Posted in everyday musings, motherhood, Mothering is hard

Mama guilt is real and ridiculous

I find myself sitting alone in the kitchen after I give the kids their dinner some nights, eating alone and listening to a podcast, and it fills me with guilt.

How dare I sit and not be with my children? Don’t I love them? Don’t I want to be with them all the time? If I don’t is something wrong with me?

Of course, I know I love my children. And I know I don’t have to be with them all the time to show it. I know there isn’t anything wrong with needing a break from my children throughout the day but something deep within in me says my little breaks are selfish and wrong.

Where does this guilt come from? I have no idea. No one has ever told me I should play with my children constantly or entertain them non-stop or sacrifice quiet moments to myself because I gave birth to tiny humans.

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My husband works a second shift, leaving me home with the kids during two of the busiest, sometimes most stressful, times of day – supper and bedtime. I don’t resent being a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I wanted to be at a stay-at-home mom for years. I worried about putting financial stress on our family but I felt being home with our son, to raise him, was the right step to take. By the time he was in school, I considered going back to work to lift some of the financial burdens but by the time I made up my mind about that I was pregnant again. A situation at my son’s school led to a decision to homeschool him at the end of last school year. Going back to work wasn’t an option at that point.

Seven years ago, after working for 14 years, I was home with my son,  overwhelmed with the thought that I was now doing something I never imagined doing. When I was a teenager and in college, I knew I was going to be a writer or a photojournalist who traveled the world, not a mom. And if I was a mom, that baby would be in a carrier, on my back, not in my lap or in my floor while I did the things stay-at-home moms did. I didn’t know what they did, but to me stay-at-home moms were boring and frumpy and covered in spit-up, yet also super organized and played with their children and did crafts and arts with them and cooked home meals and stood in the kitchen in their aprons and waited for their husbands to come home from work and – and – the mere thought of being that mom sent me into sheer panic mode.

But then I was holding him and he was looking at me. He was funny and intelligent and I forgot about the boogers and spit up on me. The late nights were hard and I was a walking zombie. Pregnancy and breastfeeding kicked my tail and soon I was on thyroid medication and supplements and anything I could consume to keep me functioning. But he was worth it all.

And today both he and his sister are worth it all.DSC_0540

DSC_0535What’s happened to me, though, is what happens to many stay-at-home moms: I run the danger of pouring so much of me into them there is very little left for anyone else and there is definitely nothing left for me to relax and refresh my inner self.

I remember being so obsessed with caring for my son, feeling his care was my sole responsibility, that I found myself consumed by guilt if I even took a few moments to myself to take a shower or a bath or run to the store to grocery shop on my own.

My mom did everything for us growing up. My dad worked and she cooked, cleaned, cared for us and was there for us when we fell off our bikes or came down with a cold or woke up with a nightmare. She was amazing and I think when I became a mom I subconsciously compared myself to her and thought I had to do as much as she did and had to sacrifice the way she did, or at least the way I thought she did.

One thing I don’t remember my mom doing is playing with me. She colored with me some, but as for playing, she’d been raised that children needed to entertain themselves and learn on their own to teach them independence. She didn’t ignore me or shout at me to leave her alone, but she gently directed me toward my toys or my sketchbooks or outside to find something to do.

I truly have no idea what my mom did to relax, except she read. A lot. She escaped in a book and she took time for herself when she cooked. Did she feel guilty that she wasn’t spending her every waking moment with me or my brother? I don’t know but I have a feeling she knew we were okay on our own and she didn’t need to be with us every second. She also wasn’t bombarded with messages from magazines and social media and tv about our failings as parents.

Is being a mother harder now because of the many voices we have telling us how to be one? I don’t know, but what I do know is we don’t have to listen to all those voices.

Maybe we can take one or two, think about what they are saying and apply their advice, but then we can ignore the others and listen to the only voice that really matters: the voice inside us that tells us when we’ve stretched ourselves thin enough and it’s OK to set the kids up with a game, a book or even – gasp! – a cartoon and take a little time for ourselves.

