Julie: If you’ve been in the middle of raising kids every now and then you may think, about that dream that I had or that pursuit that I really wanted to follow but I put it on hold for a while to raise these babies. Do you ever feel like you missed your chance? My guest today is going to give you all kinds of wisdom and inspiration that no you haven’t missed your chance. She’s Anita Renfroe and we are so excited to welcome her to the AllMomDoes The Modern Motherhood Podcast.
I am so thrilled today to be welcome Anita Renfroe to The Modern Motherhood Podcast and Anita is absolutely one of the funniest people I know and she has all sorts of great wisdom and advice. Most of you know Anita because of The Mom Song.
It was one of those viral moments in which a little ditty she put together to the William Tell Overture turned into YouTube gold and she became a household name for many of us because of her comedy, her way of looking at parenting and just being a woman. We are just thrilled to have her here today. You know part of what I love in Anita’s story is that she actually she did not enter the career thing until a little later. She was a little more senior when she began this run after comedy and the stage so…Anita, welcome, so much to the podcast. We are thrilled you are here today.
Anita: Thank you. Can I go back and correct a couple things because that would just make me happy? First of all it was viral but that was before everything was viral on YouTube. I actually have an asterisk next to my video in the annals of tech world because apparently when that went, I think it was 2007 or 2008, whichever year it was. It was the first video that women from 35-55 shared virally. Before that they were sharing chain letters, coupons, recipes, but they weren’t sharing videos. I think it’s kind of interesting. If you go to a techy journal that Momisms to the tune of William Tell Overture was the first video that the woman in the 35-55 age range shared virally. So that is actually a little known fact. I don’t really know why I felt I had to highlight that.
The other thing you said is that it was YouTube gold. It was not YouTube copper because I never made any money off of it. You know why? Because we turned the ads off. This was back when YouTube wasn’t everything, everywhere all the time. We don’t want ads for Smirnoff Vodka on there so we turned the ads off and as a consequence we never made any money. We were thankful a lot of women saw it. A lot of women and moms laughed. Even if you aren’t a mom, if you had a mom these are things you heard her say your entire life so it seemed to be one of those universal moments.
Every comedian hopes for one of those in their act. At some point there is something you say that is so universal that people begin to know you by that. I’m thinking of Jim Gaffigan’s Hot Pockets and you know, even if you don’t know Jim Gaffigan’s name you say, “Oh the Hot Pockets guy.” So I got to be the mom song girl and I’m really proud of that.
Julie: I’m glad you corrected it because I think it speaks into what we are wanting to unpack today which is you started your career a little bit later and I do see for a lot of modern moms today the online space, the ability to get out there is something we haven’t had access to before. In your case I think it was something that really let you have a little bit more of launchpad as you were coming out of the season from momming real hard and being a pastor’s wife.
Anita: Yes, it is a great democratizer for anyone entering into the information or entertainment space. It used to be you needed a publisher or a record label or you had to have comedy central or someone behind you. Now if you can just make a decent video which everyone can do with their iPhones you have access to public space. What a great development in our culture because it lets everyone in but then again it also lets everyone in so you get a lot more chatter and a lot more clutter to cut through but the thing that you do has value. Your tribe will find you. I always tell people, you shouldn’t really think of yourself so much as a performer or entertainer or whatever. You should think of yourself as a content creator. And if you are creating great content, everyone has room for that. So the cream rises, the content is the key that you are creating something people need or want in the marketspace. You have to decide how much of you is populous and how much is artist and that is a tension between people who are creating. Like I want to make my art in the way it pleases me and seems best to me. But sometimes you have to make some art for the masses. And it may not be the thing that may not be your deepest held truth. If you are writing books, if you are speaking, doing comedy, whatever it doesn’t matter everyone has to wrestle down that how much of an artist am I versus a populous.
If you are an artist you might end up like that guy. Who is the guy that cut off his ear? The artist? You know who I am talking about?
