Back in the day, I used to watch this show called, Scrubs. Do you remember it? You know, Donald Faison and some other people? To be honest, I just watched the show for Donald Faison because he was from Clueless, and I loved the movie Clueless when I was younger. There was one thing I loved most about the show — the theme song. I love theme songs in general. Perhaps that makes me weird, but, whatever. Anyway, the theme song for Scrubs went like this:
I can’t do this all on my own. No, I’m no, I’m no superman.
I’m no superman.
I loved the song so much that I looked it up and put the full version on my iPod Nano. Remember those? I’m taking you back down memory lane, aren’t I? The song is by a band called Laslo Bane. I think I played that song at least 25 times a day when I was in high school. It really resonated with me because I was that girl who always felt like she needed to be superwoman. I thought that I needed to do it all, be it all, and do everything perfectly.
I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way.
I think part of the reason we tend to have this mentality is because our society tells us that we have to be perfect. Our society tells us that the key to success is to be “busy” and to run ourselves into the ground and to live off of coffee and little sleep. Our society makes us feel like we should be able to do everything perfectly and without help.
This is especially true in the Black community and even more true for us Black moms. This is especially, especially true for Black, Christian mamas. We strive to be the perfect Proverbs 31 woman, so we hold ourselves up to the highest standards and then pride ourselves into achieving those standards with absolutely no help. We are the keepers of the household, we are the makers of the meals, we are the cleaners of the spills, and we do it all without showing an ounce of our exhaustion. If we ask for help, we are viewed as weak and, of course, that is a no-no.
I became a mom 3 months ago, and now that I’m a mom, I have had many moments being trapped inside the “supermom mentality.” I was convinced I didn’t need help when my daughter was first born. I felt like I needed to do it all and I needed to be perfect while doing so.
It took me crying out to God in a state of exhaustion to realize that we put this mentality on ourselves. Who is telling us that we have to be supermom? Besides society and pressure from social media, there is no written document that states that we have to conform to this “supermom mentality.”
I’m here to tell you today that you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be supermom. That’s what the Holy Spirit is for! Our God is the One who wants to do it all and be it all for us.
“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
Do you see that? We GET to be weak. Holy Spirit wants us to! No more of this strong front, dear friend. Lean into Christ. Be weak. And let His grace be sufficient for you.
You may be thinking, I hear what you’re saying, but how? I just can’t let myself be weak, or I don’t know where to start!
Girl, I hear you. Let’s talk about it.
Ask the Lord for help
It sounds simple, but of course it isn’t. Hear me out. It can be hard to ask someone else for help. Personally, I don’t want to impose or inconvenience someone, so I just try to do everything by myself. When I had my daughter, I didn’t ask anyone for help except my husband. But, The Lord knew that I needed so much help as a sleep deprived, postpartum mama. He sent me help that I could not refuse. I would receive text messages from faithful friends telling me that they were on the way over to drop off some food. I didn’t have to ask them for the very thing I needed. Holy Spirit guided them to help me when I needed it the most. All I had to do was receive it with open arms and be thankful. When you ask God for help, He will meet you where you are and send you help just as you need it.
Lean on your spouse and loved ones
Mamas, your spouse and loved ones are there for you. They WANT to help and your partner NEEDS bonding time with his child, too. And, of course, your family and friends enjoy spending time with the little ones as well. I know it can be hard to not be the overbearing, overprotective mama bear. Trust me. I’m guilty of this, myself. I have a tendency to hover over my husband instead of just letting him have his time with our little one. Hello? I should be napping as soon as he gets home and takes her! Why do I feel the need to keep hovering? Better yet, why do I feel the need to ask myself, “What needs to be done now?” instead of taking the opportunity to rest. Now, I’m not discouraging productivity, but there is nothing wrong with saying, “no” to those dishes and taking time to recharge when you can.
Also, just talk to your spouse about how you’re feeling. Don’t keep it in. He doesn’t expect you to be supermom, I promise.
