A lot changed entering parenthood. I experienced a surprising feeling of loss for things I had taken for granted. Even with a new baby, accepting the world went on without me was tricky. This independent woman was changed for ever. Mostly this brought joy – I was ready for motherhood – but I wasn’t ready for all the trimmings. It uncovered insecurities; I no longer fit into my favourite jeans & I no longer fit into some familiar places.
My church family were kind to our new family, & I have been at church from being young, so I assumed that being a mum here would be natural. What I began to feel instead was an internal struggle. It didn’t take long figure out, church services & babies don’t gel.
Maybe you can relate; in the early days I stumbled into awkward situations with a noisy baby and a well-meaning usher offering me alternative arrangements, & even tho I had prayed intently over the pram on the way in ‘PLEASE stay quiet during the preach’, my baby loved the contemplative times to say ‘I am here’.
I wanted to reply ‘don’t you know I just about made it out of the house? The baby screamed the whole way, I hardly slept last night, I don’t even know anyone in that room, they all talk while I want to listen, I want to talk and they just shush me, other kids seem way more settled, Dad last used the bag so I only have one nappy left (still in its plastic wrapper, it’s the free newborn one I forgot to use) and I just really like this preacher and want to feel normal for 35mins!!’
What I actually said, with a red face & irked tone, is ‘NO PROBLEM!’
Gathering babe & paraphernalia, bundling out feeling all eyes on me for what seemed like a mile.
I felt forgotten, overlooked and uncomfortable in a place which I had formerly felt seen, valued & safe. I pondered ‘what’s the point of going?”
After some ugly crying on a quiet night in the church porch, I felt God remind me that those feelings are not from Him. He set the lonely in families, He cares about my friendships, He sees me and knows my innermost thoughts. Reminded these feelings were not because of anyone else, instead about me.
‘I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.’ Jer 29 v 11
I don’t know where your church experience finds you – what I do know is God’s principles for living work in all stages of our lives. Here’s what I uncovered about how to survive being a new mum in church:
1: Embrace the season
I had to tell myself ‘Church is not the same – we have a baby ‘.
What ‘I’ went to church for became what ‘WE’ go to church for.
“But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24 v 15
In our natural homes we have rooms with different family resources – I look at church the same. The main service is for adults (& I began to empathise – this might be their first time in church), kids church is for children and I deduced the best experience for parents/babies is a parents room/area.
I am also the mum (because I worked all week) who couldn’t bear to leave my older kids and on occasion kept them with me. Eventually I had to roll up my sleeves and help in kids church – I figured it’s a better use of my time than half listening/half rescuing babies from boisterous boys!
If you have small groups, make it a priority to join. They are a LIFELINE. If there isn’t one that suits your needs, why not ask if you can start one?
It’s good for your soul to do good in God’s house, so I f you can find an area to volunteer, DO IT!
On the flip side, no one else can be ‘mum to your kids’ so don’t fill all your time!
TIP : Experiment, find what works for your family.
2. Find your mum tribe
Relationships need time & history. The parents room is where my kids & I made friends, & years on we still have those friends. Equally, I enjoyed the company of some only on Sundays – both brought richness to my life. Go to the church toddler group. Build up the courage to ask mums out for lunch/playdate in the park.
Can I suggest there’s a difference between fitting in and belonging. ‘I belong’ is a statement & sense; we belong because God reassures we do – BUT don’t muddle this up with ‘fitting in’ which denotes we have to do/be something other than ourself. I know this may be hard, but it’s so worth it. Seek out a tribe of women where you feel you belong & maybe find each other at the same stage of life – not always the same kinds of friends as before – your new ‘bundle’ of common ground, will help form new friendships.
TIP: If you want more on building friendships I personally love these podcasts by Noelle Rhodes friending podcasts
3: Stick it out
Consider what you want this season of your life to look like and put down roots – because it’s soooo difficult to change this once your house is built & it’s invaluable to keep coming Sundays.
‘When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,”
my heart leaped for joy.’ Psalm 122 v 1
Keep going with the kids, with or without your partner (my husband was often playing in the worship team & out early ). Getting to church alone with 3 kids was my norm; it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.
‘Babies are spirit beings’ – their needs are greater than just emotional/physical, and their spirits thrive in an atmosphere of faith. Church is more than the service; it is time with the whole church family – Sunday’s are a celebration of life. It’s as much about the before & after as during – it’s a shared experience.
Remember the foundations you build now with your children will last a lifetime.
TIP: If you are really missing the word/preach try top up on podcast teaching.
4: Set up Camp
It’s a day out. Get ready the night before, get into a stride, come early and leave later. (There’s enough stress in parenting without rushing around).
Use church as an activity & always make the most of dropping older kids with the lovely workers (who haven’t had them all week!!!)
I’ve found if you love going to church, they will love going to church too.
TIP : Take food for you & the kids, drinks, nappies, wipes, spare clothes, breast pads, charger – think like it’s a day trip out – WHATEVER you need to make it as smooth as possible. (Why not take extra for the mum who didn’t have time?)
5: Don’t hide
The easiest place for me to hide was behind ‘baby in pram’.
I often used ‘an extra long nappy change’ or ‘the baby needed feeding’ as a polite excuse to disappear, but the truth is, it isolated me.
You were never meant to hide. God made you to shine and stand out!!
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Jesus
TIPS: if you have had a tough week & feel the need to be invisible:
ONE Get yourself some worship time in the main church because there’s something special that happens in corporate worship that doesn’t happen anywhere else.
TWO Make a beeline for the parents area. No doubt lots of other parents will have lived a parallel life that week!! And make purposeful connections.
THREE Try also engaging with ordinary folk & just natter. Church is mostly filled with care giving people who will listen to you, nod and smile. Take advantage of it!!
FOUR Befriend a teenager that likes to push babies around in a pram.
6: Pay it forward & unite in motherhood
My early baby room experiences were challenging & rather than sit it out, my friend and I started a crèche. Other mum’s joined – we gathered some toys and made a welcoming space. It didn’t take much to make a parent’s area.
So I challenge you: For the time you are there why not grab the baton with pride, make it the best parents room EVER & pay if forward to other parents.
Share resources, tears & prayers.
NEVER EVER let anyone be alone or let a new parent leave without making a friend. (I have been the awkward visitor many times, where no one said hello and it feels crummy).
TIP: Why not care for 2/3 babies, while other mum/dad take turns to go into the service.
We are now in a thriving family church (which I appreciate makes it easier to enjoy Sundays) BUT if you need help to find a community of faith that you & your family can grow in, get in touch.
I believe the local church is God’s heartbeat for His family & the hope of the world. Maybe you didn’t know, but there’s actually lots of them out there doing a sterling job.
Or perhaps you find yourself in a place where you need this mantra ‘While I am in this season of life, if I cannot find it, I will be it !
united with you as you parent,