When Lonely Moms Long for Relationship
About the Guest
Has motherhood left you lonely? Author Maggie Combs offers solutions when you long for relationshipâ€”and long to be known.
When Lonely Moms Long for Relationship
Maggie: When you’re a mom, you can be so insulated, like, “Nobody else has it as hard as I do! [Laughter] This is the impossible task that I’ve been given today: to do all of this laundry!”; you know? And it is really hard, but there are other really hard things, too; and there are other women, who will come alongside of you, who might be in a simpler stage of life, and say, “Hey, how can I help you do that? Let’s do that together.”
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: So you’re a mother of three boys; you’re a boy-mom.
Ann: Yes, I am! [Laughter]
Maggie: We’re a special breed.
Dave: Yes, and we’ve got a boy mom—we’ve got two boy moms—in here.
Dave: You both have three sons. You know, we actually have daughters-in-law now, and grandkids. But as you think about that, what was the best thing about being a mother of sons? What was the worst? What comes to your mind first?
Ann: The hardest—I wouldn’t say the worst, but the hardest—thing was when they were little. They are so active; they are constantly on the go. It felt physically exhausting. I feel like I have a lot of energy; but I felt like, “I don’t know if I can do this!”
And the best was just kind of discovering how God made them: their physical-ness; their fun; their adventure hearts.
We’re excited because we have Maggie Combs back with us today. Maggie has written a book called Motherhood Without All the Rules: Trading Stressful Standards for Gospel Truths.
Dave: You’re a mom of three boys as well. I’ll throw the same question to you: “Best/greatest thing about it?” and “What’s the hardest thing?”
Maggie: The hardest thing for me has just been the physical-ness of it—like you said—they’re so busy. I remember my husband, when he would stay late at work—I had these three toddler boys—it was like, “They can’t go to bed unless someone has wrestled with them.” [Laughter] I would get down on the floor, and I would go into the fetal position; and I would be like, “Okay, you can wrestle me now!” And they would just jump all over me.”
Thankfully, they’re a little older now, so now, I just say like, “Just go wrestle with each other; okay? Try not to break a bone.”
Dave: For me, I can remember times they were so rambunctious—they’re never going to settle down—we’d be like, “Okay; outside! Sprint up and down!”
Ann: This was the middle of winter in Michigan.
Ann: “Put all your snow clothes on. You guys, run as fast as you can down the street.”
Dave: Yes, for like two hours—no, I’m kidding—but you know, just to get some exhaustion; because they’re never going to settle down.
Ann: Isn’t it interesting the things that you do—that you said, “I will never do this,”—did you have any of those?
Maggie: I’m not sure if I had any specific ones of those. My boys were born in a clump of baby girls—just so many baby girls—all of my friends were having baby girls. We would have play dates; and it was like, “Oh, this is a totally different world.” I remember my best friend coming up to me, and I don’t remember what the item was she picked up off my floor. She said [whispering], “I found this on your floor. You know, it’s not safe,” or whatever. I was like, “Oh, yes; of course. I’m so glad you found that.” I was thinking to myself, “But I was letting my kid play with that five minutes before you came here.”
I feel like boys kind of get a bad rap sometimes, though. I would say my favorite thing about raising boys is just seeing how tender they can be.
Maggie: We’re always saying, “Oh, they’re rough and tumble,”—which they are—but then that flip side, where they’re just really sweet and tender with me/with each other; and just being really good at loving well, still being a crazy boy.
Ann: I remember one time one of my friends asked me to come over to help her wallpaper her bathroom. She had just had her fifth baby. I guess that little boy was maybe seven months old or eight months old. She’s corralling all of her kids in the other room; and I’m up on the ladder, putting this wallpaper up.
I said, “Hey, you might want to come in here!”; because her baby could sit up, but her baby was in the bathroom with me. She was thinking, “Well, you can watch him while you wallpaper.
Ann: “He’ll be fine!” And I said, “Your little boy has the plunger, and it’s in his mouth!” I’m waiting for her to rush in and grab that plunger. She goes, “It’s fine!” [Laughter] Even for me, like, “Ugh, I don’t think that’s quite fine.” [Laughter] But it’s amazing the survival mode that we get into as moms.
