It’s Your Thing…Do What You Wanna Do (Even if Everyone is Judging You For It)

We’ve all talked about mommy shaming. We will talk about it more. Daddy shaming, mommy shaming, shaming in general is just a big pet peeve of mine. I was talking to my mother yesterday and she mentioned, “When did it become so wrong to have differences of opinion and be able to have a civil conversation about it?” But really, when did it? Having differences of opinion is a beautiful thing. If we were all programmed robots, all thinking the same thing, there would never be division. But imagine a world where everyone agreed all the time. I don’t think that’s beautiful. That is not diversity. Imagine a world where differences of opinion are celebrated, in all areas, personal areas such as parenting choices, lifestyle choices, etc. And while many claim that is what they aspire to do, not many actually do it. The other day my children ate peanut butter toast off my spoon while running around the play room. One friend’s children ate goldfish crackers that same day for breakfast and yet another friend’s children ate breakfast sitting down at the table like they do every morning. Each one of us parents differently and each one of us is giving our all to be the best parent we can be. And each one of us is doing GREAT.

Breakfast time at my house does happen more frequently as a free feeding carnival and once summer comes we will probably continue this tradition while they run around naked outdoors. (They will probably even pee in the grass…GASP). Even dinner time at the table can be a somewhat exciting experience with beans flying and squash face masks. But, my children do sometimes eat even breakfast at the table and my friends children do eat other things than goldfish. Parenting is not an exact science, and what matters is the big picture. Hey, at least none of us chew our food and spit it back into their mouths like Alicia Silverstone did with her son Bear…(Yep, I am totally sitting here still thinking that is weird BUT I would be willing to bet she made that admittedly disgusting choice because she truly believed it to be the best for her kid. I am just waiting to see what he thinks later, but I won’t shame her for it. I mean, that took balls to admit to in public you have to hand her that).

One of my friends just weaned her one year old, another just weaned her three year old. Both of them are amazing moms and neither one made a wrong choice. Each one made the best choice for her and her child. Each one should be confident in her parenting decisions, for they are both doing their BEST. I have doubts in my parenting abilities, just like we all do. Sometimes I even cry about it (just ask my husband about the other night when we all went to bed after 10pm and I was momentarily convinced I was destroying my children’s development by having irregular bedtimes and so we all three sat in bed and cried while the poor man tried to calm us all down). For us, naps and bedtimes differ because my husband and I both work and we made the choice to have flexible scheduling so we can spend more time with our kids. But, my children do nap, and they do sleep. Sometimes we go to bed earlier and they wake up at 8. Sometimes I work late and they wake up the next day at 10:00. They even sleep with us and our crew of cats and yes we are all still alive and well. And for the most part, I try to practice what I preach and own my parenting choices in confidence, but it can be SO difficult when we are inundated with not only everyone else’s opinions but we also have a zillion articles pelting us via social media every day on how we should parent and why we should do things a certain way. I mean, hanging out with other mamas can straight up give me flashbacks to watching Mean Girls with Lindsey Lohan. (That scene in the school where everyone acts like a jungle animal? Yeah, just replace the school with the park playground).

Why don’t we respect each other’s choices? (parenting and other wise). Why do we feel it is our own personal mission to ‘correct’ one another? I may not agree with you, and I’m not only more than willing to have a civil and respectful conversation about it, but also equally willing to admit that perhaps neither of us is wrong. Maybe we are both right. Maybe I don’t understand why you do what you do, and for that matter you may not understand why I do what I do, but I am going to leave it to the Big Man Upstairs to work that out. Let’s toast to our differences and leave it at that. I have many friends, (both mom friends and non mom friends) who I know have different opinions than I do. However, I am not going to let that effect my opinion of them or my love for them.

Because I also know that they truly are doing their best and acting on what they believe is the right thing to do. And it probably is. Just because it is different than my choice does not make it wrong. So, in the words of Aretha Franklin, “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do” and I will also add, “R E S P E C T”, let’s start socking that to each other on a daily basis, shall we?

On Setting an Example of Balance

Click here for my latest Monday Morning Coffee Rant “Let’s Talk Body Image”

(as promised, the Apple Crumble recipe is posted above under the ‘Recipes’ tab, enjoy!!!)

img_2110I don’t think it’s a shocking revelation that becoming a parent is one of the MOST beautiful, stressful, all absorbing, all consuming life events that can happen to a person. Being a mom is without doubt the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. It’s also the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. The love you experience as a parent washes over you like a giant ocean wave and consumes your entire heart and soul.  As my mom always said, watching your kids really is like watching your heart walk around outside your body. I am completely, head over heels, in love and obsessed with my children. And no, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I do, however, think that this presents an interesting challenge. While they occupy my every heartbeat and breath, I also have to find a way to take care of myself not only because I am a human and have needs too, but because I want to give them a mother who is interesting, who has passions, who can teach them how to be their best selves by being my best self.

