What kind of mom are you?

Part 1 of an interview with Hettie Brittz,
Author of (un)Natural Mom

Countless women get bogged down in the Pinterest-perfect image of what a mother should be. They feel guilt for failing at cloth diapers, dreading school plays and missing the days of going to the bathroom by themselves, and as a result feel they aren’t a “natural mom.” Brittz, however, shows readers the idea of a “natural mother” is a myth and explores four primary parenting styles, guiding them to discover the strengths they already possess. In fact, Brittz believes each mother’s “imperfections” are exactly what makes her the perfect mother for her children.

Drawing from her years of experience working with children as a speech pathologist and adapting homeschooling to fit her own children, Brittz developed the Tall Trees Parenting Profile. Readers can take the free online test to discover their own unique Tree Types and begin to understand that they already are the mothers they were meant to be. Each type of mother is compared to a type of tree — a palm tree, rose bush, pine tree or boxwood — based on qualities the mother and tree have in common. By taking the assessment, readers can discover what chapters of the book to focus on.  In the stories taken from Brittz’s own experiences and the in-depth looks at “a day in the life” of four real-world Tree Types, moms have the opportunity to see themselves honestly and clearly and to find hope and grace.

Q: At the beginning of (un)Natural Mom, you encourage mothers to take the Tall Trees Parenting Profile you created. What will readers learn about themselves by taking the assessment?

The Tall Trees Parenting Profile will give each mom a free test result after a fast and accurate online test that tells her instantly what category of tree, or mothering type, she identifies with.

In addition, it will give a three-dimensional view of her mothering roles as nurturer, disciplinarian and mentor. This extra information will help her understand why certain contexts are unnatural for her while she’s a natural in others.

Once a reader has her profile results, she’ll know which chapters of the book to focus on. There will be a mother like you in the four main tree type chapters or in the chapter about the hybrid moms, and as you read about her, you’ll experience the affirmation you are not alone.

The book also gives a discount on the complete personalized report and growth plan if you want to download this from the Tall Trees website and study it further. It gives feedback in six additional areas that are too extensive to include fully in the book.

Q: You categorize (un)Natural moms in four categories, comparing each to a tree. Why did you use a tree analogy?

The Tall Trees Parenting Profile actually recognizes 14 possible tree types, but there are four main categories that can combine very diversely in the make-up of each person. Hardly anyone is a clear-cut “type.” Boxes and labels can be harmful and even offensive. In my research about temperament and personality I came across labels I wouldn’t want to wear, but still, labels are part of how we gain understanding of one another. “Mother,” “teacher,” “Christian,” “vegetarian,” “recovered alcoholic” or “engineer” are all labels that can help me anticipate, consider and embrace the needs of others.

The tree analogy wants to do this. It wants to recognize diversity first. No two trees are alike, after all! It wants to acknowledge we can grow and change, look different when planted in sun or shade, go through seasons, mature and be more fruitful in our natural environment and less fruitful when we’re outside of our “sweet spot.”

When I know your natural design I can support you, love you and defend you when the world tries to bend you out of shape. I can adjust my expectations to what you can naturally contribute as a parent. The profile included in the book is therefore a relational and survival tool, not a diagnosis or a limiting label. It can be compared to the label on a shrub you buy from a nursery that tells you to plant it in semi-shade or full sun, water it once a week or daily, and which color flowers to expect. By calling you a particular tree type or combination, we say you aren’t a fruit salad tree. You don’t need to be great at everything. We each have specific fruit according to our design. This design is not flawed. It is purposed, valuable and to be embraced.

Q: What are the four categories of trees? Why are some people a hybrid of more than one tree?

The Tall Trees Parenting Profile is based on the many fourfold personality theories found in literature, studies of personality, behavioral and learning styles, and observations of parenting practice. At the heart of the T2P2 are four tree types: Palm Tree, Rose Bush, Pine Tree and Boxwood Tree. Palm Trees are jovial individuals with a love for people and the exciting opportunities life offers. They help us stay mindful of the bright side of life. I associate them with beach parties and exotic vacations.

Rose Bushes are born pioneers who tend to lead the way their way. Fast and determined, they ensure nobody stagnates. Their roses are proof of their productive drive, while their thorns represent their tendency to be painfully honest.

Pine Trees balance out these extroverted tree types by being all about peace and harmony. Don’t pines even smell of peace and calmness?  They provide the safe places and listening ears.

Boxwood Trees are the quality controllers. Like the perfectly pruned plants, they aspire to fitting the mold. They believe there is one right way to everything, and they strive to follow it. 

Most people are a combination of two. A smaller percentage is close to one “pure” tree type, while the exceptions among us are a combination of three trees, with even a bit of the fourth tree mixed in! I believe our design fits our purpose, and therefore a person with a calling that requires an adapted style that can fit many diverse requirements is usually equipped with a broader personality style. Those who are created for a specialized area often test as one dominant tree type.