Dave: Now, do you think it’s a lot different for moms of daughters?
Ann: I think it’s just dependent on personality. What do you think, Maggie?
Maggie: Yes; and I think every mom has to like learn to chill out a little bit—
Maggie: —to some extent, or else you just go crazy.
Ann: Maybe not the plunger, but—
Maggie: Maybe not plunger-level chilling out. [Laughter] But you learn to go, “Okay, I can say ‘Yes,’ to that, when everything inside me is screaming, ‘No! Protect them! Be careful!’”
Ann: Well, Maggie, you’ve written more than this book. Tell us about the other things that you’ve done and what you’re doing now.
Dave: Unsuper Mommy.
Dave: That’s a great title.
Maggie: My first book is Unsuper Mommy, and it was written in the throes of early motherhood. When I started it, I had a six-month-old, an eighteen-month-old, and a three-and-a-half-year-old.
Ann: What?! That is being a supermom!
Dave: Are you crazy?
Maggie: Well, no. [Laughter] Because it was like, “What did I do really bad at today?” [Laughter] It’s just written from just the overflow of what God was teaching me in the hardest season of my life. It is really raw, but it’s just sharing with women how to release all of those plans that they did have for motherhood.
Maggie: Suddenly, they’re like, “Alert, alert! Emergency! None of my plans are coming to fruition,”—and to release those—and to embrace the life that God has put before them that day and to know that they can only do that life by the power of God.
The other thing that I get to do now, as a writer, is I am content director at a ministry called Well-Watered Women. I get to write Bible studies; and I get to oversee social media; and share the gospel with women, across the board—who are moms, who are single, who are married, who are divorced, who are widowed—all women, not just moms. It’s been a real gift to be part of that ministry.
Dave: Well, it’s interesting; one of the sections of this book—you know, Motherhood Without All the Rules—the chapter title was “Relationship Over Rules.” I initially thought, “Oh, I know where this is going”; because we wrote a chapter in our No Perfect Parents book about: “Rules without relationship equals rebellion”; so it was about your relationship with your kids, especially teenagers.
Maggie: That’s one of my parents’ favorite sayings.
Dave: Yes, it is.
Ann: Is it?
Dave: It’s been around for a long time. You know, it’s highlighting a very important thing, especially teenagers: is if all they’re getting from you is rules—you’re not cultivating a relationship—it could lead to rebellion.
But that isn’t what you were talking about. I found it very insightful. You’re talking about relationship with God over just being a rule-based parent; talk about that.
Maggie: Yes; I think one of the things that I aim to do in my book is talk to the mom’s heart; because we can give them all the parenting advice in the world, but if their heart isn’t following God, it’s not going to do them any good! It’s just slapping on fruit on a tree that is dying.
Maggie: So, actually, I think that I tried to work that phrase into my book somewhere—the “Rules without relationship equals rebellion,”—because it works the same way in our relationship with God; right?
Dave: Yes; right.
Maggie: If we just take all of the good rules/all of the good exhortations that the Bible gives us, and we try to do them without being in relationship with God, we’re going to end up pretty angry at God or throwing the whole thing out altogether. We see all this de-conversion stuff right now—right?—throwing it all out altogether and saying, “Hey, I don’t want anything to do with this anymore.”
That’s what this book is trying to do—is aim at that heart and say, “Instead of trying to fix your actions, let’s work on what’s going on in our heart as mom; dig into that with God. Learn to be in prayer with Him.” I think, so often, we’re afraid to tell Him how upset we are about what is happening in our lives. And so being able to actually go to Him and be honest, like: “This was really hard today,” “This is what I’m struggling with…”—not just like, “Here’s my laundry list of things I want You to do for me,”—but talk to Him like we would talk to our best friend.
I think I call my mom up like 15 times a day. [Laughter] I just tell her all the weird stuff that happens in motherhood. Sometimes, moms can feel like, “Man, I just want someoneto tell everything to”; right? And we do have Someone to tell everything to. Moms often really struggle with loneliness; because we’re just so deep in our kids’ lives, we don’t have time to make friendships.
