I have loved reading, so it only came naturally to read a lot about parenting when I became a mom. Even when I was pregnant, I devoured the classic Babywise and was sure that I was armed with all the knowledge I needed to be the perfect mother for my soon to arrive daughter. (You can probably guess the outcome of that assumption, duh.)
I’ve now been a parent for ten years, and I’ve read countless parenting books. I started out reading books about sleep cycles, general baby health, and childhood nutrition. As my kids have grown older, I’ve read books about chores, discipline, and scheduling a child’s day.
And lately I’ve made a decision. I am going to take a break from reading all of these parenting books.
Now, this decision to quit my parenting book habit may seem strange since I’m truly in the thick of parenting (five children, ages ten and under). Let me tell you about my decision.
First, along with the great information I gain from reading these books, I seem to take on so much guilt from comparing myself to others. Often the author will describe his or her method for discipline/ training/ chores/whatever, and then share how this method dramatically changed their children for the better. They often explain exactly how long it took for this miraculous change to take place. I then attempt this new idea with my kids, and often experience some success, but often don’t. Or perhaps it takes much longer than the author.
For example, I read a (wonderful) book about chores a few years back and got a lot of ideas for training the kids to help around the house. The author explained that it took her family three months for her kids to master this new chore program. Well, we’ve been using this chore system now for two years, and after a lot of tears and trouble, we still have not mastered it. When I think about how long it has taken us to get this routine down, I feel like I’ve failed. And this is a shame because we really have made a lot of progress in the area of chores, too.
I seem to always have a inner dialogue that says things like, “What is the matter with you? Why are you failing at this? Other mom’s can figure this out! Why is it taking my kids SO long to change? Maybe there is something wrong with them!” And I’m realizing that the more books I read, the more often I am hearing this dialogue! Scary!
Secondly, books can be very contradictory. You moms know the drill: “Let the baby cry it out at bedtime; never let the baby cry for more than ten minutes.” “Spank the kids whenever they defy you; never ever, ever under any circumstance spank a child.” And since they are all written by “experts” (right?), how in the world am I to know which ones to follow? I am simply too exhausted to continue trying to decipher who is right and wrong in all of these parenting arenas.
But as I said before, I’m right in the thick of parenting. And I need help, advice, counsel (and chocolate). That’s why I started reading all of these books in the first place! But, don’t worry, I have a plan B, and it should’ve been my plan A all along.
You see, I’m a Christian, and with that label comes the belief that God has given me his word (The Bible) to guide in all things in life. The more I thought about it, I remembered that he has some pretty profound things to say about parenting. I remembered that he made my children uniquely and gave them to me, because he knows that I will be the best (not perfect) mother for them. I also remembered that he has promised to guide me and give me wisdom through all of life’s challenges? Could it be that he will gently guide me in my mothering? Yes, I believe he will. Most importantly, I know that God doesn’t want me to live a life of guilt and shame but of joy and freedom, even when it comes to parenting.
So during this break from my parenting books habit, I am going to turn to my caring Lord. I’m going to use his Word to learn all I can about parenting, and I’m to seek him through prayer to direct my mothering path.
Today I got started on my plan B. I cracked open my Bible and found these verses. I think they are a good start. I feel hopeful and lighter already.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Duetoronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.