Yet Another Parenting Debate…

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I wasn’t sure how to title this blog. I’m not sure how I will approach this blog. I wasn’t sure whether I would even write this blog. But these thoughts are swirling through my head and I need to get them out. So here I go.

This whole Adrian Peterson thing has once again started a social media frenzy of people weighing in on spanking. I’ve read a lot of articles. Spanking is child abuse. Spare the rod spoil the child. It makes my head hurt. Apparently we’re all experts here. We all have psychology degrees and know what’s best for everyone else. Also, we apparently have to choose a side on this. We’re either supposed to declare unequivocally that spanking is wrong and a form of child abuse…or that if you don’t spank you are indulgent and spoil your kids. I will let you know right now…I fall under neither camp (or either camp…whatever. My grammar has always sucked eggs. Whatever that means.)

I could tell you my thoughts and defend a side. I could point out that reacting to a child hitting by turning around and hitting them back seems like nonsense and illogical. I could point out how most kids turn out well-rounded and respectful without ever receiving a spanking. I could also turn around and point out that no..I don’t spank my husband. But I also don’t put him in time out, ground him, or discipline him. That yelling at kids can also be abuse but that doesn’t mean to avoid abuse we would never talk to our kids. Or that hitting itself isn’t hurtful…it’s my sons favorite form of affection (he will walk up to me, tell me he loves me, and give me a good “love punch”). But we’ve all heard it all. Back and forth and back we go. We keep trying to show that we’re good parents by the form of discipline we choose.

Which brings us to the crux of all my thoughts. I think the truth is soooooo much more difficult than what style of parenting we choose (yes, I do believe spanking is a form of discipline and not abuse. No, I don’t begrudge those who think differently…you are entitled to your opinion and undoubtably have well thought out reasons behind it. Yes, that was probably a run-on sentence but I refer to my “grammar sucks eggs” comment). The truth is more difficult to define, and more difficult to achieve. Abuse is so much more than an action. It is created by who you are as a parent. It is created by the environment you have made, the love (or lack of love) you show. It’s created by your heart. It’s easy and safe to declare to yourself (and maybe others) that I’m a good parent because I’ve never yelled. Because I don’t spank. Because I do spank. Because I’ve followed the rules I’ve chosen. But what environment have you created is really what is essential.

My example…I was spanked as a child. I’m not justifying spanking by using the old anecdotal “I was spanked and turned out fine”. It’s not just that I turned out fine. It’s that growing up, my home was the only place where I felt truly safe. School, even church, were filled with those who were mean or cruel. But my home was my safe haven. Spanking didn’t create or destroy that safe haven. My parents were the ones to create that haven, through their day to day patience and love for me. They were open with me. I could tell them things and not worry about anger or extreme reactions. I knew that every single time my dad got mad at me that 10 minutes later he would be knocking on the door and hugging me. I had always done something that deserved his anger, but received his love and comfort…every single time. It even became a problem because when I got married I would get angry at my husband for not coming to me when I was upset. Because my dad had been so good at that. My mom was patient…constantly and consistently there for me. When things went bad she defended me. She talked about the difficult topics and didn’t shy away from them. In short, I don’t remember much about their discipline style. I just remember how my home felt. The joy and sorrow that were openly shared with each other. I just remember feeling safe in a way I’ve only ever experienced with my husband since leaving home.

So I don’t care if you spank or if you don’t. I do care about who you are and what you are to your children. What environment to you create? I’ve read comments about people saying spanking turned their home into a place of fear. I would say that it wasn’t the spankings that did that. I’ve seen similar environments where spanking wasn’t used…but emotional abuse was. Or even emotional distance. I’ve seen parents who have turned spanking into abuse. Who have created a reign of terror in their home. They are abusing their kids. It’s easier to say that you are a good or bad parent based on a certain discipline style. It is so much harder to actually address your heart. Why are you disciplining you child? Why do you react the way you do? To actually pause and think and pray over your decisions.

