A Mother’s Day

originally published May/June 2016

This Mother’s Day we are telling the stories of three Madison moms whose families may look different, but they share a common thread—their love for their children.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 10.04.09 PMMelissa Butler loves spending time at home. At nine in the morning, school starts. On lazy days she and her two girls (Natalie, 6, and Mary Gwen, 4) may lounge around in their pajamas for a little while longer. By lunch, work is usually done, and then it’s an afternoon of playing outside, grocery shopping, or reading before having dinner as a family.

As a teacher and the wife of a pastor, Melissa realized that a busy schedule often meant “missing out on family time.” So two years ago they made the decision to homeschool their girls. While homeschooling can be challenging, the reward is getting to spend more time together as a family. “There’s a lot of sacrifice, but it’s worth it,” Melissa said.

Though they love being home, they are also involved in activities around town. Melissa’s husband Ben is a pastor at Madison United Methodist Church, which means they spend a lot of time there throughout the week. Natalie is an American Heritage Girl, and they also participate in the Madison chapter of Christian Home Educators Connection, where they learn Spanish, create art, play games, and more with other homeschooled children. But Fridays are sacred family days, reserved for the four of them hanging out together.

Not only does Melissa want her girls to get a good education, but she also wants to lay a firm Christian foundation for them. Her goal as a mother is to “make disciples.” “I want them to learn and to be kind and to feel loved,” Melissa said. “I try to model all that I want them to be, but I’m not perfect.” She hopes to create an environment where they have the freedom to be themselves and to be creative.

Melissa recently got the news that she would be expecting another child in October. Though it was a surprise, she is thrilled. “I’ve always wanted to be a mom,” she said. “I had a great mom, and I want my children to have good experiences as well.”

Her favorite part about being a mom is experiencing life through her daughters’ eyes and seeing the innocence and wonder that they share. “Quality time is my love language,” said Melissa. “I just love being with them.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 10.04.20 PMJennifer Crowe loves a full house. With five children (Mason, 16; Dawson, 11; Colton, 9; Ashlyn, 7; and Bella, 3), life can get a little hectic, but it’s what brings Jennifer joy.

Homeschooling was a personal decision for them that allows for the flexibility a larger family sometimes requires. “It’s not for everybody,” Jennifer said. “But we felt called by God to do it. We take it year by year.”

Jennifer basically runs a one-room school house. She has experience as a teacher on various levels, but she said homeschooling comes with its own set of challenges. “Teaching your kids is very different from teaching other kids,” she said. There have been times when Jennifer feels inadequate to provide a good education for her children, but God has constantly encouraged her. “God says if we ask for wisdom, he will give it to us,” Jennifer added. “I’m learning right alongside them.”

Though she loves the “organized chaos” of a big family, Jennifer wants her home to be a one of peace. Her husband Preston is a marriage and addiction counselor at Broadmoor Baptist Church’s Center for Hope and Healing, so they both understand the importance of a safe place to come home to.

But Jennifer still runs a tight ship. Between chore charts and activities like cooking and taking care of their many animals, her children learn important life skills as well as responsibility. On Fridays, Preston takes the boys to work for their yard business. They may be homeschooled, but they are all very active. It’s a family of musicians, readers, and philanthropists.

And it’s not just her own children that Jennifer cares for. For years, their family has fostered kids through Bethany Christian Services. From babies to teenagers, Jennifer has opened her heart and her home to those who need a place to feel safe and loved. “I just feel called to nurture,” she said. “When I take care of them, especially the babies, my prayer is ‘Let my hands feel like momma’s hands.’”

They fostered their youngest, Bella, for about two years until the adoption was finalized this past February. Jennifer said she has always had a passion for adoption even before she had her second child. “And I’ve got a lot of arms to help,” she added. Having other kids in the house has taught her children the importance of caring for others. “I love to see my kids take care of each other and see them want to be like the older ones,” said Jennifer.

She credits God for giving them exactly what they need. Whether it’s funding their mission trips, surviving on one income, or simply giving them the patience for each day, He has provided. Jennifer added that God has also given her a “quiet confidence” in being a mother. “Life’s not about a performance when you’re a mother of five,” she said. “God has taught me how to be more selfless.” She said that it’s about laying down your own to-do lists and doing what you have to for your kids each day.

But Jennifer also stresses the importance of taking time for yourself and for your marriage. Through date nights, marriage conferences, or personal retreats, she and her husband make their relationship a priority as well. For Jennifer, having a large family doesn’t mean sacrificing her own identity. It’s all about balance. “It’s doable,” Jennifer said. “Don’t try to be superwoman. Just do what works for your family.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 10.04.30 PMKristan Stubblefield loves seeing her daughter smile. Every laugh, even every cry, is a blessing she was afraid she’d never get to experience.

Kristan and her husband Brad were married for a little over three years when Brad was paralyzed from the chest down due to an accident. Wheelchair-bound, having children became a challenge. They tried IVF and IUI, but with no result. They were about to start their third round of IVF when they got the call from their doctor that there was a little girl in need of being adopted.

Almost four years of hoping and pain soon turned into a seven-week whirlwind of paperwork, interviews, and home studies for the adoption process. It was an overwhelming experience for them—one they almost believed too good to be true. “When you’ve waited so long, then all of the sudden it becomes a reality, you just live in a constant state of gratitude,” Kristan said.

Their daughter Caroline is almost six months old now, and they have loved every day with her. Kristan said that sometimes women worry about being able to bond with an adopted child, but that motherly instinct takes over. “She’s completely ours,” she said.

Caroline has brought so much joy to their lives, but with Brad’s condition, every day is still a challenge. “She’s the best thing that’s happened, but we are still very aware of our daily hardships,” said Kristan. However, as an architect, Brad is always thinking outside the box. Unable to bend over, he altered Caroline’s crib so it could pull out. He also built a changing table he could slide his wheelchair under.

Kristan said that having four years of practice getting used to Brad’s condition has helped prepare them for this stage. Kristan is both a mom and a caretaker. A trip to the store often has her loading stroller, wheelchair, and groceries in one load. But Brad does everything he can to help her out. She praises his patience and ability to keep her sane. “It’s all one day at a time,” she said. “We can’t look too far ahead.”

Kristan sees every day as a blessing and wants to focus less on being busy and more on enjoying her daughter. As she interacts with Caroline, singing and reading to her, she realizes the importance of being careful what is said to her and around her. In a world filled with so much noise, Kristan wants to be a “quieter and calmer” mom.

Her journey as a mother has also impacted her perspective as a second-grade teacher at Mannsdale Elementary. “My heart has softened to the hardships of my students,” Kristan said. “I look at them and think, ‘that is someone’s baby.’”

Though everyday is a challenge, Kristan said the key is to focus on the important things and not sweat the small stuff. “We’ve learned what’s important,” she said. “It’s hard. It’s challenging. But it’s so rewarding.” Her advice for women having trouble conceiving or who have been told they can’t have children is to “not give up.” “Our timing is not God’s,” Kristan said. “Be open to what’s out there. Otherwise, you might miss out on great blessings.”

If God has taught Kristan anything about being a mother, it’s the importance of faith. “It’s about seeing what God can do when we least expect it,” she said. “He has a bigger plan.” For her, it’s a continual journey. “We don’t feel like this is an end. It’s just the beginning.”

-Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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