Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Soapbox #2: Have pack-n-play, will travel.

Disclaimer: this post is the one I've been working on. It still doesn't sound quite right and is probably harsh at some points. I'm not even sure I got my points across as I shifted from thought to thought. Sorry it's so long. Overall I wanted the other young moms, as well as myself, to be inspired, not convicted or defensive but we'll see..

I'm a mom now. So, is that it? What else goes on the planner? Is the tendency to forsake all other parts of your life once diapers show up? I know it's not just me. I know that our church struggles on many occasions and for many events at getting the young moms involved. What is that? There's a time span that should be allotted for a learning curve but at what point does your 'motherhood' become your hiding place?

Here's the fruit of the issue: I'm not serving anywhere. You know, service. Helping others and taking care of someone besides my family. I also dropped out of most everything I used to be involved in, church related or otherwise.

There was a conversation had this week about nursery at church. The woman in charge is having trouble getting moms to sign up for a shift. It's a whole hour. Yikes. A whole hour once a month and I get free childcare the rest of the time for it? Sounds like an ugly commitment. Or just a simple way to serve. Another event we have at our church coming up is the "Harvest Party", held for our community. We are the hosts, not the guests and yet I know they have trouble filling the slots for manning the booths each year, especially from the young families. After all, we're the ones with kids, isn't this our event? Hmmmm. I'm sure there are legitimate reasons for some families to not chip in but here's my problem: in our church it seems that the young families are the ones who receive a lot of the help, arguably more than many other subgroups. Yet it's this group that has become unwilling to serve and I've just slipped in along side them. Is that ironic to anyone else? At what ages will our kids be before we stop always taking and start giving, if ever?

This weekend we were at a college retreat with a campus ministry from Mizzou. (Yes, we took Eliot camping! More on that later...) While the kids were playing capture the flag, we got a chance to chat with the director of the ministry. When asked what his biggest struggle with this generation of kids was he replied that they are in a place of critical consumerism. They are there to be served, and very few are there to lend a hand or reach out. Most of them are Christians. If his ministry isn't providing enough for them, they move on to another one instead of chipping in some help. Where has the church gone wrong? Is it the church or is it a mindset that we parents have unintentionally instilled in the minds of our children. Would rejecting the plea to help out in the nursery one hour a month at church create an unsaid message to Eliot? Maybe. It certainly does to the nursery staff that work all week but serve anyway.

And while I'm up here on this soapbox: at our church we have lots of things offered for personal growth. For your marriage they have classes once a week for a short season. For women we have bible studies and a retreat once a year in the fall. At these events, there's very few young moms represented. Where are you? Do you not need to work on anything but motherhood during this time of life? At what point does 'life' stop because motherhood started?

There have been opportunities that have come up in the last few months for me and at times I've been hesitant to participate. Why? Because Eliot needs me. Of course he does, I'm his mom. However, that thought process could be taken too far. It can be taken to the "martyr" role pretty quickly, at least for me. And that, my friends, does NOT need to be nurtured.

What does this 'denying self at all times at all costs for the sake of your children' lifestyle lead to other than self-centered children? It has to affect your marriage, first of all. Secondly, your sanity. Aren't you exhausted? I am. Thirdly, I'm assuming, would be bitterness when your life is gone and your kids don't worship you anymore. Your personal needs didn't vanish the minute you held your first little one. Your child(ren) weren't meant to meet all your needs, and neither was your husband. You were created to desire more than that and ultimately to serve and therein glorify the Lord. Does raising Godly children glorify the Lord? Absolutely. Does taking a break once in awhile, even weekly, so that you can nurture other needs take away from that calling? I would say no, that it in fact would enhance your ability to raise your children. What opportunities are you and your family missing by hiding out in your house? Was our identity so wrapped up in our life before kids that we now struggle to know whom we are and so we just retreat backwards into motherhood, never to be seen again until soccer teams start?

Now, a couple of limitations of my rant: I'm a mom of one. I've only been a mom in the states for a couple months. My husband willingly shares responsibilities of parenthood, even in this young stage, and has the flexibility to do so. My child is pretty flexible in new situations and can adapt his schedule accordingly. That being said, I'm still concerned about this trend.

Please don't hear that Eliot's needs are secondary and that I just get to them whenever I'm not out being social. He's always a priority. Not just his immediate needs but also his needs down the road. Does he need to grow up with a mom who's made him the center of the universe so much so that she has very little of her own life or very little marriage left? Does he need to grow up in a house that sees the church as a place to be served or to serve (more than once a year, that is...)?

I'm not suggesting that a little slow down isn't necessary once diapers and bottles enter the picture. I just don't know why you have to quit everything until further notice. I'm also not suggesting you "do it all!" as the American culture can pressure us to do but there needs to be some balance.

There are moms out there that have broken this mold for me. I love seeing pics of my friend Erin who goes rock-climbing and hiking with her toddler. I cherish memories of hanging out with high school kids weekly as a young kid as my parents volunteered with the youth ministry. I love that my Arbonne teammates enjoy combining our informal meetings with play dates. I was encouraged watching Lisa bring Charlie to small group before we had Eliot and putting her to bed in a pack-n-play so that she and Jake could participate in something once a week for their marriage. I look up to my friend Amanda who runs the children's program at her church with her two kids in tow.

