Fear-Based Parenting: How I Made Motherhood My Idol & Disguised it as ‘Passion’

idol

After both of my daughters were born, I became passionate about protecting them, watching them breathe as they slept the first few weeks in our home. Helping them grow into their personalities by plugging them into activities that would enrich them as individuals.

I was the one who could make their world better on days the world treated them poorly. All of these “passions” I had as a mom seemed normal to me. Until one day. One day the Lord revealed to me that what I was claiming to be a passion, had become and idol.

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Tim Keller speaks to how this idolatry slowly begins to play a role in our parenting in his book Counterfeit Gods.

“Previously, Abraham’s meaning in life had been dependent on God’s word. Now it was becoming dependent on Isaac’s love and well-being. The center of Abraham’s life was shifting. God was not saying you cannot love your son, but that you must not turn a loved one into a counterfeit god….”

Keller clarifies what idolatry is by saying, “If anyone puts a child in the place of the one true God, it creates an idolatrous love that will smother the child and strangle the relationship.”

My intent in being a mom to our daughters was not to strangle the relationship or to put them in the place of God.   However, as the years went by passion turned into idolatry which brought about a season of strain in relationships with my daughters.  I had no idea I was becoming so great at letting idols lead me. When one of our girls performed well in whatever they were doing, I would let that performance dictate a feeling of being an accomplished mom because they did so well.  Saying no more than yes. Those NO’s put the ball back in my court which made me feel secure. Or how about when they would do something wrong and my response would be to take ownership of their choice. I call that pride.

As I was building idols the Lord divinely placed a couple in our lives who mentored us through a rough patch in our marriage and parenting. I believe that we all need someone who is further ahead in this journey of life.

Someone who can walk alongside you are offering wisdom, encouragement and prayer so you aren’t navigating alone. Sometimes a mentor can leave you feeling empowered and ready to take on the world. Other times they can leave you feeling irritated and frustrated. Both feelings are necessary. We need salt and light to help us recognize the realities or possibilities of an event or situation after it occurs. Even if the realities aren’t what we want them to be. One afternoon my mentor asked me a question in response to frustrations I was experiencing with one of our daughters, “do you think you are parenting out of fear?”  I immediately said, “NO”! Her question left me feeling very confused and wondering if she wasn’t listening to me. Her words left me feeling irritated. Her words were salt to my already tender mom heart.

Later, I recognized the question my mentor had asked me was just the irritation I needed to recognize an idol I was clinging to in my parenting. The idol of control which was stemming from fear I had as a mom for things that were out of my control.  This idol was causing frustration in my parenting and my marriage. For years I had felt confident in my parenting, from the time our girls were born to when they were beginning high school, I was in control of most of their world. From the foods they ate to the people and activities they were exposed to. Wasn’t it my job to develop a foundation of character based on the influences I allowed in their world?  Wasn’t it my job to build them up for success? Wasn’t it my job to be there for them when they needed a landing pad? Wasn’t it my job to orchestrate their development as a disciple of Christ? Yes, to all those things. But somewhere along the way I had my focus on the wrong element in my job as a mom. I was focused on the daily living and was blinded to their future needs. Needs like core independence and ownership of who they are as individuals.  Independence that can only be developed by releasing control and allowing them to experience the speed bumps and failures that come with life. Independence that grows with words like, “figure it out”.

Soon after my mentor posed that question to me, I had a conversation with my sister-in-law. We both realized as our girls grew older, they were involved in activities that pulled them away from home more often. Their sphere of influence was widening. My sister-in-law and I recognized we were losing control as moms.  Recognizing this loss of control was hard.

Hindsight is defined as recognizing the realities or possibilities of an event or situation after it occurs. It can be as simple as recognizing when you ate too many chips and queso or it can be much harder, like having someone point out something in your life that you need to change. Either way, the beauty of hindsight is seeing past the thing(s) keeping us from moving forward to a better place.

Hindsight applied = wisdom.

Hindsight ignored = ignorance

We shared a similar struggle as we both noticed the time we spent as a family unit was fading. I began to question my efforts as a mom.  It was in that conversation that the Lord revealed to me, I was parenting out of fear. Control is at the root of fear. I had to release the control to release the fear.  My love for them had become an idol in my heart. An idol is something that I love, trust or obey more than I love the Lord. I had made an idol of parenting out of fear instead of trusting the Lord. I had two choices after recognizing this truth; ignore it and continue in fear or recognize it and deal with it. I chose the latter.

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”  Proverbs 14:26 NIV

After recognizing I had made an idol of fear in my parenting, the Lord led me to these truths.

Fear based parenting < Parenting in the LOVE & CONFIDENCE of the LORD

“Little children keep yourselves from idols.”  1 John 5:21 ESV

What I feel < What I know

When I chose to parent out of fear, I am telling God I can do a better job raising my kids than he can.  Ya that’s not good.

Fear makes me FEEL out of control.

I KNOW I am anchored in the TRUTH and LOVE of the Lord.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19a NIV

I had to remember well the times the Lord had been faithful in my parenting journey.  Remember well the days of joy that came from the routine of after school cookies and playdates.  Remember well the traditions our family has created that bring us together. Remember well the times I had a front row seat to our girls reflecting the love of Christ to someone.  Remember well the note one of our girls left in my car just to say they love me. Remember well seeing our girls travel to third world countries to share the love of Christ and minister to orphans.  Remembering well the fruit of our parenting journey will cast a shadow on the idol of control I was allowing to lead to fear-based parenting. Most importantly remember well that my accomplishments as a mom don’t define me.  My salvation in Christ defines me.

“I will meditate on your wonderful works and proclaim your great deeds.”  Psalm 145:5-6 NIV

Remembering what has gone well when we are struggling in our parenting, keeps things in perspective.  Finding the perspective begins in our BEING present with the Lord.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  James 4:8a NIV

BE in the word

BE in prayer

BE in fellowship with the Lord

BE in a state of repentance and grace

BE in a mind set to remember well

BE aware of His faithfulness

When we remember well who we are anchored to, we are reminded that we are greater in the truth of the Lord than we are in the lies of the enemy.  The closer we lean into God, the farther we lean away from idols. I pray that these words have encouraged you to embrace and practice hindsight in your life. Hindsight leads us to bringing honor and glory to the Lord.

For the days you feel doubt creeping in, pursue HIM in HIS words that remind you where FEAR really belongs.  Behind you. In the moving forward we do not have room for fear as an obstacle.


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Christy Baca
Christy is a graduate from Texas A&M University where she met her husband of 24 years, and together they have two daughters who are now young adults. She has 10 years’ experience speaking nationally to various audiences including MOPS, parents, administration teams, students, and for non-profit fundraisers. Christy authored the book, "Saying Yes to Saying No - A Parent's Guide to Values-Based Abstinence". Christy has a passion for helping moms remember who they are no matter what season they are in, and, as a certified biblical life coach, she coaches women through life's difficult moments, and she also mentors’ young mothers at the local Moms Inc. group. Christy believes we are better together, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. Christy would love to connect with you. She can be found on Instagram, Facebook and her website www.christybaca.org.