Liz Wann: When Being a Mom is Hard
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Liz WannLiz Wann lives in West Philadelphia with her husband Josh and their three children. She is a regular contributor to desiringGod.org, Revive Our Hearts, and ERLC.com. She is also editor-in-chief at Morning by Morning. She can be found online at LizWann.com.
Is it possible to thrive in the mundane — when being a mom is hard? Author Liz Wann talks rest, critical camaraderie, & making disciples in simple moments.
Liz Wann: When Being a Mom is Hard
Liz: Jesus really models rest. I feel like, in His ministry, He really shows a good balance for all of us—but definitely moms—of sacrifice and service but also rest—just Him going off and leaving, and praying to the Father, taking a nap in a boat. He didn’t go and visit every single town; so that means He had to say, “No,” to some things—Him embracing limitations because He was also fully human.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Okay, I’ve got a question for you as a mom.
Dave: Do moms ever rest?
Ann: No. [Laughter]
Dave: How did you answer that so fast?
Ann: I’m just saying—
Dave: Are you talking about an oxymoron?—moms and rest.
Ann: Well, there are so many things. It depends on what your definition of rest would be; there are a lot. But my first instinct was: “We, as moms/we just go; we do.” I think there is an art of learning how to rest, and it is hard.
Dave: Yes; I just know—I’m looking at a mom—you—
Dave: —that never rests.
Ann: I know.
Dave: In fact, the only way you rest is I get you in the car and remove you from the house.
Ann: You take me to the movies.
Dave: Yes, it’s like you will not even sit down in our house; and we don’t have kids there anymore—or a dog! We have just us, and you’re always moving.
I’m not saying dads don’t do that as well; but I’ve noticed moms continually—especially when you have little kids—they’re constantly on the go/constantly on the go. They need help to understand how to rest.
We’ve got help for them today. We’ve got Liz Wann in the studio, who wrote a book about motherhood and even rest.
Liz, welcome back.
Dave: We had Liz here yesterday, talking about her book, The End of Me, which is the definition of motherhood right there; right?
Ann: Well, yes; and the subtitle is Finding Resurrection Life in the Daily Sacrifices of Motherhood.
Liz, you are a mom; you are a wife. You have three kids.
Dave: —under the age of ten.
Liz: Yes; yes.
Ann: You are a writer, so you’re still busy.
Liz: Yes; definitely.
Dave: So you wrote about it. When you hear us even talking about moms and rest—moms of kids of your age and even younger than your kids—talk about: “How do they rest? Do they rest? Do you rest?” [Laughter]
Liz: I think—
Dave: You’re resting right now, because you are away from the kids.
Liz: Exactly; this is a form of rest. [Laughter]
Ann: Let’s just say, too, that Liz is also a homeschooling mom.
Dave: Oh, man!
Liz: Yes, another layer; yes. [Laughter]
Dave: So how do you rest, or do you?
Liz: Yes; well, I have to discipline myself to rest. I think, in the beginning, I didn’t do that so well; I had to end up realizing it. When I had my first, I used to feel, sometimes, guilty.
Liz: Yes; oh, yes! You know exactly; yes! I would feel guilty, like if I just want to get away from my baby for a little bit, I would feel bad.
Ann: Me too.
Liz: Like I shouldn’t want to get away from my baby; right?
Dave: You feel guilty?! They are taking a nap, and you’re feeling guilty?
Liz: Oh, not that!
Liz: No; more leaving the house.
Ann: When you’re out of the house.
So why is rest important? Why did that become something? If you are writing about this, it’s important.
Liz: Yes; definitely. Well, I think it is so exhausting being a mom, and just so depleting; you are giving of yourself so much. You need to refuel/recharge. You need to find your supply in the Lord, but even in other people and other relationships, besides your children.
I even talk about, in the book, that even Jesus really models rest. I feel like, in His ministry, He really shows a good balance for all of us—but definitely moms—of sacrifice and service but also rest—just Him going off and leaving, and praying to the Father, taking a nap in a boat, just all these different things. He didn’t go and visit every single town; so that means He had to say, “No,” to some things—Him embracing limitations, because He was also fully human, and showing us, in that way, how to be human: to rest.
