As a black woman influencer in America, my inbox has been flooded with questions about racism in the last weeks. My heart is heavy from current events, but the people waking up, asking questions, and fighting for change gives my family and I hope.
I’ve made a list of the most commonly asked questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. In no way can I speak for black people everywhere, and I won’t try to. I’m a mother, I’m a wife, and I’m a friend. I’m a business owner, an entrepreneur, and a social media influencer, and these are my thoughts:
Friendship that is like family doesn’t happen overnight. Jennifer Garner posted a quote the other day that said, “The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” Friendship is just like that. It happens over days and weeks and years of constantly investing in someone and making time for them. It’s a thousand little decisions to show up and be an extraordinary friend.
My friend, if you are lonely, my best advice is to love yourself enough to be the kind of friend you’ve always wanted.
To my friend’s kids:
I hope you know how much I love you. You’re not mine, but I love you like you are. You’re not my niece or nephew by blood, but you are by choice…and that pretty much means you’re stuck with me forever. You are my chosen sister’s baby and that means you own a piece of my heart and you always will.
Friendship requires sacrifice.
There, I said it.
I have met and talked to a lot of lonely people lately, and let me tell you it breaks my heart because I remember those days like I remember the smell of burnt popcorn. That memory is never going away, and when I think about it the ache it throbs like it was yesterday.
To my teenagers,
Be patient with me as I learn to let you go.
I know it’s time. I know you’re growing and becoming and that sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Be patient with me because it’s not just you who is adjusting, my love. It’s me too.
I know it’s hard to understand, but hear me out.
Today I wish I could go back. I wish I could go back and hold you as an infant. I wish I could smell your skin and rock you just a little longer. I wish I could be still and feel that moment just one more time.
When I look at pictures of you in your toddler years with your round cheeks and pudgy hands, I smile. Inside my heart breaks a little bit because I wish I could squeeze you as you ask me a billion questions in your tiny voice, just one more time.
I had a few moms over for coffee the other day and one of them was telling me about the “imposter syndrome” among moms. I’d never heard of it before, but I’ve definitely experienced it. The imposter syndrome, she said, is a term for moms trying to appear to have it all together, probably because they feel less-than.
Look, I know that’s tempting. I dropped the F-bomb at the kiddy park today when my dog pulled over my stroller and later mom-handled a isntshetoooldforthis tantrum from my four-year-old. In that moment, I remembered how my friend used to use a fake name at the bar, and considered that that might be a good idea for me at the park. Hello, I’m Veronica and these are my kids Kevin, Stuart, Jenny, and Britney. You will not find us on Facebook. Please forget we ever met, kthanksbye.
I am with you.
I was with you when you were in my belly. I was swollen, heavy, tired, and I felt like a moose, but I was with you.
I was with you in the seconds, the minutes, and the hours of labor, when I truly didn’t think I could go on.
I was with you when I held you, and nursed you, and smelled your perfect skin for the very first time.
I was with you at 3am and again at 3:45. I was with you when I stumbled in the dark to get you from your crib. I was with you when I bargained with God for you to sleep.
It’s tempting to pretend that there aren’t ritz crackers hidden deep inside my shag carpet, along with some other things I probably don’t want to know about. It’s tempting to pretend my four-year-old doesn’t rock the same “favorite” dress three days in a row, and that I don’t currently smell like men’s Old Spice deodorant. Sometimes I’d rather my life looked like a Instagram feed of awesome. I’d also rather my butt looked like a bubble instead of a wide pancake, but we all have to live our truth.
The thing I’ve noticed is that when I don’t pretend, I find my people (the ones who don’t pretend either), and to me that reward is everything. Literally everything.
So to the women, the moms, the people, who don’t pretend…
Nothing makes me feel quite as overwhelmed as the words “enjoy every minute”.
Like do you mean right now while my kid is spread eagle on the Target floor demanding a slushy? Do you mean when I make dinner and half of the family is crying because it looks weird? Do you mean when I clean the toilets and I wonder how the pee reached the corner under the trash can?
I can do it; it’s worth it. But enjoying every minute is a different type of pressure.
In truth, there are a whole lot of minutes I feel annoyed or tired.
I am the santa, the elves, and the magic.
I am the delicious smells, the stuffed bellies, and the Christmas spirit.
I am the twinkle lights, the clean bathrooms, and the mistletoe hanging in the doorway.
I am the stories, the advent calendars, and the reminding what Christmas is really about.
I am the greeting cards, I am the coordinator of gift exchanges, I am the christmas pajamas for the night before.
I am the traditions, I am the baker of all treats, I am the buyer of last minute presents that were forgotten.
And now I’m tired.
I am mom.
You are not a failure.
