An Open Hearted Letter To Moms of Young Children

Over the past year I have received quite a few contact e-mail and comments at FIMBY from moms of young children. It has been on my heart for some time to address those in a post.

This is heart-to-heart stuff. This is not how-to or I have all the answers. This is my mother's heart - the heart that wants to nourish, encourage and teach (that's my mission) - speaking to your heart.

It feels vulnerable and scary to share this deep (I have butterflies in my stomach hitting publish) but I need to write this way - open hearted - to really get across what needs to be said. No mask, no "is this acceptable for a blog?" filter.

This is the letter I would write to a dear friend. It's long. Really long. In fact, I think I just wrote my first e-book.

I want this to feel like you are receiving a special envelope in the mail today. Hopefully you'll make yourself some tea and sit down to read it. A letter from someone who cares for your well-being - spiritually, emotionally and physically.

In the messages I get from moms with young children there are recurring themes, questions and concerns. This letter is not directed to any one person in particular but is written to a fictional mom, a composite really of all those readers who have contacted me.

I will warn you now, there is a bit of "faith stuff" in this letter, near the end. Many of you are sister believers in Jesus Christ. Many of you are not. That's cool. Just like my not-online friends are a mixed bag of beliefs and creeds, so it is at FIMBY. And that's the way I want it to be.

FIMBY is not a faith-based blog in the sense that I talk about Christian stuff all the time or blog about "homemaking as a Godly woman" or "creativity for God's glory" or something like that.

I don't like religious speak and I'm not going there in this post. But because this post is straight from my heart and at the heart of me is my love for Jesus, I can't help but talk from that place. If this feels weird to you, you don't have to read it and I will return to the usual stuff I blog about in my next post (smile).

I'm writing this as a letter. It feels more intimate that way. The paragraphs are long. There is no bold text. There are no photos. There are no links - you'll find those at the end. Because honestly, I'm not trying to push or peddle any resource, just offer help. If you want to print this to read it like a letter, you can download it here.

With all that out of the way....


Dear Friend,

I got your letter in the mail the other day. Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Your kids are growing so big and they look so adorable in the picture you sent. I can't believe the baby is already six months old. I know, it's just like you say, they grow so fast.

I remember what Celine felt like in my arms at that stage. I don't remember as much with the younger two but Celine had a certain heft about her. It's funny because she's long and lean now (just last night we stood in front of the mirror and she's past my eyes now) but she was our chipmunk cheeked baby and I remember the feeling of her in my arms. That weight of responsibility and that weight of love.

Did you ever see the movie "Jerry McGuire" with Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger (oh, I just love her)? And when he says "you complete me" and all women everywhere are swooning over their TV screens. "You complete me" is I think the words to describe the feeling of Celine as a six month old baby in my arms. I miss her in my arms and at my breast.

But I don't miss all those sleep deprived nights. It is so hard. I hear you sister. You're tired. I remember that too. I think I told you this already but Celine was only 21 months old when Laurent was born and Laurent 21 months old when Brienne was born. So Celine was 3 1/2 years when Brienne was born. Damien was working at home those days and that did help but he was working full time for someone else and not available to care for kids. But at least he was there in emergencies and was a warm body at home if I needed to step out for fresh air during the kid's naps. That helped.

You mentioned you're struggling to get exercise and taking care of yourself with little ones. Especially that your miss your outdoor pursuits. Oh, I know love, it's hard. When the kids were little I think I aimed to get outside every day with them but I know it only happened every other day, at best. It's funny how having the responsibility for teaching my kids' good habits and taking care of their health helped me form better personal habits and take better care of myself.

When they were little and I had to be outside with them (now they can play outside without me, oh how nice that is) I would take them for neighborhood walks and to the playground in warmer months. In winter we would bundle up, oh my goodness that took forever, and I would take them for short winter walks in their puffy snowsuits, more often having to pull them in the sled. That was a good work out for me.

We weren't big hikers then, when the kids were just toddlers. Damien was into competitive cycling and when he gave that up, because it was a drain on the family in terms of time and finances, that's when we started our weekend hikes. Brienne was three at the time. But it was a slow process. Establishing these patterns takes time.

I have always loved the woods and nature so I took the kids out for nature walks in city parks during the warmer months. But winters were especially hard. I tried at-home exercise type stuff but those never stuck. The outdoors is where I like to exercise. Being where we are now is a real gift that way.

If I could encourage in one way it would be this - keep at it. Part, no, the main thing, going on in the early years with your kids is establishing patterns and laying the foundation. If you make the effort now to make the outdoors important that helps establish your children's patterns of behavior as they get older. The things we can do with our kids now - backpacking for days or skiing together in tough conditions (as we did yesterday in -20C in the mountains - and the kids had a blast!) is because of the foundation we laid when they were little. And building up our stamina bit by bit. Don't give up.

Which is really true of so much of mothering young children. You're laying a foundation and it's hard work. But the effort will pay off. Really, I had no clue how hard it would be to mother young children. One of the most difficult stages and you don't even have the benefit of previous parenting wisdom or experience!

Some moms find that exercising early in the morning or when their partners are available to help works for them. That didn't work for me. I preferred to do my physical activities with the kids so my alone time could be used for something else.

Never mind the fact that there was no way I was getting up early to exercise. Get up early! As if. Baby born after baby born after baby. All of whom I nursed for an extended time and through the night. I was tired and there was no way I was getting up early for exercise, quiet time, or whatever. I tried so many tricks to get my babies to sleep "through the night" to no avail.

We tried crying it out but I just couldn't do it. In the end I surrendered and by the time Brienne was born I was one of those quasi-attachment type motheres. I say quasi because I don't like labels and I also did things different from typical attachment philosophy. We found our own way. Surrendering to motherhood was hard. I had my own plans for how things should unfold and they didn't go that way. But there was more peace in the surrender than there was the fight.

I encourage you to find your own way also. Don't compare yourself to that mom you mentioned from your playgroup. Trust me, no one has it all together. And don't compare yourself to bloggers. I write a blog, I know. Blogs are a very edited snapshot of someone's life. It breaks my heart that you compare yourself to these women on-line, your next door neighbor, or (heaven forbid) me!

