Mothering is a MOMumental Task: An interview with author Jennifer GrantBy Trillia Newbell | May 8th, 2012 | Category: Uncategorized | 3 comments
By Trillia Newbell
Motherhood is a monumental task. Jennifer Grant should know. She is the mother of two teenage boys and two girls on the brink of puberty. After 16 years of mothering, Grant takes her experience of imperfect and messy days, to write her new book MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family.
Grant, a mother and writer of Wheaton, Illinois, shares about her book and her experience creating art while raising a family in this Q & A.
Q: When did you decide to write MOMumental and why?
Grant: Almost as soon as I became a mother, I began writing about it. I wrote my oldest child’s birth story a few days after he was born. I felt aware that my world had changed in a profound way when I became a mother. More than funny stories about spit up or time outs (which I certainly enjoy reading and writing about), parenthood is an amazing treasure-trove (or minefield!) of ideas for many writers. As parents, we are forced to define – and commit in a new way to – what matters most to us. We look to breathe new life into our convictions, beliefs, and preferences when we have kids. We realize that we’re the grownups now and are creating family cultures that our children will always remember and refer back to as adults.
Q: Just for fun; what is a typical day in the Grant household?
Grant: Hmmm…hard to describe a typical one, but generally speaking, from about 6:30 a.m. until 9 a.m., it’s about showers, breakfast, and getting the kids off to school. From about 9 – 2:30, I write, do laundry, and try to make time to walk the dog around the park at the end of our street. Around 3 p.m., the day spins into a flurry of activity again as kids come home and I help mediate homework, after school snacks, carpools to softball or lacrosse practice. We then gather together for dinner together when my husband is home from work and talk about the day and reconnect again. Sometimes my clever daughters talk me into letting them watch “an episode of something” after dinner. They’re cagey – when there is laundry to be folded, they offer to do it while watching “an episode.” Right now, their favorite show to stream is “Monk.” After everyone’s in bed, I chat with my husband, make a cup of sleepytime tea, and read. (Of course now that softball season is in full swing – and both of my girls play – and my sons are playing soccer and lacrosse, some nights are about watching them play sports.)
Q: What are the top five tips you share in your book for parenting?
Grant: I have embraced a much more realistic view of what I can do as a parent than I had when I first became a mother. I call it “Velveteen parenting” after The Velveteen Rabbit. Some of my guidelines include:
•Choose your battles.
•Keep your eyes open and look with a critical—and often delighted—eye at what the culture is dishing up to your children. Teach your children to do the same.
•Remind yourself that children are not little adults, but are uniquely suited to grow, learn, and enjoy life in ways that many of us adults don’t remember how to do anymore.
•Ask questions such as, “What do I want our family to be like? What are our individual gifts and perspectives? What connects us as a family and brings us joy?”
•Develop certain priorities in your family’s life, such as treating each other with respect, eating together whenever possible, and attending church together.
I don’t advocate becoming Tiger Mom, BFF Mom, Helicopter Mom, or Earth Mama but hope mine is a compassionate book about being an intentional parent.
Q: You wrote that you try to allow your kids to work out their fights or disagreements. Why do you think this is important?
Grant: I have (very) often made the mistake of getting involved in my children’s arguments. When they are small, of course they aren’t equipped to manage their anger or disagreements entirely on their own. As they grow older, however, it’s important that they begin to build problem solving skills. I have (many times) sent two of my kids into the basement to talk out their differences. Sometimes just sitting on the steps glowering at each other makes them laugh and diffuses the situation. Sometimes they need help to work things out. When we jump in too soon and too often with our kids, they don’t learn to manage difficult emotions or conflict. I try to model, with my husband, what constructive arguments look like. My husband and I do not call each other names, insult each other, or use prefaces such as “You always…” or “I never….” when we argue. We let the kids see us work out disagreements such as scheduling conflicts and other matters like that in a respectful way. I do think “showing” not “telling” is the more effective method in our parenting.
Q: Are there any favorite verses that you take out when overwhelmed by the task of motherhood?
Grant: One of my favorites is one that we’ve put at the start of MOMumental. It’s Ps. 127:3. In the CEB translation, it’s “No doubt about it: Children are a gift from God.”
Q: I think one of the hardest parts of mommy-hood is that I had no idea how much of me it would take. What would you say to women to prepare them for this time?
Grant: Motherhood changes us. I think it was Anne Lamott who said, “I was a really nice person before I became a mother.” I think the demands of motherhood give us opportunities to fail, grow, and know ourselves in ways we’d never done before. One thing I like to remind women who are about to become mothers is that there are some things we can control that can help us navigate this time. We can’t control so much about our children, for instance whether our child is healthy or whether she or he will be “easy” or have a temperament that is more challenging than we expected. But studies show that parents who are more satisfied and successful are ones who have a network of people whom they trust (a loving church community, extended family, a close-knit supportive neighborhood) and to whom they can tell their “worst stuff.” I recommend that women look closely at their lives – nurture friendships with people who can be trusted. If a friend is gossiping about someone else or criticizing another mom’s choices, we should expect to be on the receiving end of that before too long. Choose healthy, trusting and trustworthy friends. Be honest and vulnerable with them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help (either from friends or from medical professionals) when you are struggling. We do much, much better when we do this parenting thing in community.
Q: How would you cast a vision for what God is doing in the midst of vomit, diaper changes, fights, lack of sleep, etc.?
Grant: I love the Mother Teresa quote about how perhaps we cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love. Being a mom is certainly about doing small things with great love. I remember two years ago when the flu was going around my house sitting on the floor of the bathroom with my then 10 year old daughter in my lap. We were sitting on a mound of towels, she was weary from being sick and every so often she would vomit. All over me. Although it was a scene fit for a horror movie in that bathroom, I felt such deep love and compassion for her and honestly actually felt privileged to be able to give her comfort and care when she was so ill. She later thanked me and said that she was too tired to say anything at the time, but she could actually feel my love for her through my arms as I held her. This meant the world to me. I think mothering – maybe especially when kids are sick or in a tricky stage or otherwise not at their best – gives us an opportunity to become less selfish as we communicate our great love to them.
Thank you for the interview Jennifer and for allowing us to get to know you. Wonderful advice for our own messy adventures of motherhood.
Find out more about Jennifer Grant by visiting her website at www.jennifergrant.com. MOMumental is available online at Amazon, bn.com and Christianbook.com. It’s in stores (including Barnes and Noble and Sam’s Club) starting today.
Jennifer Grant is a journalist and freelance writer with particular interests in parenting, family life, and international health and development. She has been a columnist and currently freelances for the Chicago Tribune. Jennifer is a guest blogger for websites including Fullfill and Sojourners‘ God’s Politics blog and a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog for women. She served as a judge for the Christy awards and was a presenter at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing, both in 2012. Jennifer contributed to Always There: Reflections on God’s Presence for Moms (Revell, 2012). Her work has also been published on britannica.com and in magazines including Chicago Parent, Christianity Today, Draft, and Conscious Choice. For more than a decade, she wrote features, restaurant profiles, and columns for Sun-Times Media newspapers. Jennifer is a proud co-founder of Redbud Writers Guild.
Jennifer’s memoir, Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter was published in August 2011 by Thomas Nelson publishers. Her second book, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, was featured in Publishers Weekly and released in May 2012 from Worthy Publishers.
Jennifer lives with her husband and four children outside of Chicago, Illinois.