This transcript is edited for clarity.
Emily: Well, welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Emily Jensen, here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler.
Laura: Hello! Hello!
Emily: And just by way of a few housekeeping items before we get started…First of all, Laura is about to have a baby if she doesn’t already have one in her arms when this is released.
Laura: I know. I kind of hope I do have one in my arms when this comes out.
Emily: We are sharing with you guys a little bit about a small break we are going to be taking. We will talk more about it next week so no worries! Just come back next week, but I wanted to go ahead and plant that bug in your ear. And also, if you want to share with others about this podcast and you’re like, “I have some mom friends or people I know who would benefit from hearing gospel application to motherhood,” we would encourage you to take a few minutes to leave an iTunes review. They have all these algorithms, and that is one way that can help us spread the word about Risen Motherhood. If you don’t know how to do that you can hop over to our website, www.risenmotherhood.com, and we have some quick tutorials there but hopefully it should not be too hard.
Emily: Today we are going to tackle a topic we have had a lot of questions about from different angles. We are trying to sum them all up with “Hey, how do we love moms that are different than us and moms that can be kind of hard to love and hard to be around because of their opinions or their parenting style?”
Laura: Yes, exactly. I’m sure every mom who is listening is like, “Oh, I know the mom!” It’s really normal and natural for us to want to find moms that are similar to us and often I think, whether we admit it or not, we are always observing another mom. What is she dressed like? How many kids does she have? What’s her age? How does she talk? Things like that. And I think we are looking for commonalities or if we are going to like her, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t sort of ease into sizing up a mom or judging her. But it’s just a natural human thing to make observations and to see, “Oh, they look like me!” or, “Wow, they look really different than me!” And so we have that beginning foundation that I think that we all do. But then on top of that—especially in motherhood—even someone who looks just like you from the outside, maybe it’s your best friend, and suddenly you guys both became moms and you’re like, “We don’t even recognize each other anymore!” [Laughs] Because there are so many different areas, especially gray areas, where I think we can take really firm stances and we can even surprise our self with some of the decisions we make. Things like, feeding your child—breast-feeding, bottle-feeding, organic, not organic, how hard you try doing it. Feeding toddlers—are you from the clean your plate club or the eat your age club, are you a no thank you , one bite…
Laura: Kind of ridiculous all the types we have…I don’t know. What else is there, Em?
Emily: I think sleep is a big one.
Emily: That’s usually an early conversation about moms. I was just at a baby shower not long ago, and she was gifted a couple different books that were different philosophies and I was like, “Oh it’s going to be fun to navigate through that.” And even if—well, let me say this, the reality is… I literally don’t know anyone who parents exactly like I do. You know?
Laura: Yes, that’s a good point!
Emily: Even the people that are most similar to me that I can think of still have a ton of differences. It’s just a reality that we have to learn to live with really fast as a mom.
Laura: Yes, and I think that in every area, we can all think of a mom that’s maybe more extreme than us and maybe less extreme than us, you know? And so, we can, generally speaking, probably choose to live in harmony with one another and recognize the differences and be cool with it. But every once in a while, we meet a mom or there’s someone in our life who either has an incredibly strong opinion that they enjoy sharing. Or sometimes a mom—this goes to another level—but sometimes the way a mom parents can inconvenience or maybe interfere with the way that you want to parent. An example of this would be, maybe a mom has a higher tolerance for rough play or what they consider fun play. Maybe they allow their kid to watch a more mature show than you would choose whenever your kids are at their house. Or maybe you have a friend of a family member that watches your children and they just are not quite listening to some of your requests that you have. So you’re consistently seeing behaviors in your child that maybe you wouldn’t allow but because they’re watching your child. It can be hard to know exactly what to do with it or how to deal with that kind of conflict.
Emily: Yes. I’m just laughing because this is so complex. But one thing we just wanted to make clear really quick as we are talking about dealing with differences with other moms is that today on this show, we are not primarily talking about situations where there is potential harm that could come to your child, or there’s a person in your life who’s making really destructive choices. You definitely have to protect your kids and put up good boundaries. There may be people that you need to be out of relationship with for a while or that your children can’t be around—we know that those situations exist. But on today’s show, we are primarily sticking to some of those examples that Laura just gave with moms that are just hard to understand or hard to be patient with. Anyways, we just wanted to offer that caveat before we get too much further into the show.
Laura: I think what we are going to try to get at the heart of today is what do you do. Should you just cut these people out of your life? Or if you can’t get rid of them, maybe they’re family, should you just avoid them? And as we know, the gospel applies to everything and God’s word has principles for processing everything, including this issue. We are going to just try to think through today a little bit. What does the gospel say to these types of situations? Maybe we can start the conversation and then you’ll have to find a way to finish it.
Emily: This is definitely high level, ladies.
