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  • Jennifer Zarifeh Major

Grace, parenting, and not throwing a fit...


This post has nothing to do with my work, and then quite a bit to do with my work.

So, here we go...

The other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from a young mom that I know. Now, anyone who's been a parent knows the "joys" of free advice. But in this day and age, free advice is so much more ...interesting... than it was before the Interwebs was born.

Case in point: I remember when our oldest had a royal meltdown in the grocery store because I wouldn't let her eat the broccoli before we paid for it. It was sold by weight, so, no snacking, kid. The store was small, and had great acoustics. Like, mine shaft acoustics. Literally everyone in that store heard her break the sound barrier that morning. Also, it was a 6 block walk home, so half our wee little town heard The Temper Tantrum From Hell. Oh Lord have mercy, I was fah-ried when we got home. Just, seriously, a bunch of nerves in a blender. I can't remember how long I cried once we were alone. I was such a wreck, and blamed myself for her behaviour. After a little while, and a kilo of chocolate, I felt better. Once she woke up from her nap, she had no recollection of anything. Such is the blessing of a toddler brain.

And yes, I remind her of The Broccoli Incident whenever I please. Yes, we have a good laugh.

And no, I have no memory of anyone other than the guy at the post office saying anything. And yes, he felt bad when I teared up. But that was it.

Fast forward 26 years later, this week, when my friend V posted on Instagram about how much "mommy-shaming" was ruining her joy when she posted photos of her sweet little baby girl.

First of all, the young couple in question have been through the unending heartache of multiple miscarriages and losses before the safe and joyous arrival of their little angel. V has had her own share of struggles, and she'd be the first to tell you that God was gracious and kind and loving, no matter what. Pain, no matter how intense, is still soul-crushingly hard, but He promises to be there with us as we endure it.

So, I had a chance to chat with V yesterday after church and hear her words and look into her eyes as she shared a bit about uninvited opinions, hurtful "advice" and entitled and opinionated people.

Now, I'm talking to those who feel the need to criticize and speak publicly about people's parenting choices, choice of feeding styles, stroller styles, colour choices, etc.

I am NOT speaking to people who intervene in situations in which physical harm is happening to a child. In those situations, good grief, go ahead and call in the authorities!

So unless you passed the bar, served as legal counsel, then were appointed to the bench???

You are not a judge, therefore, you should shut up.

I could add a 100 examples of uninvited and totally negative opinions, but I think I can boil it down: unless the parents ask, and if you're known for your casual and UN-uptight approach to parenting, and those parents know you've had several kids who are well-behaved, happy, and well-adjusted? Go ahead, think about it, but then offer your advice with a polite and humorous buffer of "I'm not sure if this will help, because you're doing a great job..." and then give some kind of light-hearted advice and finish with "...but whatever works, right?"

Unless that's you? Shush. Just calm your hissy fit and back away.

I think the worst encounter I ever had with someone offering parenting advice was when my older kids were little, and I was in a fairly new church, and didn't know many people. An older lady breezed out the church doors, patted my arm and said "You're doing a wonderful job as a mother!" and then walked out into the parking lot. Which is fine, but she'd never actually had a conversation with me, she didn't use my name, she certainly didn't stop to converse, and her whole demeanor was "there, I've given out a compliment, she should be thrilled!".

Don't approach advice giving with the "I'm letting you in on my wisdom, here's a pen, take notes" mentality. Approach it with "may I help you in any way?". The key word there is "help".

New moms don't need any criticism. They need older, more experienced moms to love them through the brain numbing exhaustion and the constant self-doubt.

Be their safe place. Be who they trust with the tears. Be the mom who admits her screw-ups and teaches from them.

And never forget that you were that parent who did, in fact, offer advice that wasn't needed. We've all done it, we just refuse to admit it.

In all things, preach. If required, use words.

*****************

Total subject change...but it's important to me that I say something.

It's been one year this week since I was let go by my agency.

That, my friends, was hard.

But, let's just say that things had changed and I was planning on letting them go anyway, I'm fairly sure that the writing on the wall was in neon spray paint. It was my mistake not to do what I knew that God was nudging me towards, for months. Thus, the control of the event was taken from my hands.

Yes, that was hard.

But I look at it this way, I was there for the season that I needed to be there.

I wish them all well.

Now, as I tell people in any line of work, if you're definite about making a change, be the one to make it. It's always better to close the door in your own time, than to have it slammed in your face on someone else's watch.

In many ways, it's been an unending rock pile that I've had to pick through.

In other ways, it's been a release from bonds that I never noticed were holding me back.

I'm thankful in this experience. I still don't know where it's leading, but trust is a muscle and not a bone.

I'm thankful for the many, many friends who've stuck by me. I'm also thankful for the "friends" who walked out of my life the same day I was let go, and in the days afterward. It's good to know who I can't trust.

And so? Onward.

It's best in situations like mine to aim my focus forward, and not look back over my shoulder to the dross that I've thrown to the wayside.

Keep your hands to the plow, kids, because turning back and then turning forward again only means you've gone in circles and wasted time and emotional energy.

And for those of you who are tasked with the care and feeding of a writer, or a creative of any stripe? Love them the way that big brother in the photo loved his baby sister. With all his might, since he was 2 years old.

So? Once more, Micah 6:8...He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

#work #writing #writerlife #Mommyshaming

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