I know you don’t always believe that, but it’s true.
We all fail, all of us, but we are not failures.
There have been so many moments when I felt done, when I wanted to run outside and scream. So many moments when I knew I said the wrong thing the second the words came out of my mouth.
Today I met some friends in town for coffee and shopping. I ended up bear hugging my four-year-old on a bench as she screamed and kicked in a level ninety-nine tantrum. A shop owner came out of a pottery store with wide eyes, but her face softened when she saw me.
I’m so sorry I mouthed.
“You are totally fine!” She smiled encouragingly. A minute later a woman and her older daughter walked by and said, “You’ve got this mama! You’re doing a great job!”
I continued on as a human straight jacket.
My ears are tired. Everyone is just always talking, all the time. Do not tell my kids that I said this, but sometimes when they are telling me a story that is never-ending I think about what color I would like to paint the walls and if I should get more throw pillows. I feel terrible about this, but it is the truth.
Sometimes I peek in your door and watch you sleeping. I wonder how I could ever get mad or frustrated at you. Your soft face is squished against your pillow and your favorite stuffed animal is buried under your chin.
Today I was irritated that you left your notebooks and crayons all over the floor.
I was annoyed that I could hear you bickering in the other room.
I was bothered that I asked you to clean up five times before you did.
All of those things are silly and unimportant now, as I pause.
Those things have little to do with you and everything to do with me.
You are my favorite.
I had grand plans of the things I would teach my kids. I would teach them confidence, kindness, and a love for great books. I am still working on that, but in the meantime I’ve taught them some other gems…
Yesterday on our way to church my oldest son realized he’d forgotten something at home and hollered out a perfectly timed swear word. My husband and I looked at each other. I didn’t know whether to be stern, or a little proud.
When we got to the beach today children, sand, and food wrappers exploded out of the car as soon as the doors opened, and I laughed to myself. I picked up a rotten tangerine that had rolled under the car and tossed it in the trash. The boys shook the whole vehicle as they wrestled their way out of their seat belts. They were yelling so loudly I thought maybe I should clarify to people walking by that there were no actual violence happening, just kids “at play”. My third child sobbed because she had an “owie” (also known as a sock imprint) on her ankle, and now she couldn’t walk.
I had a few comments on the blog recently about how people have kids to fill a selfish need for love.
I laughed because even if I had kids to fill a selfish need, parenting is where all needs come to die.
It’s okay to fail, and to fail again and again and again.
There’s something special about my bond with you. It isn’t better or more important, it’s just different. You were the beginning of my awakening, the step through the portal that is motherhood. Your becoming was my becoming. The day you were born I said goodbye to one life and ran with open arms into the next.
I can still picture you cradled in my arms. I stared at your tiny face in disbelief. How was I going to give you, this precious human, the childhood you deserved? I still haven’t figured that out. Every day I make beautiful things and I make messes too, but there’s never been a calling more worthy of my everything than you.
We just moved into a new neighborhood and I met an elderly woman a couple blocks down the street. She looked at me in shock (almost horror) when I told her that we have four kids and she kept saying, “Four? Four??” Then she looked at me square in the eyes. “I guess that will be okay,” she said, “as long as they are quiet.” She was dead serious.
I laughed like it was a joke (because that’s what I do when I feel awkward).
It’s okay to be mad at me.
Sometimes we make decisions for you that you don’t agree with or understand. You feel voiceless and frustrated.
Sometimes I overreact and I misunderstand.
Sometimes you just have a bad day. It’s okay, I have those days too.
Last night, I was tucking the girls in and my four year old reached up and touched my face, “You are young,” she said, “but you do have those lines by your eyes.”
This is my thirties.
I am still young-ish, but I do have the lines around my eyes. Dammit.
I’ll tell you what else I have…
I have friends that grow, cook, and make almost everything from scratch that their kids eat. They are amazing. I salute them while I rip open a box of macaroni and cheese and add an extra few tablespoons of butter. It’s Annie’s Organic on a good day…otherwise we are not above the 19-cent variety.
A friend of mine researches every health related issue, and spends her extra change on the supplements she reads about. It is her passion, and it’s how she loves her family and friends so well. I spend that money on lattes and stretch pants.
Right now as I watch you sleep, I lean in so close I can feel your breath against my cheek. I think about the good moments today. I think about you touching my arm and telling me a story about a slug that you found by the water. I grin to myself alone in the dark. I think about our conversations and I realize how grown up you’re becoming. How did it happen so fast?
You are perfect laying there so still; my heart swells like it might burst. Motherhood has made me so strong and so fragile at the same time. Since the day you were born I’ve worn my heart on the outside of my body. Everyday I fight against the urge to lasso the world and make it tame for you. I wish I could keep you in a bubble.
