Emotions are high. Opinions are fact. Opponents are everywhere. Friends are few. How are we to mother? I can’t answer that question for you, because I think that’s how we got here.
Every mother is responsible for her own decisions. That doesn’t mean every mother has to be a researched person in order to mother well, although the “let me Google that for you” culture would say otherwise. It seems that even if you research and inevitably arrive at a different conclusion than someone else, you are subject to venomous words, full of hate.
Difference of Opinion
In a world that preaches messages of tolerance and acceptance, a difference of opinion is an intolerable personal threat. Among moms, this has built slowly over time with increasing heat. We all make different decisions… and that should be okay. Electronic toys or wooden, minimalism or collections, home-cooked or store-bought, vaccines or not, screen time or none at all. And I could keep going. These things have gone from harmless personal opinion to being either right or wrong.
And when you add fear to the fire of ambient stress, we easily get to this place of unbelievable, exaggerated reactions. We are no longer steady people. Stress and fear have overcome.
Moms, when we see a picture of a beautiful mother with a beautiful life, we either hate her or idolize her, and our next thought is something negative about ourselves. Why? What if we saw her, admired the strengths we saw, and then expressed gratitude for our own strengths, knowing it takes everyone playing to their strengths to make this world a pleasant, diverse and beautiful place to live? Why compete instead of simply admire and be grateful?
It’s impossible to be judgmental and grateful at the same time. Did you hear that? We are incapable of thinking someone is higher or lower than us when we are focused on gratitude.
This leads me to my opinion of how we should mother, especially during troubling times. Consider this my manifesto.
Heavy-hearted moms weigh down the whole house. I know, I’ve been one. As I think about my role in raising a generation that will one day stand in my shoes, how do I want to teach them to respond to life? I want to be lighthearted, uncritical yet firm in my own beliefs, gracious to all, gentle and hopeful in my speech and actions, steady and secure. I’d like to influence the things I can, being a loving and committed member of my community, with an open home and a crowded table. I could read my children every diversity book ever written, but if I’m a disgruntled critic of everyone who thinks differently, wouldn’t that speak more loudly than the books?
An interesting story I heard recently was of a man who experienced an earthquake just before boarding a plane. He was in the bathroom and felt the moderate movement of the walls and floor. He’d turned his phone off for the flight, and upon landing, turned his phone back on and saw stories of the earthquake he’d just experienced. He was struck with how much higher his fear and stress were from reading the stories about the earthquake than it was going through the earthquake itself. It’s possible that the digital world is almost always more exaggerated than the physical world, so read your screens with that in mind.
So what’s my manifesto? I will strive for steadiness, gratitude and humility. What’s yours?