Dear Mom Friend (From a Mother of Teenagers),

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from a friend and previous coworker, Cindy Evans Badamo.  Cindy is an MSW and Licensed Clinical Social Worker and works with children, adolescents, and their families.  She and her husband raise their three teenagers in St. Louis, MO. 

Dear Mom Friend,

Balancing life’s changes is difficult for most of us. As a mother of three teenagers, (my youngest turned 13 last week) my life has ebbed and flowed with the changes that raising a family brings.

It was wonderful and overwhelming being a new mother.  I remember the intense feelings of joy that lasted for many weeks following the birth of our first. I was in love, and could not believe how wonderful I felt.  I now know that it was the release of oxytocin and dopamine that sometimes happens in women as they give birth and breastfeed, but I didn’t know that then. (All women do not experience this extreme joy, some even feel the opposite response) All I knew was that I felt incredible.  A few months later, when sleep deprivation began to take its toll I became extremely haggard.  I was working full time and nursing exclusively (pumping at the office) and could barely see straight let alone be present with my family or productive at work. I thought I had to do it all- and was paying for it physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Luckily, I was beginning to learn one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned about being a Mom- good enough REALLY is good enough.  I could not do it all, something had to give.  For me, the answer was part time work. I went to my employer, negotiated part time hours and began to take care of myself a little better.

When our second was born, again that good ole oxytocin/dopamine combo kicked in and I was in heaven.  She was such a gift and I felt so fortunate to have two healthy girls.  Unfortunately, our first born did not get the oxytocin/dopamine boost and began to ignore me.  She was so angry at me for what must have felt like infidelity.  She would rarely acknowledge my presence for what seemed like months (I think it was actually weeks).  I would cry daily, while my husband tended to our first born almost exclusively.  She would have little to do with me.  My pain was so strong; I constantly questioned my interactions and felt incompetent.  I questioned everything I was doing and secretly believed not only was I to blame, but I should be able to fix it.  But time was the healer and eventually she got used to having a sister, sharing her mother and came back around.  I was good enough, certainly not perfect, but good enough.

When our third was born, our family was complete.  My husband and I always wanted three and we were fortunate to now have three healthy children.  But our son was colicky, he cried more than half of his waking hours until he was almost 6 months old. I had decided to quit work, stay home full time, my husband accepted another job and we all moved out of state.  Going from a career woman to a full time Mom is a culture shock.  Add a colicky baby, a new state and you’ve got quit a challenge.  My husband would come home from work and I would hand him our beautiful colicky screaming son as soon as he walked in the door.  Only to then leave the house and cry in the garage.   I was so lost. I didn’t know who I was or how to care for myself.  For me, the transition to full time Mom was one of the most challenging.  It was far more difficult than becoming a new Mom. A large part of my identity had been linked to my career.  I now needed to redefine who I was as a woman and as a mother.

As they became older, I became better able to balance their needs with mine. My focus was able to broaden little by little again. I began to allow myself emotional breaks to care for me as an individual and not be so consumed with my job as Mom. For me, that took maturity (there’s and mine), experience (good enough REALLY is good enough), exhaustion (sleep deprivation is one powerful motivator) and most importantly really fabulous women in my life to help. Thank GOD I have such wonderful woman to help me learn how it’s done.  When our youngest was in school full time, I decided to go back to school, change my career path and return to the career world in a profession that I love.

This past Sunday we had dinner together as a family.  We can’t always do that as frequently as we used to with three teenagers.  We said prayers and took turns thanking GOD for what we were grateful for, as has been our tradition since they were little. We discussed our lives as individuals and as a family.  Occasionally I miss those days when they were little.  Mostly I am so grateful for the individuals that I get to watch become wonderful loving adults. It just keeps getting better, being this Mom person.  And I am constantly flooded with such joy watching them grow and navigate all the joys and challenges of life.

I have been incredibly fortunate not only to have wonderful women in my life, like my sisters, girlfriends, and mentors; but I also have a mother that isn’t perfect.  Mine is a good enough mother; and she reminds me often how I am good enough as well.

Sincerely,

A Mother of Teenagers

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Cindy and others can see and reply.

Dear Mom Friend (From a Mom Who Found Grace Through Infertility and Loss),

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from my dear friend Natalie Fletcher.  Natalie is a preschool teacher, a wife and mom.  She and her husband, Wes, are raising their beautiful daughter in St. Louis.  I’m so grateful that Natalie agreed to share her story of pain and grace with all of us!

Dear (hoping to be) Mom Friend,

I can still remember the emptiness in my heart that I felt day after day for several years before God blessed me with the ability to be a mommy to a baby that I got to keep here on earth with me.

My story is one of a lot of heartache and pain due to 3 years of trying to get pregnant, a miscarriage, and the most devastating event of all… the loss of my twin daughter, Kayla, at birth.

I am writing this blog to all of you women out there who desperately desire to be a mom right now, but God’s seems to have something else in mind for you at this moment in time.  If there is one thing that my husband and I learned after dealing with years of infertility, it is this:  no matter how much you map out your life, we cannot predict the outcome and you must get to the point of trusting God…even when it doesn’t come easily.

Here is a little bit more of my story and what I feel like God has taught me, and continues to teach me, about His plan for my life.  For all of you wonderful, godly women who want desperately to be a mommy but are not there yet….do you question God and ask why?  Why her and not me?  Do you find yourself bitter and angry many days?  Do you feel a sense of entitlement to motherhood because you are a follower of Christ?

Well, as bad as some of these thoughts may sound, I can honestly say that I felt every one of those emotions often throughout my journey to motherhood.  I am a preschool teacher and I can’t describe how hard it was going to work every day and being surrounded by not only precious toddlers, but pregnant moms everywhere I looked.  I remember seeing TV shows with teen moms or hearing conversations of women talking about how horrible it was to be pregnant and asking God, why do you give them this gift they don’t even want and leave me here longing for this precious life that they are not appreciating?  I would get so hurt and sad when people would ask, “oh when are you going to start having babies”.  If they only knew that I had been trying for years.  Or on the flip side, many people knew we had been trying so I constantly got the pity-filled, “how are you”, which really meant, “How are you holding up while everyone in your life is pregnant and you continue to stand on the side lines”?  Unfortunately, to no fault of their own, there was no right way to approach me, it changed on a daily basis…which then of course led me to the constant feelings of guilt!

