With Memorial Day marking the beginning of summer for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, this means kids home from school, backyard barbecues, long days spent relaxing at the pool…
and consumer reports about the 10 worst sunscreens on the market.
When an article surfaced recently about a toddler who suffered second degree burns from a supposedly safe, kid-friendly product, people were mostly horrified and decried the use of this terrible cream. But then there were those on the opposite end of the spectrum who said something along these lines: “Everything everywhere is trying to kill us so let’s just call it good.”
And who can forget Sarah Kallies’ Excuse Me While I Lather My Child In This Toxic Death Cream post that went viral, written in the vein of, “I can’t do anything right so I might as well not even try”. It was met with choruses of hallelujah from parents who are sick and tired of all the rules.
As a mom who struggles with anxiety, I completely empathize with the woman who just wants to enjoy a vacation with her kids without worrying that she is a bad parent for applying sunscreen with chemicals in it.
Or the mother who wants to have a fun outing at the water park without having a panic attack about possible flesh eating bacteria lurking in the water. Yes, that is actually what one news report claimed this week.
And we’re supposed to go on a trip that includes several days at a popular water park attraction. Awesome.
There is enough parenting advice and warnings these days to make your head explode. You already feel guilty as a parent that you aren’t doing enough, or that you’ll make all the wrong decisions, and then you read articles or watch news clips that just pile on the guilt even more.
I totally get wanting to log off and tune out because you’re tired of feeling judged by others’ parenting choices. But the answer isn’t to stick our fingers in our ears and bury our heads in the sand, possibly throwing out good advice with bad.
There is some very good, sound parenting advice out there- yes, like don’t lather up your children in skin care products that contain harmful toxins.
So, how can we possibly wade through all of this information without feeling condemned and buying into all the hype?
Consider the source.
We are very quick to toss out the “self-righteous” label when we get any whiff of possible judgment from another mom. But aren’t we just as guilty for judging their motives?
Not all people who either write or post about breastfeeding, homeschooling, and giving kids non-GMO foods do it because they want to proclaim they’re morally superior. Most are genuinely trying to provide information that will help other parents. While we may not agree, we can at least assume goodwill of one another.
When my friend who doesn’t believe in vaccinations shares the latest research to support her view, I don’t get all bent out of shape and immediately think, “She’s judging me because I vaccinate my children.” And when I share about the benefits of homeschooling, she doesn’t send me a nasty message saying I must think I’m better than her because she sends her kids to public school.
Why? Because each of us realizes the other one’s intention is not to judge, but educate. We skim the article and carry on with our lives.
Don’t hear what’s not being said.
In a culture of moral relativism, we see very little objectively anymore. Even Christians base a lot of their thoughts and reactions on subjective feelings. We forget all about the “truth” part of speaking with grace and truth. So when we read something that is presented as universal fact, we tend to automatically reject it.
Somehow the fact that certain sunscreens or foods contain bad ingredients becomes “I’m a bad parent”. And then suddenly we’re on the defensive and start saying things like, “I’m just doing the best I can”, or “What works for your family doesn’t work for mine.”
We shut the conversation down and won’t even listen to biblical principles for raising children, convinced Scripture says very little about parenting other than “teach your kids to know and love God”.
Yes, there is judging and shaming. That’s an unfortunate by-product of our fallen world. But what percentage of that is really a result of insecurity and easily taking offense to everything? I wonder how much of the Mommy Wars we’ve made up in our own heads.
Take advice with a grain of salt.
We have a lot of responsibility to and influence over our families, so we should stay informed and be diligent about knowing the things that could potentially harm our kids. But we should also be wise about which advice we actually follow.
When presented with any kind of information, we need to ask ourselves whether it’s opinion, fact, biblical wisdom/principle, or just good, sage advice. Is it a matter of conviction, or purely preference? Is this simply a cultural fad, or does it promise long term health benefits, physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
This filtering prevents us from jumping on every single bandwagon out there and forces us to take a good, hard look at the material we’re faced with. We owe it to our kids to keep an open mind, regardless of any changes we may be inconvenienced by in the process.
When my husband and I read about the harmful effects of Red Dye #40, genetically modified food, and milk & beef from cows fed with growth hormones, we stopped buying those products and feeding them to our kids. When we read about disturbing social and educational trends in public education, we made the decision to send our children to private school (and later homeschool them).
Was it inconvenient? Yes. Did it stretch us financially? You bet. Was it worth the sacrifice? Absolutely.
Recognize where guilt may be coming from.
Sometimes that guilt is the Holy Spirit convicting us. That kind of guilt leads to action and repentance. The problem is that we usually feel the other type too much.
Truthfully, if we feel guilty, it’s not because a reporter or blogger or another mom made us feel that way- it’s because the enemy of our souls did. It’s an effective tactic because this guilt and anxiety serves to take our focus off of God and put it on ourselves.
It makes us believe we can be in control of every single thing that happens to our kids, so we cling to them tightly instead of trusting them to their Creator. When we think we are the ones holding it all together and if we relax it all falls apart, then we are saying God is not really in charge.
But we, being fallible, cannot possibly prepare for every single scenario or situation. We cannot prevent every injury or heartbreak. We will mess up by yelling and hurting our kids’ feelings, and we will be misunderstood by them. We will fail to ask the right questions, or simply be too distracted to notice something important.
Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is what truly frees us from anxiety over all the “rules”. As you do your part as a faithful steward of your children, His grace covers your parenting mistakes.