I have the privilege of speaking at a MOPS (MOTHERS OF PRESCHOOLERS) group at our former church in a couple of weeks. As I’ve been thinking about what to say, I’ve been flooded with memories. And I was blogging in my head so I figured I’d write it out. So here it is.
Let’s face it. Mothering is hard. Hollywood makes it look easy. (I mean the kids take care of themselves right?) But the nitty grittiness of being a parent is the most unglamorous job there is. It’s not just the dirty diapers, routines or lack thereof, lost pacifiers and stuffies. It’s much more. The insecurity and fear that you’re doing something wrong. The tape that plays repeatedly in your mind, “You are a bad parent. You will screw your kids up.” The boring endless days. And the days that smack you hard across the face and you think you won’t live to see another one. The laughable thought that you might someday be able to have a conversation with your spouse without a tug on the shirt, someone screaming your name or the constant jabbing in your side, saying, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy…..” (Sheldon does live in my house after all!)
When you think it’s all gone down the toilet with the blankie and iPhone, you have these other days, where your kids play together nicely. No one cries. Or grabs a toy. Sharing rules for those few precious minutes. Kindness breeds peace. You think this is the greatest thing you’ve ever done and been a part of. Then that angelic child decides his brother looks like a cookie and clamps down with razor sharp tiny teeth…And you realize that you will never know your old normal again.
This is why I love MOPS. It provided a couple of hours of sanity every two weeks for me and many other mamas. Some Wednesday mornings it was about throwing (almost literally) the kids in their programs and then running full tilt to the coffee bar and adult conversation. Only women talking, laughing and some crying. Just because they could.
The kiddos were mostly happy in their programs. Even if they cried, they didn’t come get you unless it was desperate. I can’t even begin to thank all those people, mostly retired grandmas and grandpas who volunteered their time so we could take care of our needs for a couple of hours. It was a priceless gift offered with kindness and generosity.
I was introduced to MOPS through another pastor’s wife on staff. We had just barely moved when she invited me to come. I was overwhelmed – an understatement, with a newborn and a wild child of two. I remember other women holding my son, as I sat nearby. Alone for the first time in who knows how long. It spoke peace to my soul.
I remember hearing one speaker talk about her son, who as an adult still didn’t sleep through the night. He wasn’t weird. I remember feeling validated that some kids may never sleep through the night. That’s just the way they are wired. My son wasn’t going to morph into some kind of sleep monster. She was just one in a long line of great speakers who spoke about everything and anything under the sun! (Butchers, bra specialists, therapists, running experts, so many more!)
MOPS was also the catalyst that started my healing journey. I remember watching a DVD about a mom who was brave enough to admit she screamed at her kids. It went way beyond having a bad day. I went to the bathroom and sat in a stall, sobbing. Our leader coming in later, talking to me through that bathroom stall door. Not judging. Not telling me how bad I was. She didn’t tell me to pull it together. She let me know I wasn’t alone. I will never forget that day because it started change that would transform me. Forever.
I remember being given some mini-muffins in a ziplock bag to have on hand when I got hungry while feeding my son in the middle of the night. The care and love offered in the disguise of mini-muffins chock full of health and goodness, stopped me in my tracks. I felt seen. Someone had thought about and baked for me. They weren’t for my son or husband. They were for me. To nourish me. I was blown away.
I met some of my best friends at MOPS. We have weathered many of the child storms together. We have sat in each other’s houses, amidst laundry, walls with smudges and who knows what else on them. I’ve told them to use the upstairs bathroom because that was the best bet on getting a somewhat clean experience. I kid you not. None of it mattered because it went beyond a clean house.
I served on the committee of MOPS with some really great women. I wrote the newsletter for two years. It stretched me. Got me writing again. It helped me to see that there was a person inside the mother, who needed to be seen and heard, now and again. It provided a place where I could give back when I didn’t’ have time for much other ministry.
Finally MOPS was a place of community for me. I was shocked to discover this because I hadn’t really thought about it in those terms. I say that with a great deal of humility. Because the word community and me are at odds at the moment and if you’ve talked to me recently, you heard that message at decibel 100. (That’s another story for another day.) The point? Where I didn’t think community could exist in the real world, I realize I experienced it at MOPS. With a bunch of other mamas who some days were just trying to get their coffee without spilling it. I treasure that experience. We did have our ups and downs too at MOPS, just like any other community. But most weeks we went away refreshed and ready to tackle whatever was thrown at us.
I’m realizing as I remember, that even as our kids get older, moms still need each other. To encourage each other. Laugh together. Cry on each other’s shoulder. Talk out worries and concerns. Have coffee together. Have a safe place to go and know we aren’t alone. My kids are better for it. So am I.
If you aren’t a part of a moms group or a MOPS group, I highly recommend you give it a try. Many churches and community centres offers moms groups or MOPS groups. It may take a couple of phone calls or a quick search on Google but it’s so worth the effort. No Mom is an island!