Julie: Van Gogh?
Anita: Yes, Vincent Van Gogh. I’m 55 so sometimes names escape me. Vincent Van Gogh was penniless for most of his life as an artist. Now millions and millions of dollars later. To me that’s a true artist. So if you don’t like living indoors and paying your bills you can go all the way to the artist thing. But I think when Jesus spoke when he came to Earth he didn’t speak in the high terms, not that he didn’t know it, but he didn’t speak to people in the high terms. He told stories that people could get a hold of and so you know when I’m doing my artist vs. populous thing I think of Jesus and he would also put the cookies on the shelf where people could get them. And so those are a few things for the people listening who are thinking, “I’m starting a little late.” Don’t worry about that. If it is your lane it’s your lane. We just kinda live our lives and leave God in charge of the results. For me, anyway. I’m a Christian and so I try not to tie myself to the results. I try to tie myself to the effort and put forth the best thing I can put forth with the gifts he put inside of me.
Julie: I love that. Now take us back. Is this, right now, the life you have right now, being on the road, doing comedy, producing all sorts of fun content and hilarious videos. Is this the vision you had when you had itty bitty babies and when John was in his pastoring career? Take us back and bring us forward to how we got to today.
Anita: This life was not on my radar. First of all I grew up in Central Texas in a independent, fundamental, legalistic baptist, rules-following house. And, so, comedy was not a high value in our home. It’s not that we didn’t have fun and laugh but it just didn’t seem as holy as other things. And, so, what was highly valued was music and so my gifts flowed that way and so while I was raising my kids I was fully engaged in my husband’s calling as a pastor and I loved that part of my life. There was nothing about that that made me feel resentful or like, “I was born for more than this.” I don’t know if it is because I came along during the hay day and the beginnings of Focus on the Family but family felt like the thing. Not to the point almost as it does now where it borderlines into idolatry, where the family is everything and I think some moms are missing out on doing the thing they were born to do because it’s kids only and they feel a little lost.
I came along at a time in life where it was kinda balanced I think because we had Focus on the Family and were going from being accessories to your marriage to now a focus of your marriage so it was a good time for that for me. I loved being a pastor’s wife, well, most of it. I didn’t enjoy the part where I had to control my mouth a lot. That was hard. But I got to raise my kids at the time and I started to get an inkling that God had made me funny. It was kinda at the point where I had all my kids in school – one in high school, one in junior high and one in elementary school.All my kids were mobile and independent. My oldest daughter got to go out on the road with me some. We were homeschooling some at that point. So it was a great intersection for some of these things to come to the surface in me. I didn’t really know I was that funny to be honest. I always knew there was a party going on in my head but I didn’t always know if it was a great idea to let it out.
The was kind of the gift of aging. As I got closer to 40 people would say, “you know, you are funny and that is remarkable.” I would say, “No No no. I was just talking. Anyone can do that. I am kind of a poster child for a late start but also of other people looking at you and saying, ‘Hey, this thing you do has value and is not normal.” Sometimes the things that make us weird, the things we think make us weird are kind of our calling cards or a clue to what God hardwired us to do and give us the most satisfaction. So that was a long slow burn between the time people are saying, “You know what, you’re really funny” and the time I believed it. That was a good three years I think between the time people started calling it out in me and then the point I believed it.
And then there was another two or three years before I thought, “Maybe I should do this on purpose.” It was a slow burn and I’m really thankful for that because I wasn’t making a quick change all at once and I think if we look in the Bible and how long it took God to convince people that things were what they were supposed to do I think I am in good company. We seem to take awhile to switch tracks. I’m thankful for the time I had between “I’m a stay at home mom, raising my kids and doing church music” to gosh maybe I should think about making an actual project where I am funny on purpose. That was a good five years.