I wish I could keep you safe here with me forever, but I will use all my strength and I will give you wings instead my love; then I will cry the day you use them.
There I am, standing in the checkout line. One child is having a meltdown because they want a soda and the other one is doing aerial spins in the aisle. She is seconds away from taking out an elderly gentleman. He will never see it coming; she’ll take him out right at the knees. I grab her, which is kind of like capturing a demonic butterfly. I wrangle her and pin her between my legs.
Dear Strong Willed Child,
Today we had many battles you and I. We had battles in the sun, battles in the sand, battles over popsicles, and a battle while I walked you screaming and kicking back to the house. You were red and fuming, I fought back tears. We’ve had thousands of battles you and I.
Today our battles were about little kid things, someday they might be about curfew or boys or doing the dishes.
No matter what, here’s what I want you to know:
Sometimes as Mother’s Day approaches I find myself reflecting on how I’m doing as a Mom, and today, these are my thoughts…
We are never going to be perfect. Sometimes we are going to be messy, and human, and moody.
Sometimes we are going to feel real shitty at this. That’s normal I think.
Sometimes we are going to lose our cool. Like when I held the tablet out the car window and threatened to let it break into one million pieces if EVERYONE DIDN’T LISTEN UP RIGHT NOW. I scared them so badly that then I spent 45 minutes comforting them.
I’m going to call this bonding.
I was going to be the Dr. Oz of parenting. I was going to be a guru, and then I realized that I would probably have to teach my kids to stop acting like wild raccoons at the grocery store. I don’t want to be negative but my kids are 10, 8,6, and 3. This is never going to happen for me.
You are not going to get advice from me on teaching toddlers to read, or getting your kids to stop gagging on their vegetables. I could however offer a step-by-step guide to watching them chew on the same vegetable for two hours, until you eventually give up and let them spit it out.
I am not very perfect at parenting, but I do love my kids enough to cuddle with them while they smell like pee, and I feel like that’s kind of a lot.
Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I see that you’ve grown over night. Your face is more defined, your eyes look older. A part of me is excited and in awe; I know you have so much ahead of you. Another part is scared because time is racing and I can’t slow it down. I’m afraid that I haven’t always been awake and noticing, and that somehow I have slept through the magic of your growing. I wonder, have I enjoyed you enough? Have I given you what you needed? Is your heart still whole? Is your spirit unbroken?
I’m not always good at this. I’m not always as good as I want to be at being your mom. I want to be great; and sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m not.
Sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes I do it right, and sometimes I completely miss it.
Everyday I make mistakes.
While usually we are being quaint and adorable like a live Norman Rockwell painting, there are a few other things that get us from WHYGODWHY in the morning to Netflix-O’clock at night.
We clean things so they can be destroyed right exactly before you drop by. I don’t mean to brag, but my kids are capable of making my house a major health code violation in ten seconds flat. Sometimes I think about posting pictures of what my house looks like when it’s clean – just for reference.
Welcome to my home. Here is a picture of what my house looked like one time last week. It could also look like this more often if I had 47 maids and manservants.
To My Kids,
Some people will say that the world is a scary, scary place. Some people will say that there’s no hope and that the future is dark and bleak.
It is scary sometimes, but my dear ones, always remember, there are things that are awful, and terrible, and sad, but there is also always HOPE and there is always GOOD. You have the tools already printed in your heart. You have love, mercy, compassion, generosity, and kindness. You have ambition and courage, and a radical sense of justice…and that is exactly what is needed.
You are not helpless to bring goodness and light to the world; you are well equipped.
Fear will tell you that it isn’t enough, and that there is nothing that can be done. It will say that you are helpless and a victim to fate. It isn’t true, my loves. The world is your canvas. Make your mark on it with creativity, compassion, and purpose…and I promise that you (and it) will never be the same.
The world is still very, very beautiful because it is full of people, people who have greatness inside of them. We must always be believers in people.
Dear First Born,
I remember the day I first held you in my arms. You became, and I also became. I’d thought about motherhood for a long time, about how I’d be and how you’d be. But I was still so unprepared. Heaven and Earth kissed for a moment and I’d never felt so sure and so uncertain all at the same time.
I know you think I wear yoga pants and athletic-T’s because I spend my days doing pilates while my kids practice Mozart on their harmonicas. But, I’m here to tell you, I wear them because they’re stretchy.
