That’s what we’re talking about over at the Mom Mentor page this month. Tough days are kinda my thing, so I was totally able to share my brilliant response, right? Here’s to the community of mommas! (as I raise my spoonful of ice cream in a toasting gesture)
Parenting 4 kids, ages 6 and under, leaves this momma weary and tired nearly every day! After the kids are all angelically sleeping, snuggled deep into their covers, I plop down in front of my computer with a bowl of Hyvee Brownie batter ice cream and see who is on Facebook. Not only is this evening routine delicious, but it’s also life-giving to me.
I check in with a friend from Missouri to see how she’s doing and how nursing is going with her brand new baby boy. My not-so-cryptic status update regarding my rough day and need for prayer leads to an exchange of text messages and then a 30-minute phone call from a good friend in Pennsylvania. Right before I log off for the evening, a friend from across town messages me to share a funny parenting quote and then asks if I want to meet up with her tomorrow at the park.
It’s the community of other mommas- both near and far- who encourage my tired, weary heart– their kind, gentle words and their life-giving prayers that offer the truth and love of God that my heart so desperately needs to hear.
I’m curious– what do you do to make it through those tough days?
I guess I didn’t really know much about Lisa-Jo Baker. I knew that she works with (in)courage, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I put off on requesting this book because I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another motherhood book. I’ve read one book too many that I thought were going to be empowering and encouraging, only to find myself feeling frustrated and missing the motherhood mark.
After 4 chapters in, I was talking to Jake about how I really liked this book, and I felt like Lisa-Jo got me and other moms like me– the ones that love being a mom, but didn’t necessarily always dream of being a mom; the ones that never babysat growing up because, well, we’re just not “kid” people; ones that love their littles fiercely and see the huge value of being intentional in the way we love them, care for them, teach them and disciple them; ones that also have passions besides our family, and believe that God has not let us off the hook in pursuing those.
Jake: How many chapters have you read?
Me: about 4, maybe 5.
Jake: This is what you say every time.
Jake: You “love” a book at the beginning, but then it begins to spiral downward and you end up wanting to throw the book across the room.
Me: ….. Oh. I didn’t even think about that possibility….Oh no…. What if this book does this too?!
Welp, IT DIDN’T!!!! I was so nervous she was going to do the whole “I didn’t want to have kids, but then I had kids and I’m so convinced that God only wants me to stay at home and put every ounce of energy towards my kids and home.” Blessings to you if that’s what you want to do, but some of us simply can’t, and we need women who are paving the way in what it looks like to love our family deeply while also pursuing other callings too! Because, let’s face it, those of us who fall into this camp sometimes feel like we need to hide our other passions because we don’t want others to think that we don’t love God or don’t love our kids or don’t love our husbands.
In Surprised by Motherhood, Lisa-Jo Baker tells her story- a story of coming of age, losing her mom, becoming a mom (of 3 children), moving around the world, being a stay-at-home parent, being a work-from-home parent, and an outside the home working parenting, engaging in the fight against human-trafficking. Lisa-Jo also beautifully describes the real, deep identity change that comes when becoming a mother (also known as matrescence).
Lisa-Jo Baker is probably the best writer I have ever read. Her writing is creative, but in a very down-to-earth kind of way. I cried through most of this book– and not because it’s a necessarily sad story. I mean, parts of it are sad, but I think it’s because she wrote in a way that embraces all the joys and hurts and realness of life as a daughter and a mother and a follower of Jesus. Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book:
[talking about her mom’s transition into having kids]: “She constantly danced between her old life and her new. With the books and movies and stories that ran so thick and deep insider her, it was sometimes hard to find room for her kids. But on the days she invited us in- on those days it was magical.”
[also talking about her mom]: “She said things I wish she could take back. She said things I’m sure she’d wish she could take back. And they wriggle deep under my skin without my even realizing it, buried there for years before my own babies force me to dig them out.”
Mothers are born from the strands of so many stories woven like DNA- tenderly, delicately, and sometimes painfully into this thread that runs through families.