I didn't blog when I had little children. There wasn't blogs back then and I wouldn't have had time. And even if I did blog it wouldn't look like what FIMBY is now.

I've been learning some things about personality types and it might be helpful if you looked into that a bit. Some homemakers and mothers, because of their personality types, do better with loose structure and more sponteneity in their days, though you don't see much of that in blogs. At least not the blogs I read (I'm a bit of an organizational freak so I think I'm attracted to that type of writing).

Some people, depending on if they are introverted or extroverted, need more or less time alone. I only know how I operate but I know that's not for everyone. I think it's really helpful to understand ourselves and how we tick. It might help you find your homemaking groove.

One book I think is worth reading (and owning) is "Steady Days" by Jamie Martin. I'm not sure if you can find it at your library or not. Look into it. I wrote a review of it on my blog a couple years ago when it came out. So much of what Jamie writes about in that book is great stuff to read when you are mothering young children, everything from getting organized (but not unrealistic schedules and such) to staying enthusiastic in this tough job of motherhood. I think it might help you.

You mentioned in your letter that you are struggling to find time for you, specifically to write and create. Here's a few ideas that might help. First, do those creative things that most feed your soul. Don't create something because you saw it on a Pinterest board and think all "good mothers" knit sweaters for their little ones (or cloth diaper or whatever). I wasn't a writer when I had littles, I hadn't discovered that part of myself yet. But I did like to scrapbook, play guitar (bet you didn't know that about me), sew and dabble in other crafty things.

Writing, at least for me, requires being zoned out from my family. So if you need to write than have that be your alone time activity. We all need alone time from our families. It's ok. It might be once a week or once a day or whatever you can work into your schedule.

There are creative pursuits you can do with children about and around. Photography being one. Photo editing is a bit of pain and has you parked at the computer but doesn't require the same "zoned outness" of writing.

Sewing and hand crafts were one of those things I could do with children around. They learned to sew this way also and they really enjoy doing this activity. Yes, they interrupt. In fact, life with little children is all about the interruptions - at least it was for me. But if you take the time with them now - to teach, love, model, discipline, etc. you will be rewarded as they grow. I know of what I speak.

Homemaking, in and of itself, is a very creative act. I satisfied a lot of my creative "urges" as a mom with young children in this domain. Like I already mentioned, I liked to sew and do simple decorating. But I guess the main thing is - do something you love to do. Something that fills your well. If writing is that thing - then go for it and structure your days to fit it in somehow. I know this is easier said than done but we all find ways to make priorities happen.

You know that makes me of the other thing you mentioned - activities and homeschool "stuff" with your little ones. They need less than you think. No offense to your friend who does gymnastics and music class with her toddler but your three year old does not need that class. If YOU like doing it and can make it work in your schedule and budget - great. But if it takes away from what you are doing at home and makes less time for your personal "well filling" activities (you know what I mean by that right? - things you do that feed your soul and help you give and care for your family better) I think you should re-consider.

I think what is most important to little ones at home with their mama is that their mother enjoys being with them. Not that they take art, music, and swimming lessons.

I did a bit of that with my little ones, community classes we all took together. I wanted to get out and meet people also. But if the activity drained me I didn't continue. What's the point of doing all that if you feel burned out? Your kids need you, not the classes.

Maybe a casual mom's group is more your style. Yes, the kids play and "socialize" (that's such a funny concept to me) but the point is for you to connect and be encouraged by other moms. To share your stories and struggles. I loved doing this with friends when my kiddos were little. We called them play dates but they were really "sanity savers" for me.

Oh, and don't worry that you're not doing "preschool" or even kindergarten with your five year old. Hon, you really can relax. I didn't do preschool with my kids. Not that I'm a model or anything, I'm just sayin' is all. We live in a culture that doesn't value a slow and steady approach to living and certainly not childhood. If it feels like you're swimming against the tide, you are! I take a certain comfort in that.

Our preschool days were stories, nature and outdoors (like I already mentioned) and crafts - I liked that kind of thing. Do what you love and invite your children to join. Honestly, they just want to be with you. While you're at it, teach them how to fold laundry and sweep the floor. Seriously. These years are for laying the foundations (there I go again) of love, trust, relating to others, and establishing a sense of belonging in your family. And much more. Teach them their letters, if you want, while you're doing your daily living. Unless your child is really precocious (mine are fairly average) that's enough of a preschool curriculum.

I guess the thing that weighed most on my heart when I read your letter was your concern about your relationship with Jesus Christ. I have been asking God for wisdom in how best to respond to you. I pray these are the words of the Spirit and not my own flesh.

There is a message that underlies the whole gospel of Jesus Christ and it's a message I want to shout from the rooftops. And that message, dear sister in Christ, is FREEDOM. Christ redeemed us to free us from sin (and its consequence of death) and condemnation. All condemnation. The condemnation that you are not good enough. A good enough mother, a good enough wife, a good enough writer, a good enough homemaker and home manager, a good enough crafty person, a good enough "green living" person.

I have been dwelling in Romans 8 for the past 6 months. Technically, I'm trying to memorize the chapter. It's a slow go for me. But talk about life giving words. Words to fill your well and encourage your spirit. I mean it's all covered in here. Every time I read it, there's something in there for my spirit, even as related to mothering and my hopes for family life (vs. 24-25 ...Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what (s)he has seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience). Patience, the life long lesson of being a mother.

I long to tell you this. Relationship with Jesus Christ is just that - relationship. It is not something you need to carry as a burden, something to check off your to-do list for the day. If you don't have a morning quiet time because, let's face it - you are tired and you are busy - that's ok. Relationships happen in the context of living. Dating my husband is wonderful but it's moment by moment discussions and how we treat each other day in and day out that most builds our relationship. Not alone one-on-one time. This was true even when our children were little. We didn't get out much, I was a nursing mother and we didn't trust many people with our most precious gift - our children. But I can honestly say Damien and I have an amazing, rock solid relationship. And it's not because of dates. It's because relationship is an ongoing thing.