Ann: Did you ever say, “I have no time to rest!”? [Laughter]
Liz: Yes, I think I’m pretty sure I said that.
Ann: Because this is my line: “I have no time to rest. I do everything around here.”
Liz: Yes, I’ve said that: “I do everything around here.” [Laughter]
Ann: Then you get into the martyr mode, too,—
Ann: —like: “I do everything; I can’t rest.
Ann: “The world would fall apart if I took some rest.”
Liz: That is exactly what it is. The word, “martyr,” is very good—to remember, too, we are mothers and not martyrs—yes—[Laughter]—and to know that we do need rest, and we’re not super mom.
Ann: —and to not feel guilty about it; because if Jesus modeled it,—
Ann: —we need to do that.
Let’s talk a little bit through that. You talked about having friends—and the importance of having a community to be with—maybe, without your kids. Talk about that: what that’s looked like in your life.
Liz: Yes; I mean, for me, it was getting together with other moms; I mean, sometimes with our kids present. It is important, though, I think to get away from them as well with other women or adults. But just even talking to other moms was still helpful, just to realize, “Oh, you struggle with this too,” or just to commiserate together, or relate to one another. Then you realize: “Oh, okay; this isn’t that abnormal to feel this,” or “…to go through this,” or “…for my child to act this way, like their child does this.” It kind of builds a comradery—like a unity—and it helps kind of encourage you to keep going, to keep running the race, and to keep persevering.
Ann: It makes you feel like you’re not alone.
Liz: Yes, there is that, too; exactly.
Ann: I know that I’ve had that for years with my friends—for friends to hear it and say: “Oh, yes, I did that,” or “I’ve felt that,” or “I’ve done that,”—and then with our group of friends, we’ve just prayed over one another and text each other the next day: “Hey, I know that was really hard what you went through yesterday with your kids. I’m praying for you. How is it going today?” There is a sense of accountability and love in that, that it just breathes life into your soul.
But I think that is really good that you talk about the importance of resting and, sometimes, we rest with friends.
Dave: I think, as a husband—at least, watching Ann; and I know this is true for many of my buddies’ wives—women have a really hard time embracing that idea: separating from their children for a date night or a vacation weekend without the kids. I’m not saying every guy is that way; but I would be much more apt to say: “Okay, let’s schedule it right now”; where Ann would be like, “I don’t know if I want to…”
Most moms feel that connection. They don’t want to leave them, even though they would say: “Rest is good. I need rest; I’m just not going to do it, until five years from now, when I feel like they are old enough to…” Talk about that; because moms need it, but it’s so hard for them to do.
Liz: Yes, that’s something I’ve realized, even for myself: “Oh, yes; I’ll let time slip by.” I think I started wising up, and realizing, “I need to prevent that breakdown.
Liz: “I need to put something/like make this like a rhythm of my life.” I think that is what I was thinking to myself, like, “Make this a rhythm of rest,”—even if you have to schedule it—you know? Schedule it; be disciplined about it. Prioritize it and say: “This evening, we go out as a couple; and that’s my rest,” “This evening, I go out by myself or go do something for myself,”—however it looks, practically; yes.
Ann: I mean, it is one of the Ten Commandments.
Liz: That’s true; yes. [Laughter]
Ann: God did that on the seventh day, so I think it’s pretty important for us to do it.
Dave: And it’s a weekly rest.
Liz: That’s true; yes.
Dave: It isn’t once a year, once a…; it’s every seven days.
I’ve shared this, I think, before—but I was, as a pastor, I was preaching on the Sabbath principle of rest, years ago; and I tried to do it every several years—but I’ll never forget this. I was in a meeting, talking about the message I was going to give; and somebody said, “Hey, do you know that they rest bowling pins?” I’m literally like you—Liz looked at me like, “What?!”—I was the same way. I was like, “What are you talking about? They rest bowling pins?!” “They take them off the alleys; they put them on a shelf for a month; they put them back on. They have more life.” I’m like, “That’s not true.”