I love what Elizabeth Gilbert said in a TedTalk or Oprah Weekend or whatever, and I never endorse anyone so not hate mail, I’m just repeating what she said which was super, a really great clue. She said, “A lot of you are worried because you don’t know what your passion is and you can’t follow your passion. She said I would encourage you to follow your curiosity. It will often lead you to your passion.” And, so, for me, it was a long little trail of crumbs to owning the fact that I was funny, then doing it on purpose and then attempting to do it for a living.Those are three different levels. Not only realization but commitment so I’m glad that God leads us in slow ways in the commitment train.
Julie: Do you think it is possible sometimes you can grow into a gift? I think sometimes we take people through a gift assessment in their mid-twenties and we almost think it’s a fixed point. It sounds like to some degree you got to enjoy seeing it emerge and you didn’t have to have all the answers or have it all figured out.
Anita: Right! I just posted on my Twitter it’s not necessary to have the whole plan it’s okay to just do the next right thing. We are always trying to see the whole path. Before I could take the stage, like I did for Women of Faith for 10-years off and on, before you can do that you maybe need to do a few basements, a few church basements. And if you aren’t doing so well in the gifting yet, no one got hurt because only 12 people were there. So there is a scripture that says, “Don’t despise the small things.” Sometimes the small beginnings are the seeds of something amazing and if you are only looking for the big gig, you miss all the sweetness along the way where God would allows you to fail small, which is what I got the chance to do.
Yeah, it wasn’t on my radar and I’m thankful I did grow into the gift because I think there were natural abilities. I think God gives us all natural abilities in certain areas and then I think you need to add diligence to the natural ability to get to a point where it is palatable for other people. I thank God that he leads us along in slow measure. I would love to encourage the moms who are listening to have this natural inclination or natural abilities that God will unfold you. You just be faithful to show up. Do the thing he gifted you to do in the smaller ways until he can trust you with the larger platform. And at that point, that’s still his business honestly. We can all try to do the best we can but in the end whether he raises it up or takes it down that’s not our business. We just keep walking and being faithful in the gifts that we know.
Julie: What do you think was the benefit of being a more mature woman when you really began to step into this whole arena. I think we have an interesting culture in which we have the biology that says there are benefits to starting having kids younger biologically and at the same time but those prime years of building your career, those ages between 25-40 and if you don’t get in you may not get as far as you could have. So what were some of the benefits of being a little bit wiser and older?
Anita: So many. And that’s why I would encourage patience. Not to say ambition is wrong and ambition early is wrong but i would be an advocate because it worked so well for me. I would say to those who are a little bit discouraged because things seem to be taking a little longer and you are in the midst of raising kids, I am a great advocate of living sequentially. Like I believe you can almost have it all but you can never have it at the same time. There are seasons. Jesus and Paul address the seasons of life. And David in Proverbs. If you look. I mean Ecclesiastes of course…there is a time to harvest. But we live in a society that says immediacy is the high value and if you can’t get it now on Amazon Prime then what is the point? If I can’t get it in two days then why do I even need it? So we live in a super instant society that tells us that is a high value. Unfortunately or fortunately, God lives in Pyros not Kronos and so his purpose of time is infinite, it’s elastic. I would just say anything that God has for you will not go by you. Again, not saying you shouldn’t add your diligence to your gift. It’s saying in his time things will happen or they won’t. Or whoever is in the room was meant to be in the room. And how it happened was the only way it could have happened. It’s an issue of trust. Do I trust God to do these diapers and continue to keep my skills sharp and contribute where I can and wait for that daylight, that opening where there is a little more room. And in the end I believe that is the course that will lead us to the least regret. If we are faithful in the diaper world. And I have utmost respect for women who are doing it all at the same time, I would never say that is not her path, you know? So, I’m just speaking to those who feel delayed. That the deferment of the visibility of what you have to offer does not diminish its value one iota.
