No one is immune to stress, least of all moms. That’s why Debora M. Coty, author of the best-selling Too Blessed to be Stressed series decided it was time to write an edition specifically addressing the stresses and needs in the daily life of moms. In Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms (Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing), Deb offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help frazzled moms of all ages hear God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.
An interview with Debora M. Coty,
Author of Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms
Q: Your book, Too Blessed to be Stressed, has been very popular since its release seven years ago. Why was now the time to write an edition especially for moms?
During my travels as a women’s event speaker since Too Blessed to be Stressed came out, I’ve encountered many, many women who’ve expressed frustration with specific stressors common to the ‘hood (motherhood).
Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms is me throwing a life preserver to mothers of all ages who feel like they’re drowning in the stress-pool of life. This life preserver really and truly helps a woman keep her head above water; it’s made of empathy, good reasons to laugh out loud and lots of encouragement.
My books aren’t written for the have-it-all-together, but for the scattered and tattered, scarred and scared. My hope is that this little book will help my mom-sisters recover their joy.
Q: When your kids were young, what were some of the biggest stressors for you as a mom?
One of my most niggling pet peeves is depicted in this little song I wrote one night while staring at the minefield that was my kitchen floor. It’s sung to the tune of “Three Blind Mice.” Go ahead — sing along. Then just try to stop.
“Chunks” by Debora Coty, lyricist extraordinaire
Chunks, chunks, chunks;
I’m standing in the chunks.
Chunks, chunks, chunks,
Everywhere there’s chunks …
Bananas and crackers and pizza hunks,
They’re gooey and sticky and oh so plump;
Can’t tell if they’re from Junior’s mouth or his rump,
These chunks, chunks, chunks;
Chunks, chunks, chunks.
What can I say? It’s not Taylor Swift … but give her a few years.
Q: How do the “shoulds” in a mom’s life cause her more stress? Where does the pressure come from, and how can a mom learn to turn off the pressure valve?
Should is a dangerous word. It’s a stress-filled, pressure-packed slave driver. It ruthlessly inflates the bulk of a mother’s to-do list, often crowding out healthy sanity-essentials with guilt-induced clutter:
I should go to that parents’ meeting.
I should make the time to bake brownies for my new neighbor.
My mother thinks I should cook a big dinner every night like she did.
I should clean my house, so the kids will stop writing notes in the dust.
I should do more … help more … be more.
But as every mother knows, more isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just overwhelming. You know, we can be whelmed without being overwhelmed. Whelmed is livable; overwhelmed is strangling. We just need to recognize that we truly do have the power to choose which shoulds are potential coulds, then unapologetically embrace the woman our choices make us.
Here are a few suggestions to morph performance pressure from strangling to livable:
Be stress smart. When you’re slammed into a stress mess, take a mom’s time-out. Sit down with a cup of hot tea … close your eyes … tune into Papa God’s heartbeat … feel His peace that surpasses all understanding. Slap guilt to the curb when the tyranny of the urgent attacks; you are important. Everything else can wait a few minutes. I promise you the world will not end while you regroup.
Avoid BOOP (Boiling Oatmeal Overflow Phenomenon). I believe women are like pots of oatmeal; at the beginning of the day, we simmer — little manageable bubbles of stress rise to the surface and harmlessly pop. However, as the day progresses, the heat escalates and the oatmeal boils higher and wilder and meaner until it overflows and spoils everything around it with a nasty, ugly, sticky mess. The key to avoiding BOOP is knowing when to remove the pot from the burner.
Be a dipstick. The Lord puts only enough fuel in your daily tank for you to arrive safely at the destination He routed out for you. All the detours you add will either run you out of gas or land you in a ditch. Check your tank, review your destination, and then engage in the Three Ps: Prioritize, Plan, and Pace yourself.
Q: What are some of the tips you offer for melting angst when you—not the kids—need a time out and an attitude adjustment?
When the jeans on your attitude are inflicting a wedgie, you need to unbutton. Adjust. Loosen your uptight. Satan’s best tool is to burn us out and make us flimsy, one dimensional Flat Stanleys when we could be Robust Robertas. When the devil’s got that anxiety noose around your neck and he’s rocking the stool, try some of these anst-melting tips:
Jive with the beat. Neuroscience studies have found that when people listen to their favorite music, they often experience a dopamine-induced high similar to that caused by eating chocolate or having sex.
Become your own manager. Just say no. People — even well-meaning, God-fearing, good-hearted people — will drain your time and energies because they’re clueless about the stress you’re under and simply see you as fresh meat to help promote their causes. Good causes, sure. But unless you draw the line, the pressure will never let up. It’s up to you to manage the limited energy Papa God has allotted you. Discern what’s worth your precious time.
Protect your mind. We all know media news is 90 percent negative — death, destruction, evil. Horror makes good headlines, so limit your exposure to once daily. Now I’m not saying play ostrich and bury your head in the sand; I’m encouraging you to live out loud Philippians 4:8 (MSG): “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
Unplug. Farm the kids out and schedule a He-and-Me Retreat: three hours, once a month, just you, your Creator, and your Bible and journal, somewhere quiet and secluded. I know it sounds impossible, but it really isn’t if you view refilling your empty spiritual tank as important as it truly is.
