Every mom has received unwanted advice from a random lady at the grocery store. While these strangers may have good intentions, the platitudes they toss rarely edify or encourage. Instead they can make us feel incompetent, judged, and even more overwhelmed.
Because giving advice can go so badly, older Christian women can be hesitant to offer any kind of counsel to younger Christian women. But when they offer biblical guidance out of love, in the context of a relationship, they can act as gentle gardeners who encourage growth.
A wise spiritual gardener observes the land, knows the soil’s composition and sun exposure, and prepares the ground for planting seeds of advice with prayer. A wise gardener waits for the appropriate season to plant such a seed, knowing, in the words of Solomon, “a word in season, how good it is!” (Prov. 15:23).
While no gardener can guarantee that a seed will grow, here are some ways to ensure your advice has the best chance of helping struggling mothers blossom.
Come on Gospel Ground
While it may easy for women to trade recipes or exchange information on amazing Amazon deals, it’s rarely easy for women to trade advice on mothering. Moms want to do right by their kids, and it can be devastating to hear they are falling short. As such, whenever advice around mothering is exchanged, the advice giver and the advice receiver must stand solidly on gospel ground.
Humility and honesty are disarming, and it’s helpful for the adviser to come as a fellow recipient of grace. All of us receive advice best when it’s communicated with gentleness and when the adviser acknowledges herself to be a sinner saved by grace.
Come with Gentle Confidence
As a women’s ministry director in a multicultural, intergenerational church, I see both sides of the generation gap. I see hesitant older women who, by their reluctance to offer answers, deny the younger generations the perspective and wisdom they desperately need.
I also see younger women, longing for someone to affirm, comfort, and even lovingly exhort and direct them in marriage and parenting, afraid or unsure how to ask for advice.
Older women, your walks with God and your successes and failures drip with wisdom that the younger women in your churches need. Be encouraged! Your “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24).
Come with Principles, Not Prescriptions
People tend to be quick to share practices, but, as we all know, motherhood is not one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most. Each mother, each child, each marriage, and each set of life circumstances is nuanced and unique. Yet there are shared biblical principles that should inform and transform motherhood. Older women must differentiate between practice and principle.
Motherhood is not one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most.
For example, an empty nester sees a young mother who dotes on her children, leaving their father overlooked. As someone who loves this woman and her family, the older woman is deeply concerned about the patterns being set in the wet-cement years of this family’s life.
She remembers how hard she worked as a tired young mother to have dinner ready by 5 p.m. so that the children were in bed by 7:30 to free up evening time to prioritize her husband. But rather than approach the mother with the specific practice of dinner at 5 and bed at 7:30, the older woman leads with the principle of working hard to prioritize her husband’s needs in the midst of the louder, more demanding needs of her children.
The empty nester can disarm the young, exhausted mother by joining her in empathy at the endless demands of early childrearing. She can then express her concern that, in the tyranny of the urgent, the wife’s relationship with husband has taken the backseat.
She could even offer to keep the children one evening so that the strained couple can have some time away from the hounding of the home front.
While the nuances might change from family to family, timeless biblical principles continue to inform and transform families across the generations and ages.
The twists and turns of motherhood were never intended to be navigated alone, and God has gently commanded the body of Christ to lovingly offer perspective and truth to one another. While such encounters will often be awkward and will always be imperfect, they are a kind provision until that final day when we will no longer need advice.