First of all, God does call us to build friendships and to make space for that; but in seasons like when my kids were really little, it was just basically impossible. It was like God could be that for me; He is my friend, not just my Savior.
Ann: I think that’s so good. I know that, when our kids were little, I would call my sister. She had four boys, and I had three boys. As soon as something would happen, I would call her. I had this—and then we would just vent to one another; you know?—we’d just go to dark, deep places! And I realized one day, as I was praying, I was thinking/I had this thought of like God saying, “Come to Me first.” Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s me! I have my hand up!” So I thought, “Before I call my friend or my sister, I’m going to go to God first and tell Him everything that’s on my heart.” And doesn’t He want that? He wants us to go there with Him!
It’s so funny, because the more I did that, the more I felt like, “Oh, I want to go to Him first,” because other people aren’t solving my problems. I would get this peace, as Philippians says, that surpasses all understanding; and it would guard my heart and my mind in Jesus.
I remember driving, not too long ago. I was praying, just talking to God about when I lost my mom. I remember saying to Jesus, “You’re my best Friend.” And that takes a while, to go to Him first—to learn that—that’s what we want for our kids. We can model that, of letting them see us go before God and telling Him what’s on our hearts and minds. I love that you’re talking about that.
Maggie: Yes; we all long for that. We are relational people, because we are made in the image of a relational God. He is Trinitarian—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and in Him, there’s perfect relationship. Back in the garden, Adam and Eve got to be in perfect relationship; they walked with God. And then, that was broken by sin; but Jesus came to make a way for us to have perfect relationship with God again. We will fail sometimes in this world, but we are growing towards living more in relationship with Him. Prayer is such an essential part of that.
Dave: I was thinking of this, you know, in terms of the relationship with God: you mentioned, earlier, that moms often feel lonely;—
Dave: —so they need another mom or another friend as well. I remember—and I don’t know where I read it, years ago—I think it was a Max Lucado book, 25-30 years ago. He tells this cute little story of a little boy running in mom and dad’s room during a thunderstorm. He grabs his dad’s leg; I think he’s about six. You know, he says, “I’m scared.” Dad says, “Hey, you don’t need to be scared. Jesus is here; Jesus has got it.” He goes, “Yes, I know that; but right now, I need someone with skin on.” [Laughter] I’ve never forgotten that. I thought, “That’s so true for us as well. We don’t need anybody else but Jesus—He’s all we need; He’s our sufficiency—yet, He’s made us in such a way we need humans.
I’m thinking, as moms: “How do moms dig out of that loneliness to have other moms in your life to help support you when you’re going through/I mean, those are the shadow of the valley—you know?—[Laughter]—when you’re raising little toddlers, especially boys—or girls—it's like it’s exhausting. You need another mom.
Dave: How do you do that?
Maggie: We’ve been given friends; we’ve been given the local church. So often, we want to go to Instagram® for relationship; we want to go to social media for relationship. Those relationships are not enough; they cannot know our whole selves. But women, who are in our lives, doing real life with us, can when we’re willing to pull back the veneer and say, “Hey, I don’t feel like a good mom today, because I did this...”
Ann: And moms tend to hide in our shame. When we feel shame, we pull away from others. I remember making myself make calls when I felt like: “Every other mom’s better than I am,” and “If I tell them the way I’m acting, or even what’s in my heart”—like I’m so angry or lonely sometimes—“I’m afraid I’ll be judged.” Sometimes, to be the first one to say it will open this door of other women saying, “Me too!” And there’s something really special and healing about having people open up about what they’re facing, and then praying.
I think the right kind of friend, Dave, is really important. When I would call a friend, and she would say, “I know! Your husband is an idiot.” [Laughter] I’m, “Okay, that may not be the best friend.” [Laughter]
Dave: You had friends say that about me?!
Ann: Oh, it could have been a family member. [Laughter]
Ann: I’m just kidding! [Laughter]
Maggie: I was going to say there are kind of two steps. There’s one: being willing to be the first person to be vulnerable.
