My guest for episode 92 is Laura Roberts, a mom who shares how she has learned to connect with her kids by being her authentic self and true to who she is. In the interview, Laura talks about how she has found purpose in the struggles she has faced, including losing a sister to cancer. She addresses how asking questions about why she is doing something in motherhood helps her get to the deeper why. Ultimately, Laura shares how she looks to Heavenly Father as the ultimate example of how to parent.
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Episode Links + Quotes
“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.” – Brene Brown
“I just think that there is purpose in our struggle. Going back to the butterfly analogy, … when a butterfly’s in a cocoon, it like literally liquefies itself. Everything that it used to be disintegrates…. It falls apart and it’s for a purpose. It’s so that it can become something even better than it was before. And I think when I look back on going through my sister’s death and all the things that happened afterwards, any other challenges that I have faced, when I choose to see them as an opportunity to become something new and to grow, that it is a process of becoming. I find treasures there that the Lord has helped me to discover and to make my own.” –Episode quote from Laura Roberts
“Do I want her [daughter] to be someone who chooses the right, or do I want her to be someone who chooses what I want for her right now?”–Episode quote from Laura Roberts
SMM 029: Triumphs + Struggles Mothering a Special Needs Child || Kay West
SMM 083: How to Give Up Overwhelm + Value Connection in Motherhood || Kristen Goodman
SMM 078: Why a Deep Relationship With God is the Best Way to Be a Better Mother||Melissa Buckley
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Darla: You’re listening to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast. This is episode 92: How to Connect in Motherhood by Being Your Authentic Self + Find Purpose in Struggles with Laura Roberts.
Intro: Hi, this is Darla Trendler and welcome to Spiritually Minded Mom. My goal is to help you gain confidence in your ability to hear and follow God’s voice in motherhood and in life. Listen to hear interviews with all kinds of moms who are learning to navigate motherhood by partnering with our heavenly parents.
Darla: Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast. This is Darla and I am so happy that you’re here today. I am excited to welcome my guest. Her name is Laura Roberts and she is an aspiring writer and a homeschool mom and also a wannabe painter. She is married to Darren who is a professional photographer and they have four kids, ages four to 10 and a Bernese mountain dog. They live in the foot of the Canadian Rockies where they do their homeschooling work from home with a life that lets them spend as much time outside as they can. And Laura loves discussing and writing about parenting, education and human nature. And she laughs too loud and too often, but that is not a bad thing, Laura. I am so glad that you’re here today. And I know you have a lot to share about motherhood, so thanks for coming.
Laura: Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored.
Darla: Yeah, this is, this is going to be great. So, I want to lead off with something that you told me before the interview and that is kind of your philosophy that you’re the mom and the best mom for your kids that you were made to be their mom and that you just have to be the “you-est you.” So, I would love to know how did you come to that? Was it just something natural? Did you kind of realize that over time? Tell me how you, how you figured that out.
Laura: Well, I went to school, like I did my bachelor’s of education in elementary education with a minor in special needs. So, it meant that I took a lot of classes on like behavior management and how to manage the behavior of a group of kids or kids who have special needs. And something that I took with me into motherhood was this confidence that I could like handle it. You know, that I had this very clear parenting philosophy of how I wanted to run things. And then I had kids, I kind of blew it all out of the water, and I found myself trying so hard to apply these strategies, these very formulaic step-by-step things I was supposed to do, quote unquote. And I just found that the more that I tried to apply these things that I should be doing or that somebody else told me were ideal, the more distance I felt between me and my child. Like I just felt like I was playing a role and as I experienced that I was, I thought, I don’t feel that like tender closeness that comes when two people are kind of like sharing their imperfections with each other and trusting each other and lifting each other up. I realized that it was because of that process that I had thought I needed to do or that role I needed to play like this perfect mom, this happy mom, this mom who did things correctly. And, I decided instead to try sharing my heart with my kids. And through that process, I just felt that gap close, that distance between our hearts narrow and I felt connected to them in a way that felt authentic and real and tender and sweet. And it had nothing to do with like, um, all of the formulas that I was applying and had to deal with and wanting to be there for them and showing them that like I’m mad too or I’m upset too and we both need to take a time out and then we can come together and work together. And it was, um, it was just a beautiful realization because it made me realize that I had been given experiences in my life that will help me to be there for my kids in the way that, that they need me to be. That Heavenly Father put us together for a reason. I can’t be everything to my kids. I can’t be all of these like what all of these parenting experts say I should be for my kids, but I can be me the best me that I can be. And Heavenly Father will help that to be enough. You know? Sorry, that was a really long answer.