Say yes to what matters
Everything is not created equal. As women, and especially as moms, we often say yes to everything. We try to do everything and do it all well. Then, when we get burned out and realize that our efforts created mediocre results. We need to learn to only tackle things that truly matter on a daily basis. For me, that sometimes means putting aside working on the budget to help my stepson with homework. Or, that might mean saying yes to quality time with my spouse and saving that phone call for tomorrow. When we choose just a few things to focus on and do well instead of loading our plates with all of the things, we won’t feel so stretched thin and the “supermom mentality” will fade.
Mamas, we need to realize that our spouse and kids are who’s important. Not what society expects of us, not what we see other moms posting on social media, not what our friends are doing with their kids, etc. Our kids don’t care if our hair is messy or if the house is clean. Our spouse doesn’t care if our kids are perfectly dressed or if we were able to finish that load of laundry today. Our spouses love us and our kids just need us. They beautifully accept us as we are. In their eyes, we are their supermoms. And I know that I don’t have to finish all of the chores for my husband to see me as a “superwife.”
Jesus loves us the same way. He meets us right where we are and gives us grace. We have nothing to prove. Nothing.
Now, go take a deep breath and hug your kiddos. They love you.
Do you have additional tips for today’s busy moms? Share them below.
NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Some Kenyan churches are demanding premarital HIV testing before weddings, a trend activists warn is infringing on the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.
For some, it’s a quiet matter, with the couples privately told to check with a doctor or a clinic, but for others an HIV test is a mandatory requirement before the couples are joined in marriage.
Recently, some Pentecostal and evangelical groups have demanded strict adherence to the requirement, while Roman Catholic and most mainline Protestant churches tend to be less strict.
“The practice has become entrenched in many churches,” said Jane Ng’ang’a, coordinator of the Kenyan chapter of an international network of religious leaders living with HIV/AIDS. “While it is agreeable to advise a couple to take the test, our concern is the demand for a disclosure of the status is against the law. The challenge is that most church leaders do not know the law.”
During the past decade, new HIV infections in the largely Christian country have risen faster than in any other in sub-Saharan country, according to a study by the Global Burden of Disease collaborative.
Last year, over 1.8 million Kenyans were living with the HIV virus, which, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS. Nearly 39 percent of those were using life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs, a rate below the regional average rate of 43 percent.
Ten years ago, the country passed a law banning HIV tests as a precondition for marriage. The law warns against breaching confidentiality and disclosing individual statuses without consent.
But Ng’ang’a said the network was recently alarmed after it found out that some churches were breaching confidentiality after receiving the tests.
“Some tests were kept in open files that could easily be scrutinized by anyone,” she said. “We see this as a new form of stigma and discrimination for those with HIV and AIDS.”
The clergy who demand the HIV tests say they are driven by a desire to protect their members from HIV and AIDS. They say the church needs to help nurture healthy families and prevent divorce, disease and death.
“A HIV test is mandatory for any couple planning to wed in our church,” said the Rev. Solomon Mwalili of the Free Pentecostal Fellowship in Kenya. “I think it’s for general good — for the two involved and the family they plan to raise.”
Pentecostal pastor James Kyalo of the Machakos region, 40 miles from the capital Nairobi, said his church demands two HIV tests: the first when the couple seeks to start the wedding process; then six months later.
He said the church members have never protested or complained about the requirement.
Some pastors say couples should know the test results if they plan to rear children. Once they know they are infected, for example, they can seek advice from doctors on how to care for themselves and how to live in the community.
The Rev. Patrick Lihanda, superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, said that when one of the couples is HIV-positive, they do not ask the couple to split, but instead advise them how to live together.
“HIV is a reality and we cannot bury our heads in the sand,” said Lihanda. “When we find out that one of couple is infected, we counsel them and marry them. I think that’s the best thing to do, since they are in love.”
The Rev. Wellington Mutiso, an official with the Baptist Convention of Kenya, said many Baptist churches do not demand the test, since most couples have already engaged in premarital sex before the church wedding.
Like Baptists, mainline churches find the demand for the test discriminatory and an obstacle in the fight against the epidemic.