Laura: Looking at creation, Adam and Eve were created to live in perfect harmony with each other and with God and to worship him and everybody was on the same page. There was no guilt or shame or conflict—things like that. And if we look at the Trinity, I think we also see how the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all a picture of that perfect relationship and perfect community that God models. Certainly, God values and originally created for all of us to live in peace with one another in healthy relationship. Because of the fall, we know that sin entered and our relationships became broken and severed between one another and also with God. We weren’t just hard to be around or be with, but actually it was impossible for God to have a relationship with us because of his holiness and because of our sin. And so, I think that it is important to remember that it’s not just this person that maybe is coming to mind right now that is hard to love—you, yourself, are hard to love! And I know it’s a hard truth, I mean, it’s hard for me to hear because I’m like, “Everybody should love me!” You know? But what’s funny is, we might just be that typical person in someone else’s life and we don’t even realize it. Sin levels all of us onto an equal playing field and no one becomes better than another person. And so, I think that is important to remember, as we talk through this today, is that you can think about this person that you want to love better because there are some difficulties but also really doing a heart check and seeing, "Where am I being that mom as well?"
Emily: Yes. And I think maybe the reverse side of that is sometimes when we meet a mom and she seems more extreme, we feel this inner need to be like, “She’s wrong! She’s not thinking about this rightly.” It’s kind of a backwards way of stroking our own pride. Like Laura’s saying of needing that validation that we’re more right, we have things together a little bit more than they do. And so we can kind of give ourselves these brownie points, you know? But I was thinking the other day that it’d be like owing someone a million dollars and then playing Monopoly to try to win it back. Every time you win at Monopoly, you give them you’re Monopoly money and they’re like, “Well, that’s great, I’m glad you’re good at Monopoly, but you haven’t paid back any of your debt. “
Emily: And the same is true for us. Once our relationship with God has been severed, there is nothing we can do to earn favor with him in our mothering. And so it doesn’t really matter if we’re more right about the food choice or about the bedtime or whatever.
Laura: Yes, maybe you are more right. But it doesn’t really matter and that’s why we needed Jesus to atone for our sin for these areas of pride or despair that we have. And so what comes with Christ’s atonement on the cross is since we have now been loved, we can now love others with a deeper well of patience and understanding that never runs out because it comes from the source—from Jesus Christ. And so we need to look at the person and the work of Jesus and have that inform and motivate our love for other people. Even just thinking about Jesus examples in the Gospels, he was always seeking the unlovable, the hard to love. He touched really gross things, he surrounded himself with the outcasts, he found the broken and the weary people, and he called them to himself—he called themhis own. And so, we can model that because of what Christ did for us.
Emily: Yes, and I think another point in redemption is just acknowledging God is just and he is the just Judge. We look on outward appearance but he is looking on the heart and someday every heart motivation is going to be exposed. When we are trusting in Christ, we are also trusting God that it’s not up to us to be the mommy moral police.
Emily: God is taking care of that. He’s seeing everything so we can be gentle. We can be patient, knowing that we don’t know the whole picture; we don’t know all that friend’s circumstances. We don’t know everything that’s going on, but God does, and we can gently and lovingly, over the course of a long time, point that friend to Christ.
Laura: Yes! I think that when we find our identity in Christ—like we come back to so frequently on the show—when our worth and our value isn’t tied up in what another person’s opinion is, or how they treat our kids, or what we think they are doing or not doing, we finally live in freedom. Just being thankful that God made us all different and I don’t have to look like that person or I don’t have to carry my feelings in what that person does. There’s a lot of freedom when we remember the disordered love of our hearts, as is it Augustine? Who says that? Maybe I shouldn’t have quoted that on the podcast but we have to reorder them to putting God as our first and foremost priority, so that our identity is found in Christ, and therefore we are not relying on other people to fill us up.
Emily: Alright. Deep breath everyone. I think that was hopefully a fly overview of how the gospel can encourage us in these situations but practically you’re still like, “Hey, though this person is still there [laugh], what do I do? What are some practical steps that we can take in terms of managing these relationships?" And I think first of all, exactly like what we just did, try to remember and rehearse the gospel. And the more that we learn about God through his word and the more we understand what things are important to God and what things matter eternally, it just helps put some of these non-eternal things in perspective and in their proper place. And also I think studying scripture and knowing the gospel helps us know the difference between clear commands of God—things that are just black and white, right and wrong—versus areas that would be considered a disputable matter or a gray area. We have freedom to make those decisions and what really matters is our heart attitude. It’s important to just be saturating ourselves in truth so that we can know what perspective to have.
Laura: Exactly! And as you’re thinking about, “OK, here’s how I want to maybe deal with this situation keeping the gospel in mind,” I think it’s also remembering what you want to be known for and really doing a heart check before you do any approaching or any talking to anybody is to say to yourself, “Am I the hard to love mom?” Like, “Am I being overbearing?” or “Am I being too sensitive in this situation?” I think that it’s really important to do that self heart check, as Emily was saying, of knowing the gospel allows you to do a correct and accurate heart check. Then remembering going forward, what do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known for peace and grace? Or discord and dissension?