I also feel a special connection with her because her #2 sounds an awful lot like my #2, and if you want to now what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to read her book :).
You can find more about Lisa-Jo on her blog (she offers a few free chapters over there), on FB or Twitter. A huge thank you to Lisa-Jo for writing this book. You are paving the way for more stories like your own, and a huge band of women will be forever grateful and encouraged!
Thank you to the publisher for proving a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Remember how I posted about the really great board books put out by Graham Blanchard publishing– here and here? Well, I’m just as excited about an opportunity that has come my way. They’ve invited a few of us bloggers to participate as Mentor Moms, where we will share some of our thoughts on various questions each month. This month’s question was:
How did your relationship with God change after having your first child?
Hop on over to their blog to see our responses as well as read more about the other Mentor Moms. We’re all ages and from all stages. I’m excited to learn more through these other women each month!
As a tiny side note, I came across this small but powerful Parent’s Guide to spiritual formation that Graham Blanchard has on their website. God uses us to help shape and guide our child’s understanding of God and this .pdf helps us to see what specific roles we play.
Tonight I spent some time reading through the comments on one of blogger Rachel Held Evans’ posts called Why Moms Sorta Scare Me. In it, she shares her fears of maybe someday becoming a mom and having to deal with the advice and competition and waring that moms are so known for. I loved her honesty and while I didn’t think those kind of things before I had kids, if I knew then what I know now, I would have been scared too (we were the first of our friends to have kids, so we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into).
One of the commenters shared that she feared that Rachel will someday get pregnant and then her brain will turn to mush and just talk about parenting all the time. Basically, she was saying- don’t go over there Rachel! Stay with us cool kids.
My response is that if new moms aren’t talking about diapering, breastfeeding, sleeping, poop, etc., I would wonder if there was something wrong. In so many ways, becoming a mom comes with a dose of culture shock, no matter how prepared you think you are or how adament you are that it “won’t be me”. When a couple decides to have a child, they are making a huge decision. Kids are not pets. They are little human beings that God asks us to help shepherd. It isn’t easy. It’s not a 9-5 that can be turned off or turned on. It’s all day, and so yes, moms who stay at home are sometimes very obsessed with all things kids. How could we not be? In fact, there is a name for this. It’s called matrescence.
Matrescence is the transition that women go through when becoming a mother. I’ve only read about it in terms of spiritual formation, but it makes a lot of sense. When women become mothers, there’s a huge shift of life-center. There are physical changes, emotional changes, life circumstances changes, social role changes, relationship changes and identity changes.
They way our culture supports moms through this is appalling. Some groups do this well- the homeschooling community, “crunchy” women, fundamentalists- pretty much all the social groups that non-parents find so uninteresting (at best).
My plea is to give moms (especially of young children) a break. Please don’t call them MomZombies or lament that they are a shadow of their former selves. Because here is a secret:
Those tapes are already playing in our heads.
Many of us feel the tension between wanting to be smart and interesting and so chic. We want to do laundry and diapers and sickness and meal planning and kid researching by day and then be able to talk about all the latest news and fashions and books by night over wine and fondue after we’ve tucked our kids into bed. But the reality is- we are tired. We only have so much brain RPM. We can’t turn our brains off to the things that we are concerned about for our kids. We are sometimes insecure and don’t want to mess up our kids. We’ve never “done this before” and are on a huge learning curve. And every time we think we have it down, something new happens that we haven’t encountered before so we research it instead of reading CNN headlines. It can be intense.
Admittingly, a few super human women can do it all (as some of the commentors expressed). But most of us can’t. Nor should we have to. And perhaps these superwomen moms shouldn’t.
So for those outside of parenthood, perhaps instead of grieving our “old selves”, you could…
1. Don’t stop calling. Be our friend in this new season of life. Embrace our kids as new members of our community. Welcome them as if you would welcome anyone. Come over and play with our kids because when you play with our kids, you are loving us too. In fact, perhaps you’d be surprised by the interesting conversations and faith discussions that happen with a 4 year old.