Darla: No, that was perfect. I love that. I love what you said about sharing your heart with your kids. So, and your kids are what, what’d we say? Four to 10, right? So, it’s not like they’re, they’re older and can understand tons of stuff. So, what does that look like for you? Can you give us an example? How do you share your heart with your kids?
Laura: For me, it, you know, oftentimes we think of like when we’re sharing our heart and our vulnerable feelings, we talk a lot about our problems, right? Like we say like, because that’s a thing that we try and like cover up and hide from people. But I love a quote from Brene Brown where she, I’m gonna botch it, so I’ll just give you the, the general idea is that joy is our most vulnerable emotion, not our pain and our sorrow, but that thing that like sparks our hearts, that’s the thing that we feel most protective of. And we tend to like pass off in this nonchalance like, oh, I don’t really care that much. You know? And what it looks like for me in my relationship with my kids is showing them my joy, like showing them what I love and what I’m happy about and what I’m excited about. And like in our homeschool, when we come to a book, it’s, oh my goodness, I love this book so much. You know? It’s like this is a great one. I love the lessons and I love that it helps me to see this and learn this and to kind of sweep them up in my excitement and my joy for what brings me, what brings me joy, you know? And sharing those tender parts of my testimony that bring me that deep and abiding sense of happiness. And also in times when we’re frustrated with each other saying like, I am feeling really frustrated right now and I need a time out so I’m going to go have a time out and then we can talk about it and saying that has brought us closer together than pretending not to feel those things ever did.
Darla: I love that, just being your authentic self. I know that’s something that you are kind of passionate about too, being your authentic self in motherhood. And I love what you’re describing because I can, I can feel the connection that you have with your kids because of that. And it’s, I mean, I’ve thought about connecting over the struggles and the challenges, but I’ve never thought about connecting over the joy that I feel and just being that mom that says, I love this, I love this book. Or you know, I can see how that can translate into sharing your testimony too, Oh, I love this scripture. This is like the, you know, this is such a great thing. And, yeah, I can, I can totally see how, how that translates over. So, so you’re, you’ve developed this, this way of being who you really are and not worrying about those other things. How do you use the spirit in your, in your motherhood to guide you to know what to share with them and, and you know, how, how does all that look for you?
Laura: I think a lot of, a lot of times I’m like naturally a more is more person, you know, like I’m not like a natural minimalist by any means. And so, it’s hard for me sometimes when I approach a parenting issue or a parenting problem that I want to do, like all of the things to fix it. And something that I rely on the spirit for is to help me filter it, you know, to help me filter what needs to be done, what is most important now. And so, in my prayers, when I’m down on my knees being like, what do they need? Like what do my kids need? I am so grateful for those little whisperings that say, it’s this. And it’s almost always something so simple that I, you know, I question it. It’s like seeing the snake on the staff, you know, that you’re like, really? Is it really that simple? But it almost always is. It’s just they need you to read with them at night uninterrupted or they need you to go on walks with them or they need you to have a more gentle tone of voice when you are disciplining. You know like it’s always just the little things that in my mind seem so small, but I’m so grateful that the spirit is able to help me to filter and know that the Lord knows them better than I do and knows exactly what, where to concentrate my efforts and so that is something I, I know I’m endlessly grateful for and especially in because we do homeschool sometimes it’s what direction do I need to take? What skills do they need to have? What, what understanding do they need to help them move on to the next step and always, always, it’s just that simple, that simple pointed direction that this one little thing and I can filter out all the rest and just do what’s right for them at that time.
