Heather Mustain: Everyday Theology: Courage and Vulnerability

In the last two weeks my husband Chad and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary and our baby girl, Jimmie’s, first birthday. Realizing neither of us had taken any time away since Jimmie’s birth, it felt like the perfect time to treat ourselves to a “stay cation” We made plans for Jimmie to stay with her grandparents and we reserved a hotel room in downtown Ft. Worth.

Before having Jimmie, Chad and I loved going to the movies, so the first obvious activity on our staycation was to hit up the local movie theater. The enjoyment of going to see a movie for me is not always about the movie, but about the experience- the ice-cold Coke, popcorn and candy, and a theater so cold and dark you feel as if you’re the only one inhabiting it. The choice of movies wasn’t stellar this past weekend and we agreed we were in the mood to have a good laugh, so we found ourselves at the 1:40 p.m. showing of Bad Moms.

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My first year as a mother has been filled with incredible joy yet has been tainted with the darkness of postpartum depression. So the movie Bad Moms felt relatable and as the darkness of PPD has dissipated I felt ready to have a good belly laugh about the many times over the course of this year where I have felt like a bad mom.

The film satirically examines the values and beliefs our society holds about motherhood. Gwendolyn, the film’s antagonist, is the school’s PTA president. Every morning while she and her posse stand out in front of the school, every mother dropping of their child falls prey to their overly critical eyes and mouths.

Amy, the film’s protagonist, is always late and seems to never get anything right no matter how hard she tries. Gwendolyn jokingly asks Amy how she manages having a full time job and wonders aloud, “doesn’t she miss her children?” Her comments stab at the heart of a long-held feud between mothers who decide to pursue a job outside of the home and those who decide to stay at home with their children–as if one is more “right” than the other.

Later on in the movie, after being bullied by Gwendolyn one too many times, Amy decides to run for PTA president, a long-held position by Gwendolyn. While Gwendolyn’s campaign platform is all about what mothers could continue to do to be even better, Amy’s campaign platform is about doing less and shedding the idea of perfection. During her candidate speech, Amy admits to her imperfections as a mother and even labels herself as a “bad mom,” for which she receives a standing ovation. Her openness and vulnerability to being a bad mom makes room for other mothers to say “me, too!” A freedom exists under Amy’s new leadership that was choked out by perfection in Gwendolyn’s. In the midst of crude jokes and middle school humor, this caught my attention.

The evening before Chad and I left for our staycation, we had a conversation with friends that continued to linger in my mind and spirit. We were sharing with this couple that after three years in Dallas we still felt a lack of connection and friendship, something we thought this couple would know nothing about. Their natural charisma and outgoing personalities led us to believe that if anyone belonged it was them. Instead they said, “us too.” And as Chad and I reflected upon their “us too” we wondered if we both felt this way, then who else does?

Vulnerability is courageous and it leads others to being courageous too. Admitting our imperfections makes space for others to admit theirs too. And these are moments that lead us to finding solutions that benefit the whole of us and not just part of us. In the movie, Amy’s vulnerability leads hundreds of other mothers to freedom just as my friend’s vulnerability lead Chad and me to ours. And now instead of just wallowing in our own self-pity, vulnerability has moved us to become a conduit to belonging and friendship for other young families and couples who have felt the same. Vulnerability has shifted our perspective and has reminded us that we are not alone.

So today be vulnerable and see what happens. It may just lead to laughter, standing ovations, and a chorus of “me, too!”

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Heather Mustain serves as minister of missions at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. An advocate for global missions, Heather graduated from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Social Work.

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