The family had just left and we looked around our home. I love children and I love the noise of their chatter and the dirty little smudges they leave behind. But this experience with children had been different.
There were dirty boot prints all over my freshly cleaned carpet, leftover plates with half filled drinks left beside them on floors and tables and chairs, and something that looked like smeared frosting on one spot of the carpet. That was just one room. As I surveyed the scene, the entire house showed signs of a hoard of children passing through…toys were all over the children’s bedrooms, paper and crayons left on tables…We had only had three children and their mother over. I sighed, the mess was nothing compared to the frustrating conversation I had attempted to have with the children’s exhausted, and frazzled mother.
What I had gathered from her, was that she felt that we were raising our children the same way. She felt I was just as weary as she. She thought what she was experiencing in motherhood was normal. Due to the inordinate interruptions from children and her constant appeasing of her toddler, we never got to the part of the conversation where I could tell her that her expectations of her children and her expectations of motherhood were far too low, and that she could experience joy and peace as a mother instead of struggling through each day to survive.
I groaned inwardly as this dear mother expressed her desire to meet up again soon. I knew her soul was starved for fellowship and that she desired to have an uninterrupted conversation. But I also knew, that I had no desire to develop a friendship with her simply because her children were so difficult to have around.
Let me ask my readers, is this a mother one you know? Are you possibly this mother yourself?
Let me begin by giving hope. If you know a mother who is in need of fellowship, but is a burden be around simply because of her children, here are some tips I have implemented to build a friendship with her. The goal is not only to provide a weary should with fellowship, but to possibly give her hope that motherhood can be so much more than what she experiences.
I have quite a few friends whose children fall into the rowdy and unruly category. It is easy to simply choose not to develop a friendship, and I must admit that has often been my fallback, but as my children mature and as age has brought experience and wisdom to my soul, I find there is a way to peruse friendships with struggling mothers in a way that is a benefit for both of us.
- Pray and Show Grace and reach out on occasion. It is easy to block out families with unpleasant children out of our lives. We can even try to make it sound righteous, like, “Those kids will influence my children to be naughty.” Honestly, if anything, children who are well managed, will find the other children difficult to play with and their behavior shocking and frustrating rather than joining in. If my child chooses to join in (usually the boys not girls) I can use it as a moment to instruct him otherwise in front of the floundering mother and often that gets her to think a little more about why her kids do what they do. In any case, I do still try to build a relationship with certain mom’s because they need it; not because I need it.
- Rule your home. Even though other people and parents might be visiting with their children. My home is ruled “my way.” I have no qualms entering a room and telling a group of children that “we don’t do that in this house.” Or “In our home, we clean up when we finish playing with one thing.” Or “I am sorry, but we are not playing with that today.” My son loves playing with kinetic sand. For him and his siblings, the mess stays contained to where I allow. He is not allowed to play with that sand with anyone but siblings. So when we have guests, even our well-mannered ones, the sand never comes out.
- Meet up at parks and museums, not in a home. This provides time for casual conversation while little ones are interested in new things. It also eliminates the need to clean up. I want my children to love hospitality and not dread the cleanup after each visit. There have been times they have groaned…”Oh no! Those people again.” Although, such friends can be tools to help my children develop grace and gratitude, I try to keep those occasions few for my children’s sake. I am a busy mom too and have enough clean-up in our home from my own family, to add another family’s hurricane into my week can be stress I do not need either. A park or indoor play-place also enables me to take my leave when I feel it is time instead of hoping a mother, whose children have overstayed their welcome, won’t continue to stay and try to have a conversation that will never happen.
- Meet at the other Mom’s Home. This is a great way to give yourself space to leave a house if you need, but also puts the weight of hospitality on the other mother and gives you opportunity to ensure that you show her by example how to get your children to pick up before they leave and tell the hostess “thank you.” I have often been somewhere to visit and either been asked “how do you get your children to behave so well?” or if the mother comes to our house, she may require more of her children the next visit. Some mothers just don’t know how to make their children behave and have to see you do it first.
- Introduce your needy mother to other ladies. To be the only friend a mother has is no place for anyone. Mothers need lots of friends, so arrange play-dates with a couple moms at a time and try to help friends build friendships that can continue without you. I have done this often, and some of those friends will still get together with each other.
- Use other’s kids poor behavior as a teaching tool. My children love to tell me how disobedient other kids are. Things that are said, or done are often reported by “good” children, this includes sibling and friends. I have had so many wonderful conversations with my children about things other children have said or done and the consequences that brings. How many times my children have asked if I had a good visit, and I can tell them that is was not because of the little one who continued to bother his mommy. I cannot begin to tell how many times my children’s eyes are blind to their own rudeness or fussiness, but once they have seen it on someone else, they see it for what it is in themselves.