Becky and her husband, Steve have traveled and ministered in over 60 countries around the world. She is the parent of four grown married kids and Mimi to 14 grandchildren! You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com and www.harlingleadership.com
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What is The Connected Mom?
Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.
Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast where we have real conversations about connecting more deeply with God, more empathically with other moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling and I'm your host today. And I have with me today my amazing co host, Sarah Wildman. Welcome, Sarah.
Hey Becky. It's so good to be here. And we have a huge topic today and I'm so interested. So let's tell our listeners what we're talking about today.
Yeah, so today we are talking about loneliness in motherhood. And this really is a huge topic. In fact, according to my research, this is being called the new pandemic. So we've just come through the COVID-19 pandemic, but now as humanity, we are facing another pandemic, which is loneliness. And so some of the statistics I read were that 82% of mothers who are under the age of 30 feel lonely some of the time, while 45% of them feel lonely often or all the time. I read that for single moms, loneliness is increasing. I read that middle aged moms loneliness is off the charts. And I know from experience, from talking to moms that have kids in elementary school or junior high, that they are facing loneliness as well. And so it's a real topic, Sarah, and we need to help moms out there to realize they are not alone.
That's true. Well, and we have this podcast called the Connected Mom Podcast. Seriously, pretty big deal to us. To address this from your opinion, why is loneliness so big in motherhood? I mean, what's going on?
Well, I think there's a variety of reasons which makes it maybe a little bit more complicated to deal with. But I think for those mamas that are 30 and under or even in their early 30s, maybe they've become a mom for the first time. And before then they were working a full time job where they were around people all the time. Now all of a sudden they feel isolated at home, they're trying to figure out how to get their child eating correctly, sleeping correctly, all those things, right? And then I think for moms that are in that elementary age category, their kids go off to school, they're tired at times, some of them are trying to work jobs and they don't feel connected. And it's interesting, Sarah, because social media, again, is not helping us feel more connected, which is intriguing to me because I love social media, as probably you do. It's a great way to connect with people that you used to know. But according to the research, it's not helping these moms feel more connected. In fact, it's making them feel more isolated. Isn't that intriguing?
M, yes, it is. And I do think not to just constantly harp on the pandemic, but it brings some connection. But it's not like that whole person. I don't know what the science is right, but it almost can make us feel more lonely looking at social media, because it's like you see only one side and often we're putting our best side up on social media. Right. And so then, if you're not feeling that way, it can often make us feel more alone, because, like, well, I don't have my act together. Well, I think I'm speaking from experience here, Becky.
Well, I think that is true, Sarah. When you look at social media, you see beautiful posts, you see beautiful children. It looks like everyone's children are more well behaved than yours, no matter how they're behaving. Right. Because they smiled. Maybe for the camera. But the thing is, it serves a purpose. So I want to be careful. We're not here to bash social media. Right.
Both of us use it. There's many great things about it.
Yeah. But we also need real, live connections, especially as moms. We need villages of people around us. Like, I think back maybe 50 years ago or 100 years ago, mamas were together because they would get together. They would have coffee together, or they would work on tasks together or whatever, but they were together more. I think another factor in this whole loneliness pandemic, Sarah, is I think, as a society, we've become addicted to hurry, and so we're always in a rush, right? And so we think, oh, I got to finish this, I got to finish that. And so we're rushing through life, and we're not relishing the relationships that we really need to have in our lives. I think for some moms, there's a disconnect between them and their husbands, and so they're feeling isolated there. I know for moms of special need kiddos, this is a huge topic, because some of them feel like, hey, I can't take my child to the park like other moms, because my child will run away or run into the road or whatever or, um, be really loud so I can't get together with other moms. I know for other moms, um, especially single mamas, this is a very lonely journey. I mean, I did not have to walk that journey. And Steve, my husband, was a huge help in parenting. But I know single mamas who say, by the time I get to bed at night, I am exhausted. There is nothing left of me. I don't have the space to connect with another human being. I have to just go to bed, get up the next morning, and do the whole thing all over again. So those are some of the reasons, um, that, well, mamas and the single.
Mom example, it does apply to all of us. We're not robots. And I think even the mamas that are married and have that support, but they're rushing from thing to thing. It's like you can be busy your whole day, whether you're married or not, and just feel like you're not connected to anybody. You're the taxi driver, you're the chef, uh, the launderer, and all those wonderful roles which um, are all part of being a mom. But I think it's our hearts, right? If there's not that heart level engagement with each other, with the Lord, man, that's not good. And I'm speaking from experience, so this is a real deal.