2. Bring us a favorite book of yours and offer to take the kids for the afternoon while we read it. We’ll treat you to Starbucks after the kids go to bed while we discuss it.
3. Catch us up. Not on everything, but send us an email with a link to something you think is important for us to know and then ask us what we think about it. Not everyday. Maybe not every week. But sometimes.
4. Invite us out. Perhaps we can’t come every time, but we will come occasionally.
5. Ask us about how we’re doing or our opinions on various things and then listen. It won’t kill you. And perhaps if it has something to do with babies or preschoolers, you’d learn something new.
6. Celebrate our accomplishments. We do a lot in a day and not a lot of people outside of our husbands notice. I’m pretty sure every mom could use a little ego-boosting.
7. Change the subject. If we’re talking too much about ourselves or our kids, PLEASE figure out something else to talk about and we’ll be happy to follow you there. Sometimes we just can’t think of another topic so our default is ourselves.
Parents need their non-parent-friends. Hopefully non-parent-friends need us parent-friends too. Our kids are not obstacles to friendships, but additions to our community. Let’s grow and walk through all of it together and hopefully we’ll better learn what it looks like to love.
This won’t be a full post- just raising something to think about.
For those of us who are mothers to preschoolers and early elementary school kids, I’ve heard many critiques- sometimes “we” are too lenient with our kids, afraid to discipline and afraid to hurt their little egos. Sometimes we hover too much, are too involved, and are “overparenting” them.
So which is it?
Many of these same critiques come from parents who are the parents of the “emerging generation”, who are supposedly enabling their adult children to not take responsibility for their lives, not grow up, etc etc.
Being the momma of young children can be very…. well, hard. And not just in a physically demanding and emotionally demanding kind of way. For many moms, motherhood brings about a new set of challenges as it relates to how we spend our time and how we relate to others. We never meant to become kind of isolated, not having meaningful conversations with our girl friends for sometimes weeks on end. We expected to be able to keep up on several things after having kids, but we just got busy. And we have very good intentions of serving our neighbors, meeting new friends, leading up a community event, whatever it may be. But somehow minutes turn to hours and hours turn to days, and a few weeks have gone by with a long list of “I really wanted to…”. Where did my time go? Where did my friends go?
How did I become so lonely?
Thankfully this book is not about how to cram more into your life, or how to schedule your day down to the minutes so that you can do all this and more! For this I am so thankful, Mrs. Tracey Bianchi. Instead, Tracy offers up some ideas on how we can learn to live into our own life rhythm. She says, “learning to identify healthy life rhythms is important because they powerfully transform our parenting, our relationships, and our communities by giving us the space to settle into natural opportunities for connections” (11).
Competition giving way to Invitation
We all need each other. Mothering is often marked by feelings of competition- whether we feel like we’re winning (pride) or losing (inadequacy). Often times these underlying assumptions about who we are or who we need to be hinders our ability to authentically connect to other women.
Even if we aren’t the ones lonely and in need of a set of meaningful relationships (oh the lucky few!), there are many other mommas out there just looking for a friend. Tracey quotes author Adele Calhoun- “Invitations challenge and remake us. They can erode and devastate. And they can heal and restore us. Being wanted, welcomed, invited, and included are some of the most mending experiences on the planet” (36). Especially for those of us who are Christ-followers, I have this sneaky suspicion that our mission of being agents of reconciliation is somehow connected to these potentially mending experiences. There are a lot of lonely moms out there and we rub shoulders with them everyday. We don’t even have to go out of our way to meet them! They’re in our churches, in our mom’s clubs, at the park playing with their kids, and dropping their kids off at preschool. Relationships begin with invitations.
