Under the Influence: Peer Pressure and Motherhood
About the Guest
Are you in a race to see who can be a better mom? Pediatrician and mother of four, Dr. Meg Meeker, feels that many mothers today have lost their joy due to the need to keep up with other moms. Meg encourages mothers to "jump off the train" of perfectionism and to simplify their lives by setting up boundaries and trusting their instincts.
Dr. Meg Meeker encourages mothers to “jump off the train” of perfectionism and to simplify their lives by setting up boundaries and trusting their instincts.
Under the Influence: Peer Pressure and Motherhood
Bob: “I wonder if my kids would be thriving more if they were doing…” It’s really motivated by a desire to see your kids—
Meg: It’s motivated by all good things. That’s why it’s such a hard beast to slay, if you will, because our hearts say: “I want to be a great mom. I want great opportunities for my kids. I want my kids to go to great schools. I don’t want them to fall behind. I want them to feel good about themselves.”
So we make a list of what we need our kids to be and do in order to be great kids. Then we make a list of what we need to do and be to be great moms. The problem is our list is too long and our expectations are too high—that’s when the joy goes away.
Bob: Then you meet a mom who says, “You know, we just decided we were going to go with this new violin lesson thing.” You think, “Well, I wonder if I should add that to the list.”
Bob: It just keeps swelling and becomes unbearable.
Dennis: We felt some of that when we were raising our kids. What we attempted to do was build some boundaries. We said: “You know what? Because we have six children, we’re going to have one outside extracurricular activity per child per semester.” Now, that’s enough of a crazy-maker, to have six kids going in different directions—with Little League, with volleyball, with dance lessons, whatever they would choose.
What we would try to do is steer them in the same direction so our sons played on the same Little League team or, at least, at the same park at the same time to be able to keep some degree of sanity and your schedule under control. What I hear you saying is—if a mom is going to navigate, really, the pace of life and the comparison that’s taking place, she had better pull out of the battle,—
Dennis: —reflect and re-center herself, and know what God is expecting of her, as a woman, wife, and, most certainly, as a mom.
Meg: Yes, absolutely. And that’s where we’ve really veered away from this—even a lot of Christian moms, whose hearts are really trying to do what God wants them to do.
Again, it’s that we don’t want to miss opportunities for ourselves or for our kids. We are not trusting our instincts.
I sort of look at it this way, Dennis and Bob—we’ve got all these mothers, who’ve jumped on a train that’s going very, very fast in a direction. We don’t know exactly where it’s taking us, but it’s picking up speed as it goes. We all want off, but we want the gal next to us to go first: “Okay, I have my child in three extracurricular activities, and I want him in two. But why don’t you go first, neighbor?” You know? That’s where the freedom really comes, and that’s why I would encourage every mother, listening to us: “Be the first. Jump off the train!” because it’s wonderful! There’s an enormous benefit in it for our kids; but since we’re talking about moms, that’s what brings some calm and sanity into our lives. I really worry about mothers and their health because there isn’t calm in the American home anymore.
Bob: There’s no correlation that we’ve been able to see between how many extracurricular activities your kids are in and whether they turn out being spiritually healthy or mentally healthy. We’re really propping our ladder up against the wrong thing.
Dennis: Yes, and I just want to underscore what you said about the freedom that comes by making the hard choice. I want to brag on Barbara at this point—she’s not the perfect mother—but we did the very thing you’re talking about. Together, as a couple, we decided to break from the herd and not do what everybody else was doing. This was back in the early ‘80s, when homeschooling was pioneering stuff—I mean, it was radical.
We made the decision to pull our kids out of public school and homeschool for a period of time. I have to tell you, because of that decision, it gave us the sense of: “You know what? We don’t have to do what everybody else is doing!”
Dennis: You kind of get in this herd mentality, where everybody’s being funneled through this little crook in the funnel called education and “Everybody has to do it the very same way.” When we broke from what everyone else was doing, we thought: “You know what? We really are these kids’ parents!”
Dennis: That may sound like a, “Duh!”
Meg: No, but that’s parenting out of instinct. One of the things I find is—mothers and fathers no longer rely on their God-given instincts. They don’t trust them anymore. So many times I see mothers, “Is it okay if my 13-year-old watches an R-rated movie?” I say, “Well, what do you think?” “Well, I don’t want him to!” “Then why are you asking me?”—because they don’t trust their instincts to do what they know is right for their kids.
