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Interview: Kirsten Watson Talks Parenting, Race, and Her New Role

“Whatever topic we discuss, whether it be racial injustice, human trafficking, or abortion, we always go back to what God’s Word has to say….”

Kirsten and Benjamin Watson
Kirsten and Benjamin Watson.

Evangelical-based online community MomLife Today has announced that Kirsten Watson—a public speaker, activist, nonprofit leader, and mother of seven—will serve as executive editor of the website that counts Priscilla Shirer, Karen Lorrits, and Dannah Gresh among its contributors.

“I want to meet moms where they’re at,” Watson said in a phone interview with Faithfully Magazine. “Because of where I am in my journey of motherhood, raising seven children with my husband, the way we connect might be different. We want to offer tidbits of inspiration.”

Her husband, NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, retired last year after 16 seasons. The couple collaborate often in their creative endeavors, including a weekly podcast that premiered last fall and a documentary film, “Divided Hearts of America,” that grapples with complex issues of life and abortion.

With her MomLife Today role, Watson will differentiate her voice to a greater degree—and it may surprise some moms. Since the site’s launch in 2008, MomLife Today has become a hub of devotional and parenting advice content featuring such voices as Barbara Rainey, Kay Arthur, and Mary Beth Chapman.

As evangelicals have grappled with race issues, particularly in recent years, the Watsons have been both outspoken and open-hearted in their stance.

“We’re trying to walk the line of truth,” Watson said. “In doing that, some people applaud and are thankful, while others hiss and boo. We hope they hear us speaking truth in kindness and love. At least at some level, then they can respect what we’re saying.”

In the following Q&A, Watson discusses her future plans for the mom-focused online community, taking a public stand alongside her husband, and a moment from the presidential inauguration that spoke to their family. It has been lightly edited for length.

Congratulations on this new role heading up MomLife Today. Is writing to fellow Christian moms something you enjoy?

It’s funny you ask, because I am not a writer. This site was started by Tracey Eyster. She and other writer mom friends filled a space that she felt God called her to over the past 12 years. Two years ago, unbeknownst to me, she was feeling it was time to do something different with it.

Right in the middle of all the pandemic stuff going down, in April of last year, I received a call asking if I would consider taking over MomLife Today. The site’s foundation of truth in the Bible, and the aspects of calling moms to prayer, will still remain. But it may look a little different in terms of writing to Christian moms. I think my gifting is not there, though I really do have a heart to speak to moms.

My way of communication has always been face-to-face and through conversation. That way I can hear the heart of the person that I’m speaking with and also they hear mine. What I’ve been learning and leaning into—and the things I’ve not done so great and where I’m still learning—God has decided this moment and this platform are where I can share it.

Often when I see an article on social media, I have to set it aside to read later. But when out walking my twins in the stroller, I may listen in to a podcast and hear something that keeps me motivated. There is so much wisdom to gain from people who are gifted in writing, so articles will still be a component of the site. Now some of it will be my voice, which may show up in a lot of different ways other than just writing.

I assume the weekly podcast that you and your husband co-host is part of this as well. What do you hope to accomplish with that project?

This is another thing of God’s timing. Our podcast, “Why or Why Not with the Watsons,” has been an incredible way for us to, honestly, have a date night. We have to literally record it when everybody is asleep or during their nap times! But it’s been a great way for us to talk.

What you hear is a real conversation that we are having. Rather than being scripted, it’s really us talking through what we’ve struggled with and then how we always try to go back to the Word and what God says about it. Working with Benjamin, it’s been really fun to see how it’s been received. Some of the comments we get are like: “We argue about the same thing!”

Hearing people having the tri-fold conversation about how to fold towels, or, when to put the trash out—things that, as married people, you think: He’s the only one that does that, surely. Then you hear someone else say it and you feel better because you’re not crazy.

The podcast has been great for our kids as well. Before we start talking about parenting, we ask the older ones what they think has worked and what things we didn’t do so great. They get a chance to listen [later] and be along on the journey.

As a mother of seven kids, were you reluctant about taking on this new role?

Yes. In fact, I was very much like: God, You really don’t need me to do this—for several reasons. One, because I always want to give a best “yes” and I feel the time that I’m in right now is one that God has given me to shepherd my kids. Our oldest is 11 and our youngest are twin boys who will be two in April. Being available to them is a job I take seriously. But God’s timing doesn’t always line up with what would be the easiest or the most comfortable way to do things.

When I think about taking on new projects, I really do pray about: Is this a good yes? God, is this You or is this me? The “yes” to MomLife Today, and even to the podcast, are ones that I feel like God was saying: “It’s not going to be easy, but will you say yes? Because the growth that will happen because of this is what I need you to do, Kirsten.”

Ultimately, I want to be the woman He has created me to be. If that means being uncomfortable, if that means doing things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do, that’s the “yes” I have to take. Benjamin and I communicate that to our kids, so they understand what’s going on and that some things may change.

This fall, you and Benjamin were in the media with the release of your documentary, “Divided Hearts of America.” Do you feel like the film is changing how some people view these issues of life and abortion?

That’s an interesting question. Consider that the release was in the midst of an election cycle and everything else that was going on. I think some people received it and others didn’t. In terms of these tough pro-life issues, Benjamin and I have both been called together and individually to speak truth.

When you prayerfully do any project, you hope it reaches who it’s supposed to reach. Whether it is reaching a heart hearing it for the first time, or a second time, where seeds are getting watered and cultivated, or you actually see the fruit of hearts changing, it doesn’t stop you from doing the work. Rather than poring over numbers of [downloads] or whatever, we focused on doing our part to plant the seeds and let God do his job.