Darla: I have been thinking about that very same thing. Like trying to, to pray and just say, what do I need to do right now? Like, if I have some big issue with one of my children, okay, what do I need to do right now? And not, because I don’t know about you, but my natural tendency is to focus on what’s, what’s clear out here and what’s the future gonna look like. And I’m, you know, worried and.
Laura: All other things. Right?
Darla: Right. That’s my natural tendency. But I love what you’re saying that we can bring it back to just the present and he can guide us in the present and that’s going to take care of, we don’t need to worry, you know? There’s scriptures that say that like, don’t give any thought for the morrow, you know, just, just focus on me today. So, I really, I really love what you’re saying and, and how that can help us. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on is, okay, what do you want me to do right now? And it’s simple things. It doesn’t, so that, that’s much less overwhelming than thinking like, okay, I got to get this kid raised to 18 and you know, they’ve got, I want him to, you know, like that’s totally overwhelming. But I love how you’re bringing that back to those simple things and just living in the spirit every day and doing that. That is beautiful. I love that. And you mentioned that you guys, that you homeschool. I would be curious to know, because everyone I’ve ever talked to that homeschools has some kind of an experience that led them to do that. So, what made you decide to homeschool?
Laura: Well we have always considered it. I am a teacher by trade and my husband, because he’s a professional photographer, has a weird schedule where he’s gone most of the summer and around in the winter. And so, schedule wise, it is something that’s always been in the back of our mind, but we kind of had thought of it as a distant decision. You know like Oh maybe when the kids are a little older and they can, we want to go do more things in the winters and travel more, are able to do that more. But when my daughter, my oldest was going into grade two, the summer before she went into grade two, we had had kind of a, a rough year in grade one. She’s, she’s amazing. She’s a doer. She’s an achiever. She loves to do things well. And she would spend her seven, eight-hour days impressing her teacher and her classmates and being like this model little student and then come home and just fall apart like she was, um, emotionally drained and exhausted and would be a challenge to say the least until that time. And then she would finally unwind and then would be wonderful. And then we’d have to go to bed and wake up and do it all over again. And I just found like it was, you know, it was an exhausting process. My, I didn’t feel as tenderly towards her as maybe I should have. I was just like, okay, yes, go to school every day. Just like leave please. Like, I, we need a break, you know? And so, it was in the summer before her grade two year where I was like, okay, we need to figure out what to do with this. But I just felt the spirit saying, this is the year she needs to be homeschooled. You need to try it. And I was like, really? Like, do we really, really need to try this? And um, and as I thought about it more and prayed about it more that um, the impression came to me that if you don’t homeschool her this year, you may lose her. And I understood that to mean that like our connection, our relationship might be damaged in a lasting way, not just like, I’m so frustrated with you, but as her friends had become more important to her, like her, her esteem, her value was wrapped up in what her little friends were thinking of her and how they perceived her. And it was just, it was the Lord telling me that this was right for this year, for now, for her, that it needed to happen so that our relationship could be triaged for one and she could get what she needed from being home and learning with me. And cit turned out to be a beautiful year. It was rocky, like our, the beginning was me trying to tell her what to do and trying to be the teacher because that’s where my training is and then, and her resisting and it was just a big mess for the first half of the year until the Lord put some really important resources in my lap to help me see her as the gift that she was and take a step back and to trust that things were going to work out the way they were supposed to if I could put our relationship first before the achieving and the accomplishing and then making sure we check off all the checklists and do all the things that, and that has made all the difference in the world for her and I’s relationship, which I’m sure would have been damaged if we had done another year of, of what was already in place as far as our schooling went. So…
Darla: Yeah, I love, I love how that illustrates just following the spirit and you know, something that you said kind of struck me that, you know, sometimes we think, okay the spirit told me to do this. So, you know, you have this prompting that you’re going to homeschool your daughter and then everything is just great. Not really, it doesn’t sound like that was the case. Like you said, it was a rocky year. So, I know one of the things we talked about before the interview was challenges and how we face challenges and you have a really unique way of viewing challenges? So, I’d love to hear more about that. You told me that challenges are like a cocoon. So, tell me more about your view on that.