It’s painful to pull back. I think one of the big reasons that most mothers resist pulling back—and pulling their kids out, and sort of roping everybody in and saying, “Okay, we’re eating a family meal together, at least, three nights a week,”—is that they’re afraid that they’re going to psychologically harm their children.
Meg: Parents are very afraid that their child will feel like an oddball / they will be the oddball. Parents, again, motivated by great motive—which is, “…to be a good parent and have healthy kids”—are so convinced that their kids need to fit and to not walk differently than other kids. It’s a fear-based phenomenon. That’s why I wrote a whole chapter on fear—[Laughter]—how not to parent out of fear!
Bob: You wrote this book with a general audience in mind.
Bob: I mean, you’re writing to every mom. You engage around the whole issue of faith.
Bob: But I could sense, as I read through this, that it was kind of like walking a tightrope for you because you embrace your faith, wholeheartedly; and yet, you know you’re talking to some moms who don’t have any faith aspect in their life.
Meg: Absolutely. You know, Random House is my publisher. My call, I believe, is to mothers everywhere. Mothers everywhere want to hear about God and want to hear about faith. All of my writing is biblically-based.
I will tell you a secret—the book is patterned after Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. If I really need to be centered, he talks about solitude and simplicity. That’s exactly what I talk to mothers about—getting back to those core disciplines, if you will, that really make our lives good, and right, and sound.
Dennis: To that point, before we came in the studio, you made a comment, just kind of—almost off the cuff. You said you’re concerned about the moms today, who are raising the children of both today and tomorrow—that they don’t have a strong faith. They’re going to encounter issues, values, things that demand core convictions; and their faith is not going to be ready to handle some of the stormy waters they’re going to be traveling through.
Dennis: Would you comment on that?
Meg: Oh, sure. You know, one of my great concerns, too, is that I believe, as Christians, that we are to be in Scripture. We are to be feeding ourselves, and we are to be growing our faith.
Our faith, from age 25-55, should not be stagnant. God desires that we grow that faith. What I’m seeing, for a lot of mothers, is their time is being eaten up by doing a whole lot of things. Their time with God and attention to the growth of their faith is really suffering.
When that happens, they don’t sink those roots deep so that—when their kids are in their teens or in their 20s—and they’re really getting beaten up by life / that they will be knocked over.
Again, it kind of comes down to peer pressure. It sounds kind of trite, actually, to talk about peer pressure; but that’s really the truth. We are driven. We all jump on this train—Christian moms, secular moms, any kind of mom—because that’s what the world is telling us to do. We feel that that’s what we need to do, as moms. The problem is—it doesn’t give us time to grow our faith.
You and I know—because we’re all sort of seasoned in age—that if you don’t—
Bob: That was so gentle. Thank you! [Laughter]
Meg: Well, you’re really eye candy, too, Bob. [Laughter]
Really, when life starts to beat us up—and it will and it will beat our children up—if we don’t have faith, we have nothing.
Dennis: You know, I just want to underscore this. I’m not going to read the passage; but I don’t know how many times, in the last six months, I’ve been sharing this with young couples who are starting out their families together. It’s how Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount. It’s talking about two different homebuilders. Both built their house in the midst of storms, floods, rain, and wind. One house fell and one didn’t. The house that didn’t fall was built upon the rock. It was the man / the woman, who heard the words of Christ and obeyed them—that’s what you’re talking about.
Dennis: Faith isn’t a passive matter. It’s a point of obedience.
Dennis: But in order to be obedient, you have to know what the Bible teaches. Here’s what I would say to young moms, who are starting out today. If you’re not in this Book, you’re going to be overtaken by the very world that you want to guide your child through as he or she grows up and into adolescence. I mean, you’ve got to train your kids to have their own faith, with their core convictions, and what they’re going to stand for, and what they’re going to say, “No,” to, and what they are going to say, “Yes,” to. If you don’t know where you stand, you’re not going to be able to lead your kids!
Bob: Well, we’ve got a whole generation of folks who are spending a lot of time caring for the condition of their body—going to the gym and making sure that they’re in good physical shape, or eating the right stuff, or spending money on vitamins and nutrition / I’m not saying any of this stuff is wrong—or they are caring for the condition of their economic house and making sure that they’re bank account is good.
