mothers of invention: erika
current city: Nashville, TN
living situation: I live with my husband and our two children. Big Brother is two-and-a- half, and Baby Sister is ten months old. We also have two big dogs, Stella and Nala, who are very much a part of our every day.
occupation: Mostly I’m a mom right now but I am also doing some part-time youth ministry consulting for a company called Youth Ministry Architects.
how do you structure your time and space? We have a bit of a backwards life due to my husband’s work schedule. He is a counselor at a local non-profit organization, and since his work is with kids and their families, he works late every evening. He does, however, have many mornings free to be with us while his young clients are at school, and so during the week, we have our family meal and play time in the morning. While it makes for a rough end-of-the-day routine for me with the little ones, it affords him the chance to be creative with his parenting time in ways that he might not if we had a more “normal” schedule. I usually spend time in the mornings doing the things I can’t do well when my hands are full during the day. I do chores, get some of my work done, or go have an hour to do something of my choice. This schedule has also allowed me the privilege of meeting before school one morning each week with some high school girls whom I mentor. And it gives me the chance to do some consulting work. When I have to be on-site for the job, we call the grandmothers to come love on the kids.
I could speak more to the lack of structure in our space than to how we have it organized. Often we hear the phrase “it’s lived in” when we have guests over to our home, and though I have figured out that that’s the southern way of kindly saying “please don’t apologize about how incredibly messy you are,” I still like to believe that our house is very functional and, if you can look past the scattering of play things and the cheerios on the floor, it is even charming on Thursdays, which is when we really clean.
I have a desk downstairs in our playroom, but I do most of my work five feet from it in an over-sized purple chair, which is my spot. I think I might decide that no one under the age of 18 should sit in it, just to preserve it as my place in our home that is so clearly and wonderfully fingerprinted by growing children. I feel the same way about the toilet in the master bathroom, but that’s because we’re potty-training a two year old boy! It’s a very messy process.
using the metaphor of seasons to describe the phases of women’s lives,
-what are the particular challenges and highlights of your current season? This season is particularly challenging for me because I feel like I’m having to reinvent myself. I have spent the last decade of my life working primarily with middle school girls, and as a new mom, I feel like I’m 13 again. With the arrival of our second baby last December, I decided to quit my full-time job as a youth director so that I could be more available to our children. As I said goodbye to a job I loved, I also said goodbye to being a consistent part of a community of people who are very dear to me. Now I find myself navigating play groups and playgrounds, looking for women who might also feel available for authentic conversation (and even friendship) in a time that feels really messy and revealing for most anyone who is honest about the joys and struggles of raising small children. I also feel challenged to make enough time for myself and even with Jeremy, since our mornings are so busy with kids, and he isn’t home until very late at night.
There are also plenty of highlights for me in this time. I absolutely love watching my kids grow into who God is creating each of them to be. I love having adventures with them every single day, and I love witnessing the wonder of discovery for each of them as they explore very freely. Playing with them is a huge highlight right now, and for me, having the freedom to be available to them and to my husband without having to worry about who I’m disappointing at work is a really wonderful gift too.
-what season(s) preceded this one? I would say that prior to Baby Sister’s arrival in our world, my life appeared to have more balance. My husband and I both worked outside of our home in careers to which we felt called. We were able to figure out our schedules so that we could be accountable to our employers and our family with only ten hours of babysitting help each week. Though it definitely felt crazy at times, it was a really rich and full season at work and at home.
Ironically, I think I would claim balance in this season, in part, because as a very clueless new mom, I could escape to a job I loved and knew how to do. At the end of the day I felt like I had the privilege of being a part of someone else’s story both outside and inside of my home. In reality though, I felt a lot of guilt. If I was at work, I was missing Big Brother, and when I was at home, I often felt like I should be working. It was really hard for me to be present in the moment.
-what season(s) might your future hold? I am hopeful that I might give myself permission to dream a bit about the seasons to come. I’d like to do youth ministry in a more regular capacity in the future, but my heart also feels open to other ways of serving. It’s best for me to leave open the possibilities of what life might look like when our kids are bigger. Because I’d much rather do what I want to do than what I need to do in most circumstances, I feel like I can dream bigger if I don’t have a plan just yet.
favorite family activities: We love going for walks to the park, and we just recently got the gear we need to safely attach the kids to our bicycles. It’s been fun riding around town with them. We also love having picnics, playing hide-and-seek, going to the zoo, and making up silly songs. Though we don’t get there often enough, we like being in the mountains and at the beach as a family. We always grocery shop together too, and we have several made up games that we love to play in the car.
favorite solo activities: When I have alone time, I like to go for a run or a walk. I like to do some sort of craft. I like to read novels or blogs. I like to pray, and I like to take bubble baths.
source(s) of inspiration: I’m inspired by moms who love their husbands and children well and are honest about the good and the hard parts of that journey. I’m inspired by Sesame Street and Curious George, both of which challenge me to be more creative in how to make ordinary things extraordinary and which also remind me to foster an environment that encourages and celebrates learning. I’m inspired by scripture, which makes me aware of my need for grace in my life and reminds me even and especially on the days that I feel gross that I am God’s beloved treasure. I’m inspired by teenagers—some of the ones I know want to change the world for the better because they still think it’s possible and don’t think it’s too much work. I’m inspired by old hymns.
best MakeShift moment: I always feel the need to be makeshifty at dinner time, and have figured out a couple of ways to deal with the chaos of having two small, hungry children, and no help. The first is to access our beloved Labradoodle, Stella, as my ally in this time of need. Because I can see our entire fenced-in backyard from our kitchen windows, I can open them up and send Big Brother outside, where he and Stella happily play fetch for as long as my heart desires (they would play much longer if I were not so good at making turkey sandwiches and putting frozen delights in the microwave).
Sister loves paper, so she is entertained when we put post-it notes up on the walls and cabinets for her to pull down. I also have discovered how wonderful it is to tape butcher paper to the kitchen floor and let the kids color while I make dinner. Sometimes we even tape big sheets to the wall and, after I draw an outline of each kid, Brother colors in the details while Sister plays with crayons. I have been known to think this is more fun than cooking or washing dishes, so this one sometimes slows me down when it comes to actually getting work done, but I don’t ever regret it. I’m learning to be okay with the fact that most days there are some leftovers on my to-do list.
[if you or someone you know would make a good “mother of invention,” please check out the nomination process and questionnaire located on the sidebar to your right.]