The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

Family is so important. Being a military brat has taught me that family is not always the people you grew up with or have a blood connection with. A lot of the people in my life now that I call family I’m not even related to but I have either known them most of my life via the military or they’ve come into my life during a crutial period and we developed a strong familial bond. Growing up military and marrying into the military I have a slew of aunts and uncles scattered all over the world; people I haven’t seen since I was a child but I still call them aunt or uncle. My kids have the same connections with people that they’ve known all of their lives that they call aunt or uncle with cousins attached.

I think because of the experiences I’ve had with having so many people in our lives not be actual relatives but become “actual” relatives it opened my mind up and allowed me to be more open to certain situations in my life. If you’ve read some of my previous blogs you’ll know that I am divorced and remarried. One of the toughest situations in divorce is when your spouse moves on and brings another person into your children’s lives. It is not an easy process and there are a lot of mixed emotions. Sometimes it depends on the circumstances of the situation and other times it could be personalities that clash but my situation didn’t start off on the right foot. I had no desire to meet or get to know the person that my ex had brought into my children’s lives. This was part immaturity on my part and there was still alot of pain that I was trying to work myself through. Many times my ex husband brought forward the recommendation of us meeting and building some type of report under the premise of if something happened to him he wanted to insure that the children stayed in touch. I would always respond that won’t be a problem. I would never keep the girls away from their brother. I think it was easier for my ex and his wife to want to open the lines of communication because they were both products of divorce and I was not. I did not understand why it was even necessary for me to talk to his wife as long as I could communicate with him. As long as she was kind to my children, communicating with her wasn’t necessary for me.

Over time, as God began to work on me, I started to see things differently. I started to grow and learn more about myself. I started moving forward and I stopped operating out of a place of pain and anger. Most importantly, I stopped thinking about what wasn’t necessary for me but more so what was necessary for my kids. I still had a great relationship with my in laws and would still go and visit. This meant that there would be times where I would have to share space or be in the same area as my ex and his wife. Initially this was uncomfortable but over time the more I saw them and spoke to her the easier it became to continue to speak to her. We would see each other during drop offs for summer or the holidays and these moments also further increased my openness to learning more about the person that was aiding in raising our daughters.

By the time I met my husband I had gotten into a much better head space. I was able to directly communicate with the girls stepmom and even sometimes preferred communicating with her over my ex! (Who would’ve thunk it?!). But getting married again further opened me up to the importance of building relationship with the girls stepmom. I further saw the value in it because once again I removed myself and my feelings from the situation and focused more on what was best for the children. Not only that I further understood my ex husbands position when he wanted me and his wife to get along. I wanted him and my husband to get along as well.  I also found myself thinking how blessed are my children that they have two sets of parents? It doesn’t seem like a blessing initially because they are going back and forth between two homes, with separate sets of rules and expectations but really it is. They have two rooms full of stuff, they often recieve lots of gifts at Christmas not just because of us parents but the grandparents they’ve inherited and other family members that send them gifts.  They get to go to places like disney and other theme parks in Florida sometimes twice a year because they get two separate family vacations. But the most important thing is the amount of love they recieve from all parties involved; people who want the best for them and want to see them succeed in life.

Too often I have seen relationships fall apart and the parents can’t seem to get on the same page especially when there’s a step parent involved. While we may not always agree with the other parent or the step parent, they aren’t the enemy. (It took me a long time to come to this realization). The girls didn’t always have the strongest relationship with their dad but over time it enhanced and grew to something beautiful. I have always encouraged that relationship and I think his wife did the same. No matter what we may feel about the other parent what is most important is that we push our kids to connect with that parent, to love that parent, to respect that parent. It is immature and selfish for us to stand in the way of that relationshiop with both the biological parent and the step parent. The best advice I can give someone who is in this type of situation is stop making it about you. It’s not. It’s not about your feelings or how much you’ve been hurt or what they have put you through. Your feelings have nothing to do with the kids and they are something you need to personally work through on your own or in therapy. I am aware that there may be extenuating circumstances that make these types of situations difficult or even impossible but for situations that aren’t parents need to learn to step outside the box of what people normally do or your friends saying “I wouldn’t want anything to do with her/him!” Believe me I get it. I stated numerous times that I would never have a relationship with or even speak to my kids step mom. Let’s just say God made me eat those words!

