Guest Post-How Many Lives Did I Come With?

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Our twenties aren’t the easiest period in our lives: we are grown-ups who still feel 18; we are new parents still scared of our own; and we are out of the plethora of friendships and relationships that college brings. We are trying to juggle life and all of its sharp turns and mountains through the screen of an Apple or Android, instead of looking up at the community around us. We are so scared of being alone that we would rather be glued to our iPhones than face the truth: we have boxed our community in a 4inch screen.

It is staggering how much I depend on my phone. I am in a constant state of communication between Facebook, Instagram, CandyCrush,  emails, texts etc. There isn’t a time where I am not aware of my phone. What if I get full lives on CandyCrush? What if Orange is the New Black comes back for season 2 on Netflix without me? It is my watch, my link to the world, my friend in time of need (lunch alone) and it is my crutch to the community and friendships around me. Going through this period of my life, I am becoming aware of the fact that I don’t have the community that I was used to during college. A few months ago I read a book called MWF seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche, and I realized that I am not alone with this feeling of friendship crisis. I am not in college anymore.

Truth be told, that college style of friendship isn’t what I want anymore. Call me old, but I can no longer handle late night coffee runs and all night extravaganza’s- I can barely stay up until 11 anymore. What I want is a community that is going through the same experiences and tribulations that I am. People to do life with. But, so often, we find out that life isn’t like college where your possible BFF is right next door, friends take a little bit more work to find. It is the talk in the grocery store to the person behind you. It is the mom who also brought their child to the park.  It’s the book-club down at the library.  It’s looking up from your phone for 1 minute to realize the possibilities around you. Set it down, my friends; embrace the eminent idea that life is happening all around you and take part of it, run with it, and for the love of all that is holy, get a life.

True Gentleness is Giving a Hand to the Frazzled Mom

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I was at a gathering one night where a group of women were discussing the concept of gentleness.  Parenting was brought up and what gentleness looks like in that realm.  One woman offered a story:

Two moms were going to the grocery store.  One mom was soft-spoken and gentle with her children, and they remained quiet and obedient throughout the shopping trip.  The other mom entered the store frazzled and yelling at her children as they dart every which way.  The first mom embodied true gentleness, while the other just appears foolish to her fellow shoppers.

My eyes widened, and I’m sure my jaw must have dropped.  I looked around the room expecting to see other faces mirroring mine, only to find that I was alone.  Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I just have one of those faces—you know the kind.  It’s the face that perfectly reflects the thoughts and emotions of the person without any censor.  Oh, those darn faces!  I’m certain that there were other women that night whom felt the same way as I, but I guess I was the only one whose face was outing her emotions to the room.

As a relatively new mom, I’m daily bombarded with blog posts, news reports, and  journal articles telling me what I should be doing and how I should be feeling when it comes to parenting.  Often times I walk away from these readings feeling defeated.  The worst are the overly-spiritual parenting bloggers.  They paint motherhood as a field of sunflowers that you frolic through, as you smile and admire your ever-delightful family frolicking next to you.  To be honest, when I am changing my daughter’s diaper and she keeps trying to grab her poop and bring it to her mouth, it’s hard for me to imagine us running through a field of daisies together.  All I can picture is feces.

My initial disgust with this story stemmed from the fact that I was a new mom, and I felt like the story was just another one of those readings telling me how I am not good enough.  I am sure I’ve had times where I look presentable at the grocery store; times where my daughter does not make a peep, and onlookers smile at us as we quietly stroll about the aisles.  But more often than not, I am the other mom.  I’m quickly running to the store because I’ve forgotten a key ingredient to our dinner recipe, or we’ve run out of toilet paper and already I’m frantic.  My daughter is, more than likely, yelling at me because I have ripped her away from her toys and am forcefully strapping her into her car-seat.  We finally arrive at the store, and now I am on referee duty trying to keep my daughter from grabbing everything she sees while also trying to remember what was on my shopping list–which has inevitably gone into hiding.  Frazzled would certainly be the ideal word to describe me, but foolish would not.

New moms, veteran moms, and somewhere-in-between moms, I am certain we’ve all had shopping trips like this.  Shopping trips where things did not go according to plan and our children forgot to put their show-face on in public.  At one time or another, we can all relate to the frazzled mom.  And I’m certain that in our frazzled state, what we needed was not judgment on our failure to show gentleness, but rather for someone to be gentle with us.