Connecting in every realm
There are all kinds of areas that we interact with people, and in each of these areas we can find a rhythm that works well. Tracy dedicates a chapter to each set of relationships- immediate family, extended family, our spouse, our girl friends, and our broader community, helping us think through where we’re at and how it could be revitalized to create an environment of real relational connection. How can we drop our attitude of judgment and just give other mommas the benefit of the doubt? How can we be fully present with our children? How can we slow down so that we can enjoy each other as opposed to being so caught up in “getting stuff done”? These chapters are full of ideas for all kinds of moms in the many walks of life.
At the end of each chapter, Tracy offers 5 practical steps, a couple questions, and a list of resources (books, websites, sermons, youtube videos) that one can go to for further depth on what she talked about. Through her lists, I discovered several books and websites that I haven’t heard of before and my reading list has now become longer (I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing).
I just really liked this book. It met me where I am, helped me to think through some things that I hadn’t paid much attention to before, gave words to some things I had been thinking about, and just made me laugh.
I think the most important thing Tracey communicates through this book is the importance of living an invitational life- to live a life that is always inviting others into it. I have met a few of these kind of women in my life and can I say that they have blessed me so much. I aspire to live this way as well, and not just because I want to be kind, but I’ve only become more and more convinced that it is through relationships that the Kingdom comes.
P.S. I think it’s fair to point out that Tracey is a blogger and so the book certainly reflects that style of writing and organizing. For some this may be slightly annoying, but I think if you know that going in, it’ll help you to better enjoy your reading experience.
Thank you Baker books for providing me this complimentary copy to read in exchange for an honest review!
Ah, yes. The French. I’m beginning to wonder if these blogger/writers are paid by the French government to write these books and posts. Motherlode has a new post up today about all things fantastic concerning food in France. I’m glad that the writer of the article voiced that she thinks the French aren’t the perfect parents, and that parenting the French way isn’t necessarily the only way to parent.
And I would agree that there is a problem with childhood obesity in America. It’s super harmful and something that needs to be worked on together as a community. Just as big of a problem, however, is that the childhood weight issue gives some moms more ammunition to use in the mommy wars (as a sidenote: today’s Her.Meneutics guest blogger urges women to drop the “violent”-oriented words altogether- a good one to read).
“My kid is so tall (95%) and so thin (25%). It’s because they eat so healthy and love fruits and vegetables.” [Read: I’m an awesome mom who has tall, skinny kids because I created them to be that way.]
“Did you see that boy eating white bread? Poor kid.” [Read: that kid’s mom is horrible. Child abuse for feeding a kid white bread!]
“Oh we don’t drink juice.” [Read:…and you do? tsk tsk]
For those of us who have thicker kids, going to the doctor can be a very stressful experience. We’re sometimes looked at as neglectful parents because our kids are “overweight”. Not only do I want my kids to be healthy, I also care what other people think (because, let’s be honest, some of us moms let other moms give us our job evaluations). When my kids step on the scales, I get nervous. I prepare in my mind how I will respond to the doctor if they say anything about the kids’ weight or how they think I feed and care for my kid.
I wonder if our parents dealt with the pressures of monitoring our weight too. Because doesn’t it seem like it is suddenly a huge problem onset by the increase of the evils of processed foods, white bread, and sugar? Maybe. But look what I came across.
Here’s a pic of Jake as a preschooler:
And one of me on my third birthday:
Chubby? Yes. We look exactly like our kids, who are a bit…squishy. I wonder if our parents were looked at with disdain when they took us to McDonalds for a happy meal treat (ahh…THAT is why your kid is fat). My guess is probably not. Back then people ate what they ate (which, for me and everyone else I knew, included white bread and poptarts and Lucky Charms and canned green beans and all the stuff that is taboo these days). Kids were different shapes and sizes, and given enough time, most of us balanced out to a good weight for us. If we were kids today, we’d be labeled at-risk for obesity and other issues. Back then, we just hadn’t hit a vertical growth spurt; no biggie.
My point is, perhaps we need to back up, give kids a little space to go through chubby phases, and allow everything to work its magic. And as a culture, we need to realize that God doesn’t have preferential treatment for skinny people. Some of us will be chunkier, and that’s okay.