Laura: I lost a sister several years ago to cancer. And that year, like she passed away in February and the whole rest of the year there was like disaster after disaster after disaster that happened in my immediate family, like with my siblings and my parents. It was like each of us had our own, it was like that was the first domino, I guess. And that knocked over a whole bunch of dominoes for that year. And I looked back on, um, it was 2014, I remember thinking like that was the worst. Like what was that about and why? And I came across a quote that talked about how some times in our lives are like, are like the breaking up of the earth, but that’s what breaks through all those dirt clods and makes the, makes the dirt like loose and able to, I don’t know how to explain it. Do you know what I’m talking about? Where are my farmers out there, you know? Like…
Darla: Well I’m not a farmer, but I get what you’re saying.
Laura: Yeah. But it’s a tilling of the soil and that things are getting overturned in preparation for the growth that will come because of that tilling of the soil. And I came to think of that year as, as our, I call it my dirty 2014. You know, that that was where the soil was really turned over in preparation for a lot of growth. And I think about, you know, a lot of times we think that, you know, the struggle is like a negative thing and it, you know, obviously not everything is positive, but when I think about like that story of the butterfly who, you know, that little boy helping, we tell it kind of like colloquially, but the butterfly being in the cocoon, the little child seeing that it needed help to get out. And so, it like peels back the cocoon for them and then the butterfly doesn’t survive because its wings aren’t strong enough. There was purpose in the struggle of pushing out of that cocoon even though it seemed like an impossible task. And I think of like bodybuilding where when you’re lifting weights, you’re literally tearing muscle fibers so that they can rebuild stronger than before and more substantial than before. And when I think of an example, last year when we were planting our garden, my kids, we started a few seedlings inside and they saw one little cucumber seed just barely starting to pop through the surface of the dirt. And so, they were like, oh, so excited. And they started like clearing the dirt away so that it could come up faster. And that ended up being the seed thing that didn’t make it because it was weak and didn’t have, it was, you know, didn’t have the strength that it needed in order to be transferred to the garden and survive. And so with all of those examples in mind, I just think that there is purpose in our struggle that when we are going back to the butterfly analogy, that when we’re like, when a butterfly’s in a cocoon, it like literally liquefies itself, like everything that it used to be disintegrates, you know, it falls apart and it’s for a purpose. It’s so that it can become something even better than it was before. And I think when I look back on like going through my sister’s death and all the things that happened afterwards, any other challenges that I have faced when I choose to see them as an opportunity to become something new and to grow and that it is a process of becoming. I find treasures there that the Lord has helped me to discover and to make my own. And I just think that when we do, you know, when we do face a challenge that if we can see it as this process of growth, of becoming something new, then it’s easier to accept that, that there’s purpose in it. That there is that even though it may not be at the hands of the Lord, the Lord can take that challenge, that consequence of somebody else’s actions or that like painful experience we had no control over, that He can help us take that and turn it into something amazing. And I just think that it’s such a, it’s such a powerful, helpful way to look at our experiences if we look at them all as lessons and a process of becoming. But it makes all the difference.
Darla: Yeah. I love that. And I would really love to kind of dive into that a little deeper. So, you said you had the, you call it your dirty 2014 because you were in the dirt, like you were trying to emerge and become someone different. Where, where was God showing up in all that? How was He helping you to come to this realization that this was a good thing and that this was going to help you be who he wanted you to be?
