While it has obviously tied up my writing time, nursing a baby for the past 6 months has not only given me lots of time to play Candy Crush, it has given me lots of time to think, about lots and lots and LOTS of stuff.
But the thing I’ve been ruminating over the most has been so freeing and so life-changing, it sort of begged me to sit down for a bit this afternoon and share the wealth.
It is changing everything for me.
Question: how many parenting blogs have you read in the last two months?
Me? Probably 15 or 20.
Make that 25.
Articles are great. They are easy to read, they address one specific topic, and they give these great daily boosts of encouragement and motivation. I love a good article.
But articles can also be dangerous.
What you are essentially reading in most articles and blog posts is an author’s personal conviction. Something has come up in that person’s life that has bothered them, and they are turning over a new leaf. Or, like me, they’ve been ruminating on some “stuff” and they sit down to hash it out on their blog.
It is a gift to be let in on these glimpses of personal growth and conviction, and they can be greatly used by the Spirit to promote change and conviction in our own hearts.
But what we, as readers, can sometimes do, is stand up from our daily dose of internet consumption in a fog of guilt-by-comparison.
What?…This lady doesn’t spend time on the internet? I must be a bad mom for loving Facebook so much.
This lady doesn’t tell her kids to ‘hurry up’? I’ve said that at least five times this week! I’m the worst!!
This lady doesn’t buy paper plates anymore? I’m never going to use a paper plate again without feeling like a failure…
And in this rush to heap guilt upon our heads, we make a major mistake, failing to recognize that what we are reading is one snippet from one person’s life that is very specific to their situation.
Let me explain.
I threw in the part about the paper plates because, GASP, I am the lady who doesn’t buy them anymore. After deciding to give them up a couple of years ago, I haven’t bought one. single. package.
I know. I’m incredible.
Now. Imagine if I shared that information in a blog post highlighting tips for cutting down on waste or ideas for improving your monthly budget.
And then imagine that you got that guilty feeling in your stomach because you can’t imagine giving up paper plates. “How is she able to do that?” you ask yourself, “I’m such a loser!!”
But what you wouldn’t realize in that 1000-word blog post (what?! sometimes I keep it to 1000 words) is that, yes, I gave up paper plates, but there is no way in a hundred years that I could give up disposable diapers. Or wet wipes. Or paper towels. Or Hostess donut gems.
It didn’t hurt me much to give up paper plates.
And my real motivation for chucking them in the first place? I wanted extra spending money for fresh flowers.
Because fresh flowers make me happy, and in comparison, paper plates, in my opinion, are kind of…meh.
SO. Obviously, you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself when you read about my paper plate fast.
Now, that was just one example, and a silly one at that, of the misguided comparisons we can make as readers. But now let’s take it to the next level.
What do you do when you read blogs that focus on the very essence of who you are, a wife, a mama, a daughter of God?
Do you unobjectively compare yourself?
And even worse, do you immediately make unfair judgements about yourself followed by sweeping resolutions to make improvements, thinking that if you “do” or “don’t do” these things, you will be more pleasing to God?
The possibilities are clearly endless…
Give up screens for a month.
De-activate your Facebook account indefinitely.
Pull the plug on television. Forever!
Decide that Santa is the worst.
Decide that Santa is okay so long as he is portrayed as St. Nicolas.
Decide that Santa is the BEST.
Do Elf on the Shelf.
Don’t do Elf on the Shelf and think that people who do Elf on the Shelf are ridiculous.
Orchestrate precious birthday parties for your kids.
DON’T orchestrate precious birthday parties because parties are the stupidest, most indulgent thing ever.
I could go on forever, but if we are not careful in our blog perusal, we can tie man-made nooses around our necks, so that the only way we feel successful in the parenting department is if we adhere to this ever-growing list of goals, ideas, resolutions, wars, stances, boycotts, philosophies and even menus.
Our days are spent in guilt because we aren’t sitting in front of our kids, watching every minute of their growth, and because we said this one phrase to this child, and we didn’t throw the party like this one Mom did, and we don’t eat anything organic or we have too much stuff in our house or WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH STUFF or we….
whew. Can I stop now? I’m exhausted.
The internet (and even this blog!) is RICH in help and advice…
but sometimes our little tummies just can’t handle that level of decadence.
We are one person.
With one story.
And this is why I’ve been so encouraged lately, not only to be a better reader, but to realize that there is a huge difference between listening to another believer’s journey and gleaning wisdom from their story and unjustly comparing myself to them.
There are things that we, as parents, MUST do.
Deutoronomy 6:1-9, I Corinthians 13, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:15 (and many more).
well, then there are the other things.
The personal convictions.
The things that we’ll find alllllllll over the internet.
And while the advice and journaling from other believers might just change our life for the better, sometimes we are so busy trying to be 100 other people, we forget to listen to the most important voice in our lives…
the voice of the Spirit.
And here’s what it all comes down to.
I know when I’ve been sitting at the computer too long with my back to the kids. I can feel it in my heart and I can see it on their faces.
(But then, if I’m being honest, I can also recognize those free moments when I can spend some time with my friends and family on Facebook).
I know when I need to put down Candy Crush and just watch my baby nurse and marvel at God’s miraculous provision.
(But then sometimes I feel perfectly allowed to zone out with some chocolate candy balls and stripy candies and exploding candies. Key word: candy. p.s. I will CRUSH you).
I know when I need to allow my daughter to bake with me and learn alongside me.
(But sometimes, after gauging the situation and her countenance, I can send her on her way because I need to hurry so we won’t be late to church).
The challenge isn’t so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don’t want to.
All of the above was the most roundabout way ever to say this…
Let’s stop comparing ourselves to every mom and wife and lady on the internet. We don’t know their situations any better than we do Martha Stewart’s or Michelle Obama’s.
But then again, let’s also be very honest about our own situations and focus more on pleasing God with our innermost thoughts and motivations than we are on fulfilling this pipe dream of perfect parenting.
Are you spending too much time on the internet? Only you know that. (but you know you know it).
Do you need to give up something to be financially faithful? (may I suggest paper plates? Just kidding).
Have you assumed that by doing what everyone else is doing that all is well between you and God? You’ll know the answer to that if you simply ask, and it is a really important question.
Are you fulfilling lots of 10-step programs to better housekeeping and homeschooling and parenting but failing to live the gospel out for your kids to see?
It would just be really unnecessary to lose ourselves in a sea of helpful voices only to forget that God Himself is in our homes. Right here. Beside us. In us. Everywhere.
He knows what is best for our family.
He knows how to parent the quirky individuals He crafted for us to bring up.
He knows what we need to add, what we need to give up, where we are excelling and where we are lacking.
He knows our schedule. He knows our hearts.
And He even knows when we should have a big ol’ birthday party or scale things back a bit…
which leads me to my next post, “Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday”, coming up next week!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you snuffed out the voice of God in your preoccupation with looking like the perfect mom?
How is He teaching you and convicting you in your specific situation?