Now we are in a place where we can share holidays together and other family events. It’s not weird or uncomfortable for all four of us to be in the same space and hold conversations, have dinner, talk about the kids or other experiences. It took work. A lot of hard work for all parties involved. And it’s still not always easy. Often times when people over hear me talking to my ex on the phone or hear about us all doing something together they stare at me like it’s the craziest thing that they’ve ever heard. But what I think is crazy is that more divorced or broken couples don’t aim to make these kinds of situations their goal for their kids. You don’t have to be best friends. You don’t have to talk everyday. But establishing that relationship helps make it to where your kids don’t feel like they have to choose between parents. It makes it so that for some holidays or some birthday parties your kids can have all of their parents and siblings together in one room (which makes my kids really happy and that’s the point). I am grateful that my children have a stepmom that is caring and wants to be there for them. I am grateful that she is active in their lives just as I am sure that my ex is happy that my kids have a step father around to play an active role in our girls lives, to protect and care for them. Family isn’t always the people you choose but they can be the best people for the life God has blessed you with.

Misplaced Frustration

Misplaced Frustration

Part of a prayer book I’m reading says to write a letter that confesses your fears and joys of parenting. Experiences, I suppose,of what you’re feeling in the moment. Some days I feel like I’m present and that I’m at least doing the basics but here lately I’d say at least over the last 6 months if I’m not yelling then I’m extremely frustrated. Micah may not remember this stage-thank God- as he’s a baby but Ari probably thinks I don’t like her or that everything she does is wrong or that I’m mad at her all of the time. It’s a mixture of so many different emotions.

I feel like there are so many different stages of the reality of parenting and when you hit that you stage you spend a certain period of time wondering how long you’re going to be in that stage. (i.e. how long am I going to have to keep telling them to clean up after themselves? Like this has been going on since they were 2? They’re 11 & 14). I have very smart, funny, loving kids. There are some days and some moments in very hard days where they really make me laugh with something they say or do. While Sam doesn’t live with me during the school year, it’s nice to get to face time her and get to hear about her day or listen to funny stories that she tells. Her sense of humor is really quirky. Ari is over the top melodramatic. All of the time. But she’s also really sweet, helpful, and way more self sufficient than even I realize at times. She can cook, clean, do her hair, do her laundry, and get herself off to school. Pretty good for a middle schooler. Micah is still a little person and requires a lot of attention, but he, too, is making his way towards independence. My number one thing I’ll be glad for him to learn how to do is use the toilet!

But in all of those things that I can see right now in my head as I am writing, they aren’t what’s seen in day to day life. It’s the frustrations of repeating the same things over and over again. Asking the same questions that you asked a few moments ago because you’ve given directions but nobody has done what you’ve asked. Repeating the same rules. If anyone lives in their house with a master negotiator like Ari then you get it. It’s exhausting to have to constantly repeat no because she will creatively ask the same question in a different format. So I find myself yelling a lot more than I used to and she feels that. She even says “please don’t yell” before asking a question sometimes and that kind of makes me wince. Which then puts me in a head space of man I suck!

Honestly sometimes our response to our kids is not about them or something they’ve done. Sometimes it’s more about us and the stressors we are carrying around. Being an adult is difficult. There are mounds of bills to pay on a monthly basis-watch out for the unexpected ones. We are balancing work and the high demands of the job, friendships, along with marriage or significant others.Volunteering in ministry or giving our time elsewhere. Then we have to make time for ourselves- How? Where’s that extra time coming from? Along with trying to care for and manage these little people who come with their own set of problems, illnesses, friendships, extracurricular activities, jobs, feelings, and needs. It’s a lot for all parties involved. And sometimes we are already on the brink of losing it then something our kid says or does sends us over the edge. Doesn’t make it right but it happens. I can tell you in most situations that what’s been happening with my yelling episodes.

