7 Ways to Survive Motherhood

I’m just a girl in sweat pants with a period stain and a luke warm cup of coffee. The only thing I am an expert on is spot cleaning yoga pants, dry shampoo, and keepin’ it real. I know you’re probably wondering what I did to win at life like this and I have to break it to you; IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY. You cannot just get these dark circles under your eyes all easy peasy. This has taken a lot of hard work, determination, and unprotected sex.

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Motherhood is Messy

I took this picture today because I want to remember the messy, hard, falling apart days of mothering.

This is me after one of my kids had a giant public meltdown. The kind where I carried her flailing and kicking past teachers and students, and then put on a little show in the corner of the school yard for all who enjoy watching a mom try and tame a wildcat.

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Dear Mama, Don’t enjoy every moment…enjoy ONE.

Dear Mama,

Don’t enjoy every moment. Instead, find one moment a day to cherish.

I want to level with you: It’s hard to let the crumbs be, the future be, the to-do list be, the wrestling with demons just BE.

It’s hard to be still. It’s hard to be present. I wish it wasn’t, but it is.

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Not a Pinterest Mom

Something is bugging me today. I have fire in my gut, and I have something I need to say:

Motherhood gets to be what we say it is. Being a woman gets to be what WE MAKE IT. We decide, we’re in charge…so let’s take it back.

Pinterest says there’s 10 ways to get our butt in shape, there’s 25 ways to have the abs of our dreams, there’s 4 ways to cook the perfect meal, and there’s a million ways to be “better”.

I call B.S..

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It’s not selfish to take care of yourself.

Sometimes between babies, and school drop off, and long nights followed by longer days…we lose ourselves. We lose ourselves in the beautiful messy process that is motherhood. We are willing to let ourselves go (mostly). We’re willing to stumble around in sweat pants, sipping luke warm coffee while we pick toys up off the floor. We are willing to give up half (85%) of our blankets for a middle of the night intruder. WE ARE WILLING because never have we ever loved like this, but sometimes, we miss ourselves, and that’s okay too.

It’s okay to look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the woman you knew.

It’s okay to miss her and to want her back.

I’ve been there.

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PSA: Stop the Unsolicited Parenting Advice

I know you mean well, I really do.

But please, FOR THE LOVE, stop with the unsolicited parenting advice.

We all have different ways of parenting, and there’s not one way to do any of it. Choosing the way you raise your kids is deeply personal, and although “it takes a village”, respect is an important part of supporting moms and dads on their journey.

As a rule of thumb, advice is not needed unless it’s asked for, and here’s why:

We have already overthought everything there is to overthink and we are damn tired.

Types of advice to avoid:

The indirect advice: This is when someone doesn’t give you advice directly, but instead says, “Ohhh you should tell your mommy to cover your toesies so you don’t get a cold”, or “say ‘mommy I need a bigger coat'”. PLEASE, please, don’t ever do that again. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to you at all, and I’m sure you aren’t trying to be insulting, BUT to a Mom who is hanging on by a thread it feels like a major diss. I guarantee that Mama is trying to do her very best, and she’s already being hard on herself, so please don’t add to it.

The “it was very easy for me” advice: This usually comes from someone who has babysat for you. It’s the “I just did 1+2+3 and they went to bed for me no problem” or “I just put the peas on his plate and he ate them like a champ!” or “She tried to give me attitude and I just said “NO” and she stopped right away!” I know this is well intentioned and you’re excited to share the “magic ingredient” you’ve discovered, but let me tell you the real magic ingredient: you aren’t the mom. Crap like that works for you because you aren’t the one who is there every day, all day. Honestly any “easy” fix is kind of insulting because it suggests we’ve never tried that – and trust me, 98% of the time WE HAVE.

Discipline advice: Nope. Just nope. If we want help with that, we will ask.

Compare your kid to ours: KIDS ARE NOT THE SAME. The comparison game happens a lot to me with my strong willed firecracker. I often hear “you just need to draw the line and leave the store if that happens and she won’t do that anymore” or “you should stop giving them everything they want.” Listen I have walked out of more stores than I can count, and the reason she’s tantruming is BECAUSE I told her no. There is no magic set of techniques that *waaalaaaa* get rid of obnoxious behavior in every kid, it takes a lot more patience and persistance with some kids.

Types of advice to give:

The kind that’s asked for.

I know it’s hard (especially if you love us), but please try…for us.

We need support so badly during this time of raising littles. We are constantly doubting ourselves, and wondering if we are doing enough. The best thing you can do for us is to be encouraging, and present, and bite your tongue when you want to quickly “fix it”. Motherhood has made us raw and vulnerable, and things you might think are “no big deal” to say, actually make us feel pretty crappy.