What the heck does this have to do with Jesus? You have a relationship with Jesus. And it will grow and develop as a day to day thing, in the context of your life as mother, wife, homemaker, homeschooler. It does not need to be, nor should it be, something separate from those.

What does this mean practically? At the risk of sounding heretical, you don't need a morning quiet time. Do you need time to grow, time to read the Bible, time to pray, time to get together with other believers - Yes! Do you have to have a regular, early morning practice to do this - No!

When my children were little a lot of my spiritual growth and time with Jesus, in terms of Bible reading and worship was done with my children. Reading the Bible together, especially the Psalms - I needed those Psalms. Worshipping together. I played the guitar and sang my heart out. The kids danced around and waved their banners. If you don't play an instrument, put on a CD (do people use those anymore?) or make a favorite iTunes playlist. Sing, dance and rejoice.

Read good children's literature - picture books and short stories. The story of good and evil, redemption and transformation and so much else is written over and over in children's book. Check out the book "Honey For A Child's Heart" if you're looking for book titles. I would sit on the couch and read to my children, tears streaming down my face at what the Spirit showed me about my own heart in reading those books. Praying is something you can do always. My favorite, "Lord, help me". Kid's fighting? Then I would pray out loud, "Lord help me to teach your love and kindness to my children". When the kids would come to me with a sore tummy or something to work out. I'd pray.

When my spirit was thirsty and I needed time alone I grabbed it where I could. While the kids napped I usually napped also but sometimes I would sit and pray (and cry) and journal. I still remember times when God spoke to me during those random, not scheduled, times.

I am at a time in my life where I feel called to share and give more, stepping into the part of my mission that lies a bit outside (but very much overlapping) my responsibility to my family. My children sleep well. I get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night, there is no excuse for me in terms of a disciplined quiet time - taking time each morning to hear from God, to fill my well so I am better able to serve. I need this right now to be grounded in the Truth because I feel very vulnerable in the world-at-large. But I have not always had this time, or even desired this time (truly I just wanted to sleep in the mornings when the kids were little).

God knows the burdens you bear as a mother. If it's Jesus you want to be more like can I encourage you with this - Jesus is in the nose wiping, dirty bum changing, the floor washing, the night time nursing, the mommy snuggles, the tears (theirs and yours). Jesus was a servant and so are you. In the day to day life of mothering you are closer to Him than you realize. You are in a holy place.

When I was a mom with littles a friend recommended the book "The Practice of the Presence of God" by a seventeenth century monk named Brother Lawrence (don't let the 17th century monk part scare you, this book is for moms!) My friend lent me her copy and it was one of the books I've read that has helped transform my view on having relationship with God. I highly recommend it, you can probably find it from a good library. If you have a Kindle (I'm switching most of my reading to that because there isn't English library service here) you can get it for free.

Also, I really love Ann Voskamp's list 10+ Real Helps for Really Busy Mom, it's a list of inspirational ideas she has posted on her blog. I'll send you a copy. I have a copy of that in the front of my homemaking binder and when there is no time for anything else I read a few points. This is one of my favorites from that list: Motherhood is a hallowed place because children aren't commonplace. Co-laboring over the sculpting of souls is a sacred vocation, a humbling privilege. Never forget.

I wish I could mentor you one-on-one in person, I really do like that type of interaction best, me writing you feels so one-sided. I'm looking for a mentor myself, I know what loneliness in the journey feels like. I hope this letter has helped some. Would you consider praying that I would find a mentor also?

It has been wonderful to "talk" you. Though, like I said, I do wish it was in person. I hope you are taking good care of yourself this winter and doing your best to enjoy it. I am enjoying winter more than I ever have before and it feels so good to appreciate the season for what it offers.

Do be in touch.

Much love,



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  • Natalia

    Natalia on Jan. 24, 2012, 1:27 p.m.

    What an amazing letter. I must admit that even though my son is still young (he is seven) when I come across parents who are 'homeschooling' their four year olds I just feel like shaking them and saying 'you don't need to worry about this yet!' I think many of us (myself included) forget that this home educating thing is a long-term process, we have years for our children to learn and absorb everything they need and want, and we don't have to push it all in to their first years. I read a great quote about this recently: “Many people overestimate what they can get done in a day, and underestimate what they can get done in a year”. and now extrapolate that for raising and teaching our children - many of us overestimate how much we have to get done in a year and forget how much we can get done in 9 years or more! I also want to say thank-you for the way you carry your religion on your blog. As an atheist I really appreciate how you are able to hold on to your faith, which is obviously such an important part of your life, but not alienate those of us who don't share the same belief as you.


  • Stacy

    Stacy on Jan. 24, 2012, 2:23 p.m.

    Thank you!

    Dear Renee,

    I have been spending quite a bit of time here lately. You are providing much encouragement and inspiration through your blog. Thank you so much!

    I appreciate your heart in this letter, your gentle guidance and grace.

    My kids are 10, 7, and 2. So I still have a little one. She was a horrible sleeper and I remember making life more difficult by trying to do a lot of extra things. I then read a comment in response to someone lamenting over that fact they they were struggling to have a morning quiet time (they still had very young children who were waking up at night). The comment was this: "If your babies are waking up through the night, you need to make a sleep a priority." For some reason this impacted me greatly and I stopped staying up late trying to finish things and allowed myself to wake up at a reasonable time instead of the crack of dawn. I can't tell you how much this helped! I had to let some things go, but I was so much nicer :)

    My problem has always been having an all or nothing mentality. You showed that the different parts of our life don't need to live in boxes, but can flow into one another. This is what I'm learning to do.

    Thanks again, Renee!


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 24, 2012, 2:36 p.m.

