Why it’s okay to believe your way is the best way

Why it’s okay to believe your way is the best way

Why it’s okay to believe your way is the best way

I talk a lot about respectful dialogue, listening to what others have to say, and living in the middle, so the title of this post might surprise you.

Let me clarify: I think it’s okay to believe the decisions you make and the way you do things is the best way for your family.

Actually, I don’t just think it’s okay; I think it’s good.

There’s a lot of peace and confidence that comes from being sure of your decisions. And while I think there’s value in hearing what other people say, seeking advice, and keeping an open mind, at some point it’s okay to follow your gut and take ownership of your decision.

For example, all of my girls preferred to sleep on their tummies as babies. Because they had reflux, I researched tummy sleeping endlessly. Based on that research—and after watching each of them choke on spit up while sleeping on their backs—I decided there were other risk factors that play an important role in SIDS ands that correlation doesn’t equal causation. And so we let them sleep on their tummies. I understood the risks and decided that given our circumstances and the research I’d read, I was comfortable with them sleeping that way.

But that’s not to say I think you should let your babies sleep on their tummies. In fact, I don’t think you should unless you’re comfortable enough with the decision that if the unthinkable should happen, you wouldn’t beat yourself up over it.

Here’s my point: it was precisely because I was comfortable with my decision that I can support your decision to do the opposite.

Although I’ve had this post title in my notebook for months, I was inspired to actually type up my thoughts the other night while finishing Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. In the final chapter, on wholehearted parenting, she emphasizes this again and again:

“[T]his work has taught me that when I feel self-righteous, it means I’m afraid. It’s a way to puff up and protect myself when I’m afraid of being wrong, making someone angry, or getting blamed…

“When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack…

“What I’ve learned from my work is that there are a million ways out in the world to be a wonderful, engaged parent, and some of them are going to bump up against what I personally think about parenting…

“Daring greatly means finding our own path and respecting what that search looks like for other people.”

It’s so true. If I was unsure about the decision to let my babies sleep on their tummies and you started talking about why your babies only sleep on their backs (or their sides or whatever the latest recommendation is), I’d most likely feel guilty and like I needed to defend it. Instead, I have peace and confidence in my decision, and I don’t need to argue or to make you agree with me.

Similarly, I am confident that being willing to use a few shortcuts in the kitchen (like frozen french fries as a side) is the best option for our family. I’ve tried only making food from scratch and it creates an unhealthy environment for our family because it’s too much. If you make everything from scratch, though, I’m happy for you! I think that’s awesome, and as long as you’re not being nasty to me with your opinion, I don’t feel like I need to defend my choice or compare how I spend my time to how you spend yours. If I was feeling guilty over those french fries, though, I’d respond a lot differently.

Homeschooling versus public or private schooling, the books my children do or don’t read, how much freedom and responsibility we give them, working in or out of the home…and so on. The more confident I am in my decisions, the less I feel the need to defend them or convince you that I’m right.

To be clear, there are still a lot of areas where I feel at a loss: Jacksons sleep issues, picky eaters (and don’t you dare blame the frozen french fries—ha!), connecting with my kids individually, dealing with adolescence, etc. We’re figuring out a lot of it as we go.

But many of the so-called “mommy wars” could be avoided if we all felt more confidence and ownership of our own decisions without worrying so much about what other people are doing!

Have you found this principle to be true in your own life?

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. I love this, Mandi. Especially this – “The more confident I am in my decisions, the less I feel the need to defend them.” Thank you for the gracious reminder to do what is best for us – our children and our families.

  2. I’ve found this soooo so true! I have two friends who are always on the defensive (not so much towards me thankfully), but I also know they are struggling so much behind the scenes with their decisions and that is why.

  3. Yes, I completely agree. I addressed the same thing this week. I’m glad people are finally standing up to say this. Go, Mandi!

  4. I agree that your decision to have your girls sleep on their abdomens was appropriate given their issues with reflux, and their relatively general low-risk for SIDS (being breastfed, no second-hand smoke exposure, etc). However, I just want to point out that when it comes to stomach-sleeping and SIDS, it is not a case of correlation without causation. Side-sleeping and abdomen-sleeping has been shown to cause re-breathing of carbon dioxide that can increase the risk for SIDS. Again, I’m not saying this as a criticism of your decision or any one else’s valid decision to have their babies sleep on their stomachs. I just wanted to figure out why it is a risk factor, rather than just a coincidental correlation.