And then of course, there was my husband.  Poor Wes.  He had to put up with a new version of me for years.  The optimistic, godly woman he married was not only questioning her faith, but was now blinded by what all was wrong in life.  Thank God for putting me with a godly man that carried me through the roughest moments of our lives.  If I didn’t have my husband to stand by me through this process, I don’t know where I would be today.  I know it wasn’t easy for him to see me cry almost daily, but most certainly monthly, when I got that “visitor” reminding me that yet again my dreams had been dashed and I was not to be a mommy yet.

So for all of you reading this right now saying, “Yes that is exactly how I feel!”  I wish I had the magic formula for taking the pain away.  I wish I could promise you that your dreams will come true soon.   Unfortunately, I don’t have that ability.  All I can do now is share with you how God has begun the healing process in my life.  Instead I will share with you how it takes time, but just recently, I have been able to look back and see God moving when I thought he was absent from my life.  So here you go…

I literally woke up one day and realized that I didn’t like the me I had become.  I was tired of constantly being angry and bitter.  I was tired of always being sad.  I didn’t like that I had become the exact type of person (pessimistic, depressing, bitter) that most people, including myself, couldn’t stand to be around.  So, I recognized, with God’s nudging, that I needed to make a change.  I had a choice to get up each day and choose to be ticked off or to choose to find the goodness in life again.  And slowly, one day at a time, I began to see the good things in life again.  I literally began to wake up and consciously have the conversation with myself that today I wanted to be the “positive Natalie” again.  I needed to make this decision not only for my well-being, but for that of my marriage.

I also had to come to the realization that God wires husbands and wives very differently.   Just because my husband didn’t cry constantly like me, didn’t mean that he didn’t desire to be a father.  He had that desire, but I have learned, at least for us, that there is an innate desire to be a mom long before we are pregnant.  For Wes, that idea of being a father wasn’t real until he was holding our daughters in his arms in the delivery room.   My emotions were not wrong or right, but neither was my husband’s- God has just created us differently.  And thank God that he did because I can look back and see now that my husband has been strong for me when I needed him to do so.  And when he has needed to draw strength from me, God allowed me the ability to hold him up on those days.

I also realized that it was ok to be angry and mad.  God could handle it.  Now, it’s not a safe place to dwell in for a long time like I did, but it is part of the grieving process.  I began to recognize that God could handle my emotions and I just had to keep talking through all my questions and pray that he would continue to bring me to a place of healing.  So if you find yourself angry- remember God can handle all your feelings, just don’t turn your back on him.  Allow him to hear those questions and be open to letting him in to start the healing process.

Finally, I had to recognize that this pain we had to go through did not please God.  Every tear shed, he caught.  When he saw his child cry, I believe he wept for us.  The things that tore me down and broke my heart also pained my Heavenly Father’s heart.  He carried us through every single emotion and trial.

I still have a lot of unanswered questions that as my husband and I always say, “We will put them on the bookshelf and ask God when we get to heaven”.  I will never know why we had to battle infertility for so long or why I only had my sweet baby girl for 2 hours before God took her home.  But there is one thing I can honestly say I do know today- God brought us through those struggles and it honestly terrifies me to think of where we would be today if we hadn’t had our faith to cling to during those times.  God is still good!

So, for all of you women who want to be moms- you hold a special place in my heart and in my prayers.  For all of you who are friends of these “want to be moms”- love them, encourage them, let them cry, and just understand that each day bring about different emotions.  Just love them like Jesus would on a daily basis!

Sincerely

A Mom Who Found Grace Through Infertility and Loss

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Natalie and others can read and respond!

Dear Mom Friend (From the Mother of Not-Yet-One-Year-Old Twins)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Molly Jaeger, yet another college friend of mine. Molly teaches online courses when she isn’t chasing after her busy boys. Molly and her husband Nate, are raising their handsome twin sons in Prattville, Alabama. If you enjoy reading Molly’s thoughts, you should check out her blog.

Dear Mom Friend:

I write to you as a fellow warrior in the trenches of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, trails of toys, and snotty noses. In other words, as a mother of two delightful ten-month-old boys. I am also a wife to a godly man who loves me well and who extends grace to me daily in our marriage.

I don’t remember the first time I thought, “I would like to be a mother some day,” perhaps because I always assumed that I would be eventually, but I can say with certainty that I have wanted to be a stay-at-home mother since I was about nine years old. My own mom went back to work when I was in preschool. I recall a day in third grade when my mom let me stay at home from school and play hooky so that we could make cupcakes together (I suppose she was not working that day), and I made a resolution that one day I would not work so that I could be home with my children every day when they got home from school. I do not know what the future holds, but I am very grateful that God has provided a way for now that I can spend each day with my sons.

While I always wanted to be a mother, and a stay-at-home mother at that, I was a bit terrified of the prospect since I never loved babysitting small children. What I didn’t realize was that motherhood is not some glorified version of babysitting. It is a serious, thrilling, adventure-filled, fun, tiring, and challenging calling to train up a child in the ways of the Father.

That calling starts with pregnancy, not when the child is old enough to talk and understand. It starts with a praying heart. A heart that feels utterly helpless to die to self, to love a child as God loves him, to make wise decisions in raising him, and to ultimately change his heart from an enemy of God and lover of self to a child of God and lover of Christ, his neighbor, and his enemy. I aim to pray for my children daily, and yet I fall so short. Sometimes I feel my helplessness and am driven to Christ, but so often I feel my self-sufficiency and pat myself on my back, sure that with the right combination of hard work, advice-giving books and parenting philosophies, I will raise two honorable, obedient sons. The dependent heart, though, is so full of abundant life and peace and noticeably lacking in self-help methods and anxiety. Think of all of the opportunities the mothering life brings each day to PRAY! As I was asking my baby boy to please hold STILL today on the changing table, the verse “ Be still and know that I am God” came to mind, so I prayed aloud that when hard times come his way one day, that Mark will call upon God and be STILL, trusting God and letting Him fight for him. Oh sister in Christ, think of how our day-to-day lives would look if we mothered out of a praying heart! To encourage you in this path, I would highly recommend the book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Miller).

