“If Batman and Superman had a fight, who do you think would win?” I ask Ben, the teenage son of friends. To me the answer is obvious. Batman is just a rich dude in stretchy pants and a fancy car. Superman on the other hand—he is from another planet! Come on peeps! He doesn’t even need a car. Or a plane. And he certainly doesn’t rely on a flimsy utility belt! So Ben’s answer takes me off guard: “Batman, of course.”
. . . instead of giving our community what we want, why don’t we give our community what it desperately needs? And what if we started by meeting the needs of the mums with young children?
“Batman? Are you kidding me?” “You’re thinking of the old Batman,” explains Ben. “The new Batman has technology that’s beyond imagination. Besides, he’s got Kryptonite knuckledusters . . .”
Well, Kryptonite knuckledusters are, I must admit, a game changer. “What if Batman went head-to-head with Spiderman?” I ask. “Still Batman,” Ben replies with confidence. And if anyone knows I’m quite sure it’s Ben.
I’m still trying to reconcile my new understanding of superhero hierarchy when I see a poster stating: “I’m a mum, what’s your super power?”
And that got me wondering. If Superman, Spiderman or Batman went up against a mum, who would win? True, most mums aren’t faster than a speeding bullet. Nor can they shoot spider webs from their wrists. And they don’t drive the gloomy streets of Gotham in a jet-engined car! But they have a super power more impressive than all those combined: mums have been endowed with the power to actually create life. Can your comic-book superhero do that?
So what can we do to honour the superhero mums in our communities? Everyone gives lip service to how great motherhood is and how we should give mums chocolates, roses and cards. In celebration of Mother’s Day next weekend (May 8), we may even pin flowers on mums as they arrive at church today. And all of these things are wonderful.
But have we ever asked mums with young children what they really need? I have, and overwhelmingly the answer isn’t platitudes or sweets; it’s time. Time to breathe in their own space. Time to think. Time for quiet. Time to reconnect with their spouse. Time to be themselves.
I don’t think it’s because mums today are more selfish than in times past. I think it’s that our society has changed. It’s common for families with young children to live too far from their extended families to have regular assistance. And even if they live nearby, many grandparents are both still working and simply don’t have the energy left at the end of the day to help out.
Meanwhile, living costs put enormous pressure on today’s mums to return to the workplace as quickly as possible after having their babies. It’s the perfect storm that leaves many mums feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed. At least that’s how many of the mums with young children I know are feeling.
Which is both a challenge and an opportunity to help.
I live in a part of Sydney where there is a lower density of Adventists than in Tokyo. When we’ve tried traditional outreach—giving out literature or running prophecy campaigns—the results have been meagre. But what if we took a different approach—instead of giving our community what we want, why don’t we give our community what it desperately needs? And what if we started by meeting the needs of the mums with young children?
Instead of mailing copies of The Great Controversy to strangers, what if we pinned to local noticeboards an invitation like this: “You deserve a little ‘me time’ this weekend. So drop off your kids from 9am—11am on Saturday at our church. We’ll have stories, songs, crafts and games for them. You can log in to our secure webcam to see what your kids are up to at any time. All volunteers have appropriate child safety checks and first aid training. It’s just a small way we can serve our community. It’s free, your kids will love it and so will you!” Every once in a while the children could take part in the church service. And their mums and dads could be invited to stay to hear their children speak about our loving God.
Ellen White says that only Christ’s method of evangelism works. Central to His method? Meeting people’s practical needs. If we can begin doing that for mums with young kids, well, wouldn’t that be . . . super?
James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.