I love to listen to podcasts and audio books. I’m a young mom, and don’t have a lot of friends or social outlets at this point in my life, so I tend to listen to something audio when I need a break from the being-home-alone-with-toddlers-24-7 overwhelm.
I like mom podcasts, and enjoy learning about parenting. Being a mom is hard, and it’s helpful to find resources to work through issues we’re facing with our kids.
So last week I turned on an episode and the ladies commented about how hard shopping is with young kids, and how lucky they are to live in an era of grocery pickup, because they don’t have to live through the struggle with toddlers that their moms did.
Oof. First of all, shopping with toddlers is so hard. I am extremely thankful that pickup orders are possible, it’s so convenient to drive up, pop the trunk and drive home.
BUT. I think avoiding social situations like shopping with young kids is doing them (and yourself) a big disservice. Every outing is a training opportunity and avoiding the hard situations means that your child isn’t going to learn how they are expected to behave in a store, restaurant, or place of business. Instead of learning early, it’s going to be impossible to run errands or shop as they get bigger/louder, because they just didn’t learn how to behave in a social setting. (And the tantrums will get bigger if they’re not addressed and worked through as toddlers.)
All of this is to say:
1. Don’t be afraid to take your kids with you, even when you know it’ll be hard. The work will pay off later when your kiddos are able to be respectful in businesses, and have FUN learning life skills with you! (And don’t worry, shopping is stressful for me too right now, I’m right there with you, there is a 100% chance that either Tori or I will cry in the store or the car on the way home. )
2. Let’s give lots of grace to the mamas in the store/restaurant/church who are dealing with those toddlers meltdown. She’s made the decision to push through the hard and embarrassment of meltdowns and tears to help her kiddo learn how to navigate social situations, and snarky comments/judgmental stares and unsoliced advice are not helpful or edifying in anyway! In fact, having someone tell me “you’re doing great,” or “keep it up, it gets easier!” Is literally something that will brighten my entire day!
There are two vastly different worldviews I regularly see all over social media, and in real life, about motherhood.
The first is “wine mom culture.” You know what I mean, messy hair, messy house, flaunting the less than perfect parts of being a mom, turning everything into jokes and witty captions. There is a touch of realism in this portrayal of motherhood. These people and posts are relatable. They show their life as it is, not hiding away and pretending life is a-ok 100% of the time.
The second view I see the most is the “very religious,” spiritual people talking about how motherhood is a blessed calling. That as Christian mothers, we should never complain to anyone, or show a negative outlook of our life online or in person. A lot of these well meaning Christian people take it a little too far, encouraging fellow moms to personify a bright, flourishing perspective all time, no matter what is actually going on in their lives. That if you’re not talking about how blessed you are, and radiantly shining as a mom, you’re failing as a Christian, because if you’re saved you shouldn’t have struggles, or anxiety.
Both of these views have some merits, but both have some really dangerous flaws.
While wine mom culture is relatable, and it’s nice to find people who are dealing with the same things you are, and it can be hilarious to poke fun at some of those things, using wine to cope in any area of life is dangerous, especially when you’re coupling it with parenting. The “wine mom” label that people are using is really cryptically masking alcoholism. It isn’t just fun and relatable, but covering up deeper issues that need to be addressed off of social media.
I agree 100% with the view that motherhood is a calling and a huge privilege. It isn’t lost on me that I have been given the gift of two sweet babes, when so many can’t have children. I also see the merits of being careful not to complain on social media, and remembering that you are a witness for Christ. However, when taken too far, this is encouraging moms, usually young mamas in the thick of babies and toddlers, to hide the struggle, and just put on a happy face. And I don’t think that is serving anyone.
As a young mom of two toddlers, I have seen and experienced this first hand, and how detrimental it. It encourages mommy judging from those who aren’t struggling currently. And makes those who are going through a tough time feel shame on top of everything else because they don’t see other people dealing with the same exact thing. It often feels like, since we are “Christian,” we’re expected to take that label, but aren’t allowed to admit that we are also human. And that being a human is really hard sometimes. There are stages of life that are truly amazing, and it is easy to be that bright happy witness. And there are stages that are really hard. Whether that is due to life changes, like having a new baby, losing someone you love, or struggles in your marriage, or spiritual drought or warfare.
I really think that as Christian moms, we should be able to normalize admitting to struggling within motherhood, and life in general. We should be able to reach out to those around us for encourgment, and help, without judgement for feeling overwhelmed.
My perspective on this has slowly evolved over the past couple years, as I have had my kiddos, and experienced postpartum twice now.
After Victoria was born, I spiraled into postpartum anxiety, without even know what that was, and it was a really dark time in my life. I had a perfect birth, but still ended up with tearing and stitches, and when my husband had to go back to work just 4 days after I had her, I was in a really rough place. I was trying to take care of everyone, but wasn’t nearly recovered myself. I was having trouble with breastfeeding. Victoria had a severe tongue tie, and she was getting horrible blisters on her lips from just trying to eat. (It took 9 weeks to be able to get in to have her tie fixed.) And then just a few short weeks after she was born, Victoria was diagnosed with a cataract, sending her into surgery as a newborn, and resulting into a host of vision appointments that continue to this day. Just two weeks after her eye surgery, she had another surgery to deal with her tongue tie.
Both of those surgery’s had after care that had to be done 4+ times a day, and that naturally fell to me. I am so grateful we were able to have those done, so that she has vision, and was able to eat without getting sores on her lips. But It feels like I missed her newborn stage, because I was so busy trying to take care of her and everyone else, that I couldn’t even sit down to enjoy my baby.
It was so much for me to handle, and I started to spiral into PPA. There were so many ways it presented, but one of the things I remember clearly, was putting my kids into the car one night, and having to drive with my hand reaching back to feel my baby’s cheek, because I couldn’t see her in my mirror in the darkness, and my brain was terrified that I had left her at home. (It doesn’t make sense, but that is what anxiety is like. This is just one example of how the anxiety was affecting my life.) It presents as rage, and there were times I sat down and wondered why on earth I was screaming at my toddler over his shoes on the floor. It was such a little thing, so why was I so angry? I have always loved a clean house, but I started compulsively cleaning, and thus began the vacuuming 3+ times a day.
This is all to say, it was a really hard time. And I’m finally coming out of that darkness, thanks to time, and finding some supplements and exercise that have helped tremendously. But I’m realizing that it isn’t normal or necessary to hide the struggles away, and pretend everything is okay. We should be able to talk about real life, and support the other moms in our lives.
So while I’m not condoning complaining, or whining about everything you don’t like in your life, I am suggesting that we start to be more real with each other. Motherhood is hard sometimes, but it’s easier when you can find those people who will brace you up and encourage you no matter what!