Here’s a better story about gentleness:

A woman embarks on the treacherous journey of Christmas shopping.  Minutes have turned into hours, and suddenly it feels like an entire week has been spent standing in the checkout line.  At this moment, one child demands  the nutritional snack of Gummi Worms.  Upon hearing the word “no”, the child then throws herself on the floor screaming.  This sparks a chain response with her other child.  The line continues to move forward, and the mom is forced to drag her screaming children along with her.  It becomes apparent that a crowd has gathered.  Fear and astonishment mark the faces of the onlookers.  Soon, the mom realizes that not only are these onlookers starring at her unruly children, they are also starring at her.  The mom notices a man approaching them, and it is a police officer.  Instead of addressing the mom’s inability to keep her family in line, the officer draws his attention to the children.  He informs the two girls that their mother and all the other shoppers have the desire to shop in peace, which they are disrupting with their screams.  The children fall silent.  The officer then turns to the mom and says, “Being a parent.  It’s a tough gig,” (Carry on Warrior 155-158).

When I think about gentleness, I can’t help but feel like we’ve missed the mark if we are looking down on those who aren’t depicting it.  The problem with someone making a judgement of who embodies gentleness more, is that they themselves are not extending gentleness.  Being gentle with one another goes beyond our circle of friends and family.  If we are only gentle to those in our circle, for example mother to child, then that really isn’t anything to be admired or praised.  The true gage gentleness is not through your interactions with your loved ones, but how you interact with those you do not know, including the frazzled mom with screaming children at the grocery store.  The true embodiment of gentleness is the officer offering a word of encouragement to an obviously frazzled and overwhelmed mom.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”

Unconditional Parenting

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Through my 14 months of parenting, I have always known what my role is.  My sole responsibility is to tend to Selah’s needs.  Is she hungry?  Is she thirsty?  Is she tired?  These questions constantly run on spin cycle in my head throughout the day.  As we enter further into toddlerhood, I am seeing my role begin to change.  My focus is not centered on her physical needs anymore, even though those needs are still high on her priority list.  As Selah grows, her emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are beginning to cry out for more attention.

To say parenting is overwhelming would be the understatement of the year.  My shoulders weigh heavily from carrying the burden of Selah’s livelihood; making sure she is still living and breathing every morning.  But now taking on the weight of her personhood; what she is and what she will become, is a burden that would easily make anyone cower in fear.  Contrary to popular belief, this is a task for the few, not for all.  Parenting is not something everyone is called to do, nor should do.  But I accepted this task when I decided to have a family.

I believe that who Selah will become, for the most part, is innate.  As her parent, I feel it is my responsibility to bring out what is already there inside of her.  Sure, I want to expose her to what the world has to offer, but I do so in order to discover what she likes and dislikes.  It was my husband and my decision that we will never squash the interests we discover Selah has.  If Selah enjoys building things, we want to get her all the Legos, building blocks, and Lincoln Logs we can find.  If Selah likes to help mommy clean the house, then we are going to get her all the tot-sized cleaning toys we can find.  For those of you who know me, I do identify myself as a feminist.  So yes, the idea of her enjoying domesticity is a fear of mine. But as I stated before, I have already made the decision to bring out who Selah innately is.

In theory, most of you have probably agreed with what I just said, but that may not be the case in practice.

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, I’m sure you have read about a little boy who discovered an interest in My Little Pony.  He decided that he wanted a blue My Little Pony backpack which he received.  Upon being bullied at school, it was suggested that he leave his backpack at home as to not encourage bullying.  I remember reading comments on news reports of this incident, where other parents were condemning the mom for even buying the backpack in the first place. I cannot agree with these parents and I cannot agree with the school’s suggestion, because I believe in individual expression.  I believe the problem rests in the hands of the children who bully and their parents, not the child who chose to step outside of his gender box.  This is where the practice of what I said begins to divide some of you.