So if the calling is to train up a child in the Father’s ways, what does that look like for a mother of small children, other than constant prayer? The beauty of this question is that it depends on your unique personality and set of gifts, talents, and interests. But I will answer it in two ways.

  1. If your children are not yet at an age where they can talk, think of ways or opportunities that might teach them the character and ways of God in the future and start practicing now. For example, one day I would really like to begin each morning with my boys by reading a Psalm, singing a hymn of praise, and praying for the day. So why wait until they can understand? We began this about a month ago. I start by reading a Psalm aloud (which is never uneventful, as my babies take turns trying to grab my Bible in order to rip out a page or chew on it), then I pick out the main theme and restate it in my own words in a way that a child could understand. I just so happen to play piano, so I hand my boys their homemade instruments (black beans and rice in a medicine bottle and spice jar), and I sit down and play and sing a few songs of praise. They shake their rattles enthusiastically for about 30 seconds before rolling off to find something else more exciting, but the point is that I am able to worship the Father and think upon Him, and also practice because one day the boys will understand! I know you may not play the piano or enjoy singing, but that’s not the point. Think about your unique interests and gifts and use them to get into the habit of teaching your child God’s name. This doesn’t even have to be an activity. Just talk to your child! When you get into the car to go to church, explain that you are going to worship God with His people, because He is worthy! Or when you read a fairy tale, end by telling your child that the story is just like the Gospel—the Prince coming to rescue His bride and set the world free from the evil curse so that His Kingdom can have a happy ending. Practice explaining the gospel now!
  2. Let your children and your home be a blessing to others, and similarly think of ways you can love your neighbor and serve the body of Christ and your community within the life you’re already living. If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of free time. So if you think that the only way to serve God is to go on short-term mission trip, serve breakfast at the homeless shelter, or teach a Bible club at a local elementary school, you might end up feeling disillusioned and useless. After all, what can you do when your schedule is packed with frequent feedings, diaper changes, or much needed naps? But don’t forget that your child is a precious gift from the Lord that He wants to use to bless others. Think about your daily routine and the places you go. Who do you encounter that might enjoy spending time with your child? Think about your home. If it’s difficult to leave your home often with your crew, how might you practice hospitality to God’s people and to people who don’t know Him? Think about your resources. Is there someone who might benefit from your stocked pantry, unused coupons, a phone call with your extra minutes, or your toddler’s retired high chair? Think about your gifts and abilities. Is there someone who might benefit from a note of encouragement, your resume-writing skills, or your love to bake or save money at the grocery store? Think about your current interests. Is there someone who might find comradery in your desire to eat healthier or run a 5K or make homemade cleaning supplies? Think about your desires. Could you get to know an elderly neighbor by asking her to teach you to garden or sew a pillow? For me in this busy season of life, this looks like taking frequent walks in the neighborhood to meet our immediate community, visiting two of the widows on our street once a week (one of whom I met while walking with the boys) and hosting a small group from church in our home on Sunday afternoons.

As we consider our callings as mothers, let’s not forget our primary earthly calling as wives. One day we will watch our children leave our home, but we will remain with our husbands. It is so challenging to constantly talk about the needs of the children to the neglect of our husband’s desires and needs. It is hard to pursue intimacy when children tug on us all day long and all too easy to treat our husbands as go-fetch-and-do-this-for-me men, rather than as lovers, best friends, and partners in kingdom expansion and parenting. I cannot fulfill these roles apart from the Holy Spirit’s help, and I need accountability from my sisters in Christ in order to love my husband well.

Finally, as we think about our lives as we learn to depend on Christ for our marriages and parenting, let’s not isolate ourselves. Remember, if we are children of God, then we are members of the Body of Christ called to worship with a local body regularly and serve the body with the gift(s) the Spirit has given each of us. Let’s get to know our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in all seasons of life—not just other moms—so that we can learn from one another. But do pursue relationship with other moms, because we just might be one another’s greatest cheerleaders while our children are small and so dependent on us. And be persistent—an unreturned phone call probably doesn’t mean she’s not interested, but rather that she’s busy, like you—and she might just need you to try her again in a day or so.

What about you? Do you think of motherhood as a calling, and if so, in what ways? How do you serve alongside your children? How do you balance your callings as a mother and as a wife?

Sincerely,

The Mother of Not-Yet-One Year Old Twins

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Molly and others can review and comment. Thanks

Dear Mom Friend (From a Non-Official But Possibly Surrogate Mom Friend),

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from another college friend, Kristen Nielsen.  Kristen is an academic with a passion for people.  She has earned her MSW and MDiv from Baylor University and is currently earning her PhD from Queens University in Belfast, Ireland.  If you enjoy reading her post, you should check out her blog.

Dear Mom Friend,

There are a lot of conversations which need to be had about single women and the Church. Even more conversations need to be had about single women, infertile women and even married women and how much of Christian vernacular is bent towards describing women as primary procreative tools and not really fully formed persons. I would love to have those conversations and you know I can work myself into a pretty good rant. However, today I’d like to ask you some questions.

I – as you may or may not know – do not really want children. Never have and am not sure I really ever will. If I find myself pregnant then I will be calling you in tears and asking you to help me create a new reality for myself but I think we both know I deeply hope that never happens. This is for a myriad of reasons – I’m not entirely sure I’d be that good of a mother being pretty high on the list. Several doctors have also expressed to me that my body may not be the most hospitable place. I am just about the least patient person I know and I really like my job. I think I was created by God with beautiful and gender-specific purposes to ask questions and challenge the Church and use my words to create a better tomorrow. I really don’t think that includes mothering children of my own.