      Stacy, you really hit the nail on the head about one of my life philosophies. We don't need to box our beliefs and activities into separate areas. I believe in living an integrated life. It's kind of messy but really, it's the only way for me to stay sane and accomplish even half of what I dream of doing. Damien and I want to be physically active and be in the outdoors (I need to for my spiritual and physical well being) lots. The best way we have found to do this is make it a family affair. Of course our children also need activity. We choose hiking together instead of soccer.  I want to give my children freedom to learn and grow and I want to be the dominant influence in their young lives, homeschooling integrates these. I want to have a vibrant spiritual life and grow in my understanding and teach this to my children - so we do this together. Family Bible times, showing hospitality, conversations whenever and however about the real, deep, eternal things of life. We don't box into "church life" and regular life. They are seemless, together.  I could go on and on.. with what we are trying to do now with our income earning, etc. The point being -  life is wholistic. And as much as possible we try to integrate our values into each other so we are meeting our goals and living the life we want at every point in our day. Not just at select hours.  Gotta stop now before I write another post.   


  • Kika@embracingimperfection

    Kika@embracingimperfection on Jan. 24, 2012, 3:31 p.m.

    I would have appreciated this letter years ago... and many of the reminders in there are still valid for my life. Although with kids aged 6, 12, almost 16, I am able to branch out a little and take on some new challenges, I cannot do everything I might want to do at some point. My husand and kids remain my priority and I do belive I honor God in this. There is that message, "anything worth doing is worth doing well" and while I generally agree that we ought not spread ourselves too thin so that we're not doing anything well, somtimes it is ok to do something we love in snippets - even if we don't feel the results seem fabulous. A couple examples: maybe one mom paints in 20 minute snatches of time - or now that I have started a blog I can choose to be ok with its state of imperfection. No point comparing with others.

    I tend to have a running dialogue in my brain at all times. Sometimes it is negative talk or lists full of "I should...", "I have to...". As much as possible, I try to let go of many "I shoulds" and transform others into "I want to" which changes the whole feeling. So, for example, if I am tired and need to go out for groceries, rather than saying "I HAVE to go out again..." I can change that thought to recognize the blessing in such a humble but life-sustaining task. What a privilege to feed (diaper, bather, cuddle with...) our children. The time is gone so quickly and we don't want to look back years later and realize that we squandered these precious days with our families.

    I look at my tall, handsome son and my heart almost breaks knowing that in a couple short years he will leave home. I remember him so clearly as a two year old in a spiderman costume that he insisted on wearing in public :)

    I am learning to embrace that FREEDOM you spoke of.


  • Ellen S.

    Ellen S. on Jan. 24, 2012, 4:03 p.m.

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful letter. Really. This is a post I will bookmark because it's perfect for sharing with all those overwhelmed moms out there (me included!!). This statement? "Surrendering to motherhood was hard". YES! YES! YES!


  • Jessica

    Jessica on Jan. 24, 2012, 4:55 p.m.

    This is a beautiful letter, on so many fronts. It brings me back to my days as a mother of little ones and is so in line with my philosophies today as a mother of more independent-aged children. I also feel a great kinship with you in terms of your relationship with Jesus, your friendship with people of all beliefs and the effort of keeping an authentic blog that is readable, helpful and all-inclusive. I wish I had read this as a new mother and will be encouraging my new mother friends to read it.


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on Jan. 24, 2012, 8:08 p.m.

    This is beautiful, Renee. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. What a gift you have given to all of us ~ regardless of where we are on our journey of motherhood.


  • Mackenzi

    Mackenzi on Jan. 24, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

    I made a cup of peppermint tea and read your letter slowly.

    I feel understood and encouraged about what you shared because it addresses alot of the areas that I feel doubt about and struggle with.

    Honestly I want to write something very profound and wise in response to your letter but my head is too fuzzy from lack of sleep... ;) I guess I just respect and appreciate your desire to do well in each stage of your life AND live in the freedom that Christ has given you! I read your blog and feel 'mentored' and 'discipled' by it.

    I have a 4 yr., 3yr. and 3 month old. I am right in this and needed to read this. Thank you!

    Grateful, Mackenzi


  • Megan

    Megan on Jan. 24, 2012, 8:49 p.m.

    I just took a deep breath. It's been a long time since I've had a breath of affirmation. I want to say, THANK YOU. And amen!


  • Julie

    Julie on Jan. 24, 2012, 10:23 p.m.

    Renee, thank you so much for this. Your letter really spoke to me.

    I am a home schooling mum to my two boys ages 11 and 14. I struggle with: am I a good enough mum, am I doing a good job with homeschooling my boys, am I a good wife etc. I also crave 'me' time but feel guilty for this. I worry about being selfish. I am doing Heather's course which I can't wait to start. I look forward to seeing you there. Sometime after that I would love to become a holistic health coach through IIN. But I worry about that. Will I be able to be the mum and wife I want to be? Will it take up too much of my time?

    I guess we need to look deep in our heart, to talk and listen to God, to find the answers.

    Thanks again for this post. I will go and do a bit of housework while my boys are busy, but I will be back to read the comments to this post. I also want to check out more of your blog.

    Renee, you are looking for a mentor. I pray that you find one.

    Love Julie xxoo


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 24, 2012, 10:30 p.m.

      Julie, I encourage to check out Kika's blog. She's going through a similar process you describe, with children around the same age. I also really admire her as a mother and friend. She commented earlier and her signature is a link to her blog.  


      • Julie

        Julie on Jan. 25, 2012, 1:44 a.m.

        Thank you for this Renee. It is funny you mention Kika, we have just started to comment to each other via our blogs. I will now go and have a longer look at Kika's blog. Thanks again. xxoo


  • whitney

    whitney on Jan. 24, 2012, 11:36 p.m.

    your letter was so rich for the heart of this homemaking, homeschooling, autoimmune disease-battling mommy of a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old, and a 19 month-old. thank you for having the courage to write it. may the Lord answer your prayers for a mentor so that your own heart, in turn, may be nourished by her impartation of encouragement and grace.


  • Jennifer @ kidoing!

    Jennifer @ kidoing! on Jan. 25, 2012, 1:32 a.m.

    I love this and thank you. I am a work-in-progress and want you to know that your writing is helping me, immeasurably, find my way.

