Growth Spurts: I Need to Explain.
One of the hardest things for me as a parent is wanting to explain myself and be understood by (Read: approved by) others all the time–especially by other parents.
When my babies were actually babies, I wanted to be ready with a good explanation for why they might be crying at any given time. I wanted to defend our reasoning for working so hard to keep our babies on a schedule. I wanted to explain why my baby was taking a bottle instead of being breastfed. I wanted people to think that I was a good mother.
When my babies became preschoolers, I wanted people to understand why I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted total strangers to believe that my child didn’t regularly throw temper tantrums like the one they were currently observing. I wanted people to know that my children never watched too much TV and always ate their vegetables and happily shared their toys with other children…Okay, so that last sentence was a stretch. But I wanted people to think that I was a good mother.
When my babies became school-aged, I wanted people to know that my children were good students. I wanted to explain our stance on not overscheduling their lives. I wanted to defend our school choices. I wanted people to think that I was a good mother.
My family is now in a season where I find myself wanting more and more to explain and defend our parenting methods, but, as usual, it is neither warranted nor necessary. Why? Because it is unhealthy to make parenting decisions based on what others think of you. You must make decisions and stick to those decisions based on your convictions. You–We!–cannot allow our identity to come from others’ opinions of us.
My family is about to get even messier as we get closer to adopting two more children, and I know that I will be faced with a plethora of instances where I will so badly want to explain and defend myself. There are many who question why we even want to adopt–why we would purposely take this on when we already have three children and very full lives and schedules–but we cannot concern ourselves with their criticisms, even though I want to sit and explain and reason with these people until they understand.
Why is this all so hard for me? One word: pride. As I’ve stated multiple times already, I want people to think that I am a good mother. I like affirmation and approval from others. And while I believe that liking these things isn’t wrong, I believe that depending on them for one’s self-worth is wrong. Also, it puts me in danger of loving myself more than loving my children and doing what is best for them.
Maybe some of you struggle with this, as well. May I encourage you? We all know that there isn’t just one right way to parent. Personalities, schedules, faith, culture, geography, number of children in the family…There are so many factors that affect how a family functions. And even within one family, parenting tactics can vary from child to child. So let’s help relieve each other of some of this pressure to be perfect parents. (You and I might need to close our Facebook news feeds to accomplish this.) And let’s combat this issue with grace and understanding and encouragement for each other. I know I could use it.
Carrie Bevell Partridge will probably always battle her desire to explain herself, and she will always want people to think she is a good mother. [Sigh]