  5. Sorry, in that last sentence I meant “point out” rather than “figure out”. Probably because I was simultaneously trying for the millionth time to “figure out” how to sign into Disqus!

  6. Thanks, Claire! I don’t know if those studies were available 11 years ago (I certainly hadn’t seen them), but I appreciate you sharing! (I also think it’s interesting that that includes side sleeping because the official recommendation has been for them to sleep on their sides for at least a couple of my girls!).

  7. I actually have mixed feelings on this post. Part of me says, “Amen!”, and the other part says, “But what about choosing something over another on moral grounds or, dare I say it, biblical grounds?” Especially when you’re talking with another Christian on the subject and they use the Bible to affirm their decisions, too? I am naturally non-confrontational and would love to live and let live, but it seems ingenuous for me to say, “this is what we do because of what we’ve found in the Bible but, hey, whatever works for your family!” How does a good, God-honoring discussion come from a place where the two parties are claiming biblical authority for very different views?

  8. The re-breathing of the carbon dioxide isn’t as much of an issue in side-sleeping as it is in stomach-sleeping. When I first started working in maternity in the late 90s, the babies in the nursery were positioned on their sides. A few years later they switched to backs. And back-sleeping has caused its own share of problems such as delayed motor skills, flat heads, etc. So for babies who don’t have a lot of SIDS risk factors, side sleeping can be an appropriate choice, especially during daytime naps if they’re in the public areas of the house where mom and dad can observe them. And honestly, a lot of babies switch to stomach-sleeping when they get proficient at rolling over anyway!

  9. Honestly? I think there are very few parenting issues where the Bible offers black-and-white direction (or on any issue; there wouldn’t be so many denominations if it was easy to agree on). I can’t think of a single parenting decision (outside of abuse or neglect) that I would call unbiblical. So I think you say, “This is what we do based on what we believe the Bible says.” You don’t have to endorse another parent’s decision; you just have to respect their God-given right to make it.

  10. Sarah, I’ve been thinking about your comment more (thanks for adding to the discussion with a thought-provoking comment!), and on the dialogue part, I think that comes within a relationship. So you may not have a dialogue over differing views of what the Bible says about a parenting decision with someone in the grocery store, but with respect, you can have those conversations with a close friend or someone in a small group. But it still begins with having confidence in your decision while respecting their right to come to a different conclusion. Would you agree or disagree?

  11. Well said! Being the type of person who carefully weighs most decisions, I have found that I usually do have confidence in my decisions. I admit that I am sometimes amused by watching other moms who always second guess their decisions. Other times I find myself annoyed by those who question my right to make decisions that are perfectly legal and moral yet outside the status quo (homeschooling, stay at home mom, delayed vaccines, the list goes on).
    On another note, I recently found your blog at about the same time I realized I am an INTJ who had been trying to act like an ISTJ for too many years. 🙂 Your introduction drew me in, and I’ve enjoyed reading your posts very much.

  12. I definitely agree that those discussions are the best within already established friendships so that there is greater understanding (hopefully!) if not of viewpoint, then of goodwill and love. And then there’s this weird niche of dialogue on the blogosphere (welcome to the 21st century!), where it’s good to have these discussions even with veritable strangers so that we can share and form ideas with broader opinions than we would encounter otherwise, but of course that’s also where we find most of the “Mommy Wars” phenomenon taking place, which just exhausts everybody!

    I also agree with your previous comment that the Bible is wonderfully quiet on the finer workings of parenting. BUT (did you see the “but” coming??) I think the Bible holds parents 100% accountable, by the grace of God, to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and when we try to hold up Bible verses that favor our viewpoint on a given subject, while not taking into account other overarching standards, exceptions to the rule of whatever is being discussed become the rule itself. I’m sorry to be so vague, I’m actually trying to avoid a clash of the Mommies on your excellent blog! But I hope what I’m saying makes sense? It’s just hard to know when to say, “good for you,” and when to break silence and say, “I think the Bible promotes something different than what you’re telling me.”

    I do think that parents, or anyone for that matter, should be convinced in their own minds about their decisions. However, I don’t feel that simply being convinced is enough reason to hold on to a practice simply because we’ve talked ourselves into it.