Whenever I step foot into a major retailer and walk down the toy aisle, I am bombarded with clearly defined sections of pink and blue.  In the pink sections, you can find all the Barbies, toy houses, and tot-sized vacuums your daughter’s heart desires.  In the blue section, you can find all the monsters, cars, and action figures your son could ever dream of.  Though there are some companies trying to step outside of these clearly defined sections, for example Goldieblox which tries to encourage interests in engineering for both girls and boys, this is simply what you will find in most stores.  I can’t blame the retailers, though, because they are just giving the public what they want.  They bend to the needs of the consumer, and I believe it is our culture that is to blame for claiming toys must be clearly girl or clearly boy.

I know parents who believe in clearly defining their children’s gender.  Boys cannot be in pastel colors for fear of being confused as a girl, and girls cannot be in bold, primary  colors for fear of being confused as a boy.  Boys cannot play with Barbies, for fear of them becoming too feminine, and girls cannot play with toy tool sets for fear of them becoming too masculine.

When I heard about this boy with the My Little Pony backpack, and read the negative comments; having seen the layout of major retailers, and interacted with parents who follow the belief of putting their child into their designated gender box, I can’t help but ask…

What are you afraid of?

So what if you find that your daughter likes things that are masculine, or that your son likes things that are feminine.  They are still your children, and these are the affinities that have been brought out of them.  Are we supposed to squash our children’s preferences simply because it challenges our culture’s gender expectations?  Is that what parenting is?

I can’t help but wonder if all this fear stems from the nature vs. nurture argument.  I wonder if, as parents, we push our children into a gender box, because we are too afraid of who they will become if we allow them to step outside of that box.  But what does that tell us?

What it tells me, is that our culture’s idea of parenting is conditional.  It tells me that we will only support, guide, and love our children if they become who we’ve deemed acceptable.  But the reality is, conditional parenting is not parenting at all.  Real parenting is deciding to play a constant role in your child’s life.  It’s deciding that you are in this for the long-haul; come rain or shine, you are their mom and you are their dad.

Redefining Conflict

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I’ve learned that couples enjoy sizing their relationships next to others, and a common comparison is who has the most conflict.  Obviously, you are not in a healthy relationship if fighting is constant, and your only way of speaking to each other is screaming.  Fighting like that shows an inability to communicate, and if that is the case there is a problem in your relationship.  But just because one couple has more conflict than another couple, does not make their relationship less healthy.  It is impossible to be in a relationship with another person without conflict.  In a friendship, marriage, or any relationship, two individuals are coming together having grown up with different families, different experiences, and different likes and dislikes. As these individuals begin to interact intimately with one another, they soon realize the differences in each other’s thoughts, opinions, and beliefs and conflict arises.  Somehow though, so many of us believe that if conflict is present it shows an incompatibility in our relationship.

When my husband and I first started dating, there wasn’t much conflict, if any at all.  We hardly ever fought, and we rarely disagreed with one another.  I would not make the mistake though, in believing that our lack of conflict meant our relationship was happier and healthier then than it is now.  In our case, the lack of conflict stemmed from our inability to be open and vulnerable with one another.  I was nervous to really speak my mind or outwardly disagree with my then boyfriend; not because he was controlling or aggressive, but because I thought that if we had conflict in our relationship it meant we weren’t meant to be together.  If our relationship was built to last, then conflict should not exist.  I now know I could not have been more wrong, so why did I view conflict so negatively?

Growing up, when I heard the word conflict it was always accompanied with war, battle, fights, and struggle.  Whenever we spoke about war and the Middle East, it was always referred to as the “Conflict in the Middle East.”  So conflict had this negative connotation in my mind.  The reversal of this was also true.  Because conflict was connected to violent words and events, I thought that an absence of conflict equated peace.  In my mind if there was a lack of conflict,  that meant there would also be a lack of fights and struggle.  So, if there was conflict in my relationship,  that meant we had a violent and aggressive relationship; but if we did not have conflict, then we had a peaceful relationship.

It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I began to form my own understanding of the word conflict.  I was taking a class with one of my favorite professors.  He started class one day by saying that an absence of conflict does not equate to peace.  Instantly, my mind was troubled because that was not what I’ve been taught.  He then began telling a story of a family whose father ran a tight ship.  The children were always quiet, the house was always clean, and everyone in the home made sure to do what the father said.  The father was a strong, aggressive, demanding person.  No one would dare speak out against him or challenge him.  So, if there was an absence of conflict because there were no disagreements, no arguments, no fights, does that mean their home was full of peace?