Maggie: But then, making sure that you are being vulnerable with the kind of friend, who’s going to give you the gospel.
Maggie: The world is full of all kinds of things to put our hope in: we can put our hope in the next girls’ night out; or the next vacation; or one of the main ones moms hear is: “Don’t worry! It’s just a season.” And that is a little hope; that is not enough to support all the hope that we need for motherhood.
So getting a friend, who you know is going to say, “I see that. I see how that was really hard; but you know what? I also see that Jesus is here with you, and He knows what it’s like when your kids are just/they [do] not listen to anything you say.” [Laughter] Who knows better than Jesus about that; right?! I mean, it’s like, “Prone to wander…”
So when your kids are refusing to listen to you, a friend who says, “You know what? I think God has experienced that, too; let’s pray together.”
Ann: Yes; that friend, who says, “Let’s pray.”
Maggie: “Let’s remember.
Maggie: “Let’s remember, together, what God has said about this.”
Dave: Well, it’s easy, as a guy, to think women never struggle with the loneliness; because you’re so good at relationships. But you know, you watch women relate to one another; and it’s like, “Wow! They have real friendships. We men have to initiate and struggle with that.”
But you really do need other women. And if it’s true, how do you do it, as a mom, who’s overwhelmed with her schedule? How do you find time to spend some time with women?
Maggie: I think there are a few ways. One of the best ways to spend time with other women is to join your church Bible study. Praise the Lord for church childcare! [Laughter] Am I right?
I struggled with doing that, as a young mom, because I was like, “Well, I know the kids are going to have a hard day.
Ann: “It’s naptime.”
Maggie: “I know that the naptime will get messed up,” and all this stuff. But you have to say like, “I actually know that, even more than I need an easy afternoon that day, I need to be opening God’s Word with other women.”
I think the great thing about Bible study, especially if you can be involved in an intergenerational Bible study, is it opens your eyes to circumstances—other women, who are in different ages and stages of life and their circumstances—because when you’re a mom, it can be so insulated, like, “Nobody else has it as hard as I do! [Laughter] This is the impossible task that I’ve been given today: to do all of this laundry!”; you know? And it is really hard, but there are other really hard things, too; and there are other women, who will come alongside of you, who might be in a simpler stage of life, and say, “Hey, how can I help you do that? Let’s do that together.”
Ann: I always say: have a woman in front of you, [who’s] ahead of you in their life stage; have a woman beside you, who is right alongside, that you can say, “Oh, I know! That happened to me today”; and then, I think it’s really good to have someone behind you, who maybe she just had the baby, or she just got married. Because, maybe you weren’t perfect in that stage, but you’ve learned so much.
I talk to so many older women, whose kids are gone, who feel like, “I have nothing to offer. My kids are gone. I feel like my life is kind of/the meaning of it doesn’t have as much significance.” I’m saying, “Oh, you are in the peak and prime of pouring into younger women.” And when they say: “But I’ve been divorced,” or “I have kids who have rebelled,” I’m like, “And haven’t you learned a lot from that?” because Satan says to us, ‘You’re disqualified!’ and God says, ‘No, I will use all of your pain for someone else’s gain if you’ll let Me. Let Me heal some of those things.’”
Maggie: Yes; we need the whole body of Christ.
Maggie: And we are all unfinished.
Maggie: I just hear so much, in the ministry that I work with—women going, “I want a mentor! How do I get a mentor?”—so if you are an older woman, who’s thinking, “I don’t know; I don’t have anything to offer,” there is a whole generation of women, who are just recognizing the shallowness of getting mentoring on the internet.
Maggie: And they’re starting to say, “I want someone to talk to about my real life.” If you would just say, “Hey, would you want to meet every once in a while?” that woman is going to be like, “Yes! I would love that! How can we do that?!”