    The following lines speak so loudly and brought tears to my eyes.

    "I had my own plans for how things should unfold and they didn't go that way. But there was more peace in the surrender than there was the fight."

    As someone with a type-A, controlling personality that sentiment alone has makes for an extremely hard journey into and through motherhood.

    I remember just after we brought our first child home, my husband and I stared at this miracle realizing that our Saturday nights wouldn't be spent out and about anymore. At that moment, the breath was sucked from my lungs, however now we are a new form of what we used to be.

    I went back to work part time in an office (away from my baby) and realized that I couldn't be that professional I used to be and a mom at the same time.

    Just recently, my husband and I have been talking about surrendering our bed to our toddler son. While he has been joining us after waking at night, we fought the idea of it. And, you are right, the peace is in the surrender. I know he will not always want to share a bed with us. :)

    I appreciate and admire your relationship with Jesus. On that note, I find myself often saying "Lord, Help Me" during my rough times and I have just realized that one way He is answering my wish is by sending me you and all the other amazing mama bloggers in the trenches cheering me on and supporting me.

    Love and peace, Jennifer


  • Naomi

    Naomi on Jan. 25, 2012, 2:15 a.m.

    Thank you Renee! Hearing a mother's perspective when they are out of the little stage, but still have kids at home is really helpful. I have had to address my normal zealous-ness for being productive, making sure it didn't interfere with my health or my family life, getting better, but I am the daughter of a workaholic! I absolutely hear where you are coming from on beliefs as they relate to motherhood. I actually just wrote a post that I'll be sharing next week on displacement of priorities from spirituality through living life to overspirituality commonly promoted by many churches. And, yes, mom's groups are for moms :0)


  • Joy

    Joy on Jan. 25, 2012, 2:31 a.m.

    Thank you, Renee.

    Those words seem so inadequate to express my appreciation for feeling understood. I've been so tired, so discouraged lately, trying to live out my convictions and buck the status quo and live a "one-piece life"... Your letter, and your blog in general, has been such an encouragement and inspiration to this weary mama. What you have shared has given me hope, that all this is not in vain and that it really can be done. Thank you.


  • Ashley

    Ashley on Jan. 25, 2012, 4:55 a.m.

    God works in such mysterious ways. I stumbled upon your blog at 10:47 on a Tuesday night with a 10 month old baby asleep on my lap (nursing), my sleeping husband beside me and my 5 yo daughter and 3 yo son sleeping down the hall. I feel like your letter was written to me. For such a time as this. I, too, hate labels, but by and large, I am a typical first born. However, God, in his sense of humor, has seen fit to turn on end every plan i have made for my life. In ways most unexpected, but as I sit here now, most most most satisfying. I didn't want kids, now I have 3 and want more...I was gonna be strictly a career woman (gave it up when my first baby was 9 mo)..was never gonna homeschool (we do, at least for this year)...I've had a home birth, I breastfeed as long as possible...and I am knee deep in laundry, housecleaning, being a mommy, teacher, wife, friend, daughter, sisterinlaw, you name it. I have been doing far too much comparing of myself with other blog moms, pinterest pinners and wondering when I was supposed to be all that on top of what I have to be. I loved your reference to Freedom. Thank you. For lack of time and space, I'll just say I look forward to spending more time on your site. Thank you for the letter. Divinely inspired, I know, as it spoke to thoughts only the Holy Spirit has access to. A big hug from me, a stranger, to you, an obviously precious woman!


  • Alison@Mama Wants This

    Alison@Mama Wants This on Jan. 25, 2012, 6:32 a.m.

    Renne, that was a beautiful post. Your gentle advice and guidance is just what I needed to read right now.

    I have a 2 year old who has gone from fairly independent to never wanting to leave my side and I'm 5.5 months pregnant with my second. I want to be ever-so-present for my toddler and am worrying myself sick over how I can cope with a newborn & a toddler. I am also having doubts about our decision to not start preschool for the toddler until he's three.

    But reading this? Reading this has instilled some confidence in me that I'm doing a few things right. And that it'd all be okay.

    For that, thank you.

    (I came here from Jessica of Close Enough)


  • Erin

    Erin on Jan. 25, 2012, 8:34 a.m.

    A good thing to read as I'm making it through 2 weeks alone with a 1 year old and an almost 3 year old, and struggling with my failure to much done on my writing projects, or to keep chaos at bay in the house. What I have been doing is taking the kids to play outside for a couple hours each day, and socializing with other parents and kids. Maybe that's enough.


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 25, 2012, 11:19 a.m.

      Erin, if I could go back I would like to have done more of what your family does - life together (shared responsibilites and freedoms in raising young children) - in that stage of life. That was not our path then but we're making it our path now. At that stage I was happy to be mom and homemaker, I wasn't a writer, researcher, etc. like you are. But now I want to branch out into more than mom, homemaker, homeschooler. We look to your family and others to learn how people do that, share family life and livelihood. 


  • Kika@embracingimperfection

    Kika@embracingimperfection on Jan. 25, 2012, 11:26 p.m.

    This is unrelated to this post but I was wondering if Celine would mind sharing her thoughts on using a kindle rather than regular books - for instance, is she finding enough to interest her? I was wondering about getting one for my 12 year old daughter who loves to read and, while we use the library tons, she still prefers to buy some books of her own and does re-read them.


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 26, 2012, 1:05 a.m.

      Celine and I are talking about how we might write a post about this together.  But in the short, she doesn't have much choice. There isn't english language books available here and Kindle books are still cheaper (especially since there are a lot of free classics) than buying hard copy. As far as finding them, we use our for buying Kindle books, since it's an Kindle, not .ca. I'm not sure if that makes for more buying options or not - if that's what you're getting at - is there enough available to choose from.


  • Lane

    Lane on Jan. 25, 2012, 9:28 p.m.