But here’s the rub: I love you and your kid(s). My not wanting to have children does not mean I do not want to know or spend time with yours.

I want to know their quirks and their passions. I want to buy them books and take them on outings and give you breaks to be humans and not parents. I want to teach them songs and have special nicknames for them and I want them to know me as a safe person to escape to when they hit their adolescence and you are their worst enemy (I will, of course, guide them back to you in a timely manner). While I may not think I’d be a fantastic mother, I know I’d be a fantastic aunt.

How can I do that, Mom Friend? How can I be a safe person for you to both heave your kid on so you can go shower but also be the person who knows you really just want to have a glass of wine and watch Big Bang Theory? How can I help you make the transition from toddler parent to child parent to teenage parent? How can I help you maintain your identity as a WOMAN and as a MOTHER and as a WIFE? How can I be part of your parenting in the way I think the Church should be? Also, as an aside, I can only imagine this is not a picnic for your marriage. I’d like to be supportive in that way too.

I have an unbelievable set of parents. I mean, they are just unreal. Extended family? Also pretty fantastic. But I was raised by congregations. Women who taught me different ways to be women than my mom was. Men who showed me what to look for in bosses and boyfriends. Surrogate grandparents and crazy aunts and uncles. People who helped fill in my picture of the Kingdom of God in ways which have been irreplaceable. I, as your friend, would like to be one of those people for your kids. Of course, this should go without saying – but I’m going to do that as a single (maybe married) career woman. It would be delightful and really honouring if you could track with me as well. Facebook messages or wall posts are perfect. I know I live really far away.

Please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be the friend who both passionately cares about your kids and your husband, but more importantly you.

Love,
Your non-official but possibly surrogate mom friend

Please leave your comments on the blog so Kristen and others can read and respond.

Dear Married/Mom Friend (From All the Single Ladies)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.  This friend was amongst many single women who responded to the Dear Mom Friend letter by saying that single gals often lose their girlfriends twice: Once to marriage and oftentimes, later to children.  The guest poster has some powerful words for all of us (single, married, and married with children) to read.

Dear Married Friend (who may or may not be a mom),

Remember me? Once upon a time we used to stay up late together, talking about life,
love, God, and whatever books we were reading. Now I feel like I’m interrupting
something if I call you past 8:30. When I ask you how you’re doing and your response
starts with “we,” it makes me feel like I’ve lost you. Don’t get me wrong. I think your
husband’s great, and I wasn’t faking when I said I was happy for you when you met
him … but I care far more about how you’re doing and what you’re up to than about his
latest job promotion or about your child’s teething misadventures.

Sometimes I feel like you’re jealous of me because I come and go as I please, or
because I still have money for cute shoes, or because I’m not battling off the baby
weight. Please don’t be. What I feel you sometimes don’t remember is how much
pressure a single woman in the (often brutal) dating world has. Your husband doesn’t
care that you didn’t shave your legs today, or yesterday, or the day before that. Do you
remember how expensive (and exhausting) it is to have to constantly look your best
because you never know when or where you might happen to bump into Mr. Right? I
can’t remember the last time I wore pj’s to the grocery store. Even when you’ve been in
a relationship with the same guy for a while, without that sparkly ring on your finger,
there’s just no guarantee that you won’t end up back out on your butt in the ruthless
dating arena again at some future point, so you keep buying those shoes and doing
those crunches.

Then there’s the financial pressure of having to do all the bills on your own. You think
I’ve got lots of money because I have no one but me to spend it on … but I know your
mortgage payment costs hundreds of dollars less than my tiny apartment, and you don’t
have to listen to your upstairs neighbor do jumping jacks at 10:30 at night.

I think what bothers me the most is hearing you complain about your husband. I know it
must be frustrating sometimes to deal with each others’ quirks day in and day out … but
do you know how often I don’t pick up my own socks because they’re just mine and
cleaning & cooking for myself feels lame? You don’t know what I’d give to have
someone else’s socks to pick up now and then, or someone else’s muddy tracks to
clean off the linoleum. (Okay, maybe someday I’ll take this back, but you get my
point!) 🙂

Sometimes I get so lonely, and all I need is a hug. Thank God I have the cat. I know
you think it’s annoying that I treat her like she’s my child … and that’s when I feel like
you have no recollection of what it’s like to want a family so badly that you’ll create one
for yourself out of the little furry creatures at the SPCA.

And then there’s church. Sigh. I used to love church. But after awhile, it gets old going
by yourself, sitting by yourself, or being the third wheel in someone else’s pew because
people start to feel bad for you. Singles’ groups — they’re the absolute worst! I know
they’re well-intentioned, but it’s like Christian speed dating … the meat market on
overdrive … well, you get the point. Or, they try to recruit you for nursery duty … taking care of everyone else’s kids, irregardless of the fact that it only rubs your face in the fact
that it seems like everyone else has a life and you don’t. (Okay, maybe some single
girls love it and live vicariously through the experience, but it’s just not my thing.)

You see, I really do love my career. And if you ask me about it, I’ll make it sound just as
glorious as I can to convince you that I’m totally content working three jobs to pay the
rent and being so tired at the end of the day that I can’t remember my own name
anymore. What’s worse is that, since I’m a therapist and listen to people’s problems all
day long, by the time I see you, all I really have energy left to talk about is the weather
and where I wish I were going on vacation. Meanwhile, you’ve been home all day,
itching for adult company, and my conversation skills with you suck. I’m sorry.

What I really want to tell you, though, but usually don’t because I get this lump in my
throat and think I might cry … is that women don’t define themselves by their careers.
You know this, but no one talks about it. Men define themselves by what they do, but
women define themselves by who they’re in relationship with. Deep down, I know that’s
why you answer my questions about you with “we.” You’re living in constant
relationship, and even though you’re tired, deep down, I know you’re truly content. I
know you feel the need to justify that being a SAHM is a valid life choice. I need you to
know that I’ve never questioned that. I think what you’re doing is awesome, and if
anything, being a therapist has shown me that parenting well is one of the most
important things most people will ever do.

