In Touch October 2003

Pajamas & Chocolate
Lisa Whelchel gives moms a break

Actress Lisa Whelchel, best known for her role as Blair on The Facts of Life , is on a crusade to give stressed-out, overworked moms a break. How will she achieve this lofty goal? With pajamas and chocolate, naturally. Picture this: A throng of mothers-probably 500 of them-convenes in the ballroom of a ritzy hotel. They are not wearing suits, nylons, or pumps. In fact, their attire is decidedly inappropriate (which doesn't bother them in the least)-they're dressed in bathrobes, flannel jammies, and fuzzy slippers. No one is seated properly in a chair. Instead they're sprawled out all over the floor. Some snuggled up against pillow or teddy bears, others sit cross-legged in circles. They munch on chocolate chip cookies and popcorn, drink milk, and talk about what's really important in life: kids, family, husbands, God.

I talked with Lisa several months ago, and she casually mentioned her MomTime Getaway, a slumber party for mothers. "Can I come?" I begged, like a little sister hoping to tag along on a big girls' night out. The moment I hung up the phone, I dialed my sister and told her to free that date on her calendar at all cost. I hadn't seen her in a long time, and whenever we did get together, one-or two or three-of our kids demanded so much attention that we were barely able to connect with one another. I literally looked forward to MomTime for a couple of months-and it was worth the wait.

The even began with an introduction by Lisa, during which she announced her plan to "refill, refuel, and rejuvenate" every mom in the room. She stated by sharing the most embarrassing moments women in the audience had experienced with their children-listening to these harrowing testimonies brought a strange sense of relief and assurance that I'm not going it alone.

Being the non-linear thinker that she is, Lisa frequently changes gears-which didn't surprise or bother any of the multitasking women in the room. Sporadically, she would yell "chocolate break" and begin pelting the audience with Hershey's kisses. As chocolate rained down on our table, grown women dove from their seats; they knocked over chairs in order to emerge victoriously from the floor with fists full of candy. I laughed so hard I had trouble eating my share of the loot (but not too much trouble).

Later that night, Lisa entered the ballroom sporting a mud mask and sponge curlers. "I want you girls to take off your masks," she said before washing her face. Relaxed by the casual environment-all the chairs in the room had been replace by comforters and pillows, and massage therapists greeted us at the door-women began to share the stories of their lives: childbirth, engagements, proposals, weddings.

"I feel like a complete failure," one woman confesses. "Can anyone identify with her?" Lisa asked. Hands went up all over the ballroom. "The vast majority of moms feel like failures," she reassured us, sharing some of her most vulnerable moments. She talked openly about her struggle to lose weight and the humiliation she endured when Hollywood executives sent her away to "fat farms" and made her weigh-in daily. People she didn't even know would walk up to her and say, "Hey Blair, have you lost any weight?" No diet she tried was successful, and her self-esteem plummeted.

She shared candidly about the hard years of her marriage-about being a strong, independent woman with three small children and a husband she tried to control. At her lowest point, she approached her pastor and asked if there was any way she could back away from her vows. But the Lord convicted her to fast from decision-making for 40 days, and that single act revitalized her marriage.

"Women feel that they have to be in control," she said. "We don't just try to control our marriage; we want to control our kids, our family, our walk with God, everything. We have to take that first risky step of faith to accept God's order and let Him be in control. Whenever we choose to obey God, He is faithful." That said, I wand every other mom there closed our eyes, bowed our heads, and lifted our children up into the loving hands of their Father in heaven.

I look back on that weekend as a memorable success. I had fun and connected in a real way with other struggling mothers trying to live out their faith in a cold and hostile world. I left the hotel with a bag full of souvenirs, a pocket full of chocolate, a few wonderful memories, and a renewed commitment to give God control over my life-the greatest reprieve anyone could hope for.


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