Thursday, September 15, 2011

"The thing that's important to know is that you never know. You're always sort of feeling your way."- Diane Arbus

I believe this quote sums up parenting. Although there are a lot of books out there from so-called experts, I am convinced that every child is different and so is every parent. One person's hang-ups wont be the same as someone else. I think the biggest thing I have learned through my experiences and that of my friends is that your feelings are valid and okay. It's okay that you don't love parenting everyday. It's a really hard job if you want to be a good one. Sometimes you will feel like a failure, that good ole mommy guilt, but then there will be days when your child says you are their best friend. Anything worth having wont be easy and being a mother is definitely the best gift I've ever received. So I am going to embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly and keep feeling my way through this journey.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Not all those who wander are lost"- J R.R. Tolkien

I recall seeing this on somebody's Facebook status not to long ago and I found that this so true. My son is a total free-spirit. I observe him testing boundaries and learning more about the world around him and well as more about his abilities. I believe inherently children wander as they try to see where they fit into the world around them. I, on the other hand, am not so spontaneous by nature. However, it has been the spontaneous journeys I have ventured on with other people that have broadened my horizons.

I also reflect on my journey to this stage in life and realized that by "chance" everything has happened for a reason. I initially thought I would become an architect and received a scholarship to Ball State University. Within the first month I realized it wasn't truly my passion. I was driven to the science and health care in general. Thankfully I had taken all those AP science courses in high school. Then I thought I would go to medical school and when I didn't score so well on the MCAT I decided maybe public health was the better option. After one semester at GW, again, I change to health services administration Thankfully I had also studied business/medical anthropology, psychology, and worked in a business environment throughout undergrad. These experiences prepared me for life in the more social sciences that eventually led me to the NIH.

Upon reflecting, my life plan looks nothing like I would have intended and that's a good thing. Being open to changes makes life interesting. Through these challenges and learning curves, like my son, I have learned more about my strengths and weaknesses. So I challenge you to wander and see where God takes you :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Today's shocks are tomorrow's conventions"- Carolyn Heilburn

So this quote is really important to me. There are tons of books about the feminist movement and how women can have it all... be perfect wives, mothers, and businesswomen. Although I love working outside of the home, I cannot help but reflect on my childhood and the amount of time I spent with my mother and grandmother. Those were the most fond memories I have. Riding bikes with the neighborhood kids, hearing the sound of my mother's voice calling me home when it started to get dark outside, picking food from my grandmothers garden and smelling the scent of fresh peppermint from my grandmothers purse after having brunch at the local lunch counter where my aunt work. The simple life, the good life. This leads to think, is is so bad to want to be a stay at home mom? To want to focus on raising your family? To expand this thought beyond family life I reflect on the social situations we have allowed to progress in our society. During a sermon this summer our pastor spoke on how or society (the US particularly) is so self-centered that we keep burying ourselves: in debt, lack of morals leading us astray from God. Why do we have to keep pushing the envelope? What are we trying to prove? I ask myself these questions too... what are you trying to prove? Who are you trying prove? Is it really worth it? I have always felt this pressure to be... everything. At first it was a motivator to keep going when things were really hard when I thought I would fail. Now its just feels like a burden. I have accomplished a lot in a relatively short amount of time but I still feel unfulfilled. As I think about these questions, I also go back to a quote from somewhere that "you are who God says you are." I am not sure what that is for me as of now. I know what I am naturally drawn to do but I really don't know who God thinks I am... what He wants me to do... I think I need to spend some intimate time with Him to figure this out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"At first glance it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again."- Mary Anne Rodmacher

Wow and so we start with this! I have encountered so many circumstances in the last year that I just didn't think  I was going to make it through. New job, new home, love(s) lost, etc but somehow, through the grace of God, I am doing reasonably well. Right now my current struggle is balancing work with my home responsibilities. My son just started pre-kindergarten and unfortunately due to the rising costs of preschool we don't arrive at home until around 6:00pm nightly and this cuts into my time with him in the evening.  We used to be home every night around 4:00pm and that left lots of time for a proper dinner and outside playtime before his 7:30pm bedtime. Although we have breakfast every morning, and recently started having story time as well,  I feel like I am missing out on raising him. That he spend more time with his teachers than with his mommy. Work is stressful and I wonder if I took on too much responsibility at the wrong moment. I will never get these years back with my son and that is my number one priority... it has to be. So I guess I am actively looking for a new position that will allow me to feel challenged at work but that for the most part I can leave at the office. I know that it will be difficult to find something like this at this level (as I cant take a pay cut because then I couldn't pay for preschool) but I know is possible.... I have faith :)

New format...

