DEB: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your writing career and your book, Momology?
SHELLY: I thought I would focus more seriously on writing later in life, especially when the kid count went up to four at my house. During those busy days of early mothering, I wrote mostly for myself and in preparation for speaking engagements.
One day, right after reading an LA Times article about over-the-top expensive kid’s birthday parties, then MOPS Publishing Manager, Beth Lagerborg sent an email asking for ideas for future books. In the midst of my frustration that kids’ birthdays had become more about the party than the child, I fired off, “Somebody needs to write a book about kids’ birthdays that focus on the kid, not the party.” She responded, “Why don’t you?” I submitted a proposal and much to my amazement, it was accepted. About a year later, The Birthday Book was released. After that, I started writing regularly for the web and magazines.
Momology was a much different process. I work for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and we offer an annual theme to our groups each year. As we shaped the theme for Momology, we knew it would be our new foundational book and I thought quite a bit about what kind of book moms might be interested in reading. When I was offered the opportunity to actually write the book, I was thrilled. Working with all the research we’d compiled, a team of five moms as writing consultants and a wealth of mom stories and input, writing Momology was a journey into mothering in general as well as an opportunity to think again about my own mothering experiences.
One thing that was important to me in writing Momology was to offer moms multiple perspectives from a wide variety of moms. I wanted moms to see that there are many ways to shape great kids and to gain confidence in their own mothering style. I also wanted moms to be able to keep shaping the content, to be able to share their own experiences, ask questions, and explore new aspects of mothering. So, we created Mom-ology.org, a place where moms can interact and learn from each other. Mom-ology offers a virtual community where no mom has to mother alone.
DEB: What are some suggestions you have for developing a strong mother-child bond and building it over time?
SHELLY: Because of my experiences as a foster and adoptive mom, I’m passionate about this topic. In Momology, I mention that attachment happens when moms are:
Loving- offer an unconditional love that gives time, energy, and yourself to meet your child’s emotional and physical needs.
Touchable- Get physical! Snuggle, hug, kiss massage, stroke, grasp fingers, tickle toes, massage temples, rub cheeks, wear baby in a sling. Touch, touch, touch.
Available- During the early months, give as much undivided attention to your baby as possible. As your child grows older, continue to connect frequently in response to your child’s current needs. Attachment is a matter of quality and quantity.
Predictable- Be known as a loving presence that routinely dries wet bottoms and dispenses warm drinks in the night, the strong arms that regularly envelope and sway fussy dispositions, the laughing person who readily sings silly songs and blows raspberries to relieve boredom.
Responsive- Study your child. Get to know what his cries and expressions mean and how you can best respond. Be patient with yourself. This learning can be hit-or-miss, especially at first. I have yet to see a mom who gets it right every time. So, keep studying!
Intuitive- Listen to what your heart says and respond accordingly, whether or not it’s what everyone else is doing.
DEB: What were some of the research findings you discovered that linked a mother’s faith so closely with her parenting?
SHELLY: There are quite a few studies which support the idea that children who are engaged in a spiritual community have healthier outcomes educationally, emotionally and spiritually. Some I utilized were Search Institute’s Asset research, YMCA’s Building Strong Families study, Promoting Healthy Families in Your Community study by the US. Department of Heath and Human Services and Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, resilient parents and children are likely to feel that they are important and valuable to someone who cares for and about them; life is basically good even when bad thing happen; and there is meaning to life that is bigger and greater than “me” and “now”. In my experience, those things happen best when a healthy church community is supporting both a mom and her child in growing a relationship with God.
A mother who knows she’s loved and cared for, by her faith community and by God, has a hope and faith she can share and live out for her children on a daily basis.
DEB: What are some ideas you can offer about engaging children spiritually?
SHELLY: Mom’s (and dad’s) example is important. As I look back, I also think engaging with your children is important. Deuteronomy talks about how we are to daily write spiritual things on our children’s hearts. What does this look like? We prayed together as a family for each other, for our Compassion child, Freddy, for missionary friends, for friends that we’re struggling financially. We prayed at meals and at bedtime. We were also in community with other Christians, hosting small groups, having friends for dinner, singing Christmas carols at a senior center. Other Christians were part of our family life. Studying God’s word together is important, too. We read Bible stories and talked about Bible verses. Intentionally incorporate the spiritual into every aspect of life. That’s where it belongs. I do wish I had been more intentional about one-on-one spiritual mentoring, especially as my kids got older. Faith is unique to each person and in retrospect I can see my kids were dealing with unique faith challenges that I wasn’t addressing with them.
DEB: What new projects are you currently working on?
SHELLY: I’m enjoying speaking and writing about Momology. It’s fun to interact with moms about the parts that they are most interested in, to get their take on things, to hear their mothering stories. There are so many subtopics in Momology, so many things we can explore together as moms.
It is important to me that no mom be alone as she mothers, so I’m excited about a project my publisher, Revell has put together with Christian Booksellers encouraging people to purchase a special edition of Momology for new moms at local hospitals and Pregnancy Resource Centers. This special edition, which will be released later this summer, includes a special membership to MOPS. I’m praying this will help connect many moms to a great mothering community and ultimately a deeper relationship with God.
Writing beyond Momology? Right now I’m quite focused on a three year Masters in Global Leadership program through Fuller Seminary. I want to explore new ways to come alongside moms and families in different cultures, both here in the US, and around the world. As I’m learning, I’ve been fresh ideas on ways moms can come together to grow and learn as we shape great kids. I’m certain what I’m learning will influence whatever God calls me to write next.