Monday, September 8, 2014

An Open Apology to Parents from My Pre-Kid Self

Today a beautiful thing happened in my life. It was something that made me feel excited, giddy, and just plain glad to be alive.

I went grocery shopping by myself.

Let me say that again:


As in, I was alone. As in, there was no toddler with me. As in, there was no one precariously grabbing glass jars off of shelves. There was no one asking me 500,000 questions while I'm just trying to get in, get what I need, and get out. No one was stripping off their socks and shoes and leaving them strewn about the store aisles. No one demanded a box of snacks or cookies and then screamed when I told them no. I got a latte before I started. I read the peanut butter labels and figured out the difference between "Natural" Jif and "Simply" Jif, and I actually got everything I needed on the first time through the store. I took my time shopping and still finished in less time than usual.

It was grocery shopping as it was meant to be: shopping for groceries. Nothing more, nothing less...and it was divine. And I am not a person who generally enjoys food shopping. The whole meal-planning, list-making, shopping, loading/unloading, putting-away, cooking thing usually makes me want to vomit. So for me to say that I enjoyed this shopping trip should really tell you something. 

Now, lest you read these words and think I am exaggerating, let me be very clear: I am in no way being sarcastic about how wonderful this experience was for me. This is where the apology comes in. You see, in my 30 years on this earth prior to having a child of my own, I secretly (and often unknowingly) judged parents who said things like this. Some part of me assumed these parents were exaggerating or embellishing to make a good story. I mean, who thinks grocery shopping is a vacation? It really can't be that hard to go to the store with your children, right? And if it is that hard, doesn't that probably mean that you're doing something wrong?

To my shame, I silently judged these poor parents and thought that there was no way their sentiments could be as valid as they proported. I was WRONG. Dead wrong. To whoever you were: I am sorry! It was out of sheer ignorance that I thought you were embellishing or playing the martyr. I know better now.

This is one of the beauties of parenting: it has made me so much less judgmental about other children and parents. In my pre-kid days I didn't realize just how much subconcious judging I did. On some level I thought parents should be able to control their children (HA!), that a child's disobedience was just poor parenting (HAAA!), and that somehow as an outsider I had a better perspective than the parent did and could probably offer them some good advice (BAAAAHAHAHAHA!).

I am not proud of those things and am so thankful for the pruning that is beginning in my heart to trim off some of those prideful thoughts. Do you need to plop your kid in front of the TV so you can get just a few precious moments of silence? More power to you. Is your kid 4 years old and not potty trained? It will happen - she'll do it when she's ready. Do you sometimes have to bribe your child to do simple tasks? Go for it. Do you sometimes placate your demanding child because you simply cannot take one more second of that peircing high pitched whine? You go, girl. No one - NO ONE - knows better what is best for the child than his/her parent or caretaker. And sometimes, what is best for the child is actually is what is best for the parent, or the older sibling, or the family as a whole. And unless you are this child's parent, you simply do not know all of the factors contributing to the 1 gazillion choices you must make for each child every single day. I'm so glad I know this now.

Being a parent is maturing me, broadening my horizons, showing me how to better love those around me, and causing me to just plain GROW UP. Some days I think I am raising my daughter, and then other days I realize that it is really she who is raising me. Thank you for showing me the way, Sweet Girl. I'm deeply grateful for this life-changing journey, this grand adventure, because I still have so much further to go.

What about you? How has your perspective changed since becoming a parent? Are there things you do now that you swore you'd never do?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Life Lesson from Bill Clinton

Over the last several months I have been mildly obsessed with late night talk shows. Mainly Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and David Letterman. I DVR them all and watch whichever I'm in the mood for. I can't explain it entirely, but some of it has to do with my love for TV (yep, I admit it), and some of it has to do with helping me cope with all the darkness in the world by bringing some levity to it. These guys are just down right funny and really, really talented.

A couple months back I was watching The Jimmy Kimmel Show as he had President Bill Clinton on as his guest. Whatever your opinion of him, the President taught me a profound life lesson that night. In the first few minutes of their interview, Jimmy asks the former President about his new vegan lifestyle and in particular which he misses more: cheese, or being POTUS. This was his response:

"Well, I liked being President more than I like cheese. Most days I don't miss it. I loved doing the job, but I think one of the most important things is that, 

when you're doing something you know you can't do forever, you have to organize your life so that you don't spend a minute if possible wishing you could do something you can't do anymore. " 

Next, after talking briefly about Filipino politician Manny Pacquiao, he brings up Magic Johnson and his transition to business after his sports career ended prematurely. 

"He never wasted a day wishing he could do what he couldn't do anymore."

Wow. Did you get that? He never wasted a single day wishing his life could be something that it's not. That statement hit me like a punch in the gut. If you read my post about being a stay at home mom, you know that my life stage and circumstances have been on my mind quite a bit lately; so, hearing his words in the context of those thoughts, I was profoundly impacted. Not infrequently an older parent says to me, "Enjoy every moment! It goes by so fast!" Or, "I would trade places with you if I could!" Or, "Enjoy it now, while they still like you!" You get the picture. In their opinion my life stage seems in some way preferable to theirs. And you know what? I believe them. I absolutely believe that it goes by quickly, that they would trade places with me if they could, and that there will be days in the future that my children will not like me. I believe you, Older Mom. I do. And I don't want to minimize your sentiments or invalidate your feelings.


I want to live my current days in such a way that when my children are grown I do not wish my days away longing for "the good old days." I want to savor the way my two year old runs: clunky, elbows flailing about, completely unhindered by what anyone thinks of her. That is a sacred and beautiful thing. I want to take an obscene amount of photos so that we have a storehouse of memories to look back on. I want to juice these days for all they are worth for the very reason that I do believe they are special and will go by quickly.