Let the French kids eat their beets. We’ll stick with our goldfish.
Emily Freeman, owner of chattingatthesky.com, recently released a book called Grace for the Good Girl, which is all about “letting go of the try-hard life.” Before I started, I wasn’t sure if I would entirely connect with the book. I mean, I’m not a “good girl” right?
I know, I know, you can stop laughing.
After reading the four page introduction, I wondered if I was going to end up underlining the whole book. What she described as the “good girl” was unmistakeably me.
Experience guilt and don’t know why? check.
Feel the heavy weight of impossible expectations. check.
Have an insatiable desires to explain every mistake. check.
Always obey the rules, and if there are no rules, obey rules that you think there might be. check.
“Good girls” tend to hide behind masks of good reputation, good performance, strength, responsibility, spiritual disciplines, acts of service, her comfort zone, and/or indifference. Emily takes each of these masks and helps women recognize the mask in themselves as well as how it affects their relationship with God and others. But, friends, this is not a self-help book. She doesn’t give us five ways to take off these masks. Instead, she talks about the journey, reminds us of the truth, and recognizes that this process is a wrestling.
Some of you may remember my post from late last year about being broken. As I was reading this book, I realized that this post represented a significant realization in my life. I can’t keep on hiding behind the mask, and in fact, that very mask of organization, responsibility, and whatever else isn’t actually me. When I realized this back in November, I felt a small loss of identity. I remember sitting on my couch and saying, “If I’m no longer organized and reliable and on top of things…. then who am I? I have nothing left to offer.” Seriously, I said that and believed it with all of my being. While I can now realize the error of my thinking, I still sometimes believe it, even though I know it isn’t the “right answer.” (In case you don’t know, the right answer to which I’m referring is: “I am a child of God and my identity is in Him, thankyouverymuch.”)
It is evident that Emily is a student of the Scriptures. She is gifted at helping us see how Jesus saving us has everything to do with how we live our day-to-day life, and that our salvation doesn’t stop at “now I’m going to heaven.” Jesus is saving us from all of these masks as well.
I think this book would be a great one to go through with a small group of women that are committed to one another. It provides questions at the end of each chapter (as well as a small group guide at the end of the book) that encourages the reader to make the material their own. This is one that you will want to read through first yourself, and then read again with a good friend to process more out loud.
So, if you think you may identify with the “good girl” label, grab a friend and a copy of this book, and get reading.
Thank you, Baker Books (specifically the Revell division) for a complimentary copy of this great book! They encouraged me to give an honest review, and so I did :).
On Friday, Jake and the kids created a Link: Legend of Zelda birthday experience. It was so fun that I had to share it!
First, I came downstairs to see this at the bottom:
Next to it was a heart cupcake.
Then, I had to “battle” each person to receive my next heart cupcake (If you’ve ever played Link, you know that when you defeat an enemy, you often get a heart to add to your life meter.).
Jake and each of the kids had a sword of some sort (a wand, a toy screwdriver, a wii remote, a wooden rod from a chair), and after I defeated them, I had to find a cupcake that they hid. It was really cute!
Then, at the end, I was awarded with a Triforce cake.
Oh, and I can’t forget Jake’s favorite part- I had to wear elf ears! (Back story: Jake is convinced I come from a mixed line of hobbits, dwarfs, and elves because I have pointy-ish ears, have big feet for my height, and my dad is barrel-chested with a thick beard. But whatever.)
So fun! Jake gets 50 extra bonus points because I jokingly said that I wanted a Link cake the night before my birthday. Apparently he schemed up this idea and went to the grocery store without me knowing that he was gone. I know, how does that happen? Anyway, it was so much fun, and I loved that the kids got to play too. Asante commented that it turned from being a boring birthday (“because you just woke up with us and got us breakfast and that was it”) to being the best birthday ever.