Q: Conflicts often arise among moms with differing parenting styles. How can knowing their mothering style help women with opposite temperaments get beyond the differences and be sources of encouragement for one another?

Oh, if we could stop comparing ourselves with others, what joy we’d find and give! When someone else’s actions differ from ours we assume their values and intentions differ from ours too, or we feel judged! Sometimes our actions as parents do reveal our values, but often these are simply style preferences due to temperament differences.

Take, for example, the potential misunderstanding when a laid-back Pine Tree Mom and her pro-active Rose Bush friend take their kids to the park together. The Pine Tree moms tend to avoid conflict, which can be a positive sometimes. She is not quick to get involved when kids start misbehaving. The Rose Bush Moms flies off the handle to intervene with force at the first sign of trouble. The Pine Tree sees the Rose Bush mom as aggressive and interfering, while the Rose Bush Mom assumes the Pine Tree mom does not care about her child’s misbehavior. Later, when the kids suddenly need to visit the restroom, the Pine Tree mom is quick to respond while the Rose Bush mom asks them to hold on to let her finish a text message she needs to send. The Pine Tree thinks she’s selfish, while the Rose Bush Mom feels the Pine Tree Mom is a hovering parent.

With temperament insight in one another and permission to be themselves, the Pine Tree mom may have leaned over to her Rose Bush friend to say, “Please go break them up gently, will you? I hate being the bad cop.” The Rose Bush Mom may have answered, “Of course, I don’t mind! Will you walk both to the restroom after snack time so I can finish some work?” These moms have many ways in which their strengths could be used to serve the friendship and their children. None of us have everything our children need. The very mom who is our opposite is sometimes our saving grace.

Q: What about the mom who is the perfectly pruned and punctual Boxwood Tree, but longs to be the playful and positive Palm Tree? Is it possible to embrace one’s own temperament while learning from the strengths of the others?

My first question to a mom who’d like to be more like someone else is always: Name your top three strengths. She usually can’t. She is too much in awe of someone else to see her own virtues. When any type of mom truly understands the beautiful ways in which she reflects the heart of God to the world and to her children, she stops trying to change. She starts trying to grow. Growth is different to change in the sense a tree does not change from being an apple tree to being a pear tree or a fruit salad tree. It just becomes a bigger, healthier, more fruitful apple tree, doesn’t it? The Boxwood Mom needs to make peace with herself through the discovery of how God loves her and uses her for good. From that contentment, authentic positivity will automatically flow to others.

Q: What is the call to (super)Natural Motherhood? How does it relieve the pressure of perfection?

The call to (super)Natural Motherhood is a call to trust that God has not made a mistake in choosing you to be the mother to your children. When we answer this call, we agree God has a magnificent destiny for our families. When we answer the call, we say yes to a journey that may be tough at times. God calls us out of a place of trying to be everything our children need, to a place of acknowledging we are not perfect. We choose to be authentic and to let God provide for the areas where we struggle. A (super)natural Mom therefore admits her failures and cooperates with God, believing He has equipped her for her task. She trusts He has made her an integral part of the salvation story God is writing in her family and in the world.

A (super)Natural Mom does not believe the lie that the shortcomings in herself and her children are clear signs of sin or proof of doom and failure. She faces those shortcomings honestly, humbly and courageously. She trusts God through the shame, pain and ridicule that comes from those who can’t understand her journey and her choices. Hannah in the Bible was accused of being drunk when she was praying for a son, and Mary was suspected of promiscuity when she fell pregnant out of wedlock. An embarrassed mom is in good company and better positioned to become a (super)Natural Mom than the mom who thinks she has it all together.

Q: Explain what you mean when you wrote, “Every (un)Natural Mom needs to crack in order to become a (super)Natural Mom.”

While society tells us to pull ourselves together, the Biblical message is to be broken. Paul calls us vessels of clay. We are meant to be fragile rather than proud and tough. In our brokenness we become those who can pour out treasures to our children and to the rest of the world. This “cracking” comes when we get to the end of ourselves. Salvation comes only to those who know they need saving. In the same way super(natural) motherhood comes to the mom who knows she needs God to help her in her parenting task. She cracks as an act of surrender.

This is not the kind of cracking that depresses us and leaves us feeling burnt out or useless. It is the cracking that frees us from our constant striving and helps us surrender our children to God. A (super)Natural Mom then stops trying to make her children’s future bright; instead she rests in the knowing God will do it. She stops fighting for favor in this world and figuratively dresses her children in God’s favor first by making their spiritual wellbeing her first priority. She knows even her failures in doing the basic things won’t stop God from keeping all the promises He made concerning her life and the lives of her children.

Take the Tall Trees Parenting Profile

Keep up with Hettie Brittz by visiting www.hettiebrittz.com or following her on Facebook (HettieBrittzAuthor) or Twitter (@hettiebrittz).