I went to a bowling alley, because it was right across from our church. I went over there, and I said, “Hey, there is this rumor out there that you guys rest the bowling pins.” The guy goes, “Oh, yes; do you want me to show you?” I go, “Yes.” We took a camera crew over. He goes back there; there is this whole room. I go, “What are you talking about?” He goes, “We take them off the alley. We put them on the shelf—they sit there for a month—the wood actually gets life. You put them back on the lane.”
Professional bowlers will tell you: “Oh, I just got rested pins.” I’m like, “What?!” He goes, “They jump,” “They jump!” Even creation needs to rest—I just remember—I have a bowling pin in my office as this reminder—
Ann: You do.
Dave: —that God created the world in such a way that, wood comes back to life with a little bit of rest, what about us?!
So as a mom, or as a dad, as a husband or as a wife, you take time to obey one of the Ten Commandments, which we sort of just push it away like, “That’s not a big deal.” If it’s not a big deal, it would not be one of the Big Ten. I mean, come on! God said, “Rest is that important for a mom.”
I remember John Maxwell saying, “We change when the pain is so great,”—like when you have a heart attack, you change your diet; but until then, you are like, “Aw, I should eat better.” When a mom breaks down, then she says, “I need rest.” You just said, “We need to make that a rhythm so we don’t get to the breakdown point.”
I’m thinking there is a mom listening, going,—
Ann: Oh, yes!
Dave: —“I’m breaking down.” And I would say, “God is saying, ‘This is a rhythm that I created for you. Take it.’ You are going to be a better mom. And your kids are going to thank you someday, even though it’s hard to pull away from them; it’s needed.”
Ann: And Dave, I think that physical and that pulling-away rest is important; but there is also emotional rest—because you might pull away; but as you said, we moms—man—we can be thinking constantly about our kids: worrying about them, thinking about what’s going on in school.
I mean, I even love—and you mentioned this, as well, Liz—Philippians 4:6-7. This is my verse, man, especially parenting and when you are worried. If I were you, as a mom—and if you’re a warrior—I would put this verse in your car; I’d put it by the sink—wherever you’re doing life. It says this: “Don’t be anxious about anything;”—just right there: “How do you do that?” Then it says—“but”—Paul says—“in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God [emphasis added].”
And listen to this part—so now, you’re telling Him what you are feeling/what you are experiencing. You’re praying about the things that worry you—“Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,”—listen to this part—“will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.”
Liz, talk about that a little bit of how that has impacted you and, even that Scripture, how that has impacted you.
Liz: Yes, I think just to realize that, when I’m not having peace, to realize that that is something I need to bring to the Lord; and through prayer—like that verse says that “…through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Instead of it whirling in your head, or whatever is happening with your body, or whatever worries you have—to bring them to God, and just to lay them at His feet, and have Him help you carry the burden. He can carry the burden. Yes, I think that’s just how it’s applied to me.
Dave: I’ve also noticed—and I can see it, even sitting in here with two moms—that’s easy said; hard to do. I mean, it’s hard for anybody; but because a mother’s heart just carries them—it’s like they are with you 24/7—and Ann’s, like I said, we’re grandparents now; so they are not in the home; she still carries that—so to be able to let go of that and say, “Okay; I’m not going to worry about them; I’m going to cast them.” That, in a sense, is rest; right?—because you are giving them back to the Lord; they are His anyway. But it’s a way to get out [into] the rest.
Okay; so talk about this. Another big part of what I’ve heard you write about—and Ann has said—is the mundaneness of being a mom/or being a parent, really. It’s just so mundane; you know? [Laughter] It’s like there are not these highs—I mean, there are—but they are so few and far between. So how do we thrive? How do you thrive—I am talking about moms—in the mundane?
Liz: For me, I’m just having to remind myself—and I don’t do this every day to remind myself this—but sometimes, I do feel okay with the mundane. I’ve kind of like—again, I’ve been kind of trained by it—like: “Okay, this is where God has me. All Christians are called to the mundane and the ordinary. It doesn’t always look like these mountaintop, high-peak experiences all the time.”
Ann: What is your mundane?