I truly think that singleness is a calling for a very select few women, and I know I don’t
have it. The problem is, this is the one area of my life that this Type A chick can’t
control. I wanted a Master’s degree; I went out and got one. I wanted a good job; I got
one. I want a husband and 2.3 children; still waiting. I put myself out there; I dated
way more people than you ever did and have lots of funny stories to tell. So please forgive me if I can’t empathize with your frustrations right now. Someday, I’m sure I’ll be able to again. I really do like your husband. I really do like your kids. But I like you the best, and I want you to “get” me.

There’s one more thing I need to say. I debated whether to put this in here, but I feel
the need to remind you not to take your sex life for granted. Maybe outside the
Christian community, singleness is seen as sexual freedom … but inside the Church,
where singleness is expected to mean celibacy, being single usually feels like being a
second class citizen. This is where I most often feel like I can’t relate to you anymore. I
cringe when you remind me that “sex is for married people” and try to poke your nose
into how far I’ve gone with my boyfriend. You know what? I’ll never tell. Because that’s
between me, him, and the Lord … and because I know for a fact that you’ll never know
what it’s like to be my age and still waiting for that part of your life to start too. So when
you’re annoyed because you’ve had a long day with the kids but your husband wants
sex anyway … complain to one of your married friends, please, not to me. Because I’ll
just tell you to run for the bedroom and have at it and enjoy the fact that you can.  Trust me, ladies, I might not be married, but I’m a therapist.  Sex is important in marriage, so invest in it!

I hope this doesn’t sound too angry and bitter. I really do try to enjoy every moment of
my singleness and take the perspective that God has a purpose for this. But some days
I just can’t pull that off. I really need friends right now so please pray for me, as I pray for
you, that God would give you the strength to be the wife and mother He’s blessed you
to be. I know that those sleepless nights are tough, but talk to any empty nester and
they’ll tell you how fast kids grow up. Please call (after 10 am, thanks!).

Sincerely,

All the Single Ladies

Dear Mom Friend (From a Mom-To-Be)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Natalie Robertson.  Natalie and her busband Corey live in Nashville, TN and are expecting their first child in September.  Natalie and Corey are good friends from college and it’s a blast to finally be living in the same city again!  If you like crafty DIY projects, be sure to check out Natalie’s blog and if you love to hear her thoughts, check out Cultivate Her for posts from Natalie and other women leaders.

Dear Mom Friend,
When I found out that I was pregnant, I was (and am) scared that I would lose my identity, that I would have nothing else to talk about but my child, and that no one would care about anything other than my kid. It may seem odd to you that I really haven’t worried about the health of my child or how I will handle late nights and little sleep.  Maybe it’s a little bit of selfishness or maybe I’m just worried I’m going to lose touch with who I am and what I’m passionate about.  I’m not going to make any promises but I do intend to let God lead me through my fears of losing my identity, my confusion about where I find my worth, and my clarity about my calling.  I also intend to be honest and open with some girlfriends; ones that will keep my accountable no matter what.

Last week I was talking with an acquaintance who had just discovered I was pregnant.  She was shocked to find out that I was as far along as I am and that she didn’t know. So I gave her some insight into my personal theory on becoming a mother: “This baby is a welcome addition to our marriage and to my life but I will not let it define 100% of who I am; God defines who I am as a child of His”. To some moms that is blasphemy but it’s the truth.  My church is currently studying a series about idols.  This week’s sermon was all about the idol of achievement, and how many of us often confuse what we do with who we are.  It was a timely reminder that my worth does not come from being a mom or a working mom or an employee, but from being a child of God.

As I keep perspective on the fact that my worth comes from being a child of God, I want to continue to be faithful to what God has called me to do.  At this point in my pregnancy, I feel God has called me to be a mom, but I also feel like he has called me to continue to work in ministry (outside of my home).  I have recently struggled with even that balance, that I won’t be able to give MORE of my life and my time to ministry once the baby comes.  Just the other day I found myself almost crying in a meeting at work because I knew I would be on maternity leave during some big moments in the life of my church (and I’m not a crier, just ask Allison)

So I may not have it all figured out yet (and if I said I did I would be lying) but I wanted to share my pre-baby fears about losing my identity, finding my identity, and living out my calling.  In spite of my fears, I have a God who is big; a God who has been equipping women for all of time for whatever He has called them to.  I love that almost every woman who plays a major role in Scripture has a job (some are moms, some are not) but regardless, her impact on the Kingdom is never defined by her job, but by her devotion and obedience to God.

Scripture doesn’t talk about what a perfect mother Mary was to Jesus.  Mary’s main impact on the story of God coming to earth was what she did before Jesus was even born.  She made an impact by being a mom, but more importantly by being a devoted follower of God and by being obedient to God’s calling on her life.

So moms and future moms, how have you learned to be defined by your devotion to God rather than your role (as a wife, mom, working mom, stay at home mom…)?

This isn’t just something moms and future moms struggle with – what about men and women who don’t have kids, do you struggle with being defined by your role rather than your devotion to God?

Any advice regarding my fears of losing my identity and losing sight of my calling when the baby comes?

Sincerely,

A Mom-To-Be

Dear Mom Friend (From a Mom of Two Kids Under Age Three)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Bethany Morrill, a college mate who is becomming an even closer friend thanks to facebook (Yes, I believe there are positives to facebook, despite what I may have communicated last week).  Bethany and her husband, Tim, are raising their two darling daughters in the Louisville area.  If you want to read more thoughtful posts like this, you should encourage Bethany to start a blog.

Dear Mom Friend:

I miss you, too. Having one kid seemed so manageable. We got back on an even keel, everyone was sleeping again, and life was golden. Then we had baby number two, and I have found it difficult to maintain any relationships with friends (single, married, or married with kids). It’s detrimental to everyone. Even as a parent, I find it boring to talk constantly about child schedules, the best preschools, what diaper brand to use – isn’t that the point of getting together with friends? To escape this part of my life?

