With all the “shoulds” and “oughts” we receive as moms, it is important for us to find a place to receive grace on our journeys. Groups where we can relax instead of posture. Groups that allow us to connect deeply with other moms and to open up in vulnerability instead of hiding behind a “got-it-together” mask. Groups who nurture our souls and offer a safe place to confess the daily struggles. The thing is, these kinds of groups don’t just happen.
The Natural Descent of Mom Groups
There are a plethora of different kinds of moms groups at the ready: MOPS, breastfeeding support groups, mommy-and-me classes, and the list goes on. Some of us create our own play groups or mom groups with local friends. These are so good and helpful for us. But oftentimes we find unwelcome elements in these groups even though they began with such good intentions.
Judgment and comparison easily creep into the mix and if left unchecked can create a toxic, posturing environment. But let’s be honest, we all play a part in this. Our innate need for approval and acceptance tempt us to put on a mask and present only the well put together parts of our stories. Our pride tempts us to judge, if only inwardly, those who don’t do things the way we do them. This mix breeds an environment in which group members return home only to feel “less than” as they compare their weaknesses to the presented strengths of the group. Mom guilt follows quickly after.
What does a Grace-Filled Mom Group Look Like?
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve been a part of a few mom groups where we have been on guard against these things and worked to create grace-filled groups of openness, acceptance, and compassion for one another.
Openness in sharing our struggles
If we want our group to be safe and inviting to others, we need to bring a more complete picture of our reality to the group. Sharing our achievements as a mother and rightfully celebrating them certainly has its place. But if this is the only thing we bring, we present a skewed image of our lives. The danger here is this skewed picture can often be interpreted as the whole story, leaving other moms wondering if they are falling short.
Instead, we need to bravely offer our weaknesses, struggles, and shortcomings too. We need to dare to offer a sense of what’s really going on inside our hearts, whether it be exhaustion, anger, or inadequacy. As difficult as it might be to bare these emotions, we will quickly discover that we aren’t alone.
A grace-filled group accepts the choices each mom makes for her own mothering journey, realizing that there are many good ways to parent and raise our children. These groups avoid the classic mommy debates such as breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, organic vs. not, etc. These friends trust that we are doing the best we can for our families with what we have.
Compassion through listening, not fixing
It is so easy for us to throw out advice without first fully listening to our friend’s story. If advice is solicited then, by all means, we should offer solutions. But many of us may have tried all the things and still feel frustrated. A grace giving group listens, shows empathy, and helps a mom to listen to her own voice to discern what her family or children may need. We need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to offer advice.
Infusing Grace into a Mom Group
Whether you hope to influence a group you currently meet with, or you want to start your own group, don’t expect your friends to initiate the openness and vulnerability you are looking for. This will need to start with YOU! You will need to initiate the grace you hope will characterize the group. As you share your struggles, practice acceptance, and offer compassion you will influence others to do the same.
But, be wise. Start sharing yourself with something small. Don’t start off by sharing your biggest shameful secret. That will overwhelm your friends and could set you up for unnecessary hurt. While practicing openness and vulnerability always carries some risk, trust builds over time and your group can become a safe place to connect more deeply.
I would love to hear about your experiences with mom groups. Have you received grace from other moms? What did that look like? In what other ways can we bring grace into one another lives?