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 2 of 2)
Sherry Surratt: 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.
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John Fuller: So, what fear especially if you're a mom, do you need to voice, to get out into the open and into the light so you're not captive to worry and to anxiety? We're gonna talk a little bit more today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly about how you can face those fears down and be a Brave Mom. That's, in fact, the title of the book by one of our guests, Sherry Surratt, who is the president of MOPS—Mothers of Preschoolers International—and we also have Jean Daly, Jim, your beautiful wife joining us, as well.
Jim Daly: We do and you know, when I looked at the book and read all the great preparation that the team did, I thought Jean, it'd be good to have her perspective and being a mom of two boys, so I want to welcome both of you back to Focus on the Family.
I so enjoyed the discussion yesterday. I know a lot of moms were helped with what both of you were saying, those fears that you face as a mom, sometimes in silence. You mentioned that last time, Sherry that husbands often don't even know what is going on in the hearts and minds of their wives and I thought that was really good.
I wanted to pick up the conversation where we left off last time and talk about children not being perfect, that there isn't a formula. So often in the Christian community, we are looking desperately for that formula, that if we read 'em Proverbs every day at an early age, they'll have the wisdom they need to make the right choices.
But then the teenage years hit and all of a sudden, those choices aren't so wise and we start filling ourselves with self-doubt. Moms particularly start feeling the weight of that, that the children aren't going in the direction they need to go. Talk about how a mom needs to look to the Lord and manage that.
Sherry: Absolutely, you know, and I think, I've talked with some moms who say, will say things like, "Oh, my child never lies." Or "My child would never do that." And I think, you know, children are human beings and just as we make mistakes, our kids are gonna mess up. Sometimes they're gonna make huge messes and sometimes they're gonna, you know, make small mistakes and I think we need to allow our children to do that.
You know, the point of being a good mom and one of the things I say is, of course, there is no perfect mom to achieve. There is no perfect standard and that great moms don't happen on accident, but they do happen on purpose.
And you know, the deal about working to be a better mom, the point of that is not to produce a perfect child. The point of that is to be able to walk with your child through their mistakes and to be able to be real as a mom and admit to your children, "You know what, I make mistakes, too. And there have been times where I have done things that were not right and here's what I do about that." And that is such a great thing that a mom can do, not panic when her child makes a mistake, but say, my child is human, just like I am and I'm going to be the kind of mom who's gonna stand by them and walk through their mistakes.
Jim: Do you have a specific example where that happened with you and your children, your daughter, your son?
Jim: Was there something that took place that that fear gripped you?
Sherry: Yeah, you know, this is just a small thing, but I think every mom faces this. I got called to school one day when my son was in elementary school and the teacher sat across the desk from my husband and I and she said, "Well, I need to tell you that your son lied on this project that he was supposed to do for school "and each child was supposed to create a product that then they were supposed to develop a marketing plan to go with it.
Our son had come to school and fabricated this big story of how he had made this particular type of sucker, lollipop and he had not made it. He had bought it and he just contrived this big story. And you know, children will do that, but I remember sitting across the desk thinking, "I'm raising a liar," you know.
Sherry: Yeah, exactly, and obviously, this teacher thinks that I am not the kind of mom who would talk to her child about being honest and I don't know how to raise an honest child. It just began to go crazy in my head.
And really when you step back from that, children will tell lies and the point is not, to get them past ever telling a lie, but really kind of using that as a teaching moment, to be able to sit with your child and say, "Why don't we tell lies? In our family, why is it important that we are honest?" and to use that as a teaching moment. It's not a moment of failure; it's a moment of opportunity, to be able to really pour into your child about the values that are important in your family.
Jim: Jean, how have you felt when that's happened with the boys, something like that? I mean, what does that make you feel like?
Jean Daly: Well, and I sat there and laughed while Sherry told her story and yet, when a similar thing happened to us, it was really devastating for me and I had the same feelings. I've failed. We've completely failed.
Jean: And that incident and it did have to do with lying, as well, I think has really helped me and probably the whole transition from elementary, our boys from elementary to junior high has really helped me come to grips with that, that I do not have control over their lives, and nearly as much control as I did when they were younger and that, they're human.
