Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Why our children need validation

Kids need to feel understood

Recently, I wrote an article for a publication about Social Security disability benefits for people who have the same bladder condition I do, interstitial cystitis. IC has no diagnostic test for it and is instead a diagnosis of elimination. While we have made much progress through the years, some patients are still told their symptoms are all in their heads.

Each patient I interviewed who had received disability benefits — whether it took one year or eight years — said their approval for disability brought them great relief and great validation. In fact, feeling validated was almost as thrilling for them as finding out their financial concerns were going to be improving.

Why validation matters

Validation is so incredibly important. I think it’s something that we often overlook both for ourselves and for our kids. Sometimes we don’t need someone to come along and fix our problems. We just need someone to listen, understand and say, “I see you are suffering, and I’m sorry.”

I have felt that way so many times. I even tell my husband sometimes when I don’t need him to fix a problem and just need him to listen.

I’ve not thought about validation as much when it comes to my children. I suppose that’s because validation doesn’t matter so much when they are babies and toddlers. It’s a bit complex. As they get older, though, it comes up.

Validating kids’ emotions

Over the weekend, my daughter had something she wanted to do that didn’t work out through no fault of hers or anyone else. She felt frustrated, disappointed and tearful. What she was upset about seemed a bit trivial to me, because I have three decades of life on her that give me more perspective.

But, it was a big deal to her. And I realized how thankful I am that at 9 years old, my daughter hasn’t had experiences to give her a different perspective. She hasn’t dealt with great adversity or struggle. I am thankful for that blessing.

As I heard her crying, I debated about how to react. Should I comfort her? Should I leave her be? What did my mom do? What would help her most? I decided to trust my mama instinct, which said to go to her and comfort her. So that’s what I did.

It didn’t take much. I gave her a hug and commiserated with her about how disappointing the situation was. I validated her struggle and feelings. That’s what she most needed. Then I gently guided her through looking for a solution to the problem.

Moving from validation to proactivity

I don’t want her to get so caught up in her emotions that she can’t move forward to fix problems. Obviously that wouldn’t serve her well in life. But, I knew without validation for her feelings that she wouldn’t be able to move forward and find a solution.

She was able to continue with her day. My daughter shed a few more tears and then moved on. She felt understood, which mattered most to her. It matters to all of us. When we are going through a difficult time, we just want to be seen and acknowledged for our struggle.

Adults need validation, too

A couple of years ago, I dealt with an ongoing situation that greatly affected me, yet I wasn’t able to tell anyone about. I remember a good friend whose response in finding out about it later was, “You must have felt so alone.” Her response still touches my heart, because I was validated. I felt seen and heard in the midst of my struggle.

That’s all our kiddos need sometimes, too. It’s human nature. And it’s something I’m going to strive to remind myself the next time one of my kiddos has a breakdown over something that seems small to me.

My children don’t need my irritation, frustration or list of solutions. They just need me to come alongside them, hug them, remind them they aren’t alone and then we can work through it together. I pray also that doing this with small issues in their childhood will lead them to coming to me with bigger, more serious issues as they grow.

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Profiles of moms making a difference

Back in 2009, I was pregnant with my daughter and joined a message board on Baby Center’s site for women expecting babies in October 2009.

Through the years, I’ve gotten to know a few of the moms from that group very well and consider them good friends. One of these mamas is Kathleen Brooker. When we first “met,” she lived in California. Since then she’s followed her husband’s calling as an Anglican priest to New York and now to Anchorage, Alaska.

As a pastor’s wife of a growing church, Kathleen often jumps in teaching Sunday School, serving in the nursery, co-leading the teen group and more.

Kathleen, who is a former mental health counselor, has chosen to be at home with her five children (ages 2 to 10). She homeschools her oldest three and does her best to keep the younger two entertained at the same time. She’s got such a heart for God and has blessed and encouraged me many times throughout the years.

Just reading Kathleen’s responses to my questions encouraged me, and I know they will you, too!

Families with Grace: What is your God-given mission or passion?

Kathleen Brooker: This is such a hard question for me to answer! It’s hard to zero in on the one thing I feel called to. I think that might mean that I haven’t figured that out yet. So many things draw me. I love to serve alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever we happen to be needed.

Right now, my service is mostly with the youth in our church: I homeschool our kids, teach Sunday school, and help lead our teen group. I have a heart for young moms and women experiencing crisis pregnancies. I long to be a kind and loving voice speaking the truth of the gospel into the hearts of those needing to hear it.

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

KB: I always thought the counseling profession was where I was supposed to really minister, but after over a decade I’ve come to the conclusion that a counseling office just isn’t where God wants me to serve.

So I serve at home by teaching our kids, by guiding their hearts to love Jesus. I serve by helping our teens at church learn to talk about their faith and share it with others. I serve by being a pastor’s wife.

