MOPS International President Sherry Surratt and Jean Daly discuss common fears that mothers face, offering encouragement to struggling moms and practical suggestions for how they can overcome their fears with God's help. (Part 1 of 2)
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Jim Daly: Sherry, what does it take to be a brave mom?
Sherry Surratt: You know, for me, I have a picture in my mind of just like the verse in Isaiah says, "That God will hold your hand." And I think that's the picture of a brave mom. It's not a mom who does things perfectly or never has fear. It's a mom that knows she needs to hold God's hand through being a mom.
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John Fuller: Well, I hope that's an encouraging word for you from our guest today on "Focus on the Family." If you've ever felt more fearful than fearless along this mothering journey, you're not alone and I think you'll find some words of hope today on our program. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and we're gonna help you tackle some of your fears so you can live more bravely.
Jim: John, it seems that worry and motherhood go hand in hand and I am looking forward to today's program, because I think for husbands, we need to better understand what's ticking in our wife's head and heart when it comes to the parenting challenges that they face as women and I think we're gonna all discover some great things today.
You know, the Bible says also in Isaiah—Sherry mentioned Isaiah—"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, 'Fear not. I am the One who helps you." And I think today our goal is to help moms not be as fearful—
Jim: --but to be optimistic, more optimistic about God's control in their life.
John: Well, and I appreciate what you said, Jim about guys leaning in and listening along, because I just don't live in the same emotional space as my wife (Laughter) and it's really important to understand, as you said, her head and her heart, particularly when it comes to the children.
So, we have a couple of guests joining us. Sherry Surratt is the CEO and president of MOPS-Mothers of Preschoolers International. And she's written a book called Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears and then Jim, you decided it would be a good idea to invite somebody else into the studio.
Jim: Well, it was so last minute, but I asked Jean, my wife, to jump in, which I have done from time to time, but as I read your book, Sherry, I thought of my wife. I thought Jean would love to participate in this, so, Jean, welcome.
Jean Daly: Well, thank you.
Jim: And Sherry, welcome.
Sherry: Thank you.
Jim: And it's good to have both of you here.
Jim: Well, let's start off with your book, Sherry. You talk about the Brave Mom. You identified five top fears and Jean, I know that you took a look at the material, as well. Talk about what they are and let's dig in on a couple of 'em.
Sherry: Yeah, we asked moms everywhere the question, "What keeps you up at night? What do you worry [about] the most as a mom?" And they were very honest. They shared a lot of great stories with us, but the No. 1 top fear was really not about their children, but about them. They worried, am I enough of a mom? Will I have enough money? Will I have enough wisdom? Will I have enough parenting skill? Will I have the emotional strength to be able to handle everything that is ahead? And you know, with all the pressures, all the things that moms have to deal with just in being a mom, it's really not surprising, but moms told us that's the thing they worry about the most is themselves.
Jim: Did you feel that, Jean?
Jean: Absolutely and I think that was a very large part in why I needed to wait so long to start trying to have children. I didn't consider myself a fearful person and yet, I was very much afraid of having children, of I think all of those things, just not living up to the standard that I felt I needed to live up to and the fear of what might happen to my children. And I really had to get to a point. I mean, there was a day where I felt like I was opening my fist to the Lord with an open hand and saying, "Okay, I trust You and I trust You in this and motherhood and raising children."
Jim: Sherry, that's not uncommon today. I mean, you're the president of MOPS—Mother[s] of Preschoolers—so you're dealing with 20-, 30-something-age women.
Jim: There's a lot of fear in them about being that mom or even having children. Describe that environment for us today.
Sherry: You know, a mom as she looks forward to her first child, she's very excited, but then as Jean said, you know, somewhere along the line it hits you, oh, my goodness. They're gonna let me take this baby home from the hospital. They have no idea that I don't know what I'm doing.
I remember thinking that myself. You know, they're wheeling me out with our first son, Michael, in the wheelchair and I'm holding Mike and I really expected maybe the baby police to sneak out around the corner and say—
Jim: And arrest you.
Sherry: --"Lady, hand over the baby. You don't know what you're doin'," because I really did not. And even though we had gone through some parenting classes, I still did not feel fully equipped for all the things in my head that I thought could possibly happen. And that's, I think, what really drove us to write this book, is we know that moms deal with fear and we really want to call that out. We want to say, you know what? Let's just admit it. Let's not pretend it away.
Let's figure out what are the things that we can do to face our fears as a mom? And moms have just been so honest with us and resonated. "I stay up at night. I worry. I wake up in the middle of night. I know I worry about crazy things." It's kind of like gettin' on a crazy train and you know, goin' to crazy town and it doesn't have to be that way.
