I sat across from my husband with tears in my eyes as I confessed my horrible failure. I needed my son to spend more time in childcare, and it felt like a personal deficiency. I only have one kid, after all, so why couldn’t I keep up? Why couldn’t I be like those other, better mothers, who dutifully tend to their many children all day long, all on their own? I needed help—more help than I was getting—and I was ashamed to finally say it out loud.

Up until this summer, my husband and I had both been full-time students, splitting our days with our young son. When my husband took a full-time job as a pastor, we settled into more traditional roles. For the first time since our son was born, my husband worked, I stayed at home, and my struggle began.

For months, I was ashamed to admit that I couldn’t do it all; I couldn’t finish my dissertation, write, manage our home, tend to my faith, and make every second of my son’s days “count.” I felt trapped, but what were my options? Our son was already going to daycare twice a week, and I kept remembering the many a church leader I’d heard preach the singular importance of parents: No one can parent your child like you. No one can shepherd your child’s faith like you. You are THE most important person in your child’s life.

That was my struggle: needing help, and feeling like a failure for needing it. However, after discussing the topic with my husband and with God, I reconsidered whether these Christian parenting axioms were entirely true.

On the one hand, the church’s teachings on parenting rightfully tell us that parents have a unique and powerful responsibility in their children’s lives, and God instructs us to guard that relationship carefully. No one knows our children better than we do, so we must steward that responsibility with diligence.

On the other hand, the pressures facing contemporary mothers are unique to both our culture and our time. Historically speaking, the link between women and the home is a recent development that emerged with the Industrial Revolution. Prior to that era, parenting and working were generally jointly shared responsibilities, so no single burden fell on the shoulders of one.

Furthermore, non-Western cultures treat childrearing as a community endeavor, the effort of extended family and villages. Western families are unique in their isolation, and mothers all the more so. Consequently, the “special role” of American parents can translate into overwhelming expectations. A Pew study found that over half (53%) of working parents struggle to balance the responsibilities of home and family.

History and culture aside, an overemphasis on the importance of parents is not necessarily biblical. Throughout the span of Scripture, Christians are reminded that God plants us in community. Each of us belongs to the church, a diverse body with interdependent parts, each with our own unique roles. In the Body of Christ, there is no “every man for himself,” nor is there “every mom for herself.” Instead, God designed us to care for one another, and to depend on one another.

For stay-at-home mothers, single mothers, working mothers, mothers of every stripe, this vision of the church is good news. It reminds us that we don’t have to be all things, even to our kids.

You are not always the best teacher or coach or counselor for your children. Your gifts might not lie in child development, or music and art, or science and math, or spiritual practices like evangelism, social justice, and discipleship. However God created believers who do have those gifts, and our children can learn from them.

That’s why asking for help is not a failure. It’s an important expression of what it means to be the church. In fact, it is my responsibility as a parent to recognize those areas in which I am not the best person for my child, and to place him in relationship with family, friends, teachers, and caregivers who are.

In my own life, it means sending my son to our church’s childcare three mornings a week. While there, he socializes with other children, learns things I cannot teach him, hears about God from other Christians, and is exposed to a world that’s just a little bit larger than our home. Those are things I cannot do on my own, so it is a good use of his time. It’s a double blessing for the both of us.

Of course, some parents shove their children into childcare because they simply don’t want to deal, and some parents rely entirely on their churches to teach their kids about God. In these instances, parents may have forgotten their own irreplaceable role in the Body of Christ. No one can be their children’s parent but them, and that role entails real and biblical responsibilities.

But that truth should be held in tension with this one: mothers were never meant to replace the church. In a culture that pressures women to be all things perfectly and expertly, that truth has set me free. As we steward our children’s childhoods, wisely choosing how and where they spend their time, we don’t have to feel guilty about giving them to the care of others. There is a middle way that neither shirks the responsibility of parenthood nor burdens parents with impossible expectations, and it belongs to the church.