Spirit-Led Parenting: How Motherhood Calls Us to Lay Down Our Lives

Spirit-Led Parenting: How Motherhood Calls Us to Lay Down Our Lives

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I vividly remember those weeks so many years ago, when I began my journey as a brand-new mom. I was clueless.

I spent my pregnancy reading all sorts of good books but I somehow skipped over the very important topic of “what to do with your crying/hungry/needy bundle of joy once they are OUT of your womb“.

My initial weeks and months as a new mom were utterly bewildering to me. I read everything from the strict schedule-and-sleep-training books all the way to books on practicing complete attachment parenting. My sweet baby didn’t know whether she was coming or going— one day I let her cry, the next I let her nap in my arms, the next day I picked her up and put her back down 30 times while trying to get her to go back to sleep and finish her “prescribed” length of nap time.

So very confused. I wanted badly to do my best, but I just had no idea what that looked like.

But maybe I was also afraid…

Today, I’m reviewing the new book Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. One of the over-arching themes in the book has to do with moving away from our fears as mothers (of failing our babies, of not meeting other’s expectations, of disappointing God), and instead towards freedom.

There was certainly struggle and a grasping at something in those early days and weeks, although I’ve never pinpointed just what it was. While reading this book, I tried to wrap my brain around the idea of fear… I think that I had been fearful. But of what, exactly?

Last night, it finally came to me, although I couldn’t have put it into words at the time. I think that I definitely feared I was failing as a mom. I was also deeply afraid of losing control of my own life.

I was scared that every short or missed nap meant I would have a baby that never learned to sleep well, one that was difficult and demanding. On the other hand, I was also scared of having to give too much– to sleep with baby and nurse constantly through the night (would I ever truly sleep again?), to never be able to leave my baby for any period of time, to live perpetually in this new-mother fogginess and unproductivity.

Ultimately, my fear rose out of my desire to control. I liked my tidy, type A life the way that it was. I had no idea that becoming a mother was the thing that would rip the false notion of control away from me faster than anything else.

Spirit-Led Parenting: How Motherhood Calls Us to Lay Down Our Lives

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How mothering our babies teaches us to lay down our lives

What I resonated with most in their book was the concept that, at its core, mothering is about servanthood. It’s about giving up our own rights and desires and schedules and conveniences, out of love for our children and obedience to Christ.

The call to follow Christ is inextricably connected to the call to serve others in love. Who needs to experience the ministry of the body of Christ more than the insecure, the weak, and the helpless? Into our arms He delivers these new ones, and He is faithful to empower us to have all that we need to be His hands and feet to them.” Spirit-Led Parenting

I just gave birth to my fourth baby a mere 9 weeks ago, so there is no sweet sentimentalism in me as I ponder what the sacrifice looks like.

I know that it is no small thing to be awakened every 2 hours to nurse a baby that just won’t latch (as you spray breastmilk to the far corners of the room). Or have nipples so raw that each time that latch does come you wince through those first minutes until the pain begins to subside. Or to make dinner for your family with a crying baby, who needs to be worn on your chest, bounced, and patted simultaneously, as you attempt to chop vegetables without rendering yourself fingerless in the process.

“If we were to look at our spouse, or at a neighbor that God has placed in our lives who has needs to be met, and say, “I’m sorry, what you need from me isn’t convenient at this time. You’ll have to learn to require those things at an appropriate time,” we would surely consider that attitude to be one from which we need to repent.

Why would we see our children, the most precious gifts that God has placed in our care, any differently? Perhaps parenting an infant is one of the purest examples of living out the gospel because it is truly a give, give, give relationship. It is a constant opportunity to allow God to refine us by laying down our own desires to care for the needs of another.” Spirit-Led Parenting

Nothing sucks the selfishness straight out of you faster than being a mother. We must learn to pluck our own feathers daily.

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Image by skycaptaintwo

So how should we care for our babies?

As for the nitty gritty of caring for a baby, this book doesn’t read like a how-to, although it does give many helpful ideas and suggestions. However, it will encourage you, sweet mother, to trust yourself and your ability to mother your children.

I have learned to give in to the ebb and flow that is known as life with a newborn. Having my four precious babes has taught me that it is not possible to spoil a newborn too much, that babies are meant to be enjoyed, that there can be routine and calmness even while nursing on-demand, and that sleeping near and sometimes with my baby allows me to get MORE sleep, not less.