As I’ve come to recognize that, I’ve gotten better at taking the time to take a deep breath and go- Ok don’t do this or fix this or change that- in a much calmer tone. I am better able to communicate with my kids because I am recognizing where the source of my frustration is coming from. That’s not to say that sometimes they aren’t the source! Hello! All parents know that at times they are the main source. I have had to send myself to my own room for a time out on behalf of my kids LOL. But this is just a reminder that sometimes we miss the beauty in our kids and in parenting because we are letting outside things affect our mood and set the atmosphere in our home. What could potentially be a great teaching moment turns into us being angry and the child being sad or frustrated because of misplaced feelings. We’ve all done it. We’re all learning, no matter what stage of parenting we are in.

Just be grateful for God’s grace because kids are resilient and forgiving beings. They continue to love us even when we are less than favorable towards them or unfair at times. I thank God for that! At the end of the day if you’re like me, you’re just praying to God that the little people He has blessed you with will continue to grow into the amazing people you’ve been praying and trying to shape them into.

Judge Much?

Judge Much?

Who judges people? Raise your hand! I’m raising my hand right now too. We all do it in some form or fashion. When we see someone wearing something we deem inappropriate, we judge. Might be all they had to wear-we don’t know their circumstances but we judge anyway. When we see someone with an expensive item and think “Well, they don’t make enough for that.” or “Didn’t they just apply for assistance?” and we make the assumption that they’re spending poorly and that’s why they’re in a financial rut. Not knowing someone blessed them with something that not only could they not afford, but wouldn’t personally buy for themselves. And lastly, the mom judge. When another mom sees another mom doing something or making a decision they disagree with we judge her. We judge how she dresses her kids, what she feeds her kids, how she disciplines her kids….the list is endless.

I’m guilty of it. I have encountered and have people in my life who are single parents. They’ve, at times, had to make the decision to let their child go live with the father. And I’ll be honest I did not get that!!! I’m like I just couldn’t do that. I don’t understand any mother that would allow their child to go live with their father unless they had fallen on hard times or was found unfit.

When I got divorced I can’t tell you the thousands (ok maybe hundreds-I’m being dramatic lol) of times I’ve said that my kids wouldn’t go live with their father unless they asked to. And listen-I was convinced neither of them ever would. Fast foward to March of this year and that’s just what happened. My then 13 year old walks up to me and says “Mommy, I want to go to highschool at daddy’s.” Talk about a hard blow! I can’t explain all the feelings. There were just too many in that moment.

And now she’s gone. I cried weeks before she left and weeks after she left. I still cry and struggle with it. Sometimes daily other days I’m ok and can see that she’s doing well. But whenever I’m out with my other two and people say “Oh two kids. Y’all gonna have a third?” And I respond that we actually have three and she lives with her dad. I get the eyes. You know the eyes. The judgy ones. The ones that are like oh you must be a bad mom. Or you must’ve done something wrong. Dads don’t get that. When you meet a man and he says he has kids and they live with the mom most dads get oh ok that’s great. Moms we don’t really get that type of response and it’s sad.

I have a friend that I reach out to when I’m struggling with this. Both of her kids live with their dad. We had the best conversation the other day because this is hard! And some days the guilt of it is consuming. We wonder what we’ve done wrong. We go back and forth in our minds on ensuring their happiness but also wanting them with us. It’s hard to have your child live somewhere else and you can’t play the once active role you played in their life. The day to day decisions are being made by someone else. So when we tell someone that our kids live else where the last thing we want to feel is judge. We are judging ourselves enough.