Jean: And we live in an imperfect world and I'm imperfect and they're imperfect and really learning to help them walk through that, but showing our kids. I've done a much better job in the last couple of years. I've been thrust into that of having to talk to them about my imperfections. Well, you can't hide them frankly.
Sherry: Uh-hm, right (Laughter), exactly.
Jean: Kids don't believe I'm perfect anymore.
Sherry: Our kids see it, yeah. (Laughter)
Jim: But Sherry, let me ask you this though. In the marriage again, when those things are taking place, you can be hard on each other—
Jim: --'cause you start, you know, kind of checking where are we not doing a better job so our kids understand these things?
Jim: Talk about the caution there, that you've gotta be careful not to attack each other—
Jim: --so that, you know, the right goal is in mind and that's the long snapshot, I think you called it.
Sherry: It is; it really is. You know, on the way home in the car from that incident, after meeting with our son's teacher, you know, I was, you know, taking a little bit different path than Jeff was. I was thinking, I was internalizing it and saying, "How could I not have known? How could I not have seen that my child is a liar," you know. And Jeff kind of just as in the conversation kind of let me express it, but then he said, "Well, you know, yeah; he's human. Now what are we going to do about that? And it was wonderful to be able to let my husband take a different kind of viewpoint from me and to help talk me down off that crazy ledge of, you know, going where I didn't need to go with my thoughts and blaming myself.
And sometimes in a marriage, it is very tempting to be able to say, "You should have picked up on that" or "You should have done this" or "Don't handle it this way." And I think in the heat of the moment, it's really easy to do that. I think giving yourself a moment to pause, to step back and admit, you know what? This isn't the end of the world. We're gonna get through this and we're gonna take the path together to be able to talk to him.
And by the time we talked with Mike at the end of the day, we kind of formed a uniformed front and to say, "No, we're the Surratts and this is what we believe in. This is why we do this." And it was a great approach, because just on my own, I think I would've come home and probably unleashed on Mike, you know and not taken the best path.
Sherry, you talk in your book, Brave Mom about the fear moms have that they'll lose their identity. I found that one a little more interesting and perhaps a little more difficult to understand as a man. Help me better understand why moms would have that fear, that by having a child, you're losing your identity.
Sherry: You know, I think being a mom can be all-encompassing. From the moment that baby is born, you are thinking about every need of that child and what happens is, sometimes we forget the needs of your husband. You forget the needs of yourself.
One of the things that we encourage moms to do is to remember who you were before you had that child, the things that you loved to do. You need to go back and give yourself time to be able to do those every once in a while.
Jim: What would be an example of that?
Sherry: You know, I talked about in the book that one of the things that I loved to do before I had kids was, I used to love to just go and walk in a pretty part and take time to look at the flowers, smell the flowers and even maybe sit on a swing and swing.
And so, as I was writing this book, I thought about that. I thought, what do I do that I used to love to do way back before I had children and why don't I do those things anymore? Just as I was driving home in the car I passed a park. I pulled over. I saw some swings and I thought, I loved to swing when I was younger. I'm gonna take a moment and swing.
Well, I found out a couple of things. My rear end is bigger than it was (Laughter) before and so (Laughter), it was a little harder to fit into that swing. But here's something else I realized as the wind blew through my hair and I got back in touch with that thing that I used to love to do, even as a little girl, it reminded me of who I am, of who God created me to be, yet God created me to be a mom and a wife, but He also created me to be Sherry. And I can be a better mom when I reconnect with the things that are Sherry.
Jim: Jean, let me ask you though, how practically, I mean, I've watched you every day with the boys, the busy nature of motherhood. With what Sherry has said going back to when our boys were 3 and 5, could you imagine carving out that little bit of time to go do that?
Jean: Well, it is really difficult. It is really difficult to do that. I know there were a couple of things. I didn't do all the things that I really should've to have taken care of myself, but I at least did some things. Working out for me was important and in hindsight I think, oh, I should've gone to a club with other people, with other women. That would've been beneficial, but at least I was getting some exercise in. That was important. One of the really life-giving things that I did was MOPS.