I will be going back to avoiding Facebook. Because to be honest, when I read other people telling me how to parent, I have discovered a troubling trend. When I react to situations…it is now with the thought of how it would look to other people. No longer do I think of my child and their needs, or God and what he is guiding me to do. My home is much more peaceful and full of joy when I only include two other people in the decisions of my children. God and my husband. I will continue to pray each day that God would shape me and my husband into parents that make our home a haven. A home that gives my children a glimpse of what heaven and the fellowship there will be like.

I respectfully request that you refrain from debate in the comments section about spanking. Whether you are for or against it, those comments will be deleted. I’m not technologically literate enough to figure out how to disable comments at this point (and just a tad bit lazy) so I’ll be doing this the old-fashioned way and trusting you. Thanks.

Treasure these moments

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My mind has been a whirlwind of thoughts lately. Spending 80 hours driving in a car with three small ones probably didn’t help matters. But recently life seems to have been going in fast forward. I would just like to hit the pause button just for a minute. Just to take a moment to soak in these moments of my three little ones.

Now, here’s the thing. I get really irked when people tell me to treasure these moments before their gone. Wait, let me elaborate. I don’t dislike the advice, except it seems to be spouted to me at the worst times. No one says it to me when my kids are giggling and squealing as they tickle each other, or wrap their little arms around me to give me hugs and kisses. It is always at those difficult moments. I once had King Toot in full melt down mode punch Urpling in the head so that she started wailing…while I was in the check out line trying to pay for food and grab bags of stuff to put back in the cart. I gave an exasperated sigh and the little old lady waiting in line behind me told me to treasure these moments as they fly by. I promptly assured her that I did treasure moments with my kids…just not these moments. I stand by that. I’m no expert and my kids aren’t grown so I cannot say definitively, but I’m willing to go out on a limb with this and say certain moments will not be missed. Never peeing alone, trying to take a prison shower before Chernobyl erupts in the living room over a bent up card from a game we no longer have, cooking every night only to watch three little beings poke at it for an hour claiming to not be hungry even though just ten minutes earlier was pleading for gold fish or cookies because they were SOOOOOOOOOO hungry…these moments are not something I will cherish. I’m fairly certain that the passing of these moments, never to return, are the silver lining to help ease the pain of your children slowly growing more and more independent and needing us less and less (that and grand babies. I’m pretty sure grand babies are a good salve on the wound of our children leaving us. They are the rewards for putting our time in with our kids. Little ones to love and dote on, spoil and pamper, and then pass back to mom and dad at the end of the day. I do plan on cherishing those moments!)

These ponderings were prompted by my preparations for the coming school year. Our family has a fairly strict routine we follow. Why? Because the elaborate schedule gives me peace. Everything I need to get done in a week has a place. Since it has a place, I can let go of it and stop stressing over it the rest of the week. I digress. As I was reworking our schedule I had to adjust several things. For example, last year Sasquatch only went to half day kindergarten. So she was gone for the morning, but I got to keep her the rest of the time. But now she will be gone all day. Which really hit me when I realized that she wouldn’t need to help pick up each day…because she wouldn’t be there to make a mess. *insert a few tears and a small and delicate sniffle for dramatic effect.* No more elaborate forts. No more “decorations” to make the house pretty that consisted of whatever random toys she found coating every surface of every shelf and door knob and bed and chair. No more elaborate Calvin and Hobbes books that she drew for me. Okay, I know, she still will have the weekends and evenings to do these things but it’s a really big jump in my life. For 6 years it’s been just Sir Smiley, Me, and the kids. We occasionally made excursions into the real world but usually it was our own little world. We’ve slowly been losing that and this feels like the big moment, the end of an era. Sasquatch will be in children’s choir at church, and be with the big kids (at least they’re big in my mind), she’ll be eating multiple meals a week without me, and will be having all these experiences that have nothing to do with me.

A sudden desperation to squeeze in as much time with her as possible has seized me. She is, of course, excited to finally eat lunch at school with her friends. I’m, of course. worried that she won’t have friends, or someone will be mean to her and I won’t be there to talk her through it. I am not a worrier by nature. I don’t often cry. But this one really hit me. Kindergarten didn’t…but first grade has.

I have about two weeks to go treasure these moments…and I intend to do just that.

