We’re having the important discussion at Burlington Vermont Moms Blog about body image after having babies. Please read along! Body After Babies: Redefining Beauty
What I wanted to do today was post pictures of our Living Room before and after. What I’m actually doing is nursing a sick kid. He moans. It’s the man cold in boy form. And it ain’t pretty.
What I wanted to do today was show you how pretty my Living Room is. What I’m actually doing is hoping this set up…
Thaws the pipes to our upstairs radiators that are frozen. No heat in Vermont in January is fun.
What I wanted to do today was show you this rug:
But I can’t because last night entailed an epic pillow fight and some certain children didn’t clean up after themselves. What I’m actually doing is reading Duct Tape Parenting and realizing my kids need more training. I realize this because I am constantly cleaning up after them and quite frankly, I’m sick of it.
I’ve let things slip, taken over too much control. Not expected everyone to do their share around here. So I’m leaving the messes they create. I spent my weekend ignoring scenes like this:
Biting my tongue so hard I may puncture it. I’ve asked once. And that’s all I’m asking. Which is why my dining room looks like this:
And why my evening last night looked like this:
That’s me hiding in my bedroom drinking a glass of wine while the children destroy the house.
So far the messes don’t last long. It takes them a day to realize I’m no longer coming behind them to clean up. Now it’s Monday and I can’t touch any of this. Nope. Not even this delightful collection at the bottom of the stairs:
If you need me, I’ll be rocking in the corner, thinking about all the things I wanted to do today.
PS: this book I’m reading is so great! It’s like taking Love and Logic parenting up a notch and adding some great twists. I’ll be telling you more about it soon! Just, obviously, not today.
Did you know that I was once a Gestational Surrogate? It’s true! It’s not something many people know about me but it’s a very important part of my life. The pregnancy didn’t end the way we all hoped, but the experience changed my life. To read more, check out my post at Burlington Vermont Moms Blog…
When I wrote a post about my husband’s upcoming deployment I had quite a few responses. The ones that stood out to me the most were the ones from fellow moms who spoke out of guilt. It sounded something like this:
“I complain about my husband being gone one night or one weekend. I can’t imagine what six months would look like,” said with an apologetic tone.
So it got me thinking about this subject of guilt and judgement. I’ve talked about this before and obviously it’s something I am supposed to be learning right now. So since you are reading my blog, you are forced to as well. You’re welcome!
Here’s the thing I am learning, our struggles are all relative to where we are at in our lives.
Whether it’s about your weight, parenting, your marriage…whatever…it’s all relative.
I am battling with what I will do when my husband is gone for six months. But that does not in any way make your battle with your husband being gone a weekend any smaller. It’s all relative to our situation.
This is my journey. These are my stories. You have different ones. And that’s ok.
It’s ok that I am a size 8 and struggling with my weight and you are a size 12 and struggling with yours. Because it’s all relative to where we are at in our lives. I wrote “Stop Telling Me I’m Not Fat” out of this same mind set. I almost didn’t because, what if people with really bad weight problems get their feelings hurt?! (And they did, sorry!) But I let that go. Just because we vary in sizes doesn’t mean that one struggle is worse than the other. A struggle is a struggle. Right? (Serious health issues, aside, obviously! I’m talking about “I don’t like my butt” weight issues, here.)
It’s ok that I am parenting the way I do and you are parenting the way you do. We are not the same people. My struggles and yours in our parenting are all relative to the kinds of kids we have and our family dynamics. I am not right. You are not wrong.
We react based out of that fear.
“Oh, she deals with her husband deploying for months at a time, I better not complain about my husband working late.”
“Oh well she has 30 pounds to lose and I only have 10 so I better not mention my weight issues.”
“Oh she has perfect angel children, if I tell her the truth about my wild maniacs she will think I am a terrible parent.” (This is usually what I am thinking.)
Stop that! If it’s hard on you, then that’s ok! Talk about it! Don’t hold it in in fear of judgement from someone going through something harder or different. We all go through different things at different times. Why do we allow ourselves to feel badly for where we are at in our lives?
Sure, some people have it worse off than us. And it is good to stop and be grateful. I am not suggesting that we be rude and say, “Oh yeah, look at what I am going through!” I am simply suggesting that when someone presents their struggle to you, you respond with the understanding that they are in a different place than you. They live a different life. Don’t compare them to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to them. We all handle things differently.
