Moms in Ministry: An Inside Look Into Motherhood, Part 2
This post is Part 2 of the Moms in Ministry: An Inside Look Into Motherhood feature in honor of Women’s History Month. To read Part 1 with CTS moms, Felicia Thimas (FT) and Amy Remaklus (AR) click here.
Below Candace Rowell (CR) and Gina Brown (GB) reflect on their lives and shed light on the inner workings of motherhood over the last year.
What does parenting in a pandemic feel like? What’s changed for you the most? Are things mostly the same in your house?
Candace Rowell (CR): My partner and I finalized the adoption of our son the week of the initial March 2020 lockdown orders in Georgia. Parenting and the pandemic go hand-in-hand for us. We were experiencing the newness of pandemic and parenting all at the same time. What’s been exceptionally challenging in the pandemic is the loss of in-person services as a result of the crisis. My partner and I had to learn quickly not only how to be passable second grade teachers but occupational therapists, speech therapists, and counselors. We’re playing tag and teaching strength and dexterity exercises in the background of Zoom calls and class as we both work and I’m a full-time student. Very little feels the same.
One of the unique opportunities we have leaned into this year as a family is the chance to travel. Since we’re all online, we’ve been camping for a few weeks at a time to build some memories and see some new places. We’ve discovered that virtual school is more palatable to our eight-year-old if he can finish and then go play outside somewhere new every few days!
Gina Brown (GB):
As a parent of color who is not African American this past year has been insane. The multiple pandemics of racial injustice, police brutality, protest, and Covid-19…, to name a few, have caused me to scale my understanding of America’s multifaced history to provide myself with some semblance of understanding for what was happening. This increased knowledge was also needed as I am raising a precious African American girl and I needed to be able to parent as effectively as possible. I needed to know if and how I could protect her from all of the above and the discovery that I could try but would be unsuccessful in most cases. The mental toll has been great.
Both my daughter and I have been in virtual school over the last year which meant creating work spaces. I romantically thought we could work together and initially created an awesome multipurpose office in my dining room only to abandon the idea. Working separately on opposite sides of the house proved to be key for us . In the spring and summer on doable days, we would set up in the garage, have lunch on the patio or order delivery for lunch to switch things up just because we could. Being able to have lunch together each day and go for walks was great.
The biggest shift was the need for me to get up at 4 am to give my studies my most concentrated attention. I had to complete my work and be finished with my school day by my daughter’s lunch time. I spent the rest of the day helping her with her schoolwork and doing things around the house.
We also got the opportunity to become digital nomads in Bermuda as we visited family. The opportunity came with huge stress factors of trying to balance virtual school and visiting my aging family members but it was worth it. The undeniable benefits of being with family and giving Zj (my daughter) the freedom to be outdoors and play with friends was irreplaceable.
Use 6 words to describe your world (household, profession, virtual school, feelings etc) over the last 12 months.
CR: Elementary school, computer screens, camping, digital nomads, teamwork, What’s for dinner tonight?
GB: This season of multiple pandemics has deposited deep and at times conflicted emotions. I have been overwhelmed, outraged, and deeply concerned yet I have also been immensely grateful and in some ways settled and expectant.
How are you dealing with grief? On a scale of 1-5, 1 being the least and 5 being the greatest, what would you rate your level of grief?
CR: I would put myself at a 3 on the grief scale. Along with many, I am grieving the loss of relationships in this year of pandemics and polarity. Also, as my family and I celebrate our first year together, we are grieving the loss of connection and bonding that we had planned for this year. We’re thankful for Zoom and FaceTime that keep us connected, but lament that our son hasn’t gotten to experience hugs and hangouts with his grandparents.
GB: I would have to admit that my grief is around a 4 for various reasons. Some of which I discussed earlier.
While I haven’t experienced the loss of my immediate family, I’ve known of many who have lost their loved ones to Covid-19. In one week my nine-year-old daughter had two classmates lose their parents to Covid. As a parent how do you explain the cold realities of this [pandemic]and all of its implications? I’m not sure how to communicate it all but I am listening closely and seeking wisdom.
What advice would you give other women about maintaining their mental, spiritual and physical health right now?
CR: Say no. But really, say no.
And try not to feel guilty so much. It’s a hard thing for me but the guilt around trying to manage and be all that is expected and needed right now is sometimes overwhelming.
GB: These days I seem to be taking advice from infographics. Here’s some of the advice I’ve garnered and offer to others:
It’s ok to work at a slower pace.
No, I am not always available.
It is reasonable that it takes longer for me to process my feelings in this season.
It’s ok to stop scrolling and check-in with myself.
My personal advice:
And even while you might pray, have your devotional, and worship it is ok to be angry with God and have feelings of distrust. Wrestle with God if you must.
Seek out a mental health professional. If you think you need help, then you need help and there is no shame in getting it.
Finally, find or cultivate a group where you can show up as your whole self in whatever state you may be in at that moment. This will allow you to have a safe space to let go of all the performance of being alive in this time and just be. This advice has softened me as I come to grips with new realities.
What was the funniest or most embarrassing virtual experience that involved your kids?
CR: This is a hard one to answer…mostly because the reality of interruptions is a daily occurrence! There’s some sort of magnetic force between my son’s face and my computer camera – it’s like he just can’t help himself. Like a moth to light, I guess. There is no mirror that is as exciting to watch himself in as my Zoom screen. The more meeting participants- the better!
Do you have any mom myths or misconceptions you’d like to debunk? What are they?
CR: I don’t have any myths or misconceptions to debunk, but I do have a shout out! Being part of a two-mom team is amazing! Our son may roll his eyes and mutter “two moms” when we are tag-teaming him with the sunscreen, but I can’t imagine doing this without my amazing spouse.
What do you do for YOU?
CR: I say no. OK, I try to say no. I mean, here I am at 1:00 am writing this blog post, so obviously I do not always say no. 😊
But I do try to say no to things that are non-essential right now. That’s the biggest solid I can do for myself – create breathing space, space for silence, space for crying or laughing or whatever the hell it is I need at the moment. If you get a no from me, don’t take it personal – I’m just trying to take care of myself a bit.
GB: To relieve some of the pressure from last spring, as a family we did lots of projects around the house. Together we built a paver patio, planted beautiful flowers, painted pots, and created a lovely outside room which provided us with some much needed extra space since we would all be home together more regularly. For me, getting up early to care for all the plants and flowers we planted was a special time. It was peaceful and grounding and was a spiritual oasis for me right into the fall. I’m looking forward to cultivating that space again this spring.
What would you say to another woman, mom to mom, seeking parenting advice or assurance?
CR: You’re doing great and you are enough.
GB: I’ve had to remind myself that mommy guilt never goes away. Be what you can be in the moment and get up tomorrow and do it again, pray and lean into your village.
How would you answer these questions? What responses resonated with you the most? To view more articles like this one, visit the Along the Journey blog here.
Candace Rowell is expected to graduate with her MDiv in Dec 2021. Her background is in public health. She graduated from the University of Michigan with her MPH in 2012. For the past 10+ years she’s been working in partnership with numerous organizations domestically and abroad to promote and support community health development.
Gina Brown is a middler dual degree MDiv/MAPT student at Columbia Theological Seminary with a focus on Pastoral Care. A wife and mother who enjoys a low key life. She is using this time to reconnect creative aspects that fell away in the business of the pre pandemic life.