Here’s the problem: I feel like that is ALL there is to my life right now. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, my kids are not only my children; they are my full-time job and my current mission field. I feel like I have lost my own dreams, ambitions and hobbies into the black hole of parenthood. I don’t have much else to talk about, and that makes me feel like my life is small…so I revert back to talking about kid things.

Don’t get me wrong, I love children. All of my life, I wanted to have my own, and I wanted to stay home with them (My husband and I talked about that at length before we got married). I started babysitting when I was 12 and worked at a Day Care through high school and part of college. I worked as a VBS teacher, studied elementary education, and eventually became a children’s librarian. I was surrounded by kids all the time, and I didn’t think the transition to parenthood would be so very different!

It is very different.

I love my kids, but no – I’m not always happy. We live in a culture that encourages women to “have it all” and pretends that you can. I think that’s a lie; I think that no matter which choice you make (career, children/homemaker, or both), you always feel that something is out of balance. And to admit that you’re not always happy makes it sound like you don’t love your kids, or that you’re not grateful to have the opportunity to stay at home with them, which isn’t true. I know a lot of women who would like children or women that have children but work full time look at my pictures on Facebook and think, “She is so lucky.” I look at pictures of others bopping away for a weekend with friends or getting pedicures or taking ballroom dance lessons or a Zumba class or going on a date or sleeping in past 8 a.m. and I think, “She is so lucky.”

Here are the stats about my life: I’ve been a mom for 3 1/2 years, and in that time, I have lost regular Bible reading, a regular exercise routine, and most time for myself. It’s difficult to find/create alone time with my husband to keep building our relationship.  It shocks and frightens me that I do not read books for myself any more (about 3-4 per year) even though I am a dedicated book lover and trained librarian. In 3 1/2 years, I have spent one night away from our oldest, and we have yet to leave our youngest overnight. I have dealt with mild depression and weigh more than I have at any point in my life.

I admit that some of those things have been my own choices; they are a combination of living far away from family, the expense of babysitters, having two kids instead of one, my decision to plan activities/crafts/preschool for my three year old (which takes a lot of time), my husband’s long hours at work, and the fact that my youngest, who is fifteen months old, still doesn’t sleep through the night. But at the end of the day, when I’ve been correcting behavior, singing Wee Sing songs, playing peek-a-boo, smoothing tantrums, changing diapers, and scraping dried pasta off the kitchen floor, not only do I not have anything interesting to say to a friend, sometimes (total honesty here) I don’t even want to talk. I’m so spent that if a friend does call after the girls are in bed, I am guilty of not answering the phone – because I just don’t have the energy to put on socially acceptable behavior for ten more minutes. This is why Facebook has become the best way for me to keep in touch with people, although you and I both know that it is no substitute for face to face relationships. And so over time, my friendships have become shallower and more distant.

I recognize that I need to change! I can’t blame my kids for my present state when I have made the choices to stay at home and plan preschool lessons and curl up on the couch to watch Psych or The Big Bang Theory in the evening instead of taking the initiative to keep my relationships strong. I have been caught in the trap of thinking that taking time for myself (whether it’s for exercise, hobbies, or relationships) is somehow depriving my children and being selfish. And we’re taught that being a good mom is to be totally sacrificial, giving everything you have to care for your kids – there’s no room for selfishness. But friend: I’m giving myself permission to be selfish. I’m giving myself permission take time for myself and to build (or perhaps rebuild) relationships.

On the rare chance that I go out with a girlfriend, or play games with just grown-ups, or read a book for myself, I feel free; I actually feel physically lighter. I remember a part of myself that has been missing for a long time. I remember that I wanted to run a 5k before I was 30, that I longed to serve on the Newbery committee (which several of my SLIS classmates have already done), that I want to learn how to make stained glass, and that I would love to go to the library and choose a book for myself instead of desperately trying to hunt down titles for preschool before my 18 month old destroys the shelves.

Older women often tell young moms that being the parent of a young child is a golden time and so short – that we should treasure every minute and not miss a thing. I agree – being a parent of a young child IS a temporary part of my life. And it’s precisely because of that that I don’t want to lose my whole self to this single aspect of my life. If I place all my time and thought and energy into parenting, what am I going to do when my children leave home? Will I still have a good relationship with my husband? Will I still have girlfriends to play Bunco and go shopping with?

My dear, sweet friend: I desire the relationship as strongly as you do, and I value you even more than you know for fighting to keep it current and authentic. You are the touchstone that helps me remember who I am as a person and not as a parent. Because sometimes, it’s hard to remember.

So be patient with me as I learn how to balance these parts of myself. Stay with me on the phone as I take a break to put my toddler in time out. If I am ten (or fifteen) minutes late for coffee because I had to clean up a diaper disaster, don’t think that you’re not important to me. Hold me accountable to reading a new book or getting exercise. See what God is doing in my life, or if I’m taking time to pray. Keep asking the hard questions and challenging me to reach outside of my current world – I promise I’ll respond and thank you for it. And our friendship will be all the stronger for having weathered this season of life.

Sincerely,

A Mom of Two Kids Under Age Three

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Bethany and others can review and comment.  Thanks!

Dear Mom Friend (From a Mother of a One Year Old)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Ruth Felt, my dear friend and college roommate (yes, we have some dirt on each other).  Ruth and her husband, Kevin, teach English in China and they have an adorable one year old.  If you’d like to hear more from Ruth and Kevin, check out their blog.

Dear Mom Friend,
The early days after my daughter was born were a fog of nursing, cuddling, diapers, hour-long snatches of sleep, more nursing, that first delightful smile, and trying figure out why this cute little baby just wouldn’t sleep! Mothering was so constant, so consuming, that at first I felt no sense of self outside of being a mother. It was hard to spend fifteen minutes talking to my husband, emailing a friend, or pursuing a hobby when what I wanted more than anything in the world was just fifteen minutes more sleep. I think this stage of “tunnel vision” is normal and probably even necessary for a period of time. Becoming a parent is a monumental life shift, babies are perplexing, and it takes some time to adjust.