And no, I cannot do this every day. Sometimes (oftentimes) the mommy they get needs a shower, is emotional, tired, and drained. And sometimes I force my smile and pretend I actually got sleep last night. And sometimes I put on Veggietales so I can answer work emails in img_1994peace for ten minutes. And that is ok. We cannot be perfect every moment of every day. What matters is our long term approach. I want my daughter and son to grow up with self respect and self esteem, I want them to be brave and feel confident and deserving of pursuing their passions. I don’t want to give them a mom who is a potato, thus possibly leading them to one day become potatoes themselves. I want to give them a mom who is full of life, passion, drive and balance, and inspire them to become such people as well.

fullsizerenderBut if they grow up with a mother who does none of these things, what am I teaching them? If I never take care of my own needs and desires, never do anything just because it brings me joy, what does that show them? Is that the example I want to be? Heck no. And motherhood is sacrifice. An absolutely worthy sacrifice but sacrifice it is, there’s no way around that. Most days I drink my coffee cold, I buy their clothes and needs first, and I don’t always get a shower. And as I’ve said before, I think that’s the way it should be. I chose to bring them into this world, not vice versa. And I find joy in the sacrifice. I will continue to put them first, always.

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PC: @renegadedrifterphotography

But I do think it’s important to set an example of personal respect and self esteem, and that entails doing things for me. And don’t get me wrong, my children DO bring me joy. THEY are for me. I have never experienced such complete, utter happiness in my heart and soul as I experience watching my children flourish and thrive. No craft project, baked cake, or career achievement could even begin to come close to that feeling.

But I do love to sew, to bake, to write, to play music. And I do want them to learn to love such things also. And they will learn to pursue img_2103what brings them happiness when I share with them what brings me happiness. The joy I have in watching their little personalities develop is unequalled, my daughter is obsessed with cats and Pooh Bear. My son is obsessed with Duplos and figuring out how things work, they both love books and pianos. I want them to celebrate those unique qualities and feel confident in pursuing things they love, and so I am going to do my best to show them that by doing things I love too.

It really is all about balance, isn’t it?

Every Baby Is an Individual! And, Let them be Little

img_1335As I have said frequently, there is nothing like parenting to change your most carefully laid plans. It is astonishing how easily these tiny little humans change everything, and challenge literally everything that you thought you knew. Being a parent requires flexibility, humility and patience, and trust me that your beautiful little beings will work their completely unconscious hardest to make certain they teach you these lessons every day. Being a parent can be so overwhelming, here you are with this fragile new life doing everything you think is the best for them and questioning EVERYTHING you do. And then things seem to not be working, doubt enters your head and you are assaulted with a million different opinions as to what you’re doing wrong. Why won’t my baby sleep like that/eat this way/play like that?! Why aren’t they crawling/walking/talking yet? Well, there are no babies who are exactly alike. They each will develop in their own way on their own schedule. I CANNOT STRESS THAT ENOUGH. Just because one baby crawls at 7 months doesn’t mean there is necessarily anything wrong with the other baby who crawled at 11 months.

Two things that frustrate me intensely about our culture are the curve expectations placed on children and the competition that exists (even subconsciously!) among us mothers. When my twins were about 5 months old a friend nonchalantly asked me how far behind the curve twins normally are. While I’m certain she meant no harm, it sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Were they too behind?! Should they be doing more?! And please understand, I absolutely advocate intervention in serious cases of developmental delay, but the facts are that acute delays are not the norm and most of the time your baby is just fine.
img_1340So what if your baby started sitting up two months after your friends baby did?! Maybe your kid will talk first. Maybe they won’t. Chances are though that your baby is doing great, and that sweet little human is going to do things when they’re dang good and ready. A friend posted that her son was FINALLY accomplishing a milestone and my heart broke for her. Clearly something or someone had caused her to feel he was behind. Which he isn’t, at all. He’s simply doing things as he is ready. This should be celebrated, not judged.

