Today's my fourteenth post in a 31 days series about Practicing Messy Motherhood. This week specifically I'm going to be writing about the "conversation" of motherhood.
I’m awkward beyond awkward at small talk. This year, before our third Influence Conference, I actually googled “how to small talk well”. It felt like if I was going to be leading a conference, I might as well learn how to join casual conversations. What I’ve learned from a little bit of research is that it’s not that I’m so awful at thinking of things to say, it’s that I’m not awesome at knowing how to leave the small talk and move on. I’ll find myself walking away mid-interaction abruptly because I’m just not sure what comes next.
There was a season where I was very much a part of a conversation about motherhood. It was ongoing, it was local, it was global. It was online, it was offline, it was encouraging and life-giving and it was occasionally incredibly discouraging and defeating. I found myself sharpened and I found myself feeling too sharp all at once. I’ve just now started to really notice that I’m no longer a part of it, and I’m just now starting to notice how that has affected me.
Between 2008 and 2010, I lived in a community that was compiled of many, many mothers. We went places together, we had playdates, we went for coffee, we worshipped together, and we talked – a lot. From 2010 to the beginning of 2012, I lived in a community where I didn’t have a lot of day in and day out communication with mothers – in fact, I didn’t have a ton of communication day in and day out with anyone. I shared a car with my husband who worked 30 miles away, so mostly I just stayed home, took care of my kiddos, engaged with women online and escaped when I could for adult interaction. My friends were much more diverse then, some married, some not, and even the moms I knew weren’t MOMS!, meaning that was rarely their only role. A few of them worked outside the home, a few were bloggers, and a few were really interested in ministry.
In 2012 we moved to an entirely different community and I often tell people that this was a massive turning point for me, because it was the first move in my adult life where the Lord really handed me the freedom to not completely alter my identity based off the women I was surrounded by. Until that point, I had a habit of unintentionally patterning my lifestyle based on who I was around. But in this particular season, I believe I had tasted just enough freedom that I did not want to do that anymore. And so even though I moved to a new place, with new kinds of moms who seemed incredibly similar to one another, I didn’t really ever pick up the pace in the conversation they were having.
And so where did that leave me? It left me with quiet thoughts and an open mind about motherhood. It left me with a heart that felt like a blank slate identity wise. It left me mostly free from the trappings of whatever Christian community I was currently in, with the ability to let the Holy Spirit work in my family and dictate who we should be and how we should be. But it also left me lonely. And it also left me occasionally feeling isolated with my thoughts that tended to differ from those around me. And it also left me feeling like I didn’t particularly fit any one conversation – like the new girl at the party, standing on the edge of various groups, listening and trying to laugh along.
I wonder where you feel like you are in the conversation of modern motherhood? Laughing loudly and leading the way? Setting the tone and picking the subject matter? Quietly listening and digesting what it is you’re hearing, wondering when it’s appropriate to speak your mind? Or maybe you’re like me – standing on the edge of the motherhood conversation, feeling the freedom to listen in - but also fearing the quiet?
Part Two Tomorrow.