Jim: Yeah, let me ask you both this question. How much does that fear connect to the desire to control? In other words, that fear is so big, so in order to mute the fear in your heart, you want to control the environment.
Jim: The funny outcropping of that is, you know, Jean and I will talk about whether the boys need to wear bicycle helmets goin' down the driveway. Jean would say (Laughter), "Absolutely."
Jim: I would say, "Really?" Now I know people are gonna write and say, "Wait a second, Jim." (Laughter)
Sherry: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: "Jean's right." I know.
Sherry: Yeah, you're gonna get lots of letters.
Jim: They could fall off the driveway and you know, I know all that, but it seems like that fear factor, there are less humorous aspects of that, as well, but in order to compensate for fear, moms can tend to control or over-control.
Sherry: Absolutely, you know, I didn't know what a control freak I really was until I had my first child and then I wanted to manipulate all of the circumstances. I wanted to control the germs, control their friends, control everyone that they were around and that's really, I think that's human nature. I think that's normal. I think that's opposite of really what God is calling us to do as a mom.
Jim: Oh, man.
Sherry: I think God is calling us to step into the fact that we will never be a perfect mom, but we already are the perfect mom for our children, because God gave them to u and He knows what we can do. He knows what our limitations are and that verse in Isaiah, I think that's really what that's all about, is God is holding out His hand to me and I can hold His hand, knowing that He will carry me through my own imperfections. I don't have to worry about controlling every aspect of the environment.
Jim: Has that been a struggle for you, Jean?
Jean: Absolutely and I, you know, over the years I say only slightly in jest, that I've wanted to put my kids in cages and let them out when it's time to go to college or maybe even after that or you know, try to keep them completely safe, completely protected from the world and it's impossible to do and yet, we try. And I think—
Jean: --Sherry, did you find in your research, you know, I think it seems like this is very generational, that our parents weren't as controlling and we would walk to school. It was just a very—
Jim: Play in the park--
Jean: --absolutely, that we feel like we need to control every aspect of our children's lives.
Sherry: And you know, I think TV and social media has a lot to do with that. We hear of the bad things that happen. We hear it immediately. If a child is bullied at school, it's on the news. If a child is abducted, it's all over the news and so, we're faced with it a little bit more, but I agree with you, Jean. You know, growing up, my parents really were not concerned if I was wearing a helmet when I was (Laughing) riding my bike or I wasn't in a car seat.
Jim: Just make it home by dinner.
Sherry: Yeah, exactly (Laughter), exactly and it really is a different world and I think those safety precautions are very important, but I also think it causes us to be sometimes hyper-vigilant with our worry. Oh, my goodness, I have to have not just a car seat, but the exact right type of car seat.
Sherry: And if I don't, I'm gonna just really worry about that and you know, my husband said something to me not too long ago. Even when your children are older, you still worry about them. I don't think you ever stop and I was laying [sic] in bed, woke up in the middle of the night, woke Jeff up and I said, "I don't know where Brittany is. I know she was out driving late and you know, is she okay?" And he said these words: "How about if you let it go?" And it was just freeing. He wasn't telling me, "Shame on you for worry," he just said, "You know what? Let's take a vacation from our worries for just this evening. Let's just hand it over to God and let's just trust that God's gonna have her in His big hand."
Jim: Well, talk about that dynamic a bit, because I think men tend to think differently. We're wired differently--
Jim: --and we compartmentalize. Sometimes that's a benefit; sometimes that's a detriment. It's just the differences in the two genders.
Jim: And I think one of the conflicts you can have perhaps when your husband said, "Just let it go," the spouse might respond, "How could you say that?"
Jim: "How could you say just let it go?"
John: You don't care.
Jim: Yeah, 'cause that is communicating you don't care enough. I'm the one that cares--
Jim: --'cause I'm the one full of fear here—
Sherry: Yeah (Laughing).
Jim: --and you're not. What's the problem?
Sherry: You know, I think especially for moms who do deal with fear and we all do, I think it's important to have that common voice in your life, who can bring reason, who can kinda talk you off the crazy ledge sometimes of fear. And for me, that is my husband. He worries himself and he really does understand my fears, but there are moments when I need him to say, "Sherry, let's let it go together."
Jim: (Laughing) And say it with a smile on your face.
Sherry: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: That's a good reminder.
Sherry: And it's very comforting.
Jim: Sherry, you talk in your book, Brave Mom about the ugly stepsisters—
Jim: --to fear. What are they?