Dinner with a Strong willed child

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Dare I say it? My child is….strong willed. Well, that’s putting it mildly. Any time I ask him to do ANYTHING, it is an epic battle of wills that feels like it may to the death….most likely his. He once was so angry that he wasn’t allowed to crawl under the pew and grab the feet of the people behind us in church that even though he was dragged out into an empty classroom with the door closed, my hubby could still hear him. My hubby was on stage with worship band playing the keyboard at the time…with an ear piece in his ear. Let’s just say I didn’t feel close to God that Sunday.
So here we are at dinner. Everyone is doing fine and I cooked. I made chicken and potatoes and veggies and everything. I sit the girls down and tell them the potatoes are French fries and we’re ready to roll. Then I grab King Toot and, of course, he is unhappy. Of course, because I asked him to do something. Never mind that he’s been begging for food for an hour. I dared to tell him we were going to sit at the table and eat. That’s when he started his high pitched shriek. It could break glass….it does break ear drums. Now, these are a few things we have learned through trial and a massive amount of error. If I ever give in, even once, and just let him scream and ignore it….it eggs him on. He will only escalate more, and more, and more, and more. He has followed me around and pushed on the back of my knees to make me fall. He has thrown things at me, hit me, etc. If I immediately address it right then, he’ll stop. The best punishment for him is isolation. We stick him in his crib and call it “a break” and tell him we’ll check on him in a few minutes to see if he’s ready to come out. If he stands up and says sorry, he has admitted defeat and we’re good to go. He has to say sorry…not just a cease in crying is enough. Trust me, I’ve tried. I mean, I’ve TRIED! But he MUST admit defeat or this battle is not done. It’s like the white surrender flag that he waves to admit that he lost this round.
It’s exhausting. Dinner tonight I spent taking a bite, trying to have a conversation with my (at that moment) sweet girls, and then jumping up to offer him a choice between saying sorry and joining us or staying in his crib. He would just stare at me and scream louder! He was not distressed….he was pissed! I had to do this no less than 10 times. He finally said sorry, I told him what I always do…that I forgive him and I love him no matter what but that it’s not an excuse to act that way. Then he proceeded to lick the ketchup up and eat nothing else and then say “done.”. By that point I was too tired to care and let him down.

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My adorable little monster at dinner.

It’s in these moments I always truly doubt myself. I see all these articles my friends post that all basically say the same thing. They have lovely titles, like peaceful parenting, or enjoy motherhood, or loving your kids. They all recommend something along the lines of: ‘there’s no need for conflict! Let them express their frustration, offer them choices, redirect, get on their level, and as long as you talk it out respectfully to them they will respect you.’ I feel a failure because my house is so often riddled with conflict.

But then I remind myself. I taught for several years. I did those things. I know them well in fact. I use them with my daughters with great success. But they made things worse with my son. So, so, so, so much worse. This is the first big meltdown in two days (plenty of small ones, but those only required going in once or twice). It used to be seven epic meltdowns a day…minimum. He is getting better and I am calmer in dealing with him. It comes down to this: parenting is an art…not a science. There is no magic formula that will magically transform every child. For some, if they were to use the tactics I just mentioned they would have a very different response. Parenting is an art because the materials you have been given differ. Some kids are like soft clay (like Urpling) which require gentle molding…anything harsher will crush them beyond repair. Some are like my son…titanium…and must be melted at a million trillion degrees before they will bend even a little. So I just take a deep breath, dress for battle, and remind my son at the end of each day how much I love him no matter what. Because at the end of the day, I know he will grow up to be a strong leader so I just need to give him the foundation to be a good one.

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At the end of the day, how could I not love this little guy!

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Betterness Part 3: Health

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I’ll be honest here. I am not an expert in any of these areas. My dad is a doctor. My mom is a food scientist. But, unfortunately, their knowledge was not passed along to me by genetics, osmosis, or anything else. I have picked up bits and pieces from their conversations with each other…but even the vocabulary is up here *gestures with hand a foot above my head* and my understanding of what their saying is down here *lays on the floor wishing I had a basement to better illustrate the lowliness of my actual knowledge in this area*. That being said…I have been gifted with some semblance of common sense, experiences at various levels of “health”, and the random bits and pieces I’ve read along the way. So I want to impart what I’ve managed to make sense of.