And Jesus really talked about this because, again, God designed us for connection, right? Ah. I mean, way back in Genesis, he says it's good for man not to be alone. And while that applies to marriage, it also applies to community, because we need each other. We were designed to connect with God and we were designed to connect with each other. And only when we are really interconnected like that is there going to be joy in our lives. And so I would say for mamas prioritize first and foremost the connection with God, because Jesus said in John 15, I'm the vine, you're the branch. Stay connected to me, remain in me, abide in me, however you want to say it. The basic principle there was, you need me in your life, so stay connected. We can stay connected through prayer, through listening to worship music, through our day, through reading the Bible. So that's important. But then we need those other connections as well. We need communities of moms and those that aren't moms. We need each other to walk this journey called our Christian life together.
And I was thinking about that, especially when I was in the thick of learning to be a mom, and it felt like you didn't even have that margin to try and step out. And I remember trying a few things that I really hoped would bring connection, and it was kind of a failure, but it was a reminder to not give up, like keep trying. Sometimes I think we need that because we try, we step out, which is a really vulnerable thing to do in any stage of motherhood. And then when it doesn't go well, I think sometimes it's easy to give up on that. But that was just one time, right? I would encourage people keep trying. And sometimes I know we're going to talk about some practical ways to get connected with people, but sometimes for me, it's come in the most unlikely places, right. And maybe not even a formal setting at church where I really thought that would be it. Not that it's not there, but I think not giving up if the first kind of reach out doesn't go so well.
Yeah, I think that that's huge. And that also really applies to God not giving up if you don't feel his presence the first time you reach out. Right. I think of that. I'm, uh, thinking again of those single mamas, and I want to get back to practical suggestions for all moms. But before we do that, I was thinking this morning, as I was thinking through where we were going to go with this podcast, Sarah, about the single moms out there. And I'm reminded of the story of Hagar in the Old Testament. She was basically Sarah gave Hagar to her husband because Sarah couldn't have children, which, I mean, that's a terrible idea right there, right? I mean, talk about it, that's not.
Going to go well.
A dysfunctional family. I don't know how Sarah thought that was going to turn out, but it certainly didn't go well. And so then Sarah gets mad at Hagar when she gets pregnant. And so Hagar runs away. And in the desert, she says about God, that God is the God who sees. And he has this conversation with her and tells her to go back. And then later in Genesis 21, sarah is shunned by, uh, not Sarah. Hager is shunned by Sarah and Abraham. And again, she's in the desert, this time with her little boy Ishmael. And there God bends down and reassures Hagar that he is listening to the cry of her heart. And so I think for those of us that are moms, there's such promise in those two passages. Because God is a God who sees you. You are never completely alone. And God is a God who hears you. He bends down to listen, and so he hears every cry of your heart. Now, having said that, I want to go back to what you said, Sarah, because sometimes when we feel lonely, we kind of hole up and isolate. But that's not the answer. We need to take initiative, right?
Yes. And looking at what is available, even if it's not your ideal, I think I'm guilty of that. If it doesn't line up perfectly with my current schedule or whatever, I just kind of dismiss it. But I think looking into, like, I remember, for instance, when, um, COVID and all of us were watching church online, for many, that was a huge gift, right? I mean, they hadn't been able to go into a physical place. But for me as a young mom, it really reminded me of what a beautiful gift that was to sit in a sanctuary with my kids, cared for by loving adults elsewhere and focus on the Lord, like, what a gift that was. And I remember reading this blog of this mom that was like, really, kids should be with us at all times, basically, and they should be with us in the worship service. And I'm just like, oh, no. But for me, uh, that was an opportunity that I needed to step into. It was really good for me to be able to put my kids in a beautiful place, um, at church. And they enjoyed their story and I enjoyed my lesson. But, uh, I just think, man, you can hear conflicting things about all of these practical tips we're going to talk about. I guess I think that some of these things, maybe it'll spark some ideas in these mamas listening, right, of how to connect. That's our goal here.
And I think the key is to start by taking initiative. And I realize I'm an extrovert. Some people are introverts, um, some people are shy. But take some initiative if you're shy. I offer this tip. I talk about it, actually, and how to listen so people will talk. Learn before you're going to take initiative with people to have three good questions in your mind to open up the conversation. Because then, even if you're shy, they're doing all the talking. You're just listening. And most people want to feel heard. Right. Um, I remember, uh, when Steve and I, we had two little ones, uh, we moved to Phoenix when our daughter had just turned four and our son had just turned two. And we were living in an apartment. At first, Steve was going to, uh, pastor a church out there, and so I needed friends, and I didn't want to just lean into the church. I mean, that was great, but so we were living in this apartment complex, and I just remember taking the kids outside to the pool that was there. And I'll never forget, I saw this woman come in and she had two kids about my kids'age. And I just went up and I said, hey, my name is Becky. What's your name and how old are your children? And she was from England. Her name was Kim. I'll never forget her. And she had two little children, Peter and Hannah. And I just asked her questions like, where did you guys move from? How long are you here in the States? Do you know anyone here yet? And we just started having coffee out by the pool with our kids, and our kids started playing together. And as long as I had questions prepared in my mind, we were able to connect. Right. And it probably helped her loneliness, but it also helped my loneliness. Right. And so we became friends like that. And so I think a ah, good suggestion is to remember, take initiative. A second suggestion that I have is draw out literally, your circles of influence. Who are the people in your life? Do you remember that movie? Uh, maybe you don't. You always take a risk when you mention a movie on a podcast. Please don't email us and tell us that this was a horrible movie. Anyway, um, do you remember that movie Mean Girls? It was big in the 90s.
