Motherhood has changed how I think of myself. Right now, I’m just a mom and that’s okay.
I’ve done all kinds of things in my life. In my twenties, I modeled and worked in local theater productions. I even had a small stint as a regular occurring extra on NBC’s Friday Night Lights. For fifteen years, I worked as an insurance professional, handling major claims and being deposed in lawsuits. I’ve also worked as an artist and later an art curator. I’m a multifaceted woman, but before motherhood, I always staked my identity in my career.
After the birth of my first son, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Those first few months were hard. Honestly, I cried every day. Being a mom was so stinking tough. Being a stay-at-home mom meant I’d never get a break from my child. Everything landed squarely on my shoulders. The house. The chores. The baby. It was all me. I didn’t know who I was. I mean, who was I if I wasn’t the career woman? Who was I if I wasn’t being creative? I had no idea who I was anymore.
My life had turned into a mess of poopy diapers. The only conversation I had was with a babbling little boy who lovingly stared at me, while I toiled with emotions of regret. Had I made the wrong choice? My whole day suddenly centered around feedings and naptimes. I lost my identity. I wondered if I could handle the solitude, the isolation that comes with being a stay-at-home-mom. I literally, had no one. Co-workers soon forgot me. Childless friends moved on.
I hadn’t counted on the feelings of regret. At first, I was happy to leave the stress-filled job I had. Happy to – what I thought – was going to be a break from hard work (I know, I was naive). I thought motherhood was going to be nothing but joy, laughter, and contentment, and while those moments exist, there are just as many moments that have tears, and frustration, and sacrifice.
At about nine months postpartum, I realized I needed to stop wishing for my old identity and instead create a new one. But doing that would require a whole new mind-shift. It would require me to value what I was doing. Or maybe more precisely, it would require me to see this season as my most valuable. A season that utilized my gifts and past experiences in a new, precious way. That everything I had accomplished before now wasn’t actually for my sake, but for my sons.
I am now four years into being a stay-at-home mom and I’m not going to be done anytime soon. You see, I’ve decided to homeschool. So with that, I resign myself to many more years at home. Many more irreplaceable days where I get to watch my babies grow, learn, and become gentlemen. But these days, I love my new identity. I love being “just a mom.”
In this new identity, I have realized that I traded in an important job for the most important job. Any career I’d have would pale in comparison to what I’m accomplishing with my sons. (That’s not a dig at working moms. Every mom’s journey is valuable.)
Not long ago, I reconnected with an old friend. She scoffed at the idea of staying home with children and asked plainly, “don’t you regret wasting your education and talents at home?” Oh friend, if only you knew how intimately my talents and education gets utilized while I’m being “just a mom.” My oldest child is four and he can find Egypt on a map. He can identify the inner anatomy in the human ear. He uses musical terms like “fortissimo, accelerando, and crescendo.” He can identify the systems of the human body and describe their purpose. Trust me, my knowledge isn’t being wasted. It’s being passed on. My talents flourish here and my kids are the joyful recipients.
And likewise my wisdom and my faith. Being a stay-at-home-mom creates a uniquely intimate bond with a child because we are a witness to each other’s lives. We share the daily breathtaking surprises and unexpected adventures. The terrible. The mundane. The funny. The wow moments. Mom and child do it together. An “odd couple” team of sorts.
Those sweet babies? They see me fail. They see me fall short. They watch to see if I forgive first and love first. They watch me cling to Jesus and watch me praise Him in the storm. They’re watching to see how merciful I am to others and how I make friends. They are taking it all in, modeling me in every way. That’s a lot of pressure! I’ve realized this “dull existence” suddenly has a lot of meaning… and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
My identity was forever altered when I became a mom – and it will change as my children grow up and need me less and less. One day, I’ll be hoping they pick up the phone and call me in the midst of their busy lives. Right now, I’m just a mom…and that’s okay.
Struggling mamas are everywhere and they are doing their best. That mom in the trench needs your help, not your criticism and judgement. Let’s create a movement of kindness where women receive support instead of condemnation.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen a series of different memes floating around Facebook newsfeeds that have disturbed me greatly. In each of these memes, parents are called “assholes” for various parenting decisions. One meme shamed parents who spank. Another shamed parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids. Another chided parents for not rear facing their child in a car seat until a certain age. Yet another, humiliated parents who choose to tell their kids Santa exists. Every single one of these referred to the parents as “assholes.” Let’s be clear. Just because someone disagrees with your parenting decisions doesn’t make them an “asshole.”