Health is impossible to define. I’ve heard some people rant about needing to lose weight and others rant about how we shouldn’t strive to be so skinny. I’ve heard about the evils of eggs and the glories of eggs. The food pyramid is touted as the second coming of Jesus by some and the arrival of the antichrist by others. So it leaves most of us average joes floundering around trying to figure out what in the name of heaven above we should be doing/eating/avoiding. So here was the best thing I did. I chucked all of it out the window. Life has taught me that I’m a skeptical and cynical person. I, out of a combination of sheer mule-like stubbornness and a healthy skepticism, avoid fad diets. If you tell me you lost 13 pounds in a week, I’ll call it a pile of something stinky and back away slowly. Plus, I chucked the notion that I needed to be focused solely on losing weight. There was a scientist who decided to try losing weight through calorie deficit alone. He ate McDonalds, hostess snacks, Mac and cheese, etc but only ate about 1700-1800 calories every day. He lost weight, his cholesterol went down as did his fat percentage (you can read more about this here). But was he healthy? I would venture to guess he probably wasn’t.

After several years of working to lose weight, I finally decided health was an overall quality of life that should include activity level, eating well, and a good mental state. But even more than what I eat, I’ve noticed what I do affects everything else. When I keep a good workout routine, I feel better. I feel accomplished, happy, and thin. Nothing else needs to change, even my weight, to create this change in mood. This also means I eat better. I no longer need comfort foods to comfort me. Do I still enjoy them. Ummmm….yeah. Double yeah. Triple dog yeah. I LOVE food! But I no longer feel a NEED to eat junk. Which is a huge difference!
So, basically, I workout and it makes me feel better about myself. I feel better about myself and so I eat better. It works.

I’ve now spent just over 4 years slowly trying to improved my health. It is a journey that is far from over, and I am not to my goal yet. but I have picked up some little tricks along the way that I wanted to pass along:

count calories. I don’t think you need to weigh every last molecule. But it is amazing how knowledge is power! Knowing what it was that I put in my body helped me make better choices and weigh the consequences. There were all kinds of things I didn’t even really like but ate because they were there. But once I knew how much that was adding up, I was able to cut out the things I didn’t even like, and still enjoy the treats I did like.
get workout stuff ready the night before. It’s hard to get yourself up and doing something that (especially at first) can be unpleasant. But I found if I had already spent the 15 minutes assembling clothes, getting bottles filled, packing gym bags, etc. that it gave me the extra push out the door. I didn’t want that time and planning to be wasted.
– speaking of planning, plan out your meals for the week, and when you will be going shopping. If I have a game plan and already have the ingredients purchased, I avoid the whole, “Crap! It’s 5:00 and we only have crackers and old celery in the house and we have to be to our scheduled activity at 6:30! Guess it’s McDonald’s again…” situation.
get a good iPodish device and make a playlist for working out. Music makes the workout for me. It doesn’t even have to be rocking and loud. But it puts me in my own happy place where no children are screaming for me.
– Speaking of screaming kids, join a gym where they watch your kids. Want motivation to work out? How about people taking three small kiddos off your hands for an hour or two? Now THAT is motivation!
try new things, and often! I’m on a break from my triathlon training. So I’ve tried a spin class, Pilates class, and a Zumba class. I’ve loved them! Don’t be afraid to try new things or look dumb. These trainers are just happy to have people show up to their class! They could care less what you look like. (Also, who cares what you look like at the gym? Anyone who does is a class A douche who is only there to strut around flexing in mirrors…and trust me, everyone else there dislikes them as much as you).
do what feels right. When it comes to eating and working out, trust what works. If you cut out gluten and feel a million times better, then go for it. If you discover that it doesn’t work and you secretly binge eat because you miss all your yummy bread…then it might not be the best route for you. Try something else.