Emily: And pray. I mean, think about the scripture about getting the log out of your own eye. I think prayer and meditation on scripture is one of the ways that we can sit down and be like, “God, can you help me be patient with this person?” And a lot of times he will even reveal areas of our own lives where we need to repent or be more thoughtful as well.
Laura: Exactly. Again, looking at a situation and thinking about, “Hey is this something that I need to talk to somebody about? Do I just let this go?” I think that’s the common tension. I think it’s really choosing your battles wisely and if at all possible, letting it go. I think we can all look back on a time when we were new moms—maybe you experienced something new and it was the first time you went through and we all might do things a little bit differently. We maybe would have spoken with a little less confidence or we wouldn’t have talked about certain things in certain ways. And so I think it’s really important to remember that we all have foolish behavior at certain times and we don’t realize until later what we should or shouldn’t have done. Try to remember that mom, especially if she’s experiencing something for the very first time. She will eventually probably come to her own conclusions and realize that maybe she’s being a little extreme on a certain point. And it’s not your job to be her Holy Spirit or to convict her. Unfortunately, for a season, you may just have to endure a mom that is difficult for you to love in your life and just pray that God will help them see the error of their ways, giving you grace and patience to endure it.
Emily: I think there’s this natural tendency to avoid people and hard situations that seems really strong. Just in general, find ways to reach out to those people, find ways to love them, and bear with them, and seek to understand, asking questions, get to know them. You might be surprised by what you learn. I know there’s been several times where I kind of pressed into to someone’s differences from me as a mom and then I really benefited for it. And if anything, it’s just given me more understanding for people who are different from me and I just think God has used it to show me, “Hey, we can be unified in our goal for the gospel and have different ways or doing things and we can still love and respect one another.”
Laura: Yes, and here we move to those difficult situations where you really feel like God is leading you to talk to that person. How do you know if that’s correct and how to you go about that? We get a lot of emails about that from moms, so we want to say up front this is super case by case and this is not something that we can tell you, “Hey, this is what you should do. You’re for sure right.” You might not be right that you should approach that person so please see these as guidelines not solutions. Start out with prayer, as we continually go back to, make sure that your heart is aligned correctly. Then maybe talk with your husband, or older wiser woman if you are a single mom or maybe talk to both your husband and an older wiser woman. And explain the situation, explain all that they’re able to ask you like the back end details and a lot more of the story. Maybe they''ll see it from a more objective point of view than what you’re able to see it. And so see what they think about what some of the right next steps are.
Emily: Yes and I think another really practical thing you can do is just be preventative and proactive about things. When you’re going to go into a situation where you know you’re going to be around another mom or caregiver who has some really different opinions than you, you can go ahead and mentally know your boundaries before going into that situation. Prep your children, be on the same page with your husband or whoever you’re there with, and have a game plan in advance for how you’re going to handle it. And resolve that, you know what, you may get some push back but you’re going to stand firm and be gracious and talk through some of those scenarios. I know my husband and I have had a lot of situations like that where it wasn’t that big of a deal but we had a boundary that we were wanting to keep and it was really just as simple as a conversation beforehand or a conversation with the other people beforehand. And it didn’t turn out to be that big of a deal at all.
Laura: Yes, I’ve said this before on the show, but communication is so huge, it’s amazing the things that we'll just bury down and assume that this person will get through osmosis that you don’t like what’s happening or what’s going on. And really, it’s amazing what can happen when you sit down in a room and with someone and say, “Hey, this has sort of been bothering me and maybe I...” kind of blaming it on yourself. I think it’s really important just to communicate. And maybe write down your thoughts ahead of time. Be very careful with what offenses you choose to bring up. Don’t start nitpicking and going after the little thing and really make sure you’re framing things in a way that doesn’t make that person feel like they’re on the judgment seat or on trial. Be very gentle with their heart, treating it as you would want your heart to be treated. I think those are some practical things if you need to get to that point of having a conversation and you feel like the Lord is affirming it through some of these other avenues. Those are some tips, as you approach a conversation with someone. [Sighs] Which I hope you don’t have to have too many of those…
Emily: [Laughs] Oh, please… But yes, I think overall remembering again that in the gospel, we are undeserving of God’s grace and he showed us grace and mercy, and we want to—and get to—show that to other people as well. Alright, I don’t know if we put the mommy wars to rest on this show or not, Laura.
Laura: We solved all the world’s problems, what are you talking about?!
Laura: Alright, well, thanks again for joining us. If you want to find more resources you can get those on our show notes at www.risenmotherhood.com. And also, it’d be so awesome if you’d leave a rating review on iTunes, and you can find us on social media, instagram, Facebook and Twitter @risenmotherhood. See you guys next week!