The Rub Of What Is Probably Supposed To Be Helpful
If you’re the mother of a young child, we’re so glad you’re here today! We know it can be hard to even get out of the house let alone get to church. During service, if your baby gets a little fussy, maybe becomes a distraction to those around you…
Hold on. What?
“maybe becomes a distraction to those around you”
Oh! A distraction to those around me. Thanks for pointing that out, because if you hadn’t- I may not have even realized it! It was not one of the million thoughts going through my head this morning as I pushed through to even get here that my baby might be a “distraction” to someone around me. Heaven for-bid!
Can We Talk About Actual Distractions?
Can we get an announcement about that lady a row in front of me playing on Facebook while the pastor is talking? No, she’s not new here- she’s here every week and has been for at least the past year. What about the guy who stands in front of the stage playing air guitar… Can we have him tone it down because, seriously, THAT is distracting.
Oh…now I’m judging. Sorry- not my intention. I just thought we had opened up some honest conversation about distractions since we were on the topic. But no, it’s completely inappropriate for me to call all of that out but ok for you to call a mom of a little one out to make sure she knows there are appropriate “rooms” for her to be in if her baby starts distracting people. She’s not smart enough to know if the baby is getting a little loud that she should step out, she needs you to specifically spell that out for her.
The Way Parents Of Young Children Are Treated At Church
In case it’s unclear (yes, that’s sarcasm) the way that moms with little ones get treated sometimes at church is one of those things that absolutely makes me want to scream.
When I first had my daughter, we were going to a big church and she would normally nap around the time that we went to church on Sunday mornings. The beat of drums for some reason always helped with this and thankfully, the church definitely had drums. So during worship, she’d fall asleep and then wake up right before the sermon was over.
The Nursery is That Way =>
The thing was, that the ushers at the church didn’t know I had this completely planned and 99% of the time it worked like a charm. They’d stop me before I even go to the door- “The nursery is that way.” I’d smile, say ‘thank you’ and head into the sanctuary. Listen ya’ll- church or not- my infant is not being left with a stranger (no judgment if you do, this was just me).
As she got bigger, I did attempt to take her to the nursery and the first time she went in. After that, if I even turned to head that way she’d scream bloody murder. So, I’d head into the sanctuary, have the ushers stop us to tell me ah-gain about the nursery. I stopped smiling and just rolled my eyes as I found a seat. Then, if she made the tiniest of squeaks I’d jump up and head out to a ‘waiting’ area where I could watch the sermon on tv and let her play with a toy or walk around and bounce her. Here, she could only distract other moms with children who were distracting other people so it wasn’t a big deal.
Why Am I Showing Up Anyway?
If I were going to watch the sermon on tv though, why was I even bothering to show up to begin with? I could watch a sermon on tv at home. Not to mention that would allow me to forgo the evil usher eyes for not sending the baby to the nursery. So you know what I did? I quit going.
It was hard enough for me to get there. As a first time mom, I felt insecure and bad enough about so many other things that I didn’t need this one more thing to add on to it. I’m an issue at work if the baby is sick and I can’t come in. I’m an issue at home because I can’t get everything done. I’m an issue in a restaurant because the baby is done and tired of sitting there while I try and finish my food (since I hadn’t eaten yet to try and feed them first). In my mind, I was always inconveniencing someone and this drove me crazy. I have always been a very independent person and felt like I should be able to do everything and more. This new phase where suddenly I had to make sure that I was essentially seen and not heard was weird and I hated it.
An Article Of Hope
A few years later, I read an article on the Huffington Post titled “Dear Parents Of Young Children In Church.” I balled my eyes out. I realized that a lot of what I had put on myself was just that- me putting it on myself. I wanted to believe there was importance in me pushing through. When I read this, I now had a toddler and another baby. I decided to try and give it another go with a church.
Giving Church Another Try
This time, the church we decided to try was held in a movie theater. I’ll be honest, it seemed awkward at first but the people were nice and the pastor was interesting. Not once did anyone say “The nursery is over there” as I walked in. That was a relief, however even though nobody wants to acknowledge it when you’re the mom of a baby- you are already paranoid about bothering someone and are convinced they are all staring at you if the baby makes a peep.
My first child was two now, and she loved to go to the nursery. They completely won her over with goldfish crackers. My baby, who was about eight months, would last through the singing before he was done. So then, I’d sit outside the theater room on a bench letting the baby play with a toy or walking up and down the hall. I had become familiar with those in the nursery and had tried to leave the baby a couple times. I’d go in, the baby would cry and they’d say “just go it’ll be fine.” It broke my heart but I knew a lot of times with kids that was true so I would go and stand outside that theater where I could hear. My husband would convince me to go into the service. It didn’t stop. The entire time the baby would cry. The people in the nursery wouldn’t come to get me because they didn’t want to bother me. This was supposed to be a kind gesture but frustrated me because I didn’t want the baby to cry the entire time and then I felt bad that they had to deal with that the entire time.