I soon realized that conflict was not this violent and negative word that I always deemed it to be.  Conflict for me became a representation of a truly intimate relationship; a relationship where trust, openness, and vulnerability exists.  There is no fear of judgment, because the two individuals have reached a point in their relationship where differences are acknowledged and embraced.

After that class I accepted that for me to be in a relationship, whether it was with a friend, a family member, or a significant other, I had to let go of my fear of conflict.  This fear was crippling me from truly experiencing relationships with others.  In my dating relationship with my husband, this fear was causing me to miss out on fully knowing him, and it was keeping him from fully knowing me.

Our love may not be perfect.  Through the course of our relationship, we have made each other angry, we’ve made each other cry, we have raised our voices to one another, and we’ve given each other the silent treatment.  There have been times that we have gone to bed angry, and there have been times that we were not slow to speak and quick to listen.  Our marriage is not in danger though, just because our love is not that of fairy tales.  The conflict in our relationship is simply a reminder that we are continuing this journey of getting to fully know one another.

The Ugly Truth Behind Birth Plans

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During your first pregnancy, you have so many ideals in your head.  You read every pregnancy-related article, you strategically put together your birth plan, and you make lists of what you are going to do and what you are not going to do during pregnancy, labor and delivery.  I was no exception.

I bought all of the pregnancy week-by-week books, I took a Bradley Method course, and I watched every baby documentary I could find.  Slowly, I began formulating my ideals.  I desired to have an all-natural birth, because I thought that was the only correct option.  I was going to have a water birth at a birthing center, I was not going to have interventions of any sort, and I was not going to entertain the thought of pain relief because that is surely of the devil.

During those 9 months (more like 10), I proudly defended my choices to any and all who questioned them.  Some called me a hippie, and I took it as a complement.  As absurd as this sounds, I thought I was better than all of my other pregnant friends because I was going the all-natural route.  I judged every woman who went to the hospital for their labor and delivery, and I most certainly judged every woman who boasted about their epidural plans.  Believe you me; I was in for a rude awakening.

When I finally went into labor, absolutely nothing went according to my birth plan.  After laboring through two nights, and 10 hours after my water broke, my midwife made the call to transfer me to the hospital.  I burst into tears, feeling defeated and like an utter failure.  I had traded my cozy birthing center environment for a hospital room, and I had to chuck all of my  plans out the door.  My little one’s birth was no longer about my wants, but about her and getting her out in the quickest and safest way possible.

The thing I’ve learned about ideals is that we formulate them from our perfect-world scenarios.  We generally have no true experience when we create them, and so they simply exist as fantasies, that then fail in practicality.  What ideals inevitably do, is set you up for failure.  And that is certainly what my ideals did for me.

Eventually, I gave birth to a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl, who couldn’t have cared less how she entered the world.  She was just happy to be in it.  And the truth of it all is, regardless of whether  I was in the warm, homey environment of a birthing center, or in the hustle and bustle of a hospital, my daughter would have had the same outcome; which was joining an unconditionally loving and happy family.

I realize now that I had no idea what pregnancy or labor and delivery was like.  Even though it was good for me to have a birth plan, once I made the mistake of turning my birth plan into my birth ideals, I set myself up for failure.  I then became a rigid machine, unwilling to accept any deterrent from my projected path.  The reason why I felt so defeated is because of me and only me.  My body did not fail me, I did.  I forgot the age old wisdom that life does not always go my way.

Now, over a year later, I find myself in the same position; I am pregnant.  But, I refuse to fall victim to ideals this time around, because I want to set myself up for success.  I also refuse to judge other’s birth plans, because every woman deserves the right to choose what works best for them.  But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through all of this is that my children’s births are but a blink of an eye in comparison to the rest of their lives.  I should focus more on how my children live, rather than be fixated on how they are born.  So, from this pregnancy on, I am choosing to allow myself the freedom to plan whatever birth best suites my family, and also the freedom to divert from that plan when needed without fear of judgment or feeling defeated.

 

Guest Post-How I’m going to Have It All

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A few years ago as I was preparing to get married, I had a conversation with my grandmother.  Amid the discussions of wedding flowers, invitations, color schemes, and bridesmaids’ dresses, she offered me a golden nugget of advice.  She said “Theresa, I really believe that you can have it all.  In your life, you can absolutely have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.”