The problem is that it was hard to get out of that all-consuming mindset and remember I was also a wife, a friend, and a person.  I knew parenting would take a lot of time, but I was unprepared for how mentally and emotionally consuming parenting would be.  Even when I did have time away from my daughter, time to do my own thing, I couldn’t remember what my own thing was! What were my hobbies again?  What did I think about before I thought about parenting all the time? What were my dreams and passions…other than sleep!  It was still in there, but it was hard to dig out.

I’ve realized that mothering is (hopefully) less of a loss of identity and more an identity shift. Who I am and what I care about most have changed since having a baby.  My identity is always going to be tied into parenthood; it’s a huge part of who I am now. I just need to remember it’s not the only part.  Some of my interests have also changed.  For example, I am genuinely interested in childbirth and all the related issues. It’s completely fascinating.  But I also still have some of the same pre-child interests and passions, like China (where I live), teaching, writing, and all things related to women.

Sometimes I need a chance to separate myself enough from mothering to keep those passions alive, by teaching a class or writing a blog. Sometimes I can share those interests with my daughter, like listening to country music together. 🙂 And sometimes my daughter introduces me to new hobbies, like tickling and laughing and hiding in our secret spot behind the curtains. The answer is not to de-emphasize my role as a mother but rather to recognize how it complements, changes, and enhances who I already am.

I am happy as a mother. Very happy. Not every-single-moment kind of happy, but deeply, richly happy. Even in the midst of those overwhelming early days, I was surprised to find how happy I was. I love laughing and dancing and playing with my daughter. I am so excited to see her learn new things every day. When she is happy, I feel happy too (except maybe at 5am).  It’s been difficult, and there are times when I’ve felt like I lost my identity. But actually, I think I’ve just become even more of who I already was!

So mom friend: What are your interests and passions?  Have they changed since you have become a mother?   How do you preserve your sense of personhood in daily life?

From,

The Mother of a One Year Old

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Ruth and others can review and comment.  Thanks!

Dear Mom Friend,

I’ve wanted to talk to you for awhile about this, but the truth is, I didn’t exactly know how to say it.  And then this week, I read this letter that a man wrote to all his friends without kids and I thought, hey, I can write a letter too – to all my girlfriends with kids.  I have written and re-written this several times and I can’t find the perfect words to express my feelings, but this is my best effort.

Several years ago, you got pregnant (remember that?) and this should come as no shock to you; that little life changed pretty much everything.  That little life changed your life, your partner’s life, your pet’s life (oh those poor neglected dogs), and that life changed my life.  That bundle changed our friendship.  That bundle changed typical friend talks from love, friends, and jobs to blowouts, breastfeeding, and lack of sleep.  Sometimes I feel like a weirdo when I’m around a lot of moms.

You know that my husband and I have chosen (thus far) to not have children, so you may think it odd that I feel like the odd woman out because I’ve chosen this.  But choice or not, it‘s hard to feel different.

Disclaimer: I know that some of my girlfriends want nothing more than to be moms but they haven’t yet found Mr Right or cannot get pregnant. If that’s you, I hope this post doesn’t offend or hurt you, I love and hurt with you and I want your dream to come true, too.  This post is simply a post about where I’m at.

Please don’t get freaked out, I still very much want to be your friend even though life has changed. That’s why I ask so many questions about your pregnancies and squeal at your gender reveals and giggle when I feel your baby moving in your belly and cry when you miscarry.  That’s why I throw you showers and hold your babies and pray for you and your partner as you make decisions about parenting and experience new stresses in life.

But sometimes I want to talk about something other than kids…  It’s not that I don’t ever want to talk about your kids.  I’m often content to listen and chime in where appropriate.  After being a good listener for this many years, I’m able to chime in intellegently about so many topics ranging from Attachement vs. BabyWise parenting to cloth vs. disposable diapers to breastfeeding vs. formula.  And while I can engage in those discussions, all the moms know I’m just a poser.  The reason I’m just chiming in on those subjects is to connect and remain a part of your world, even thought I don’t know what it’s like in that world.

The truth is: I feel like I’ve lost you to your day to day routines with your kids.  On facebook, you regularly update me about diaper disasters and marker mishaps on the walls.  On twitter, you tweet 140 character long funny parenting moments with creative hashtags about #parenting.  Your blog is now a kid photo album and a collection of pinterest crafts.  And I guess deep down, I struggle because I feel like I don’t know you anymore, I just know about you.

And I hope I don’t sound bitter, because I’m not.  I’m just really sad.  I miss you.  I miss our deep talks and our dreaming and scheming about life and our talks about marriage.  I miss laughter, encouragement, and deep connection.

Please hear this: I don’t hate your kids.  In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I truly like your kids.  Your kids shatter my “I’m not a kid person” feelings; I actually adore them.

I just miss what made us friends.  I miss “getting you” and I miss you “getting me”.

While I don’t have a desire to leave a family legacy right now, I do have a desire to leave a legacy of being a strong Christ follower, a strong woman, and a strong leader.  I have a sneaking suspicion that you have similar passions and desires to those, I think we just don’t often talk about it.

I’m being the me that God created me to be right now.  And I’m really happy…

… And I really hope you’re happy too.  Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re happy because being a mom seems like really hard work with really few immediate rewards.  Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re happy because facebook makes parenting seem like the pits.  Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re happy because we don’t talk as much as we used to, and when we do, we have just enough time to catch up before you have to to run off to calm a tartrum or I have to go to a meeting.

But know this: I love you.  I’m glad we’re friends.  I love that you’ve taken on this messy, challenging, nonstop, underpaid, unpredictable ride of parenting.  I hope that you can love that I’m on a different ride that’s different but equally as messy, challenging, nonstop, underpaid, and unpredictable.

One time, not long after your baby arrived, you told me that you felt like no one cared about you anymore; they only cared about your kids.  Well that’s not me.  I care a lot about you.  I want to know about your marriage and your dreams.  I want to know what you plan to do when your kids hit first grade and you have 6 hours all to yourself.  I want to know how you are still finding ways to serve and grow and be challenged while you parent.  I want to know all about you.  So let’s talk – less about the day to day and more about the deep stuff.