Once again, if you are a Christian, a believer, if you believe God isn’t just a little bit sovereign or sovereign only sometimes then there is a relinquishment that say, this is my life now and I believe god can connect the dots and leapfrog me forward at the right time. Either he can or he can’t. It gets down to does God do what he says or not, can I trust my life in his hands or not? For a person who believes God’s timing is essential. And we might be speaking to a lot of women who that’s not the case. I believe it is very different for a person coming from that worldview who says I must go out and get it as fast as I can get it.
Julie: It’s interesting within our culture that immediacy that you spoke to absolutely. I can remember my husband Mike had a punchlist of things he wanted to achieve once he had been out of college a certain amount of years and he had an existential crises at the age of 29 when he hadn’t gotten it all done, you know this huge list of things and we look back and left but he felt such an urgency. And if he didn’t get these things done by this time then he was just destined to fail. I do think that immediacy thing is just something we go and accept as believers and yet there is nothing that say God is hindered by our season of life.I think of Caleb, one of the spies that went into the promised land and it wasn’t until he was like 80 that he stepped into the leadership that he had developed all those years by God and when he went in at 80 he said I’m just as vigorous as I ever was. And he wasn’t held back.
Anita: Give me that mountain. Give me that mountain. I think we have so…I think there is a definite problem with ageism in America where we say, “Oh well you are 6-. Your value has decreased.” Wherein other cultures there revere those with age. Teach us with your wisdom. Whereas in America we’re like check ya…see ya at the assisted living home so I’m very thrilled when I see, esp women that are vibrant long past 40, where the world at large would say your gift doesn’t really wow us. I think about Betty White who turned 90 last year and she is on the Snickers commercial and I’m like girl, you are knocking it down. Those Kind of things give me great hope. I’m thinking of your husband’s story, where at 29 he was thinking I’m an abject failure cause I didn’t, and yet the older you get the more you view that with great hilarity because you realize life is both too short and life is too long. I say that meaning, life in terms of eternity is just a puff of smoke basically the Bible tells us. Poof. Here and gone. But it’s too short to waste time doing time to do things that don’t matter and you don’t really know what doesn’t matter until you are like 40 or 50 or 55 getting closer to 60 and I feel like I’m just now learning to let go of those things that aren’t you know, make or break ideas but as you have less time you become more aware and when you have all the time in the world you are unaware of what time means.That is the great conundrum. We are all stuck in our age group trying to figure out what it means. When you are young you have all the energy and none of the wisdom and then as you get older you have the wisdom and none of the energy. I’d love to go back and trade off.
I think we have a definite idea of when things should happen in our lives. And we just don’t have the perspective to see that as it unfolds it is ever unfolding and we have no patience for the process so gosh all those things discovered during diapers and rice cereal years are great fodder for the cannon of what you need to unleash on the world later so I would encourage moms to take notes on life. The things that are happening now you will only have the wisdom to put into perspective as you come through. There is a fellowship of the suffering, of motherhood. But man the things it builds into you and strips from you are invaluable.
It’s hard when you are in the middle of it. I have a joke I use to say. Older woman use to say, treasure this time, if you blink you’ll miss it and I would go home and blink my eyes a lot of time, trying to miss parts of it. But that’s the truth. When you are in it is like groundhog day. The movie will Bill Murray.The same day over and over again. The same kids you don’t get to trade them in but they also. I can’t remember who said this but they talk about parenting like when you say oh I can’t believe these kids are so different, I parented them all the same way. The Africans have a Proverb that says you can never step into the same river twice because the water is rushing and moving forward; nothing is the same. As we are parenting your interaction with every child is different. I love how your book is Raising an original and how we have look at each of our kids differently and how we need to equip them for their individuality and not compare them. That’s hard to do when you have multiples underfoot, but God my prayer is that young moms would see the river they step into every day and that, just because it feels the same, it is very different every day.
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Julie: Anita you and John had what most people would call a pretty traditional marriage until you decided to step into this platform, this career that was developing underneath you. I know for Mike and I, I spent several years primarily at home and doing some side things but you know as things have sped up it definitely changes the dynamics of a marriage. What are some of the things you and John learned as you kinda switched roles. You went from being primary support for his pastor support to him being primary management support for your comedy career.