I realize this is much easier said than done, but I want to do exactly what President Clinton said: organize my life now in such a way so that later when this stage is over, I don't spend a single day wishing I could do something I simply cannot do anymore. None of us know what the future holds and what circumstances we will find ourselves in, but when the time comes, please do not let me be Older Mom who says to Younger Mom, "Enjoy every moment!" Not because I don't want her to, but because; 1) quite frankly, not every moment is enjoyable (see one of my favorite mommy blog posts here that likens parenting to climbing Mount Everest. Is every moment of that enjoyable? No. I don't think so. But yes, it's worth the climb.) 2) I don't want to be of the mindset where I longingly look at her life and wish mine were something different than it is.

I am sure that this is true for many, if not all of us. Chances are we will out-live whatever it is we are doing right now. If a person can hold the most powerful office in the free world for 8 years and go on to say that most days he doesn't miss it, surely I can work on arranging my life so that one day I can say the same. I hope to be able say to a Younger Mom, "You know what? I loved the season of having young children. It wasn't always easy, but I loved all the time we had together and all the sweet memories we made. I wouldn't trade them for the world. And, I am content with where life has me right now."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why I'm a Stay at Home Mom

"What do you do all day?" she asked me. 

In my stunned, swirling head, I searched for an answer, 

" would be surprised how quickly the days fill up."

She realized the insensitivity of her question and back-pedaled a bit, but she had already tipped her hand. Even though she has a child the same age as mine, she wanted to know how someone could just sit at home a
ll day with their kid. It was a judgment, and an unkind one at that. 

Fast forward a few weeks.

Her: "Your daughter is in half day preschool twice a week? That wouldn't really work for a working mom, but good for you! So what are you going to do with all that extra time?!"

Me (sheepishly) " to have a breakfast or lunch date with a friend."

Her face said what her words did not: "Isn't that what you already do all the time anyway?"

I felt pressured. Like I somehow needed to explain myself. Like I was being looked down on. Like at the first sign of my child's independence I should immediately re-join the workforce. 

Now, I am still relatively new at this stay-at-home-mom gig. (The title of "stay-at-home-parent" is a terrible one, but it is widely accepted, so I will use it here and save that rant for another day.) I think I feel like anyone would two years into a new job: I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do and what works or doesn't work. But I also know that there is still a lot I need to learn. One of the things I had not encountered in my learning curve yet was that I may, at any moment, need to defend to someone why I do what I do because it is on some level inconceivable to them.


There are so many reasons I choose to be a stay at home mom. Here are a few:

It's how I'm wired

Relationships are my highest value. I am a person who prefers a small number of deep relationships rather than a wide pool of acquaintances. If I had no other responsibilities or demands on my time, I would rather spend time with one of "my people" than do just about anything else in life. So, if I have the opportunity to invest in and interact with my own child, you can bet I'm going to do just that. Simply put, relationships are my bottom line. My personality type will do just about anything to be sure our values are not compromised, and we constantly re-evaluate whether our life reflects those values (also, this is exhausting.) So, for me personally, spending 95% of my time with my family just makes sense. 

I'll never regret spending time with my child

I know we should never say never. But, I can't conceive of a scenario in which I would look back on my life and say that I wish I'd spent less time with my child(ren). Particularly during the very early years. 
I also have never met anyone with grown children who has this regret. That speaks volumes to me. 

Of course there are days that I am pulling my hair out in frustration and need space from my child; but, when I get to spend the bulk of my days pouring love into her and teaching her values like kindness and empathy, I know I am exactly where I want to be. 

Andrew Peterson has a touching song called Planting Trees that so beautifully depicts his wife's work in one of its verses:

She rises up as morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake
And her heart is so full; it overflows
She waters us with love and the children grow

THAT is what I want to do. I want to water my family with love at every opportunity. I want to give myself away in a deep and lasting way. I want to make memories of napping together, taking walks together, and learning about life from the inside out.

I can

Not everyone who wants to "stay at home" with their children can. Lots of moms and dads out there would love to be with their children full time but the realities of life demand that they work outside of the home. I know full well that I am lucky to even have this option and I do not take it for granted.

And while it is a privilege, it is also a sacrifice. Because of my choice I forfeit things like interacting and forming relationships with co-workers, keeping current on the latest computer skills and technology, building my resume, and of course a paycheck.

It challenges me

One of the key factors in happiness is whether or not we are challenged and given the opportunity to grow. Being a stay at home mom, I am regularly brought to the end of myself in ways I had never imagined. I am regularly pushed to my limit in areas like patience and self control. My character is being stretched and my rough edges are being exposed as I grapple with how to best raise this little life I have been entrusted with. My daughter teaches me just as much about life and love as I teach her, if not more.

Of course staying at home is not for every parent. "Working" parents have their own set of reasons for working outside of the home that are just as valid as mine. We are all doing what we think is best for ourselves and our families. No judgment. I personally do not know anyone who is not trying to take the best care they can of their children and raise them well. None of us make these decisions lightly. Let's all give each other grace, and encourage each other wherever life has us. These are just my reasons for doing what I do. 

Now. All that said, I could end up looking for a job tomorrow if something changes. None of us know what tomorrow holds. But for right now, for today, I am content. This is what is right for me and my family. I enjoy it and am grateful for it. Which I think is all any of us can ask for from life. 

What about you? What leads you to do what you do and how can we show grace and give space to those who are different than we are?