Make fun. Do something fun at least once a week. Schedule it and look forward to it all week. It can be with or without the family, but the point is it must be as stress-free as possible and something that you enjoy. Key word here: enjoy. You need to recover your joy. Joy is one of the first casualties of stress; rescuing joy rescues you.
Q: Why is it so important for a mom to put away her to-do list on occasion and take time for herself? How does this benefit the family as a whole?
The old saying is spot-on: When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Q: You outline four basic parenting styles. Are all styles prone to stress or do some types struggle more than others?
Stress is no respecter of parenting styles; it’s an equal opportunity black plague. There are, however, inherent stressors related to the level of parental input involved in each of the four basic parenting styles identified by behavior scientists (I’ve added my own animal analogies to make them easier to remember):
Polar Bears (psychologists call this style “Authoritative”)
Daddy Polar Bear is outta there after a one-night stand, leaving Mama Bear on her own to care for the blind, toothless, totally helpless newborns. Cubs stay by Mama Bear’s side for up to two years, receiving strict but nurturing motherly attention and lots of bear hugs before lumbering off on their own.
Humans following the Polar Bear technique generally have high expectations of their kids. There are household rules and enforced consequences for disobedience. Good behavior is expected and rewarded. Lines of communication between kid and parent are open, with lots of give-and-take. Parents explain the reasons for their expectation and the child is raised to understand that she can speak to her parents without fear of harsh judgment or reprimand.
Harp Seals (“Neglectful”)
Ma Harp Seal is a dedicated parent for the first 12 days of her offspring’s life, then she pumps a flipper in the air, barks, “Okay, I’m done!” She leaves her baby stranded on the ice, where he learns to swim and hunt for food on his own. Or not. Thirty percent of harp seal pups die during their first year.
The human Harp Seal version of parenting produces children with a poor trust foundation because the parents take little interest in what’s happening in the child’s life and therefore don’t meet the child’s emotional, spiritual, and sometimes even physical needs. These children often have a hard time forming relationships with other people and struggle with abandonment issues.
Black Eagles (“Permissive”)
Mom Black Eagle covers the basics, making sure her babies are fed and housed, but that’s about all. She avoids confrontation and lacks the backbone to make and enforce rules in her own nest. She refuses to intervene in squabbles among her offspring and often just watches as her babies fight to the death.
Mom Black Eagle’s human counterpart has difficulty setting limits for her children; she often compromises rules to avoid conflict. She may resort to bribery to entice her children to cooperate and would rather be her child’s friend than parent. The child often ends up as insecure, undisciplined and self-centered, with poor social skills and a lack of motivation to improve.
Orangutans (“Authoritarian” or “Obsessive”)
Big Mama, the original “helicopter mother,” obstinately hovers over her offspring, supervising every move they make. She nurses them up to 7 years (fostering the longest dependency of any animal on earth). After they’re weaned, female offspring stick with Big Mama for ten years before seeking independence. Even then, they visit Big Mama frequently.
The hairy Big Mama (orangutan) is often more nurturing and compassionate than the traditional “Authoritarian” hover-mom model. Although both lean toward obsession, the human version tends to coldly rely on punishment to enforce obedience to a list of strict rules based on a black and white perspective. The child is given limited (if any) choices and is frequently controlled by the can’t-touch-this reason, “Because I said so.”
Of course, rarely do we fit completely into one single parenting style; we usually combine characteristics of several. It’s important that we become aware of our own parenting styles so that when we blow it, we can perform effective emotional damage control with our children.
Q: We live in a world where we are constantly attached to our electronics. How does being so dependent on electronics as adults influence the physical, social, emotional and spiritual health of the children?
Because of our own excessive use of electronic devices in our quest to stay connected, we moms may become unavailable to attend to subtle developmental needs of our children. We’re so preoccupied we assume they’ll somehow figure it out on their own. But it just doesn’t work that way. If we want our offspring to learn crucial life skills in order to become successful adults, we have to intentionally intervene.
Physical: Advances in technology have produced a generation of stagnant kids cemented to their (or their parents’) e-devices. Without the stimulation provided by physical activity (play) that helps develop gross motor coordination, improves nervous system function, builds muscle strength, increases stamina, burns excess energy, and controls weight, we end up with a bunch of tech-savvy marshmallows. Smart, but weak and fluffy. To balance the deficit, arrange physical activity for your child at least three times weekly. If you can coordinate play time with other moms and kids, you’ll earn bonus points in social and emotional development too.