Sherry: Oh, anxiety and worry and you know, we really do deal with those. I think our thoughts can lead us down certain paths that we really don't want to go, but if we don't kind of take a firm handle on it, there we go down that path and it really knocks us over into just really being afraid.
And you know, if we don't talk about it, if we just keep those thoughts to ourselves. Our fears can get blown up much huger than real life, than they really are and that's why I really think it's important to talk about that, so that the ugly stepsisters of worry and anxiety don't take over and that, you know, continuing down that path of just letting yourself be overwhelmed with worry can lead to depression and lead to actually getting sick in your body, because it can just take over.
Jean: Well, and Sherry, I read in your book that as mothers of young children, I actually was affirmed in reading that many other moms worry that their children are going to die of a disease.
Jean: I thought I was just crazy. I was convinced that one of our children was probably going to die young of leukemia.
Jim: This is the first I've actually heard that.
John: Oh, my. (Laughter)
Jean: Oh, my goodness and I read that many mothers have that fear, that our children are going to die young.
Sherry: Yeah and you know, I think this is where Satan comes in. I think Satan really wants to trap us in shame and you know, the fact that you just said, that's one of the things you worried about and your husband didn't know that you were—
Sherry: --worried about it, we hide it. We keep it inside and then Satan can come in and say, "You shouldn't be worried about that. Shame on you" and we feel shame. We feel crazy for even saying it and that's really what this book is really about, is let's put the shame aside. Let's not let Satan have a hold on us. Let's just state it. Let's talk about what we're worried about and as we do, it kind of brings our fear down to size.
I remember being on a plane with my husband and the plane was bouncin' around and I was really worried and he said, "Oh, this is just turbulence." And you know, with that one word of naming it, it helped me kind of bring it down. Yes, this is just turbulence. The pilot knows what he's doin', even though inside I'm thinkin', the pilot doesn't know what he's doing. (Laughter) And sometimes naming it and just saying, "I worry about my child getting health issues that I won't be able to control" and talking to another mom who says, "Me, too," kinda brings it down to size.
Jim: Well, and Sherry, you want to be sensitive to those that go through that.
Jim: My nephew did have cancer as a young boy, so it impacted our family, as well. There are those situations where it happens.
Jim: Is it that mommy talk that then it may happen to me? Is that what creates that kind of fear that Jean was experiencing?
Jim: 'Cause it's out there and she knows somebody who knows somebody?
Sherry: Yeah, absolutely, we hear of it and those fears are real and you know, when we talk about overcoming your fear, that doesn't mean that it's not real. There are real things that happen out there that are really, really hard to withstand, but I think you know, one of the points of fear is, is don't be alone in your fear. Reach out.
As we do hear things that strike fear in our heart, maybe from another mom, then I think we can find people in our life who can be that reaffirming voice to reassure us, "Yep, this is hard, but we're gonna get through this together."
Jim: Sherry, what does it sound like to define and name our fear? You mention that, but what does that look like? I mean, I can think of a few in my mind. I'm sure, Jean, you're thinking and John. How do you call out those fears and name them?
Sherry: You know, sometimes I can feel a general sense of anxiety, a worry, a fear about something and I haven't given myself time to really think about what is it that I am afraid of? With our fears, when we can name it and I really recommend saying it out loud to someone, "I am worried about my child getting their driver's license and driving. I'm worried about them being in a car accident." To be able to say it like that and talk to another mom who can say, "Me, too and here's what I did," and help you kind of talk it through, but then form a strategy for your thoughts, to be able to kind of being it down to size and—
Sherry: --and that's what stating it does.
Jim: --and you talk in the book about something you called "the laundry sort" in doing—
Jim: --that. What did that mean? I mean, I got an idea, but what did you mean by "laundry sort" your fears?
Sherry: Yeah, you know, some thoughts will come to your mind and they are crazy. They are not helpful.
Jim: Are those the darks or the lights?
Sherry: These (Laughter) yeah, those are the discards, you know. When I talk about doing a laundry sort, sometimes I will through the laundry basket, pick through things and I'll think, "Why am I holding onto this tattered thing? This does not need to be laundered. I need to just throw it away."
Such it is with our thoughts. Sometimes crazy thoughts will come to our mind like, "My child is going to get in a car accident." No, it's possible; that is not probable. That thought needs to be cast over your shoulder and thrown away and next time it knocks on your door, you need to say, "No, I'm not gonna think about that. I'm not gonna entertain it.
There are thoughts that are really worthy thoughts though. Thinking on a Scripture, a verse, an encouraging thing that a friend told you, that's a thought that needs to be taken care of, just like we care for a prized garment. We wash it carefully. We hang it up. We take care of it. Those encouraging thoughts need to be savored.