Dave: Well, in some ways—you know, reading through your book—it’s like these stressful standards: most of them are lies. You know, they are things that we hear/or you hear, as a mom, from the culture and from the world. When you look at them, you are like, “That’s not true”; but when you connect with other women, that’s what they can do; they can speak. What you’re doing in your book is you’re saying: “This is a lie,” “This is a myth,” “Here's the Truth…”
Boy, if you’re surrounding yourself—same thing for guys; there’s no difference—and for couples—to say, “I need people in my life that remind me of what’s true. I’m buying into a lie again, and I don’t even realize it. I say it out loud; and they look at me and they go, “That’s not true.”
Maggie: That’s all discipleship is.
Maggie: Or if there’s a hard question, like, “Let’s find it in the Bible together.” You don’t have to be able to come up with the chapter and verse off the top of your head;—
Maggie: —“Let’s look together!”
Ann: And I think what we can do, as women, is—I’ve heard so many women say to me, “I’m sure you don’t have time”; you know? I think they assume in their head: “Nobody would want to meet with me. If somebody heard how I’m struggling, they would think I’m disqualified.” I would say, “Do not listen to those lies; because if Satan has a plan for your life, it’s that you remain isolated; you live in shame. And God is saying, ‘No, step out!’”
This year, I’ve been going through my one-year Bible; and every time it says, “And they cried out to the Lord,” do you know what the next sentence is?—“And He heard their cry.” I would just say to you women/to you moms: “Every single time you cry out, God hears you! So pray for a mentor; pray for a friend; pray for your kids, because God hears you. And then, if you have that urge—like if somebody comes to your mind—like, ‘I would love to meet with her,’ why not call? If she doesn’t work, then call someone else; but keep moving, and keep finding those people who can pour into you.”
Dave: And here’s the simple way to do that: pick up Maggie’s book.
Dave: Call another mom or two, and say, “Hey, let’s go through this together.” Who knows where that would lead to? You’re going to talk about mom stuff; and you may end up with a really good friend, who helps you do this journey as a mom.
Ann: That’s good.
Maggie: I love that idea.
Dave: I bet you do! [Laughter]
Maggie: I went through a season where—you know, that early season of motherhood—I came out, and that’s exactly what I did. I just said, “I’m lonely.” And I just prayed for a friend. You know what? God gave me three.
Maggie: Three very clear answers to prayer. One was a woman I had never met, who had recently moved to Minnesota and became one of my best friends. I saw her at Bible study; and I was like, “I like your Bible.” [Laughter] She’s like/kind of a Christian pickup line, I think. [Laughter] We started talking and just instantly became friends.
And then, one was a dear sister-in-law that I’ve always been friends with; but we just grew closer again. And then, one was a friend across the internet. We started talking about writing; and we’ve just been talking about writing ever since, and everything in life. God does answer that prayer; He wants us to be in fellowship with each other.
Bob: If you find yourself struggling in all that is involved in motherhood, maybe one of the issues is you’re isolated. You don’t have the help and the support you need from other moms; you don’t have other women you can lean on, who will tell you, “I’m struggling with that too,” or “Here’s something I’ve found that works there.” Being a mom was never designed to be done in isolation; we need one another in this journey.
This is something that Maggie Combs addresses in her book, Motherhood Without All the Rules. It’s a great book to help free you up from some of the preconceptions you might have about what it means to be a good mom. The subtitle of the book is Trading Stressful Standards for Gospel Truths. We want to make this book available to you this week if you can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. This would be a great book to give as a gift to a young mom you know, or to read through with a group of other moms, and maybe begin to cultivate some of those friendships that Maggie was talking about.
Get your copy of Motherhood Without All the Rules when you make a donation today to help support the outreach that is FamilyLife Today. Each day, there are hundreds of thousands of husbands and wives, moms and dads, who are connecting with us, looking for practical biblical help and hope for their marriage. You make this daily encouragement and equipping possible for them when you support this ministry. You can do that easily online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, when you do, ask for your copy of the book, Motherhood Without All the Rules,by Maggie Combs. Donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, all of us have heard on an airplane when they say, “If the oxygen mask drops down, put your mask on first and then put your child’s mask on.” Is that how it works with being a mom? Do you take care of yourself first before you take care of the kids? Dave and Ann Wilson will talk with Maggie Combs about the priority of self-care, and how that fits into being a mom, on tomorrow’s program. I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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