Family 2015

Family 2015

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One For the Dads.

A neighbor of mine posted a link to a new movie coming out that's called "What to Expect When You're Expecting."  It brought one word to my mind.  OFFENSIVE.

Seriously, if society expects women to be the perfect parent, it equally expects men to be bumbling idiots in that area.  It's a stereotype that needs to be retired.  We have learned that women can be just as effective as men in the workplace and now it's time to admit that men can be just as effective as women with the children.

I live across the street from two very capable stay at home dads.  I see them doing all the things a stay at home mom would do.  I see them playing outside and taking walks.  I see them managing to get their kids in the car and go places.  I don't actually see what goes on inside the house, but I do see their children being dressed, obviously well-fed and cared for and looking pretty damn happy.  Also, both of the dads still look exactly like men.  Imagine that.

This might sound hypocritical coming from someone who has been a stay at home Mom for the last 15 years, but let me explain why it isn't.  I have been a stay at home Mom by choice, not because it was some mold I was expected to fit into.  My husband has been very supportive of this and is now equally supportive of the fact that I'm going back to school and will eventually have a job outside of the home.  He also hasn't used the fact that I'm a stay at home Mom as an excuse not to be a parent.  He is just as able as I am to care for our children and has never given me the feeling that what I'm doing is "women's work."

When I was pregnant with our 4th child, I had a condition called placenta previa.  Basically, my placenta attached down too low and was covering my cervix.  This is very dangerous for obvious reasons.  From 20 weeks on, I was being very closely monitored and at 27 weeks, I had a pretty big bleed.  It was 2 days after Christmas and our girls were already asleep for the night.  My Mom came to sit with them while Nic took me to the hospital.  The verdict was, strict bedrest until our son was born. (With this condition, once you have the "really big bleed," you have 5 minutes to get the baby out - whey they say "strict," they're not messing around).  We both knew there was no way I would be able to stay on strict bedrest while trying to care for our 6, 4 and 1 1/2 year old daughters.  So, I stayed in the hospital until Carter was born...on February 18th.

Yes, you read that right.  I was in the hospital for 56 nights.  The entire time I was there, Nic worked full time AND took care of our 3 girls. (Yes, he did have some help from family and friends, but he was on the clock all the time).  He fed them.  He bathed them.  He put their mattresses in our bedroom and they slept in there so they could feel secure while I was gone. He even took them to their dance classes.  Also, there were only a handful of days that he didn't put all 3 of them in the van (in the middle of the winter) and drag them up to the hospital to see me. Bumbling?  Incompetent?  Hardly.

So, here is to all the dads who feel irritated and frustrated by society's image of them.  Don't worry what "they" think.  We know the truth.  And we think you're awesome.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

15 years ago...

I was about 2 months away from becoming a Mom for the first time.  When I think back to that time, it feels like it was almost another life.  So many things have happened since then (not the least of which has been my becoming a Mom 4 more times) and I have grown so much as a person that I almost don't recognize the me of way back then.

One thing you don't count on as a first time parent is that your own personal growth and change will affect the way you parent.  I have been blessed, very blessed indeed, to have been a stay at home mom for this last decade and a half.  I would not trade, for anything, the privilege of having been the sole care giver for my children.  But, the last 15 years have also added some thoughts to my brain that maybe weren't there yet when I was 24.

I couldn't see, back then, that there would come a time in my life that the kids would all be in the process of growing, not be as needy and demanding as babies and toddlers can be, and that I would once again have the time to think my own thoughts.  I couldn't see that part of what I was doing was helping them to get to the point that they would be increasingly more independent.

I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean to imply that I think my kids no longer need me.  No indeed.  I know that's not true, but the physically demanding part has lightened up considerably.  This year, they were all in school and even though it was only half days for Pierce, it was the first time since 1997 that I could count on some time to myself each day.

And I realized that somewhere along the way, I have done a lot of growing up.

My vision of life and the world has been expanded.

I've come to understand that although I still have a long ways to go, there will come a time when my kids will be grown and have their own lives.

And when that time comes, I am not the kind of person who will be happy passing my time at the gym and salon.

How could I be?  How could I go from doing what I feel is one of the most important jobs on the planet to doing not much?  I won't be able to.  So, it's back to school I go.

I'm quite certain that this will be a very long road for me.  I have maybe 10 college credits to my name and what I'm after will require a Masters.  Also, I have these 5 amazing children and this great husband and I have no intention of being so busy that I'm unavailable to them. But, I am going to get started.  I am going to commence with "baby steps" and "eating the elephant one bite at a time" and all of that.  I am going to embrace the beginning of a new season.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Myth of Super-Mommery

I feel like my head is about to explode with this today.  There is a lot in the old brain that I want to get out, so this may take a few days, but I hope you read and comment and consider what I'm going to talk about because it is a real problem.

There is no such thing as a super Mom.

It's interesting that the reason I started blogging in the first place always comes back around.  I think it's because it is such a huge issue in our society that I often feel like we're all held captive by it.  When I see the pressures that Moms put on themselves it makes me want to curl up and cry for them.  Or slap them.  Who has convinced us that we must Do It All?  That we, in fact, are able to Do It All?  That it is good for our kids if we Do It All?