A few days ago I saw a shaming meme that criticized parents who let their kids cry it out. It made them out to be callous, child-abandoning parents for not comforting their child every single time they cry. I don’t know a single parent who does this as a full-time method. You employ it in different situations. And let me be even more frank. Walking away from your child when you are frustrated and exhausted is an important skill. Babies get shaken when parents don’t learn to do that. I will never shame a parent whose safe alternative is to walk away for a while. Some parents have zero help. Some parents have different limits. Be merciful.
Since I’ve been seeing these, I’ve been paying close attention. There is an interesting similarity in all the types of posts I saw like this. Every single one was posted by a woman. Women criticizing women. Women tearing down other women. Women judging other women. It’s rampant. Over the last few months, I’ve slowly left Facebook groups that were once helpful because of the constant arguing and shaming that goes on. Stay-at-home moms criticizing working moms and working moms shaming stay-at-home moms. Vaccines. Special needs. Homeschooling. Allergies. Car seats. Breastfeeding. Discipline. Name the topic and there will be a line of women attacking, vilifying, and humiliating another woman. Please…let’s stop this.
I Was A Perfect Mom Until I Became One
I can recall before I became a mom. I was so arrogant. “My kids would never….!” Fill in the blank. Then I became a mom and my kids did all the things I swore my kids would never do. They had melt downs, talked back, disobeyed, you name it! As I eased into motherhood, I realized parenting isn’t black and white. There are so many variables and moving parts. Once I had my second son, I learned what worked for my first, didn’t work for my second! As a parent, you are constantly having to calibrate your technique and your decisions. We shouldn’t begrudge someone their learning curve. Each of us is doing what we think is best for our children at the time with the knowledge and experience we have at that moment.
Over the last few years I’ve learned I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps more to the point, I’ve learned my choices don’t fit everyone’s life. When did we become so arrogant as to assume there is only one right way to parent? I deeply regret some of the things I’ve said to other moms in the past. Parenthood continues to humble me and parenthood has stretched my compassion of others.
Over the last year, I’ve re-evaluated my conduct when it comes to other moms. My conclusion: I have been a sanctimonious jerk! I took a good hard look at myself and I was disgusted. I had made a habit of shaming what I thought was poor parenting in others. Because, you know…I’m so perfect! It’s been a hard, humbling lesson, but I totally feel like God was correcting me in this area over the last year. I still fail, but I’m making progress.
Life’s Greatest Teacher
I’m going to be completely honest with you, friend. I want you to know, I have a tendency to think too highly of my opinions too. A few years ago, I had some harsh words for my husband’s cousin on a parenting topic. Since then, I have deeply regretted my words. At the time, I felt this parenting method was non-negotiable! I still feel strongly about it. But it is not my place to impose that on someone else. Ultimately everyone is entitled to raise their kids how they want – that includes allowing them to be human and making mistakes with their kids. And I’ve learned that mistakes are often life’s greatest teachers. Far better than any other method of persuasion. Sometimes, people need to learn things on their own…the hard way. Let them.
Remember that old saying, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar?” It’s true. People don’t take kindly to judgement or you telling them how to live their life. In fact, most people respond to conflict with a fight or flight defense mechanism. They either get defensive, they shut down, or they run away. Most won’t hear what you are trying to say anyway. Social media has made it very easy to argue with people. It has unleashed a whole new level of venom because you don’ have to look anyone in the eye to tell them what an asshole they are.
Most arguments on social media are completely non-constructive because they lack human-connecting qualities like empathy and compassion. Ask yourself what your goal is. If your goal is to truly persuade someone to your opinion it’s unlikely that will happen by calling them an “asshole” or “ignorant.” People are more likely to take the advice of people they respect.
I am extremely opinionated, but as I’ve grown older I’m realizing how cocky it is to “correct” strangers and acquaintances for everything I feel they are doing “wrong” in their life. Part of being mature is realizing not everything requires your opinion. Restraint (self-control) and humility are beautiful qualities to possess. They inspire others, rather than beating them into submission.
Some People Are Just Surviving
Motherhood has taught me lots of things. But one thing I’ve learned is that lots of moms out there are just barely surviving. Some moms are in a pit of depression and are literally taking one minute at a time. There are new moms who don’t have mamas of their own to guide them through this journey and impart wisdom to them. There are single mamas out there who are stretched thinner than pantyhose. Some women have a husband that doesn’t lift a finger to help. Let me say it again, they don’t need your criticism. The don’t need your sanctimony and condemnation. They need your support.