Getting healthy is a lot like parenting: everyone has an opinion, if you wait long enough someone will tell you the opposite of what you just heard, and you will feel like you’re doing it wrong if you focus on doing it “right”. Instead, just try things, see what works, and then smile and nod at any advice given after that and keep doing what you were doing. But as long as you stick with it, good things will happen!

Betterness Part 2: Weight

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So a couple days ago I posted a bit about my betterness journey. How I finally decided sitting around watching Dr. Who and eating junk was probably not the best for me or my family (shocking, I know). This whole journey really started after I had Urpling. Mainly because I gained a LOT of weight with her.

I have written about this previously so I won’t get into lengthy detail tonight. But basically, I gained about sixty pounds after I had her. Part of that was my thyroid being a douche…but part was my lifestyle. So for the first time in my life I started paying attention to what I was eating. It was shocking. Ignorance truly is bliss. I always knew this stuff wasn’t good for me…but I had no idea how bad it was in terms of calories, fat, sugar, etc. Now, I am not opposed to the yummy comfort foods. But I knew something had to change. So I joined myfitnesspal, and then decided I should start working out. When I was in middle school I started gaining weight, and stemmed the tide by joining the swim team. But this time around I had no gym membership, and no pool, so I decided to run. I registered for a half marathon as motivation…and the result was a massive weight loss. Not down to my goal weight…but I was no longer disgusted when I looked in the mirror.

Here’s what I’ve learned while trying to lose weight:
-Everyone is different. What works for one person might not for someone else. Don’t be afraid to try different things. If something doesn’t work for you that doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it just means you need to find what does.
-How I feel plays a huge part in how I look at myself. For the past couple of weeks I haven’t been working out. I gained no weight but I started to get a negative self image. But then I worked out this week and now I feel smokin’.
-It’ s a lifestyle change. I hear that a lot. It’s a nice sound bite and basically means that short cuts don’t usually work. I wanted to be able to maintain this for the rest of my life. So that meant I accepted the fact that I will probably never be someone who grows her own food, never eats sugar, and loves vegetables. But it did mean I started looking for ways to add more veggies in my diet, snacks that were proportioned so I didn’t engorge, or snacks that were healthy substitutes. It also meant I still give myself fun days. thanksgiving? I engorged until my pants were ready to burst. I did it, and felt no guilt, because my regular lifestyle has improved. If this is for life, I still want to have fun…or what’s the point?
-Small steps. Whenever I tried to changed everything at once, I lasted a week. But when I made one small change, it easily and quickly became a habit.
-Go by how you feel…not how you look. I finally had to stop weighing myself every day. I became obsessed and my mood would revolve around my weight and waist measurements. But after I get a good workout, I felt great about myself and the extra energy I got from it. This doesn’t mean you still don’t maintain goals and work towards them. But there should be a balance. This should be about your overall health…not just your weight.
-Never quit. I have bad days. I had homemade toffee for lunch…multiple times. But you accept the failure and move on.
– Don’t give excuses. If you’re overweight, you’re overweight. It’s not healthy, and it hinders from being able to enjoy life as fully as you could. I finally realized that I didn’t want to live this way, and that I deserved something better. Not only that I should lose weight, but that I COULD lose weight. I stopped blaming lack of time, lack of resources, lack of money, health issues, or genetics for my weight. That was the real turning point for me.

If you’re struggling with your weight, change it. It will be slow, long, and often frustrating. But it can be done! Just remember, you are worth the effort and sacrifice. You are beautiful, you are worthy of good health, and it’s not about looking good…it’s about having the ability to live life to the fullest.

Betterness Part 1: Self Image

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So it’s been over a month since I last wrote anything. There were a lot of factors. I was having some minor health issues that were slowly being worked out (and finally everything seems to be working properly!). Also, for the three months between October and January, every single kiddo has their birthday, as well as Halloween (which we always have a party at our house), Thanksgiving for the family at our house, Christmas, and New Years. That has kept me busy, as well as a wonderful visit from my in-laws. Finally, for three weeks in a row I had my final races of the season. So for three consecutive Sundays I had an Olympic distance triathlon, a half marathon, followed by another Olympic distance triathlon. Did I mention I got a nasty head cold right after my half marathon…only to then develop Strep Throat on top of that the day before my final race? That final race I performed with a head cold and strep throat. So basically, in a nut shell, I’ve been busy, and the ol’ blog here took a back seat for a while.