As the wife of an Anglican priest and mom of five kids, Kathleen Brooker is busy. But she has a heart for God that shines through to encourage others. #MomsOnAMission #Ministry #PastorsWife #Faith #Church #Moms #MomLife

I love watching my husband share Jesus with people, whether it’s through a worship service, a sermon, a conversation or a prayer with a stranger who calls at 3 a.m. God has blessed him with a personality and heart to love His people, but that’s not always an easy job. That’s where I come in: I get to be his support as he lives out his mission.

God has set our family on a very interesting course — one I never would have imagined when I started dating my husband! We’ve been married for 13 years and have made three major moves (and two minor ones) in that time.

We crossed the country to serve in California, crossed back to serve in New York, then packed up our family again four years ago to serve a small church in Alaska. We’ve had some painful experiences and some times of beautiful peace and healing. Through all of it, we’ve been a team and God has grown us through our ministry together.

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

KB: I think my biggest struggle is that my calling doesn’t feel like a calling sometimes. It just feels like tagging along where God calls my husband! So often, I feel like whatever I can offer is so small that it just has to be insignificant.

There are so many outreach ministries I would love to be involved in, but I’m just so busy with home stuff that it seems like I don’t have time to actually minister to anyone. That’s when I have to remind myself that this is where God has put me now, right here in this house, right in the middle of all this chaos. And He knows I’m here and what’s going on.

He’s blessed my husband and me with five little hearts that are so open to Jesus and long to know and love Him. That’s my mission right now: my kids. It doesn’t mean I can’t do other things outside the home or that I don’t want to, but my focus these days is on guiding them.

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessings in living out your mission?

KB: It’s got to be learning to trust that God really does know what He’s doing. It’s easy to say that God is in control when things are going well, but it becomes so much harder when we run into complications in life. It feels strange to say that the times we’ve struggled most have also blessed us the most, but they have.

We had one particularly rough situation where my husband had lost his job. We were living thousands of miles away from family and friends. We were suddenly cut off from the little support and friendship we’d had, and we just didn’t know what we were going to do. I was eight months pregnant with no health insurance and things just seemed awful.

It wasn’t an easy time, but even in the middle of it, we could see God moving. It was amazing to see how He worked things out and provided for us. I love looking back at a situation and realizing, “Oh, THAT’S what you were doing, God!” It’s amazing to see.

I think my favorite example of this is always going to be the birth of our fifth child. I was so done at four children. I even told God that. Apparently He didn’t agree because shortly after we’d moved to Alaska and settled into our new life here, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant.

I had such a hard time accepting that I was really going to have another baby and I struggled with it right up until the moment she was born and I saw her little face. The moment I held her and looked in her eyes, I heard God whispering in my heart, telling me to just trust Him. He was telling me that He knows my heart so much better than I ever could. He knows what I need and what is best, even when I think I’ve got a better plan.

During that whole pregnancy, I fought against trusting that God’s plan was better than mine. But the second I saw my daughter’s beautiful little face, all my resistance melted away and I was just in awe of Him. He was teaching me a mighty lesson, but He was doing it in such a gentle, loving way. At that moment I had just a glimpse of His amazing patience, love and grace.

I’d love to say that I’ve changed every aspect of my life and that I never worry and always trust wholly in Him…but that just wouldn’t be honest. Every single time I look at my daughter, though, He reminds me that His plans are best. I still struggle to trust Him completely, but I hope that I’m at least taking some tiny steps in the right direction, following where He’s so lovingly and patiently leading me.

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

KB: I think my advice would be to remember that God has you where you are for a reason. It doesn’t always seem like we’re making any kind of difference or actually doing anything to serve Him, but we are.

I know I always catch myself comparing myself with other women who seem to be more accomplished than I am, feeling that if they are doing something I’m not, then I must be failing. But that’s not the way this works.

We are all here to serve Him in different ways. For some of us, that may never be a spotlight-type of ministry, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK; it’s what He has planned for us. I think we’re just supposed to follow Him faithfully, serving wherever we are with our whole heart and sharing the love of Jesus where we are.

Read more from the series

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Erin Mayes

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Crystal (aka InnieMom)

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

10 No and low-cost Mother’s Day gift ideas

Moms don’t need an expensive gift to be happy!

I first put this list together back in 2013 when I had a newborn and a preschooler. Now my kids are 7 and 10, but the list STILL holds true. I’d love every single thing on this list for Mother’s Day any year.

This year as we are heading into Mother’s Day weekend either still in or maybe barely out of quarantine, we must remember moms don’t need expensive Mother’s Day gifts to feel loved and appreciated!

Mother’s Day is Sunday. I saw a cartoon recently where a woman was interviewing for a job as a mom. She said to the interviewer, “So, I only get one day off for Mother’s Day?” The interviewer responded, “Yes, and technically we still work then.” 

I laughed. It was funny in the way that something is when it has a nugget of truth in it. Motherhood has no days off.

