One of my passions is encouraging other moms, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I find myself encouraging Brittany, too. Her son is just over a year old (my kids are 8, 6, and 2-almost-3). We’re very much in the trenches together and yet also in different places. Here’s our recent conversation on parenting and motherhood.

An Atheist and a Catholic

Sarah on Parenting and Motherhood:

Parenting: the single hardest thing I never thought I’d do. And it’s also one of the most rewarding.

I was never going to have children. Those were the days I didn’t have much hope, I suppose.

Now, though, I look at my children and marvel (and scream, in punctuating breaths). They have forced me to grow in ways I didn’t want to, to stretch in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible, to laugh in a tone I never achieved before.

Brittany, in reply:

I also didn’t think I’d have kids. My husband and I were happy just the two of us, and some health problems I had as a teen led us (and some doctors) to express doubt that biological children would be part of my future. So we were pretty surprised, me more than him, to find out that we were expecting.

In a lot of ways, life hasn’t changed. I’ve waited in vain to feel like a different person. I still don’t feel like “mom” is a crucial part of my identity. I spend a lot of my time mothering, but I think it’s important to maintain my individual identity. I am a mother, but I’m still myself. I didn’t want kids because I didn’t want to lose myself.

So I might have prioritized keeping as much the same as I could. But in some ways, things have changed a lot. I’ve been able to prioritize my life better and do some soul searching about what I want from life and what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. I’ve had to be more easygoing but also work harder at not compromising on what’s really important. Like family.

Thankfully, I think I’ve done a good job at making the life-altering experience of having a child an opportunity to make some positive changes in my life, in addition to the awesomeness that is my little T. Rex (my nickname for my son, who has a big head and little arms. And runs around roaring and eating everything he can.).


I can think of three ways motherhood has changed me: compassion, efficiency, and prioritization.

I’ve come to value the dignity of the people around me a lot more deeply now that I have children of my own. And in valuing that dignity, I find myself looking at other people through a new lens. I know I’m more forgiving, though that’s a work in progress, and probably always will be for me.

Having work to do and kids underfoot has also made me efficient at a whole new level. But, hand in hand with that, I’ve also come to see a new way of prioritizing and valuing the work I do. Laundry and cooking aren’t my favorite things (I much prefer a book, thankyouverymuch), but they’re a necessary part of family life, and there’s something redemptive in that for me, something that stretches me to consider just what efficiency really gains me at any given moment.


You know what’s weird? I eat better and exercise more than I did before I get pregnant. It’s weird how things you dislike (e.g., laundry, cooking, changing diapers) or are inconvenient (e.g., cooking, eating, going for a walk) become priorities when you are setting an example for or taking care of your child.

I personally don’t feel guilty about reading, because it’s setting a good example. Parents who read have kids who read. I try to act the way I’ll want my kids to. So reading, eating vegetables, going for walks, being kind and respectful, volunteering, and anything else that I want T to do, I have an excuse to do.

Even arguing. I learned when I taught a class on Relationships that arguing, and more importantly, resolving the disagreement, models successful conflict resolution. I’ve got quite a few years to wait to see if I did a good job, though!

Read all the posts in the An Atheist and a Catholic series here.