Trips to see our families this summer were made sweeter with announcements from Steve's brother and sister-in-law and Candice's sister and brother-in-law that new babies would be arriving next year. Every time this happens, and it's been happening a lot lately, we're reminded of the joys babies bring to extended families. Here to tell us what that looks like from the inside are three sisters: authors and GirlTalk bloggers Janelle, Kristin and Nicole. They discussed our questions along with their husbands (while their kids hunted groundhogs with flashlights nearby.)
Did you always want to be moms?
Janelle – Yes! From an early age, our mom instilled in us the importance of giving our lives to being wives and mothers. But it was also just a natural desire that I think is innate in every woman. My girlfriends and I played “house” and “mommy” every day. No one had to tell us to do this; we just wanted to!
Kristin – We read in Scripture about the priority of being a wife and mother, but we also saw it lived out by our mom. This created a desire in our hearts to one day emulate her example. Mom also encouraged us to cultivate that desire by babysitting and caring for children; so we babysat a lot as teenagers. That was great preparation for motherhood.
Nicole – I’m so grateful that Mom helped us guard and preserve that godly desire from the worldly, unbiblical message that insisted other pursuits were more significant.
How did your husbands feel about babies early on in your marriages? Were there any hurdles (emotional or practical) you had to clear before starting your families?
Steve – I was always excited about having children: to participate in the transfer of the gospel to the next generation, to grow together as husband and wife, and I liked kids! When we decided to have a baby, it meant Nicole would stay home full-time and we would lose her salary. Given the housing prices in our area, that decision meant we might not ever be able to buy a place of our own. So we were prepared to rent for the rest of our lives, if necessary. The Lord blessed us and we now own a home, together with my parents. But either way, I don’t think we ever would have regretted our decision to go ahead and start a family.
Nicole – Our “hurdles” have come after each child was born. I had a very difficult delivery with Jack, which was followed by several surgeries and then we weren’t able to get pregnant with Tori for a couple of years after that. We were so grateful for the blessing of another child! Then, after Tori was born there were more unexpected physical complications. We are hoping that God will bless us with more children, but the challenges we have faced have given us a greater appreciation for the two wonderful kids God has given to us!
Janelle – we were married for two years before starting our family, so that Mike’s salary would allow me to stay home and have a child. We were having a blast, just the two of us. We could have easily given in to the temptation to just enjoy our fun and comfortable life. Watching my sisters have kids first, I knew something of the realities of motherhood: it requires hard work and sacrifice. Especially with all those crazy boys! But I think a biblical conviction about the importance of family and children created a desire in our hearts to have kids and not wait any longer.
Brian – I was eager to start a family right away. But we moved to Chicago right after we were married. Kristin was so overwhelmed by the changes she was experiencing: new location, new husband, new job, new friends, new everything. We decided we would wait six months before discussing having kids. And then at that time, Kristin got pregnant.
Kristin – After we had our first son, Andrew, we wanted to have more children right away. Nicole and I are fourteen months apart and Brian is only sixteen months younger than his brother. We both had wonderful experiences growing up with a sibling so close to our age and we wanted the same for our children. We had two miscarriages after Andrew but then God blessed us with Liam and Owen followed soon after. I’m so glad we had our boys so close together.
What's the most annoying toy or children's show/video that parenthood has brought into your life?
Nicole – The Wiggles. Hands down it’s The Wiggles. “Fruit Salad, yummy yummy.” One Christmas Jack received a “Wiggly Guitar,” so even though my kids don’t watch The Wiggles anymore, that toy is still around and will sometimes turn on, seemingly all by itself, and start blasting that annoying music.
Brian – Yep, The Wiggles. “Wake up Jeff! Before the day is through.”
Kristin – “Wake up Jeff, everybody needs you!”
Steve – I think The Wiggles are great. Barney is the one that annoys me.
Janelle – Barney is far more annoying than The Wiggles. The Wiggles just do silly stuff that make kids laugh. Barney is so sappy: “I love you….”
Brian – I think you could say that the effeminate quality of Barney and the high cheese factor of the wiggles make them both very annoying.
What is it like having sisters all having babies in the same season? Is that a plus?
Janelle – Better than I could have imagined. We talk about parenting all the time and are spurred on by one another. The topic just flows in and out of all our conversations. And our kids are best friends. They will have lots of wonderful memories of growing up with each other.
Nicole – I remember babysitting Kristin and Brian’s son Andrew before we had kids and thinking, “wow, he is having so many bad attitudes.” I’ve since apologized to Kristin many times for my arrogance and self-righteousness toward her. You don’t realize how hard parenting is until you do it yourself. So having kids all at the same time keeps us all humble together.
Kristin – I think it has really served to strengthen our relationships as sisters, and with our mom. We have a bond because we are all going through this season together.
What have been your sources for inspiration and encouragement in family making?
Janelle – Dad and Mom have been our greatest inspiration for sure. They made us want to duplicate what they did with us. I’m always telling Mike about things I remember from growing up and how I can’t wait to make the same memories with our girls.
Steve – CJ and Carolyn have made family life so attractive. It’s really fun to be together. As CJ would put it, they’ve sought to establish a “culture of joy” in the family. So we laugh all the time. Being in the Mahaney home is a delightful place to be. They have created a family dynamic so enjoyable to be with that it inspires us to do the same.