The next time we find ourselves in a situation where we’re (in our mind-hopefully not aloud) questioning another mom, questioning her thoughts, her decisions, her actions, her reasoning we should stop and turn that around on ourselves and examine how it makes us feel. We aren’t that mom. We didn’t birth that child. We don’t know half the things about that child that she does. We don’t have the intuition that she does about her children. We don’t love her child more than she does. Trust that the decisions she’s making, although imperfect, are in the best interest of her child. Understand that some of those decisions she’s doubting and praying that they’re the right ones.

Making those hard decisions doesn’t make her a bad mom but a good one because she’s putting the well being and happiness of the child over her own. Judge less and encourage more. Judge less and love more. There’s no manual for this parenting thing and really we’re all just winging it because each child is different. So let’s just celebrate people who are deciding to choose their kids emotional health over what makes them comfortable or look good. I don’t want to look like a good parent. I want to actually be one!

Be A Mess

Be A Mess

We are always talking about having it together or getting it together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I need to get my life together” or how many times I’ve heard other people say it. We all have goals. I am sure that there are things in our lives that we need to focus more on and be better at such as being a better mom, friend, wife, co-worker etc. There is nothing wrong with working towards being a better you or working towards being more organized in life.

I remember a time in my life where I put constant pressure on myself to have it all together; to have it figured out. My house was always presentable. I had a system and everything was organized and in it’s place. It didn’t matter when someone came over. I put all of my effort into constantly staying on top of the laundry, house work, taking care of the kids, I cooked at or around the same time daily, I never left dishes in the sink. I could have worked all day, came home and did school work for college, cooked dinner, bathed the kids and got them in bed-it could be 11:00 at night and before I got in the bed I was going to wash those dishes. I was going to sweep and mop. I was going to vacuum and pick up all the kids toys and I was going to throw in that last load of laundry. I was exhausted and irritated all of the time trying to live up to some unrealistic standard I’d set for myself based off of outside perceptions. I didn’t want to be judged or called a bad wife or mother. Just want to throw something in right here-set your own standard. Do what works for you. It doesn’t matter what others say they aren’t living your exact life.

But in some ways aiming to get all of that done sounds good. I’m being proactive right? Getting a head start on the day. But what good is all of that if you are mentally and emotionally exhausted the next day? What good does that do if you can’t focus at work because you’re tired therefore you’re not putting in your best effort, which your employer deserves? How does cramming a million and one tasks into one day- a day that has probably been long enough already-help you? How does the lack of sleep and irritation help your kids when they want to play or cuddle or tell you about their day but you’re too tired to listen or engage?

While it’s important to take care of home and all of the other outside responsibilities we carry, there’s no time limit and there’s no need to try to cram each and every task we can think of into one day. (There are several days in a week for a reason ya know?). We put all of this pressure on ourselves to be “put together” and if we aren’t “put together” then we are always telling someone how we need to get our lives together. You know something I learned? Most people, especially moms, are not looking for someone who has it all together. Yes, we want to be surrounded by people that inspire us and encourage us to be better but if we are honest we are looking for that one person who is struggling just like we are so that we feel less like failures and less alone.

This all became clear to me when I had a friend come over to hang out one day. She has two small kids and one of her kids is the same age as my youngest. When she got to my house I was in the middle of trying to straighten up and folding/putting away stacks of laundry. I learned that day that just from that moment I encouraged her. She said “You come across as the kind of person that seems to have it all together and it was refreshing to see that you were dealing with the same things I’m dealing with.” I was like “Yes!  I, too, struggle and run around like a chicken with my head cut off.”

So be a mess sometimes. It’s ok if there’s a few dishes in the sink at night. It’s ok if the house isn’t perfectly clean and put together every day of the week. What’s most important is taking advantage of the time to spend with your husband after he’s had a long day and just wants to blow off steam or to take the time and watch Moana for the hundredth time with your kids. (I honestly like Moana. I watch it without my kids LOL). But I’ve had some of the best moments with my kids when I just ignored my long list of things to do and just popped popcorn and hung out with them.