“A certificate or a test is not important for us, since anyone can contract HIV,” said Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of the Mombasa Diocese. “The virus does not also mean one cannot live a full life. Even in cases of HIV, the couple can still live together.”
(Fredrick Nzwili is an RNS correspondent based in Nairobi)
Last week, I wrote a deeply personal post about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will help me get much needed treatment for gallstones. I told a bit of my story and posed three basic questions for fiscal and social conservatives who oppose the ACA: 1.) Do they believe small business owners who don’t have access to affordable health insurance will be a drain on the economy? 2.) Do they think homemakers who re-enter the work force are undeserving of affordable health care? 3.) Does pro-life concern for mothers only extend to their utility as symbols for a cause?
The post generated a lot of reaction, both positive and negative. I appreciate all the responses because they tell me I tapped into something important. One criticism in particular stuck in my craw, though, so I’d like to respond to it. Then, I want to offer a challenge to institutions like Wheaton College, which cited religious freedom and sanctity of life concerns in its decision to file a lawsuit this week against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the ACA contraception mandate.
What Does It Mean to Be Responsible for Oneself?
First, the criticism. Some accused me of wanting others to pay for the choices I’ve made in my life. This is not only an affront to everything I believe, but it is patently false. From the time I chose not to abort my child, I’ve taken responsibility for my actions. In a 2004 Christianity Today essay about my unplanned pregnancy, for example, I wrote the following words:
“I have always seen the decision not to terminate my pregnancy as the one courageous moment of my life. I acted with self-abandon for the benefit of the innocent. But lately, I’ve begun to think it curious that I should have seen not killing my own child as heroic. I could spin a sad tale to make myself look better, but the fact is I failed in my duty to my family, my community, and my Savior. Accepting the consequences of that failure was not heroism. Only in a culture where sex is divorced from meaning and where self-interest trumps everything could such a narrative be produced. Courage would have been to decline that offer of illicit comfort in the first place.”
I still believe this.
Likewise, when my husband and I decided that I would stay home with our children, it was, in part, an economic decision. It didn’t make financial sense for me to get a job and devote a large chunk of my income to childcare and other work-related expenses, so long before he was earning a six-figure income, we chose to live frugally on one income, at least until our children were in school. I either worked part-time or went to school part-time for much of the time that I “stayed home.” I also home-schooled our sons for several years because our urban district had some typical urban school problems that we judged not to be good for our children. If that was not taking responsibility for myself and my family, I don’t know what is.
I could go on and detail the myriad ways my husband and I have continued to be responsible citizens in the decade since he left his high-paying job, but I’ll simply say that when I was in the midst of any of the four gallbladder attacks I’ve had in the past two weeks, it would have been easy for me to go to the emergency room and not worry about who pays the bill, as I imagine some uninsured Americans do. But I am not one of those people. What I’ve been trying to do instead is to find a way to keep doing what I’ve always tried to do, which is to live my life with integrity. So, I sent in my application for NJ Protect last week, along with a check for $584, which is what a decent plan will cost me every month, and made an appointment with a gastroenterologist for August 2, when I will be insured again. My family will resume paying in the neighborhood of $1000-a-month for mediocre health insurance. How anyone can view this as me wanting someone else to pay my way is beyond me.
The History and Reality of Employer Sponsored Health Insurance
In 2005, the non-partisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center reported that “health insurance provided by employers is a tax-free fringe beneﬁt that costs the government over $140 billion annually.” The report said employer-sponsored insurance covers almost two-thirds of workers and their families, but “overwhelmingly favors” the middle and upper classes. That was seven years ago. I’d guess fewer workers are covered by ESI now.
In a 2006 New England Journal of Medicine article, Dr. David Blumenthal described our system of employer-sponsored insurance as “an accident of history that evolved in an unplanned way and, in the view of some, without the benefit of intelligent design.” He said President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose not to advance universal health insurance as a part of Social Security because of “fierce opposition from the American Medical Association,” which was “a much more potent lobby then than it is now.” As it happens, Roosevelt had lunch with his father-in-law, an influential neurosurgeon who opposed the plan, just before deciding not to push for universal health insurance.
