White Flag in the Mommy Wars

Mollie Hemingway writes at Christianytoday.com about "the theology that many parents are missing," namely, the theology of vocation.

She begins by talking about "the Mommy Wars:"

Originally, the big battle was whether women should work outside the home. Now the wars engage a wide range of parenting questions:

Is it better to raise children in the city or suburbs? Should you breast-feed or use formula? If formula, which type? How much should you nurse? Do you want to join a "nurse-in" to protest bans on public breast-feeding? Are Cesarean sections evil and overused, or modern-day medical miracles? How much effort should be made to avoid products containing the chemical Bisphenol A? Does an environmentally conscious consumer purchase disposable or cloth diapers? Is it your civic duty to send your children to public schools? Or is it an unconscionable act of abandonment when you live where I do—in Washington, D.C.?

The wars show no signs of abating.

She observes that these sometimes vicious disagreements over parenting are odd in our culture:

We live in a society that wouldn't dare pass judgment on even deviant sexual practices, but we can't let women make their own decisions on how to diaper their children.

Much of the hype comes from the all-consuming nature of motherhood, causing sleep-deprived and overworked moms to focus on childrearing to the point that crazy fights seem completely normal. And much of the angst reflects our fear that if other parents do things differently, they will pass judgment on the decisions we've made.

Then she asks, "How should Christians think about the Mommy Wars?" Answer?


You may have heard vocation used as a synonym for occupation. But Martin Luther used it to talk about every Christian's calling to particular offices through which God works to care for his creation. We serve our neighbors as employees, yes, but also as citizens, parishioners, and family members. Through our web of relationships, we are the instruments by which God works in the world. So, for instance, God heals us by giving us doctors and nurses. He feeds us by giving us farmers and bakers. He gives us earthly order through our governors and legislators, and he gives us life through our parents. God is providing all these gifts—but we receive them from our neighbors. Parenting is one of the most important vocations we can be given. Yes, the obligations of childrearing are difficult, but when the duties are fulfilled with the knowledge that we are doing the will of God, our reward is great. Luther wrote that fathers should not complain when they have to rock a baby, change his diaper, or care for the baby's mother, but instead should view each act as a holy blessing.

God has placed me as the mother of my children. So long as I'm not sinning, I am free to serve my children as I see fit. I have the responsibility to feed my children, but I can fulfill that task by slaving away in the kitchen to produce a five-course meal or by ordering out for pizza. I have the responsibility of making sure my children are educated, but I have the freedom to do that on my own or by sending them to whichever school my husband and I pick.
Sure, we all have a role to play in upholding community standards and making sure our neighbors' children have their needs met, but we should also be careful not to intrude on others' vocations. Just as we wouldn't rearrange colleagues' offices or tinker with their computers, neither should we presume to know best how they should manage their families.
So if you're an overwhelmed mother, wave the white flag of surrender in the Mommy Wars and enjoy your vocation and the freedom it provides.
That is wisdom. So, to all the beleaguered, self-sacrificing Moms I know . . . relax. Love God. Love your children. And do it the way you think is best.

HT: Gene Edward Veith


Amanda said...

This is good. And timely.

I think I've mentioned I'm a member of a mommy-type forum, and trust me, the mommy wars run deeper and longer than this person even described.

And I'm learning to relax. And I'm doing my best. ;)

Tammi Mossman said...

Awesome post, I'm passing it along to some beleaguered young mothers.

mwh said...

Hemingway is right about the Mommy Wars. For what it's worth, people's judging of one another is often motivated by their own insecurities and self-doubts. The parent who chooses to home school their child might scoff or condemn the parent who went the public school route--while secretly harboring doubts over their own choice. "Did I make the right decision?" "Am I qualified for this?" "Are the local schools really that bad? It seems to be working for the Jones?" etc... The parent who chose to give their child vaccines may publicly scoff at the one who abstains, while inwardly worrying and questioning. "Maybe they're right about the risks of vaccines..." "Maybe I should read up on this more..." And so the condemnation becomes a defense mechanism, like a caged, cornered animal that feels threatened--caged and cornered by the knowledge of our own fallible decision making.