This month we’re debunking those parenting myths that cause tension, guilt, and frustration! If you’ve ever struggled with the many roles and responsibilities of “mom life”—and drifted into despair because of it—today’s Myth-Busting Mama has a word for you!
My friend Suzanne Werlein is part of the heart and soul of Faithbridge Church, a vibrant community in northwest Houston planted by her husband Ken twenty years ago. She shares how her motherhood journey collided with her ministry journey and left her crying out to God for answers. The myth she’s had to battle? “A good mom can do it all, all at the same time.”
Cassia: Tell us a little about your motherhood journey, especially what really surprised or changed you in the process.
Suzanne: Before we had children, life and ministry were busy and full. I taught elementary school music, helped lead worship at our newly planted church, mentored young women, led the church children’s choir, and had begun forming a women’s ministry. It was a fun, productive time, and we were just getting started! When Ken and I began visiting the idea of children, I naïvely believed my life wouldn’t need to change much. Apart from choosing to leave teaching to pursue a stay-at-home-mom dream, I couldn’t possibly conceive I would need to make other major adjustments. Surely, I would be able to keep doing all the ministry I loved, felt equipped for, and called to, right? Couldn’t I just tote my baby to the meetings, Bible studies, and worship rehearsals?
It didn’t take long after our son’s birth to realize I was out of my league. I’d always enjoyed children but had no experience with newborns. I felt overwhelmed, inadequate, and SO VERY TIRED. Taking care of a newborn was work like I’d never known! I could never leave my job as mom to just go home and put my feet up. It was a 24/7 gig, and it was FOR REAL! Still, I tried to continue at the same pace in ministry. Sundays were especially exhausting. After a long night of nursing my son and attending to his seemingly unending needs, I’d race to be at church by 7AM to help set up and rehearse for the worship set before helping to lead worship and minister to the families of our fledgling church. Since my husband was the pastor and unable to help with our son on Sundays, our parents would trade off weekends to care for our baby while I was at church. While this system worked for a while, it began to wear on me. Finally, the day came when our son was old enough to come to church with me, and he loved it! But soon I began to see that the loud music startled and overstimulated him so I couldn’t just tote him along like I’d thought. He would scream and cry and would not settle easily. A few years later we would learn that he had some neurological differences that would require medical interventions and specialized schooling, but at the time, I just thought he was extra sensitive, highly spirited, and a lot more work than I had anticipated. After a while, the work just got too hard. I just couldn’t juggle it all anymore.
One night, as I was nursing my son in the wee hours, I felt desperately tired and disappointed about all I had given up. One by one, I had let go of each ministry responsibility I had so enjoyed in order to focus my full attention on my son and his many needs. I cried out to the Lord, “I love this baby, but I feel like I’ve given up everything for him. I can’t even serve You anymore!”
In that moment, I heard the Lord stop me and say, “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” I opened my Bible to Matthew 25:34-40, and marveled as I read this passage in the fresh context of mothering a small child. “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me… whatever you’ve done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” I wept in wonder as I realized that God saw me. He recognized all I’d given up, but He showed me the true value of what I was doing. Everything I was doing for my child, I was doing unto Him!
That experience shifted my perspective. God sees me, He knows what I have given up to follow Him, and He values every little thing I do to serve my family as if I am doing it for Him.
Cassia: That’s a powerful perspective shift! Have you been able to uncover motherhood myths that were fueling your frustration or that you still have to work at debunking?
Suzanne: I’d say one motherhood myth I bought into was that “A good mom can do it all, all at the same time.” When I tried to maintain all my ministry responsibilities with my new mothering responsibilities, I crashed and burned out. As I’ve continued to navigate the road of marriage and parenting along with a desire to minister effectively outside my home, three truths have helped to dispel this myth:
- Ministry inside my home is indeed ministry! God sees it, values it, and accepts it as serving Him directly. It is not second best or less than any other ministry I do outside of my home.
- As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a SEASON, a time for every activity under heaven.” Life truly does go in seasons. Just as summer and winter cannot happen in the same place at the same time, some seasons of life just cannot happen at the same time. There is freedom in embracing the season I’m in—fully accepting what I have been given to do today, and doing it with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength as unto the Lord. That way I’m not pining away for “the good old days” when I could do a certain type of ministry or longing for the days to come when I will have more time and freedom to do something new. I know the seasons change and “This, too, shall pass.” And when it does, I want the Lord to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You were faithful with what I gave you to do, and I am well pleased!”
- It’s wise for me to admit and accept my personal limitations. I am a human being, after all, and cannot do everything well all the time. Only God can do that. It’s tempting to see how others are wired and wish I had their energy level or seeming ability to accomplish much more in a given time period. But comparison only siphons off more energy and distracts me from my calling. God made each of us exactly the way He chose for us to be. He made us limited so that we would learn to depend fully on Him. Where we are weak, He is strong!
Cassia: Excellent spiritual truths! Any other practical advice that has helped you that you want to pass along?
Suzanne: When we were newly into our son’s journey with neurological differences, we would process our parenting with a counselor each week. One week, I expressed frustration that although I spent literally HOURS every day with my son, he still wanted MORE of me and my time. He never seemed to get enough to be satisfied. The counselor encouraged me to consider “marketing/selling the time” to my son. She suggested that daily I say to him, “Today after school, you and I get to have 30 minutes together—just you and me! You get to choose what we do during that time. I can’t wait to see what you choose! I’ll be thinking about it all day!” Of course, I had been spending hours of time with him each day, but I needed to really “talk up” a short, special time like it was something monumental. And it worked! Just 15-30 minutes of truly focused attention still does absolute wonders in the contentedness of my son. (And it works for grown children and adults, too!)
Cassia: I love that! Final question, is there another woman from history or scripture who has had a significant impact on your mothering?
Suzanne: Susanna Wesley has been a great inspiration. Not only did she raise two pillars in church history, John and Charles Wesley, but she gave birth to 19 children, raising ten of them into young adulthood (nine of her children died in infancy). Even with her huge crowd of a family, she found a way to have two hours of devotional time with the Lord. She would throw her apron up over her head, which served as a “do not disturb” sign to her family and as a little “tent of worship” for Bible reading and prayer. She also saw the value of one-on-one time with her children, which would seem an impossible task with such a large number. However, she arranged a rotating schedule so she could meet for an hour a week with each of them before bedtime. What an example to her children and to us!
Cassia: So thankful to you for sharing your story with us and helping us do some myth-busting today. Those of us at Faithbridge also appreciate all your family does to love, serve, and help so many!