Let’s work on this, ok? Let’s support each other with what we are struggling with without harsh judgement. Let’s agree to disagree on various subjects and realize that we are all in this together. Let’s support one another and realize that it’s all relative. I’m not right. You are not wrong. And vice-versa. I am struggling with something that seems so, so big to me…and so are you!
I hope my rambled thoughts make sense to you.
The bottom line, I don’t want anyone to feel like their problems and feelings are insignificant.
No matter how big or how small. It counts. It matters. Give yourself a break. Because I sure am!
We are a military family. It is fairly new to us. Even though many of our family members have been in the military, Matt just joined about three (or four? is it bad I can’t remember?) years ago. So it’s new to us on the level where it affects our every day life.
The longest Matt has been away is for six weeks for Officer Training School. I was so relieved that he could skip the eight week basic training and go straight into Officer School. Those two weeks seemed to make it so much shorter, although, it’s just two weeks, right? Here’s the thing…I cried every single day of those six weeks. Every. Single. Day. I missed him. I was never so aware of how much I needed him. I hated it. He has left for many small trainings and trips since then. A week here and there. And I cry every time he leaves.
Now here we are staring down the face of a six month deployment. While I realize that a six month tour is super short by military terms, it is our first deployment and it sounds like six years to my heart.
And I have already been told that I should not complain about six months because it’s nothing and other husbands are gone way longer but I find that to be totally rude and I can be upset if I want to, so there.
I am heading up the Family Readiness Group for Matt’s squadron so I had a meeting with the commanders the other day. One of them says, “We still have __ (amount of months removed for privacy purposes) months until the deployment so the families are not really thinking about it yet.” And I just about started crying right there. (But I didn’t because I had my super professional no crying hat on.) No one was thinking about it yet? I am thinking about it every day and totally freaking out. Why are other people not?! Am I that much of a disaster/failure of a military wife? Now, to be fair, this is a man talking and generally speaking they don’t get how our minds work. So he could have been totally thinking like a man. Maybe the other wives are thinking about it. I’m sure I’ll find out soon.
When I discuss these OMG feelings with others, I am told things like:
“You are stronger than you think you are.”
“You have been through so much, you can handle this!”
And so on.
But I don’t always believe those statements about myself. You didn’t see me curled up crying every day of those six weeks. You didn’t see me cry on the side of the road on the way to getting the car fixed last week because what will I do when the car needs work and I don’t know if the mechanics are telling me the truth and I can’t just pick up on the phone and call him next time. You didn’t see me cry at the end of the driveway yesterday because the garbage can was super heavy and what will I do when he is gone and things are heavy?
I know what I will do when those things happen while he is gone. I will call the male friends we have that know about cars. I will summon my supermom powers and lift the heavy things. Or buy a crane. I know I will just do it. Because I won’t have a choice.
My husband reminds me that our sacrifices matter. It’s bigger than us. And I totally agree. I do not regret that we decided to be a military family. I take a deep breath and remind myself of that in those OMG moments. I remind myself that women do this every day. They do it well. They do it for many, many more months than I will have to. And I can do it too. I just need to trust in myself and the people around me who will be my support. I need to remember that I am not alone. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I will not be alone.
But without him by my side…physically…by my side. My heart doesn’t believe you when you tell me that I am strong. My heart screams, “NO I AM NOT! SHUT UP AND LET ME CRY LILE THE BIG WHINEY BABY THAT I AM.” (Yes, my heart talks in all caps.)
So I am left thinking. Am I really strong? Is the me you see in regular life, smiling and carrying on as if nothing is wrong, the strong me? Or is the me crying by the side of the road, admitting that I am weak, the strong me? Is it both? Is it that I can admit all of this to the internet, is that the strong me? What makes you think that I am so strong? What makes me think that I am not?
You think I’m strong but I’m not so sure. I suppose we are all about to find out. I hope I prove you right. For my sake. For my kids’ sake. I sure hope you are right about me. For once in my life, I sure hope I am wrong.
Almost fourteen years ago, when Matt and I started our lives together, he worked at the mall. It was a good position in a sports store. Sometimes we think back to those days and wonder how we made it though.
Once we had our first son, things changed. Matt decided it was time to go back to college and start a career. We wanted more for our growing family.
