by Brenda Weatherly
What kind of legacy will you leave for your children? When your child is all grown up, what will they say about you? I am thankful that my mom took the time to hold me, rock me, and cuddle me in her bed. She was strong enough to listen to her instincts rather than the others around her who ridiculed her for being an attachment parent. At the time, I donít know if there even was the term "attachment parenting." My mom just followed her heart. She looked upon her babies as gifts, not burdens. Because of her style of parenting that she passed down to me, I was able to easily follow my instincts and am raising my children by these same standards of gentleness, but not every child is as fortunate as my children and me.
It seems as if the old system of parenting is still alive in todayís society. Some people still advocate cry-it-out methods, scheduled feedings, and early weaning for babies, or just plain-out bottlefeeding. Itís hard for me to see why these practices of rigidness and rules are so popular for raising babies, but then I started doing some thinking. You know, following any of these methods is taking the easy way out. Physically and emotionally detaching yourself from your baby rids you of so much responsibility.
Should you train your baby to sleep through the night by 8 weeks of age? Should you restrict your baby from sleeping in bed with you? Should you let your babyís screams go unanswered so you wonít "spoil" her? Should you schedule strict 4-hour feedings for your baby? Are children gifts from the Lord or burdens to bear? Here are some thoughts on legalistic parenting:
Who wants to be bothered with middle-of-the-night feedings? I sure donít like being interrupted from a deep sleep. After a long day of mothering, it would be so rewarding to close my door for 8 hours and think about nothing except myself until morning.
Who wants to be pestered by sharing your bed with a squirming baby? I donít know about you, but it would probably be pretty nice to have a big bed all to my husband and myself again. Just think about all the quiet, romantic nights we could have in solitude if we chose to ignore our babyís needs.
Who wants to be strapped down with breastfeeding? If I bottlefed my baby, I could have the convenience of farming my child out to anyone for any length of time and I wouldnít have to worry about pumping or becoming engorged. I could leave for a whole day of shopping by myself and not have to breastfeed a hungry baby. The bottle will always be there, but I wouldnít have to be. Breastfeeding the way God intended is time-consuming, challenging, and very inconvenient. Should I choose to let that fit into my lifestyle?
Who wants to be bothered with a baby who wants to nurse every hour or two? It would be so much easier to put my baby on a strict schedule so I will know that I donít have to feed my baby for another four hours. I can go about doing my daily chores and not be bogged down with a needy baby. Think of the convenience!
Who wants to be annoyed by a baby who wants only their mommy and no one else? It would be so much easier if I didnít comfort and nurture my baby when she cried. That way my baby can be comforted and nurtured by any caregiver.
It is true that some mothers just donít know the first thing about parenting and therefore welcome advice from anyone, but I believe the reason most mothers follow this way of parenting is out of personal convenience and selfishness. Theyíre using a style that should be called the "Itís all about me" type of parenting. God made babies to cry for many reasons, but not to be ignored. If need be, mothers should sacrifice their personal comfort in order to comfort their child. Matthew 25:35-36 says, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me."
Legalistic, stern parenting leaves long-lasting, devastating effects on the children who are subjected to those harsh rules. Feelings of isolation and worthlessness abound in children who are raised with a harsh tongue and no encouragement or warmth. Colossians 3:21 tells us, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." I also believe it is unnatural and potentially harmful, both hormonally and mentally, for a mother to suppress her "mothering" instincts, the instincts that God has instilled in every mother.
As for me, I like parenting with a more relaxed, easy-going style. Yes, I guess you can say it is about personal convenience. What Iím talking about is no schedules, no crying-it-out; just lots of cuddles in bed, waking up whenever we feel like it--not according to a certain time, nursing whenever baby feels like it, sharing every part of our day together. I donít want to have to worry about looking for bottles and formula, mixing, warming, and testing the temperature. The milk that God has given to me to nourish my baby is readily available, always the right temperature, never sour, soothes and pacifies my baby when she is sick, and provides me with several minutes of relaxing, one-on-one time with just my baby and me. Is that selfish of me to be taking the ďeasy-way-outĒ? Instead of looking at attachment parenting as being in bondage to my baby, I think of it as bonding to my baby. As you see, attachment parenting can be looked at as either inconvenient or natural.
I canít imagine anyone saying, "Boy, Iím so thankful that Mom had me on that rigid, cry-it-out program when I was a newborn." Or, "Thank goodness I was sleeping through the night by the time I was 8 weeks old. I canít imagine what life would be like now if I got to cuddle with Mom at night." I donít see that happening.
Are you the type of parent that comforts yourself or comforts your children? I choose to raise my son and two daughters with a serving and compassionate heart, not one of legalism, punishment and rules. Children are the most innocent of Godís creations. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, how can we ignore that commandment when it comes to raising our children? We, as mothers, need to use patience and humility rather than sternness and chastisement. Why? The Bible tells us so! Colossians 3:12 says, ďClothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Ē Our Father in Heaven takes on a servantís heart towards His children. Let us do the same for our children.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. . . " (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and right now is our time to put our children first. Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, "I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it." If we make mistakes, we wonít be able to go back and undo whatís been done. Make the best of your babyís time today because next year your baby will be in a different season. The time goes by so fast! When you look back at the time you have together right now, will you remember with a happy heart or with regrets and shame?
I am so blessed to have a mom that sacrificed the simple pleasures in her life to let me be the baby I was. I know that my mom doesnít regret one single minute of the security and gentleness she showed me. Leniency versus rigidness: what is more appealing to you AND your baby? Will you choose to comfort yourself or comfort your child? The legacy you leave with your children will be passed down from generation to generation. Show them how much they mean to you by cherishing them and nurturing them now, even if it is at the expense of your personal comfort. The Lord will bless you for your efforts!
Copyright 2001 by Brenda Weatherly
Copyright 1997-2015 by Gentle Christian Mothers™
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.