And I remind myself often, I want to be a Philippians chapter 4 girl. I want to think on the things that are good and the things that are true and the things that are honest. I do not want to think about the things that are ridiculously scary, that carry my head off into panic and worry and anxiety.
Jean: Well, and Sherry, I saw something in your book that I thought was very helpful, "probable versus possible."
Jean: And it would go along with this, but that, you know, our son was going to die young, well, that really wasn't probable.
Jean: And can you talk about that a little bit. I think that's very helpful.
Sherry: Isn't it interesting that research says that upwards of 98 percent of what we worry about never happens.
Jim: Ninety-eight percent.
Sherry: Ninety-eight percent and we worry; we worry; we worry and I look back on just the last couple of weeks something that I was concerned about and now that I look back on it, I think, why was I so worried about that? Probable versus possible, the things that are likely to happen are, you know, we build those up in our head. Your child is most likely not going to get a serious disease or be in a serious accident. Yes, those things do happen, but you kinda need to talk yourself through that and say, "Yeah, it's possible, not probable." That means it could happen; it's probably not going to."
John: Well, I hope that offers some perspective for you if you're worried about a lot of different things in your child's life and our guests are Sherry Surratt and Jean Daly. This is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and you can find out more about this topic of being a Brave Mom and Sherry's book by that title, as well as the CD or download of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Sherry, let me ask you this. One of the most common fears is the fear of measuring up. It's one that your book, Brave Mom identified. Talk about that fear, because it's got so much in it, the fear of not measuring up. I think men have that same fear in—
Jim: --the same way, but talk about it in a mommy perspective. What does not measure up look like?
Sherry: Yeah, you know, many moms, it's easy to look at another mom and say, "Oh, she does that so much better." "Oh, she's got everything all together." And we compare ourselves with other moms. Comparisons are so dangerous, because we usually will come up lacking when we compare ourselves with another mom.
But I think, you know, there's that outside standard of comparing ourselves with someone else. There's also the standard we put on ourselves of, "I need to be this kind of mom." And no one else is really saying that, but we're saying it to ourself [sic].
Sherry: And so, when we don't measure up to who we think we oughta be, we condemn ourselves and again, I think that's where Satan comes in. I think he really messes with our thoughts and tells us to keep it quiet, keep it secret, so that he can build it up in our head. Oh, you are not a good enough mom. You need to be better. Shame on you for being like that. And then he'll direct our eyes to someone else and say, "Look at her. She's so much better. You'll never be that good of a mom.
You know, when I hear those voices, I remind myself, that is not God talking to me. God does not want me to feel inadequate, to be fearful, to feel like I'm not enough. Those voices are straight from the pit of hell. That's Satan talking to me. He wants to get me in a corner where I feel so insecure and so inadequate that I don't know what to do and that's what's so dangerous about comparing yourself to someone else, another mom or putting a standard on yourself that is unrealistic.
Jim: How would a friendship with moms, I mean, of course, you're running MOPS—
Jim: --so those are friendship with mothers of preschoolers, but and Jean, I'm sure you do this with your network of friends, when you get together, how do you lean into encouraging each other, rather than comparing to each other.
Jean: Well, and I will say, really the one thing that occurs that I feel can cause other moms in my life, other women in my life to really compare has been some of our Christmas parties--
Jean: -- and we've done this for some of the Focus on the Family staff and I will just knock myself out, exhaust myself decorating the house.
Jim: But you enjoy it, too; there's this balance. That was I was getting at, there's a …
Jean: Well, there is, but I think it was perhaps even after the last party, Christmas party and I like, you know, the house looked perfect, because it was the visible parts of it—
Jean: --were incredibly clean. People thought I had called in a company to come decorate and everything was so wonderful and perfect. And I really took pause afterwards and didn't feel good about that and thought, I know that there's women who walked in who thought, "That's how I live my life 365 days a year and it's not.
Jean: And it's not and I'd actually been intentional about that when I've had girlfriends come to my house. I realize, we were all doing that to one another. We'd clean up before and of course, you want your house to look great when—
Jean: --people are coming over, but it's not reality for most of us.
Jean: And what's behind those closed doors and the piles of laundry and all the toys and I started making a conscious effort of not making the house look perfect before my friends came over—girlfriends with their children—because it wasn't reality and I didn't want to set up that comparison.
Jean: But I think we have to be very intentional about that.
Sherry: And I think that's one of the best gifts that you can give your girlfriends is to just have … to be real and let them see and I think that's very related to fear. Many times we pretend, you know, oh, our life is perfect. There's nothing that's worrying me. I've got this under control, when inside we are struggling.