***Friends, I’m so excited to announce my first book! I’ll Be There (But I’ll Be Wearing Sweatpants) is about finding un-filtered, real-life friendships. There is a special pre-order deal right now which includes: A sneak peek of chapters 1-2, a preview of the companion workbook (which is amazing!), AND a downloadable “Let’s Get Together” girls night party pack that we put together just for you. Click here to preorder! https://www.thomasnelson.com/p/ill-be-there-but-ill-be-wearing-sweatpants/?fbclid=IwAR2EMSX3Fe1ME4uCiAAvqAYV_hLxQ9Sai3bbVoEfV_u7hqrtIGxdBed3bOE***
The highest honor of friendship isn’t getting invited to “that party” or out on a girls weekend. It’s not clinking champagne glasses at fancy brunches or wearing matching shirts on a beach in Florida. That all is nice and fun and good and special, but it’s not what it’s about, not at all.
The real honor of friendship is being invited into someone’s REAL. It’s getting an invitation into the nitty gritty, the not-so-pretty, the hard stuff, the vulnerable stuff, the weird stuff, the unpolished stuff. It’s being welcomed into a home where the sink is full of dishes and the laundry is covering the couch. It’s entering the places of heart ache and pain. It’s being invited to the hospital room when your friend is still in her mesh underwear from birth. It’s sitting crosslegged in old sweats on the floor and laughing till you cry. It’s carrying around secrets that you’ve been trusted to keep. It’s listening and hearing. It’s holding space for each other. It’s answering phone calls just to talk something through.
The highest honor of friendship isn’t found in beautifully planned events or brightly filtered photos. The highest honor of friendship is messy and dingy and real. It’s in unfiltered photos of laughing so hard your double chin is showing. It’s loving each other’s babies and holding each other while you ugly cry. I can’t stress this enough:If you’ve been invited into even one person’s real, you are blessed.Cherish it.
If you love this, I just know you will love my new book. Love, Jess
Dear Kids, Please slow down…
I looked at you in the kitchen this morning and I caught my breath. You’re growing up.
I’m not sure when it happened.
Just yesterday I was rocking you in my arms and smelling your milk kissed skin.
Just yesterday I was swaddling you in my favorite blanket and you were wiggling free.
Just yesterday you were fighting your nap and throwing your binky and blankets on the floor.
If ever there was a time to stop pretending, it’s now.
I mean we’re all growing eyebrows like Johnny Rose anyway, might as well let everything else hang out too. Bring on the love handles, the grey hairs sprouting like invasive species along my part, and the buzz cut my husband keeps swearing he’s going to give himself (prayers pls).
I don’t know, but I think at the same time we’re letting our outsides be al’ natural we might as well release our hearts too be al’ natural too. It’s a great time to embrace real in ourselves and others like never before. Might as well toss all filters and let our crazy out, because pretending was always exhausting anyway.
They call you Daddy.
You are their wrestle partner, their safe place, their protector, their adventure guide, and their identity giver. You are their chore teacher, their constant encourager, their “I believe in you”, and their “come here I’ll keep you safe”.
You are the voice that says “you can do it”, “push hard”, and “try again”. You are the voice that says, “I’m proud of you”, “you did your best”, and “I love you”.
Can I be blunt? We’ve gotten really lazy with friendship.
We’ve put friendship right at the bottom of our laundry pile along with the pants we haven’t seen since December. We’re almost always too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed, too behind, and too scheduled for anything else (and I get it, believe me, I do). Adult life feels like trying run on a slip and slide…until now.
Now we are in this gigantic pause. There are people who are still working their butts of at essential jobs, but the extras are canceled. Sports, meetings, parties, “busyness”: canceled.
I want to be a come-as-you-are-friend.
I want my friends to come as they are when we’re together. Rough day? Haven’t showered in a week? Going through something hard? Not feeling yourself? Perfect. Come as you are.
I want my friends to know they don’t ever have to censor themselves around me. You don’t ever have to say, “I hope this doesn’t sound bad, but…” Sound bad. It’s okay to sound bad around me. Come as you are.
I haven’t been myself this week. I’ve been more uptight and snappy than I should be. I asked you to be quieter when you were just laughing and having a good time. I sent you to the other room to wrestle even though I usually love it when you play. I got mad and yelled when you got in a fight instead of paying attention to what you needed and listening to your side of the story. .
I haven’t been myself, and I’m sorry. It’s been a weird week and it doesn’t have anything to do with you. Not a single bit of it is your fault. I let my stress get the best of me, and that’s the truth. I’m sorry.
To the moms with anxiety right now: I see you.
Hang in there my friend. I know you feel like you should be strong, but it’s okay if you’re not.
Deep breaths Mama, you’re not alone.
This anxiety will not consume you, I know it feels like it will sometimes, but it won’t.
Does anyone else get “holiday” anxiety? (This includes holidays, family days, birthdays, and anytime there is an expectation that the day is going to be important).
I don’t always get it, but when I do, I’m probably going to have to apologize later.