    Renee-thank you! I find so much in having a relationship with J.C. It keeps me real and allows me not to sweat the small stuff. As the mom to ages of a 5, 2.5 and 2mo littles it is most rewarding when I ask God. How do you feel about me today, and all I hear back is that " I love you". Knowing I can supply myself with that love is so wonderful. I am going to bring this letter to my mom's group next week and hope others find peace and affirmation in it as well. :) Blessings


  • Jessica

    Jessica on Jan. 26, 2012, 3:39 a.m.

    I have a 1 year old and a 2 year old so it has taken me nearly 4 hours to finish reading this letter. Read. Wipe a nose. Read. Change a diaper. Read. Dinner. Bath. Bed. Read. Rock and nurse my sweet girl back to sleep. All that to say, I am in the throes of the season of life you are talking about. This letter is such a resting place for my soul right now. Thank you for the "permission" to feel like it is hard, to sleep in until my all-night-nurser wakes in the morning, to do what brings me joy instead of being hard on myself for not do all of the things that I have imagined come so easy for others. I love your encouragement to simply be in relationship - doing life together - with Jesus and not guilt ridden for sleeping in. Thank you for blessing me with this grace.


  • Julia

    Julia on Jan. 26, 2012, 10:03 a.m.

    Can I add on one more thanks?! I know I am not the only one who finds mothering sometimes very tiring and difficult but sometimes it can feel that way. Thanks for sharing from your heart. I needed to read this. As a stay-at-home mama to an almost one year old I need the encouragement. God is using you to encourage and touch other women's hearts...wonderful! I pray you will find your own mentor.


  • Roxy Schow

    Roxy Schow on Jan. 27, 2012, 6:46 p.m.

    Thank you, Renee! What a wonderful letter . . . I felt like you were writing it just for me. :) I'm going to read it again, slowly, when my little ones are not leading each other around my house on a leash and the dog is not bringing me 58 toys . . . I just so needed to read those words about not having to do it all and being okay about not finishing everything or achieving all I want/wish to. :)



    • renee

      renee on Jan. 27, 2012, 8:14 p.m.

      We never achieve all we wish or want to, even with older children (smile). Every day I have to fight to keep my expectations for the day or season of homelife, homeschooling etc. reasonable and doable. So many good opportunities I don't even entertain while I am mother first. 


  • Debbie

    Debbie on Jan. 26, 2012, 9:44 p.m.

    Oh, chuckling at myself thinking, "oh good idea, I should learn Romans 8 too". Then realising that really doesn't excite me and that that's ok!

    Thank you for giving of yourself - I wish I could be a friend who lives close by, but am happy to be encouraged by reading FIMBY.

    I pray you will "reap" mentoring as you have "sown" it.


  • marleen

    marleen on Jan. 27, 2012, 1:25 a.m.

    oh how i have needed to read something like this. i am drowning in exactly what you write about and while lately i feel myself surrendering a bit, i still struggle with internal conflicts regarding productivity (at home and professionally), exercise/health, feeding my family, etc. i am a mom to an almost one year old and twin five year olds. i am a nurse (by profession) working on my phd and mostly single parenting while my husband is deployed quite often. my surrender lately is allowing myself to "think" about hiring some help so i can write and read like i need to because my own sleep has been what has suffered most while trying to balance it all. thank you for your honesty. i could go on and on......


  • Kyce

    Kyce on Jan. 27, 2012, 3:28 a.m.

    Wow, reading these comments is like a bonus post on a great post. Renee, I've been looking forward to this letter for years and it did not disappoint. So many things to say, but mostly that your words about Jesus really touched this non-Christian reader. I too feel myself to be in a holy place as I go about my work of mothering, and have found it to be a direct way to access the sacredness of life, through the acts of service, through celebrating the purity of children, through mindfulness and sense of reverence that permeates. And I really liked what you said about FREEDOM. Thanks as always for speaking from the heart.


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Jan. 27, 2012, 7:03 p.m.

    thank you for sharing your ideas, it was wonderful to think of it all. esp. with older and younger kids in the house (11, 14, 2 1/2). it creates a different rhythm to the day.-- isabella


  • Sarah

    Sarah on Jan. 30, 2012, 4:48 a.m.

    You had reservations about posting this and felt like you may be over-stepping your bounds, but please know that your faith and obedience have been used of God to encourage many. If only I had a mentor or friend who would speak to me this way...Your boldness and honesty were only constructive. There was nothing but love and encouragement. You spoke truth that is reassuring and relieving and comforting. Thank you for doing so. I am grateful.

    Just found your site a week or two ago and feel like this is one blog that I can read that doesn't drain my well. Thank you for filling us, your readers!


  • mamazee

    mamazee on Feb. 1, 2012, 4:35 p.m.

    Thank you for this beautiful encouragement. This year has been filled with unbelievable joy as we moved to a new city and found a truly perfect church family (perfect for us!) - but also with sorrow as my parents have divorced after 40 years. It's been a hard year, filled with distractions both good and bad, and a lot of tears.

    On top of that, i am expecting again! My youngest will be four in March '12 and we've been done with diapers for a long time after sixteen years of nursing and diapers.

    I feel like i'm standing on the edge of a cool pool, ready to dive down again into the muzzy, sleep deprivation, prolactin calmed babyhood again. And i'm excited about it (this is baby #8) but also i know that a lot of the things i take for granted lately will be gone, for a few years at least (getting into the car without doing up a carseat, packing diaper bags, night feedings, getting changed at the pool easily (without finding a place to lay baby!)

    So many of the hard things are smoothed out by the teamwork of my older children, who have open arms and hearts to their younger siblings, but i needed the encouragement of taking joy in the sweet parts, having patience in the slow, dawdling of toddlers, and learning to let Christ mold me as we go back to a slower pace again...


  • Denise

    Denise on Jan. 25, 2012, 2:38 p.m.