It took a move from New York to Indiana to start us off. Matt worked nights at UPS and maintained a full school work load during the day. There were times in the summer when he also worked construction with my brother. I worked part time while my Mom babysat Chandler.
It was a crazy time for us. There was much debt accumulation. We paid for diapers with our credit cards. We lived in my Mom’s basement for a couple of years. But we kept going. Matt worked his butt off trying to make a better life for us.
Eventually, we were able to buy a house and start a somewhat more normal life for ourselves. We had two more babies. We continued to struggle financially. Matt worked the night shift for several years. We always made it though. We lived very simply for many, many years. I worked part time on and off but then finally stopped once I had all three boys on my hands. At that point, we lived even more simply. How? I have no idea. But we did it.
A few years later, Matt graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in mechanical engineering. From the time he started there until he graduated, he climbed up at UPS from night time box handler to a position in the engineering department. The money was better but we still struggled. There were debts to be paid and school loans looming overhead. But we kept going.
We moved here to Vermont about ten years later. Matt accepted a some-what temporary contract position on the base in the engineering department. He’s been there a couple of years. Thankfully, his contract had continued to be renewed throughout those two years.
Yesterday, Matt accepted a promotion for a permanent position as Deputy Engineer over the Civil Engineering Department on the base. This is the job he has been hoping and praying for. This is the kind of position that he dreamed of twelve years ago when we started this journey of bettering our lives. This is a huge promotion. A huge step forward in his career. This, for us, is HUGE.
We have struggled and scrimped and scraped by for all of these years. Having babies and living the best life we can all the while. As the years have gone on, things slowly got better for us. It took time and patience to get to where we are.
I wanted to share this part of our story to encourage those of you who are still in the very beginning stages of your journey. Maybe you just registered for college courses and are wondering how you will raise a family and earn your degree. Maybe you have graduated but now stare down the long road of paying off loans and finding that perfect job. Maybe you are still working at the mall and haven’t even taken the first step yet. Here’s what I want you to know:
IT IS WORTH IT.
Keep going. Keep pushing. Keep your expectations for yourself and your family high. Don’t give up! Find every program and scholarship you can. ASK FOR HELP. If we didn’t live with my Mom and Step-Dad for those couple of years, I don’t know what we would have done. Granted, not everyone has the luxury of that kind of situation, but make the best of your situation. Sacrifice. We gave up so much in those years. And now?
I’m sitting in my amazing kitchen staring at appliances that I have only dreamed of having.
I just talked to my husband on my iPhone. (Yes, this is a luxury to me!)
We have cable! Yes, this is the first time we have had cable in…well, I don’t even know how many years.
Our debts have dwindled.
We gave up so much to get to where we are. But hear me:
IT WAS WORTH IT!
We are not rich now or anything. Don’t get me wrong. Maybe my title is a little misleading. There will still be struggle ahead of us. We didn’t win the lottery. But, boy, I sure feel like we did.
Young families, keep hoping, keep dreaming, keep going. I promise you, one day it will all be worth it!
I have heard mothers of babies and young children ask this question before. I have asked it myself so. many. times.
Will I really miss this?
When you are smack dab in the middle of the hardest mothering moments you wonder.
Women who’s children have grown up tell us this. We will miss this. They swear on it. And we wonder.
How will I miss the sleepless nights and the spit up stained wardrobe and the endless poopy diapers.
How will I miss spending hours pretending to enjoy playing race cars (AGAIN) and singing the Barney song (AGAIN) and asking if anyone needs to go potty (AGAIN).
Well, I’m here to tell you how. They grow up. And you face a whole new era of parenting.
One full of teaching your grown child about bullying, about strangers, about not trusting everyone who smiles at you. You teach them about consequences and disappointment and they learn that there are bad people out there. Really bad people.
You spend your days sheltering them from the harshness of this world while trying ever so hard to not be overprotective while they learn life’s injustices. You sit back and let them feel the pain of it. Because you have to. In just a few years, you won’t be there to protect them anymore. So you let the world start creeping in. Slowly. Because soon, so soon, someone other than you will hold their hand and whisper in their ear.
And you hope and pray those people will love them as much as you do. That the world will love them and value them as much as you do. Which is hard. Because you know it just might not.
One day I will miss even these days. These days of soccer practice and game night and Star Wars marathon weekends.
