In part six of our advice series with real parents (as opposed to their stunt doubles or well-paid nannies), we talk with Shannon Lowe, mom of three boys and one girl, wife to her kids' amazing dad and blogger extraordinaire.
What emotional or practical hurdles did you or your husband have to overcome in order start your family?
Our first pregnancy, which was a bit of a surprise, ended in a miscarriage at ten weeks. The magnitude of our grief over that little lost person took us both by surprise, and it made us realize how ready we were to grow our family. Any hesitations we had seemed very small in comparison.
Where did you go for advice; what were your sources of encouragement for getting started?
I read a lot of parenting books in those early years. But I'll tell you, honestly, that I think the best source of encouragement is finding other parents a season or two ahead of you in life. When I was the mother of babies, I watched and learned from mothers of preschoolers. Now that my oldest is almost 12, I'm paying VERY close attention to my friends with teenagers! We've been so blessed to have friends who are parenting their kids with grace, humor and good sense, and those friendships have been invaluable.
Did you have any unusual cravings during pregnancy?
In my first trimester with my fourth child, it was BLTs--the thicker and greasier, the better. Which is strange, because I could barely bring myself to LOOK at a saltine cracker without losing my lunch. But a BLT loaded with mayonnaise? I could eat eight of them.
What surprised you most about becoming a mom?
It's been a very pleasant surprise to see how much fun it is watching the sibling dynamics develop in our family. It's a wild ride, filled with plenty of sweet moments (and the occasional body-slam).
What's the most annoying children's show that parenthood has brought into your life?
Yo Gabba Gabba. And yet I cannot turn away.
How has having children affected your marriage?
You hear often about how having kids brings such strain into a marriage. It can, surely--it has in ours, at times. But it also brings us closer together, giving us a greater sense of purpose as a couple. And it's harder to imagine a sweeter joy than watching your soulmate as a parent. I remember, one cold December day, when my middle son's pet rat died. My husband went outside in the icy, pelting rain to dig a little grave in the backyard flower bed. I watched (from the warmth of the kitchen!) as he stood out there, shivering, his arm draped over my grieving son's shoulders, conducting a little rat funeral. The thought flickered through my head that I couldn't imagine that I could ever love my husband more than I did at that moment.
How has having children affected your relationship with God?
I feel like it's given me the tiniest glimpse into the way He loves me. I look at my children and I see them as they really are--beautiful but flawed, and I totally and completely love them. Not because they're perfect, not because they're doing something nice for me, not for any reason except that they're mine. And that's enough.
What have you learned through the highs and lows of starting a family?
I'm learning again, every day, that the most ordinary moments are usually the sweetest ones. And I'm learning that laughter knits a family together in a really powerful way.
When do you find time to blog as a mom?
Well, my kids are a little older, which makes it easier. I try to do it when their in school or after they're in bed. Honestly, it can be a difficult thing to find a healthy balance when you're a blogger, and you have to be very watchful that it doesn't nudge its way too far into your family life.
What advice would you give a couple considering starting a family?
There likely won't be a moment when you feel perfectly prepared--emotionally or financially. Use wisdom and common sense as you prepare, but know that ultimately, becoming a parent is a giant leap of faith. Like all great leaps, it is scary and exhilarating--and it's COMPLETELY worth it.
Shannon Lowe blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post. She's a freelance writer, a grammar geek, and a starter (but never a finisher) of craft projects. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband of 14 years and their four kids (ages 11, 10, 7 and 4).