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Posted in motherhood, Mothering is hard

Mama guilt and afternoon rest

She woke up this morning, looked at me and said “pretend you’re mama puppy.”

That meant she was baby puppy and barked and whimpered at me while I was mama puppy and had to bark all my answers at her.  It was a bit too early in my day to be barking morning greetings to my child but she asked and she’s cute and I would rather be greeted that way then with the morning news or an angry text message so I obliged her.

We started out as puppies but then we became tigers and she wanted to wake up and tell daddy she was a tiger. He was at his part time job so I had to text him her new identity  instead.

There are two days a week we wake up and it’s just her and me hanging out together until the afternoon. Her dad is at work and her brother is at school so we cuddle in bed and she talks about her favorite subjects, puppies and Doc Mcstuffin and this week PJ masks. I treasure those days but they can also be hectic and exhausting because I spend that time bouncing between waiting on and playing with her and trying to check off my to-do list at the same time.

Most days I keep my patience but some days, like today, my patience wanes and I snap “just give me five minutes to finish one thing!” When really I need like 50 minutes.

For about four months, probably longer, she’s been refusing early naps, instead only wanting to nap after I’ve picked her brother up from school and need to start dinner. This wouldn’t be a problem if one, she didn’t want me to hold her the entire time and two, she didn’t try to sleep for two hours and effectively push her bedtime off to an hour not fit for this 40-year old let alone a 3-year old.

When she said, shortly before 1 pm, that she wanted a nap I grumpily told her I didn’t believe her and didn’t want to leave my computer work just to have her once again refuse quiet time or a nap once we got upstairs to her room . She burst into tears and I carried her upstairs to her bed, to a place she has been refusing to rest in for almost six months. She cuddled against me, pulled the covers around her, asked to nurse and fell asleep. Boom. Just like that. I don’t think she has fallen asleep before 3 p.m. since sometime in the spring.

And now here I sit filled with mother guilt and praying she isn’t coming down with an illness or that the head bump she took yesterday afternoon when she slipped while chasing her brother with a plastic sword didn’t cause some kind of damage we were unaware of.

This quiet time, curled up under this comforter in the darkened bedroom is a gift, a moment of respite, a chance to regroup and refresh and I should be thankful, not suspicious, not aggravated or resentful.

It is a gift and I want to accept it and treasure it and hold it close in case it is a fleeting one. Her naps may interrupt the flow of my day but those moments, much like unexpected detours in our life, are needed interruptions to force me to slow down, focus on the present and take time to physically and mentally rest.

Author Emily P. Freeman talked about being present in the moment and taking time for rest in the latest episode of her podcast “The Next Right Thing.”

“When it’s time to be still, do so without an agenda so that when it’s time to move, you can do so from a place of love,” she said. “Part of remembering our soul’s center is engaging in practices that help to make space for God to move.  One of those practices for me is the practice of being still. If you feel scattered without a center, like you’re flying out in all directions, let these few moments be a speed bump in your busy day. . . . Say the day in your mind – the date, the month, the year. This is where you are, this moment is what you have. You can only be one place at a time. So be here now.”

So during my little girl’s nap time, with her asleep on my arm, effectively pinning me to the bed with her, I said to myself the date and the time and breathed in that moment – that gift of being present in the moment and in a period of needed rest but also in a period of being alone with her.

Posted in Days with Gracie, honest stuff, keeping it real, motherhood, Mothering is hard, personal musings

Denial is the first step to not admitting we’re in the toddler years

I wasn’t ready for it, I’m not going to lie.

The attitude. The firm shakes of the head and the cry of “no!”

The folded arms. The tantrums. 

The deep scowls and body flops to the floor.

She’s not even two. 

Yet these are the reactions I have had as I stare in horror at the Terrible Twos rushing at us like an out of control train. I am being pulled into these years that some moms cutely call “ the testing years”, kicking and screaming. 

Seriously, what is with her hitting the stubborn stage before she’s even 2? All the books say two is when it all goes to hell in a hand basket. She is not two so she is not allowed to refuse to let me help her wash her hands and do it herself.