By nature, I’m a busy person.  I thrive off of a full schedule and lots of activity.  My husband once joked that I only have two settings: “on” and “off.”  This temperament coupled with a Type A personality got me through college and grad school by 23 and has made me very successful in my career as a technical project manager.  I have been known to rush in the door from work, whip up a home-cooked dinner, then shove it in my face while running out the door to teach acting lessons at our church.  The next night you may find me taking my dog to an agility class; then throwing a dinner party over the weekend.

But my entire world was turned upside down on July 23, 2013 when the doctors first handed me the sweetest, most handsome baby boy I had ever seen.  I instantly knew that life would never be the same; that I would never be the same.  These last 6 months have been an interesting see-saw as I have tried to shift priorities and learn a little about balance.

With that in mind, I have declared 2014 the year of the “no.”  Over the holidays, my husband and I made a conscious decision to drastically reduce our commitments this year.  I quit a number of my volunteer obligations, I’ve started saying no to outings and coffee dates with friends, and we aren’t hosting as many events at our house.  I’m focusing this year on two areas: my family and my job.  I’m forcing everything else to take a back seat.  Does this mean I intend to become a hermit and never go out again with my friends or say no to every volunteer opportunity?  Of course not.  I’m just making a conscious effort to not say “yes” to an invitation until I’ve had the opportunity to weigh the cost.

You see, what I’ve come to realize is that in saying “yes” to absolutely everything, I wasn’t really “doing it all.”  In fact, by constantly agreeing to more commitments I was actually taking away my own power of choice.  I was losing control of my time and I had less energy to  focus on the things that really mattered to me.  And every time I said “yes” to something, I was already saying “no” to something else, I just wasn’t aware of it.  So I’m reversing the cycle.  I’m saying “no” to everything first so that I have the power to say “yes” when I really want to.

The beauty of this new philosophy of mine is that I think it really will let me have it all: a beautiful family, a successful career, rewarding volunteer opportunities, and a great network of close friends.  Maybe I will finally get to run that half marathon I have always wanted to finish.  Or write a book (hey, with my busy schedule I was just happy to read one every so often).

In my lifetime, I have every intention of having it all.  But I am recognizing the wisdom in my grandmother’s words more and more each day.  If I really want to have all of those things, then I have to begin to focus on each of them in their own season.  My son will only be young once.  He will only have his first laugh once.  He will only take his first bite of food, his first steps, his first word once.  These are moments I can never get back, and there is no way I am going to miss them.  By saying “no” to so many other things, I am able to say “yes” to him more.  I am able to say “yes” to an evening snuggle before bed.  I am able to say “yes” to sitting on the couch and listening to my husband read him a story.  I am able to say “yes” to making all his baby food.  I am able to say “yes” to playing on the floor for 2 hours on a Saturday morning.

But don’t think for one second that I am saying “no” forever.  I will come back to my volunteer hours.  I’ll be back asking for promotions.  I will soon be tackling projects around our house again.  That’s the beauty of life.  We go through so many seasons in the course of a lifetime and I’m coming to realize that today’s “no” can still be tomorrow’s “yes.”  Sacrifices aren’t necessarily made forever.  During the course of a lifetime we can have it all.

So please forgive me if I say “no” the next time you want to meet for coffee.  Forgive me if I’m not at church every single Sunday.  Forgive me if I disappointed you when I quit volunteering for your organization.  This is my year of the “no.”  Because I have every intention of having it all, I just know I can’t have it all at once.

Dear Amy…

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Dear Amy Glass,

If you ever read this, I am sure you will immediately notice that I fit into the category of “mommy blogger”.  So, I won’t be surprised if you discredit everything I am about to write.  As I have written before though, it is unfair to discredit someone solely based on a difference of opinions.

Even though I disagree with your view of a stay-at-home mom, I can tell that you are a strong-willed, independent woman who aspires to do something great in this world.  For that, I do applaud you.  It seems that your desire is for women to be ambitious, to achieve greatness, and you are using your words to try and inspire women to do so.  That is something to be noted and recognized.

