Thursday, April 19, 2012

Facing Criticism

Note:  I just posted this, and I realized that a chunk of my post had been deleted, and it didn't even make sense.  So, I tried to remember what I had written, but who knows...I am just going for it and posting anyway.

Last week, after I blogged about our delightful trip to the dentist, Katherine asked me to talk about the best way, as moms, to respond to the myriad of criticism that is out there at every turn.  And it is certainly out there, isn't it?  Us moms, we're an opinionated bunch, aren't we?

No matter what choice we make, there is bound to be criticism, because there are loud voices coming from every camp.  And it begins as soon at that test says positive, doesn't it?  I was so unsure as a first time mom.  I think I'm making the right decision????  So it was so easy to be swayed by the criticism, and I could be swayed from one end of the spectrum to another.  When pregnant with John I was much more confident in the decisions that I was making.  For example, I am a girl who loves an epidural.  I totally get that there are women who hate them.  I was very unsure about my epidural choice when I was pregnant with Ada because I had never given birth.  Now, I have given birth twice, with an epidural at the hospital, and I loved it ;) (p.s. it didn't slow down my labor, and I was able to push--wink, wink)  I am epidural all the way, but that doesn't mean that I don't understand the decision to not get an epidural or even birth at home.  Well, I understand it, a little.  I don't think God has wired me that way, but I do get that he has created people with that desire and ability.

But now I am a first time homeschooling mom, and once again, I can be swayed from one end to the other.  I guess this will always be the case with Ada--everything will always be unknown, and I will always lack confidence in my decisions, so what do I do with the inevitable criticism?

First, I think it starts with the heart.  I imagine I will go to my grave fighting the desire for man's approval.  And when we make a decision about something--and in my case, what I was writing about last week, the decision to homeschool--someone is going to disagree.  Someone is going to, most likely, think I am making a mistake.    And if I chose public school, or private school, or some combination of the above, someone would disagree.  Wouldn't they?  Because everyone is choosing something for their children because they believe it is the right choice, and I am sure that choice is based on a million different beliefs.  It's a decision consisting of many layers.  As is a decision to stay at home or work, or to breast feed or bottle feed, or eat organic or not, or cloth diaper or disposable, co-sleep or schedule, and the list goes on and on and on and on.  So, beyond the decision itself, whether it's right or wrong or whatever, is my heart and whether I am seeking to please man or the Lord.  Or even, more than that, do I hope that I live a life that glorifies myself or glorifies the Lord?  And, I confess, that most often, I am probably hoping that myself is glorified.  Because Ada screaming in the dentist chair really didn't affect how the Lord looked.  It did, however, affect how I looked, and I wanted to protect my name, and what kind of mother that I appear to be.

Right now I am reading a book by Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, and it is a tough book to read because it convicts and convicts and convicts some more.  It is impossible to read this book and not find sin that needs to be dealt with, which is never fun.  Well, I was reading the chapter on pride, and I think what he writes hits the nail on the head...

...we should learn that all recognition, regardless of its immediate source, ultimately comes from God.  It is God who puts down one and lifts up another (see Psalm 75:6-7).  Putting these two principles together causes us to say, "All is of grace."  I deserve nothing, and all I do receive, including recognition, is only of His grace.  Therefore, if I don't receive it, I will not fret.


So, if heaven forbid ;), someone doesn't notice what a great job I am doing as a mom (tongue in cheek), or, even worse, actually thinks I am doing a really bad or weird :) job as a mom, then I "will not fret."  Because all is grace.  If I am getting it right (whatever that means), then thank you, Lord, for grace, and if I am not getting it right, thank you, Lord for grace.  Bottom line, the only voice that matters is the Lords.  So, if I have searched His word, sought wisdom from those whom I trust, and I believe that this is a decision that will honor the Lord, then I rest in that confidence, and I ask God to always open my eyes if I am headed in the wrong direction.  So, that's the heart.  Resting in the grace of God, and taking the necessary steps to make wise decisions as a mom.

Practically speaking, how do I deal with the criticism?  Which is what I think you may have been asking, Katherine.  And I have two answers to that...first, I think answering with confidence is good because then the critical person is less likely to voice their criticism.  I can always tell by the look on someone's face if they think it's crazy that I am choosing to homeschool, but if I respond in confidence, that person is less likely to actually voice the criticism.  But, I also want to always respond in humility.  Because, there is always the chance that I am wrong.  Obviously.  And that God will show a different "path" for our family.  The older I get, the more I realize how much of life is left to be lived and how little I truly know.  I look back on my college days, and there were so many things that I said I was going to do when I was a wife and a mom, and I just cringe, because I had no clue what I was talking about.  And even if I'm not wrong (because I do believe there are right or wrong choices, or more specifically biblical and unbiblical choices, and I am not necessarily talking about school choices here), even if I have made what I believe is the biblical choice, that too is only by God's grace.  I just as easily could have made the wrong choice.  So, I think humility is key.  And finally, in a conversation where I feel like my decision might be criticized, I give my confident answer, and then I move on in the conversation, asking the other person something about themselves.  For example, at the dentist, I found out that the hygienist who was so interested in my school choice, also had a five year old, so homeschool or not, she and I had much in common, and I was eager to hear about her five year old, and, of course, she was eager to talk about him.

