I am delighted to be sharing this interview series with you, where I will be talking to a different woman every fortnight about parenting, motherhood, their daily rhythm and what makes a beautiful childhood. So without further ado, let’s meet the mother…
This week, I’d like to welcome writer and mama to two (one still growing in her belly) Christie Drozdowski to Frida be Mighty. I really enjoy talking to mamas with a different experience to my own, and as a secular mum I loved chatting to Christie about her faith and the impact this has had on her role as a mother. Whether you hold religious beliefs or not, I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
We’re a binational family as I’m originally from the United States and my husband is from England, so our kids (one nearly 3 year old daughter and one babe on the way) have/will have dual citizenship. Our daughter was born in my native North Carolina, but we moved to my husband’s hometown, Margate, in April 2017. You can usually find us laughing about any and everything — joy is our highest priority.
Do you have a daily rhythm? What do your days look like?
We recently adopted a loosely structured rhythm for our days as inspired by you Eloise! My husband works full-time with 2-3 days off each week, and our daughter, Talitha, attends nursery 12 hours a week so I can freelance write. The weekly rhythm is subject to change, but we’ve built in things like nature exploration, chores around the house, family time, a weekly playgroup, and lots of time to decide something completely random for my daughter and I to manage our days together. We like to make sure other people are involved with our activities as much as possible as we just really love people.
Are there any philosophies or books which have influenced your approach to parenting?
I feel like I’ve pulled from so many people I admire — families who have what I want — and maybe not so much from parenting books or philosophies. I’m not sure if there are lines of thought with any particular label already associated with this, but my personal approach is to raise my children as if they are already grown. What I mean by that is a whole lot of letting go — realising they are not solely “mine,” they are individuals with their own personhood — and I have no “rights” to them. We parent our daughter always with the backdrop that one day she will leave us, and that is nothing to fear but rather an exciting independence to cultivate within her, a happy, healthy desire for her to be her own person buttressed by our love, hope, and joy in who she is.
On your website you describe Christianity as “the relationship of your life”. Has this relationship changed since becoming a mother?
Literally everything changed in my life when I became a mother, so this, too, without a doubt grew and changed into something even more profound. So… I’ve always had this relationship with God discovering who God is and what God is like as I first accepted the beliefs my own parents raised me with, then questioned them, then found my own way within a slightly different framework than them. There’s so much to say on this, but a snapshot of what I’ve experienced since becoming a mother is my eyes opening to the mother-side of God. He is often described as just that — male. But God’s female side is so gentle yet fierce — just like the qualities I found rising up in me as a mother. There has been this mirror opening up, an invitation to partner with the Sprit of God in how parenting (and thereby the reflecting of God to your kids) is designed to work. It’s such a massive responsibility, and yet I feel it’s not too far from my reach. Florence Welch has a new song called “Big God” with some lyrics that perfectly describe why this feels possible to me: “You need a Big God, big enough to hold your love / You need a Big God, big enough to fill you up.” With such a big God I’ve come to know (in motherhood), I can mother without fear (despite the struggles!).
Leading on from this question, in what ways do you share your faith with your daughter?
This is a great question. Most obviously, we attend church as a family most every Sunday and are involved with our church through our friends in the week. I tell her what we’re doing and why we do it in our worship services knowing full well that she must come to her own decision about these things in time. My approach is to just be myself (even outside of my faith, I want her to see my full personality — my strengths, my weaknesses, my fears, my hopes). Since I’m a Christian, I pray, I sing to God (even in the middle of the day), I talk about God to other people, I read the Bible, so she will grow up hearing and seeing this side of me. Beyond the things I do as I Christian, my highest hope is that she will see the fruit of them in my life — that should be the deciding factor for her. What good is it if we have all this “Christian” structure in our family life, but our kids don’t feel any joy and peace in our home?
