For some reason we as mothers tend to believe that once we have kids, our interests have to be separate from theirs. In other words, we have to watch Paw Patrol and listen to I’m A Little Teapot and read Goodnight Moon and playdates at the park during the day, and if we want to do the things we like or need to do, it’s gotta be when the kids aren’t around. So, in the little years, we drop pursuits such as art and reading and exercise and prayer and personal Bible study and spending meaningful time with others. Or, we find someone to watch the kids so we can do some of those things. More likely, we tend to grow a little resentful towards our children for all the limitations they’ve put on us in this season of life. We firmly put a cap on our family size so we can get back to a sense of normalcy.
I don’t think this has to happen!
Our interests and our children don’t have to be exclusive of each other.
All the time I’m seeing the poor thinking on my part that is robbing myself and my kids of enrichment. Because the truth is, most of the things I need and want to do for my personal health and growth (and ministry!) can happen with my kids, even when they're 4, 3, and 1. Here are some examples:
Media - I’ve always had a rule about this and it’s been quite helpful for us: If I don’t personally enjoy whatever my kids are watching or listening to, my kids don’t need it either. We want to consume things that are well-made, pleasing to the senses, and instrumental in our growth. And I want to join them as they watch things. If TV must be a babysitter, I try to at least fold laundry and watch with them so I can ask them what they learned. (Wild Kratts is awesome, and Prince of Egypt is our go-to movie.) If we’re going to listen to silly songs in the car, I want to pick music that I find amusing as well. (Slugs and Bugs is such a Godsend for this.) We read a lot of books because they are well-illustrated, well-written, thought-provoking books that I truly enjoy reading. I get excited when we pull out Farewell to Shady Glade or One Smart Cookie or Nurse, Soldier, Spy.
Crafts - I’m not particularly good at art, but I’m a human made in God’s image, so it’s healthy and delightful to me when I express myself creatively. I used to think I could only do that when I have “free time,” but I found my “free time” being absorbed by cleaning up the kids’ art supplies. (They’re absolutely crazy about art, especially after I got rid of almost all their toys.) So then I realized, why can’t I just craft with them? I remember how much I loved coloring with my mom; she outlined the edges with darker crayon and colored lightly—perfectly—inside the lines. In the same way, my kids love watching me do paint and draw and sculpt and use washi tape. I have about 4th-grade-level skills, but my kids act like I’m making masterpieces. They’re getting guidance about how to be better artists, and I’m getting practice and learning too. Plus, we use our best art to display or give away, so it’s a productive and worthy activity.
Exercise - This one is new for me as I try to figure out how to exercise. I don’t want the kids watching my exercise videos because the camera zooms in on the bodies of the athletes, and my son doesn’t need to be staring at a lady’s six-pack and perfectly toned butt. But a friend told me that she finds time to exercise by playing with her kids. I might not have time to run on a treadmill but I can play tag. Going to yoga is a laughable idea in this season, but I can play Twister. (When my son is in charge of the spinner, he takes his time watching it spin and calling out the commands and I’m holding the poses for awhile. My daughter, on the other hand, makes up commands quite quickly and says “One foot on red, one hand on green, two feet on blue, two feet on green, one hand on yellow” and I get more of an aerobic exercise, ha!)
Reading - One of my favorite memories growing up was “Reading Circle,” and I wish I would’ve participated more often. My mom would summon my brother and I to the family room and we would all read our own books. (She and my brother still do that, but now it’s Reading Line Segment since I’m not there. They're so dorky and I love it.) Since the kids don’t read on their own yet, we can’t do this, but I permit reading during lunchtime, and when the kids are playing outside I like to sit on an exercise ball in the yard and read while I lightly supervise. If my husband isn’t in the mood to talk while we’re driving, I’ll read in the car. We’re making it work. I’ve got to make reading a priority, because my whole family benefits as I become wiser and more knowledgeable through books.
Time with My Friends - One of my resolves since becoming a parent has been “Don’t only hang out with other moms, and certainly don't only talk about motherhood!” Frankly, mommy talk is so boring and it would drive me to madness if all I talked about was naptime schedules and growth chart progress and ballet class. Indeed, it can be helpful to discuss these things with others (I can't imagine how frustrated I'd be if I never got advice from other moms about some of these boring but pressing issues), and of course I care about how my friends’ kids are doing, but that can’t be it. My goal every time I’m hanging out with others is “explosive with joy.” I want our time to be rich. So, when we’re sitting around the table, I can ask my friends questions and my kids can listen in. I can say “Stephen, Ms. April was just telling me about this awesome opportunity she had to talk to somebody about Jesus” or “Piper, you should ask Ms. Lauren what she did today! It was so cool!” Of course there are private matters that my friends wouldn’t want my kids to hear, but so much of our conversation is edifying to my children. And my children can be edifying to my friends and me!
Prayer - The biggest spiritual discipline to take a hit since I left my single life has definitely been prayer. In my pride I have considered other pursuits more urgent than private prayer—seriously, I almost never ever do it—but I always have so much more joy when I’m depending on God and seeing Him work powerfully in the ways I ask Him to move. Several months ago we had some time to kill before we left for our church gathering, and my heart was really heavy for some things. Then I realized that I didn’t have to put the kids in front of a TV so I could go pray. I could just invite them to pray with me. So we got on our knees and begged of God. Why can’t we just do that all the time? Mealtime and bedtime prayers don’t have to be cheesy rhyming repetition and they don’t have to be the only times we pray. We can beg God to change the hearts of ISIS, we can ask Him to lead our arrogant and self-seeking president, we can ask Him to encourage our friends who are having a hard time, we can praise Him for being so wonderful and letting us partake in beautiful things He has made.
Serving Others - We have not been exemplary in this so for now I will just share examples I’ve heard from moms I admire. One family would visit a particular nursing home every other Friday to play music and spend time with the residents. I was amazed watching a 16-year-old and a 5-year-old sit with an elderly woman and ask her questions. Another family makes it a point to give thoughtful little tokens of thanks to their garbage collectors, postal carriers, etc. And foster care, of course, involves the whole family. In this season it probably wouldn’t be helpful if I brought my very-young-and-not-quite-obedient kiddos to a soup kitchen, but as a family we can welcome hurting and lonely people into our home. Who cares if they use language we don’t use or have lifestyles we don’t encourage? It didn’t phase Jesus when he hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. We can just have conversations with our children before and after about varying worldviews and matters of the heart.
Other hobbies - Whether it’s baking, gardening, hiking, or origami, chances are that with a little bit of sacrifice and flexibility, you don’t need to give those things up when you become a parent. (Obviously interests such as welding and motocross cannot be done with children, ha.) In fact, if your passions bleed into your kids’ passions, they’ll be better off for it. And who knows, they might have a major underlying talent! By abstaining from a busy schedule, not having too much stuff, or refusing to obsess over appearances, it’s amazing how much we can be freed up to learn and grow and enjoy. Pleasure is God’s idea and it’s a good one. Have fun, do the stuff you love, and welcome your children into it! :)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today