Unfortunately though, your words are not giving inspiration.  There is a fine line between challenging and attacking, and I do believe your attempt to challenge women has actually come across as an attack on many.  Your call was for women to step outside of the box that our culture has shoved us into; but your idea of achievements is in fact calling women to step into another box.  What you are telling women is that if they don’t define themselves by their career, then they are not ambitious and have not achieved anything.  What you have done is set limitations and boundaries on what achievements women are allowed to make.  This narrow-minded definition of success is the very essence of why women stood up for equality in the first place.

You write a lot about men achieving greatness because they don’t allow things of little importance–like children–to get in their way.  Then, you challenge women to think like men do, and strive for achievements outside of the home.

What you are calling for,  is a role reversal.  I do not believe the solution to inequality is for women to think and act like men, because I do find error in the traditional/stereotypical role of a man.  When someone, male or female, solely identifies themselves with their work, then their relationships suffer.  I have seen too many broken families because one spouse has decided that they have nothing to do with what goes on at home.  If you have no intention to take part in parenting a child, then there is no reason for you to have a family to begin with. If your desire is to solely focus on your career, which is completely fine and acceptable, then just don’t have a family.

I am sure there are readers now, who are claiming that I don’t think women can do it all: have a career and have a family.  This is not true, you can have both, but if you want to “have your cake and eat it to”, then you are required to be fully present in both roles, as an employee and as a parent.

The notable feminist Gloria Steinem, which I am sure you have heard of, has said, “The truth is that women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.”  You praise men for their ability to completely separate themselves from their home life, and urge women to do the same.  You also see the home as something of little importance.  So, I wonder what your view of a stay-at-home dad is.  Do you see them as weak individuals too?  Or would you applaud them for not being your idea of a stereotypical man, because that would be inequality and a double standard.

You may have called me weak and lacking ambition, but that does not make me waiver from my decision to be a stay-at-home mom.  I encourage you to come to Lakeland, FL, where you will find many women who made an informed, not forced, decision to stay at home.  There are many stay-at-home moms here, including me, that are college-educated, which I am sure you will see as a disappointment, but we do not.  Your view of a stay-at-home mom is someone who folds her husband’s clothes and changes her child’s diaper, but we are so much more than a maid or a nanny.  If you would have taken the time to truly get to know us, you would have been able to see that.  There are many stay-at-home moms here in Lakeland that are incredible artists, amazing photographers, inspiring writers, challenging educators, and selfless volunteers.  So please refrain from stereotyping us as women who are weak-willed, that allow themselves to forced to fill roles that you think no one should fill.

And next time you want to call the role of stay-at-home mom “the path of least resistance” I would ask you to walk a mile in our shoes.  When I was a working mom, no one ever looked down on me or questioned my significance as a woman.  But the day I became a stay-at-home mom I have constantly been fighting against people like you that claim I am somehow less-than because I don’t receive a paycheck for my work.

Sincerely,

a strong-willed, passionate, opinionated, feminist, wife, and stay-at-home mom

No Tots Allowed

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I never wanted to be one of those parents who brought their crying baby to the movies.  When Selah was born, my husband and I were very strict about what places Selah could join us and when it was best for Selah to stay home.  I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to the movie theater.  Instead, we go to the drive-in where my child has the freedom to move about and play in our car without disturbing anyone else.  And if we go out to get some coffee, we try to sit outside so that Selah can be as loud as she wishes.

Even though we are very conscious about what places we bring Selah, we have still had our run-ins with the awkward glares.  I recall once eating dinner with my husband and my daughter at Burger 21, which we had deemed as an “ok” place to bring Selah.  There were many customers eating there, so it was quite loud, and I also recall seeing other families.  But as my daughter became very vocal, as she loves to verbally express herself, I could see the table next to us start to shift uncomfortably in their chairs.  Every couple of minutes or so, I could feel them staring at our table with their judgmental eyes.  My husband and I chose to not let their uncomfortableness ruin our family night out.

Luckily, I’ve never experienced other customers complaining about my daughter in such a way that management has asked us to leave.  But, I know there are many families who have had that experience.  If you’ve been paying attention to social media and the news lately I am sure you’ve heard of the family asked to leave Panera Bread because of their daughter’s squeaky shoes, or the family that caused many customers to feel uncomfortable at a well-to-do restaurant.