Laura: That’s a good question because in that year, there were a lot of really dark times and I’m not, historically, I haven’t been like, I’ve had a pretty solid relationship with my Heavenly Father, but in that year it was, Oh, you know, it was really dark. There were times where I was like, why am I praying when things are gonna happen no matter what I ask for? You know, like that it was, it was that kind of like, uh, that kind of cynicism and darkness, you know, that was all through it. I did not feel Heavenly Father saying, like judging me, you know, like it was all, it was all okay that He understood and He knew and He told me in little ways seeing the joy that I would find in just my baby at the time. Her little smile, you know, it would just like have that little zing to my heart, you know, I would say, Oh no, he’s there. Or the way the sun would break through the clouds as I’d look out the window. It would just catch my breath and it would just be beautiful. And it was just in those tiny, simple ways that the Lord let me know that I wasn’t forgotten, that it was okay to feel whatever I was feeling that he wasn’t going to go away. And a phrase that kept coming to my mind through the whole process was, was one that I had actually heard in driver’s ed where my driving instructor said, you know, when you’re hydroplaning, take your foot off the gas, when you are spinning on ice. Like when you’ve lost control on the ice, just take your foot off the gas and look where you want to go. Keep your hands on the wheel but look where you want to go. And so, as I was going through all of these really difficult times, the spirit just kept telling me, “Look where you want to go.” Like I was spinning; I was out of control. I had no idea what was going on in my life. But if I could just keep my focus on where I want it to go, where I wanted to end up, that everything seemed to like finally work itself out like it would have if I was spinning in a car on ice. I truly believe that that’s what got me through and that’s how he helped me to kind of reorient myself was that it wasn’t, there was no shame in the spinning, but when you do take your foot off the gas and look where you want to go and things will all work themselves out.
Darla: That is such good advice to someone going through those years. You know, like you went through in 2014 where it’s just one thing after another. Look where you want to go, where do you want to end up? Recognize those moments when, when God is there. Yeah, I really love that. Another thing, this is a little bit of a transition, but another thing that I really wanted to talk to you about is you, you seem to have the ability to always ask questions to get to the real meaning of why you’re doing something. And I know applied this in motherhood, so I know, and I know that you’ve asked a lot of times why? Why am I doing this? And really get to the root of it. So I, what does that look like in your motherhood and how, you know, how did you start doing that and what’s been the result of asking questions and getting to that deeper why?
Laura: I can think of an example that happened recently in particular. So, I like to think of, I like to think of my life in results anyways. It’s, it’s often, often a good thing, but sometimes you know, where you’re focused on the results that you just kind of like blow through everything and don’t enjoy the journey. But where it’s been helpful is in, for example, my son is a really picky eater. Yea, it’s like bread and cheese every day, all day. So, when he, when he sits down and like the other night for example, was being asked to try new things or to take bites of what was available for dinner. What I had to think in my mind was, why am I asking him to eat this? Like, what is my purpose here? Because if my purpose is just to get them to taste it, my approach is going to be different than if I want him to eat five bites, you know? And so, or if I ultimately want him to choose to eat this for himself. And so, my approach in all of those situations are going to be different depending on what my ultimate goal is. It helped me to be able to kind of like, again, filter out all of the battles that I wasn’t willing to fight because they didn’t get me to my objective, which at that time was to get him to taste his food. Just taste it. Right?
Darla: I’ve been there I know exactly what you’re saying.
Laura: And so yes. So, I was able to kind of choose my battles accordingly because I had my results that I was hoping for in mind or at least where I wanted to go, looking where I wanted to go. So that has helped a lot in making parenting decisions and knowing which battles to fight and which ones are extraneous.