I do hesitate to post this, Katherine, because mostly in my response, I get it so wrong.  I don't respond confidently, instead I respond in whatever way will make me look the best or the least weird or whatever.  For example, at the dentist, I totally made it sound like our homeschooling decision is still up in the air, we'll see, we're just doing kindergarten this way, etc. etc.  Which is not true at all.  Or, I don't at all respond in humility, instead my defenses go up, and I respond in anger.  I rarely, rarely get it right.  But, I do think there is a right way to respond.  And, in fact, I am guessing most moms out there have dealt with criticism about decisions.  Again, it's inevitable, so, any other thoughts from other moms?  How do you deal with the criticism that comes with motherhood?

8 comments:

Jenn said...

I'm pretty blunt and harsh, so a lot of people don't criticize me TO MY FACE. That being said, I think it's funny (ironic?) that you and I are in the exact opposite positions. I don't know if it's a military thing, a submarine thing, a Hawaii thing, or just the latest THING, but everyone I know home schools. Everyone!! When we first moved here, I was talking to my neighbor about where Ava's school would be, how long of a drive, that sort of thing. She got this HORRIFIED look on her face and practically cried "You don't HOMESCHOOL!?!?!" Everyone in my Bible study thinks I'm insane because I don't do it. A friend just moved out here from Connecticut, and she's incredibly supportive of me and all that blah, but you can still see the look in her eyes, even though I know she would never EVER say it, she thinks every time Ava mouths off to me, that she wouldn't be such a brat if I home schooled, like she does.
Not sure what my point is here, except to agree with you that no matter what decision we make, someone is going to have something to say about it.
My friend Laura is the best at dealing with it, although not in a constructive and respectful way. We were at the grocery store in Guam and someone said something about how her son was too old to have a pacifier (see? no one has EVER said that to me, and my kids are OLDER than hers!! It's my constant scowl, I just know it) Anyway, Laura spins around and roars, "He's too old for a paci? Is that what you think? Did I ask? Did I ask you to buy me a pacifier, or to hand me one he dropped? Are you the pacifier police? Is this a crime? Next time I ask you to buy me a pacifier and put it in his mouth, you can tell me if you think he's too old."
So. Like I said, not exactly the best way to handle things, but I wanted to cheer right there at the cash register. What we do is no one else's business. If I'm not bothering you or endangering my babies, mind you own, you know? Ugh.

Jessica said...

great post friend.

Laura Forman said...

I have been meaning to respond to your posts for some time and I just haven't been able to...i want to thank you for your honesty and your struggles in motherhood. You have made me feel not so alone when I have a bad day. You are right, it is by His grace that we are able to even walk this journey of motherhood. You and I are so alike and I am thankful that even though I can't really sit at your kitchen table that we do have blog world. I am still hoping for that kitchen table visit one day though. :)

Katherine said...

Thank you, LB! I'm so glad you posted on this! I needed to hear ALL of it. I know none of us have it all together, but I've melted in my insecurities lately. I need to hear that I can choose to be confident and humble. These two attributes are not opposite of one another.

shannon said...

Just had time to read this post, LB - so good! The other day, I mentioned to a woman that I feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day. She responded with, "Just think if you worked and 8 of those hours were taken away." Talk about some serious tongue-biting!! My ever-understanding/practical husband said, "She's only looking at it from her point of view - she had 3 children and worked outside the home her entire life. She's not looking at things from the perspective of the person that cared for her children while she was at work. That caretaker was working just like she was." It's so hard sometimes to not respond in anger! Since I've started working from home, I feel like I have to defend my choices even more. For instance, Tripp goes to pre-school 2 days a week and I took him an extra day this week, since I worked 30 hours. But (I feel like) most people's perception of me is "you're a stay-at-home mom. Why are you taking your child to pre-school? Shouldn't you be taking care of your child AT HOME?" I hate feeling like I have to explain myself. Anyway, great post & sorry to get on my own soapbox! :)

Jodie said...

Girl, I didn't know we had so much in common. You are a great writer and thanks for sharing. Let me know if you ever figure out a good response to the "school" question.

Jenn said...

I love brokedown palace!! And Romeo and Juliette, remember that one with her and Leo?! Never saw the mirror ha two faces. I'll add it to my Netflix. But it's like a hundred and fifty deep right now...

Mary said...

Great post! Lots of wisdom here!