I was walking through Target carrying my infant son, Chase, while James and I picked up a few things. I was standing in the hairspray aisle when a lady walked past me. Once she realized I was holding a baby she paused, smiled, and stated how sweet my son was. We started small talking while she asked his name and how many months he was. She then asked if I was breastfeeding or using formula. I responded saying he was using formula and she immediately went into how my son won’t be getting the nutrients he needs through formula and that I need to stop immediately and use breast milk. I went on to explain how my milk dried up and I breastfed for as long as I could. She then gave me every tip under the sun that would help my body to produce milk.
I went home and was sitting on my bed holding Chase while he drank from his bottle. My mother in law comes into my bedroom and I told her what happened at Target. I finished the story by asking her if I was a bad mom because I didn’t try harder to make my body produce more milk. Without hesitation, she responded, “What? Oh my gosh, no. That’s silly.” As a new mom, taking care of an infant for the first time, I took what this stranger said to heart. I seriously thought that maybe I was doing something wrong.
Have you ever sat in a conversation where someone makes a remark about your parenting choices and you felt the need to explain or defend your choice?
Have you ever been made to feel guilty by how you parent because of the comments from others?
I’ve been in those conversations where I was explaining my decisions or choices to someone who wasn’t James and to be completely honest he’s the only one that I need to be talking to. Seeing my mother-in-law brush the strangers comment off as a silly remark helped me see how silly it really was. But, I haven’t always brushed them off so easily.
I went through a very long season of constantly feeling the need to defend and explain myself. I would leave conversations feeling defeated and questioning my capabilities. I was allowing the judgments of others cloud my vision and confidence as a mother.
One night I found myself, once again, in another conversation explaining a decision I made with my son. I was talking to James about this conversation and how defeated I felt. James then said, “I don’t know why you even entertain conversations like that?” I asked him how I could not and he said, “You just don’t. Stop giving people the space in your life to question your decisions. You’re a mother who loves your child. You know what’s best. They only see five percent of what’s going on.” I knew he was right and that I was valuing the opinions of others more than I should. I was allowing my confidence as a mother to be shattered when someone spoke up and I walked away from too many conversations wishing they had gone differently.
Sweet friend, I want to be clear and make sure my heart is being reflected accurately. There’s a difference between asking questions versus questioning someone.
You will have friends and family members who will ask questions. They do this from a heart of curiosity and to learn more about you. This is done as a way for them to be involved in your life, to support you, pray for you, and encourage you. Those people deserve to have that space in your life. You can’t parent alone- everyone needs to have someone to talk to when parenting becomes messy. Everyone needs people around them praying for them and lending a helping hand when possible.
It’s when someone questions your choices that you need to hit the pause button. This comes from a heart of judgment and when someone sees something being done in a way that differs from their personal opinion. They think their choice is correct which makes your choice wrong and they express it. When they speak from this heart you can easily feel the need to defend or explain yourself and if you’re not careful these are the conversations you walk away feeling defeated from.
Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
After my conversation with James, I needed to make the decision to LET GO and I want to encourage you to do the same:
LET GO of the opinions of others and trust yourself (and your spouse) as you parent with God’s guidance.
LET GO of explaining your child’s behaviors or how you respond when they act up in front of others.
LET GO of feeling the need to be this Pinterest perfect mother if it’s truly not your thing.
So, while I encourage you to LET GO of the opinions of others when it comes to how you parent, I also want to encourage you to EMBRACE.
EMBRACE Christ as He guides you through each season of parenting.
EMBRACE your capabilities to love your child exactly the way you know best and the way they need.
EMBRACE godly friendships with women who will encourage you, pray with you, and support you.
EMBRACE wise counsel with discernment when the path of parenting becomes a little too bumpy.
While you cannot control someone and their motives, what you can control is how you respond. You can choose what to let go of and what to embrace. You can choose which standards you hold yourself to and what goal you want to accomplish as a mother. Most importantly, you can choose to place your confidence in the Lord. When your confidence is found in Christ and not the opinions of others you can boldly walk in freedom.
That freedom will allow you to parent from a heart of joy instead of defeat. This confidence will give you opportunities to support and encourage other mothers in the ways they need it. And finally, your trust will be in Christ and there you will find safety.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in and puts his confidence in the Lord will be exalted and safe.”
This is so right! I also had to stop breastfeeding my daughter (due to a ridiculous oversupply) because she wasn’t able to get good, filling milk. I literally would sit for 20-30 minutes trying to hand express and get to the rich milk only to have her miserable and gassy again. A week after stopping I called my mother in tears asking that exact question you asked your mother in law. Motherhood is one of the hardest seasons AND the one EVERYONE has an opinion about. Praying for both of us to have confidence in ourselves and the wisdom God is giving us for our little ones!
Amen, Katie! Couldn’t agree more!
Kris Gnuse says
This is such a good word, Heather. I know I struggle with many of the same thoughts, trying to justify our parenting choices, both as a stateside family and now as missionaries in Central America. Blessings on your mothering and your words of truth.
Thank you for the kind words, Kris. Also, blessings to you and your family as you serve Central America!
Yes, I feel the need to do this quite often even with kids in high school. It seems like some moms make me feel like what we’ve chosen for our kids is the inferior choice. I then feel guilt and shame.
I need to trust where God is leading our family and be confident in that even if someone else thinks they know better;)
Yes and yes! My oldest is going into 8th grade and I use to feel the same frequency with him.