Liz: Yes, my mundane would be just I am home with my kids:
- So then, I just—preparing meals/three meals a day, and then cleaning up after it, and just repetition—just a lot of repetition.
- Then, since I do homeschool, that is even repetitive. We’re going over the same lessons; I’m preparing the night before a little bit. It’s/yes, a lot of repetition and the same thing over.
- Or even behavior issues—again, just telling them the same thing: “Do not punch your brother, please,” [Laugher] “Don’t do that again,” “You’re still doing that,”—[Laughter]—just realizing, “Even that’s repetitive, all the same behavior problems in the home,”—that would be the mundane.
- Even just cleaning up, and doing laundry, and picking up, like: “Clean up your room again,” “I just cleaned it,” “Let’s clean it up again,”/“You guys, help me clean up,” “…clean up,” “…clean up,” “…clean up.” [Laughter]
Dave: Well, I love what you wrote when you are talking about the ordinary days, and the mundane, and the repetition—here, I’ll read you what you wrote; and I’d love to hear you comment on it—you said, “What if we are missing something? We need to discover how to spot these daily beauties and cherish them, because God created them. He made repetition.”
Dave: How did you discover that? Are you able to do that?
Shelby: You know, personally, as someone in ministry, who has raised financial support for over 20 years—which I have—I’ve found that, without my ministry partners, my ministry literally wouldn’t happen. It is a partnership; they make it possible for ministry to happen. It is a partnership between the one who gives and the ministry, of course; but it’s really about partnering, alongside God, and entering into the joy of seeing Him use something as common as money to advance His own kingdom. That’s really the special part about what it means to give and see God use your donations for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Now, in light of all that, I’ve got some really good news. We’ve had some friends come alongside FamilyLife and offer to double any donation that comes in this month up to $300,000. And if you become a monthly Partner, they will double your gift for the next 12 months. So every dollar that you give, turns into two; because of their generosity. You can find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com—you can give there—or you can give us a call at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright, now, back to Dave and Ann with Liz Wann on the importance of finding beauty in the mundane things of life.
Liz: I mean, I’m not always able to do that; but sometimes, I do try to look: there are beautiful moments in the sense, where like: okay, something really does breakthrough with my child; or we have this really great conversation;—
Liz: —or he confesses something to me, or is vulnerable with me, or even feels free to confront me on something. I think that’s great to have that kind of relationship with your child, where they feel free to kind of bring something to you about how they are feeling that you did.
So even just moments like that or some kind of a connection: like I do love to read with my kids. I make a big priority to read with them; and we do a lot of read-aloud, and we sit with them on the couch. And even just times like that—when just things click with them, and we connect, and there does feel a warmth at times—at times/at times. [Laughter]
Ann: It’s in those mundane, where it’s repetitive; but that’s where a child’s heart is being shaped and formed, and their values, and their morals.
Ann: It’s through the daily repetitive things. I mean, I think about God creating Adam and Eve, and He had them care and tend to the Garden. I’m sure they were doing some of the same things; but it also says, “In the cool of the day, God walked with them.” I feel like we don’t realize that, in the mundane, our hearts are being shaped and formed, as well, as our kids’ hearts and lives.
I remember this one time: I had this little piece of paper that I had journaled—I’d share this at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—it says: “My life is so boring.” [Laughter] I said—and my next words were: “And it’s so mundane; because yesterday, Cody had an ear infection; and somebody got sick; and Dave is out of town. I feel like I’ve made the same meal a million different times, and the laundry is never done. My life feels like, ‘What happened to you, Ann?!’”—something like that.
Then I said: “But then tonight,”—and I think we all have those—“But then tonight,”—and I say in this that I think our oldest was five, and he was crying. He was going to bed—I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Mom, I’ve just been thinking about Austin, and”—our oldest son had just/he’d really kind of grasped the gospel.
I had been sharing, like I had shared with them, all the time, the story of the gospel. I would start out, saying, “God created Adam and Eve in His image, and He walked with them, and He loved them; but He also gave them a choice.” We talked about separation from God, and how there was separation from God; which meant, when we would die, we would be separated from God. But I said, “But God had a plan that He would come later, as Jesus, His Son.” It was the gospel: “So He would die for us/die for our sins.”