She is not allowed to try to jump into the deep end of the pool without adult supervision because she lacks fear. She is not allowed to sit in the floor and cry because mommy put on her shoes and she wanted to do it on her own.

She is not allowed to squish her face up in indignant annoyance when I try to hold a cup for her to drink from or slap my hand away in apparent insistence that she be allowed to do it ON HER OWN!

It’s not fair! 

I was supposed to have more time to prepare!

But, she’s been developmentally early in so many other areas, I should have expected this. 

I really should have been preparing for the worst. 

The worst being that my little princess really is a smaller version of me. 

Oh, Lord, give me strength, she has my independent attitude, my stubborn streak and, I can barely manage to write this, my temper. 

This is it.

This is the payback I was warned about. 

And yes, the saying is true. The saying I won’t repeat because I am a good Christian mama blogger. The saying that essentially says, “you are feeling the pain you caused so many others. Enjoy the ride, sucker.”

 

Posted in 99 days of blogging, Days with Gracie, Letters to My Daughter, motherhood, Motherhood in Action, Mothering is hard, personal reflections

Letter to my daughter

At 20 months of age you are insanely clingy and there are brief moments it drives me crazy.
“I need my hands free to push this cart! Good grief! “
“I brought the stroller so you would sit in it, not so I can carry you in the sling while I push an empty stroller and get bewildered looks.”

But those protests are quick ones because there you are, eye level with me, in my arms, secured against me with a sling, and smiling while you lean your head At 19 months of age you are insanely clingy these days and there are brief moments it drives me crazy.
“I need my hands free to push this cart! Good grief! “

“I brought the stroller so you would sit in it, not so I can carry you in the sling while I push an empty stroller and get bewildered looks.”

But those protests are quick ones because there you are, eye level with me, in my arms, secured against me with a baby sling, and smiling while you lean your head against me. You are safe here, arm up on my shoulder, tucked securely against my side, under my arm. All the people towering above you and the ceilings and world so high and far away aren’t as scary if you’re kept safe by the person who is the center of your world.

I can certainly relate to the need to feel protected and sheltered from a world that feels scary and overwhelming. I often long for my own safe haven as I force myself to leave the house when many days I instead want to hide away and not be seen. For years I have forced the introvert within me to be an extrovert and the introvert has decided she is no longer happy with that arrangement. 

Many nights I lay down thinking about and mentally preparing myself for the next day’s errands or chores that will require me to go into public; associate with the rest of the human race. I often try to find a way to avoid the trip, even going so far as to wonder if peanut butter sandwiches are okay for dinner simply so I don’t have to shop among the masses. 

Sleep comes only after I recite a verse that has become a daily mantra: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Sometimes I have to say the verse over and over while trying to chase away the anxiety that creeps up into my throat like reflux from a spicy supper. In the morning I remind myself I can’t be a hermit, no matter how much I want to. I have children to feed or take to the doctor. And I have life to experience because as much as life terrifies me it fascinates me.

The appropriate Christian thing to say is that God is my safe haven, the One who keeps me from living my life behind closed doors, and He is. But sometimes I don’t trust the way I should; I don’t listen the way I should. Thoughts overwhelm me and all I hear is condemnation and criticism. 

I pray so I can find comfort in the One who reminds me He is home even when I’m out in the big, scary world. 
I want you to feel comfort while I hold you, Little One.

I’m so honored to be your safe haven, your comfort zone, the person who you need to make you feel like you’re home no matter where you are.

So cling to me when you need to and I’ll cling back and treasure these simple moments of comfort.

Part of Melissa Firman’s 99 days of blogging and my Letters to My Daughter’s feature.

Posted in Motherhood in Action, Mothering is hard

I wish I was a better mother

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I wish I was better at being a mom.

I wish I didn’t cry like a toddler when my toddler won’t nap on the one day I really needed one myself.

I wish I didn’t let curse words fly out when she won’t sleep and when I know better and when I’m supposed to be that good Christian who never makes a mistake.