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Our hope is always that the message fell on fertile ground. The more you read the Bible, you know you’ll be faced with trials and people will be against you—as we’ve seen. Yet when you’re in it, you’re like, “Oh, God, this is supposed to be easy. Why are these people feeling this way?” Sometimes you just have to stay away from online comments.

Whatever topic we discuss, whether it be racial injustice, human trafficking, or abortion, we always go back to what God’s Word has to say. When we step out with that perspective, it gives us power because the Holy Spirit is with us. Then when we see things coming against us, we’re prepared rather than surprised, and we keep going.

As an outside observer, it seems like you and your husband push back against the “secular progressive left,” but also the “partisan evangelical right” often on issues of racism. How do you walk that fine line when few seem to see and affirm the fullness of what you’re about?

It’s not even a fine line, it’s the line of truth. We are part of a kingdom of believers that hopefully want to look like Jesus. There are many idols and many sins we all need to recognize. Truth is not a one-issue thing. When another part of the Body [of Christ] has blind spots, that’s why we’re called to mourn and rejoice with each other.

During the racial unrest this past summer, we conversed with some friends who are believers. They listened to us talk about race, how God sees us, and how He created us. They responded honestly: “We have no experience in what you’re talking about, and we don’t really see it. But because we love and trust you, we believe you. And we stand with you.”

They modeled how we should be as believers. Just because you don’t experience something doesn’t mean it’s not a reality. Just because it’s not in your framework, it doesn’t mean that God is not addressing that issue. God does care about it. Thank heaven, somebody in the body cares about it too, and is bringing light to it. In the body, everybody does their part.

Racism is like any other sin that our world is facing, or any other idol we hold on to. Jesus never fails to point out the areas in our lives that don’t look like him. For some in the Gospels, there was an immediate change. They recognized it, then did what they had to do to repent and move forward. For others in the Bible, their hearts were hardened and it took time. And, for some, it never happened.

Followers of Christ are supposed to be like a city on a hill, but we’re missing the mark. As people trying to be like Jesus, it’s not one sin or one issue that affects us individually and our society collectively. It’s many issues, and we need to respond with truth.

Regarding your plans for MomLife Today, will open discussion of racial justice and multi-ethnic representation be part of the content?

Absolutely. MomLife Today is a safe place where moms of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds can learn and have conversation together. I really want to tap into the power of that. As moms, as women, as daughters of the King, we have an identity that is set apart. Yes, we all believe that we are going to heaven, that our eternal life has begun, that we are called to make disciples and to share the gospel.

We also have unique experiences; we rejoice and we mourn together. This space of MomLife Today will become a place where moms can learn and hear about what’s going on with other moms. For instance, I have friends who have kids with special needs. What they experience on a day-to-day basis, I wouldn’t know anything about if I didn’t have them as friends. When they go out in public and their child has a meltdown, their experience is different. By talking to that mom, I’m able to understand and have empathy for that family. Then I’m able to communicate to my kids what that might look like if we’re out, how they could maybe help that child, if that’s one of their friends.

As moms, we have an amazing responsibility to teach our children kindness. Maybe what you’ve experienced is not what other people experience, and we teach them to pray through it all. As a Black mom, my experience with racial injustice will come out on MomLife Today. But so will many other voices.

Sometimes we say “racial injustice” or another term, and it’s like everyone gets all antsy. But it’s just being open to have the conversation and respect a person’s opinion. Then be open enough to ask, “OK, how can I be different as a believer in what I transfer to my children and to my community?” My hope is that race will naturally come up, but so will a lot of other points.

After this exhausting election cycle, many people are concerned about the future. Are you hopeful about the year ahead and for your kids’ future?

I’m always hopeful for another day, even though we don’t know what’s going to happen. Because of this pandemic, we are literally all of us here all day—the seven kids, with the older ones doing school.

On Wednesday [January 20], we had the inauguration on so they would pop in and see it on, these little parts of it. As we were watching Vice President Kamala Harris and Michelle [Obama] come down, it was a moment that I definitely lit up. Like: Wow, this is crazy. It was a big deal because, obviously, she is the first.

You think about the things as a kid that you said you wanted to be. Some things just never came out of your mouth, because you’d never seen it and never thought of it as your place. It was good for my kids to see that part, particularly for my girls. It let them know this is something that could be on the list, because of what has already happened.

Now there is not anybody in office that I’m like, “One hundred percent, I agree with everything that you’re about.” I don’t agree 100 percent with my husband, and I married him and actually chose him! But it doesn’t mean I don’t respect them or that I can’t have things about a person that I really admire or look up to.

That’s part of our problem as a culture. At this point in time, people are like: “I don’t agree with you on this one thing—so I don’t like anything about you!” But people are not take-it-or-leave it. You don’t do that with your family or with your kids. There’s stuff my kids do that I don’t like, but do I still love them? Absolutely. Elected leaders definitely have policies that I disagree with. But I can still celebrate the accomplishment for sure.

Sometimes I feel like we’ve put so much stock into everything going on in the world, we forget that we already know how the story is going to end. Regardless of what happened on Wednesday [January 20], we still serve God and we still are on a mission to do the things that he told us to do.


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    Written by Josh M. Shepherd

    Josh M. Shepherd writes on culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream, Religion & Politics, The Federalist, and Christianity Today. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. You can find him on Twitter @joshmshep. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C., area with their son.