They say the grass is always greenest on the other side. It sure seems like that with parenting a lot of the time. If only our family were like them, we would be better. Or, the painfully judgmental, if only you were more like us your family would be better. Do you want to know where the grass is really greenest? It’s greenest right where you’re supposed to be! Yep, it’s that easy. Or is it that hard?
It sounds easy to say that life is most satisfying and fulfilling when we’re where God wants us to be, doing what he wants us to do. What’s hard, is actually being in that place. It’s hard to accept what’s right for others may not be right for us, and what’s right for us may not be right for others. Human nature is to feel like our choices are the best choices, and if they’re the best choices, then shouldn’t everyone else make the same ones?
I’ve met Christians who say that Christian parents should ONLY homeschool unless they absolutely CAN’T, and then the only other option should be a private Christian school. That public schools should only be a last resort, if parents just can’t figure out any other possibility (those of you who know me personally can guess how well that went over with this former teacher). At the same time, some people say that no parent should EVER homeschool, because homeschooled children will ALWAYS turn out messed up in some way or another (I confess, that used to be me; God has a good sense of humor). In reality, God calls some parents to homeschool, some to have their children in private school (both secular and Christian), and some to enroll in public school.
The same can be said for having a parent stay at home with the children. One group will say that the mother should always stay home, another that one parent should always stay home, and another that both parents should work. Each stance comes with great arguments about the benefits of that choice and the problems with others, yet none of those is correct.
The best choice for your family is what God calls you to. Most of us understand that the Lord will call one person to full-time ministry on the mission field, another to pastor a church ‘at home’, and a third to a corporate job. We get that none of these is the ‘best’ choice to make, because it all depends on what God calls you as a person to do. While there are certain things that all Christians must do in order to live right with God, the rest comes down to our calling. The same can be said for parenting. There are certain things that all good parents must do. We must love our children. We must tell them we love them. We must ensure that their other basic needs are attended to (food, clothing, shelter, education). How we go about filling those needs, though, doesn’t have to be the same. A baby with cloth diapers and a baby with disposable ones are both clothed. The baby with homemade baby food and the one with jarred baby food are both being fed. Needs met, goal accomplished, even if each family looks a bit different.
So, what’s the point of this? Two things. First, if you have been plagued by guilt because you aren’t doing what ‘they’ are doing and what ‘they’ say you should do, relax. If it’s what is right for your family, and it doesn’t go against God’s Word, then you’re doing fine. Second, if you’re on the other side of the coin, telling people that they need to parent like you do, stop and think. Pray about whether those things you are advising are essential for all, or if they’re a matter of calling.