Jean: But it is important and yes, it's difficult. I mean, there were days; I do remember days where I didn't shower. I remember those days where—
Jean: --your goal was just to get a shower in. And yet, it is so important to try and remember what it is that you love doing and if it's, you know, something intellectual, then just trying to read a little bit of a book or a magazine or going out hiking.
Jim: But is it a feeling of selfishness that if you do those things, you're being selfish, because your baby is demanding your time and I've gotta give the time to that child?
Sherry: Absolutely and I think, you know, that's one of the things that MOPS talks a lot about and that's one of the values of being in a MOPS group, is we talk about, you need to invest in you, in who you are, so that you can be a better mom. That time away from your child, that is an investment in you that is very, very worthwhile and if there's a mom out there listening that's feeling guilty about that, don't feel guilty. You need to be the best you, so that then you can be the best mom and the best wife.
You know, we talk about your emotional core resilience as a mom is very important and it's hard to work on that emotional resilience when you are holding a screaming baby, when you don't have those moments to even take a shower. So, you need to have time away with other adults so that you can talk about things beyond your child and that's not a selfish thing, but it is very natural for a mom to feel bad about that.
Jim: It is.
John: All right, some counterintuitive insights today from our guests on "Focus on the Family," because fear might have a grip on you and I hope that you're finding some great benefit from listening to "Focus" today with Sherry Surratt and Jean Daly as our guests. You can find out more about Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears and then get the CD or a download, which has both days of our conversation, at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us, 800-232-6459.
Jim: Sherry, in your book, Brave Mom, you did a lot of research, which I appreciate, 'cause that validates what you know in your heart to be true, but then when you hear other moms expressing it and saying, "Me, too," it really does bring so much light into these questions that are hidden in a lot of moms' hearts.
Jim: In that research, you found that moms who had the least fear, exhibited at least a few of the seven habits of better moms. Now I don't know if that's the definition of what a better mom is, but—
Jim: --just name a few of those seven habits. That sounds like an attainable number. What are the second things moms should be aiming for?
Sherry: Yeah, we asked moms who deal with fear and every mom does, what are the things that you do that you feel like really help you overcome fear? And they named seven things that were in common with these moms who feel like they really have developed good strategies and the first one is to form a SWAT team of support. And we kind of borrowed that—
Jim: (Laughing) A SWAT team.
Sherry: --yeah, a SWAT team.
Jim: That's pretty good.
Sherry: Yeah, we borrowed that from a military term, a Special Weapons and Tactics. And so, moms that deal with fear, they said, you know what? We don't just sit in our fear. We don't just let ourselves be overcome with it. We form a SWAT team of support, meaning we look for people in our lives that will help us. So, a calm voice, someone who can pray with them, a mentor mom, who can help them really develop stronger skills.
And it's interesting, because these moms who said that this was effective for them, they didn't find just one person. They found a whole team, so some of these were moms who were not married and they needed a good supporting partner in their life, maybe it's a parent or another mentor voice, someone who was calming, someone who knew how to pray, someone who they could run to at any hour of the day to say, "I'm freakin' out over this."
Jim: (Laughing) Right.
Sherry: And it would be a voice who would say, "Okay, well, let's talk it through." And so, they formed a whole SWAT team of support.
The second one was to develop a spiritual rhythm that works for you. You know, a lot of times young moms especially will say, "I do not have time to spend an hour every day reading my Bible or going to a Bible study." That's okay and I think what moms said to this was, they just would carve out maybe five minutes a day to be able to just sit quietly with the Lord. Maybe they didn't have time to crack open a Bible, but they would sit there and say, "God, what do You want to say to me today." "God, give me wisdom; give me courage to face whatever is ahead in this day."
I think the important thing in that step is to find the rhythm that works for you.
Jean: And I'd like to jump in a speak to that. I know that staying spiritually connected, if you can even through Bible studies is really important and if your local church has a Bible study opportunity for moms where they provide childcare, but I recall I got involved with one of those Bible studies and I remember sitting there and it was one of the very intensive Bible studies and that required an hour of homework a day and I was not at a place. I had two little children.
Jean: And that can make you feel guilty.
Jim: That added weight to your guilt.
Jean: And I chose not to do that Bible study and I'm really grateful for that and instead, I found other ones—
Jim: More manageable.