img_1339Why do we push our babies and children so much?! You know, I am without doubt all for educational enrichment. I read to my babies, they listen to a wide variety of music and languages and I choose many toys based on their educational value. But I also let them chew on the books, listen to happy silly songs, and play with brightly colored rolling ducks. We dance and wave our arms and make silly noises. I believe teaching JOY is equally as important as learning the alphabet. They are learning every moment whether you are teaching them or not. But what are they learning? That they are competent and smart? That they are capable of learning anything they want and can actually enjoy doing so and become confident in the process? Or are they having it pounded into their wee heads that they aren’t learning enough, or as quickly as they should? That their friend is better/faster/smarter?img_1342

I don’t like the competition I see so often (especially on social media!) among mothers on whose child did what first. Of course I think every mother should see her child as amazing, (I talk more about that in this post, click here). But as possibly new and insecure mamas, we do not need to see our friends bragging (even if they don’t mean to cause harm!) about how their child is so superior and advanced and thus question if our own babies are doing ok. A friend posted a while back that after her baby had his pediatric checkup their doctor said her five month old was “basically functioning at the level of a year old baby” and that the doctor called him “Baby Thor”. This made me have to work with my head that my also five month old babies were doing alright since their doctor did not call them baby thors and they were definitely not functioning at a year old level. I call this type of thing “brag shaming”. And I’m sure this mama didn’t mean to, she was genuinely proud of her son as she should be. But I’d like to offer this for consideration. Be proud of your wee ones. But be sensitive to the fact that your seemingly innocent post about how advanced your kiddo is might make another mama question if her also absolutely perfect baby is doing ok.img_1341

And you know what? Your baby is only little once. While I FIRMLY support and believe in practicing involved parenting and actively teaching them, our culture has placed such a rush on growing them up fast and forcing them to become competent little humans as quickly as possible. (And I’m well aware this isn’t just our culture). I absolutely will teach my children respect, how to focus, self discipline, social decorum and how to behave politely as the situation may demand, but I will also let them shriek and run, play with abandon, and cry on my lap. They don’t need to practice algebra at two and play Mozart by three. If they end up doing so, great. But I’m not going to ruin their childhood by pushing them until they’re miserable. I was chatting with one of my piano student parents the other night and she shared that her daughters school wants to place her in the gifted program, and while they want to give her more, they’re not going to push her past what she wants to do. I have SO much respect for them. This child, she is balanced, she is wicked smart, she is motivated and driven, she is HAPPY. She has focus, confidence, and empathy well beyond her years. And her mother is wise in giving her as much as she wants without ruining her thirst for knowledge by shoving too much down her throat. This child is one of my best students. Never once has she said “that’s too hard” or “I can’t”. She’s happy and focused and a delight every lesson.

img_1336If a child is taught to love learning, without fear, and views new concepts as exciting and not scary, they’re far more likely to be motivated to push themselves to do more, to do better, in confidence and on their own, without having us ride them and make them miserable. A child is born looking at the world in wonder. We have a tremendous responsibility to teach them about this world without destroying that starry eyed fascination. It took a little while for my babies to crawl. Could I have done more tummy time, or pushed them harder so they would crawl faster? Absolutely. Did they crawl when they were ready? Of course they did! I now have speed demons blasting all over everything, my son just the other day went fearlessly four wheeling over rocks by the river. In my opinion the extra tears and stress of lots of tummy time wasn’t worth it. We did tummy time of course, but only as long as I could read to them and keep it a mostly happy experience while we did. I did not deem the frustration and intense tears to be worth them crawling a few weeks earlier.

img_1338Of course we cannot prevent all frustration. Not every learning experience will leave them filled with happiness and wanting more. But I believe that if they have this foundation of confident joy filled learning, they can handle the not so glorious moments.

I was homeschooled growing up. A tremendous sacrifice my mother made for her children, and a gift I will be forever grateful for. While ensuring I had a balanced education, she allowed me to pursue subjects I was passionate about and patiently allowed me to conquer those I was less than interested in as I grew. For example, for a while I was obsessed with phonics. I completed more phonics workbooks and projects than most people do in a lifetime. Math, on the other hand, was not my favorite. But she experimented until she found what I connected with, a way to learn that didn’t scare the pants off of me or make me feel stupid. And we did do tests, she prepared us for this real world of college testing and scary expectations. But because I had that foundation of joy, that love of learning, I was able to face the scarier real world and conquer it.

I firmly believe this concept also applies to emotional growth and understanding, but I’ll save that for another post.

img_1337In closing, my dear fellow mamas, please don’t allow our social media and culture to make you question your baby or yourself. We are all doing the best we can, trust in your child and allow them to bloom on their own schedule. They’re only little once, celebrate these moments and don’t allow fear to rob you (and your child!) of the joy of watching them grow and thrive according to their own personal schedule.