Sarah shares some of her insights on juggling a high-profile role and being a mum of three.
She may be a Sunshine Coast local, but for mum of three, Sarah Bell, coming home after six years away has been the hardest move she’s ever had to make. After spending 4 and a half years in far north Queensland and over a year in South Africa, Sarah returned to the Coast with her husband Dustan and their two young children in April this year, with just one week’s notice and just three weeks before the birth of their third babe, Stevie Louise.
For many, this kind of upheaval would summon a barrage of stress and anxiety but Sarah takes it all in her stride while maintaining her unique brand of honesty and authenticity.
There’s so much pressure on everyday people to look the part and meet expectations. For you in high profile positions as a senior pastor, how do you maintain authenticity?
I am totally just an everyday person. I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I have good days and I have really challenging days. My responsibility is to be me in each of these roles—as authentically as I can. One thing I’ve learnt in the last few months within this role as Senior Pastor is that people might have expectations on me (which is human nature, and that’s fine), but it’s not my responsibility to manage those expectations; in the same way that it’s my responsibility to manage my expectations on other people. Taking this approach means I can just be me! Sometimes I’ll disappoint people, but that’s okay. At the end of the day, I genuinely care about people, I love Jesus, and I know I'm doing the best I can with the energy, capacity and time I've got right now - there's no shame in any of that.
What do you love most about being a mum?
This will sound weird, but what I love most is the intense proximity I have with my kids. I know them inside out and they know me. I love smelling my baby daughter’s breath when she’s fallen asleep after a feed, and how my three-year-old won’t talk to me unless he has my full attention and eye contact. I love the feeling of my two-year-old daughter’s sloppy kisses and the feeling of her toenails scratching me as she tries to wedge herself as close as possible in bed every morning. The closeness is confronting and sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s also so raw and unapologetic and life-bringing. Nothing compares to that.
What do you find most difficult about mum-life?
Definitely the constancy of being a mum! I give my husband a hard time every time he gets sick because he is afforded the ‘luxury’ of taking a day off (I should say, he hardly ever gets sick). As a mum, you don’t get a day off. Particularly with little kids, mums are ‘on’ 24-7. Managing that constancy is definitely very difficult. It’s important to look after yourself in and through the constancy of being a mum, which is why I think it’s important to have other good, refreshing humans in your life who can lend a hand with the kids or make you laugh by way of punctuating the crazy.
Mums tend have so much pressure on them – both self-inflicted and from society. How can we shake that off?
I really feel like our primary responsibility as mums is to be engaged with our kids. They need to know that we are here with them. There is always going to be pressure on us—and this differs depending on our life circumstances. But whether it’s work pressure, pressure to look a certain way, achieve a certain thing, or just the pressure of everyday life and getting menial tasks done, if we can first and foremost be present and engaged with our kids, the other pressures on us kind of take their place. I don’t know about others, but I know when I’m not engaged with my kids, even if I have a ‘productive’ day, I don’t finish that day feeling like I've had a good day. My most fulfilling days are the ones where I’ve done nothing (on paper) but I’ve spent quality time engaging with my little people. It’s funny, because my connection with them has a positive flow-on effect to the other areas of my life; that is, I feel more creative, productive, engaged relationally, self-aware, and energized.