You are the perfect mom for your kids
Part 2 of an interview with Hettie Brittz,
Author of (un)Natural Mom
While motherhood seems to come naturally to some, many women struggle with feelings of failure and inadequacy, believing if they could only be like that mom over there, their lives and families would be much better off. Rather than wallow in guilt and “shoulds,” renowned South African speaker, TV presenter and author, Hettie Brittz, wants moms to find hope and encouragement in (un)Natural Mom: Why You Are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids (David C Cook).
Q: In your new book, you describe yourself as an (un)Natural mom. What is an (un)Natural mom, and doesn’t every mom feel that way at some time or another?
Absolutely. I am an (un)natural Mom because even though I wanted and planned to have children, when they arrived, I often doubted my abilities and made many serious mistakes that made me wonder if perhaps I should never have had children or if my children should have had a different mother. Nurturing instincts, the joy of breastfeeding and many other indicators of the so-called “Natural Mom” just passed me by. It took a while to notice I was not alone. Every mom wants to be able to admit some aspect of motherhood did not come naturally and not all motherhood duties brought her fulfilment, but society — even our church community — frowns on this confession. The (un)Natural Mom book gives you permission to admit this and to find what you ARE natural at!
Q: Having lived in different locations around the world, have you found expectations of a “natural” mother to be the same everywhere?
The natural mom is a cultural myth and, therefore, not universal at all. I’ve noticed in Africa the natural mom is not a hovering parent. She sits on a bench in the park knitting or visiting with friends while her child plays half-supervised on the monkey bars. In a Californian play park, the natural mom walks underneath her toddler as he clambers about on the jungle gym, believing scrapes, falls and scabs should never happen if she puts every focus on the child’s complete safety and does not leave his side. In the Ukraine, natural moms are those who can recognize types of cries and movements to predict their babies’ needs and are consequently able to potty train babies by ten months. Natural moms in Europe are those equipped with knowledge about neurological growth, potential psychological harm of discipline methods. In Egypt, natural moms spend the first hour of school in their children’s classes up to the age of 9 or 10 because they believe separation causes permanent relationship damage.
Q: What are some of the natural mothering myths you talk about in the book that are universal to moms all over the world?
All moms are expected to be naturally maternal. They should aspire to motherhood and view it as a stamp of naturalness. They value when they can become pregnant easily and naturally, give birth naturally, breastfeed for as long as possible and be naturally fulfilled by motherhood. They should be as natural at nurturing as they are at discipline and at teaching their own children. They should all be excellent homemakers who only feed their family healthy, organic foods. The word “natural” now extends to every area of child-care.
Some moms tick almost all of these boxes, while many don’t tick even two or three. We already recognize diverse talents, learning styles, dietary needs, temperaments and spiritual gifts within our (church) communities. I advocate we recognize the motherhood story of other women can read very differently from our own experience, without being wrong or unbiblical, and God’s journey for her and her family is at the core of these differences. The essence of all these myths is we should all be the same. This is the myth that needs to be debunked first. The beauty of our diversity deserves a second look!
Q: Society places certain expectations on women regarding what a good mother should do in raising her children. Have you found the church has an even higher standard of those expectations?
Yes, I do believe Christian women are held to both their culture’s standard as well as the standards of Biblical times. It obviously becomes especially tough when our church culture clashes with society’s demands, especially in the area of training and disciplining our kids. In church I find we are often measured against the mom in Proverbs 31 who cooks, sews, trades, designs, runs an international business, does leather work, is both a morning person and a night owl and is adored by her children and her husband. This is daunting! In addition to her as an example, we may be compared to a mom who adopts orphans, homeschools, bakes for the church fair, serves at Sunday School and sings in the worship team. Instead, we should be reminded the Church is a body with its members designed to have different gifts.
I believe this passage was actually meant to inspire a son to look for a virtuous wife, never to become a checklist for you and me to measure our worth against. Every God-fearing woman should be praised, whether she can prepare the perfect roast or not. The heart is always God’s standard rather than the skill set, is it not? We may do well to study the diverse godly women in the Bible for the virtues of the heart instead of judging them and ourselves by our talents.
Q: What are some of the stereotypes by which Christian mothers are judged, and how do those make it more difficult for her to embrace her God-given temperament?