As I have stated before, my husband and I have a list of approved places to bring Selah, and a list of places where we leave Selah at home.  Any restaurant that is on the pricier side, we save for date nights.  Personally, we see it as a matter of respect for others.  If I know that people are spending quite a bit of money to dine there and if the ambiance is that of an intimate, romantic, dining experience, I think it is only fair to the other diners to not bring my incredibly vocal infant.

As far as Panera Bread goes, that is on our approved-to-bring-Selah dining list.  It has a casual atmosphere, families tend to eat there, and it is not a place with servers.  So when I heard about a family being asked to leave because their daughter’s squeaky shoes were bothering another customer, my blood began to boil.  Putting aside the fact that her squeaky shoes were actually orthopedic shoes to encourage her to walk, I find it absolutely absurd this family was asked to leave—even if her shoes had only been fun toddler shoes and not serving a medical purpose. If an intimate, quiet, dining experience is what you are aiming for then either eat at home, or find a restaurant that provides that type of atmosphere.  But if you do choose to eat out and find yourself at a casual, family-friendly restaurant, then do not be surprised when you get just that.

For our family, our decision on where to go with our little one has always been ruled by respect for others.  If outside seating is available, we try to snag those tables, so our daughter is comfortable and so are other diners.  Before we go out, we always think about where we are going and whether or not it is  fair to others to bring an infant who cannot comprehend manners.  But, believe you me, if that table at Burger 21 had chosen to complain to management about us, and try to get us to leave, they would have been met with not just a very vocal child, but an equally vocal mom.

How I Survived My First Year of Parenting

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Selah will be turning 11 months this week, and as her first birthday is quickly approaching, I can’t help but be nostalgic over this past year.  I’ll be sitting in Selah’s nursery watching her play and I can’t believe how much she has grown.  “This can’t be the child I brought home from the hospital,” I say to myself.

My husband and I decided that on top of the birthday party we’ll be throwing for Selah, we are also going to have a “We Survived Our First Year of Parenting” party.  I remember some of the 3am feedings and thinking that there was no way I could survive another sleepless night, but I did.  And here I am almost a year later.

So, while my nostalgia is overwhelming me at the moment, I thought I’d jot down some of the few survival tips I’ve learned along the way….

1. Your partner is not the enemy.  

For those of you who have kids, I am sure you can understand that there are good days, and then there are bad days.  Whenever a bad day comes along, it’s important to keep in mind that your partner is just that, your partner.  They are there to help you; to assist you in this crazy thing we do called parenting.  I will admit, I am quick to lose sight of that.  If Selah is fussy, if she is refusing to nap, if she just isn’t content unless someone is holding her, I lose it and typically it’s on Jonathan.  I forget that we are in this together, and that there is such a thing as asking for help.

2. NAP!

Before having Selah, everyone told me to sleep whenever I had the chance.  Did I listen?  Of course not!  Whenever my bundle of joy would sleep, all I could focus on around me was the never-ending pile of dishes and laundry.  I thought to be the perfect parent and spouse, I had to appear busy and have it all together.  I viewed my zombie-like state as a badge of honor to broadcast to the world that I’m doing it all!  I soon realized that I don’t have to have it all together 100% of the time, and decided that for my own sanity–and the safety of my husband and child– naps should be welcomed with open arms!

3. Put your mental and emotional health above your physical health.

All my health nuts out there are probably up in arms about this, but hear me out.  I’m not saying that you should forgo your physical health, because you do need to be able to pick up and play with your child.  What I’m suggesting is that, during this season of sheer chaos, you work on your inner self above obsessing over your outer appearance.  Once I popped out my chuncker-of-a-newborn, I thought I had to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight ASAP.  The moment my midwife cleared me, I had my running shoes on, and was hitting the pavement.  Whatever energy I had in those beginning days was spent working out.  I didn’t care that I was only getting a few hours of sleep at night, or that I hadn’t truly spoken to my spouse in days; I was getting back into shape. It didn’t last long, though.  Instead of obsessing over losing weight, I began spending my spare time reading, talking to friends and family, and going on nature walks.  I found that if I was mentally and emotionally happy, I was a better spouse and a better parent.  Then, once life became a bit more manageable and not so chaotic, that’s when I put my running shoes back on.

