

So how do we approach potentially volatile parenting topics? When someone criticizes or questions a parenting choice you've made, how should you respond? If a friend or family member chooses a different style of parenting than yours, what do you say?

First of all, it's important to know WHY you are parenting the way you are. If you have it settled in your mind, and you know that what you are doing is the best for your baby, then you don't need to feel insecure or attacked when someone else does something different.

Secondly, remember that every baby is different, and every family dynamic is different. You are the expert on your baby, just as your friend is the expert on her baby. Trust yourself to do what is best for your little one, but also trust other mothers you know to make wise, well-thought out choices that work for their families. 

It's What You Say AND How You Say It!

I am unabashedly Christian in my world-view, so that definitely affects the way I approach conflict. However, whether you believe the Bible or not, there are some incredible nuggets of wisdom that can help guide all of us through the murky waters of the Mommy Wars. The Bible has a lot to say about our speech that we would do well to consider in this debate.

My youngest child just started high school last week. He's been at Westminster Christian Academy his entire life, but this year we have a new Head of School. In a letter to parents before school began Mr. Bartley set forth three principles that he hoped would guide communication between everyone in the WCA school family in the coming year. They were so outstanding that I asked his permission to share them here with you. As you think about each of these principles in the context of the Mommy Wars, imagine what a change we would see in our culture if we actually began to apply them! Mr. Bartley's words are in bold.

1.     Do not boast or defend yourself but rather talk humbly and repent peacefully.
Do not brag or try to show how great you are; if criticized or if you fail in some way, take responsibility calmly for your part and don't point to what aided your error.
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians 6:14
Can you imagine how amazing it would be if instead of trying to defend ourselves and our choices, we just left it at a simple explanation. NO bragging necessary!

2.     Do not talk unkindly of others but rather affirm and sincerely praise others.
Don't cut anyone down to others or to their face; find sincere ways to compliment people.  When criticism must be done, lovingly attack the flaw, not the person.
"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:15  
From Encouraging Treats by Nicole
Wouldn't it be awesome if we NEVER said anything ugly or unkind about another mother behind her back? What if we looked for things to affirm in other moms even when they do things differently than we do? If there really is an issue that is truly putting baby at risk, then lovingly share the research - not in a militant "my way is the ONLY way" manner, but with a sincere compassion for that mama and her baby.
3.     Do not complain or murmur but rather express gratitude and praise.
Don't murmur against life as if it were not a gift laced with many mercies.  This is not "Pollyanna" optimism, but a putting of all things in the context of God's grace.
"But the fruit of the Spirit, peace, patience...faithfulness, gentleness..." Galatians 5:22-23                            
 Oh if we could just learn not to complain!!! Motherhood is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us, and we need to embrace it joyfully and thankfully. If you believe that you are parenting in the best way possible, then take every opportunity to show gratitude. Be sure to thank those who have helped you along the way in this journey of motherhood!

The Power of Your Words

Christian artist Hawk Nelson has a great song about this topic! One line of the song says
"Words can build you up, 
Words can break you down"
How true this is! So when you are talking with other moms, be sure that you choose words that build up, not words that tear down! If faith truly is an integral part of your life, make sure your words show it!

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