My mothering has ultimately evolved into this very comfortable place of part routine and gentle training for my baby, and part flexibility to simply attend to my baby’s needs as they arise. And it really works for me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with using some methods to establish a flexible routine, or to gently sleep train in a way that works for both you and your infant, just as there is nothing wrong with choosing a much more relaxed “attachment” style, either.

Spirit Led Cover 300What I think that Megan and Laura really want us to hear and grasp and know deep in our heart of hearts is that there isn’t just one set way of doing things.

If our parenting doesn’t follow along with the one-size-fits-all guidelines of popular parenting books or sleep manuals, despite the warnings they give, we haven’t failed with a capital F. We aren’t heretics. Our child isn’t doomed. Our marriage won’t fall apart.

So long as we are listening to the gentle nudging of our wise and loving Holy Spirit, and we are willing to surrender our lives and our sense of control as Jesus calls us to do, we ARE succeeding. We are being the mother that He intended and created us to be.

How have you moved from fear to freedom in your mothering journey?

Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year is now available for purchase (and Amazon finally has copies back in stock)! It is available in either paperback or Kindle versions.

I’m a part of the official Spirit-Led Parenting Blog Tour, along with these other fabulous blogs:

Top image by makelessnoise.
This post includes affiliate links.

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  1. When my first son was 2 months old, I had been told by some, that at his age he should be taking a nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon in a crib, and felt horrible that he didn’t. One day specifically, I put him in his crib and he would cry for 20 minutes, I would pick him up and he would fall asleep immediately in my arms. When I put him back down he started crying again and we repeated the process for hours. Finally I picked him up, layed him on my lap while I sat on the couch to check some email. He fell asleep instantly, the crying stopped and I could think again!

    I’ve had friends (some without kids who have just read parenting books preparing for when they come) tell me I wasn’t self-disciplined enough to allow him to learn to sleep on his own. It didn’t feel right to me though, why would God bless us with this bundle of joy to only have us feel awful every time the baby didn’t do what I wanted? I just started following his cues, and let him lead the way. I soon figured out his routine and was able to plan my days around that. He took his naps in my arms or a carrier until about 6 months old, but after that he finally transitioned to a crib. Instead of the transition being difficult and heart-wrenching like it was at 2 months when I first tried it, I felt at peace. I may not have had the most popular parenting style at the time, but my husband and I both had so much peace that it didn’t matter. With baby number two on the way, I plan on doing the same thing from the beginning now. I’ll follow this baby’s cues and determine how it will fit into our new routine.

    1. Sara – thanks for sharing! I really needed this post and then to hear what you had to say really spoke to where I am right now. I’ve really had not much peace about getting our little 3 month old on a sleep schedule and he certainly doesn’t sleep by the book. I really need to relinquish my fears that I might fail him in some way if I don’t get him into a pattern of sleeping in his crib at such and such times. God made him who he is and will give us a peace and heart about how to raise him. Even if it means the “inconvenience” of not being on a schedule in order to serve our son during this season of babyhood.

      1. Patty,
        I’m glad that God is able to use this to help you. Fear is amazing how it can control us, but my initial fears were unfounded. My son is now two and sleeps 12 hours, sometimes more, through the night and a solid 2 hour nap. I agree, God does give us peace about how to raise our babies! I hope you are able to find what works best for your son soon, and that God will provide peace and balance between caring for your son and other responsibilities.

  2. When I was single a married sister-in-Christ friend said to me “there’s nothing like marriage to show you your own sin.” A few years later I was married and seeing those words play out in my life. I called my friend to share that I truly understood her words. She, by then, had children and quickly said, “oh, just wait! There’s nothing like having children to show you even more sin in your heart!” When I was 37 I married a man with 3 daughters and never gave birth to my own children. But I love my daughters-by-marriage as my own. When the youngest moved in with us at 14 my sin kicked into high gear! I remember reading every Christian parenting book I could. One in particular slapped me very hard (I needed it). The author spent the first third of the book talking about our idols as parents. What resonated with me was that I had made my own comfort and sense of order my idol, above loving my teen. I had to confess that many, many times over the 4 years this precious child lived with us. I confessed it to God (of course!) but also to her and to her dad. Humbling. But more times than I can count God graciously restored our relationship and today we have moved into that lovely place of being friends as she is 23 and transitioning into adulthood. Hang in there, trust God, take good advice and make it fit to your style of parenting (as you have done so well, Stephanie!) and confess, repent and seek forgiveness. God wants humble moms and grace-filled homes!