I wish I didn’t get grumpy on the days she gets grumpy.

I wish I didn’t get aggravated beyond belief when my 9 year old stares at me blank when I ask him why he didn’t brush his teeth last night or why he isn’t eating his dinner or why he’s playing Minecraft when I told him to do his homework.

I wish I was the mom from the books and the movies and the TV shows who pulls her children on her lap every single time they have a break down and hugs them and tells them it’s OK if they cry, mama doesn’t mind not getting sleep or not getting a break or never eating a warm meal.

If I was that mom then I wouldn’t feel so guilty. If I was that mom then I wouldn’t have to cry instead of nap when the toddler finally does fall asleep. If I was that mom I wouldn’t sit and wonder if some day my kids are going to tell all their friends about all the mistakes I make and all their friends are going to feel bad for them because their moms never do that stuff.

Some days it is just flat out exhausting wishing to be someone different so you can be better for your kids.

This is the part of the post I should write something encouraging and uplifting about how all you can do is try, but today I’m not feeling it. I’m just feeling the discouragement, the failure and the sadness at all the motherhood missteps I made.

 

Woe is me, the temporarily wallowing in her misery mom, who I guess, needs to remind herself if she wasn’t at least a somewhat good mom then none of this would bother her.

 

 

Posted in Motherhood in Action, Mothering is hard, The joy of motherhood

Toddlers, books and motherhood

My house was a mess and my photos were remaining unedited, which was driving me crazy. Little Miss wanted to sit in my lap and have me read to her, the first time ever. I sat in the middle of that mess and read to her after feeling frustrated and annoyed only 15 minutes before,

For most of the night she was clinging to me and whining and crying and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but I knew I wanted to fold the laundry and clean the upstairs sink and she wasn’t letting me. My oldest had forgot a book at school that he needed for an important project and a long weekend was ahead of us, cutting down the time to get his project done. I was getting mad and frustrated and flat out ticked. I felt overwhelmed and inadequate as a mom and a housekeeper and I threw toys out of my way as I tried to clean up the potato chips Little Miss had stomped into the floor. 

It seems like each time I try to accomplish a project a toddler cries or falls off something, a child needs a drink, or an animal throws up. Hours later my husband comes home from work and finds none of the projects I claimed I could complete done. 

More and more I am realizing I need to stop expecting myself to be super mom. I am never going to be the mom I expect myself to be. I’m most likely never going to be like Donna Reed, cooking a perfect meal, helping the children with their homework, kidding my husband and cleaning the kitchen floor at the same time. I’m never going to be that mom who sweetly smiles at her child even when he forgets an important book after he was specially told the book was needed and then says “oh well! Let’s go make some lemonade out of these lemons!” I’m most likely always going to be the mom who swallows her annoyance and says tightly “we will figure this out …. Somehow.” 

But maybe I will be the mom who sits in the middle of the upstairs hallway, in the middle of her mess, and lets the toddler crawl on her lap and lift her first library book up to be read again and again because that matters more than clean upstairs sinks.

Posted in Motherhood in Action, Mothering is hard, personal musings, personal reflections, Storytelling Photography

Embracing the role of motherhood

For 13 years when someone asked what I did for a living I said “I’m a newspaper reporter”.  It made me feel like I had accomplished something in life. Four years of college, a degree, and a job in what I went to college for. I was a contributing member of society. I was a public servant, informing the community. I was important, at least in some small way, or so I thought.

Then I burned out on the news and, really, on people. I left newspapers, convinced my love for photography would translate into a successful business. Then I could say “I’m a photographer”

I left the paper for two reasons: to be home with my son and to start a photography business. When the photography business never happened I was left with . . .being a mom because in my mind I wasn’t a photographer if I didn’t have a business, which, of course, I now know isn’t true.

Just a mom.

Just.

A.

Mom.

I couldn’t imagine having to answer the question of what I did for a living with “I’m a mom. JUST a mom.”

