By Jamie Renken
It was 1993. I had been married all of three years and already had three children, ages 7, 3, and 1. (It’s a long story for another time, just trust me on this one) The important point for this story is that at this point in my mothering, I did not have any mom friends. There was no one to talk to about potty training, breastfeeding, or discipline. There were no play dates or moms groups that I attended. I took good care of my children, but many days were spent feeling tired, isolated, and lonely. So, it’s not surprising that when my husband suggested we get away to Colorado Springs for a Focus on the Family conference, I was packing my bags!
The conference was for physicians and their spouses and was designed to support us in our marriages and families. Many wonderful speakers blessed us with their wisdom and inspiration that weekend. By day two I was feeling tired and emotional. One of the breakout seminars was lead by a couple that was raising ten children and they were doing a question and answer session. We jumped on that, as we were looking to gain some insight on this parenting stuff.
The session was larger than I expected, with an intimate 500 people attending! After listening to others asking questions about discipline techniques , chore charts, and allowance, I heard my heart pounding in my ears. I desperately wanted to go up to the microphone.
You see, I was struggling with letting my kids make messes. I felt anxious when my house was chaotic, especially when every room looked like the proverbial cyclone came through. I was constantly following them around cleaning up behind them. I had a need for control but knew I needed to let my children, well, be children.
You see, I was struggling with letting my kids make messes.
I stood up and approached the mic, surprising my husband. After I shared my dilemma with shaky voice, I looked to the wise mother of ten for help. But before she could answer, a woman from the audience stood up and while pointing at me started to yell that if my house is clean, I’m doing some-thing wrong! My children were more important than a clean house! She had a harsh way of delivering this message, and I noticed the discomfort of the wise mother of ten. My jaw dropped and I stared like a deer in headlights as I received my hammering.
My jaw dropped and I stared like a deer in headlights as I received my hammering.
The wise woman of ten very calmly but firmly explained to her that many moms have this struggle and that I was, in fact, brave to share it in such a large group. And here’s the best part. While wise mom was talking, something else was happening. Something awesome. Mothers from all over the auditorium were rising from their seats and walking toward me. Soon, there were dozens of women surrounding me where I stood, some with a hand on my shoulders. These moms were supporting me in my vulnerable moment because they knew. They knew that being a mom is hard and they were protecting me from the harsh judgment of another mom.
Soon, there were dozens of women surrounding me where I stood, some with a hand on my shoulders.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as wise mom of ten shared ideas that could help me cope with the messiness of small children. First, she said, get rid of magazines that depict perfection in the home. Second, choose one room in the house that I will keep as perfect as I want. Third, as the kids grow, give them age appropriate chores to help keep and teach order. Finally, take a deep breath and know that this is but a season. Embrace the mess as part of raising little children and let it go. Wise mom of ten was my hero.
Embrace the mess as part of raising little children and let it go.
Sure, there will always be someone out there who will judge you as a mother. There will always be those who think they could raise your children better than you can. There will always be people who struggle to extend grace probably because grace was withheld from them. The truth is, we mothers need to stick together as we stumble through the messes of mother-hood. Let us remember to embrace the beautiful messes that are simply a natural part of our beautiful stories.
Let us remember to embrace the beautiful messes that are simply a natural part of our beautiful stories.
The theme this year in MOPS is A Beautiful Mess: Embrace Your Story.
St. Luke MOPS meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursday’s from 9-11:30. Childcare is provided
Living Water MOPS meets on the 1st and 3rd Thursday’s from 9:30-11:30. Childcare is provided.