Nothing like eight weeks of family togetherness to make you question yourself as a mom, huh? I’m thankful for so much, but I’d be lying if I said this COVID-19 season hasn’t tested me and prompted soul searching.
Lurking beneath my feelings of tension, guilt, and frustration? Some faulty assumptions and beliefs that undermine God’s truth.
Maybe you’ve met some of them – those Motherhood Myths that creep in to whisper there’s such a thing as a “perfect” parent if we just try hard enough or that our value comes from whether the kids are happy with us or not.
I’ve realized the best Mother’s Day gift I can give myself is to bust those myths wide open by applying grace and godly wisdom to my parenting. I’ve also reached out to other myth-busting mamas, like my friend Jennifer Perez, to discuss the motherhood myths we’re debunking. Let’s get busting!
If sunshine were a person, it would be Jennifer! Her website, The Encouraging Mom Blog, offers grace and truth, including compassionate discussions on infertility, fostering and adoption, infant loss, and parenting after loss. Be sure to check out the links at the bottom for some of her articles. Today, she’s sharing with us sweet words about trusting God and about one myth she’s had to bust.
Cassia: I know your motherhood journey has had some twists and turns. Would you tell us a little about that before we talk parenting myths?
Jennifer: My journey has been nothing like what I thought it would be! The Lord had very different plans for me than I had for myself, but he has worked in amazing ways, turning the ashes of my journey into beauty.
First, my husband Mace and I walked through infertility for four years prior to conceiving. I was diagnosed with PCOS early on, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get my body to work correctly. After two years of infertility, the Lord called us to become licensed to foster and foster-to-adopt. We had wanted to adopt at some point but thought it would be after biological children. We spent a year working through requirements and began fostering during our fourth year of infertility. After several months fostering different children, our son Bernard was placed in our home. We adopted him seven months later! It’s been a fun but hard ride adopting a child from a trauma background, but I can’t imagine life without B!
Shortly after Bernard was placed in our home, I became pregnant for the first time. Tragically, our baby girl was diagnosed in the womb with acrania and then anencephaly, a rare, fatal neural tube defect. We were devastated, but the Lord held us close and strengthened us for our difficult yet also beautifully joyful journey. We treasured our time with Hannah and soaked up every minute we had with her. She was born full-term, and we had just over a day with our miracle baby before she met Jesus face-to-face.
Several months after losing Hannah, I became pregnant again. After a healthy pregnancy and delivery, our second daughter, Haven, had the fight of her life battling bacterial meningitis. The Lord performed real miracles, and she is a healthy, vibrant toddler now! I had quite a wrestling match with God over Haven’s illness, though.
All of that to say, losing my first daughter to a rare, fatal neural tube defect has most definitely been the toughest part of my story, but we share about our journey so the Lord can be glorified through our story!
Cassia: I know many have been touched by your story. You certainly have had to let go of myths and preconceived notions along the way. Is there a particular myth that stands out in this season you are working to dispel with God’s truth?
Jennifer: One myth I believed going into parenting was that I would never need a break from my kids—that I wouldn’t need to take time to pull away and rest! As we walked through infertility, honestly, I judged moms who complained about their kids and who needed to take time away from them. I thought, “If I ever have children, I’m going to be so grateful all the time and all I will want to do all day long is snuggle them and play with them. I won’t need any breaks.” (Can you hear me laughing right now?)
Yeah, that has not been the case. I think especially for moms like me who have experienced infertility and/or child loss, you feel guilty for taking time for yourself to rest because you want to show constant gratitude for how the Lord has blessed you. I realized early in our foster-care journey how badly I needed to rest. But now, four years into being a mom, I still struggle to rest like I should, and I’m working on not feeling guilty when I do!
Cassia: So many of us can relate. Are there specific scriptures that have helped you bust that myth?
Jennifer: We read how Jesus often stepped away from the crowd and met with his Father in isolated places. Luke 5:16 says, “But [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” The Lord convicted me that if Jesus, the Son of Man, fully human and fully God, needed to rest, I most certainly did, too!! Of course, in Exodus 20:8, God gives the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. If it was important for the Israelites to rest, so much so that God commanded it, that meant it was important for me to pull away from the craziness one day a week and rest, too. God has been incredibly gracious to help me establish a Sabbath rhythm. I can truly say it has made so much difference in my walk since I implemented it several months ago.
Cassia: Really important reminders for us, Jennifer. Thank you so much for helping us bust that myth. A few final questions: First, is there a woman from scripture or your acquaintance who’s impacted your mothering? Second, what’s some funny or practical parenting advice you’ve received – either good or bad?
Jennifer: My mothering has definitely been impacted by Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s mom (1 Samuel 1-2). Her faith and trust in the Lord impacted me deeply through our infertility years and once my first daughter was diagnosed with acrania/anencephaly. We actually named our daughter Hannah after her! Her story of faith in trusting the Lord and how she poured out her heart before God grew my faith during my most difficult times.
And I’d say the best, funny yet practical advice was that when changing a baby boy’s diapers, be sure to point “it” down and make sure “it” is still pointing down when you put his diaper on. I heard that first part before fostering but didn’t hear that second part until a few weeks into fostering a newborn baby boy. If I had known it sooner, it would have saved me from a lot of dirty laundry!
Cassia: As I boy-mom I definitely learned that one the hard way, too! Thank you so much for opening your heart to us, Jennifer.
For more from Jennifer Perez, check out her site (LINK) and the links listed below. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmoms, and spiritual moms out there, and Happy Myth-Busting until next week!
Fostering and Adoption: http://www.theencouragingmomblog.com/hope-in-the-struggle/
Haven’s illness and recovery: http://www.theencouragingmomblog.com/im-not-there-yet/