Jean: --that were very attainable--
Jean: --and really didn't require homework, because you don't have time to do that when you have young children.
Sherry: That's a great point and I think that, you know, that step of finding a spiritual rhythm that works for you, get realistic about yourself. Don 't put shame or blame on yourself, but just do something. Start small, five minutes a day of just praying or reading just one Scripture verse.
I talked with a mom who had a favorite verse. She wrote it on a card and that's what she would do in the morning every day, is she would read that Scripture on that card and she would say, "God, I'm gonna live; I'm gonna walk in this verse today" and she would go on about her day.
Jim: Now and that's a good point. I'm glad you brought that up, Jean, because I think again, women with that nurturing-guilt combination, they want to do more and when they can't do more, then you feel guilty. It's a vicious cycle and just set the goal where it's attainable. I appreciate what you said there.
Three and four we kinda covered which was invest in who they were before they were moms and in themselves. Get that margin that they need.
Five caught my attention, which was keep their sense of humor, 'cause that usually is the first thing to go, 'cause you're stressed out and nothing's funny. And I like when Jean laughs at my jokes actually. (Laughter) So, how do you encourage a mom with all the pressure, to still laugh at those (Chuckling) maybe so-so funny jokes that your husband might say?
Sherry: You know, it's really important to laugh and there's something physically that happens in our body when we do and we can become so uptight as moms that we become a person that isn't fun to be around. That's not the kind of mom we want to be for our kids. We want our kids to see joy in us as a mom and that means you need to relax. You need to laugh. When things happen that are frustrating, you need to be able to step back and sometimes just laugh at it.
Jim: That is good, Sherry and I think that's the core to every relationship, having that sense of humor. It's important. Don't be silly, but have fun in life. I think God gave us that sense of humor. I think it's part of His image—
Jim: --that we're made in. I think He has a sense of humor. Six, you said, invest in their marriage. This is a big one and I think we should spend a moment here, because I think when you read articles in The New York Times, the Washington Post, there's a phenomena occurring. It's called "the greying of divorce," when kids are leaving the home, children are 18, 19 and they're leaving home, there's nothing left in common—
Jim: --with the husband and wife and a lot of women are the ones filing for divorce. Talk about that, why investing in the marriage remains critical, I think the most critical thing, 'cause your kids are gonna go.
Jim: Your spouse is stickin' around.
Sherry: Absolutely and you know, one of the best gifts I can give my children is a strong marriage and just like great moms don't happen on accident. They do happen on purpose. Great marriages, I don't think happen on accident; they do happen on purpose.
When we invest in our husbands, we are giving our children a gift, we truly are. That firm foundation of the household is the core upon which then we can parent well and it's so tempting to spend all of my time focusing on my kids. They're the ones who are the loudest and you know, they're screaming for attention and in that, my husband can get lost.
Jean: Well, and I think society today, I mean really encourages us to pour only into our children.
Jean: So, we—
Jim: That's so true.
Jean: --we really need to fight that. I still am fighting that on a daily basis. It's gotten a little easier as the boys have gotten older, but I really struggled with that, that you are now this mother and it is all encompassing and it's a beautiful way, but also, you know, an overwhelming way, but that's all you really care about and you know that the order should be God, husband, children.
Jean: But in reality, you know, it's children, God, husband. That's often is what it is and we have to fight against that and really work to keep that relationship going. I think mothers of young children really need to cut themselves some slack, as do their husbands when, I mean, really with the infants right after the baby is born. But I read in your book where you have a recommendation of after the kids go to bed and yes, you're exhausted; you just want to go to bed—
Jean: --but even spending some time playing cards together. And I really like that, because I thought, wow! That's great. It's not sitting down and saying, "Let's read this marriage devotional together and where that could potentially cause some friction—
Jean: --or playing cards?
Jim: Do something fun.
Jean: And it is fun and yet, you're talking to one another during that time.
Jean: But I also enjoyed over the years with Jim and I, and I think it is helpful to read, spend a few minutes together reading some devotional, something together that's tying your relationship.
Sherry: Yeah and Jeff and I, we love to laugh together and I think when the kids were younger, it was harder to find time to do that, because we were stressed out about money. We were stressed out about the kids' behavior and the tantrums.