    Thank you for this beautiful letter. As a mom of a 5 y.o., 2 y.o. and 7 month old, who is nursing thru the night and isn't getting sleep, I often feel inadequate in the homefront. Thank you for expressing and addressing how I feel. I changed my life (quit a full time job a year ago) to be able to spend time and enjoy my time with my kids when they want me around. I love doing so and do not want to go back to work, but it is oh so harder than I thought. I love reading your blog. Thank you for the inspiration of living a life that bucks what society says we should do. I often have friends ask me when I will go back to work , so that we can what? move "up" in society, buy a bigger house, take bigger vacations? I'd rather be here for my kids because that's what I feel is important. Thank you for the encouragement to live this life (and the Christian resources).


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Jan. 25, 2012, 3:21 p.m.

    Renee-this letter was beautiful. Thank you for having the courage to post it. My kids are 7 and 9 now. I wish I had had your insights when they were smaller and I was struggling with many of the topics you address. My journey is far from over so your words still are so helpful and beautiful. I have recently found your blog and look forward to reading your posts. Thank you for sharing your world with us!


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Jan. 25, 2012, 3:26 p.m.

    Renee-this letter was beautiful. Thank you for having the courage to post it. My kids are 7 and 9 now. I wish I had had your insights when they were smaller and I was struggling with many of the topics you address. My journey is far from over so your words still are so helpful and beautiful. I have recently found your blog and look forward to reading your posts. Thank you for sharing your world with us!


  • joanna

    joanna on Jan. 25, 2012, 3:34 p.m.

    I resonated so much with your letter. I still remember sitting in a mom's group one morning when an older single woman was leading. I had an infant who never really napped choosing instead most of the time to cry or be generally fussy. I'm a driven person who had previously been on pastoral staff at the church. The woman asked everyone to share a discipline that they were practicing well at that point. She looked expectantly at me, I know thinking I would give a deep spiritual answer. I replied with confidence, "I do the dishes every night so there is a clean sink in the morning and I don't feel completely already behind when I wake up in the morning." She was a little shocked I think. But I knew that God had given me that directive and that it was enough.

    I also wanted to mention that Romans 8 is my go-to chapter. Whenever I have faced a dark time in my life, I retreat to Romans 8. Reading it day after day to once again get my bearings. To remind myself who I am, who God is and the long term plan God has. Never have I run across anyone else who has referred to Romans 8 in this way. Thank you for your wonderful words!


  • Renee

    Renee on Jan. 25, 2012, 4:31 p.m.

    Renee, Thank you so much for this letter, it was lovely. You know, I have to tell you, I read your blog daily and enjoy it so much but whenever I read it I sit here in envy of you. At sometime could you post your thoughts on those of us Moms who have to work and can't spend their days with their children. I struggle with this all the time. I read your blog at my little cubicle at work, in an office with no windows, and I see all you are doing with your family, all of the fresh air and day light you are getting and I can't help but wonder if I was put on this earth to raise my family on the weekends. I know I'm not the only one, many of us Moms & Dads have to work, but gee whiz its hard. I'd just love to hear your perspective on this. Thanks.


  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on Jan. 25, 2012, 8:31 p.m.

    Thank you for these incredibly encouraging words. I just want to let you know about the one paragraph that may have just changed my day to day life.

    "God knows the burdens you bear as a mother. If it's Jesus you want to be more like can I encourage you with this - Jesus is in the nose wiping, dirty bum changing, the floor washing, the night time nursing, the mommy snuggles, the tears (theirs and yours). Jesus was a servant and so are you. In the day to day life of mothering you are closer to Him than you realize. You are in a holy place."

    I have no doubt that those were inspired words as you wrote them. Every single word in this letter is encourgement that every weary mother should wrap herslef in. But these words am guilty of feeling sometimes that my life has little meaning in the big picture of life, after all, I am not out changing the world. At these words I had to stop for a few minutes, wipe away the tears and compose myself before continuing to read because I knew that they were TRUTH. I realized that I am right where I am meant to be doing just what I am meant to do right now.

    Again, thank you for your constant encouragement. Isn't the internet amazing......Almost like having a friend next door to offer a shoulder to lean on. :)


  • Rachel

    Rachel on Feb. 5, 2012, 1 p.m.

    Thank you for this wonderful letter. I am a young mother of an active 14-month-old. Your letter deeply encouraged this sometimes-discouraged mommy. I can't wait to share it with some other friends of mine. Thanks.


  • Deborah

    Deborah on Feb. 5, 2012, 4:09 p.m.

    Found this at the right time. I have been to your site, perhaps a couple of times (no time to blog or read blogs with littles -and a move to London!) but I found you serendipitously, today. I, in fact, have a 6 month old and a 4.5 year old. What struck me the most about your letter was this: "But there was more peace in the surrender than there was the fight."

    As much as I wanted to be a mother and enjoy it most of the time, I somehow thought I could continue with my own pursuits at the pace of someone who is childless or has older children. Type A. Perfectionist. Older Mom (age 38 and 42 when gave birth). I guess I forgot the value in co-sculpting these souls (as you say).

    I got a lot out of your letter. Thank you. Thank you. I have a new perspective. Surrender is easier. I will be including my children in the things I value and enjoy and lay the foundations for later. Brilliant!

    I am reading "Simplicity Parenting" right now. I just downloaded 2 of the books you mentioned on to my Kindle. They're up next.

    Thanks Again, Renee


  • Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz

    Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz on Feb. 5, 2012, 4:42 p.m.

    Thank you Renee! I needed this today, I had to grab a tissue. I'm sitting here writing as I'm nursing my 3 month old and my 3 year old is asleep. We're just at the beginning of the journey and these are probably not our last kids. We'll be homeschooling, well - we do from birth that is. Although most moms who read my blog may think of me as 'that mom to look up to', I certainly am not that in my eyes. There are so many every day struggles. In truth I am not a mom who compares herself to others. I don't want to be a super mom. I just want to be me and who I am in Christ. This paragraph alone was worth reading through the whole letter: "God knows the burdens you bear as a mother. If it's Jesus you want to be more like can I encourage you with this - Jesus is in the nose wiping, dirty bum changing, the floor washing, the night time nursing, the mommy snuggles, the tears (theirs and yours). Jesus was a servant and so are you. In the day to day life of mothering you are closer to Him than you realize. You are in a holy place." I needed that reminder! Thank you and may Christ fill you with His purpose for your stage of life in Him!