After the birth of my second son, I was in a very dark place. Like, I was contemplating suicide. My postpartum depression was growing worse everyday. During that time I had a falling out with a good friend. Even after knowing I was suicidal, this “friend” chose to shame and berate me for every perceived wrong I had ever done to her. Her condemnation sent me spiraling out of control. Quite frankly, it pushed me over the edge and almost made me despair. (Don’t worry, we’ve since apologized to each other) We never know what someone is going through behind closed doors. Our harsh criticism, our judgement or condemnation may be the very thing that destroys someone. Let’s extend mercy and grace instead. Give people permission to be human.
If You Must Say It, Say It With Love
A few weeks back, a new mom posted in a local Facebook group for moms with what should have been an innocent question: “When do I stop rear facing my child in the car?” The post had more than 200 responses. Women of all ages and experience chimed in with varied answers.
Now I also believe children should stay rear-facing as long as possible. But the nastiness I saw was just appauling. Several older, experienced moms, suggested turning them around once their legs were too long and scrunched up (by about age three). That was the trigger that made women viciously attack!
There was lots of name-calling. One wrote, “Lies! It doesn’t matter how long their legs are. Your advice could get someone’s kid killed!” Other women piled on, “better broken legs that a dead child! Your advice is ignorant and outdated.” Another woman wrote, “it’s people you like you that are killing children with their ignorance. Stop spreading misinformation.” Now, really. Was that necessary? The same thing could have been said nicely. “I thought that too. You may not have seen, but doctors and safety experts are now recommending to keep your kids rear-facing as long as possible, even if their legs appear to be too long. Here is an article that changed my mind.”
If you feel you must speak up about something, fine. But we don’t need to be nasty to someone because they haven’t learned something yet or because they have arrived at a different conclusion. The rudeness is getting hard to stomach.
Life is tough enough for all of us. The world has enough cynics and critics. Be someone’s light in a dark world. I guarantee you that encouragement is far more productive than sanctimony. You can persuade others without badgering them. If you have to choose between being “right” and being kind, choose kindness. You’ll never regret being kind. Golden rule, y’all. It still applies today. That mom in the trench needs your help, not your criticism.
Before you go, be sure to find me on Facebook and share this post with a mama who needs this. Also, are you a mom who is feeling burnt out? Try the 30 Day Wellness Challenge.
Gotcha! You’ve entered a judgement free zone. This isn’t about parenting styles or choices. It’s about how to be good to yourself in this tough season of life. Here are 6 things you’re doing wrong as a mom.
I bet you saw this title and immediately thought I was about to judge you! I took a chance, knowing that the title of this post would turn people off right away. As you’ll see, that’s not what this post is about. This post is a loving reminder about being good to yourself. If there is anything we do wrong in motherhood it’s being overly harsh and critical with ourselves. We neglect ourselves far too often.
6 Things You’re Doing Wrong As a Mom
Y’all, I can be totally guilty of this. With all the things we have on our plates it’s so easy to put ourselves last. But you need balance in your life. You need a little fun, rest or relaxation. Sometimes just a couple of hours away is all you need. Mom burnout is a real thing. You can’t take care of your family well, if you’re depleted.
Taking care of yourself, needs to be as important as any doctor’s appointment or school function. It means planning ahead and scheduling time with yourself. I’ve already learned if I wait for it to happen it never will. It doesn’t matter how you spend that time. Maybe you take a long bubble bath or have a girl’s night with friends. Maybe it’s dinner and shopping trip alone or an evening at the gym. Just spend it doing something that recharges you and brings you joy. For ideas, take a look at my 30 Day Wellness Challenge.
Neglecting Your Marriage
Just as important as taking care of yourself is taking care of your marriage. We have a tendency to put kids first. That’s not a bad thing. But we have to remember to lovingly feed our marriage. If you don’t feed it, it will starve. I’ve always said that relationships are like bank accounts. When you are constantly making deposits, withdraws are easier to make. Withdraws are anything that subtracts from your marriage like occasional long hours at work or maybe some constructive “feedback.” Keep your marriage in the black. When you marriage is in the red it is strained and small withdraws can cause major upsets and fights. Hard times are easier to have when you are connected with your spouse.
