By Smyrna Khalaf
As we were celebrating Mother’s Day last week, I was thinking about moms in Lebanon during these uncertain times. Yes, we feel that people have gotten used to COVID-19 but there is still a lot of uncertainty effecting daily life. The uncertainty of the economic situation, the uncertainty of upcoming parliamentary elections, uncertainty about the continuation of schools and education, and recently the impact of the Ukraine-Russia War on Lebanon.
Moms in the Middle East are usually viewed as the “glue” of the family – holding the unit together. They are said to be “the ones who make or break a family” (we can dissect this quote at a later time). They are expected to keep the homeostasis of the home, which means absorbing all the tensions and keeping conflicts at bay. They are expected to hold several roles: wife – attending to their marriage; parent – raising children; and manager of the household – cooking and making sure all is clean and tidy. This is on top of the different roles moms play in the workplace or with their families of origin. To do all this, they need to be SUPER MOMS.
Since moms are only human, and the expectations of them are immense, they are likely to experience high stress. In addition to the daily management of their roles, stress has increased quite a bit for moms specially during the COVID pandemic because some moms had their work move online, which meant they began working from home. Working from home these past two years brought many challenges. One of those is having to manage work, home, and children all at the same time without access to help and support from their immediate families due to the pandemic. Another layer of stress is the economic situation as moms deal with the inner conflict of wanting to give their children the best while only being able to afford the basics. They are constantly trying to figure out alternative ways to provide, which takes extra time and effort.
Another major thing that moms may experience is sleep deprivation. We see this with new moms, moms with young children, moms with teenagers, and probably all moms! Sleep deprivation is very taxing both physically and emotionally. It can lower energy levels, decrease concentration, affect mood where one becomes moody or quick-tempered, increase risk of heart disease, and cause many other physical symptoms. It can also increase depression, anxiety, stress, and panic attacks.
Additionally, moms might experience discrimination if they work or not, body shaming, guilt, loneliness, and worry… just to name a few.
Just imagine how all these experiences effect someone who is taking care of others. Some of the most important things a mom can do are to take care of herself and the others around her by getting sufficient sleep, taking time to herself, and spending time with God.
As Christians, we know that God created the family – male and female – and created the relationship among them to resemble the trinitarian relationship. He created the different roles that each gender plays, such as mom, dad, son, daughter, etc. Across the Bible, God identifies himself with those different roles to show us the importance of each in the family. Hence, our calling in ministry is to think with the “whole” in mind. Moms are an essential part of the whole family. If we support them – as much as we can holistically- then the whole family will benefit as well.
As part of a Christian community and local churches, how can we support moms and their well-being? Here I will suggest a few ideas that can help us support moms in our community.
One of the good things that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic is that moms started to connect more with one another via WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook. These groups spiked because they were targeting two birds with one stone: first, a community for moms where they can connect and socialize, and second, a place where they can get advice for their daily struggles. Such communities became popular due to their shared experiences, which created empathy where moms could enjoy feelings of “being understood”. There are many benefits to creating such communities either in face-to-face interactions or on social media.
Childcare support is one of the most essential things for supporting parents – especially moms. While churches don’t have to open a daycare or childcare service, they can provide this service periodically. For example, by providing childcare services every other Friday for several hours. Another example is to link either singles or older couples (empty nesters) to support couples with childcare. When providing childcare services, you help parents to have some quality time together, connect with each other, and even do something special like go on a date. Also, it will encourage moms to take care of themselves so that they can better take care of their children.
Although the Middle East is a collectivistic culture where families are highly involved in supporting each other, there are still many moms who do not have the support of their immediate families. As a Christian community, we can help encourage mature moms to mentor younger moms. Also, linking moms together in mentorship networks provides social, emotional, and even spiritual support – especially because some moms are challenged in their spiritual journeys due to their children’s needs.
Attending to moms’ negative experiences by extending love, grace, kindness, and compassion helps them experience positive emotions such as joy, happiness, and gratefulness, which directly affects their well-being and the well-being of their family as a whole.
Smyrna is Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Counseling at ABTS.