It all boils down to serving Jesus. Which, again, has some irony involved in that He "didn't come to be served but to serve." He didn't suggest the disciples wash his feet since he was the big chief, he insisted on washing theirs. There was no entitlement or "rights" in His walk here. While he had every right to come and be served, he denied that and chose to constantly serve and His disciples learned from walking along side Him. That's how I want Eliot to learn. Not just from me saying thank you to those who serve me but from walking along side me as I serve.


Amanda said...

All I can say is WOW!!!!

Dan and Amanda said...

Beautifully written as usual, my friend!

Erin said...

Katie, this is something we struggle with every week at Immanuel. Thanks for bringing it to light in a way that helps me to see "the other side" that moms are dealing with. It helps.

Sharon said...

Nicely put, my friend. :)

Scott & Melissa Davis said...

Wow, I mean wow...there is so much here and I feel like you shared beautifully and graciously but you also brought up a very valid ( sometimes tender) point...what does this look like now...serving others + meeting the needs of our children and being full time moms! Teaching our child that they are not the center of the universe yet meeting their every need...Hmmm, I am going to chew on this one and honestly is something I am dealing with right now, except my issue is the flip side of that where I worry daily that I am not giving enough to my child because the "need" is so huge here in Guatemala, I can't afford to "cheat" her of anything. This parenting stuff is humbling, huh?! you, friend...such a great post, I love your heart and miss you to death! THANK YOU for sharing and please climb up on your soapbox anytime...we need to hear!

Rebecca and Shannon said...

Katie, beautifully written and well thought out, as usual.

To add a little to your line of thought: Sometimes we are guilty not of 'hiding out,' but of doing WAY too much 'for them,' like hauling them all over creation to play soccer, go to dancing, be in Scouts, something ever night of the week, thus leaving parents drained and unwilling to offer to help out with things like...the nursery at church. This is another way of NOT serving others, but instead serving only your kids, and not allowing any other part of your life to be important.
There has to be a balance somewhere. Instead of hiding out or overdoing the extracurr. activities, find a couple of neat things to be involved in that are for your kids (soccer, etc.); a couple of neat things that you enjoy (book club, hiking, etc.); and LOTS of things that you and your family can do to serve.
My 2 cents. Again, awesome job, Katie.

Amy said...

I think a huge chunk of that lies in the phrase "meeting your kid's needs." Needs? Shelter, food and clothes. Those are needs. Sure, there are emotional needs- hugs, praise, etc.- The needs that are character builders. But I'm with you- I'd rather see my child's character built by being a part of society! Life goes on after maternity leave!

Amy said...


I have been following your blog for a few months now, I'm one of those lurkers. I found your blog through Jessica B's blog. We know Jessica through Micah Project; my hubbie Matt volunteered down there while your hubbie went down there for a mission trip, I believe!

I'm coming out of the shadows, because I wanted to let you know that I so needed to hear that. Thanks for sharing that and challenging me as a young mom. We did recently sign up for nursery duty, but still good stuff to mull over.

Amy D.

(I'm sorry, I can't figure out how to let my blog be shared when I leave a comment)

Anonymous said...

I loved this post Katie. This line of thinking (not word for word of course) hit me in March when Parker was 4 months old and Bailey was 20 months. I was doing nothing for myself anymore but didn't feel like I was giving too much to my girls, I really felt like I had no choice with two so young and whose needs were so real. Their need was so great that I felt my inner-self shrinking away. Rather than sink into depression, I got back out there and decided to change my life. The ironic part, 6 months later, is that I have been volunteering at church to the point of not wanting to go b/c I'm being asked to do so much, I've started a business I thought would have a slow start and is taking off so fast I can't keep up, and my husband is gone 14 hours a day with teaching and coaching. NOW, I feel like I'm serving others, still don't have much of a life that fulfills me and am not giving enough of my time and talents to my girls b/c I'm working for others so much. Where is the balance? This is something that haunts me daily. How can we teach our children to serve, but also be able to say "no"? Or to pursue our passions and dreams, but balance them with everyday life? How can we survive ourselves without totally losing it?

You have me thinking...

nicaudfamily said...

Go Katie-very well written as usual. It is all a very hard act to balance.I feel my #1 job at this point in life is being a Mom and being the best I can.It does not mean all else does not exsist though at times it is difficult to remember that.I am a very strong believer in not having a child centered house. I had sooooooo many people question"how fair" was I being bringing my older boys to Guatemala and away from their friends and activities. I looked at it like they need to learn that it is okay to sacrifice for others,especially their sisters and WOW what an awesome,life changing experience it was for them.I hope I continue to teach my kids to serve others.... BUT Fast foward to now-we are home and back to the grind of things and I have 4 kids under age 4 and 3 more who are being homeschooled. I do at times feel like we do not have a life aside from the kids,but I know that is the season I am in. I think that sometimes us Moms do get in "a rut" of not realizing when certain seasons are over and it is okay to come out of the house before soccer season,I know I can be guilty of this.The balancing act of life can be so hard and I try not to "child center" my parenting,but I guess if the scales have to weigh down on one side I would rather it be on the side of my kids. That said your post did inspire to start running again ahhh 20 minutes all to myself releasing stress from the day and running-I ran for 20 minutes this evening and I loved it.Not exactly serving others,but refreshing myself to serve others hopefully............

BTW thanks for getting on your soapbox-I hope you get up again soon even if you ruffle some feathers.