Today is about mommy. God and the love of your life. Let`s find out how to deal with it! 🙂
Hey, Jessica! Thank you for accepting my invitation to talk about femininity and motherhood. Tell us, please, from the beginning, who are you and what are you doing here in Romania?
Jessica: Hey, Monica! My name is Jessica Armstrong, and my husband and I are Americans living in Bucharest, Romania. We work with the Baptist church, and my husband teaches at the Bucharest Baptist Institute. We’ve been here for 4 ½ years. In October 2016, we had a baby girl, named Sara.
What were you doing in the USA before you came here?
Jessica: Before I came to Romania, I was a high school math teacher for 5 years.
So, you left the United States for a man? 🙂 I am asking you this, because for a lot of Romanian women, sacrificing her family, her job and her friends, to cross the ocean and to begin a new life, totally depending on her husband, is not, for sure, a very easy decision. Was it a hard decision to make? And how did you decide?
Jessica: Well, that’s not exactly how it went… 🙂 I was teaching high school math in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I thought I would keep teaching until I retired. One day, a friend of mine from church asked me on a date. I was shocked, and I didn’t know what to do, because I knew that Cameron wanted to be a missionary, and I definitely didn’t. A (girl) friend of mine convinced me to give him a chance. I was very conflicted, because I had been single for a long time, and a part of me just wanted to be in a dating relationship, but I didn’t want to start a relationship that didn’t have a future together.
I prayed so much for God to give me wisdom. I continually kept feeling a peace in my spirit to take just one more step with Cameron. And my friends also prayed for me and felt like it was a good thing.
Even though I felt like God wanted me to be with Cameron, I still was uncertain about living overseas. I wanted to try going on an overseas mission trip to see what it would be like, but because I was a teacher and we started dating in October, I didn’t have any long vacation until the next summer.
A friend suggested we take a trip over Christmas break. We ended up coming to Romania for Christmas 2010 and staying with some missionary friends that Cameron knew. I really had a good time. I felt so comfortable, even though the language was different. I remember sitting in a Romanian’s home in a village outside of Oradea eating lunch after church, and there was a guy who was teasing the little kids, just like an uncle.
I felt like I was at my grandmother’s house. That was when I felt like I could live here.
We got engaged that January and married in July 2011. The organization that we wanted to work for requires that newlyweds be married for at least a year before they move overseas, so that it’s not too stressful on their marriage. So, we lived in North Carolina for a year and began the process of applying to be missionaries.
At first, we applied for a short 2-year temporary contract, so that I would be able to try it out without being committed long-term. I found that I was happy living in Romania, though parts were hard (learning a new language, living in a big city). After our first term, we applied for a long-term contract in Romania.
I made a decision that I prayed a lot about, and I could’ve chosen not to follow this path. Being a former math teacher, a revelation moment for me came when I was talking to one of my colleagues, a geometry teacher. He said, “It’s basic logic. If you are called to be with Cameron, and Cameron is called to go to India, then you are called to go to India!” (At that time Cameron was looking at missionary jobs in India, but obviously we ended up in Romania.) That simple logic really spoke to me.
As a missionary couple, we are both missionaries. I didn’t just marry a missionary and follow him to another country. We both have expectations and responsibilities. We both fill out monthly reports and talk to our supervisors about our progress. So, it wasn’t just about Cameron’s job, it was about me changing jobs – from being a teacher to being a missionary. I don’t feel like I am dependent on Cameron, but rather that we are a team working together.
Let`s talk about femininity now. What does it mean, from your point of view, to be feminine? Is it about our look, our job, our needs, or is it something else that femininity involves?
Jessica: God created both man and woman in His image, so I believe that femininity is a reflection of part of God’s character. Women are beautiful, but not just in a worldly physical sense. We are beautiful because that’s how God made us. We are vulnerable and soft, yet also incredibly strong. We are loving. We mother, whether children born of us or by taking care of and encouraging children around us. We care deeply about the needs of others.
What should young women, who are not married, know about marriage? Is it hard, is it a nightmare, or is it a blessing? What they should expect from marriage?
Jessica: First, they should know that marriage will not bring them fulfillment if they feel empty as a single woman. God created each of us with a need for Him, and though we may seek to fill that need with a man, nice clothes, a good job, etc., only God can make us feel whole.
A book we read together before getting married had the subtitle: “What if marriage isn’t about making us happy, but about making us holy?” Marriage is certainly a joy, but it also will highlight your selfishness as you learn to love another person. It is not about each person giving 50%, but about both people giving 100% to the other person.
We don’t divide up household tasks – there are things one person typically does, but the other person is always ready to help. We are a team.
I hope my initial response doesn’t make marriage sound like a negative thing, because it most certainly is not!
Cameron has been an incredible blessing to me, and I hope he would say the same about me. There is a deep love in marriage, and I am so thankful that the Lord blessed me with Cameron. To single women, I would say to wait for a man who respects you and cherishes you.
To single Christian women, I would add to also wait for a man who loves the Lord more than he loves you. But even if you never marry, you are not less than a woman who marries. God loves you so much.