I've seen enough clips of it.
M so we watched it as a family.
Like my nightmare of junior high relive.
Exactly. And we had family discussions about it. But in that movie, the girl draws for her parents these circles of the lunchroom. And at one table there's the popular girls, and at another table there's the geeks who want to be different. And I don't remember all the circles. Anyway, if you visualize those circles in your mind, then think through. Okay. There's a circle for neighbors. Who are your neighbors? I'm convinced that as Jesus followers. We need to get back to knowing our neighbors.
I feel like you talked about that.
Yeah. Love your neighbor as yourself, for one thing. So, uh, one of the things that I have done is I have gotten to know all the neighbors on my little cul de sac, and I have a list of their telephone numbers and their names, and I tape it inside one of my kitchen cabinets. So I pray for my neighbors, but then when I'm out walking, I can see people and I can say hi to them and connect in that way. Okay, so who are your neighbors? Who are the people in your church? Is there anybody you could say, hey, come on over to my house for coffee? We've gotten kind of as Americans caught up in the coffee shops and I mean, Sarah, honestly, you know I love coffee, right?
And me too, sister.
Um, yeah, so, I mean, we could take people to Starbucks or wherever you like to drink your coffee, but why not invite them into your home? There's a deeper connection that happens when somebody comes into your home. Now, having said that, I can feel some of you groaning like, oh, my word, Becky, you don't know what my toddlers do to my house. Listen, I do because I have 14 grandchildren, and sometimes our home is a mess. But you know what? Most moms aren't going to judge you for that. And if they are, they're not going to be your closest friends, and it's.
Uh, going to make them feel less lonely.
She's normal, like me. My house is not perfect.
What, do you draw circles around your people at church, around your neighborhood? Drop circles for the people, maybe, that are involved in your sports teams. When we were raising kids, our kids did soccer and swimming and gymnastics. So we tried to get to know the other parents that were involved in those activities. Or find a local mops. If you're a mother of preschooler in your area and just go or a local mom's group like Sarah, I know your church has, uh, intentional moms, and it's for moms of all ages. Start going to those and trying to get to know a few moms and then never, um, underestimate the power of prayer. Right. I remember there have been seasons in, um, my daughter's lives where they just moved and they just began praying, like, lord, I need close, kindred spirit friends. That is a, ah, prayer that God loves to answer. And then dare to be real with your friends. If you're trying to impress people or, um, project an image that you're perfect, you're not going to find the deep connections your heart is looking for. I have mentioned this before on this podcast, Sarah, that I have friends that I can ugly cry with. Right. I have friends that we have prayed together for years, and prayer has the potential to really connect you to other moms. So why not invite a couple of other moms in your home and say, hey, let's try an experiment. Let's start praying for each other's kids and for our kids, and let's keep a journal of prayer requests for whose child is going through whatever, and let's just commit to do this for nine months or a year. You don't have to do it forever and see what God does. That connection of praying together is huge, and it really builds much stronger connections. One more idea I have for you is, uh, a couple of our kids did this. So they wanted to reach out to people in their circles. So they invited some of their church friends, some of their non Christian friends, some of their friends from soccer, some of their friends from kids schools, and they hosted these, what they called big table evenings. So my son would put out these huge tables in his home and together these two couples would make a whole variety of food and just invite random people in. And then they would say, okay, we're Jesus followers, so we're going to open in prayer. So they prayed. People were very respectful of that. And then they ate good food and then they had games. What was remarkable about that was that a lot of the people that were not church goers said, we have never experienced anything like this. Can we do this more often? We want community. We want to connect. And so I think people are longing to connect right now. So host a dinner party, host a supper club, start a book club, start a Bible study, start a prayer group, start a play group. Just say, hey, I'm going to invite some moms over to my house and our kids are going to play together, and we're just going to drink coffee and get to know one another. But reach out, take initiative, because somebody has to take initiative, right? So if you sit back and wait for everyone else to take initiative with you, they might not take initiative, but you could take initiative.
I love that. And I would say if you're on the other side of that invitation, go.
Right. If somebody invites you over to a play date, a supper club, whatever, book club, maybe it's not quite your thing, but go try it. Because that's often my thought. It's like, well, I don't know, it doesn't exactly line up. And it's like, no, take that step, because, uh, if somebody's reaching out, that's a big deal.