CJ connected with it—this five-year-old—and he said, “I’ve been praying for Austin;”—who was three—“because what if he becomes an old man, and he doesn’t surrender his life to Jesus?” I am like, “Yes! Yes!” It’s in this mundane, sharing the gospel as I’m cutting up their meat for the millionth time, like, “Oh my goodness! Like this matters!”
The things that I am sharing—they don’t always hear; I don’t even know if they understood it—but that’s what is being formed: these spiritual lives, and hearts, and emotions, and values. There is beauty to that.
And also, it glorifies God as we’re cleaning our toilets. I remember cleaning a toilet one time, thinking, “This is the most boring thing, Lord. Is this what You’ve made me to do?” Then I thought of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
Dave: Have there been moments in your life, where you’ve been able to do what you say in the book: step back and go, “This is mundane, but it’s a beautiful moment”?
Ann: —but it’s miraculous, too.
Liz: Yes; well, I relate to your story—yes—because I’ve had moments like that with my kids, where I’m like, “This is a little bit of fruit here that I can grab onto,”—like you said—“the fruit of the mundane.” When you see that, if you just grab onto that, that is helpful. Sometimes, you have to really look for it.
Liz: Sometimes, it’s obvious; and sometimes, you have to really look for it, but it is there; it is there.
Ann: I would add, Liz, pray for it. Pray that God would give you ears and eyes to see what He is doing in the midst of the mundane.
Dave: I remember one night, I saw it; I don’t think I’ve ever shared this. We wrote a parenting book, and I didn’t even put it in the parenting book. As you’re talking, two moms, brought this memory to my life: it was a Monday night, at home, on our deck with food and stuff all/I think we ate out on the deck. The boys were little, and there was food everywhere. You know, the dog is licking it all off. It was just a messy, family night, like most families have with little kids. There is screaming and moving around.
And I remember sitting there, with this thought, like, “Every night, this is this: we’re going to have to clean this all up, and we’ve got to do baths, and we’ve got to get them to bed.” As I was thinking that, sort of, “I don’t like my life,”—and I can’t imagine what Ann is feeling, because she worked to make all this happen—here is the thought that hit me: “Last night, I was in AT&T Stadium with the Detroit Lions, standing on the sideline, watching Calvin Johnson catch passes a few feet from me. That’s life!”—80,000 people screaming; we won the game. “That’s the most spectacular thing. Who wouldn’t want to be on that sideline?”
Here I am, on my back deck, 24 hours later, with these boys. It finally hit me—it was like when you said, Ann, “God, give us the eyes to see,”—I saw in that moment, like, “I am changing the Wilson legacy,”—which was alcohol and adultery—“Here are my boys. They are precious, little boys, who don’t have a clue yet why they are on the planet. Maybe, one day, they will grow up and take a godly legacy to the next generation.” I was able to go, “This moment, right here, is more beautiful than the stadium I was in last night.” That’s what we miss as parents.
Ann: And Dave, I think that’s why it is important, sometimes, to get off of social media, to get back in the Word; because it gives us perspective. That’s where we find life: through Jesus/through the Word.
Liz, thanks for being with us today.
Dave: I’ll just say this to you two moms: “Thank you.” Liz, “Thank you.” I’m not in your home; I don’t know your kids. Just reading your book, and hearing you talk, and listening to Ann—for all the men, and all the husbands and dads, that I represent—we say, “Thank you.” I know you feel like what you do is unseen and is mundane, and it is. You are making disciples, who will change the world. Thanks for what you do.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Liz Wann on FamilyLife Today. You can get her book, The End of Me, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can pick up the phone and call us at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
There are a few Weekend to Remember events happening this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Jacksonville, Florida. We’d love it if you’d take a sec and join us in prayer for those couples who are attending in those two cities.
Next week, Dave and Ann are going to be talking with Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal about how to cope when life throws you a curve ball.
Hope you are able to worship in your local church and rejoice in the grace God gives us every moment.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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