I was recently having dinner with five couples after a speaking engagement. One earnest mom who had become a Christian around the age of seventeen asked me, “Are we as moms more needy than previous generations? After all, my mother never read a parenting book.”
She was so sweet and sincere that I knew it was not a trap, even though as a man I felt it was a sensitive subject to address. Here was the essence of my answer to her:
No, You Are Not
Intentional parents have always realized they were embarking on a new journey with limited information. Wise parents always asked others for help. My own mother has told me about how she was desperate for help in the 1970s and found help from Dr. James Dobson. A wise parent/person seeks out advice on such an important endeavor.
In addition, with a connected world which has become more godless, church has become motivated to be more articulate in things it has always assumed. This is the way many of the great statements of the church have come about. The process looks something like this: 1. The church has practices and beliefs it has followed. 2. The world or false teachers challenge those fuzzy beliefs. 3. The church is forced to clearly articulate what it believes.
I think this is what we are seeing with the family now. For a long time, much of the culture had a biblical foundation even if the outworkings were marred by sin. As that foundation has crumbled, true Christians are being forced to be more intentional and articulate in many areas, including a theology of family.
Yes, You Are
In some other ways, I think moms may be more needy. Not inherently needy, but needy because of a philosophy we have allowed to take root.
I do think today’s mothers are overly concerned about “ruining” their child. As a result, we believe a “good mother” will hover over her child, provide for their every need, and never let them get bored. A “good mother” will follow her children around and be exhausted as a result. Somewhere in our minds we believe an exhausted mom is a loving mom. Then when the husband comes home he has to help because parenting is such exhausting work.
Parenting is tiring work and fathers absolutely should help out. But it does not have to be as tiring as some moms make it. We are raising our children to adulthood. It is not our job to meet their every need or entertain them every moment. There is a certain benign neglect that moms need to introduce to their children. In addition, structures encourage children to be more independent and will give moms time to take care of their own needs.
So in buying this lie, I do think it can make today’s moms needier than in other generations. When we think of previous generations where the women and children had to work to physically survive, there was no time for parenting nuances or meeting every need of the child.
So to the question about being needier than previous generations, I gently reply, “No… and yes.” And the yes does not have to be that way. Just be aware of this cultural (even in Christian circles) insecurity that attaches itself to mothers and fight against it.
Don’t center your life on your child but on Jesus Christ. Put your spouse before your children. Raise your children to be independent adults. When they say you are ruining their life, smile and agree with them. Then send them outside while you take some time for yourself!