Social: Chronic use of e-games, mind-numbing movies, and addictive social media produces kids who haven’t a clue how to get along with others, show respect, share, be a gracious winner or loser, use good manners, or fulfill the biblical mandate to build others up (“Encourage one another and build each other up,” 1 Thes 5:11, NIV). The best way to equip your child with lifetime socialization skills is to spend face time together, and I don’t mean the electronic kind. Eat meals together as a family, have tickle fests, pillow fights, silly-string wars, designate a weekly family night and play interactive games like old fashioned board games, cards, and outdoor flashlight Olympics. Do something fun together; laugh! Make these happy romps a loving demonstration of how to honor Christ through interaction with others.
Emotional: In this age of constant electronic bombardment of bright lights and loud noise, it’s important that we teach our kids to cultivate silence, productively fill their “boring” downtimes, learn to wait, endure delayed gratification, live in their own thoughts, problem-solve, nurture ideas, and hammer out personal beliefs — all necessary skills for functioning in the real world. We can start preparing our young children to creatively and productively cope with downtime. Delayed gratification can be taught by helping your child set goals and work toward them (i.e. saving money for a new bike or incrementally acquiring skills that take time to master, such as piano) and by scheduling snack times so they don’t graze at will. These are proactive ways to teach patience and self-control. You’re also preparing your offspring for future workplace marketability and coaching them to be financially responsible and live within a budget.
Spiritual: We moms are more than willing to storm the fiery gates of hell to remind the hot mess with the proverbial pitchfork who are children really belong to. But the best way to storm the gates of hell is to storm the gates of heaven. And which petitions could be more effective than those in the Word ordained by the Creator of the universe? “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV). So I recommend pouring God’s own Word over your children by the use of Hot Fudge Verses, scriptures tailored as personalized prayers for each specific child. For example: Psalm 3:3 (NIV): “You are a shield around [child’s name]_______, O Lord; bestow glory on him/her [choose one] and lift up his/her head.”
Q: What encouragement do you have for moms who are in the trenches, convinced they are doing it all wrong?
I’ll share the response I gave to my teenage daughter when she claimed she’d probably be in therapy for years due to my mothering: “Well, it’s your job to be a better mother than you had. It was my job and my mother’s and her mother’s before her. Keep all the good stuff and improve on the bad. One day in the future, maybe one of our descendants will get it right.”
Listen, sister-mom, we don’t have to wallow in shame over our mothering mistakes. Every single one of us makes ‘em. Some hide them better than others, but we all fail at times. And it’s okay. Really, it is. Papa God created us as imperfect, stumbling, what-was-I-thinking humans, knowing we’d be raising offspring just as flawed as we are.
The good news is that our heavenly Father loves us to pieces anyway and wants us to look to Him as the only example of a perfect parent.
Q: What advice do you have for letting go of Mom-Guilt?
Shame and blame can weigh us down like a suitcase full of rocks. How do we unload? Here are some ideas:
Buddy up. Recognize that you’re not the only one lugging those overloaded bags around the airport. Find or form a Bible study or support group of sister-moms; you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. “Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers [and sisters] throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9, NIV).
Label your baggage, then lose it. Mom-guilt has many subgroups: nursing versus non, working versus stay-at-home, daycare choice, mode of discipline, DIY remorse, Pinterest inadequacy, birthday party inferiority, pressure to join, to name a few. We even view our child’s sports performance and academic achievement as reflections of our mothering. So, give it some thought. What is the source of your nagging guilt? Own it. Ask forgiveness, if need be. Then drop it. Now leave it down there; do NOT pick it back up. Trust that Papa God can and will redeem your poor mom-choices. It’s called grace. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast: (1 Peter 5:10, NIV).
Shake the mental Etch-a-Sketch. So, you screwed up. Again. Who said you have to be Supermom to prove your worth? Certainly not Papa God — He doesn’t ask for perfection; He asks for humility. And if you’ve been a mom more than one day, you’ve got plenty of that. Don’t let the mistakes of yesterday ruin today. You get to start over! “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
Q: There are questions included at the end of each chapter. Can Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms be used in a group setting as a Bible study?
Absolutely! Navigating the ‘Hood questions at the end of each chapter are designed not only for personal growth, but also for facilitating discussion in small groups to help women build relationships vertically (with Papa God) and horizontally (with each other).
Q: What other books and companion releases are available in the Too Blessed to be Stressed product line?
More than a half-million copies have been sold in the Too Blessed to be Stressed line, and more creative products are coming out every year in bookstores and online (outlets such as Amazon and CBD); even in many grocery stores, airports, and department stores. In addition to the original book, a few of the items are:
The award-winning 365-day devotional, Too Blessed to be Stressed: Inspiration for Every Day.
Too Blessed to be Stressed 3-Minute Devotions for Women offers short, pithy snippets for women on the go to start the day out with Papa God.
The Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook offers more than 100 stress-free recipes, each requiring less than 20 minutes’ hands-on prep.
There is a Too Blessed to be Stressed Coloring Book with beautiful images and inspiring scripture to enable you to color your way to calm.
Each year there is a new edition of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Planner. It is a purse-sized planner and chockfull of daily encouragement. It is absolutely adorable!
Some of these items are available in Spanish, and even Portuguese. You can find out more about them on my website.