Your mess is encouraging someone. You are not alone. You are not a failure. You’re not perfect and that’s ok. Your kids aren’t going to grow up and go “Mom, remember all those times the house was in perfect order and the laundry was always clean and dinner was always ready and waiting? Yeah….good times.” But they are going to remember the time they had a bad day and you took them out for ice cream or the moments you spent playing with them when you had so many other things to do. So let the cookies crumbles where they may, literally, and focus less on the mess and more on the important moments in your life that you will never get back once they are gone.

What I wish I knew about…

What I wish I knew about…

Motherhood! Oh if I could go back and talk to me before I had kids. This is not a post to complain about how hard parenting is or the joys of parenting and how my kids complete me. Most women who are moms have all the same complaints or very similar ones. Most moms love being a mom even with the ups and downs. All moms love their kids and want the best for their kids.

This post is about how I wish moms felt more comfortable talking to other moms about the realness of being a mom. Not the realness as in no time to yourself, how kids constantly mess the house up, or how you spend all of your time carting them around from place to place and catering to the million of things that they have going on in their busy little lives. We all know how much as moms we have to sacrifice for our kids. We all know that having children is time consuming and often it’s thankless. We can relate to one another when we talk about how we were up all night with a sick child or  how our toddler just wouldn’t go to sleep. We can understand each other when our teenager is driving us mad because they won’t pick up their room or they are getting smart with us and it’s taking everything in us not to throat punch them!

What I mean by the realness of being a mom is how sometimes you don’t want to be one! There are those rare moms I run into who revel in parenting and just want to spend every waking minute with their child (what is wrong with her and what is she taking?! LOL). But there are us other moms who have moments where we want to quit, run off to a deserted island and just mentally check out. We don’t want to have to think for another person outside of ourselves. We are done with school, school lunches, school programs, extracurricular activities, play dates, birthday parties, homework, reminding kids to do their chores, reminding kids of the same simple hygiene practices they’ve been doing for years (Like why do I have to remind you to put on deodorant or to brush your teeth? Seriously?!).

I remember before I became a mom I had this idea of parenting being fun and cuddles and play time with my baby. I had this image of just always enjoying it. Every person I ran into that saw me when I was pregnant all said the same thing “Oh you’re going to love it! It’s the most special thing in the world. You’re going to love bonding with you baby and they’re so cute when they start crawling.” Which those things are true. I loved the time I got with my kids when they were small and being able to bond with them. I loved watching them meet their milestones and even now with my soon to be one year old, I am once again enjoying those things. But what I wish someone would have said is “Being a mom is hard. There are days where you will not want to do any of it. You’ll do it anyway because the love for your child pushes you to do so, but you will not always love being a mom.” I think sometimes as women we feel like if we truly share our deepest, darkest feelings that other moms will look down on us or think we are not a good parent. But if we are all honest, I’m pretty sure almost every mom has had moments where they felt this way.

If we spent more time being real about how we feel with other moms instead of comparing ourselves to other moms and how great we think so in so is doing it would go a long way towards encouraging each other instead of condemning each other. In reality you are the mom for your child that God knew your child needed. If your child needed a different mom then God wouldn’t have given that child to you. He knew the make up of your child and He knew you had what your child needed in life  inside of you because He knows your make up as well. There is no perfect mom. There’s just a perfect mom for each child you’re blessed with. We have to stop being afraid of how people will think of us when we have those moments where we want to quit parenting and just be a woman. Not a mom with 8 arms trying to do 20 things but just a woman trying to navigate life.

My two oldest kids go away for the summer with their dad every year and around the month of May I am done! I am over it and I can’t wait to get them packed up and on their way so I just don’t have to think about them and every individual need they have. I used to feel guilty about that, but I don’t anymore. It’s ok to sometimes feel like you’ve had enough and that you just need some time to recoup. It’s ok to not want to be a mom….it doesn’t take away from the fact that you are an awesome one and that above all else, you value your kids happiness. We know this to be true otherwise why would we wear ourselves out day in and day out doing everything to ensure they are well rounded, respectable, happy human beings?

So don’t feel bad. Embrace those moments and then continue moving forward, killing the  mom game like the beast that you are!