Our mothers and grandmothers relied on their pediatricians to answer their parenting questions. Their mothers relied upon the experience of their own mothers and other older women. Now, internet research has become an integral part of mothering. Need to know why your child wets the bed? Want a natural remedy for diaper rash? Want the latest research on delaying vaccinations? The internet has an answer for all of these questions. Several answers, actually.
Between websites and message boards and Facebook groups, women have access to more parenting data and advice than ever before. Mothers can keep up with the latest safety standards and nutrition trends. They chat with women across the country whose children have the same ailments. They can even connect with other mothers online during a midnight feeding!
Given the wealth of information, do younger women still need older women when it comes to mothering? I’ve seen the research-oriented culture of modern mothering drive a wedge between young women and older women. Older women mock young mothers for being so safety-conscious. Younger women dismiss older women because they don’t know the latest car seat safety standards, or they suggest that the baby would sleep better on his stomach.
In Titus 2:4-5, Paul commands older women to “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Young women need to learn these things every bit as much today as they did in Paul’s day. And older women are uniquely suited to teach them.
Let Older Women Take the Pressure Off
Somehow, research has become a core responsibility of mothering. Internet research, whether on birthing methods or sleep cycles or teething treatments, predictably yields conflicting answers, so it inevitably generates anxiety. You can’t follow the advice of the medical establishment and the naturopaths, but you’ll have the voices of both in your head telling you that you’ve made the wrong choice. While an honest search for the best answers drives research, it can make mothers feel accused on all sides.
If you look to message boards to find out how to protect your children and give them a good start, you will find that your work is never done. You won’t be able to please all of the virtual authorities in your life.
In contrast, older women who have been mothers can bring empathy and reassurance to a young woman in the throes of self-doubt. They remember what it was like to go for months without a full night of sleep. They can assure her that her baby will sleep eventually, even if that day seems far off. They can tell her it’s okay to put on a video when the children are sick. Experienced mothers can put into long-term perspective the decisions that, in the moment, seem to be of life-or-death importance.
Let Older Women Challenge You
What drives a mother to exhaustive internet research? Primarily, it is love for her child. When you love your children, you want to do everything in your power to protect their lives, health, and hearts. Mothers don’t choose to love their children; they just do. Isaiah asked the question, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?” The implied answer suggests that such a thing would be highly unnatural.
Yet Titus 2 tells us that there is an unnatural aspect of loving children, one that needs to be taught. Perhaps this is the kind of love a mother needs to show to her son when his behavior brings her shame in public. Perhaps it is the kind that lets a daughter make mistakes, even though everything in a mother’s heart wants to rush in and protect her from consequences.
When we only receive advice virtually, we can protect ourselves from criticism that hits too close to home. But you may need your own mother to point out to you that you don’t discipline consistently when you are tired. Perhaps you need a loving neighbor to tell you that your son has been lying. You may need your daughter’s teacher to help you see that you’re putting unnecessary pressure on her. While this sort of observation may sting, a wise older woman can help you bring your insufficiency before your gracious God, even as she is helping you to see it.
The internet gives us access to a wide variety of knowledge, and that can be a gift from God. We should give thanks for the web’s wealth of information without making it a substitute for the relationships God has ordained to teach us to love. You need an older woman in your life to tell you that, contrary to what online voices communicate, you’re not really in control of your child’s life—God is. And that is good news.