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Hillary Chan is raising 3 kids under 5 in Singapore, where a majority of moms remain part of the workforce.
But she’s chosen to go against the cultural norms. She left a satisfying job to immerse herself full time in the lonely world of diapers, nap-times, and child’s play.
In a small town south of Pittsburgh, health issues forced Liz Gossner to scale back her work and church leadership activities after the birth of her second child. She’s since faced loneliness and confusion, and a sense that life is out of control.
Caz Boer, a mom of 3 kids under 8 in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, struggled to keep pace with the unspoken expectation of being a ‘super-mum.’ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome only made this more difficult, especially with the amount of daily to-do’s that accompany an infant.
Though these 3 women live in vastly different places, their ambitions are strikingly similar. They’re Christians who want to continue making a difference in others’ lives, while navigating the exhausting world of mothering young children.
Maybe you share a similar story. If so, how can you have a ministry when motherhood rules your life?
It may not feel like it when you’re changing diapers or making endless portions of mac and cheese, but motherhood is one of the most significant ways anyone influences the life of another.
Children are the most lasting and meaningful disciples parents have, and every day with them is an eternal investment. Embracing this truth has helped these moms temper expectations that they “should be doing more.”
Some moms will feel they have the capacity to be involved in ministry outside their home and raise small children at the same time. Some won’t. The point is comparisons will rarely be helpful for either of those groups. Motherhood can be an all-encompassing role, but it shouldn’t solely define any woman’s identity.
Most moms will find that their capacity fluctuates depending on which season of parenthood they are in.
Many women who leave careers to stay at home full time struggle with the loss of what they felt was influential, purposeful activity. Instead of conversing with colleagues over important projects, they manage toddler crises like who stole which toy from whom.
Hillary was able to move through this transition when she came across sources, not just Christian ones, emphasizing the lasting importance of children bonding with parents.
“I did some work for an early-child development agency in Singapore,” she says. “They said the most important thing in the first 3 years is to spend more time with their parents and grow that bond.”
According to the World Health Organization, early childhood development is considered to be the most important phase in life. Interpersonal stimulation and nurture are regarded as critical elements in the development of children, and moms who stay at home are an ideal source of both.
Liz is also learning to value her influential role in her kids’ lives.
“A lot of families expect the church to teach their kids, and [kids] are missing what they need to learn from their parents. My mission field can also be at home,” she says.
Loneliness and isolation from other adults is a reality moms face daily. Finding places to be known and understood, and to interact with peers, is vital if this phase of life is going to be about more than surviving.
Hillary is involved in Cru Singapore’s Homemakers ministry. Women meet weekly in small groups, often during school hours, to share life’s struggles and grow in their faith.
Caz is mentored by an older mom who helps her understand how to prioritize her time and balance her priorities.
Liz is involved with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), a Christ-centered organization that partners with local churches to invest in moms of young children.
“Moms have high expectations of ourselves and our families, and when things don’t go that way, we feel like a failure,” says Liz. “Hearing from other moms who go through the same struggles lifts some of that burden.”
Many churches offer programs like MOPS and Homemakers. FamilyLife, a Cru ministry, provides connection points as well through regular conferences and their HomeBuilders small groups that meet all across the country.
The time demands and lack of routine associated with raising toddlers can leave many moms feeling like they have little time for anything else.
So how can an exhausted mom even consider ministering outside of her family?
It’s essential that as a mom you don’t feel you have to do something more. But for those seeking opportunities beyond their home, creativity can be key.
Last year, after some encouragement from her Homemakers group leader, Hillary took a step of faith by talking about her beliefs with the 80 guests at her daughter’s first birthday party. She placed Scripture verses at each table and shared the story of how her experiences of God inspired the name they had chosen for her daughter.
Caz recognizes the little opportunities that are present each day. Driving to school, she talks with her kids about how they can encourage friends who are struggling. She and her kids have reached out to neighbors in simple ways, like taking flowers to an elderly woman down the street. Their family has even stayed with a missionary family during a trip overseas, to expose her kids to the idea of global missions.
You may not have the time or energy to volunteer outside the home. But time-consuming activities that seem like obstacles to ministry may actually be opportunities to share Christ. Through prayer and relying on God, He may lead you to unexpected steps of faith where you can point others to Him.
“Ministry isn’t just a Christian task, done outside your home,” Caz says. “It starts in your changed heart, which can influence your family, and then moves to impact those outside your home.”
Moms, remember that even on days when you feel run over by your kids, the rest of us see you as heroes.
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Though we wish it were so, the reality of life is not always a Cinderella story. But during some difficult days, I learned there was something better than a magic wand to wave away my troubles.
David wanted nothing to do with his wife or marriage.
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