And you know, as it is with our house, I mean, let's get real. There are many times when my house looks like a bomb went off and you know what? It's that same thing with everyone else and we have to feel like we have to clean up and get everything so right and you know, I think there's a big question that we can ask ourselves, is why?
Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we feel like we need to have things so perfect? And are we really trying to impress and give a false impression of ourselves? Or can we be real enough to let someone in and really see how we are and admit our fear and let them see what our life is really like?
John: Sherry, there was something that you mentioned earlier that it's still stuck in my mind. You said something to the effect of, "You're the perfect mom for your children."
John: And I suddenly, my mind just raced through a catalogue of friends' faces and I thought, so many of those women hear what you're saying. They can't believe it.
John: So, how do they get from, "I don't feel that," to the truth that you just expressed?
Sherry: Yeah, you know, I think, you know, in our heads we can kind of know we're never gonna do everything perfectly, but really the reality is, God is the One who came up with the idea of kids in a family and a mom and a dad. And if God decided, you know what, these children need to be in your family, then He's already equipped you as a mom to be able to handle what's gonna come up
And here's the deal. While you will never be a perfect mom, you really are the perfect mom for your children, but that does not mean that your kids are gonna be perfect. Your children are going to make mistakes. They're gonna tell lies. They're going to be belligerent and rebellious and all kinds of different things and us as moms, we will take that on as, "Well, it's because I'm not a good enough mom." Or "I'm a failure as a mom."
And I really think we need to keep the long view of parenting in mind. It's easy to take a snapshot of today, when that child that just rolled their eyes at us, that child that just came home and said, they're droppin' out of school or you know, things like that. It's easy for us to look at that and go, "Well, here I am, biggest failure of a mom there ever was."
No, we need to take the long view and while we're holding God's hand, trust that things are working in that child's heart and that we're going to continue to be faithful as a mom. That's really what a brave mom does, is in the face of things that are not going well, we say, "We will not give up. We're gonna hold God's hand. I'm gonna trust that God has this under control, even though I don't see how He has that under control.
Jim: Sherry, I want to start there next time, if we can keep rollin' and come back and talk about that, 'cause I think there's a lot that we can discover together—
Jim: --when it comes to trusting God for your children. I think that's a hard area, not only for moms, but for dads, too, but we want to talk about it from a mom's perspective.
Today we talked about a lot of fears and I want to come back next time and also talk about those things that are so wonderful within motherhood for you to have hope for what you're doing there. You know, someone the other day mentioned to me, John, you think of moms, women, our spouses, our wives, who nurture life within their body, give birth to these children—
Jim: --nurture these children with their body and it's a beautiful thing that God has done. There is something so special about motherhood and I like what you're saying, Sherry, is to not be fearful. God has made you the mom for your kids. I love that line. Can you stick with us and come back?
Sherry: I sure will. Thank you.
Jim: Let's do that.
John: And of course, we'll have Jean Daly with us then and if you've resonated with this conversation today and you often feel more fearful than fearless, then get a copy of this broadcast on CD or download and a copy of Sherry's book, as well called Brave Mom. Those will help you understand the root of your fears and they'll give you some tools and some Scriptures to alleviate those fears. That's also a great book by the way to read with a friend, so you can have some conversation points and find out together about those fears and shine a light on them. Ask about Sherry's book, Brave Mom and a CD of this program when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio for more.
And of course, you've heard our heart today to help you as a mom. It's our desire to build stronger, healthier, God-honoring families and last year alone, moms and dads in more than 660,000 households said Focus on the Family helped them be better parents. Now if you believe in that kind of a mission, please know we need your prayers and we also need your financial support. We're a not-for-profit organization, relying on the generosity of friends like you and because of your partnership, we can reach hundreds of thousands of families around the world with hope and encouragement. Please donate today when you call 800-A-FAMILY and when you do, ask for a copy of Brave Mom. It's our thank-you gift for your generosity.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for joining us and inviting you back tomorrow. We'll have more encouragement to help you and your family thrive.
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Sherry SurrattView Bio
Sherry Surratt is President and CEO of MOPS International. She is the author of three books: Brave Mom, Beautiful Mess and Just Lead! Sherry and her husband, Geoff, reside in Denver and have two children and two grandchildren.
Jean DalyView Bio
Jean Daly became a Christian in 2nd grade and rededicated her life to Christ at 17. She attended the University of California at Davis and earned her degree in Biology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Jean has been married to her husband, Jim, since 1986; they have two boys.