But if you ask them about the condition of their soul: “How’s your soul doing?” and “What are you doing to care for your soul?”—
—they’ll kind of give you a blank stare—like, “I’m not sure what you mean by that or what you do.” If you ignore that, there will come a time when the winds will blow, and the rain will beat against your house, and it will not stand because your soul hasn’t been cared for.
Meg: You bet. You bet.
Dennis: It’s not a matter of if.
Dennis: It’s a matter of when.
Dennis: If Barbara was here, she would tell you, because she loved being a mom, but one of the most important things she did was—she reserved time for her soul. I don’t know how she did it, many times, because she would be dragging by the end of the day. She found a way to get in the Book. The point is: “Find a way to feed your soul!”
Also—and this is something else you teach about in your book: “Find a way to connect with other friends / other moms, who are in the battle,” because the nature of being a mom is to be isolated—you feel like you’re alone in this battle of raising children.
Meg: Right; absolutely.
And I wrote a whole chapter on friendship and how women need other women, for many, many reasons. The heart of our lives / the great joy in our lives comes from relationships—the marital relationship, our relationship with the Lord, our relationship with our kids, and our relationship, as women, with other women friends—it builds strong marriages. You know, if you have a couple of good, solid women friends, you expect less of your husband because he’s not trying to meet all of your needs. It’s so important in really healthy families. The problem is—again, busy moms cut out time for nurturing their spiritual life and for friendships—
Meg: —because they’re just trying to do whatever they can to make life great for their kids.
Bob: And to your point, it took me probably 20 years before it dawned on me that—when my wife was getting away with her friends, and spending time relationally, and relaxing—our home was better / our marriage was better. That investment of her time with other women in friendships paid dividends in every other aspect of her life.
I don’t know that she realized that / I don’t know that I realized that—but when we did—it was like, “This needs to happen for everybody’s sake.”
Dennis: If I had to summarize what we’ve talked about today: “You have to pay attention to your own soul—don’t neglect it. Number two, you also have to pay attention to your needs for a friendship outside of your marriage and your family, that is a godly friendship—not just anybody.
Dennis: “It has to be someone who’s going to speak the truth into your life.”
I can mirror what Bob said about wishing I’d understood this more. Barbara really needed friends outside the home, and I didn’t set that apart. If I’m talking to a dad right now, and you’re in the midst of raising your children—I don’t care if they’re rug rats, or if they’re teenagers, or a combo of all of the above—find a way to make it possible for your wife to get out of the house, and for you to put the kids to bed, and clean the kitchen.
Dennis: Have it all ready when she gets home from being out with some girlfriends. It really is a life-giving, sacrificial act for a husband to perform on behalf of his wife.
Bob: And your point is that this is something that moms—who are doing well / who are thriving—this is one of their habits. It’s one of the things they do that causes them to really do well in their assignment as moms.
Meg has written a book called The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers. I think this is a book that a lot of moms will benefit from—getting a copy and just going through and saying: “How am I doing in each of these ten areas? Do I have the right balance in my life as I’m seeking to be a good and godly mom?” You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or you can call if you’d like a copy of the book. Our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I think it goes without saying that, in addition to having time with a group of girlfriends outside the home, a mom, who is really thriving in her role, is also somebody who is well-connected with her husband. When their anniversary rolls around, they make it a priority. We’re talking a lot about anniversaries this year because FamilyLife is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016. We’re celebrating 40 years of ministry by focusing on all of the anniversaries that have been celebrated over the years because of how God has used FamilyLife in the lives of a lot of couples.
We would like to make sure that your anniversary this year is a great celebration. We’ve got some ideas for you on that. If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, we will send you, right before your anniversary, either text messages or emails that give you some special ideas on how you can celebrate, in 2016, your anniversary.
When you do get in touch with us and let us know your anniversary date, would you consider making a donation to help support this ministry? We’ve had some friends of ministry come to us in recent days—knowing that it’s our 40th anniversary, as a ministry, and knowing that the summer months can be challenging for ministries like ours—they have agreed to match every donation we receive this month, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $350,000. It’s a great opportunity for us! To take advantage of it, we need to hear from you. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to make your donation at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how moms, who are doing well, are moms who have recalibrated. They’ve adjusted their expectations so that their expectations can actually meet reality. We’ll talk more with Dr. Meg Meeker about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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