Anita: God in his wisdom puts people together for a reason. I know for woman struggling in marriage in might not feel like that, it might feel like God was pranking you but I believe in the concept of pots and lids. And I believe that, excluding abuse, there’s a line there, infidelity and abuse are definite grounds for not staying in a marriage, but also there is the But God principle that you can survive anything if God is there with you and there is true repentance in moving forward, so with that caveat, it is interesting that God put into my path a man that has the gift of helps. If you go through a gifts inventory and people have acts of service and that sort of thing. In his pastor career he was always in a support role – associate pastor, education pastor that sort of thing. He never wanted to be the person in front, he always wanted to be the person equipping and training, putting together leadership teams, making sure things were working well. Interestingly, when my gifts starting coming to the forefront the thing I needed the most was someone who could provide that in my new role.I am a logistical idiot. The fact that I was late for this interview because I went to get my hair washed at the same time I was supposed to be on the phone with you shows you exactly my skill level. It is zero. I have two people watching my schedule and I still messed it up today.
I need a lot of adult supervision and thank God I married an adult. I think one person in every marriage needs to be an adult and it was him. It was a shift because I was doing it before he jumped in. His hesitation was that I had already put things into place that already worked for me and he was careful in the beginning and very soon figured out I wanted him to do everything except speak into the microphone at 7pm when the show started. Fortunately God gave me a person who is capable of doing all that and he seems to enjoy it. He doesn’t look at me with disdain when he has to listen to me tell jokes. That is just a miracle. He is still operating in his gift spectrum so it was a much easier transition but we have the same issues for people who work together 24/7, travel together and are together, you sometimes have to draw a strict line of what is work and what isn’t work. And if you step into work sometimes you have to say time out we have to deal with this for 5 minutes and then we will go back to our date night. But the other part is and we very quickly learned, when the stress is on,the moments that are the stressiest. That isn’t even a word. They get excluded from the marriage. Two time zones get counted against the marriage. So the hour we are traveling or going to the venue. That doesn’t count because it is just too much stress. You say things you don’t ‘mean because it’s just life, right? The other one is the hour before the show. It’s basically like the hour before the wedding and you are the wedding coordinator and you are trying to make sure this thing actually happens.So we have learned, and I think every marriage needs these ground rules, where you can exclude these things. You can’t be sensitive you can’t ponder it, you can’t ruminate it. Those things just get thrown in the trash. We had to learn to operate in that.
My husband is an incredibly secure male and doesn’t have the go ground moving from breadwinner to make the bread winning possible on another level. We’ve already been in ministry together so that is a skill set we already had in place. We’ve always valued what each other brought to the table in that world. So now that the ministry has shifted to a comedy where I”m forward and he’s in the support role. To us it seems like the same thing. All the same marriage. All the same work getting done. It’s just whose role is in this category, this column, this year. So I’m very cognizant there could be a time that it maybe would switch back. Maybe John wants to go back to church staff and I get off the road or do one thing a month, that’s very possible. I didn’t dream up this life so there is no way I will know what the next part looks like. I just try to stay open.
If people are married it It really counts if you are married to a nice person.If you are married to a nice person these things are just details. If you are married to an arrogant, prideful person everything is a lot of problems. God bless those who chose well. If are stuck in a marriage with someone who isn’t a nice person, pray. Ask God to help you be somewhat impervious to the barbs and sling so you can continue to live your life and god would work in that man’s heart. God is still working miracles 24/7. There is so many women who tell stories of their husbands being changed for the better. So don’t lose heart.
Julie: You know I think what you and John did was critical in today’s modern marriages because I do think a discussion on who is going to do what and how that is going to work, especially if mom is going back into the work environment or even if she is the one home with the kids primarily. I still there needs to be conversations. Like your marriage business plan. Mike and I talk about what are the things that need to be done and who is going to do what. Not any assumption on your family origin, momma always did this, daddy did this. Sounds like you all really brought that wisdom to the table as your career really took off.
