by Lynna Sutherland
At a certain point in my parenting journey, I realized that I was often driven by a desire to find the “one right answer” to every mothering choice or practice. I wrote here about my previous understanding of how to be a godly parent:
- Figure out what a “good mom” is supposed to do.
- Do it.
- Suck it up and don’t complain.
There are so many mistakes, misunderstandings, and pitfalls in this proposed routine, but perhaps the biggest is the idea that there is a single “best” in every case. Please hear me correctly! I’m not arguing for moral relativism or trying to remove any motivation for personal growth and improvement. But I am struggling to release us—myself especially!—from the belief that there is a “best” answer to every question… a “best” method for every task… a clear and definite end to every rabbit trail of mommy-research. So why, exactly, do we think that there should be one “best” answer for all these things?
There are some right and wrong answers.
There are times when one option is ethically required, biblically, while another is forbidden. “Black and white” does exist. As a result, it becomes tempting—or possibly habitual—to think (or assume, or even wish) that it exists everywhere and at the end of every decision-making process. In my experience, many moms start out longing for black and white even where it doesn’t exist… and end up relieved that there is flexibility where they formerly sought narrower boundaries.
Sometimes benefits heavily outweigh costs.
Let’s say you love making bread. It is a therapeutic, satisfying, and relaxing hobby for you. In fact, you’d make your own bread even if it were more expensive to do so… but it isn’t! It’s cheaper, and it’s healthier for your family. Your husband loves your homemade bread, and he has specifically requested that you make bread for the family. This scenario in your life is an all-around win! All the stars seem to align, and this choice seems like an obvious “yes” for you. Great! Go for it! But that doesn’t make it objectively and permanently “best”—for everyone, or even for you. You can find peace and take joy in your decision today without needing to be sure that it is the objective “best”. That way, when life throws you a curveball, you can reevaluate the costs and benefits as needed without feeling guilty of “caving” or “backsliding.”
Competition and comparing require the ranking of good, better, and best.
If there are several right ways to do something, how do you know if your way is superior to someone else’s? How can you pat yourself on the back for all of the major sacrifices you are making if your way isn’t the “best” way, and therefore worthy of all of those noble sacrifices? How can you be sure that your kids will avoid the pitfalls that someone else’s kids have fallen into unless you can be sure that your parenting method is more sophisticated?
I’m not trying to pick on you. I’m speaking to you from knowledge of my own heart. I have said about myself (when I’m being honest), “If you and I differ on something, at least let me be more conservative than you. I’ll be uncomfortable if I find that you’re more ‘strict’ in your practice than I am.” Let me tell you from experience, this is a great way to assure a life riddled with anxiety, leading to burnout. It also is the opposite of resting in the righteousness of Christ alone and in the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit to grow both me and my children.
What drives you?
This is just a short—and by no means exhaustive—list. What do you think drives you to find the “best” way to do everything in your household or mommy-job? What do you do when a previously obvious choice encounters new obstacles? Are you prone to guilt when you have to change plans or find a new way? How do you react when someone else seems to have a better method than you do? Do you feel obligated to switch?
Lynna Sutherland blogs at Homeschooling Without Training Wheels, where she loves to remind moms (and herself!) of the freedom and flexibility that come with homeschooling! Lynna and her husband have seven children. The motto of their homeschool is “Wisdom Is the Principal Thing” from Proverbs 4:7. You can follow Lynna on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Periscope.