I think I just share my faith with her by letting the result of what that faith brings into my own life spill over into hers. She will either want it for herself or not. I hope I am cultivating a relationship between us that honours her ability to think and decide and question things — of course I am so excited for the days when she begins asking me questions or talking about it herself. So far, she seems to mimic how I raise my hands and dance when I worship through music, she has said the names “God” and “Jesus” when we talk about God, and she seems to understand the concept of praying for each other. We have maybe two Christian children’s books and we don’t actually say a prayer before we eat, for instance, hardly ever, but again, we want our lifestyle to speak for itself instead of a list of traditions we must follow.
One of the things which comes up time and again when women discuss modern motherhood is the lack of a “village”. Do you think that faith communities play a role in tackling maternal loneliness?
I’m actually in the process of writing a piece about parenting with a village. I have loved hearing responses from other mothers about how they battle that particular struggle — a few of them finding community from their involvement with church. Personally, it’s definitely something that my faith community has championed me and the other mums in — but not without hardships. Faith-based or not, relationships with people and maintaining them is hard work. People are complicated with an array of emotions and perspectives even within the same faith framework. I have found that being a “church goer” doesn’t necessarily mean I suddenly have an amazing village of people supporting me, which sometimes jades people against the idea of church. It takes intentional effort on my part to be vulnerable with people if I expect them to be open and honest with me. Of course, this is dependent on the level of intimacy you actually want out of your village. There’s certainly a ready-made village for faith-based communities, but in my opinion, it’s still up to you to open your heart and make it work like you want it to.
I know for me and many other mothers in my particular stream of faith, the love within us compels us to invite other mothers to join us along the way. I have found so many mothers, however, with no faith at all who equally share this desire to encourage other women. Faith-based communities definitely play a part, and they should be leading the way, but womankind in general in our generation (of Insta-mums) are stepping up to the bat, and it’s glorious to see!
Which aspects of parenting bring you the most joy?
The sheer idea that I get to introduce a new human to the beauty of the world and the wonder all around us! But on a more practical level, breastfeeding rocked my world! I just did not understand the way other women would talk about it before, but I totally get it now. It’s miraculous! Also, laughing…laughing with my kid over something so ridiculous is pure heaven.
Which parts of motherhood do you find challenging?
Um…this could be a long list, LOL, but in general as I’m parenting a toddler right now, the utter repetition that goes into guiding this kid into a good human. Also, it’s absolutely a constant battle to let my daughter be herself. I mean, why does it come so naturally for me to try to make her more like me? It’s a welcome challenge though, because it’s such a huge part of my desire in how to parent her.
How do you make time for self-care, and what does that look like for you?
Taking turns with my husband to sleep in at least once a week. Sharing the bedtime routine with him as well. Self-care is mostly just extra rest when I can get it as I’m currently pregnant with baby 2, but at the moment in the evenings whilst my daughter is asleep, I love to read, journal, go out for walks by the sea, watch a good show. Also, putting her in nursery so I could write is much more about self-care than it is about extra income fortunately. Writing fulfils a part of me neither motherhood nor anything else could, so making sure I find a part of my self-worth outside of being a mother is most definitely self-care. (I want to make sure I give credit to the particular wording in the last half of that sentence to the amazing Ray Dodd, who recently put those words so eloquently to something that’s been on my heart for years.) Once the second baby comes, I have no idea what self-care is going to look like, but I’m ready to let that new rhythm emerge as the fourth trimester takes its place in our new life.
What do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
On a basic level, an aesthetically-pleasing home and making the environment I nurture my child in “look” nice goes a long way. I suppose my daughter will have to vouch for that in the future, but it certainly helps me to offer her all the other things that a beautiful childhood entails — comfort combined with thankfulness, a value for the beauty of the world (and the responsibility to care for it), and joy in every crevice possible which leads to youthfulness and hope throughout the entirety of life.
If you could share one insight or piece of advice with other mothers, what would it be?
Let motherhood be as gentle and your teaching and guiding be as child-led as possible: there is no need to rush things OR hinder them from happening (i.e. milestones).
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book?
Currently loving Dick Bruna’s Miffy (Nijntje in the original Dutch) series, which I only discovered as a mother. My daughter and I read them all the time! My favorite from when I was child is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, which my mother read to/with me when I was 11. Lowry’s writing was one of the first things that drew me to becoming a writer myself.