Darla: Yeah. And I think that goes back to what, what you were saying at the beginning about, you know, being you and being authentic to you. And there’s so many, there’s so many times when we do things because our mom did it because it’s what, you know is the social norm around us or you know, and sometimes we need to take a step back and evaluate. And I love how you’ve been able to do that by asking questions and saying, you know, is this really the best thing for my child? Is this really the best thing for our relationship? And just constantly asking those questions. I think that is so, so wise.
Laura: Honestly, it’s helped so much in, especially with the preteen, now I have a preteen. It’s getting interesting that when everything is starting, you know, when everything starts to be a battle, when they’re feeling like irritated or annoyed with little things, that it helps to be able to see like, where’s my, where’s the finish line? What do I hope for her? Like do I want her to be someone who chooses the right, or do I want her to be someone who chooses what I want for her right now? You know? And yeah, it just changes the approach for sure.
Darla: Yeah, I get that. That is a big, that’s a big transition when you go from having those kids that are preteens to teenagers and you’re really, you’re figuring that out. That’s good because when they start exerting all that independence, then you have to go, Whoa, wait, okay, what’s the end goal here? Like is it, and my husband and I had to do a major shift. Like we wanted our kids to be obedient to us. Like that was what we had emphasized, and we were like, then they started to become teenagers and we were like, this is not working. Like we had to take a step back and say, no, we want them to be obedient because they love Heavenly Father. They love their Savior. And so, we had, you know, we totally had a shift. So, you’re doing good. You’re figuring that out.
Laura: I’m coming to you with my problems, Darla.
Darla: I haven’t figured it out but, well, I’m trying. I’m trying, but that was, that was a big shift for us. We changed our approach kind of with our oldest. She will, she will tell you we are parenting our youngest way different anyway. Um, but yeah, it’s important to ask those questions, you know. It sounds like you’re always looking to what is the end goal and you know, what is, what is best for this relationship? And I love that view of motherhood and bringing God into it and following the spirit and knowing he can tell you this is going to be the best thing for the relationship. Pull her out of school and homeschool her or you know, don’t, this is how you can fight the battle of a picky eater or you know, all of those, all of those things illustrate that. I really have loved that and it’s been so great talking to you. I love hearing other people’s stories and how they’ve approached things and the challenges that you faced and how, how you’ve come through them. I know that that will help someone else. So, thank you so much. And I have one final question for you and that is, how have you seen and felt your Heavenly Parents as your partner in motherhood?
Laura: Oh, that’s a good question. Something that I love asking myself as I go through the parenting journey is, especially when I’m thinking about like parenting techniques, quote unquote, is I always compare them to how Heavenly Father has always parented me or how he parents his children throughout the ages in the scriptures, you know, does this match up? And, how has his, like his wisdom and knowing his children individually and deeply and personally, how does that affect his parenting? So how does, when does he step back with me and let me figure it out? When does he scold me a little bit, you know, lovingly and help me see, you know, you know better and you can do better and I trust you that those little lessons of life asking myself how, how they parent me and how they parent their children have helped me to, to be able to discern how to approach something with my kids and to help me really appreciate their wisdom and their love for their children. So much more. I feel like they are intensely interested in these children of theirs that they have given me to raise that I feel like sometimes discussing it with them is like having the answer, but like that they, that there’s some things they let me figure out, but some things are like, this is important enough, you know, to help give you a little extra guidance and support. And I just feel that they, that they’re not only interested in helping me see the next step, but that they’re also the perfect example. And I just love, I love contemplating their role as parents and how that applies to me and it’s such a, I don’t know, I’m just so grateful. So grateful for them and I just wanting to be more like them every day, you know?
Darla: Yeah. That’s really beautiful. And I think we, we joke around all the time, Oh, we don’t have any, we don’t have a, a manual for being a parent, but really, we do. We have the example of our, of a loving parent who is perfect and, and knows us and knows our kids. And yeah, you’re, you’re so right about that. We can look to them as that example. So, thank you. I’m so grateful that you would be here today. Thanks so much.
Laura: So much fun. Thank you so much for asking me.
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