Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Leslie Leyland Field's book, "Parenting is Your Highest Calling” and 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, (WaterBrook Press, 2008).  

Parenting wasn’t meant to be so difficult that it makes you feel worried and guilty all the time. If you often feel that way, it’s time to look at what assumptions you may have made about parenting. Here’s how you can let go of parenting myths that trap you in worry and guilt:

Hold your ideas up to the light of Scripture. You may have absorbed lots of messages from history, tradition, and our culture that don’t necessarily reflect biblical truth. Decide to check out whether or not your ideas about parenting actually come from the Bible or somewhere else.  

Remember that God is the ultimate parent. God is our heavenly Father who reveals Himself in the Bible as a tender yet hurting Parent who longs for a deeper relationship with His children. God understands all of your longings and feelings – both positive and negative – for your children, because He has experienced all of that Himself. You can trust God to care about whatever you’re facing as a parent, and to help you through it.

Let go of the myth that says, “Having children makes you happy and fulfilled.” Although your children are indeed great blessings, they don’t exist for your own happiness and fulfillment. Their value is found in the fact that God made them rather than in how you happen to feel about them. Discover God’s real purpose in giving you children: to help you learn to love more like He does. As you give to your kids, you can grow to become a more loving person – closer to the image of Christ. Your kids may make you feel unhappy and frustrated, but during those difficult times, you can learn how to rely more closely on God and keep growing as a person. Even when your feelings toward your kids fluctuate wildly, God’s presence and help are constant. So no matter how you happen to feel toward your kids, you can count on God to use them to fulfill good purposes in your life and in theirs. Questions like “Is parenting really worth it?” and “Am I fulfilled as parent?” are irrelevant. Instead, ask yourself: “Am I parenting faithfully?”, “Am I parenting consistently?”, and “Am I honoring God as I raise my children?” You’re responsible for that; God is responsible for all the rest.

Let go of the myth that says, “Nurturing your children is natural and instinctive.” Biblical love is very difficult to live out because you’re sinful, your kids are sinful, and you live in a sinful world. The call to love is a radical one. God is calling you to do something that only He can do in you. So don’t pretend that loving your children should come easily to you. Acknowledge that it’s messy, costly, and arduous. But since God has an unlimited supply of love to give you for your kids, ask Him each day to help you love them even in the midst of challenges, and you’ll find the strength you need.

Let go of the myth that says, “Parenting is your highest calling.” Even though your work as a parent is an extremely important and valuable contribution to the world, it’s not your highest calling. You’re called to love God above all else. Resist the temptation to devote yourself to your family over God. Make sure that God is your absolute top priority in life. Pursuing God first will actually free you to love your children more, because you’ll be closely connected to the Source of all love: God. Keep in mind that it’s possible to love and serve your family too exclusively. God calls you to serve others outside your own household to expand His kingdom in the world. Your true family includes the entire worldwide family of believers; not just relatives like your kids. Be there for your kids, but lose your life in Christ’s life – not in your children’s lives – so you can fulfill your greatest call.