Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted, and women tend to look to their upbringing for guidance. We may not even realize we’re doing it! But being a godly mother is even more difficult when you weren’t raised by one.
The questions are endless: How do I model forgiveness? How do I set the right priorities for my household? How do I explain baptism to my 6-year-old? Is it okay to have undiscipled friends around my children? Do we have to pray over every meal? Is the occasional swear word acceptable?
These questions may be less intimidating if you were fortunate enough to come from a Christ-centered home, but it’s important for the mother who came to Christ apart from her parents to remember that all parents wrestle with questions like these.
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My own mother was an Easter-only Christian throughout my childhood, complete with the color-coordinated family photo taken before walking into the only church service we would attend all year. These days, she doesn’t attend at all. There was no prayer or Scripture in my home. There were no fruits of the spirit, for that matter. It’s hard not to feel a little resentful.
My Christian peers seem much more mature in their faith than I am.
Not only do I often resent my mother for how she raised me, but I am ashamed of what feel like shortcomings in my own faith. “How can I possibly keep up?” I think, “I got a late start!”
My friends get misty-eyed in Sunday School when they discuss the wisdom of their mothers, describing the beautiful example of a God-fearing woman they saw growing up, expressing thanks for the fount of wholesome advice that is only a phone call away.
I listen to this, and my cheeks grow red. I feel like there’s a blinking sign on my forehead: “Fake! Fake! Fake!” I don’t belong—this is a lie from the pit of hell.
If you are a first-generation Christian mother, let me offer some advice:
Honor your parents.
Exodus 20:12 states, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” It is the only commandment that comes along with a promise. Notice the command says honor—not love or imitate.
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What does this look like in action? Show your parents the same level of respect you would if they were exactly the kind of parents you wanted them to be. When possible, defer to their wishes. In my own life, this means calling my mother once a week even though I hate talking on the phone.
Find a role model.
Everyone needs a second opinion on some things when it comes to parenting. If you are unable to trust your own parents, look to your church family. Find a woman with adult children who appear to have been raised well and simply ask if you could lean on her for guidance from time to time. Any woman would be glad to answer that call.
If you’re having trouble choosing a suitable role model, try asking your Sunday school teacher or pastor if they could introduce you to someone. They will have a good idea of people’s availability and maturity and would be happy to help broker a relationship.
Compare yourself to Christ, not Christians.
One mistake I was making in Sunday school was comparing myself to women who were raised differently. It is easy to feel resentful when you’re focused on what someone else has that you don’t. While there is always room for improvement, there is very little to gain from stacking myself against other women. The only life that deserves my emulation is the life of Christ, and we all fall short, even my Sunday school classmates.
Set the right example.
Be the mother you wanted! Any time you catch yourself wishing your mother did something, pause. Ask yourself, am I doing this for my children? If not, start! Let them see you studying God’s word, pray with them when they’re frightened, and go ahead and sing your favorite praise songs in the car. Instead of using your wishful thinking to feel resentful, turn it into action items for your own household.
Go with God’s good grace and raise a beautiful family.