I think something you said triggered another thought in my mind, Sarah, is I think sometimes we're looking for the perfect friend before we're, uh, going to develop deep relationships. You know what? There's no such thing as a perfect friend. So you got to, for starters, smash that lie, because none of us are perfect. We're all going to be messed up at some point or another. And so we look for friends that we resonate with, but they're not going to be perfect friends. I have friends from all walks of life. One of my dearest friends has never had children, and yet she's faithful and loyal in my life. And we have deep conversations about God. She prays for all my kids, all my grandkids, and we've been friends for years. I have other friends who are moms and who have grandchildren like I do. I have other friends who are single. But each friend brings a different treasure to the relationship. And so look for the treasure in people. Don't look for what's wrong with them. Look for what's right with them. And just enjoy, um, getting to know them. Because everybody out there has a story. So you can start by asking their story. I have met some of the most fascinating people just saying, hey, tell me your story. Because some stories are just amazing when we take the time to listen like that. Uh, we are providing the foundation for a relationship, and we're going to feel less lonely.
That's right. Wow. And I think, too, you just spurred something in. My thought is we model that for our children, too, and their relationships. I've thought of that. I remember remember growing up, and there were a, ah, handful of ladies that my mom. She was a stay at home, awesome mama, raising four of us. And she would be on the phone sometimes, and she wasn't ignoring us, she was just catching up with friends. And I remember thinking, like, she's so fun when she's talking to those people. I picked it up. This is really important for her. And I think about that, too, with my kids. When we take that initiative or we take that risk and go into something different, it models to them how to be a friend. And so they're not lonely and they're seeing that. So I think that's cool. It's like a domino effect first.
Yeah, absolutely. And teach your kids how to ask questions. Um, you can do that at the dinner table at night. Like, hey, what's a good question. You could ask somebody else if you're wanting to be friends with them. You could invite them to play with you on the playground. Or you could ask them, hey, what's your favorite superhero? Or what's your favorite book? Or what do you like to do? What does your family do at night after dinner? Just ask questions. People really, truly love to talk about themselves. And so that's a great way to take initiative and really get started on the whole relationship thing. I just think we need to be bold enough to take some of these steps because loneliness isn't going to go away. And the pictures you see on Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok, um, it's fun. Sure. Do a little social media. Enjoy it for what it is. But don't undervalue the real relationships. Get into real conversations. Um, and really hang out with people.
Yes, that's right. Well, so just to recap, we're almost out of time here. I love that you've said take initiative, right? Like, if you're lonely, think of the ways that you can reach out. I, um, love the idea of drawing circles around the groups and groups, uh, of people you already have there and how you could reach out to those. I love that not looking for perfect friends, because the Lord knows there's none of those so good. And the mom, tribe of moms who know how to pray, I mean, we all can connect on being concerned about our kids and praying for our kids. Such a great way to connect. So I've been especially challenged on that one. Becky. I'm going to have to do some work on that one. And then again, um, thinking of questions, I think that's really good for you or your children of how to connect with people. If you're perhaps a little shy or introverted, that's totally fine. It is true. God knows the desires of our hearts, and I do think that when we ask for his help and finding those kindred spirits, he, uh, does answer that prayer. So being open to that is pretty big.
Yeah, I think so, too. And if you're seeking friends to pray with, reach out, even through text message, like, hey, can you pray for me today? Or can you pray about this or that or the other thing? And so, um, we hope that you have enjoyed this conversation. Hey, Sarah and I would really love to hear from you, too, about what you would like to have us talk about on the Connected Mom podcast. And if you like the suggestions we're giving and you've tried them, we want to hear your stories because that encourages us and gives us ideas of where to go in the future. Well, let me close us out in prayer, Sarah, and let me pray. I want to pray for all of you mamas out there who maybe really are feeling lonely right now. So maybe you could open your hands and visualize yourself receiving this blessing from the Lord. So let's pray together. Lord Jesus, thank you for this time together on the Connected Mom podcast. And I pray for every mom out there, whether she's a young mom, mom of a grade school student, a high schooler, an empty nester, or a grandma. I pray, Father, that you would give her the courage to take initiative, to begin to reach out to people so that she can form those close connections that her heart is craving. I pray, Father, that you would encourage her. I pray that you would help her to feel connected to You, Lord. For some of the young moms out there, I pray that they might even reach out to somebody that's older than them to journey alongside them. Father, for every single mom out there, help them to remember that you see and that you hear and bring her special friends who can come alongside and help in the parenting journey. Lord, we love you. We thank you for our time together. In Jesus name, amen. Hey, thanks for listening today to the Connected Mom podcast. We've enjoyed having you, and we hope you'll join us next week where we'll have more conversations about connecting more deeply with God, more empathically with our fellow moms, and more intentionally with our kids.