Thursday, November 15, 2012

Church After Baby (Lesson 18)

This is a post that has been brewing in me for some time now; but, something always stops me from actually writing it out.  Part of it is the fact that people I love and respect from my church in real life read this.  (As if they haven't noticed that things have been different since Sam.)  But, on a deeper level, it is just that admitting that church is hard these days makes me feel guilty, like a little bit of a failure at this whole "raise your child in the way he should go" thing.  (I hate when I am that kind of a Christian - the one who thinks they are defined by what they do or don't do - but old habits die hard, and sometimes I am.)

Anyways, here it is:

Church after baby has been hard for me.  Really hard.

Now that that's out there, let me back up and give a little disclaimer:

Our church family has been nothing but wonderful and supportive to Jeff and I from the moment we found out we were pregnant.  (And well before that too.) They hosted showers, they visited us in the hospital, they brought meals, they have been patient and understanding, and they have loved our boy.  This is NOT about my church.  It is about ME.  Please hear that.

So, with that said...

Back when Sam was first born, I kind-of gave myself a "free pass" with church. You may have heard me say this before (haha), but he wasn't exactly an easy infant.  He wasn't the kind that would sleep in my arms during the service or sit quietly in his stroller in the back of the church.  Getting out of the house was hard enough work; and then church itself was exhausting with all the pacing, bouncing, soothing, and trying to feed him without simultaneously flashing the congregation or having a nervous breakdown. He still felt too young to put in the nursery; so, we let it go, only going to church once in a while.

As he got older, and I felt more comfortable with going out in public, putting him in the nursery, etc,, I expected it to get easier.  But, it was still hard. The challenges were just different.  More selfish, if I'm being honest. I had gone back to work full time, and Sam went to a babysitter at 8AM five days a week. The mornings when we got to stay in our pajamas, drink coffee, and spend time as a family became SO precious. The last thing I wanted to do was spend another morning rushing around the house getting ready and put Sam in someone else's care. Also - and this helped me justify our absence a little more - Sam had finally fallen into a nice napping schedule, with his first nap at 9:30AM.  Church started at ten.

There was something else too.  While our church was literally FULL of babies, I knew only one other working mom there.  This was really hard for me.  I felt left out of the club - you know, the 9AM Bible Studies (which my church doesn't even have) and play dates club.  More than that, I felt jealous.  And guilty. And maybe a little bitter. I felt like no one could relate to what a sacrifice it was for me to get to church on Sundays; and, sometimes I believed the lies that people thought I was less of a mom because I didn't stay home with my baby. (Again, see disclaimer.  Those are LIES.  But, nonetheless, it was the way I felt.)

So, I became an expert at justification. I told myself this was a season, and we'd get back in the groove when it was over.

When it was over...

Well, Sam is sixteen months old now.  I work part-time. But, one season has simply been replaced by another.

Going to church is still hard. (Although, it is getting easier.) It doesn't come naturally for me, and I don't always (although sometimes I do) wake up on Sunday mornings looking forward to church.  These days, now that I am finally feeling more confident and settled as a mom, what makes it hard isn't so much my good "reasons," but more because I've fallen out of the habit.

To be fair, parenthood has been a time of spiritual growth and maturity for me.  I do not feel far away from God.  Quite the contrary.  Motherhood has (in the words of a wise friend) taught me more about Jesus than any book or sermon or Bible study ever could. I know grace, and trust, and surrender more than I ever have.  BUT, and there's always a 'but'...

I believe community IS important.  Raising our children in the church IS a priority for Jeff & me.  Our hopes for Sam, from the very beginning, have been that he would grow up in a community of people that love him, pray for him, and help him to build his own relationship with Christ and love others the way He would.  If I had to write a "mission statement" as a parent, that would be it... I WANT Sam to grow up knowing how important people are to us; seeing that we are NOT selfish with our time.  That we make community and relationships a priority.


So, we move on... I will probably never be the mom at church with her two week old; but, like so many other things in motherhood, I will choose to show myself grace, name the things that are hard, and move forward... one step at a time. :)

Can you relate to this?  Do you have any tips for church after baby?  Do you know a young mom at your church who hasn't been around much lately?  Please reach out to her.  Tell her it's ok.  Tell her she is still a good mom.  THAT is community.  THAT is the church.

P.S.  I'm going to call this Lesson #18.

14 comments:

  1. This is beautiful! People need to pin this post to all their "new mom" or "new baby" boards on Pinterest! Though I didn't struggle with getting to church with a newborn (as a stay-at-home mom I couldn't wait to get out of the house at least once a week!) I did have my struggles: my kid wouldn't take a bottle, so I was also crouched in the handicap bathroom stall nursing my kid with my dress enveloping my shoulders like a giant infinity scarf. Thanks for being so real- like you usually do- but for also showing such grace!

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  2. Church is definitely STREEEEESSSSSSSFUL with a little one! We didn't put Caleb in church nursery til he was about 8.5 months old! People thought we were crazy, and they gave us a hard time; but when I quit worrying about what everyone else thought, a whole lot of things about mommyhood became alot easier! Why are we so hard on ourselves?!
    Quick Note: A couple of the people who gave us such a hard time have since had babies of their own. Their kiddos still aren't in the nursery. ;-)

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  3. It's still hard for me to get to church and I have a 15, 13, 10, and 8 year old... AND I'm on staff. :) But you're right. Having just left a chuch where I was the nursery director, many people didn't bring their children to the nursery until they started becoming a distraction in church and that's okay. :) but you're right. Community IS important. As is reaching out. Great post!