  • Jaime Scott

    Jaime Scott on Feb. 5, 2012, 6:28 p.m.

    Thank you for this. So very encouraging! As a mom of young children, I greatly appreciate the advice and wisdom of moms who have been here already. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart with us.


  • Corey

    Corey on Feb. 6, 2012, 6:25 p.m.

    I read a great book called Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life by Jan Johnson. It is the authors journey through the Brother Lawrence book and how it affected her life. I highly recommend it!


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 7:21 p.m.

      Thank you for this. I love the sounds of this. This is what I was trying to communicate - that our relationship with God is in the daily rhythms of life, not separate from it. 


  • Hannah

    Hannah on Feb. 6, 2012, 6:28 p.m.

    Dear Renee,

    I appreciated your heart in this letter. You definitely have a gift of encouragement. However, I do disagree with you on one point: parenting of young children is NOT all about interruptions. I recently read this: I really don't see it as a French vs. American parenting issue, but rather, about parenting with firm and loving boundaries, just as God parents us. Allowing our children to dictate how our days run isn't how God meant for us to parent.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this letter. I know it has been an encouragement for a few of my friends.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 7:20 p.m.

      I think you misunderstand me, especially if you think I don't have firm and loving boundaries (smile). What I was trying to communicate is that interruptions are a natural, expected part of parenting little ones. And when we get frustrated by them, it's doesn't do us or our children any good.  This doesn't mean there aren't boundaries, rules, bedtimes, quiet times etc. There absolutely are and I enforced those. In case you think I'm all softie I direct you to this post about my no-nonsense strategy for picky eaters. I'm a boundary mom, you can be certain (smile). But I also know that mothering does not fit into tidy boxes.  Blessings to you in your mothering!


  • Carissa

    Carissa on Feb. 9, 2012, 5:12 p.m.

    It took me more than to sittings to read through this... and all I can say is thank you. And I do wish that this conversation had been in person, though I don't know you...

    Thank you for being so honest, so vulnerable, and not deleting this post even though you were nervous!

    Jesus has been bringing the theme "freedom" right in front of my face again and again the last couple months... it made me smile that you had that word in all caps :)


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 10, 2012, 12:31 a.m.

    Thank you so much. Your blog is new to me, and I am so encouraged by this letter. Expecting my third soon, and just beginning homeschool, I feel so blessed reading it now. There is no condemnation. Healing truth over my soul. On a day-to-day basis I wonder if I have what it takes. I don't . But He does.


  • shell

    shell on Feb. 12, 2012, 9:04 p.m.

    Renee - You know you've always inspired me, and I think your relaxed way of homeschooling has always affirmed my desire to do that too. This is a beautiful letter, and I know it'll help a lot of moms with little ones. And it's a good reminder for me too. My boys at 5 and 2 sometimes play nicely together and I'm slowly finding I have a little extra time, but then there are days when I have no extra time, and more and more, I'm just going with the flow of that. All my projects will get done eventually, even if it's several years from now!

    Curiously, I don't find photography to be something I can do well with my kids, though. I need to zone out when I am seriously trying to take good photos of a place. (My desire is to take more photos of historical places and homes.) For this reason I rarely pick up my camera these days, but I do try to pick it up frequently enough to capture my children as they grow up. It's always easy to take snapshots!

    Better writing also happens when I'm zoned out, but writing short columns and blogs are a little easier, and I can be interrupted and go back to them, which is why I'm doing more of that. We all have to find what we can and can't do with children, I think. I often wish I liked to knit! Because I feel like I could sit on the sofa watching/talking to my boys and do that too. Yet I'm not into it. :)

    I also appreciate your thoughts on "dating" your husband. My husband and I don't "date" because we can't afford it, and we like taking the kids out with us if we go out. A mother I used to know used to urge that we needed to do this, and though I'm sure we would benefit from it, I've never felt like our relationship suffers because we don't. I feel like we have this trust that this is a period of time we need to get through, but we'll both be here when we have more time for each other. I suppose it helps that my husband works at home a lot, and we talk together a lot. Going out on a dates isn't a requirement for a good marriage.


  • MC

    MC on Feb. 19, 2012, 6:58 p.m.

    I literally just wrote an email to some of my older mom friends crying out these questions that you have so beautifully answered. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for writing this. I feel so encouraged and uplifted, drawn closer to God than I have in a long, long time.


  • Lorina

    Lorina on Feb. 20, 2012, 5:53 p.m.

    I don't usually comment, but.... simply, deeply, THNAK YOU! I read this quickly last night before bed, but intend to linger on it the next few days. There were passages that really resonated with me. I might even print it and highlight some parts for a daily reminder!! Thank you, thank you ever so much!


  • Magen

    Magen on Feb. 20, 2012, 11:05 p.m.

    I have been thinking a lot about the freedom to just be me as mother recently. I try to focus on what I am doing as a parent, my values and my girls needs without feeling the condemnation swirling around me. It's SO hard. I try not to pass on any judgement myself and encourage other mothers of young children as much as I can, because really, what wonderful road we have a head of us! Thank you for clicking publish and sharing your wise words and encouragement. I know all to well how hard it is to publish posts like this.


  • Adriel

    Adriel on Feb. 23, 2012, 9:30 a.m.

    Thank you for this letter. This is my favorite: "God knows the burdens you bear as a mother. If it's Jesus you want to be more like can I encourage you with this - Jesus is in the nose wiping, dirty bum changing, the floor washing, the night time nursing, the mommy snuggles, the tears (theirs and yours). Jesus was a servant and so are you. In the day to day life of mothering you are closer to Him than you realize. You are in a holy place."

    I'm asking God to write this truth on my heart. x


  • Amy

    Amy on March 18, 2012, 3:09 a.m.

    Wow! I just found your blog tonight and read this beautiful letter. By the end I was sitting in a puddle of tears. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and bringing the bigger picture of mothering little ones into perspective - it's just what I needed after a hectic week with my two little ones. :)


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