I have been in a four year struggle with my health, weight, and self image. It’s been a long and slow journey…and I’m still not where I want to be. But I did these three fairly difficult races all in a row and I succeeded…and it has left me excited to see what the future will bring next. So I figure I will kick off these next set of blogs with my random thoughts on these areas…health, weight, and self image. (If you, for some inexplicable reason, want more detail on my slow journey to betterness…I have included links to three different blogs I have written since King Toot was born that talk about different aspects of my journey. You’ll find them at the bottom of this post.)

Tonight I’m going to start with self image. I do not consider myself an athlete. I never have. I swam on my swim team all through high school and even made sectionals several years in a row, and never felt like an athlete. I worked hard, trained hard, and that was that. I have always felt too tall, too gangly, too heavy, and definitely too accident prone to be an athlete (as proof, I ran into the side view mirror to my car today and have a nice big bruise to show for it. Sir Smiley has banned me from ever going on the roof or other high places for fear I will fall in some epic way…to my certain death). When I first started attempting to train for my first half marathon, I bought a decent pair of shoes, and that was it. I never bothered with types of training methods, drills, sprints, cruise intervals, hills, etc. I didn’t get any sportswear, or fancy gadgets. I had an iPod my hubby had won for me years ago in a raffle…it was the kind with the big circular button and the old school black and gray screen. I had to hold it in my hand. I didn’t bother with food nutrition or, as the sporties call it, fuel. That stuff was for athletes…which I was not. It wasn’t until I started reading The Triathlete’s Training Bible that my perspective started to change. I set up an annual training plan, and then actually started following it. I realized that fuel wasn’t just for athletes, it was to keep your body going when it works for long periods of time…no matter what you look like or how fast you are. I started trying different things, GU gels, accelerade, Gatorade, GU chomps, stinger waffles, cliff bars, protein drinks, etc. I found what I liked and started to improve.

The best part of tracking your workouts, is seeing what you’ve accomplished at the end. The author, Joe Friel, encourages the use of a training log. (no..I am not being paid to endorse his book. I just think his book is freaking amazeballs! It has transformed the way I think about myself and how I approach my workouts.) I tracked all my hours and distances that I did throughout the year. He compares training to climbing a mountain. You make a plan, and follow it as best you can…making adjustments for weather, health, terrain, etc. If you stick with it, you’ll reach the top, look back, and see how far you’ve come. That is what I experienced. Forget weight loss or pant sizes…I felt real success. Not only did I complete my first Olympic triathlon, I completed three of them. I dropped 24 minutes in 3 months worth of training from my first to my final Tri. I dropped 21 minutes off my best time in a half marathon. But even more awesome was the improvement off my last half marathon. I completed it six months after King Toot was born. It was awful. My lungs and heart were fine, but my joints and muscles were aching so bad that it slowed me down to a walk. I felt like a thin person trapped in a fat person’s body and I cried for the last two miles while Sir Smiley tried to encourage me along. I dropped 40 minutes off of that time. It was a feeling of redemption! Then I look at my total training. I swam for 2133 minutes, biked for 2293 minutes, and ran 3112 minutes for a total of almost 153 hours. I swam 47.5 miles, biked 1370 miles, and ran 240 miles for a total of 1657.5 miles. I feel amazing looking at that.

I am the the poster girl for “if I can do it…anyone can.”. I couldn’t even jog half a block when I started. I felt slow, awkward, and jiggly. The chafing….oh the chafing! Body Glide quickly became my thigh’s best friend, I ran at night so people wouldn’t be able to see me as clearly. I was also 40 pounds heavier. I knew nothing about running or biking, and it had been years since I had really been swimming. But I look at what I accomplished, and I want only one thing…for others to experience that feeling too. Nothing beats it. It doesn’t have to be triathlons (but I will say, triathletes are the most amazing, welcoming, and friendly people). But find a sport you really can get passionate about. Don’t worry what other people think. Research, read, and…most importantly…keep track. Keep track, so you can look back at what you’ve accomplished and get that same exhilaration…whether it’s your first 5K or an Ironman. Be proud that you did it!