4. Plan Ahead!

I learned early on that the amount of time it took Jonathan and I to get out the door had doubled, if not tripled.  What would keep me sane on the mornings we had somewhere to be, and assist in getting everyone out the door in a timely manner, was planning ahead.  For example, on Sundays we attend a church service, and a community breakfast.  When Jonathan and I have Selah’s diaper bag packed the night before, her outfit laid out for the morning, and her breakfast already made, those Sunday mornings run so much more smoothly.

5. Give grace at 3am.

No one thinks rationally when woken in the middle of the night by a screaming baby, especially if it’s the second, third, or even fourth time.  There is no such thing as a filter.  All that exists is your most carnal self.  Jonathan and I have been the most impatient with each other during this time, and have said some of the worst things to each other.  Know that whatever comes out of your partner’s mouth, typically, is just from sleep deprivation.  So learn to give grace, because more than likely you will be needing it to.

Parenthood is one of the most rewarding, challenging, amazing, crazy, loving, and exhausting experiences in life.  And from what I’ve heard, it never ends.  I’ve only been Selah’s mom for about a year, so I know there is so much more yet to learn.  What I’d like to leave you with is this: the perfect parent does not exist.  Allow room for mistakes, and learn to not just give grace to your partner but also to yourself.  Find what parenting style works best for you, and then stand firm.

Awarded for Abortion Activism?

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Labels.

We all have them, and we all place them on others.  In a previous post, I identified with three: stay-at-home mom, wife, and feminist.  While others may label me differently, those are the three that I chose  for myself.  Just because I identify with those labels, though, doesn’t mean that is all I am; I am also: female, heterosexual, egalitarian, Christian, friend, sister, daughter, writer, runner, coffee-enthusiast (and sometimes snob), dessert fanatic, Dr. Pepper lover, meat-eater… do you get where I’m going with this?

There is a lot that goes into making a person.  We are all very dynamic, complex creatures.  We have sayings such as, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”; all because at some point in life, we’re supposed to realize that a person is so much more than what you see on the surface. Unfortunately, we continually fail at this.

In our culture, we have a tendency to focus in on one aspect of a person, and then forever disregard everything else about them, either because we don’t like that one thing, or because we don’t agree with it.  Some of you may have seen that I’m a stay-at-home mom, and decided I have nothing important to say about politics.  Some of you may have seen that I eat meat, and decided that I have no care for animals.  Others of you may have seen that I love sweets, and decided that healthy living is not in my vocabulary.  And then, there are probably some of you that saw I identified myself as Christian, and didn’t get past the first paragraph.

But isn’t one of the goals in maturity to move past this?  To acknowledge the fault in our perception of people?  To know that there is more to someone than meets the eye, and that we shouldn’t disregard them just because we do not fully agree with them?

Recently, I was sent an article about Gloria Steinem being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The author labeled her as an abortion activist, which is true, but he reported as if Steinem was being awarded solely for her work with abortion.  The author even went so far as to say Steinem has dedicated her life to promoting abortion.

Only one aspect of Steinem’s life was focused on in this article, and it disregarded all the other parts.  The author’s disagreement with her personal stance on abortion took away from what was a pivotal moment in Steinem’s life.  I feel sorry for this man, because he was not able to recognize that the Presidential Medal of Freedom was, in fact, to acknowledge a woman’s incredible work in gender equality.

Gloria Steinem is a pioneer for feminism.  Steinem fought for women to have equal hire and equal pay in the work place.  She even fought for affordable childcare, so that women have a greater opportunity to work outside the home (if that is their desire).

Steinem has constantly been challenging our society’s perception of what it means to be a female–and what it also means to be a male, for that matter.  Just because someone is female does not mean they must be a stay-at-home mom.  Likewise, just because someone is male, does not mean they must work outside of the home.  Her life’s work is for ALL to have a voice and a choice in how they live life, and to not be held down by society’s gender expectations.

A part of Gloria Steinem’s life work does include abortion activism, which yes, is it at odds with my beliefs.  But, I am choosing to not disregard all of her other accomplishments, just because my beliefs do not 100% align with hers.

What I do believe in, is giving credit where credit is due.  And Gloria Steinem truly deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work in gender equality.