Churches and Babies Don't Mix (Or Do They?)

Churches and Babies Don't Mix (Or Do They?) 1After I had a baby, my outlook on church changed.

Pre-baby, I pictured myself dropping off my little one in the nursery - waving good-bye, blowing a kiss, and then wondering back to the adult service to buy a coffee and hear the message. Not a care in the world.

Post-baby, that scenario disappeared. The thought of leaving her in a nursery with strangers and germs and...without her mama...it made my heart ache. The nursery workers were kind strangers and probably competent strangers, but they didn't know her cues, her personality, her unique nuances, her way. The ratio was often too high and I couldn't imagine even two babies to one adult since she required our one-on-one attention at home. Plus, it was a nursery, which meant babies drooling, burping, peeing, and tumbling all over one another. On top of all that was the fact that I couldn't enjoy myself, knowing she was with a stranger. I couldn't meander over to the other side of the campus to sip coffee or laugh with a friend or listen to the message without my thoughts wondering back to that precious little beauty that I so desperately wanted to protect.

Thus, I kept her with me - until she started to take steps. Then, her restless energy was too much to contain in the quiet of the service. She was too spirited and vivacious to be fettered in.

So I go to church semi-reluctantly now. My daughter is 13 months old and I've only left her in the kids area twice. Usually, I walk around with her in the courtyard or attend the toddler "class" with her. I feel unspoken pressure from the "other" mothers - who drop off their little ones without worry and sip their coffee so serenely. But I can't bear to part with her.

Interjection - I leave my daughter three times a week for 6 hours a day with her grandma, occasionally with her aunt, and fairly regularly with her dad. So it's not only the leaving. It's the "daycare" setting - the unfamiliar faces, the messy-faced children. In any other situation, I wouldn't leave my little one in that setting (no matter how pleasant and professional). But somehow it seems expected at church.

Maybe I'm pressuring myself. Maybe the other mothers aren't questioning my choice. And, even if they are, I have to follow my heart and my head.

I've tried to think up creative solutions.

Here are two suggestions for youth workers and nursery directors everywhere. Please help embrace new mamas who like to keep their babies close (tell me I'm not the only one):

1) Start a Mom & Baby Stroll and Study group during the service. Moms bring their strollers and their iPods - and listen to the sermon while they walk (perhaps the sermon from the week before). OR, do without the iPods, and just have moms converse about the sermon topic (perhaps read the passage ahead of time).

2) Build a "new parents room." If you're planning to build a new church (or if you can make room at your existing location), please don't build one without a comfortable, roomy "new parents room" with changing tables, rocking chairs, toys, a sink, and...audio reception. So that parents can listen to the service without fear of interrupting other listeners.

That's a starting place. Whatever churches do, I hope they consider new parents in the whole scheme of things. New parents have different needs...and new parents like me need an alternative to the traditional nursery setting.

(Photo by: Essjay NZ)

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10 comments on “Churches and Babies Don't Mix (Or Do They?)”

  1. Thank you for this post! I'm glad I'm not the only one who wants to be with my toddler at church. A cry room is better than being separated!

  2. I have a question for new moms. How would you feel if someone approached you within the church if your baby was crying and disturbing everyone around you and stated the church had a cry room that you could take the baby to? Would you be offended? Some people don't seem to notice their child is being very distracting to others trying to listen to the sermon. Just curious as to how it would make you feel?

  3. We just started attending a new church and we don't know anyone so I wouldn't leave my little one there...I don't even think I would have left him so young at our home church which I had attended for 6+ years...plus I'm still nursing him...what's great about the new church we started attending is that they do have a parents room and it is awesome...hubby and I go in there and we all go to church together....

    BTW...did you ever live in CA? Some of your posts seem to indicate that you either lived here or spent some time here...

  4. Came here via Melissa!

    I could have written this word for word when my oldest was younger. I didn't leave her in the nursery until she was 18 months old, and even then it was VERY hard for me. She LOVES IT now, though!