Christian mothers are expected to be extra family-centered, which I agree with in most respects. However, the stereotypes that slip in here are if she is truly a godly woman she will be ready to start a family immediately, will be in favor of large families, will not seek fulfillment outside of the home and will sacrifice what some call “her dreams,” as these are viewed as signs of selfishness. If she has challenges becoming pregnant, giving birth naturally or with aspects of raising obedient and talented children, question marks may be placed on her faith. Some may wonder if there is sin in her life causing the family-life challenges. If she does not enjoy the mothering tasks that are idealized, but thrives as a business woman, follows a career in a traditionally male dominated field or remains a single parent after a teen pregnancy, she is viewed as worldly.
Temperament knowledge helps us understand the diverse aspirations, fears and difficulties moms experience on their journey, the decisions they struggle to make and their responses to family problems. Temperament differences do not excuse sin but rather give us tools to guide all moms closer to the blessing of authentic Biblical parenting.
Q: You write that you believe each (un)Natural Mom is exactly the right kind of natural for her child. Can you give an example of what you mean?
I believe God is a Master Designer in every aspect of Creation. His sovereign power and his all-knowing wisdom in combination mean He knows what every mother will need, what every child will become and what every family will go through; I believe He equips them all accordingly. This includes giving them gifts as well as providing them with grace for the tough patches in which they won’t feel equipped.
I am not a natural nurturer, but two of my three children, due to their own make-up and personalities, don’t need a lot of fussing and TLC. All three kids, however, have some sort of attention problem. God always knew our ministries would mean we raised our kids in transit and needed to homeschool them. Thus, what I needed to have the most, he gave me.
When I listen to moms who are my opposite their children, challenges and stories differ vastly from mine. One of my mothering role models, has children with an array of allergies and health issues. She is naturally equipped for the long road of constant care with patience, a desire to nurture, cooking skills, and a calmness and surrender to her circumstances. She’s the perfect mom for her children.
Q: You talk about unlearning ingrained habits through bypassing the obvious confrontations. Tell us more about what you mean and why it can offer hope to a frazzled parent?
A frazzled parent who is fully aware she has made mistakes and is stuck in unhelpful patterns is likely to be defensive when we offer a list of have-to’s and how-to’s to her load. Already sensitive to criticism, even our well-meant advice can be experienced as judgment. When we choose to help her recognize the things she is doing right, rather than the things she is doing wrong, she’ll become more open to growth. If one wants a tree to bear more fruit, one can’t just pick more fruit and prune back branches; one needs to increase the fertilizer as well! This is our strategy to help unnatural moms become more natural.
First, we help her find her natural mothering strengths that are listed clearly in the book and personalized even further in her Tall Trees Profile Report (after taking the free profile test online) as her “Forces within” and her “Fields of Greatness.” Empowered by these truths, she starts recognizing she does many good things too. These affirmations give her the inner strength to stand up and try new things. She does this through the energy and joy she derives from having her core needs fulfilled. We call these her “Fertilizer.” Her family can even help her by reading what she needs to flourish. Once she is out of her winter season, she’ll have the capacity to change, try new habits, learn and grow.
Q: There may be some mothers who, despite the understanding God has given their children the exact mother they need, struggle with how to let go and trust God to work through them. What encouragement can you offer those moms?
The Bible has many examples of mothers who had to let go: Hannah had to give young Samuel back to the temple when he was just weaned, Moses’ mom had to give him up to save his life and Mary had to let her son walk a journey of incredible suffering. These mothers from the Bible set us an example of surrender and great courage. Also listen to the testimonies of mothers who have had to see children go through drug rehab, crises of faith or the death of a father. Let them tell you their story, and if you are one of them, tell other mothers what you have learned on your journey. God is not scared of the realities of life. Give up the unrealistic ideal and embrace your reality. My prayer is that God will teach you to see the beauty in it.
Q: What is your hope for the readers of (un)Natural Mom?
I pray every mom will discover the unique beauty of her mothering style, encompassing her flaws as well as those traits reflecting the heart of God. It is my hope this book will help all moms to embrace an important truth: From crib to college send-off, even the mom who feels ill-equipped for this important job is more than enough for her family. I trust she will be perfectly content with making the best of the aspects of motherhood God has gifted her with. She will no longer compare herself with others but will celebrate who she is and will let other moms be themselves too. Through such a mom, God will write a beautiful story into her household and into the world.
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Keep up with Hettie Brittz by visiting www.hettiebrittz.com or following her on Facebook (HettieBrittzAuthor) or Twitter (@hettiebrittz).