In a new book for mothers titled, Be The Best Mom You Can Be, Marina Slayton, a Christian mother of four and wife of former U.S. diplomat Gregory Slayton, has shared tips on parenting in the 21st century. It's a time, she says, when parents and children alike are facing new challenges such as growing hostility against Christianity and a higher rate of suicide, both of which have touched her family personally.
She asks probing questions such as:
How can we avoid the pitfalls of a secular culture?
How do we raise children who are healthy emotionally and spiritually?
What if we're doing it wrong?
In Be The Best Mom You Can Be, Marina suggests ways in which mothers can write a life-changing family vision statement, break the cycle of generational sin, and shares why mothers today don't have to measure up to many of the difficult expectations society has created.
There is a growing trend she says, of Christians being mocked for their faith or thought of as being intolerant or uncool.
"Kids are able to take their lives because they don't know who they are or whose they are, or that they are loved. It's also daunting because Christianity right now is held with some mockery amongst their peers. My youngest son recently said, 'At my school, you can be any religion you want except Christian because it's being seen as being intolerant.' These Christian kids are under the pressure of being seen as not cool. Being perceived as a Christian now is not cool, and even though all of my kids are different from one another, they still have a need to be perceived as cool," says Slayton.
This lack of identity coupled with growing dysfunction in families has led to an increase in teenage suicide, which she addresses in Be The Best Mom You Can Be.
"When I look at my kids' friends, I'm not surprised because I know what the impact of having a broken family is. Suicides are the third leading cause of death among teenagers. In Palo Alto, there is a group that patrols the railways so that kids will stop throwing themselves in front of trains. And here in Hanover, we have seen three suicides and knew each and every one," she said.
Slayton admitted that she wasn't sure she was the right person to be writing a book giving advice to mothers, but explained that she saw a need and decided to trust God.
"My own mom was a very broken mom — she was a concentration camp survivor from Auschwitz. I didn't have the example of wise mothering. This book showed me that God can redeem anybody, and I wanted to deal with 21st century issues: sex, drugs, culture, influence of media, and in my humble way, I wanted to address those issues."
Three years ago, Marina's husband released his national bestseller, "Be a Better Dad Today!", that discusses his story of growing up without a father. Despite struggling with parental stability in their lives, the couple decided to take the plunge, get married, and have a family of their own. And they trusted God to help them be better parents than the ones they endured.
"God is a risk-taker: in some ways, Gregory and I look like the perfect couple with our resumes and civic service. We both became Christians in college. On paper, we looked like the perfect couple, but when you've got two people who didn't have parenting modeled for them, there's a lot of searching for wisdom, and I've really come to see that maybe we were the right people to write these books on parenting. We need our parents to be models for us, and this generation is getting hard because that's not happening, but in our own lives, knowing where we had come from, we knew we had to double down to raise our children," said Slayton.
One of the major struggles many women face, she says, is the decision to work outside the home. She explains that she was once a working mother but ultimately chose to remain at home with her children, even homeschooling one child after a difficult year in public school.
"I can honestly say that being in Bermuda is when I re-entered the working force. Gregory had gone to work, and I took a consulting gig and had to quit after a few days. It was so hard and we quickly saw that with Gregory's job requiring all this time, we had to make sacrifices. Sometimes in the society that focuses on the here and now, we don't realize we go through seasons of life. You have to sacrifice. It's the norm that moms work now, but you've got to sit down and have a plan," she said.
"Gregory and I started a vision diary early on, when in our first year of marriage, we asked how we wanted to see our family, and now we go back to that. When our kids were old enough, they sat down with us so that they were part of the vision and had a sense of who they are within the family," she explained, noting it is a practice the family continues to this day.
Having a committed husband was also very helpful. And God provided a way for him to be more present in the home at just the right time, she noted.
"Gregory got released from his 80-hour work week, and because his residence was the focus, we had him more as a family than we ever had. For four years I worked like crazy. Working moms really need the agreement and help of the partner. Go into it with a plan. Having Gregory around made a huge difference," she said.
There are many things Slayton would like readers to take away from Be The Best Mom You Can Be, but her ultimate message she says, is no matter what you're going through as a Christian woman or parent, God is faithful and will always provide.
"We're all struggling in the 21st century – it's a daunting place but we're not alone. We've been empowered by the Holy Spirit. Families are miraculous but not impossible. The best thing I could do for my family was to love them and pray for them. I've been with the Lord for over 35 years, and the more I am with Him, the more He shows how easy He makes it. We're the one who complicate things. I wanted to write a book about the challenges I went through with my children and we are now starting to come through the other end. It was a lot of love and prayer," she said.
Marina and Gregory are donating all proceeds from their books to their foundation that helps military families as well as families in Asia. You can buy a copy from either of their websites: beabetterdadtoday.com or bethebestmomyoucanbe.com. As a bonus, for every book purchased in May or June, one copy of either book will be donated to a military parent.