    Anyway, what really helped me is that our church does have a room at the back of the sanctuary. It's called "the cry room" but mostly moms with older babies/younger toddlers use it exactly as you suggested. There's a speaker in there and lots of room for little ones to crawl and toddle. It's really a great solution!

  5. Awww, I hate that you don't feel comfortable leaving your precious little one in the nursery. I have worked with ages 0-10 yrs for the last five years (not all in the same setting, of course!) I will tell you that only people who really, really care for children are in there!

    Most church nurseries don't let just anybody serve and since it sounds like you attend a large, seeker-sensitive type of church, I am pretty sure you have lots of requirements in place for the workers. In our children's ministry, we have worship time and the nursery workers pray over each baby present. It's really not that bad!

    That is too bad that you don't have a parents' room available for during the service. It is very useful.

    BTW, I came over from Melissa's blog. Great job on the up-for-debate article!

  6. I LOVED this post. When I have some more time I want to join you in this discussion because it's also very dear to my heart. Loved your ideas!

  7. I was reluctant to leave Fly in a church nursery at first, too. I kept him with me the whole time, but he is a fussy guy and even before he could walk, he was unhappy just sitting still in my lap. What turned the tide for me was when I realized he would be so much happier playing in the nursery where he can make as much noise as he likes! Sure, there are germs there, but really there are germs everywhere, and he's had only one cold. I used to go and check on him twice during the service. Now I check on him just once. It's what just works for me.

    I agree with Ashley, though, don't feel pressure from others and do what works for you. I have a friend who never puts her boy in the nursery, and I certainly don't tell her she should be.

  8. I stayed with both of my kids in the "mom's room" at church until they were about 20 months old. I tried to leave my second earlier but would always get the page to pick up my crying daughter. It was a rough time to say the least. Do what works for your family. You'll both grow out of the anxiety when it's right for you.

    Now they enjoy children's church and I know they are safe and happy. My hubby and I get spiritually fed and the family is happy.

    BTW, I visited a large church that had speakers throughout the church, including the bathroom, so I didn't miss a thing while walking with my daughter.

  9. First things first, you should never feel pressure from other mom's. All familes run differently!! Just because other's drop their children off, doesn't mean that you should feel comfortable doing so.
    When we had Mackenzie(now 4) we didn't take her to nursery at all. Yes, we were going to a much larger church, but quite frankly I was feeling the same way you do. We would let her color, or play right in front of us. When she would get WAY TO LOUD we would take her to the CRY ROOM. The Cry Room consist of glider's for nursing mom's or to rock your baby to sleep. Lots of toys for the kiddos and a big tv with the sermon being played. It was wonderful. I never felt like going to church was a "waste of time" because I always caught the sermon.
    Now that we are at VCC things are much different. It is much smaller and when our son Garrett was born we brought him in with us for a few months. Finally, he was at the point where we felt like we should either try putting him in nursery or just not come to church for awhile. The first few times we dropped him off, I felt so bad and worried about him the whole time. Then, he really took to one of the nursery helpers. From then on, everytime we picked him up he was sleeping on her chest.
    When I was in nursery helping out and your daughter was in there without you, she was happy and smiling, not antsy or crying. I think that sometimes it's harder for first time parents to take that first step than it is for the kiddos. Most importantly, do what you feel comfortable doing. Good Luck!

  10. Bridget is 27 months old, and I have just recently started leaving her in the nursery at church. She comes into the first part of the service - the songs and opening announcements - and after children's time, I take all my kids to their classes. All in all, Bridget is in the nursery about 30 minutes. She used to get VERY emotional, but not so much anymore. (and I never left her if she was really upset). We are lucky in that our congregation is small enough, I know all the other kids and parents and caregivers. I used to volunteer in the nursery all last year, so everyone knows me too. You have to do what is comfortable for you, and don't feel pressured from anyone else.

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