Being a mother is hard. Some thoughts on kids and judgment.

July 13, 2015

I don’t have a lot of time this morning. In fact, I’m squandering precious moments of Gwillis nap time and allowing the boys extra PBS time in order to write it. I felt compelled, and so I’m hoping this is meant for someone out there.

Did ya’ll read this article by Jen Hatmaker?

It was hilarious. So go read it if you haven’t. I actually don’t read her regularly, but she’s hitting on something that is dawning on me and which I devote (probably way more than necessary) time thinking about lately. Motherhood, right now at this moment in time, is spectacularly hard. Not because kids are different than they used to be – at least if that’s true it’s not what I’m talking about – but because the world is a way, way different place than it used to be.

There doesn’t seem to be any place where we can experience rest from the duties of being present with or watching or providing something for our kids. Not the park! Unless you are there by yourself and you are reasonably sure your kids won’t run into the street (heaven help you if you have to use the bathroom and you have two boys on opposite sides of the playground who are too busy playing to hear you, let alone willing to come with you. And then you just decide to go anyway and hope no one dies and then when you come out, one of them is nowhere to be seen and his bike is lying on its side by the road. Not that this happened to me or anything. [don’t worry, he was just playing in ditch water]). If someone else is there, it’s generally frowned-upon for you, as a mom, to sit in the shade and just watch or intermittently read a book or write in your journal. You may NOT allow the children to work out their own issues with sharing because there’s no consensus anymore in parenting. The park has become a battlefield of niceness. Underneath, we don’t all agree with each other but we don’t say it. We don’t ask where someone else is coming from. And we can’t be challenged in our beliefs because we’re all so afraid we’re wrong and that we’re failing.

And you can’t let your kids outside your house alone, to play in the yard or – un-heard-of now – tool around the neighborhood like we used to do. Not that I could, or would, let my 4 and 2 year old do this. But, honestly, when I was a kid in the mid 90’s, my 4 year old sister came with us (the 6 and 9 year old) to the corner store 3 blocks away to buy penny candy or to the park two blocks behind our house where our mom could not even see us. I often feel nostalgic for her era of motherhood that I won’t ever have. Seriously, what was she doing in glorious solitude while we fought over the tire swing at the park or scraped our knees when we rode bikes in the alley behind our house (my little sister no doubt behind me on my banana seat) without helmets? Probably folding laundry. *sigh*

My point is, if I did this, the neighbors would have something to say about it – and most likely to the police when they showed up instead of to me.

I started to write a paragraph about judging here. Honestly, I’m tired of hearing this sentiment most often directed at Christians by other Christians: “stop judging!” I don’t think it’s getting us anywhere. Obviously, we’re all still judging and feeling judged enough to provide fodder for the “stop judging” contingent.

I received prayer on Good Friday that has started me on a path to deeper healing (a deeper easing of depression and anxiety and more consistent joy) than I have ever experienced. The reason this prayer was so effective was in part because the person praying for me has thrown off the false definition of “don’t judge.” This, I have observed, has come to mean a very dangerous kind of moral relativism. It has come to mean “what’s right for me might not be right for you so you can’t evaluate me based on your own code of ethics and better just leave me alone to relate to others who believe exactly the same way I do.” This is NOT what Jesus did. He surrounded himself with moral screw-ups who KNEW they were in need of Him and He judged (and very harshly) the Pharisees: the moral teachers who had made their own code of ethics based on outward appearances. The ones who were trying to impose extra rules to make themselves feel morally superior. They had long since lost a sense of God’s real presence.

The person who prayed for me primarily AGREED with me that what I was sensing as a problem was a problem. She called my sin what it was, but in the next breath, she was able to offer healing, hope, wholeness. Not in herself, but through the work of Christ – His death for me. I had been to countless prayer ministers and well-meaning friends giving advice over the years and their message was always the same: “don’t be so hard on yourself.” This is too hard to unpack in a blog post, and there’s a lot more to it that I’d love to write about later, but I think what I needed is not different from what everyone needs and what’s behind a lot of the angst we all feel as mothers. Jesus did this regularly. He didn’t tell the woman at the well (a marginalized person, living for her own passions and yet searching for something more) “you are probably being too hard on yourself. You need to learn to love yourself more.” He named her secret sin, he offered her Himself (living water! You will never be thirsty again!). And she was changed.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this issue: we mothers (especially those who desire to raise our children without the interference of the state and without exposure to the messages of the world until they have sufficient wisdom to judge wisely) live in a very different kind of world than our mothers. More is demanded of us. We will have to pray for the patience and endurance to be present with our children so much more often. Is not Christ present with us at all times? Should we look for a better model of parenthood than God? We will have to pray for, and practice grace and patience with other mothers who have different values than we at the park. We have to pray for grace for a populace increasingly un-used-to families with more than one or two children and therefore often saying awkward or hurtful things without knowing it. We will have to find new ways to live as Christians, raising our children first as citizens of the kingdom of God, in this world and stop yearning for a time that is gone. At least, I know I do!

Secondly, we need to pray for the discernment to stand for what we know is right when the time is right (Not on Facebook, for the love of God!) but to have grace and openness to the people around us. Yes, even those of us who are introverts and are desperately tired from always caring for our children. Christianity is a white-knuckled clinging to this incarnational reality: Christ is with us and IN us. We judge precisely because we DON’T have a hold on being good. Precisely because we know we are NOT good, and apart from Christ could not even wish to be loving to one another; because we know there is an objective, real reality outside of and above our selves. Some are longing for this knowledge and some can’t hear it at all. Our job of loving – and primarily of practicing the presence of Christ – is the same.

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