What is the secret of a happy marriage?
Jessica: For a Christian couple, you must always put God first above your spouse. Pray together. Pray for each other. In a more general sense, each person should put the other above him/herself. The other person is always more important.
Don’t seek for things to be fair/even, but rather seek to serve your spouse and love him/her.If you both do that, you will learn to selflessly love each other. Also, if you have children, you should put your spouse above your children.
By all means, take care of your children’s needs, but your children will benefit greatly if you have a healthy marriage.
And now, what about motherhood? How is this for you?
Jessica: It’s definitely a new adventure. I think the hardest thing is the constant exhaustion. But then I look at Sara’s smile and am filled with joy and motivation to keep going. Sometimes I just can’t believe that the Lord blessed us with our little miracle.
Many times I feel so inadequate and like I’m not doing a good job, but then she looks at me and loves me just the way I am. It’s so humbling.
In Romania, you both are without your families. You don`t have Sara`s grandmothers here to help you with her. How you deal with the mother role, considering you have no nanny?
Jessica: In America, it’s not as common to have the grandmothers help with their grandchildren, so for me it seems unusual to have a grandmother living with/near the family to take care of the grandchildren. I think it’s a great custom, and I greatly admire the closeness of Romanian families, but I don’t feel that I am lacking because I don’t have that help.
Because of the nature of our job, Cameron can often help me when he is home. Typically, we do paperwork and meet with people, so it’s not like he has a 9AM-5PM office job where he is gone all day. Also, we have friends who can babysit Sara if we need to go to a meeting together or want to go on a date.
Is it a bad idea to leave the house before your kids are 2 years old? Would a nanny replace mothers?
Jessica: When I was teaching, I thought that I would definitely go back to work after having a baby, because staying at home all day would drive me crazy. In America, the maternity leave is 6 weeks, and then you go back to work. If you want to stay home, you quit your job and don’t receive any salary.
I would certainly not judge someone who wants to go back to work and hire a nanny, and I would not judge someone who wants to stay at home with her children. It is a choice for that woman and her family, and there are many factors to be considered.
Would she go crazy being home alone with a baby all day? Does she feel uncomfortable leaving her child to be raised by another person? Would she feel empty without her job? Are they financially able for her to stay home?
What should a mother do with her kid all day long? Is it important to talk to kids, even when they are so little?
Jessica: Before having Sara, I would not have known how to answer that question. We try to have a routine, although it has been difficult/impossible to have a time schedule. When Sara wakes up, we change her diaper, feed her, play with her/independent play time until it is time for her next nap.
I read a book that I really like called “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer,” which advocates the “EASY” method: Eat, Activity, Sleep, and “You” time. She also encourages treating the baby like a person, by talking to her and telling her what you are doing.
We ask Sara if she had a nice nap. We tell her that it must feel so nice to have a clean and dry diaper. We talk about how we are dressing her, “Over the head, over the face. Arms in, hands to the end. Mommy is going to snap your onesie – one, two, three snaps. Etc.”
Even though it may seem like she is too young to understand us, we still talk to her so that she can learn. We name body parts as we wash them during her bath, so she can learn what they are called. “Mommy’s going to wash your neck. We’re washing your arms. Time to wash your belly and your belly button.Washing your legs, all the way to your toes.Etc.”
It helps them to feel secure when they know what to expect. We do the same routine and try to use the same phrases so she can learn what they mean. It may sound boring, but it doesn’t feel that way, because she is so happy.
During the activity/play time, she does tummy time, we read books, play with stuffed animals, and she plays independently in her jungle gym. She tends to take short naps, which is why it is difficult to have an exact schedule, but we do have a regular bedtime.
Also, we have a routine we do before naptime and bedtime. Before each nap, we wrap her in a blanket, read a story, then listen to a song in the bedroom before putting her in bed with her pacifier. She is usually asleep pretty quickly, if we read her cues correctly (getting fussy, rubbing her eyes, yawning).
Before bedtime, we give her a bath, wrap her in a blanket, give her a bottle, read a Bible story, sing a song in the bedroom, and put her in bed with the pacifier. It helps because she knows exactly what to expect.
I wrote recently about studies that proved that the spirituality is written in our genes. What do you think about it? Is it important to teach your child about God and spiritual life, and why?
Jessica: I have to confess that I didn’t read what you wrote, because it’s difficult for me to read long articles in Romanian. However, I definitely think it’s important to teach your child about God. As I said above, we read a Bible story to Sara every night before bed.
But that’s not all we do. We include her (if she’s awake) when we pray together. It’s difficult sometimes, because she doesn’t understand yet and can be distracting, but we want her to learn how to pray. We want her to know that we think prayer is important.
She sees us reading the Bible, even though she doesn’t yet know what it is. If not now, then when? When is she old enough? We like to start now, so she won’t ever be shocked by us taking her away from playing to something that may seem boring to her when she doesn’t understand it.
Just as how we are teaching her about how to get dressed and the parts of the body, we want to teach her about spiritual life as well. We also take her to church so that we can worship God together as a family.