Ideally, all moms would be able to relax on Mother’s Day and do what they want to do. But, that’s just not reality. However, moms don’t require much to be happy. If you know a mom (or a married to a mom!) who has young kids at home, I guarantee she’d like anything from this list and most of them don’t even need you to leave your house or spend a penny.

1. Give her the gift of a nap. 

Yep. This is my number one. I love naps. At any given moment, I would happily fall asleep if I could. This includes a nap sitting straight up in a chair (been there, done that). A nap where someone else is in charge of my youngsters for a couple of hours and I actually get to lie down in bed? Now THAT’S a wonderful gift!

2. Give her a compliment on her appearance. 

I’m constantly hunched over doing things like changing diapers, nursing, playing games, wiping faces, etc. Between my hunching, my post-babies’ body (which wasn’t a stellar one to begin with) and the fact that I’m beyond overdue for a hair cut, nothing about me feels attractive 99.9% of the time. 

Sometimes I literally look in the mirror and do a double-take when I find I don’t look nearly like the exhausted, hunchbacked zombie I feel like.  A sincere compliment from my husband might make me roll my eyes on the outside, but it also makes me feel good on the inside.

3. Give her some flowers. 

Listen, I have a fear of plants (I admit way too much in this blog) and even I love getting flowers. A vase of fresh flowers is cheerful and uplifting. They don’t have to be anything fancy. A bouquet of fresh flowers from the grocery store are just fine. 

The best kind of flowers to a gal like me are those I can enjoy in a vase for a week or two then throw out. Other moms might like the kind they can plant and maintain. My own mom and mother-in-law can plant anything outside and not only keep alive, but have it thrive. Go for what the mom in your life likes!

4. Give her a night off from cooking.

Even better, give her the whole day off! Whether we’re the kind of mom who cooks everything from scratch or relies on convenience food or somewhere in between the two, moms are constantly doing food prep of some sort. 

We probably don’t mind most of the time, but getting a break from making three square meals plus snacks for a day is nice. Even better is a homemade meal that we didn’t have to lift a finger for, but takeout works, too.

5. Give her the gift of laundry. 

I still keep my laundry schedule as best I can with a newborn and 3-year-old, but I also pretty much always have a load of laundry hanging over my head. (This is still true now even with my kids being a bit older now!) Right now, I do really, really well if I get two loads of laundry finished in one day. More typical is one load of laundry and even that may sit in the dryer for a few hours (or overnight…). Doing laundry for any mother is a blessing.

6. Give her the gift of a clean house. 

I’ve come across sayings about how cleaning your house when you have young children is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos or shoveling while it’s still snowing. Yep. Sounds about right! Any home in which young children reside could use some cleaning whether it’s putting away some toys, scrubbing toilets or vacuuming — or all of the above!

7. Give her the gift of uninterrupted, fun time with her children. 

What moms really want (after more sleep) is more good memories with their children. Most of us have realized that their childhoods go flying by. Sometimes doing the tasks and chores involved with taking care of our families and everything else keep from being able to just hang out with and enjoy our children. 

Moms need that. Children need that. Take mom out of the house with the kiddos and have a picnic. Or just let her sit for the day and play with the kiddos without having to worry about cooking or cleaning.

8. Give her gifts made with love. 

A craft created by little hands just for mom that mom didn’t have anything to do with is special. Yes, we are that easy. We also love a heartfelt note of appreciation. Being seen for all we do in motherhood is priceless.

9. Give her the gift of alone time. 

We definitely want more memories with our kids, but we also could use some alone time to sleep, read, sleep, shop, sleep, watch television, sleep or whatever we want to do. I’ve been almost finished with the same book for the last three months since the birth of my son. I seriously could have the book finished at least within an hour, but finding an hour to just sit and read on any given day is impossible. 

Maybe make mom’s alone time outside of home so she’s not tempted to clean or catch up on other chores. We’re kind of crazy like that.

10. Give her the gift of appreciation. 

Moms do what they do out of love. We get up every morning and wipe noses, make lunches, play pretend, do laundry, kiss boo-boos, hug through tears and even discipline because we love our children more than anything else. But, we still need to hear thank-you sometimes. 

We need to hear it from our spouses and from our children. My husband has been good at this so our daughter is learning to as well. Just the other night she thanked me for dinner while she was eating. 

Everyone likes to be appreciated. We moms need to know that all our hard work and sacrifices are being noticed. While we don’t do them for glory or for thanks, being appreciated makes us feel good and helps strengthen us to keep going.

Moms really are pretty easy to do things for. We appreciate small acts of kindness. Most of the time we’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we don’t do much for ourselves, so when someone else does something to take care of us, we appreciate it. We accept it as a gift. And we sincerely enjoy it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mamas! You are awesome, strong women who are doing the best for your children. May your day be filled with lots of love and laughter and — if you’re lucky — a nice, long nap!

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