Next time: weight…duh duh duh (say that in your head as an ominous interlude)

Reference 1: My thyroid problems: Click Here

Reference 2: My post on triathlons…which includes links to previous posts about triathlons. So my basic athletic journey: Click Here

Reference 3: My post on eating well as connected with weight loss: Click Here

Stay at Home Moms vs Working Moms

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Hmmm…a blog like this could be one of two things…insightful or inciteful (or maybe both). I was one of those moms who read the blog post by Matt Walsh about stay at home moms. He’s a bit harsher than I would be, but I found nothing all that heinous in his post. But many of the commenters did. It seemed some felt he was personally insulting working moms and also dads. The whole war waging in the comments section got me thinking about this mommy war. My thoughts have been all over the map so it’s been difficult to pull them together in something even remotely followable (which is unfortunately quite normal for me…just ask my husband).
Introductions for these kinds of touchy subjects set the tone for how someone will read the rest of your blog so this is what I want to lead with (of course I’m already a paragraph in, but I actually haven’t said much of anything yet, so apparently I’m good at wasting time. This oughta be good.) Question: Do you love your kids? Another question: Do they know you love them? If you answered yes to both of these, you’re a good parent. Enough said. I don’t need to know anything else…whether you cosleep, cry it out, nurse, formula feed, eat McDonald’s drive through every night, or feed your children food you grew or slaughtered yourself. YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT!!! Have I drilled it in yet? Do we sufficiently grasp the concept? Well, either way I’m moving on.
My first thought in all of this was on mommy wars themselves. I have rarely been insulted about my parenting choices to my face. I may get a condescending look on occasion. But they are relatively easy to ignore (I just rant about them on my blog later). But no one comes up to me and tells me that I mutilated my son because we circumcised him, or that my bean pole kids will be obese because I gave them formula. No, that only happens online. Where the other person doesn’t have to see the face of the person they’re talking too. They don’t even have to humanize the other person at all so they can vent out all their frustrations at their choices freely without any hindrance of common respect and courtesy. This is what fuels the mommy wars in general, the SAHM (stay at home mom) vs working mom war is no exception.
Another problem is how different the two experiences are. Working versus staying home are very different. They both have their own rewards and challenges. SAHMs have more time. We get the whole day to complete basic chores, and still have time for helping in lots of other ways. We have flexible schedules (barring kids school and extra-curricular activities). I never miss the big moments in my kid’s lives (well…rarely. We won’t talk about how King Toot decided to take his first steps at the airport for everyone else while I was retrieving luggage. Even though I spend all day, every day with him!) Having more energy and time for my kids, more energy and time for my hubby, and time to pursue my own hobbies also top the list for me. But working moms get actual bathroom breaks. They need not fear that if they go into that bathroom, one coworker will hit the other coworker with a bat while a third one comes in to watch you and keep you company. My daughter yesterday brought in all her stuffed animals one by one while I was pooping to keep me company. She lined them up against the wall to all stare at me. That wasn’t creepy or anything. I sometimes would give my left arm to shower or poop or pee without fear that the house will be on fire when I finish. Also, working moms have more validation. Not because people think less of me for staying home, but because at work…out in the real world… you interact with other adults. People see when you do your job well. When I taught, I had parents requesting me, gifts from students, and PTA members gushing over me. Then I stayed home. I have three little ones who can barely say thank you, and then my husband (my hubby is great, but he’s just one guy and he kind of has to be nice. I cook his food.). My first valentines day I got nothing from my hubby. I had always gotten nothing but hadn’t noticed before because my students had always brought things in and basically covered his butt. Since the they are like two different worlds with different challenges and rewards, to try and say one is more important than the other is impossible. Mathmatically. I’m sure Sheldon from Big Bang Theory would agree with me.