This past year has been a big one as it relates to my changing beliefs on the idea of women’s role in the church. I’ve read a lot, prayed a lot, asked a lot of questions, observed a lot of women. I have incredibly good friends who are “feminists” (there must be a new word to use, what is it?) and those who would ascribe to a more traditional view on women’s roles in the home, church and society. But I’m discovering that perhaps neither camp would want me as their spokesperson. Here’s why:
1. I love them all deeply, and surprisingly find myself wrestling with the idea that maybe both views are okay. I’ve been thinking about Paul telling the Corinthians that they are free to eat meat, but that for some, eating meat is sin (because it violates their conscious). If a woman is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is restricted from a certain role, perhaps to go against her belief in this is sin for her. Eek, I know, I’m walking in some muddy waters, but I think it’s a fair idea to toss around. I think most of us would be lieing if we said this argument is cut and dry (because why would there be so much fighting about if it was?).
2. I stay at home with my kids, and I’ve dived headlong into learning about and creating toys, activities, and environments that help them develop well. I work hard at it, and I think that it’s a totally worthy pursuit (most days :)). Some of my non-traditional friends say it’s all fine and dandy– until the kids go back to school, and in the meantime, I better be doing something else too, so I’m ready to jump back into having a career.
4. I find myself defending either side, depending on who I’m talking to. I want to stand up for women who are leaders but are restricted from using their gifts in a meaningful way. I think it’s unfair and I see evidence from Scripture that supports women in any role that the Lord has gifted them in. It’s disheartening to see women called by God to do one thing but the church saying no to them in carrying that out. It makes some women feel like God doesn’t want to use them, or they feel like they were born the wrong gender. It can cause discontentment, disillusionment, and ultimately rejection of the church for some women. I will stand up for a woman any day to make sure she can use the giftings God has given her, even if that means a teaching or pastorly role.
5. On the other hand, I get fired up when feminists talk down to women who hold more a more traditional view, claiming they are brainwashed and ignorant of how to read Scripture. I know intelligent, gifted women who are completely secure in the (limited) roles they believe they can engage in and they creatively use their gifts to bless everyone in the church body. Many of these women who choose to stay at home pour so much energy into their husbands, homes, children, and communities. They seriously make this world a better, humbler place. I will stand up to protect their dignity, their conscious on this issue, their dedication to family (biological and spiritual), their intelligence, and their deep commitment to walk in the ways of the Lord. Most days I would rather hang out with these kind of women because of their kindness, humility, generosity, and support for one another. They make me want to know the Lord more.
6. I check out books from the library about cleaning, home organization, cooking, and raising kids.
7. I do most of the cleaning at our house.
8. Except laundry. I have not done a load of laundry or diapers in over 6 months, thank you very much.
8. I clean while Jake changes diapers, reads books, gives the kids a bath, and play any game they want.
9. Jake was a stay-at-home dad while I was getting my masters degree in Christan Leadership from a methodist seminary. And we were both incredibly content with the arrangement.
10. We’ve been a part of a church that has held women elders (and have been fine with it).
11. We’ve been a part of a church that doesn’t allow women to lead as an elder or a pastor or teach men.
12. I appreciate and read books on women’s issues.
14. I’ve tried to raise my kids to be less gendered in their playing. I bought Asante a baby doll and a kitchen set. He doesn’t own a truck. Aly plays with Super Mario figurines, toy trains and we refuse to dress in her big bows and poofy dresses.
15. Aly and Ada also adore baby dolls, pretend-cooking, and throwing huge “parties” for us. They love pink, purple, Strawberry Shortcake, and doll houses. Asante never got into the baby doll or the kitchen set. Is there such a thing as children “gendering” themselves? Maybe.
So perhaps my job is to sit between the camps, both raising a ruckus to get people to think differently than they do, but also there to defend the dignity and humanity of women on both sides of the divide. It’s painfully obvious that this issue deeply hurts women on both sides by the way they are spoken about and spoken to (especially in the virtual world).
Perhaps we can work together to create a unity that bonds our hearts together instead of tears one another apart. Another world is possible, right?