This is post #5 in the series: How to Find your Way as a Stay-at-Home Mom
With all the “shoulds” and “oughts” rolling around our mom brains, we need a place to receive grace for the journey. Friends who allow us to relax instead of posture. A mom group that allow us to connect deeply with other moms and to open up in vulnerability instead of hiding behind a “got-it-together” mask. Companions who nurture our souls and offer a safe place to confess the daily struggles. The thing is, it’s not always easy to find these kinds of mom groups.
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. Sometimes we can create our own play groups or mom groups with local friends. It is so comforting to just be a part of a community that simply knows what you are going through and is going through it with you. But sometimes these groups also contain some unwelcome elements.
Judgment and comparison easily creep into the mix and if left unchecked can create a toxic, posturing environment. But let’s be honest, we each have a tendency to 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 rears its ugly head.
Nurturing a Grace-Filled Group
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 hard to create a grace-filled group 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 others 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 exhaustion, anger, or inadequacy. As difficult as it might be to bare these emotions, we will quickly discover that we aren’t alone.
Acceptance of our differences
A grace-filled group accepts the choices each mom makes for her own mothering journey. It acknowledges that there are many good ways to parent and raise our children. Grace-filled 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
Fixing is such a knee jerk reaction for me. I want to help when I hear that a friend of mine is having a hard time. But too often I jump to conclusions, or feel eager to share what worked for me, and I don’t fully listen to my friend’s story. 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 well, shows empathy, and helps a mom to listen to her own voice to discern what her family or children may need.
Let the Grace Start with You
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.
I would love to hear about your experiences with mom groups. What are some of the best elements of a grace-filled mom group you have experienced? Share with me in the comments.