This also includes making time for intimacy and sex. Yup…I’m going there. Sorry, me-maw! Girl, I know how hard it can be. You’ve been dealing with work and kids all day and the last thing you may want to do is “put out!” Haha! I know! Sometimes after a full day of being a human jungle gym the last thing I want is to be touched some more. But staying physically and emotionally close to your partner, really needs to take front and center stage. It gives your babies security and keeps your family strong. For ideas on small ways to connect, read my posts 25 Questions to Reconnect With Your Spouse and Easy Cheap Date Nights At Home
Failing to Share Responsibility
Look, I get it. I really do. Sometimes…well, most of the time, it is so much easier to just to just do things yourself. Rather than listening to grumbling, whining, and complaining from a husband and kids it’s just easier to be the martyr and get it done. If you have control issues, you may even feel the only way it will get done right is by tackling it on your own.
However, two things happen when you do that. One, you shoulder the entire responsibility of household management which can lead to you having no time for yourself resulting in Mom Burnout. Secondly, your children miss out on developing vital life skills. I’m always amazed at how many women today can’t sew a button or cook something from scratch. It’s simply because they were never taught. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way, I’m simply trying to illustrate that we lose generational skills and traditions when we fail to teach our children. Keep in mind, if you don’t teach your child, they can’t teach their kids. In my next post, I’ll share 100 Life Skills To Teach Your Child. Giving your child consistent responsibility not only builds character, but it prepares them for life. Be a little selfish – delegate!
Not Having a Mom Tribe
Okay, full disclosure. As I write this, I don’t have a mom tribe. I had one for a long while and I can honestly say it was the happiest time of my mom life so far. Then I hit a rough patch. I was struggling personally and I didn’t feel the support I used to feel. Kids were getting older and some moms had moved on once kids were in school. Others had literally moved away. For many reasons I began to question if I had outgrown my group. I still occasionally go, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s been a year since I made the very hard to decision to take a break. I don’t consider it to be a mistake, but I also feel like this year was incredibly hard doing mom life on my own.
There was no one to talk to for advice or empathy. I miss laughing and going out with friends. This dry season has taught me just how important it is to have a mom tribe. It doesn’t matter if you work or stay at home. You need some women in your life who “get you.” These days, there are lots of ways to find them – work, church, school, Facebook groups, Meetup groups, MOPS, etc. It’s scary at first to make new friends and you’ll probably have to go a few times before you feel comfortable. You may even need to go to a few groups to find one you jive with. That’s okay. Just get out and make some friends in the same stage of life as you. Don’t worry. I’m starting to get out there too!
Trying to Be Perfect
If you read this blog regularly you’ll know, I’m a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism can be really dangerous to your mental health. It’s also just a way to cover up insecurities. Goals are good and so is pushing yourself to do better. But some of us take it to an extreme and find ourselves crushed if we can’t meet our perceived standards.
The worse part about perfectionism is that it spills over to other people. We can begin to impose standards and expectations on family members and friends. It can turn into sanctimony and the judgement of others and nobody wants to feel judged.
Remember be kind and merciful to yourself. Give yourself room for growth and learning by extending grace to yourself on a regular basis. It will be good for you and your relationships. It has taken me a long time to learn that people don’t identity with perfectionism. They identify with flaws.
Okay, mama. This is a big one and I am guilty when it comes to this too. Mom guilt. It’s a real thing. It’s the sister of “trying to be perfect.” There are all kinds of things for which to feel guilty. Maybe you’re a working mom and you feel guilty that you don’t spend enough time with your kids. Maybe you feel guilty that you are overly harsh with your kids. Perhaps you feel guilty that you can’t keep up with your house or chores. The list is endless.
Guilt is a cognitive and emotional experience felt after a moral, personal, or universal standard isn’t met (accurate or not). Guilt is designed to be our moral compass to show us we’ve done something wrong. Shame and guilt are intended to be useful tools used to help convict us to do better. But something happens when it gets out of balance and it turns into excessive guilt. Feeling overly guilty can turn into self-condemnation and can lead our thoughts into very dark places. We may begin to feel unworthy of good things or happiness. It can lead to situational depression and unwarranted self-abuse. Remember, be compassionate with yourself.
Here are some steps to help:
Tell yourself you’ll do better next time
Remind yourself it was a learning experience and hindsight is always 20/20
Consider whether or not the situation was even within your control
Speak compassionately to yourself
Consider if your standards or ideals may be too high or rigorous
Remind yourself you are human and perfectionism isn’t possible
Before You Go
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