My other thought was about how we view what makes someone important. In our culture, you or only important if you’re “busy”. Not busy doing small things either….it’s the busy that’s always running around, always doing something, never stopping. If you aren’t busy, you aren’t important. This is where the crux of the difficulty between SAHM and working moms comes to play. Often, in an attempt to prove their importance, SAHM put forth a martyr complex. They work very hard to portray how busy they are. How slammed with chores and errands and volunteering they are and this is what makes them important. It can often come across as a woe is me attitude. Bahumbug I say. Don’t ever feel sorry for me. I’m happy, and quite content with my choices. I have been caught in this trap of business too many times and it’s time to break this vicious cycle! Being busy doesn’t make you more important. It just makes you more tired. I chose to stay at home because I wanted to be less busy. I wanted plenty of time to spend with my kids, to maintain the home, and to maintain healthy relationships with my hubby, kids, and friends (not to mention myself) without running myself into the ground. This isn’t to say that when you stay at home that you aren’t busy. You are. But you’re busy with things you chose to do. I train 6-8 hours a week for triathlons, run the preschool area of our church, lead a bible study, teach in our church’s AWANA program, and am on the PTO board. I do stay busy, but it’s all stuff I wanted and chose to do to be helpful to my community. I LOVE it! I can do all that, and still have time to play games with my kids, read them stories, listen to them sing, go for walks and to the park, and have time for my hubby too. It’s fantastic. So no, I never want to make someone pity me for how hard I’m working in order to gain their respect. I want their respect because of the love and energy I pour into my kids to make them amazing little people. I want them to respect me because I made a choice that was best for my family. I want validation just like everyone else.
Which brings me to my next thought. Most of the moms who were insulted, were working moms. Why were they insulted? Because in his praise of moms who stay home, they felt that their choices were being invalidated. All any of us want, no matter where we fall in life, is for people to see our hard work, all our sacrifices, all our accomplishments and respect us for it. They felt that had been taken away from them. The truth is, no matter what you end up choosing, sacrifices will be made. Matt Walsh said that staying home was ideal. I agree. But before you jump down my throat with anger and vengeance, let me explain. For your kid, no one is better than you. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING!! Perhaps it is better put this way: You are so amazing, so wonderful, and so perfect for your child that no one else will ever compare. Don’t you see? No one will love your kid like you, be pierced through the heart when they cry, or melt when they hug you like you will. No one. You are their ideal. But we do not live in an ideal world. Every situation has an ideal, and sometimes you have to sacrifice one ideal in order to keep the other ideal. Like, for example, the ideal of being able to eat every day versus the ideal of staying home with your kids so they get more of you. One ideal probably trumps the other and for some that is the choice they have to make. In an ideal world, our kids would never scrape a knee, get sick, be bullied, have their heartbroken, or run away. But these things may happen. It doesn’t make us bad parents, it just means we live in a broken and unfair world where we have to choose what ideals are more important. Health insurance, getting out of the house for a few hours each week so that you don’t go insane, paying off debt, all come into play. Breast feeding is another good example. I firmly believe breast feeding is ideal for your child for at least a year if not longer. Ask me how many kids I was able to do that for? (Hint- it rhymes with zero). Other ideals came into play, and I made my choice. I still believe breast feeding is the ideal, but for the family as a whole I had to make some tough decisions between ideals. So basically, it’s one thing to say that staying home with your kid is ideal…which it is. It’s another thing to say you are a bad mom (or dad…hate to leave them out!) if you don’t.
Basically, we all make sacrifices. We all look at our choices and options and then choose based on what’s best for our families. I have many working mom friends whom I respect highly. One works opposite hours from her husband. They sacrificed time together so they could pay the bills and still be their for their kids. That’s fantastic! I have a friend who is a supervisor but is considering asking to be demoted so she’ll be able to come home earlier and be less stressed. She wants her kids to get more of her, and a higher quality her. That is true sacrifice. I have a friend who works from home two days a week. Not because it’s easier (don’t make me laugh!) but because she wants to have has much time with her little boy as she can. They are all fantastic moms and their kids are so incredibly fortunate to have them! So how about we stop trying to figure out who’s more important and instead suck it up. Embrace our choices instead of regretting or resenting them. Live purposefully. But most of all, take time to tell other moms that we see the sacrifice they make…whether at work or at home…and commend them for it.