  3. This book sounds like just what I needed as first time mom. And the message I really try to convey to first time moms. I feel like I also have read the gammet of parenting books it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second baby did it occur to me that I am not a failure. I am doing the best I can. My key verse during that time was: 1 Timothy 2:1 “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
    When I realized that motherhood was a practice in sacrifice of self and love for my savior it took the condemnation I had put over myself away, and allowed me the freedom to just love and parent my children. I still make mistakes, but now rather than lament my failure and strategize a way to do so much better, I am able to repent (even to my children if necessary) and move on knowing I am a forgiven loved child of God. I just keep trying.

    1. Rita,
      Thank you so much for sharing this and the Bible verse which helped you! I learned a lot after my first son was born on letting things go (plans, expectations, etc), but still struggle with that feeling of being a failure. I will definately be adding this verse to one’s to do a more in depth study on!

  4. I’ll have to read that book! Giving up control was absolutely the hardest part of becoming a mother for me. But such a valuable lesson!

  5. Excellent post, Stephanie. How I wish I had read it (and the book, and other reviews I’ve been reading recently) about twelve years ago! What a mercy that the Lord allows us to share our mistakes so others can learn from them.

  6. So true! I have struggled with fear my whole life, but motherhood certainly exacerbated the issue. Part of it, I have since learned, is Postpartum Depression but I definitely struggle with the whole identity crisis thing, too; and I totally agree that it is mainly a control issue. I went from being a successful full-time professional – respected in my industry, managing other professional business-people and multi-million dollar projects – to a full-time stay-at-home mom – a job which gets no recognition, respect or paycheck! Add on top of that the normal fears of a new mother and then those additional hobgoblins created by PPD/OCD and I was a wreck. PTL for Jesus Christ, though… finding him is the only thing that has gotten me through the trials of the past 3 years.
    Thank you so much for yet another beautiful post and review. I will definitely check this book out!

  7. This sounds like a great book. With my first child I wanted to do things perfectly, and was not prepared for the fact that I didn’t have a clue. Like you, I had read lots of books, and had listened to the Ezzos, gone to the Le Leche League, and had thought I knew what my game plan was going to be. It took me several babies to find the peace to be “spirit-led” in my parenting. And we’re still working on being “spirit-led” with our teenagers. I look forward to checking this book out further.

  8. My youngest is now 8, but your statement “…at its core, mothering is about servanthood. It’s about giving up our own rights and desires and schedules and conveniences, out of love for our children and obedience to Christ”, really resonated with me. I pray to God every day that He helps me remember this!

  9. Sounds like a great book that I need to read! I did a modified version of Baby Wise with my firstborn and now regret it. Then, I went the opposite extreme of attachment w/ my second. Praying I somehow have some balance with this one on the way–only through the Lord!

    1. Just curious, and if you don’t mind my asking…why do you say you regret the babywise method you did at first? I know every baby responds best to different things, and I’m always interested to hear what works for different people. Trying to figure things out with my little guy! 🙂

  10. Hi Stephanie. Sounds like a good book and thanks for the review. One of my friends is a brand new mom, as in 3 days!, and I’d love to get her a book. If someone were to get you just one for newborn care/mothering/Christian parenting, that sort of thing, what one would you recommend? Thanks!

  11. It’s about time somebody wrote a book like this for the Church!!! I don’t even have children, I am just a young woman observing the “older women”… I am surrounded by many young mothers at my church- dear friends of mine. It has often been explained to me, “the babies/kids can’t rule the household.” …Ironically– all I see are households that ARE ruled by the babies– fear of them not getting their naps, fear of them eating too much or too little, fear of their marriages being messed up, a desire to try to control what kinds of moods their kids are in and whether their kids have tantrums or not. Some of these mamas are guilt-ridden or anxious and about to go out of their minds. I pray Jesus be the ones who rule their homes again!! Thank you for making me aware of this book- I am going to recommend it to a few close friends who are pregnant!

  12. Stephanie, this post really spoke to me. Thank you. I feel like I wasted the first several months with my first born….because I was trying to fit a certain mold that books said I should fit in to. I didn’t enjoy or cuddle my precious baby enough – I was afraid of failing – of having to say “no, my baby doesn’t sleep through the night.” or “Yes, I do hold my baby while she naps.”
    Now that she’s almost 3, I miss those days when I could hold her for extended amounts of time.
    Thank you for putting into such wonderful words what I also felt. I hope TONS of new mothers will read this post and take it to heart.

  13. Wow, I hadn’t read the book yet but now I’m interested! Recently I let go of some things I had been stressing about in our homeschool – things I had kept around because of fear.