One day soon I will wonder if they are safe. Hope they come home by curfew. Pray to God they are in the “good crowd”. I will…gulp…give them the keys to the car.
One day I will miss this. I know it’s true. Even when there isn’t enough coffee in the world for that 8 am Saturday morning soccer game in the rain.
I will miss this. And you will too.
The past year we have been living in an 850 square foot, 2 bedroom apartment. Yes, you heard that right. My husband and I and our three BOYS have been squished into this box we call home. To make it better, we are on the second floor. We have to pay $3 a load to do laundry (that’s about $80 a month if we’re keeping track). And it’s just overall SMALL.
Last summer we moved to Vermont. We never did sell our house. So we are renting it out. Which means we are renting here. I should explain that renting here is difficult to say the least. We don’t want to make the kids switch schools again so staying in this particular town is making it even more difficult. After six months of searching and looking at rentals and countless emails and phone calls, still…nothing. Nothing has worked out.
So I sit here, in my tiny box, trying to make sense of it all.
What lesson is this? Being grateful for what I have? My (ever so lovely but say it one more time and I’ll slap you) husband says, “At least we don’t live in a hut in Africa.” OK. So yes, that is true. And I remind myself several times a day when I am feeling aggravated that “OMG Why does stuff fall on my head every time I open the closet door?!” And when I get sad and upset that we do not have a backyard for the boys to play in.
At least we have a roof over our head. At least we have food to eat and clothes to wear. Even if they are falling on my head.
Is this lesson on being content? We have all definitely learned a huge lesson on being happy with what we have. I have learned that what I need and what I want are not the same. I have learned that stuff doesn’t make me happy. We have gotten rid of so. much. stuff. We just don’t need it all. When I buy something, I stop and think. When my boys made their Christmas lists this week, they only asked for roller blades and skateboards. “And maybe a video game if you want, Mom.” I mean, how awesome is that?!
Now I kind of feel like, OK! All done! Lessons learned! But I don’t think it’s that easy, is it? I don’t think gratitude and contentment are learned and then you move on. I think they are ongoing lessons. Ones you need to remember and re-evaluate daily.
We have decided to pursue buying a house this Spring. We were thinking we needed to wait but things are looking like they will work out for us to buy soon. This is good. This is good news. It means our planned trip to Disney before Matt’s deployment is canceled. It means a weekend trip to NYC is canceled. It means a 13 year anniversary trip is canceled. But it also means that we are buying a house. So it’s good.
It has been a long, long year. I have complained and cried and complained some more. But I really have learned so much through the complaining and the tears. And I’m sure that I haven’t cried my last tear or whined my last complaint. Especially since the person in the apartment above us is letting her 300 pound, is that a dog or a horse, run laps right now. And tomorrow while I am yelling PLEASE STOP JUMPING SO WE DON’T GET KICKED OUT for the millionth time, I shall complain some more. And when my boys cry because I yell at them for jumping like only normal boys do, I will cry again.
But then, one day soon, we will jump and laugh and dance and sing as LOUD as we can. We will be in OUR home. Ours. We will be happy to breathe in as many square feet as God blesses us with. We will fill every corner with the things we have decided to keep, to call our favorites. I will complain about how long it takes to clean big houses. I will cry that everyone has suddenly decided to start singing opera. And then I will sing just as loud while I clean my big house.
Contentment and gratitude, I got your number. And I won’t stop looking you straight in the eye from now on.
This week I bought some items from the grocery store that I normally wouldn’t buy.
Not a ton of junk food or anything, just some boxed and convenience foods that I normally steer clear of.
I have a lot on my mind right now. A lot to work through. So I’m giving myself a little break from the high expectations I have of myself.
A break from my from scratch life, so to say.
Sometimes you have to step back and evaluate what is more important. Peace of mind of bread from scratch.
I’m gong with my mind on this one.
And I won’t feel guilty about it. This is a stage in my life where I need to focus on other things. I will still be cooking, of course, we gots to eat. I will still post from scratch recipes for you my lovely friends.
But I won’t expect myself to spend my afternoons preparing homemade this and homemade that.
I bought me some boxed granola bars and frozen waffles.
Which to most people is completely normal. But for me it’s not, so.
Knowing my limits makes me just as good of a Mom and Wife as baking muffins does.
Here I am. Admitting that I can’t do it all and not expecting myself to.
And quite happy about it, really.