I, for whatever reason, have always had a pretty clear picture of my limitations.  I don't mean that to sound like I am down on myself.  I'm not.  I just generally know what I can and can't do.  I can get up early and be pleasant and help pack lunches and get my kids off to school.  I can't put on a happy face and read stories and be cuddly and wonderful past 8:00 at night.  My kids got a morning bird for a Mom, that is just the way it is.  Will this mean they need therapy when they are older?  No.

I can make sure that everyone has clean clothes.  I can't make sure that they are always folded and put away.  Will digging through a laundry basket for socks make them feel uncared for?  No.  I can cook dinner.  I can't be Rachel Ray.  I can help with English homework.  I can't help with science homework.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I can only be who I am.  It is not necessary for me to morph into some sort of demi-god in order to be a "good" mother.  Indeed, a mother is just a person who has produced an offspring, not a savior. 

I try my very best to do what I think is best for my kids, and that is all that I can do.  It is self-defeating and a little bit crazy to think that the littlest thing I might do or say wrong in a day has the capacity to ruin my child.  Please, please, don't drive yourself crazy trying to make every decision into "right" or "wrong" or to elevate everything in a child's life to the level of life or death importance.

Yesterday, we were getting ready to go for a walk and the boys were wearing their superhero outfits.  They went outside first while I was getting my shoes on and finding the dog's leash.  A few minutes later, Carter came dashing into the house in a frenzy and grabbed a pair of scissors.  Nic followed him out.  Pierce had hopped onto his bike and taken off like a rocket only to be stopped short by his batman cape getting all wound up in his bike tire.  He was crying and gagging and his lip was bleeding and Carter was valiantly headed out with a pair of very sharp scissors to cut the cape.  Off of his brother's neck. 

This is the stuff of modern-day Mommy nightmares.  I could almost hear the accusing questions and comments flying at me through the atmosphere.  "Why didn't he know he shouldn't wear his cape on a bike? (and, by the way, where is his helmet???")  "How could you let him run out like that without knowing what he was up to?" "His brother is running with scissors??"  "I knew 5 kids were too many, look at what has happened because there's not enough of you to go around!!"  "A good Mom would never have let that happen!!"

It was enough to make me cry, but then, I laughed.  Laughed my head off.  Because I am just a Mom, not a Savior.  I do not possess the ability to control every little thing that happens to my kids.  I do not have the gift of foreknowledge.  I don't have a special hook to hang the dog leash on so that we never have to look for it, AND because Pierce was fine.  And it was funny.

Pierce didn't need me to stop that from happening.  He needed me to pick him up and hug him and wipe the blood off of his lip.  He needed me to say, "It's ok, buddy.  You really shouldn't wear your cape while you ride your bike, but you're going to be fine."

Just be who you are, Moms (and Dads), that's what your kids need.  They need someone to help them swim, not someone to part the waters.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why We Do What We Do.

So, I've been involved in an online conversation this morning and it got me to thinking.  The conversation was actually about "homeschooling," but all I could think about was "motive."

Seriously.  I really do think that why we do things is equally as important, maybe sometimes more important than what we actually do.  If I do something (like homeschooling) because I feel it is expected of me, because I worry about what others think, because I am afraid; but my heart is not really in it - I would argue that is a bad choice.

One of the measures of growing up is learning to trust yourself and be ok with who you are as an individual.  Isn't this one of those things that teenagers constantly struggle with?  Don't we, as parents, continually come against the "herd mentality?"  Can't we be heard to say things like, "Well, if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that too??"  Yes.

So, doesn't it follow then that if we're still making sure all of our friends are ok with our choices when we're 40 that we might still have some growing up to do?

I am not at all trying to say that we should never seek another's advice or procure opinions.  Of course we should.  But, I am saying that when we feel strongly about something, we need to have the ability to follow our own heart and not the crowd.

I'll use myself as an example.

We have 5 kids.  I have always known that I wanted a big family, and it is one thing that my husband and I have agreed on since we started talking about marriage.  There have been times (many actually), when the "wisdom" of us having several children has been questioned, and I'm sure that from the outside looking in it hasn't always looked like a smooth road that we're walking.

Luckily, the only other opinion that has ever mattered to me on that score has been my husband's (and God's of course).  I have never questioned our choice no matter how difficult it may have been along the way.  Kennedy, Reagan, McKinley, Carter, Pierce...I can't imagine not having one or two or three of them and I'm really glad that I was grown up enough to not stop having children when it made other people comfortable.

I'm really glad that I homeschooled when I did, and I'm also really glad that I was grown up enough at some point to realize that even if a lot of my friends felt strongly about it being "the way" for a Christian to educate their chldren, that I didn't share that conviction. 

I'm really glad that I have been able to be a stay at home Mom for all of these years, and I'm also really glad that I am grown-up enough to admit now that I like my part-time job.  To realize that taking care of me and doing things that feed my soul actually make me a better Mom.

I want this for my kids.  I know they have a lot of growing yet to do and that there will be some bumps along the way, but I pray they are learning to trust themselves little by little.  I pray that they will be courageous enough to give the world what only they can give.