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  4. This is great. I just shared it on my facebook page. Church is really hard, and it just gets more difficult the more kids you have. I'm glad you give yourself some grace! A little grace goes a LONG way!

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  5. What a great post! I am glad that you are able to realize where you and why you feel this way. I do not have a kid (and no where close to it!) but I definitely understand where you are coming from and can relate! You are doing a great job and you have a great perspective on the things in your life :)

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  6. Oh, church is just hard for me in general. Getting two kids ready in the morning and husband doesn't go because he's not a believer (sad face). So it's just wrangling those two boys that get me every time. I didn't go when I had newborns and I can imagine that I just would have skipped it altogether too.

    Don't feel bad.

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  7. I adore your blog, I want you to know that. I think you're funny and great. BUT. I'm not going to tell you it's ok, or help you justify yourself, about church. I think about all of the people in foreign countries who don't have the luxury of being a Christian without fear, who have secret underground churches. I think about the mothers in Africa who carry their children for miles just to go to church. And I think about Christ, who suffered and died for the message he was preaching, and the apostles who were beaten, imprisoned, stoned, and killed, because they were teaching about God. They were sacrificing everything for the faith. Surely it's not that hard to get up on a Sunday morning. Again, I think you're great. I think this is an all-too common rut of Americans and the church.

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  8. while we don't attend church, I can relate in other ways - Trevor has a LARGE extended family and every weekend there seems to be a gathering or favor to help with. I hate being selfish but don't they know that weekends are the only days we have as a family? and that maybe Trev might want to make memories with his children instead if doing a dump run for an aunt or reshingling his gramma's roof?
    I don't know much about belonging to a church, but it seems the beauty is that the community is always there for you.
    And between you and me (and those who read this comment) I could NEVER be a stay-at-home mom (unless I had a nanny so I had time to pursue my own interests). Working is rewarding in more than a financial way - I like telling judgemental moms that "I didn't go to school for 5 years to not use my degree"... it's not that so can't stay home, I choose not to.

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  9. Thanks for posting this. It is a weekly struggle in our house too. My guy does really well at Mass, but getting him there is the difficulty (nap time, feeding time etc etc). I also feel that I don't get as much out of it since I'm constantly making sure he's okay and not distracting everyone else. Ugh! To top it off, my husband works crazy shifts and I'm not brave enough to go unless he's with me!!


    Motherhood definitely has brought me much closer to the Lord. Thankfully He is full of grace and forgiveness, and I'm sure He understands why we're not at Mass every week.

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  10. I can so relate to what you said about feeling left out of the club. Most of my friends from my before kids days are stay at home moms. Most of the other mother of young children in our church are stay at home moms. It feels lonely a lot. But, as anonymous stated so well above church is still important. When I miss church, I feel off all week long. When I miss church a couple weeks in a row, I really start to feel off. Hang in there, it gets better :0

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  11. First, I'm not the Anonymous who commented earlier...

    Thank you for writing this. My kids are older and it is still a big struggle--last Sunday in particular. Being a working mom, I often feel like no one understands what I am going through--probably not true and also very self-focused, both are bad things. But I appreciate your honesty and am glad to know we are not alone.

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  12. Thank you for being so honest! I can completely understand where you are coming from. We LOVE spending time relaxing and being together as a family in the mornings:). While church is great, people can always pray even at home and that's really what matters!

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  13. I think as women we are just very hard on ourselves, I know I am - I am a new mom as well. Since May 1st 2010 not to one child but to two my son is 11 years old and my daughter is 9. On May 1st we arrived to NYC with our children from Russia. As far as church and religion we are Roman Catholic and have baptized our children into our faith; both children have received their first Holy Communion as well, they both attend religion studies once a week and on occasion when "mom" needs to be centered we attend church it's not once a week but we do go. They are well behaved older children so I have no excuse except that I am a full time working mom and so over-whelmed! Why? Because of me that's why I put the pressure on me- on Sunday mornings I cook for the week and after the kitchen is cleaned and I am dressed well it is nice to just relax....Truthfully I have to thank you because you rminded me of the importance of faith; the spirit of grace and the ability to include God into my life I will make sure that I will attend church! Thank you!

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  14. Okay, so I just found your blog via Pinterest....and I can't find any more "lessons." It looks like they atop here at number 18. As someone who is pregnant with her first child, I don't have any family, mom, sisters, aunts, grandma, or anyone to tell me what this is going to be like, so I've begun reading blogs. All day long I read what strangers think I need to know about being a first time mom....and it helps! I feel less nervous and more prepared to face this thing. But of all the articles I've read, all the blogs I've bookmarked yours is by far my favorite, and this string of posts has been amazing. I know its over a year since your last one, but would you please consider finishing it? [You promised 31 posts ;) ]
    Thank you, you are wonderful.

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Your comments are what makes this thing fun! I LOVE to hear from you and do my best to respond to everyone! THANK YOU!


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