Love,

Me

A Letter to My Fellow Female Christ-Followers

Dear Female Christ-Follower,

In case we don’t know each other yet, let me first say that I am a follower of Christ.  I believe wholeheartedly in Christ’s work of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation that was completed on the cross.  I love the Church (the whole Body of Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation) and believe God chooses to use the Church to carry on His work of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

My love for the Church has not blinded me to Her flaws, but as Christ loves His broken Church, I must love His broken Church.  And since love often takes work, I want to engage in an issue of brokenness that is preventing a movement of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation through the Church:

I have been very saddened by some discussions that have been taking place amongst the Body of Christ lately, which is why I am writing this letter- from a female Christ-follower to a female-Christ follower.  I wanted to apologize for some false messages that many Christ-following men have delivered, and for the lies that many Christ following women have believed and have passed on to you as truth.

To you, female follower of Christ, let me first say that you are a valuable member of the body of Christ.  You are a co-laborer with Christ.  You are not a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God.  You are not a “helpmate” in the work of Christ.  You are not limited in your calling.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  My sisters, you are one with your brothers in Christ.  You are not second in line, you are not the shadows, you are not meant to be quiet and wait for your cue.  Your cue comes from Christ, not from your male (or female) counterparts.  As a Christ-follower, your calling is to love God and love others.  You do that by being “you” in the way that God uniquely created you.  He gave you a unique personality and giftings, so use them to live out your calling.  Your giftings are not limited because of your gender.

If you have an extra few minutes, read all of 1 Corinthians 12.  For blog length purposes, I’ve hilighed a few verses:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… There are many parts, but one body.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  And in the Church, God has appointed first of all, apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

My fellow female Christ-followers, each of you is a part of the body of Christ.  And each of you is a different part.  You aren’t limited to being certain parts because you are a female.  Forgive me if this seems crass, but I’m going to say it: Women, we aren’t the breasts of the Body of Christ – You know, ‘nice on the eyes, but really only practical and useful for babies and small children.’

Women, some of you are apostles, some of you are teachers.  Some of you are prophetesses, and some leaders.  Some of you have the gifts of helping, or mercies, or giving.  Some of you have the gift of tongues.  Yes, I said it, some of you are leaders, and you should be leading – and not just in the nursery ministry, or children’s ministry, or women’s ministry.  Some of you are teachers, and some of you should be teaching adults, not just children’s Sunday School.

Women, some of you hold leadership and management roles in the workplace, in which you supervise, manage, lead, and steer both men and women – and you’re good at it.  Why then, are you asked to check your gifts at the door of your Church?  If you have gifts (and you all do), use them!  Some of you love children, and are gifted at ministering to children; do that!  Some of you are servants; so serve.  Some of you are amazing cooks and you help by cooking meals for new moms and families in need. (Some of you men are also good cooks, sorry we as a Church haven’t often invited you to help with this!) Some of you are leaders; so lead in the areas that you are gifted!  Not all of you are leaders, teachers, and apostles, but whatever your gifts, use them!

And if any male Christ-followers are reading this letter, may I remind you that some of you are apostles, some of you are teachers.  Some of you are prophets, and some leaders.  Some of you have the gifts of helping, or mercies, or giving.  Some of you have the gift of tongues.  And if you are a Christ-following male, who does not have a gift of leadership or teaching, but rather, who has the gift of mercy or helps or giving, you are not a second-class citizen in the body of Christ.  You are not weak; you do not need to be called to greatness.  You do not need to be corrected.  May I remind you of Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth above: “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.”  (2 Corinthians 12:18)

My fellow women (and men if you are reading), if you are feeling skeptical about women leading, teaching, and steering the Church, let me remind you of some God followers who have come before you:

Junia – Apostle (Romans 16:7)

Anna – Prophet (Luke 2)

Priscilla – Teacher – (Acts 18) – Interestingly, she was listed before her husband in Paul’s writing – Priscilla and Aquilla

Deborah – Leader (Judges 4,5)

Phoebe – Service (Romans 16)

Read these women’s stories.  They used the gifts that God had given them to serve their entire community; both men and women.  Then, think about your gifts and whether or not you are using them.  If you don’t know what your gifts are, talk to the people who love you in your life or take a spiritual gifts inventory.  My spiritual gifts are: Leadership, Administration, Teaching, and Pastor.  But I’m a woman, is that a sin?  Absolutely not!  It’s a sin for me to not use these gifts!

My fellow Christ-followers, I want to address another conversation that concerns me greatly.  Christ-following women, it is not fair to our Christ-following men, for us to look to them to be our protectors, our leaders, our teachers, and our spiritual guides.  They are human; they will fail.  Jesus ONLY, is our Rock and Refuge, our Guide, our Great Teacher, and our Mentor.  My fellow Christian single women, look to Christ for wisdom and for your protection.  My fellow Christian married women, look to Christ for wisdom and for protection.  In marriage, communication and consensus is critical, but our husbands are not Jesus; they are not perfect.

Women, remember, you are a Christ-follower first.  You do not need to go through a man to hear from Christ, to learn from Christ, and to serve.  The veil has been torn, we can all communicate directly with God.  Women, we should not wait for our pastors, leaders, fathers, male friends, boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands to hear from God, and then blindly agree.  We must be praying and listening as well!  We are co-laborers, we can all hear from God, so let’s do it!  It’s lazy and unfair to a hurting world for us to not take ownership of our relationship with Christ.  Women, go after it, go after God!  Serve with not behind your fellow male believers!  I’m not calling women to be bulldozers, raging feminists, or man haters.  I’m calling each of us to use our gifts to work together for the kingdom!

My fellow female co-laborers with Christ, we need you!  We need all your gifts.  You are first a follower of Christ.  You are not first a wife or a mother or a career woman.  You are a follower of Christ.  There is a world full of hurting, lonely, lost people who need to hear the message of the love and redemption that Jesus brings.  So bring the message through your gifts, your prayers, and your unlimited co-laboring.