Private insurance emerged to fill the gap and then a series of federal laws cemented the ESI system into place. During World War II, because of inflation concerns, the federal government “limited employers’ freedom to raise wages,” but allowed them to expand benefits like health insurance so that they could compete for scarce workers, Blumenthal said. Then, in 1954, the IRS “decided that the contributions that employers made to the purchase of health insurance for their employees were not taxable as income to workers.” By 2004, the tax benefit for every American with ESI was about $1,180, he said.
Many would argue that a tax break is not the same thing as a subsidy, but it bears noting that workers who have ESI already get a break that the uninsured do not get, and the decisions that led to this break were political, and perhaps even personal, if it’s true that Roosevelt’s father-in-law influenced his decision to not push for universal health insurance.
What Does It mean to be Responsible for One’s Rhetoric?
Now, onto my challenge. In my previous post, I said that vocal pro-lifers seem to care more about the contraception mandate than they do about the long-term well being of women who don’t abort their children. This week, in a highly unusual step, Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois, announced that it is joining other Christian colleges in suing the Department of Health and Human Services over the mandate, in part because it will require Wheaton’s employee health insurance plan to cover abortifacient drugs commonly known as “morning after” and “week after” pills. These schools have every right to do this, but I’d like to challenge them to adopt a more consistent pro-life policy, like the one my uncle Charlie Gifford pushed to have enacted when he was associate dean and campus pastor at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.
I talked to my uncle this morning. He said that when a freshman at the school came to him and told him she was pregnant, he questioned Taylor’s policy of suspending unmarried pregnant students until after the births of their babies. He also questioned why fathers were not similarly disciplined. As a result, Taylor changed its policy. The school no longer suspends unmarried pregnant students, but it does require them and the male students who impregnate them to live in approved off-campus housing during the third trimester of pregnancy. My uncle did more. He and my aunt welcomed two pregnant Taylor students into their home so that these women could continue their educations. Both women gave their babies up for adoption, he said, and their parents are among the most loyal supporters of his current ministry in Sheridan, Wyoming.
When my late son Gabe was a student at Wheaton College, I asked the dean of women what the school’s policy was on pregnant unmarried students. She said Wheaton had to do what was in the best interest of the whole community, which I took to mean that it suspended or expelled unmarried pregnant women, just as I would have been suspended or expelled when I became pregnant at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, if I hadn’t already left the school. Wheaton’s current policy, which its communications director LaTonya Taylor sent via email late this afternoon, says the school is prepared to “stand with” both the mother and the father, but in practical terms it is vague, saying only that on-campus residency and/or enrollment “will be considered in light of what is best for all those involved.”
So, I’ll conclude by saying that if Christian colleges want to take a strong pro-life stand, they need to be consistent and do a better job of supporting women who become pregnant on their campuses. Allowing pregnant women to continue with their studies is not synonymous with condoning extra-marital sex. “Grace and mercy is a scandal. It always is,” my Uncle Charlie told me this morning. How about let’s all be scandalized for the right reasons for a change? Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
Update 7/27: Wheaton College emailed the following clarification regarding its policy:
“Under the current policy, which has been Wheaton’s policy since 2001, the College has allowed pregnant female students—as well as the fathers of their children, if they are also enrolled—to continue their studies before and/or after the births of their babies. Students are not automatically suspended or expelled for becoming pregnant while unmarried. The challenge to community life is largely related to providing appropriate housing for an expectant mother and newborn, given the realities of residence hall life. Our practice has been to assist young women in finding off-campus housing during the final months of pregnancy. The living situation following the pregnancy is, of course, dependent on many factors—most of them related to the new parents’ decisions about marriage, adoption, or single parenthood. Our goal and practice for expectant students is to provide spiritual support and practical assistance in arranging appropriate housing, adjusting to their new reality, making decisions, and completing their studies.”