Brian – Couples may not necessarily have godly parents to look up to. That’s where godly couples in the local church are God’s provision for wisdom, inspiration, counsel, encouragement and correction in parenting.
Kristin – When we were in Chicago, and didn’t have anybody. Our parents weren’t close by. Although I’d done a lot of babysitting, Brian hadn’t been around a lot of kids. So we looked around our church and picked a family to serve. We chose a couple with four young children. We would go and babysit for them. In doing that we became part of their family. We learned so much from them. We would observe and talk about things we wanted to do with our own kids. It was a great opportunity to learn, to spark conversations as a couple about how we want to shape our future family. It also allowed us to serve this couple and gain some wonderful friends.
Nicole – In addition to our parents and other couples, I think that biblical resources have been an invaluable help in our parenting. We’ve passed books or message recommendations back and forth between us. We talk about them as married couples. There are so many, but Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Elisabeth Elliot’s Shaping of A Christian Family, JC Ryle’s Duties of Parents, and Ginger Plowman’s Don’t Make Me Count to Three are just a few of our favorites.
How has God revealed himself to you through your children?
Brian – I’ve seen God’s creativity and variety in the kids He gives you. Each one is unique. Each has his own gifts, his own strengths, his own weaknesses. Each child reflects God’s varied grace in creation.
Kristin – I think also the patience and forbearance that God shows us as our Father is the same patience and forbearance we have to show our children.
Mike – I think I’ve gotten a new perspective on receiving the discipline of the Lord as His love for me and not just as a consequence for my sin.
Nicole – Parenting helps you realize your utter inadequacy. I can’t change my children. I can’t save their souls. I need God’s grace to work in their lives. It doesn’t negate my responsibility as a parent. But God’s grace is the only thing that makes any of my efforts effective.
What surprised you most about becoming parents?
Nicole – Even though Mom told us that motherhood was exhausting and delightful, even though she taught us all the practical things we needed to know, even thought we had lots of experiencing babysitting – I don’t think anyone can fully prepare you.
Kristin – The amount of self-denial and selflessness that I experienced with having three kids, three and under, was more than I expected.
Mike – How selfish I still was. Also the joy that a child brings you. She turns to you and says "I love you daddy" and gives you a huge kiss and hug — this couldn’t be any better.
Steve – The “daddy’s home” moment. I’ve been surprised at how much delight I’ve found in my children. Not realizing that the capacity for that much love for them was there prior to having them.
How has having children affected your marriages?
Brian – It’s so easy to let the issues of discipline and training take up the entirety of conversation. We’ve needed to learn to protect our cultivation of romance, intimacy, conversation, etc.
Kristin – We’ve found that with secondary issues in particular – approach to schooling, media, methods of discipleship, etc. – it’s challenged us to communicate, pursue fellowship and wisdom from others, and pursue unity in our convictions and approach to parenting.
Nicole –It’s such a wonderful thing to parent together with your best friend. Going through the challenges of secondary infertility and physical trials, as well as sharing the moments of indescribable joy of giving birth and then enjoying our children day by day, this has strengthened our marriage relationship in so many ways. I love that I get to do this parenting thing with Steve.
Steve – parenting has brought us joy and delight in one another that we maybe didn’t recognize or have before.
Mike – I felt like we went from every day being a “date day” to days filled with the constant responsibility of children. This has required us to work to make time together the priority that it needs to be. Children have also added another dimension of joy to our marriage.
How has it affected your relationships with your own parents?
Janelle – There is an aspect of joy, to be able share in the joy of them of them becoming grandparents.
Kristin – You realize the vast wisdom your parents have because there are so many questions you realize you never knew you had. Like how do you get a child to sleep through the night? What do you do when they throw a fit in the middle of the grocery store? You don’t realize the wisdom, the experience, the knowledge that it takes to parent until you are a parent.
Steve – It has made me much more grateful as I’ve realized their patience and generosity and kindness toward me all these years.
When do you make time to blog? (seeing as it's a family affair, do your kids read it?)
Nicole – We write posts early in the morning or over naps, mostly. Blogging is nice because it fits into our schedule and we can put our families first. But there are certainly days that are tough. Some times we settle for putting up a simple link or a post that needs a little more editing. That’s fine with us, though, because we don’t want to compromise the importance of our role as wives and mothers, so we just do what we can on the blog and pray it serves.
Kristin – My boys like to pull up the Friday Funnies – they especially like the ones with videos. But their all-time favorite post wasn’t a funny. It was the video of the young man with no arms and legs. They watched that over and over, maybe 50 times. I think they were very affected by his heart for God.
Nicole Whitacre is the wife of Steve Whitacre who serves as the youth pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Fairfax, VA. Their two curly-headed cuties are Jack (six) and Tori (two). Nicole is the co-author of Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood with her mom, Carolyn Mahaney, and Shopping for Time with her mom and sisters. She also co-writes for the girltalk blog.
Kristin Chesemore is married to Brian Chesemore who serves as one of the Married Life pastors at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg MD. They have three boys: Andrew (nine), Liam (six) and Owen (five). She is co-writer of the girltalk blog and the book Shopping For Time with the other girltalkers.
Janelle Bradshaw is the wife of Mike Bradshaw who is the pastor of Children’s Ministry at Covenant Life Church. They have been blessed with two daughters: Caly (three) and MJ (one). Janelle is the girltalk blog photographer and co-author. She also co-wrote Shopping for Time with her mom and sisters.