Not Working Out
My husband would offer to switch off with me and take the baby out but then I was completely distracted the entire service wondering if everything was ok, wondering if I needed to go out there. I heard none of the services on these occasions so I would just decline and tell him I’d go out with the baby. This, was my own issues and I can see that.
Eventually, it just wasn’t worth going. I told my husband he could go but I would stay home because not only was I not hearing anything but the theater had also started opening for movies earlier which made it all the more awkward to be sitting in the halls as people came through.
Once again, I quit.
It was just too much. Getting there with a one-year-old and three-year-old was a hassle. Then, not even hearing the sermon and feeling invisible because I couldn’t ‘volunteer’ for anything so obviously I wasn’t worth knowing. Sorry, I had two little ones that I was responsible for. I couldn’t just leave them with someone to come help with the greeting or a clean up at someone’s house. If I sound bitter of snappy about it, I’m still working on getting over these feelings.
A Little Bigger, A Lot Easier
Fast forward to now. Getting out of the house with two kids can still be a challenge. They are 4 and 7. About eight months ago we decided to give church another try after the constant hounding of my seven-year-old. This time, we decided on a church that was currently being held in the auditorium of my old high school. Bizarre because never in a million years did I see myself walking back into this school. My sister had been going there for a while and knew the people in the children’s area. My youngest was not so sure at first, so we had them both put into the same class. While they stayed there the whole service, my little one complained that the older one found a friend and ignored him. The next week I decided to put them each in their own age group. Again, they stayed back the entire time. When we picked them up my little one said “I had SO much FUN!”
It was amazing. A-Maze-Za-Zing. No crying, no complaining, happy as could be to get dropped off and excited to tell me about their experience when I picked them up.
Being There To Support Those Who Are Experiencing What You’ve Gone Through
The thing is the time period when they were really little and I was trying so hard to do the church thing absolutely burned me. Announcements that are supposed to be helpful about a mothers’ area are infuriating to me. I think that so often as moms, we experience this time and then we get out of it. Our kids start to go into Sunday School easily and we can sit in the service. We forget how it felt when our kids didn’t do that and ignore the message about a special mothers’ area or how it can sometimes come across.
There’s a church, Hamburg First United Methodist in Arkansas that has these cards in their pews for parents of young children.
See the full, printable card.
Being Supportive and Being Community
This.. is to me, a little more what it should be like. Let’s welcome them to the front. Let’s teach them it’s ok to engage. That pastor probably has kids or grandkids- don’t discount him not being able to handle it. Yes, if a baby is crying it’s a good idea to step out. Mostly because that baby obviously needs a minute or some adjusting and you don’t want to make them have to sit and place and deal with it.
Many times though, the feeling seems to be once you’re out, you’re out. I get that there are churches who have created these nice, plush rooms for moms to go to and that is thoughtful. However, where’s the sense of for her? Where is the ‘church family’ for her? For many moms, this is the time when they feel irrelevant. Their bodies have carried a baby for (give or take a week or so) 40 weeks. During this time, their body wasn’t really theirs. It was the housing for this incredible human being. Then, especially the first couple of years of that incredible human being’s life that mom’s body is used to feed and comfort that incredible human being. Nobody cares she’s been up for 32 hours straight because that baby is teething. We’ve got things to get done and if you can’t help then just move on out of the way seems to be the thinking. Please understand, she doesn’t want you to solve anything for her. She doesn’t want you to feel bad for her. What she wants is for someone to look her in the eye and say “It’s tough sometimes, but what you are doing right now is making an eternal impact and it matters.” She needs someone to say “you’re doing a good job, it’s tough sometimes but you’re doing it with grace.”
Speak life to her. Don’t stop her just to say “wow! You look tired!” that isn’t helpful or kind. Ask how her week is going. Offer to sit by her because you’ve got kids or grandkids (or even if you don’t but you are great with kids) and you want her to know it’s ok if there’s a fuss. It’s not bothering you or anyone else. As part of her community, you are here to support her.
An Opportunity To Love And Support
The majority of moms know when their baby needs something and they need to step out with them. For those few times that there’s someone who doesn’t- isn’t our God big enough to still get his message across through a baby crying? Maybe that baby crying is an opportunity to help. Rather than finding it a nuisance maybe we should wonder if that mom who hasn’t walked out with a noisy baby is in search of something from God. Maybe she is doing her best to push through to get it. Instead of looking around to see where the noise is coming from we should say a prayer for comfort and peace and it never hurts to have some toddler snacks on hand. My point is, this mama is an important part of your community and right now she may be at her most vulnerable. Choose love. Choose kindness. Don’t use descriptions like ‘distraction’ or ‘disturbance’ because while it may seem innocent enough- to her, it could be what pushes her right out the door never to return.