Welcome to the first installment of the Missional Moms blog. I've started this blog in conjunction with the book I'm writing that encourages today's Christian mothers to take a missional perspective in their approach and outlook on life. What does this mean and what does it look like?
In recent years the word missional has become popular in describing churches that encourage everyone in their congregation to have an outreach-oriented perspective rather than an inward-focused one. In other words, missionaries are not the only ones who should be thinking about ways to spread the gospel, love others, and make disciples of all nations. Instead, each and every Christian is to embrace the responsibility to be faithful to the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. The missional mindset is one that continually asks, “Lord, where and how would you have me serve you? How are you calling me to have an impact for your Kingdom today? How can I encourage my family to do the same?” Missional Moms (both the book and this blog) will seek to tell stories of and encourage women who are living in this manner. If you are a missional mom or know a missional mom, please get in touch with me! I'd love to hear and tell your stories.
The other day, I saw this article in Time Magazine about parents who overparent, otherwise known as "helicopter parents" for hovering over their children all the time. The article describes the growing backlash against this type of parenting: "There is now a new revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical overprotectiveness and overinvestment of moms and dads."
I am not an extreme overparenter, but I do think my behavior with my own kids probably seems to qualify. I'm the parent who has a hard time leaving my crying child behind in the nursery, who often sacrifices entire Saturdays shuttling her sons to music lessons and related activities 45 minutes away because, well, that's where we found the best teachers and because our boys seem to exhibit a certain amount of proficiency in their instruments. I'm the mom who wants her kids to learn Mandarin even though we aren't Chinese-American. And then this year, I started homeschooling our two eldest sons, 7 and 4 years old. Sounds like overparenting, right?
In contrast to the mom who overparents as described in the Time article, a missional mom is not one who is obsessed about her children's future and who does everything in their young years to position them for success in school, which is supposed to lead to success in college, which is supposed to lead to that high-paying job and a good life as defined by worldly standards. Instead, a missional mom entrusts the future of her children to God's hands, and while she takes her responsibility to train and guide them seriously, she is not driven by cultural pressures to keep up with other families and kids, but by the desire to do what is pleasing and right in God's eyes.
The interesting development for our family is how our homeschooling experience has actually freed us to think more more missionally about our future. In future posts I'll go into more detail about how this whole concept of being a missional mom is changing me and my family, slowly but surely. But for now, I can say that homeschooling, as opposed to being another piece of the overparenting pie, is allowing us to think critically about what kind of neighborhood we want our kids to be a part of as they grow up, and not to automatically assume the neighborhood with the best schools is the place to be. (Especially for Asian Americans, who tend to flock towards towns with schools that are highly regarded, this type of paradigm shift can be very challenging to make.) As much as I love the city where we live, a fully-resourced community where the average income is in the six-figure range, I sense in my heart of hearts that this may not be the place where God wants us to be long-term.
While I do still fall victim to overparenting at times, I am trying to be open to doing to whatever he would want us to be doing. If I do overparent, at least I want it to be with the right motives--not for the sake of advancing my children's futures, but for the sake of advancing God's mission here on earth through myself and my family. Isn't this what God himself did? He was the ultimate overparenter; He did way more than sacrificing a few hours of time on the weekend for those he called his children. He sent his own son to die on the cross for the rest of us, and if that isn't extreme parenting, I don't know what is. But God is a parent on a mission--and that's exactly what he calls me to be as well. Be missional, as God is missional--a good motivation for any parent and one that ensures that even if you do overparent, it will be for the best cause this side of heaven.