    It’s been a work in progress, but I’ve been a mom now for almost 14 years and as time goes on it becomes easier to trust myself and stop caring about what some (usually invented) person or authority figure might do to me or my kids.

    I think we get wrapped up in guru style parenting in the beginning, and begin to take bits and pieces from various philosophies as we become more experienced and trusting in ourselves and our kids. There is no one “Right” way.

  14. Wow! Thanks for your honest summary of your journey through motherhood! I too was/am a recovering type A—and I read all sorts of books trying to get things just right! My first baby was probably the most confused as I tried every sort of method possible and fretted about lost brain cells as she lay awake crying…I tried Babywise…I read Happiest Baby on the Block…etc…And then my second came along and I decided to listen to her more. I also invested in a lovely sling, which we both enjoyed! By my third, I was in love with mothering and I enjoyed sharing the task with my two daughters. Now my fourth is 9 months, and she seems to be the most well-adjusted of them all! I use no prescribed parenting method, but as you describe in the book, I plan each day to wake up with a servant’s mindset. My day belongs to my kids. After I got out of the fog of the newborn stage, my oldest daughter started to test me I realized that first and foremost, I need to start my day in the Word and in prayer. This allows me to live more unselfishly and with the Lord’s wisdom by my side! Some days, I still can’t wake to my alarm as my little one still wakens to nurse–but the Lord is gracious and our time is precious!

  15. I am a first time mom, and this blog post couldn’t have come at a better time. Praise God! This book looks like a good read, especially while I nurse, and pump. Perhaps I will get the kindle version so I can read it well hands free on my laptop. 🙂 Thank you for the review, and the grand encouragement! 🙂

  16. I can relate to this post so much. I never thought of what I felt as a FTM as fear, but yes, I can see that. I had my second baby this year and have parented him differently, much like you’re describing. I’m still exhausted, still don’t know all the answers, but I’m ok with that. I’ve enjoyed being more relaxed and more trusting (of myself and my ability to listen to him). The message of this book is sososososo good. What a gift to moms everywhere!

  17. I think that when it comes to babies I am very easy, go with the flow, and a baby led parent. I find it comes naturally to me. But where I struggle is after that first year, and after that second one. I am so afraid I am going to do something to mess my kids up, not discipline enough, dicipline too much, not nurture enough, nurture too much, and so on. I want them to grow into happy, well behaved, respectful children, and I have no clue how to do that. I have a 4 year old, a 3 year old and an 11 month old. It’s not that my kids aren’t well behaved, we are always being complimented on how well behaved they are, but at home by ourselves I get frustrated, I want to have control, it is so difficult for me to handle those times that my children do misbehave because no matter what I am afraid I am doing it wrong. Because in my mind I think why would they repeat the same behavior if I was doing it right? They can be good 99% of the time but that 1% makes me feel like a failure as a parent. This really gave me something to think about, I think my parenting has to be more led by God, not trying so hard to do things perfectly. And realising that those are the moments where it is a time to teach, a time to lead them in the right direction. I need to stop taking their misbehavior as an attack against me. It just occured to me that that is how I take it! Thank you for this post!

  18. I’d love to read this book! It sounds so interesting to me! Are they looking for any more blogs for the blog tour? 🙂

    1. Hi Becky! I just tried to e-mail you through your site, but it’s acting like it isn’t going through. If you don’t receive something, send me an e-mail and I’ll reply. 🙂 (laura.oyer@gmail.com)

  19. I wish I had this book with my first son. I was continually bombarded with friends, family and acquaintances who believed that I should follow a baby wise approach and force my son to cry it out and fit into a neat and tidy schedule. I felt so pressured and guilty because all of these other experienced moms were making me feel like I was doing it all wrong. I would have these lengthy conversations with my husband about how I didn’t think that was how God would parent his children and would often use that old timeless questions “What would Jesus do?”. I’m so thankful now that I listened to the Holy Spirit and parented my son in a loving a nurturing way. Baby wise was not a good match for him and to this day I firmly believe his love language is physical touch. He needed that extra affection for comfort and to feel loved. Now that my second son is 3.5 months old I can see just how different each child can be. He prefers to be left alone when it’s time for naps and can’t settle down if I try to hold him or rock him to sleep. I still pray daily and strive to listen to the Holy Spirit and mother him in a gentle and loving way. Just like every other area of my life, I really have to keep Christ in the middle of it!

  20. I’ve got a lovely 6 month old that I stress about all the time because I’m so worried about the consequences of my actions when it comes to feeding, napping, scheduling, etc. I totally saw the light as I read your post about being scared that I’m losing my life forever. Funny, wasn’t that the point of motherhood anyway? Thanks for helping me breathe.