  13. Thank you! I love that you have said this. I hate the comments after going “Against the Grain” on certain aspects of parenting that I have made but ultimately made my family happy. I also let my kids sleep however they felt most comfortable. None of them liked sleeping on their backs. Frozen French fries as a side: Bring it on! There is always some parenting choice that we have to make that may not sound like the best one for everyone to make, but if it makes your family’s life a happy one, then I say go for it!

  14. oh my goodness Mandi, I was just having this conversation with my husband yesterday. We have had the many occasions over the years where people get in our face about decisions that we’ve made… To me, it seems so weird someone would even be interested in whether or not I circumcised my sons or whether not my babies sleep with me are whether or not I’m exclusively breastfeeding. I’ve never *once* asked another parent those questions. Never. I think it’s because I’m confident that I made a right choice my family. I believe people who secretly wish they had made a different decision but who caved to the almighty doctor or the mother in law or the status quo, denying their strong gut feeling seek out others to confirm their decision.

  15. This is good! I love your thoughts on this and find this so true for my own life. Often times i’m not 100% sure of my choices and feel that puffed up feeling you mentioned. Something to work on and improve!

  16. I loved, loved your article! It just happened to come at a time when I have thought lots about the picky eating thing, because my children are not picky at all! I am so much more picky than them, but still eat pretty much anything. I have been trying to figure out why my kids aren’t picky…because I can assure it is nothing I have done specifically. I do realize with myself that textures and bitter or hot are issues for me, but why my children don’t have issues is really a mystery. Yes, they have that “I have never tried that before” and “there are too many things in this dish” issues, but 2 bites and they are finishing the food…..that is not normal. Every once in a while I just find it a fascinating mystery and try to dig a little deeper. As I think about the confidence in decisions, I think for me the problem comes when I am faced with trying to remember and respect another’s decision, such as veganism at a family gathering. I can respect the decision, but finding a way to deal with that decision becomes trickier…..sometimes I just want to rant at the need to change the cake recipe! Yes, I know other people don’t rant, they just make it non-Vegan, maybe that is where I struggle with defending my decisions, I feel trapped by their decision.

  17. This is how I have felt for a long time. I think it comes with age and the confidence of being a more experienced mother. Thank you for putting it into words. It’s beautiful to be able to let go. Knowing that I can be confident in my own decision and support someone else to make a different one.

    I felt so defensive of all of my decisions as a brand new mother. I was polite to others, but the inner turmoil that it would create to be questioned (even when I knew my decision was right for my family). I’m much more free these days.

  18. Hi Angie! Love your thoughts there…it is easy to get annoyed at people questioning YOUR decision, even if you’re confident in it, for sure!

    Thanks so much for reading!

  19. Yep, I think you make some really important things here. I would agree with everything you’ve said, and I think it’s one of those things we just have to do our best in, whether we feel called to support or exhort one another in a particular situation!

  20. Yes, definitely—I think when you’re a new mom you’re getting so much conflicting advice from every angle that it can be really hard to make a decision AND feel confident about it. That confidence is one of my favorite things about mothering now versus 10 years ago!

  21. I am American. My husband is Mongolian. Our cultures tend to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, especially when it comes to raising children. We literally have to discuss and discover just what is right for our family on every little thing because there are no givens. Which on the one hand is great, because like you say it gives us the utmost confidence and ownership of our decision … but on the other hand it constantly seems to put us at odds with our families as we do feel the need to defend our choices to the ones we love. We don’t do things differently because we feel like we were raised wrong, or because we feel like one culture is superior to the other … we do things differently because *we* are different.
    As for the “mommy wars”, I refuse to fight them and fully embrace the fact that someone somewhere will always consider me a “bad mother,” which to be honest takes away a lot of the “pressure” to be a perfect mother and allows me to be the mother my boys need.

  22. This is FABULOUS and I totally agree. People so often confuse passion for self-righteousness. I really believe in what I’m doing but I care NOT AT ALL what you do… unless it’s a carseat thing then I’ll get in people’s faces 😉

    It’s like Amy Poehler’s “Good for her, not for me.”

  23. Amen! I was the same. I was quite a terrible person on-the-inside with my first (how awful that time was!) and now that I am a mom of 4 kids, ages 4 and under, and I have been humbled and broken and remade so utterly confident in what I do now–while listening to the wisdom of others–it is so freeing! I love listening to others who make different choices and frankly not care. They are making the best choices for their families. Just like I am for mine.

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