Saturday, May 2, 2020

Mothering in Freedom (In An Anxiety Spun World)

I have not been a mom for very long.

My son is 18 months, in fact.

He's far too young--and I'm far too much of a novice to write this article as a teacher with years of experience. There would be a great deal of arrogance (and untruth) in writing this with the assumption that I have the experience of years to guide my virtual pen.

However, I can write this as a friend who is walking through the same challenges and temptations you may be. 

Some friends of mine and I were having a friendly chat about the importance of vulnerability on social media. Part of my vulnerability is in expressing that I, too, struggle with these things and am only here to offer the exhortation and encouragement we sisters in Christ are to offer one another. Often, for us bloggers, posts like this are an exhortation to us more than anyone else.

That disclaimer aside...

Have you noticed the enormous pressure that has been placed on mothers? 

Of course you have.  You would have to live under a rock to avoid the constant bombardment of books, social media posts, mommy groups, and, sadly, pressure from other mothers to be and do and think a certain way in your parenting journey.

The Mommy Wars are alive and well.

Mommy Anxiety is, too.

That creeping feeling of discouragement, dissatisfaction, comparison, and stress is an anxiety too well-known by moms. 

You log into your social media account and see yet another post of Janet with her sensory bins and the joy she emits while her toddler throws rice all over the kitchen. You cringe at the mess, but deep inside, there's a little whisper asking if maybe you're cheating your child out of an essential learning activity.

A quick scroll on your smart phone reveals Amanda gleefully heading to the milk donation center with her 40 extra bags of breastmilk. Something tugs--and tugs hard--at your heartstrings. Guilt washes over you, thinking back to the pitiful few ounces you were barely able to squeeze out after hours of pumping, drinking alllllll the lactation teas, and the fennel essential oil you dutifully applied--despite hating yourself because you smelled like an Italian sausage. 

You plop down in your discipleship group and overhear Molly describing her beautiful, peaceful natural birth. She's a doll and so sweet--in fact, you adore her. But there's something inside you that just hates her a little bit when you think back to your own hours of screaming agony that ended in an emergency c-section with all the drugs. 

Susan assembles toast and bananas that resemble teddy bears for her children every single day.
Mandy hosts monthly tea parties for her teen that look exactly like something out of Jane Austen.
Jane is already schooling her three year old. 
Dani is fully immersed in the Montessori method with all 5 of her kids.
Tammy bakes everything in their home from scratch and only gives whole-grain, organic meals to her kids. No gummy bears or juice boxes there. 

Suddenly, everything in your mothering life feels like a complete and utter failure.

And you don't even know why. It's not like anyone deliberately threw their mothering success in your face. In fact, your friends are sweet, loving, and you admire their journey.

So why do you suddenly feel like so much less of a mom? 

Everything you see the other moms doing is not wrong. In fact, they are actually doing some amazing, wonderful things. They are just like you--moms who want the absolute best for their babies and kids. They are also moms who have struggles just like you.

But the Mommy Wars have conditioned us to never feel like we are enough. 

In one sense, this is true. None of us are enough without Christ. It is only through and by Christ that any one of us is enough. We can't parent without Him. 

However, the "being enough" of the Mommy Wars and its child Mommy Anxiety is rotted in a lie. Activities, being crunchy, methods, and following whatever craze is in at the moment do not make us good mothers. And feeding out anxiety by constantly chasing the next thing that will validate our feelings and make us feel "good enough" as mothers will never satisfy.

Goodness is found in God alone, by listening to his Holy Spirit and allowing his fruits to flow in our lives. Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. 

And submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit and allowing those fruits to ripen in our lives is actually a whole lot harder than validating our feelings of self-worth by our sparkling clean house or homemade bread.

That's where the essential questions comes in.

The next time you start to feel guilt or anxiety creep in, ask yourself a few questions. 

  • Am I feeding my anxiety in a desire to validate my feelings of self-worth? 
  • Am I being Holy Spirit led or guilt led? 
  • Am I feeling self-pressure to try this activity or method because everyone else is or because the Holy Spirit has convicted me in this area?

All the activities those moms do? They're good things. And the Holy Spirit may lead you to do them! After all, being Holy Spirit led means you will be eager to serve and do everything within your power to cultivate love and joy in your family. You will be right to want to do everything that is best for your baby. 

But that is the key--being Holy Spirit led and not pressured by the underlying current of the Mommy Wars, wars that feed pride and self-worth rather than focus on Christ and living under the control of his Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help you be teachable, but not swayed by every new fad. He'll help you recognize what's best for your family and what things are not for you. 

I have to stop and check myself these things all the time.

I have major anxiety that stemmed from legalism. In my mind, there was only one proper way to birth, feed, and raise a child. Despite fighting my wrong mindset for so long, I get very insecure about myself. A lot. I may share more on that later, but, for now, trust me when I say Mommy Anxiety is a battle I fight every day of my life. 

I hope you will join me in fighting against the war.
I hope you will join me in letting the Holy Spirit prompt, teach, and change you, not peer pressure.
I hope you will join me in cheering on all those mommies who love their babies and do things differently from you.
I hope you will join me in finding freedom to support your friends in their choices while still feeling confident in your own.

Because being Holy Spirit led and doing what is best for your family is freeing. It gives you the freedom to cheer others on while making completely different decisions for your own family. 

Who wants to raise a glass to ending the anxiety?

I will. My glass is full of baby formula. Yours may be full of breast milk. 


In what areas do you battle Mommy Anxiety? Please share!


  1. Very good article Alicia. Thanks for sharing. I am proud of you as a mother, daughter, and of a awesome wife to Samuel

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