I think a couple of things that we did well was, we spent a few minutes every day. We called it "couch time," just sitting on the couch, talking to each other and we held that time very dear and it usually happened right when Jeff came home from work and I worked during the times when my kids were younger, too, but we would find that time just to sit for five minutes with each to say, "How was your day?" and to connect with each other. Also, you know, we said, to remember the person you were before you had children. I think you also need to remind yourself of the couple you were before those kids came into your house.
Sherry: You loved each other. You had fun together. It's important to try to carve out those moments every once in a while when you get back to that—
Sherry: --and remind yourself that you and your husband are friends.
Jim: That is so good to remember. Sherry, that leads to the last one, which was parent with the end in mind.
Jim: Just touch on that, how to keep that perspective, 'cause you can grind each other as husband and wife to a pulp if you don't have that perspective that, you know what? We're parenting to launch these kids.
Jim: If you live in the snapshot, as you called it in your book, you're in trouble.
Sherry: Yeah, we talk at MOPS about a snapshot versus a portrait and it's so easy with the things that happen in one day—a tantrum, a fight, something bad at school. Your child drops a bomb on you about big news or something like that.
Jim: A bad grade.
Sherry: Exactly, the snapshot of that day can make you think that life is horrible, that this child is never going to be a worthwhile human being, that you're a lousy mom. We encourage moms instead to think about the portrait of your family that God is continuing to paint. So, every day He is adding more paint to that portrait. He is completing it. Your family is a work in progress. Don't make snap decisions based on how you are feeling today about the snapshot that you could take right today with your Polaroid camera.
Continue on with the thought of the portrait that God is forming of our family and He is not going to leave us. He promises us over and over in His Word, He has a big plan, but you're not gonna see that whole big plan today and hang in there and keep going. Moms, be faithful. Keep doing just your best, even though it will never be perfect, because God is continuing to paint that portrait of your family.
Jim: Sherry, that is so well said. This has been fun. I think people have heard our chuckles, John.
John: I hope so.
Jim: But to have Sherry Surratt the author of Brave Mom and my own wonderful wife, Jean here to talk about those pressures of motherhoods, those feelings of inadequacy, the guilt that is so often prevalent for a mom. I hope you have been helped and I would strongly suggest you get Sherry's book, Brave Mom and John, you'll have those details. It's a resource that can help you see light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for bein' with us.
Sherry: Thank you. It was an honor to be here today.
Jean: Thank you. It was my pleasure.
Jim: And I'll see you for dinner.
Jean: Yes! (Laughter)
John: Well, what an encouraging conversation we've had here the last couple of days and if you face any kinds of fears as a mom, I trust that you found it to be helpful.
Get a copy of Sherry's book, Brave Mom, which delves into those top five fears that you face and addresses other matters, as well. It'll give you strategies to use to find some peace in the midst of panic and we've got a copy of that and a CD or a download of this two-part conversation at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And while you're there, download our mobile app. It's available for most platforms; it'll let you take our radio program on the go with your tablet or phone.
And you know, every day here at Focus on the Family, our job is to come alongside you and reach you at a point of need and offer the helps that we have and one mom told us how we did that. She said, "Thanks so much for yesterday's broadcast. Just hearing from another mom who has struggled in her walk with God while raising young children helps me know that I'm not alone. My husband and I have two boys and I love them so much, but there are some days that seem unbearable. I'm home alone much of the time with the boys and we live far away from family and Focus has helped me a great deal in my parenting journey. Your program encouraged me at a time that I desperately needed it."
Well, we love being able to give that kind of support and it's only through God's good hand that, that kind of ministry happens. Your partnership is also a crucial part of that equation. We need you to reach out and encourage moms and so, please pray with us. Pray for us and donate as you can. Your generous contribution will make a difference and so, call today, 1-800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And as a tangible way of expressing our thanks. we'll send a copy of Brave Mom to you for your use or to pass along to someone else. Just ask about that when you donate.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday. Dr. Kevin Leman is here. He's a perennial favorite. He'll bring insights and humor about having a new kid by next Friday. That's next time, as we once again, help 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.