Discussion Questions for Kristen Howerton: The World’s Okayest Mom
1. Author Kristen Howerton reflects, wryly, “I was an amazing mother before I had kids.” What were you amazing at before you actually tried it? How did your idea of the thing differ from the real deal?
2. As one of the original mommy bloggers, Kristen had the experience of others looking to her for “the right way” to parent when she felt sort of squishy herself. How do you show others who you are without framing your life as overly precious or overly “hot mess”?
3. Motherhood didn’t come easily for Kristen. After struggling with infertility, she lost her first six pregnancies. “It felt like a betrayal of my body,” she reflects. Have you ever lost trust in the very fibers of your being? What does it look like to reweave trust now?
4. Kristen’s painful path to parenting was made more so by a church community who believed she could have done more to prevent her suffering and minimize her suffering. (Her grief was really loud.) How do you wish her people would have held her pain? How do you wish your people would hold yours?
5. Eventually Kristen adopted one child, had two full term pregnancies, and then adopted another child in the midst of an earthquake in Haiti. Folks back home wanted to hear the story that “it all worked out.” But the reality was more complex. What story are you resisting about your life in order to tell a more tender truth?
6. Kristen was joking with another therapist that the old trope, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” should really be, “What doesn’t kill you, gives you a raging anxiety disorder.” How would you amend the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you ____________?” What does this change change in you?
7. There are a lot of crazy narratives around adoption, narratives that frame adopted children as second best to real deal children or narratives that frame adoption as redemptive without also recognizing its loss. Have you ever considered adopting? How have the narratives you’ve inherited shaped your discernment?
8. As part of a transracial family, Kristen is constantly learning and relearning how to practice anti-racism. She’s learning when she needs to outsource the work of accompanying her black children to others in the community. She’s learning that the conversations she thought she’d be having with her kids (“Be yourself…) are different than the ones she’s actually having (…unless you’re with a cop”). How are you, imperfectly, practicing anti-racism in your family or community?
9. Kristen thinks we can opt in or out of certain models of parenting. Kate thinks of this as the place of limited agency, where we can act within the confines of all our particularities. Given their thinking, what’s one small thing you’d like to opt in or out of—or even just endure—to experience more freedom in your slice of life?
10. Kate ends this episode by encouraging us to opt out of our quest to be the best. “Yes, we are not what we hoped we would be. But damn, if we are not something wonderfully close to enough.” What can you give yourself permission to be “okayest” at today?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate & Kristen’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?