The "What If"s of Parental Worry

Are the "what if"s of parenting crippling you?

I spoke with a young mom recently who was almost paranoid over the many "what if"s of motherhood. I grieved inwardly as I watched and heard her beat herself up over her mothering skills when she is such a fantastic parent!

The episode reminded me of a chapter in Cindi McMenamin's book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom.

Cindy wrote about some of the same "what if"s my young friend voiced:
  • What if I'm not involved enough in their lives?
  • What if I'm holding them back?
  • What if I'm too strict?
  • What if I'm not strict enough?
  • What if my own dysfunction is rubbing off on them?
My young friend wasn't the first mom I've heard beating herself up over her parenting abilityand truth told, I did too. (That last "what if" question was a big one for me!)

The culture doesn't make it easier with unreasonable expectations from well-meaning educators and even church leaders.

True, there are some genuinely "bad moms" who make terrible choices for themselves and their children; and God can, in His grace, change them and rescue their families. But too many good and godly women are sinking under false guilt, blaming themselves when there's absolutely no need to do so.

I took after my dad, a worrierhis nickname was "Wartie," short for worry-wort. I worried about being the "perfect" wife, and later, the "perfect" mother. It was horrible, because I could never measure up to my own "perfect" standards, let alone anyone else's.

Growing up, I saw dysfunction in families around me. I didn't want that for myself, and certainly not for the husband and children I would have.

And that was a good thing. But I went about avoiding that dysfunction by creating some dysfunction of my own. And believe me, perfectionism is about as dysfunctional as a church-going Christian can get!

Cindi cites a Barna Group report (2014) that explained part of the problem. "What once was 'You can have it all' has now become 'You need to have it all.' [emphasis mine] You need to have the perfect job, the perfect husband the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect play dates and craft nights and date nights and do-it-yourself Pinterest projects and #nofilter Instagrams."

Cindi quotes a mutual friend, Stephanie Shott, who wrote, "It's pretty hard to be all and do all when you're really just overwhelmed by it all." *
The answer for all my parental worrying came when I stopped carrying a load the Lord never intended for me to carry. 
God's only expectation for me was to depend on Him, not to shoulder the load of perfection.

The verse that spoke to me most was "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me... you will find rest for your souls...  my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

For so long I was yoked to expectations. It was a relief to allow Godmy Perfect and Faithful Fatherto yoke me to Jesus. His "burden" was so much lighter than the one I constructed and carried.

The Lord took care of all my "what if"s as my boys grew through their teen years in to manhood.
  • I learned I could trust the Lord and cast all my worries and cares on Him (Psalm 55:22). 
  • Whenever I became anxious, kicking in with the worry-cycle, I could run to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). 
  • Just remembering that He is God and I am not (Psalm 46:10a) solved a lot of issues! 
Do we really believe God wants the best not only for us, but also for our children?

In a post for Crosswalk.com some time ago, Cindi wrote: "I've recently come to see how many of my fears and worries, throughout my daughter's childhood and now into her adulthood, were unfounded because I know and love a trustworthy God. Because God hears our prayers and answers them according to his infinite knowledge about what is best for our children, We don't need to waste our time worrying. 

"Praying? Of course. But worrying? Never."

Do you struggle with perfectionism? 
Are you living with regrets about parenting? 
Are you worrying... or praying? 
What would trusting God with your parenting look like?

Cindi's book is practical and will not only help you upgrade your trust in our faithful Lord, it will help you improve your parenting as you cooperate with and rest in Him.

* Stephanie Shott, The Making of a Mom

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