As a kid, I’d never imagined myself a mom. I’d always pictured myself traveling the world as a writer and photojournalist.

My mom was “just a mom” and I had never looked down on her for that so I had no idea why being “just a mom” filled me with a feeling of personal failure.

Why was it bothering me so much to be “just a mom”?

I think the society we live in today, especially in the United States, tells moms that being a mom isn’t enough. The idea that being a mom is the best job a woman can have is very popular but only if a person can say “I’m a writer but I’m also a mom and that’s the most important job I have.”

If a woman can only say “I’m a mom. It’s all I do” I believe many look at her as if to say “is that really all you do?”

Last year I sought out a natural doctor for some health issues I’ve been having. She asked me what I did in my spare time. I started to tell her I was a mom so I don’t have much spare tome and she interrupted me “but what do you do for you?” I photograph my children in what I feel is an artistic way and told her but she shook her head in disapproval and I immediately felt that shame at being “just a mom”. Here was another woman, maybe even a mother herself, reminding me that I needed to be more than a mom. I needed to do something more with my life. I couldn’t just be a mom.

Other women shame each other into believing they need to be more than a mom but I don’t believe God desires there to be any shame felt when a woman’s sole job, so to speak, is “just being a mom.”

I’m working on accepting this title of mom, which I know sounds weird since I’ve been one for almost a decade.

I’m practicing saying “I’m a mom,” and not needing to add after it “And I am also a photographer.”

For me, photography isn’t a job, and I don’t want it to be. It’s part of who I am in the same way being “just a mom” is part of who I am and who I always will be.
 

Posted in Mothering is hard, Storytelling Photography, The joy of motherhood

His boyness is still there | Sayre, PA Photography

He’s changing so fast and I’m not ready for it. He’s not dressing up like superheroes as much as he used to. He’s not asking if he can wear a ninja costume to the store.

He’s not jumping off the couch quite as much. He’s too into TV and the digital world. I’m already hearing a heavy teenage-like sigh when I tell him it’s time for a computer break. 

He doesn’t play as hard or do the wild things he used to quite as often.

But it’s there. . .  Somewhere under his sly grin and smirk, his crazy boyness, if that were a word. At a moments notice he’s jumping on a board and striking a pose as Iron Man or Spider-Man. Suddenly he’s tugging off the polo shirt he wears to school and making it into a cape.

There is my little boy. 

I haven’t lost him yet.

Posted in Motherhood in Action, Mothering is hard, personal musings, The joy of motherhood

Navigating life with “only” two children

We only have two children in our family which means getting out the door to go somewhere 45 minutes away shouldn’t be such an ordeal.

But it is.

“Do you have the diaper bag?”
“Did you get your toys together to take to grandma and grandpa’s?”
“Do you have my camera?”
“Have you seen my Kindle?”
“We’ve got everything? Ok. Let’s go.”

All in the car, engine running.
“Did I lock the door? Let me check.”

Car off. Family waits.
All in the car again, engine running.

“Did I unplug the toaster? I’m going to go check.”
Car off. Family waits. Husband back in car. 

Ten minutes away from house; “did I turn the stove off?” 

Turn around. Family waits in car. Mom decides to check the van to see if that’s where she lost a friend’s bottle of essential oil. Van locked. Mom slips and falls on her backside in mud and wrenches her shoulder.
“Stove was off.” Dad announces.

“I need the keys, I fell in the mud..” Mom says and gestures to mud smear from the top of her backside to her calf.
Back in the house to change. Then finally on the road  . . . again. Yes, like a Willie Nelson song.

A lovely day is spent exploring the woods on a unnaturally warm winter day at the parents/grandparents accept for another fall in the mud. by mom.

When it’s time to leave:
“Where are your shoes?”
“Why isn’t the baby wearing pants?”
“Do you have your toys?”
“Do you have your camera?”
“Where is the diaper bag?”
“I need to change the baby first.”
“Kiss and hug everyone good-bye.”

On the road again. Phone rings ten minutes from home.

“Did you know you left your purse here?”

Arrrrrrrgghh!!!!