I know I have been absent for quite some time now. I felt like my blog was becoming a bit too dark and only highlighted the aspects of parenting that are challenging, difficult, etc and I didn't really want it to be about that. I truly want to become better mommy and in that I need to start emphasizing the positive. For years now I have received daily thoughts from Real Simple magazine and they often have amazing quotes that can change at the very least my attitude for the rest of the day. So why not have a daily blog reflecting on those quotes and how they relate to my life and how I might apply it (when applicable)... we will see how that goes :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Happened to Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Have birthday parties gone too far?

My mother always threw me the most amazing birthday parties and I made a vow to myself that I would do the same for my children. It wasn't always about how extravagant they were, but they were always meaningful and very creative. I am talking about themed slumber parties, murder mystery dinners (I was born at the end of October) that my friends still remember to this day.

My son is still in preschool and at this time (during my generation) most of the parties were held at home. Parents made a cake or bought one from the grocery store. We played table/board games, maybe pin the tail on the donkey, and just relaxed with friends and family. Now kids have formal invitations made and the parties are held at museums, "wee" gyms, and other venues. (I am guilty of this as well... but I love stationery). I am concerned that birthday parties are becoming another avenue for us to flaunt the things we do and don't have (a little "friendly" competition between parents and kids) and I wonder if we do all these great things before our kids turn double-digits, what are they going to expect? Lavish trips? Fancy cars? My son doesn't have another birthday until the Fall and he's already talking about who he wants to invite and what he wants as presents. (That's a whole other topic... the gifts/toys grow out of the control quickly.) I am guilty of having already booked the party, defined the guest list, invitations, etc and it's only February. (So what does that say about me?)

I love living in the Washington DC metro area and it has a lot to offer career wise and for families but there's a part of me that wishes I could raise my son with good old Midwestern values. I know that I can but then he won't keeping up with the "Baby Joneses".

Along with the awesome parties, my mother also told me not to have more children than I could take care of and that my hope for them should be that their life would be "better" than my own. But how do you define better? I already feel like I am not even half the parent my mother was/is and I am not sure if I will ever be. Sometimes I feel like the parties, sports, the play dates help me to feel like I am being a good mother because I feel guilty. Guilty that I didn't immediately embrace my motherly role. Guilty that I am a single mother. Guilty that I am not near family. Just plain guilty about everything so I fill myself and my son with stuff to mask it. (This blog is really helping me get to the bottom of my fears of being a mother.) I am terrified that I will fail because I don't like to fail. That somehow I will mess up my child and that's the last thing I would ever want to do.

I guess we will just throw another party...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stress Reduction and Access to God

Last Sunday my pastor preached a sermon on how Jesus' death and resurrection has given us open, unrestricted access to God (Mark 15:38; torn veil first act after the resurrection) and got me to start thinking about all the situations I have experienced, big and small, that I could have drawn on his strength, wisdom, hope to get me through it if not overcome it. Lately, due to stress, I have found myself being quick to anger especially with my son and it's so disappointing to me. Mainly because he isn't really doing anything wrong, just wanting my time/attention. He doesn't realize that I also have to make sure he has dinner, clean clothes, and a clean home. I feel like we as parents (humans) try to carry the burden of so much on our own and forget that we don't have to live like this. Yes, we will all have struggles but we can still have joy in the midst of them if we truly rely and trust on God. Just a little thing I have learned that I think will help out a lot.

So from this point forward on my car ride, or after parking the car in the preschool lot, I will say a little prayer:

"Lord, help me to be the mother that I desire to be. Help me to be understanding, loving, and most important reliant upon you to do great things through me. So that my son, and others, will see your love in me."