  21. I’m so grateful for another voice in the world of Christian parenting that goes into more of the attachment parenting style. Before now I’ve only been “gifted” with books that advocate turning your children into little robots. I have nothing against a polite child that has manners but I’m not willing to do “baby training”. The process is everything. If I can raise my children with love even when their actions are frustrating, the easier it will be to teach them that God loves us even when our actions are frustrating!

  22. This looks like a very helpful, encouraging book. Thank you so much for your post! I have a now-17 month old, and I can say, that first year was a time of deep soul changing for me. How similar your description of yourself sounded to me–because that’s exactly how I was! The Lord has been revealing and healing deep things within me through being a parent, the most significant being fear of failure. I was so fearful and fretful all the time about things not going “right”, but I can truthfully say I have changed a lot since then, and learned to trust God more than I thought possible! Thank you Lord!

  23. I just finished the book as well. And my fourth baby is also just 9 weeks old.

    Here’s the irony: This book spoke to my heart so much that the Lord used it to give this former doula and staunch AP mother FREEDOM to choose gentle sleep training with my baby! Things are busier around here with four children, and homeschooling, so I was seeking God’s wisdom on how to cope. I was afraid. Then I read the book. Now I’m not. Baby is sleeping better. It’s like she’s relieved that I chose to let her realize sleep is a wonderful, comforting thing!

    I’m almost afraid to tell the authors the effect their book had! God bless them. That message really needed to get out. (By the way, I’m not and will never be a rigid scheduler, CIO advocate, either. Balance!)

    1. Valerie, thank you for sharing this! Turning from fear to freedom and leaning on God’s wisdom over everything else – that’s exactly the encouragement we wanted to give the readers of our book. What a blessing to know that God used it that way in your life!

  24. Excellent, Excellent post!!!! Oh how I wish this would have come up about 11 years ago…I’m beyond babies, but I live with regrets all the time and it all began in those very first years with my new baby girl.. Reading everything under the sun, listening to everyone advice.. Following the “mold” instead of listening to my heart.. I’m really trying very hard to move forward and for the most part, feel that I am..But there are those days when I get pretty hard on myself again..and think “If I only…” I believe that God has me on the right road to recovery now.. 😉 But I am so happy to see new mom’s get this great boost in the right direction!!


  25. My children are well past the newborn stage and I look back on that time with such sweetness. I am thankful to my mom who, time and again, reminded me to just “relax and relish” and I think for the most part in those early months, I did. What so convicted my heart as I read this post was the following quote:
    “If we were to look at our spouse, or at a neighbor that God has placed in our lives who has needs to be met, and say, “I’m sorry, what you need from me isn’t convenient at this time. You’ll have to learn to require those things at an appropriate time,” we would surely consider that attitude to be one from which we need to repent.
    Oh, how often I put my 4 and 6 year old “on hold” while I attend to other “more pressing” things (i.e. my own agenda). I rarely answer a request without first saying “wait a minute” or “let me just do ___________ first”, or “not right now, maybe later”. This quote really holds the mirror up to me. I spend so much time concerned about not crushing the spirits of my sweet children, and pat myself on the back when I don’t yell or criticize (though I’ve done those things too on more occasions than I ever thought I would), but what of the subtle spirit crushing acts I commit when I put my own desires above my children, and diminish the value of their very real emotional needs? Once again, motherhood reduces me to tears, reveals my own brokenness, and raises my heart up in praise to God for His GRACE and forgiveness that is lavished upon us again and again and again…

  26. Wow, this beautifully written. One – I’d never heard of this book, but I will definitely check it out. Two – thankfully, I did not have the confusion most first moms have. Well, yes, I questioned myself, and wondered if I would ever get sleep again, but I didn’t do the schedule thing, nor did I fully embrace the attachment parenting thing. It is true that God gives us wonderfully functioning instincts! This book sounds wonderful! I love this refreshing view on mothering and the exhortation to lean into the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we work through these waters of motherhood.

  27. I had never heard of this book and will be ordering it soon as I am due in three months with my seventh baby. This post resonated with me as I have such a passion for moms to be led by the Shepherd as they lead their little ones. Much legalistic teachings enter the church through parenting manuals, seminars, advice, etc. I wrote a blog to encourage mothers along these lines: http://soapboxsister.blogspot.com/

    May we all know the peace and joy that comes with knowing that His “burden is light”!,

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