Anita: Right. We certainly didn’t navigate that all right and we learned a lot along the way. You asked me what was a benefit of starting later? Our marriage had been through tested seasons already. And so it wasn’t a critical test of our marriage to navigate this change. We had faced those over and over again in different situations so one of the great gifts was we knew we’d already survived a lot weird. We had come through. So it was like, “how do we do this.” In a young marriage it might be harder test. A pass or fail. In our marriage it was ahhh it might be a B or C but we are not getting an F. We were at a different place. Man those transition are not any easier emotionally but man when you know the marriage is solid is a great jumping off point for where the ground shifts. That was a gift for being seasoned.
Julie Now, :I don’t want to give moms the impressions that your kids were already grown and launched. I mean you still had one pretty young at home. How did you make all that work at the same time? A child that was pretty used to having mom at home and being focused in the kid lane to now beginning to onboard this career.
Anita: Right Well, there was a lot of juggling as all moms know. There was a lot of leaving of the lists. If your presence is not there your list building skills are there. My mom was nearby so when I had to be gone overnight, in those days it was only like 1 or 2 nights in a month. So that’s one of those things when I talk about the long slow burn, I had a lot of time to make adjustments before I made major ones. A lot of good came from that. Look at the gifts of the slow. We don’t value the slow career movement. The kids were old enough to see what was happening, that was a good thing. When they were toddlers, preschool, early elementary, they don’t really understand. They could understand the time sacrifice.Mom is going to be gone a night or two but we are going to have fun with dad.We had a lot of good transition time. I don’t know how moms do it, and I don’t know what I can add to those that go from mom is at home to mom is in the workforce 8 or 10 hours a day. That is terribly difficult to manage. Kids are not going to understand and you are probably going to live with that guilt forever.
There is no assuaging of mom guilt. I have a 30, 33 and 27 and I still look back and say, “Shoot. I probably duffed that.” but they are very resilient. I think we give them not enough credit for resilience. And even if they don’t get it they will. Things have to get done for other things to happen. The Bible says everyone works out their salvation with fear and trembling. I think the whole career, home, mom thing everyone has to work their own out. There Is no cut and paste answer that fits anybody. I think we finally reached a point in our culture where that is the default position. We used to have the mommy wars back in the 90s and early 2000s and we don’t have the emotional energy for wars now. Let’s just support each other and love each other. I have nothing but love and respect for moms working, at home or doing a hybrid of both. We’re all just trying to do the best we can by our families. We are all going to fail and succeed spectacularly. They are all going to be resilient. They will turn out better than we thought So chill out mom.
Julie: I love it. So much wisdom and encouragement right where they are. When they have a dream in their heart and diapers in the today. So much good you’ve had to say. And I’m so excited your fully caffeinated tour is off to a roaring start. What cities are you going to be in?
Anita: I don’t know. They don’t trust me with that information. All info is at anitarenfroe.com. We add cities almost every week or 10 days. Normally if you are on my FB page at Anita Renfroe we normally try to identify where people are on FB and there will be a listing of cities you will see that can help you know where I will be. So, yeah keep up there. I just believe women, especially women raising kids need a night to get in touch with their funny bone and joy. We try to provide nights like that where women can celebrate the weirdness and the crazy. I keep it real and talk about real life.
Julie: I’m sure you can see why I am crazy about Anita Renfroe. She is hilarious and one of the most wise people I know. Check her out on social – Anita Renfroe. Special thanks to Donna Totey our producer and Rebecca Beckett our content coordinator. Connect with me @julielylescarr.
Next week we have one of the teaching pastors from Saddleback Church, Tom Holladay. We will talk about putting things back together when things are falling apart. Can’t wait to see you next week.
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