I am hopefully optimistic...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mommy (or Daddy) Guilt

Everyday I see the same scenario play out at preschool. Parent A drops off toddler A and toddler A has a meltdown because they couldn't pick out their spoon to eat their yogurt. Parent A leaves with toddler A screaming and crying and Parent A feels totally guilty all day for not being a stay-at-home parent. Or, lets say it's Valentine's Day and all the super type-A mothers made elaborate treats and tokens of love while the working mommies bought the pre-made cards from Target the night before. Not to speak lightly of the role stay-at-home parents play because it's an awesome responsibility... it's just one that I personally couldn't handle. I want to work. I love to work and it has nothing to do with me being a feminist. I think if you feel like you can do the job well then do so... but I digress.

So I thought I would tackle the issue of mommy guilt. Society has evolved so much over the past few decades and it seems like regardless of societal norms, women (mothers) are always held to a higher standard. Although things are changing, many women who work outside the home are still "required" to take care of many of the household responsibilities including parenting. At least with me, and I know my perspective is slightly different because I am/have been a single mommy, there's a lot of pressure to be exceptional at everything that we do. We feel like somehow if we don't give our children 100% and give our work 100% that we are a failure. Personally this has been extremely stressful for me and exhausting. I struggle daily with not having enough time to take care of me. Eating properly, working out, adequate mommy-only time (I often "mourn" for my pre-child life) because I feel like any of those things would take away from the precious 3 hours in the evening that I have to make an "imprint" in my son's life.

The other catch-22 is when to start having a family and the major effect it has on your life going forward.  I was 24 when I gave birth to my son and had a great job and college education (and a partially completed Masters degree) and even though I am relatively young, I still feel drained everyday. Those couples who decide to delay parenting until they have reached a certain economic level may find that when they do start a family that their work is so consuming because they are at mid-senior level of their organization. Whereas if you have children younger, you are not as financially secure but then the demands of work may not be as great. I am at turning point in my career where I must decide how much rising up the ladder I can take and still be a good mom but still feel fulfilled. Mommy guilt factors in because my son loves babies... I mean he will hug and kiss every baby if I allowed him too and he asks me regularly... "mommy when am I going to be a big brother?" Dagger... I can barely handle parenting him and he wants to add someone else to the picture. But I feel guilty that he doesn't have a playmate and sometimes I wonder if he did, would that alleviate some of my stress because they would have each other. Then I remember the sleepless nights, pumping, baby gear, doctor's appointments, potty-training, rising infant care/preschool tuition and wonder if I could really do it all over again.

I could talk about a million different scenarios but I am just curious about how other parents deal with guilt and wanting to be the best parents you can be without losing yourself. I would love to hear your perspective...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Am I Being to Harsh?

My son and I have experienced many changes over the last few months and I have noticed that he's more clingy to me than he used to. He also requires my assistance more with tasks he used to happily assume on his own. Unfortunately, most of this happens at nighttime after I have already had a long day (I rise around 5:45am everyday) and I know that I don't always respond in the best way because I am beat and just want some peace. A little reprieve from playing, reading, and other motherly duties.

A little background...Before we moved, my son slept in his own bed, in his own room, all night. Once I put him down there really wasn't much more after that unless he was sick. Now, it's a major production... which is understandable (because of the new surroundings and he has a big boy bed) however this has lasted for nearly three months! If I deviate from our normal routine in anyway he has meltdowns or "refuses" (meaning stays awake quietly in his bed for hours) until I come into the room and sleep with him. I don't know about you all but after 8:00pm it's mommy time. I need those two hours before I put myself to bed to recharge and prepare for yet another day. Although things are getting better, I still wonder if I have somehow damaged my son.

What are you thoughts?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beginning...

Life as I knew it was completely turned upside down one super hot day in August of 2007. My beautiful baby boy was born after an extremely long and complicated labor. People say that you are never really ready for the dramatic changes that occur when you become responsible for another human being... let's just say to date I have experienced a whirlwind of highs and lows... from a broken arm to Christmas concerts and good morning kisses followed by "I very very love you." It's because of him that I want to learn to embrace my new role as mommy while still balancing my desire to have a meaningful career and being a loving the future. I don't have all the answers but my goal is to be open, honest, and share feelings, experiences, and emotions that are often reserved for our most sincere friends because I believe motherhood shouldn't be a secret society and we all can help and encourage each other on this journey. My goal is blog at least three times per week about any and everything that I think is worth sharing. Please feel free to ask questions, make comments (but please be nice. My feelings are easily hurt, which is probably not a good thing as a parent because kids are brutally honest) and I hope that we will laugh, cry, and grow together.