“Every future momma is stepping into unchartered waters. . .” — Betsy Singleton Snyder
While some moms refer to the time period in their lives before children as “BC”, few have had almost twenty years in their profession and worn the title of “Reverend” before they acquired the title of mom. Meet my friend, “The Rev. Betsy”, who stepped into those waters by birthing her first child in her mid 40’s and then two and a half years later, at age 47, having to learn to sink or swim in those waters with the arrival of triplet sons. All of this while fulfilling the full time pastorate of a Methodist church!
Four boys ages two and under? Can you even imagine it? No? Neither can I.
Betsy says that her motherhood story is one on “the extreme end of personal dislocation and stress”. In her new book, Stepping On Cheerios (Finding God In The Chaos And Clutter Of Life), she recounts the blur of busyness and bodies housed within their walls those first few months after they brought the triplets home. How volunteers worked in three-hour shifts around the clock to feed, diaper, rock and swaddle three newborns, oversee an active toddler, provide meals, run errands and just generally keep this momma from drowning in the unchartered waters around her.
At one point Betsy was hospitalized with cardiac failure, the result of a virus that attacked her heart during pregnancy. She says she “lived between bouts of crying and pumping breast milk”. Her illness was one of many situations which caused her to lean on God and others in a whole new way. It also forced her into a temporary sabbatical.
She writes, “By the time I was home, little of my life seemed familiar to me. I had one toddler and three infants, no pastoral work, an unhealthy and rather wrecked body, and zero privacy because – guess what – I needed every hand on deck I could possibly get.”
Although not every mom will experience the overwhelming volume of care and paraphernalia needed to provide for triplets (24 bottles every 24 hours!), every mom will relate to parts of Betsy’s story. Just looking at some of the subtitles in chapter two, “My Big Fat Anxiety Attack”, will give you some idea of the for-real-down-to-earth subject matter on which she has gained perspective:
Identity Change Is Scary, but There Are Ways to Lean Into It
Give in to This Time in Your Life
Take Sorta, Kinda Breaks
You Are Never, Ever Going to Get It All Done
Figure Out Your Soul Thing
If It Gets Really, Really Bad, Talk to Someone, Maybe a Real Therapist
As you can see, she’s not afraid to tackle the hard stuff! Betsy is one of the most approachable, down-to-earth women I have known. She understands real issues in a real world but offers hope in a real God. Again, I quote from her book, “When you’re lost in sleep-deprived nights, the thick fog of young children, and valleys of self-doubt about whether you’re pulling off motherhood like you imagine you should, God is still with you.” With those statements she is definitely preaching a gospel she has experienced firsthand.
Betsy is one of the most approachable, down-to-earth women I have known. She understands real issues in a real world but offers hope in a real God.
Because the father of her beautiful boys was Congressman Vic Snyder, Betsy also knows the struggle and loneliness of moms doing the job of parenting alone (either temporarily or permanently). Shortly after the triplets arrived, her husband was required to return to Washington DC where a new congressional session was starting under a new president. The separations were difficult for both her and this very proud dad. Their experience has left her with a lot of empathy for military families and others whose jobs create similar circumstances.
In her book she tells of the time when tornado threats were headed her way, the toddler was experiencing diarrhea so severe he needed to be bathed every hour and, of course, the triplets’ needs were an endless cycle. Since Congressman Snyder was stuck in DC, Betsy’s brother came to ride out the storm with her and her crew as well as provide transportation should they need to be evacuated. I’m sure the stories she could tell would fill volumes!
I met Betsy for coffee last week just to catch up and to ask a few questions. One of the things I asked was how motherhood had changed her relationship with God. She said that Scripture has always been important to her but that now the stories had become richer because she can’t read them minus her family experience. “It’s who I am,” she says.
As an example she cited the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin and how as a mother those stories now represent to her the importance of meeting each child’s individual and separate needs and of valuing each of her boys in his own uniqueness. She also spoke of the opportunity to shepherd her own family as she has the family of Christ for all these years. And although she now is associate pastor of a church with 4,000+ members, she, like all Christian parents, realizes she has a “mini church” at home.
When I asked how long it took for life to feel to any degree “normal”, Betsy said it was probably when the three younger boys started to school in Pre-K4. Because of her health issues, she had to become fairly diligent about some form of daily exercise and now even gets up for a 6:45 a.m. tennis match every Saturday morning.
Self care is a topic she has become passionate about. In her chapter called “Selfie”, she writes, “Because we’re women, we may have the idea that we’re created for self-sacrifice, giving up big swaths of ourselves for the betterment of the people in our lives, whether spouse, kids, family, friends, or work. . . but giving until there’s little left of yourself is discounting God’s own creation – you. . .”
And a few paragraphs later contains one of my favorite lines in the book as it is a deep belief I also hold: “What we need to do is practice valuing who we are becoming at each stage of life.”
She goes on to say “The many needs of others moved Jesus to provide, but he also refreshed himself and had compassion for himself, letting others anoint him with oil and feed him from their tables, which meant he knew how to receive.”
When I asked Betsy if she had any last words of advice for moms with little ones who are in the busy blur of the preschool years she offered a few choice nuggets:
- Find an outlet. For Betsy, who had studied creative writing before attending seminary, writing a blog for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette starting when the triplets were 8 months old gave her a much needed release. She says children are a gift whose early years don’t last long but you have to have something that lets you step out of it awhile to truly appreciate it.
- Have things on the calendar to look forward to. For her family, that usually meant a trip to the beach each year. Although the travel plans and most of the execution became her responsibility, it was worth it to have something to anticipate.
- Learn to let go. Classifying herself as “fairly OCD” about her surroundings before having children, she has learned to prioritize healthy, happy children over picture perfect rooms. She has also learned to let others do things for and with her kids when she can’t do it all.
- Have a cause. When Betsy’s children were younger, she says getting out of the house and taking them to the zoo was like a drink of cool water. The kids could run and play, she could breathe some fresh air while they all learned a ton about a variety of animals. Passionate about both the preservation of animals and of the earth, her appreciation for our local zoo became so strong she was eventually asked to join its Board of Directors. Having a cause bigger than your own family helps give perspective and balance.
- Take care of that marriage! It’s easy to become so enmeshed in the needs of young children that there is no energy or time left for the couple who created those little beings! Betsy strongly suggests a regular date night, even if it’s only once or twice a month. If money is an issue, try trading off babysitting nights with another couple, asking family or friends, or finding churches with parents’ night-out ministries. It’s nice to be able to actually have a conversation with each other with no one there to interrupt!
And I close with one last quote from Betsy’s book which could serve as a perfect benediction: “Blessed are those of us who savor the sacred moments of this beautiful, challenging work known as motherhood.” Amen.
You can order STEPPING ON CHEERIOS on Amazon and if you’d like to schedule Betsy as a speaker you can contact her scheduling director at GayleFiser100@gmail.com.