The thing is, if you can hold off on advice that isn’t asked for, you may very well become a safe place for us, and it’s possible that when we do need ideas…

We will ask you.

***

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Dear Kids, You don’t ever have to pretend…

Dear Kids,

The world has gotten more full of pressure to pretend than ever. Social media is overflowing with perfectly poised photos and empty invitations into an idealistic life. Listen to me dear ones; it is EMPTY. No one, ever, in the history of all the world has had a perfect life. Everyone has pain, everyone struggles with loneliness, everyone wrestles with anger, everyone feels insecure sometimes. EVERY ONE. There is no ticket out of the messiness. We can try and control it until our knuckles are white and cramped, but we will lose our joy in the process.

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Don’t drink the Mom-Koolaid

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.

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Dear Kids, I am with you no matter what

Dear Kids,

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.

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7 Things to look for in a Friend

Friendship is the wine and the coffee for my soul. Doing motherhood without them is like watching a comedy alone (weird, gross, and not all that funny).

I don’t need the same kind of friends as I once did. I’m a lot less patient with barelyscratchthesurface small talk . I have enough mind-numbing conversations with my children (God love em). I need real in my life. I need friends that are real, and friends that I can be real around.

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To My Mom: I get it now.

Dear Mom,

I’m laying on my bed hiding right now. I can hear the kids bickering as they get ready for bed, and a little voice calling for water and a song. I’m tired and weary to my bones. I will get up anyway. I will go kiss little foreheads and pray a prayer. I will get the extra sip of water and I will listen while they tell me about their toe with the sliver. I will say, “Okay sweetie, no more talking. It’s time to sleep now, ” but then I will still say “uh-huh” a couple more times as I sneak out the door.

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve learned that motherhood is a lot more about showing up than it is about anything else.

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Dear Hot Mess Mom: To me you are perfect.

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…

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Dear Husband, I am with you…

Dear Husband,

I am with you when the bills are built up and unpaid and when our shoulders are tense with stress and worry.

I am with you when the kids are up sick in the middle of the night, and we brush shoulders as we grab towels and bowls and stroke little warm foreheads.

I am with you in seasons of wealth and seasons of scraping by. I am with you whether we drive a 97 Honda Accord or a 2018 Suburban. I AM WITH YOU.

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Confession: Anxiety is Exausting

I was reminded today that when suffering from depression or anxiety it is important to set achievable goals. WELL THAT IS ME. SO, I have taken it upon myself to make some meaningful, achievable, goals for 2018. Feel free to steal.

3-4 glasses of wine a week at least (BECAUSE I AM NOT LAZY).

One day a week where I am still braless and pants-less when I pick up my kids from school. This is so I can keep expectations low and so I can make it easier for my mom tribe to find me. ***YOU WILL RECOGNIZE ME BY MY DIRTY HAIR AND H & M SWEAT PANTS. I WILL BE HOLDING A CRYING 4YO. INTRODUCE YOURSELF IF YOU LIKE COFFEE, WINE, AND DECORATIVE LAUNDRY PILES.

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Please stop telling Moms to enjoy every minute

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.

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Dear Mama, You are not a failure…

Dear Mama,

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.

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Being a mom is hard, and that’s okay.

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.

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Confessions from a Tired Mom

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.

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Dear Kids, When I’m tired…

Dear Kids,

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.

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Swearing and other things I taught my kids.

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…

Swearing.

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.

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Confessions of a “Selfish” Mom

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.

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Dear Firstborn, It’s okay to fail…

Dear Firstborn,

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.

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My kids are not an inconvenience (for 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).

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Dear Kids, It’s okay to be mad at me…

Dear Kids,

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.

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So this is my thirties

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…

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Mom Guilt is a Liar

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.

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Dear Kids, As you grow older…

Dear Kids,

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.

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Dear Stranger, Yes, my hands are full…

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.

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Dear Strong Willed Child, You’re worth it…

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:

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Not a Perfect Mom, but an Enough Mom.

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.

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Dear Kids, When I fail…

Dear kids,

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.

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What do Stay at Home Moms DO all day?

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.

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Dear Kids, The world is still beautiful.

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.

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Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me.

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.

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Confessions from a Stay at Home Mom

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.

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I can’t enjoy every minute, but I can enjoy 5

Have you ever felt tiny fingers massage your shoulders? Have you ever pressed your face against a ponytail that smells of sunshine and wild whimsy? Have you ever listened to the off key tune from a 7yo lost in her own world? Have you ever brushed against magic and forgot in an instant what it felt like?

This motherhood it has floored me; it has undone me, and I still forget. In seconds, I forget.

When I watch them lost in a game of make believe or they tell me a story that makes me realize they’re growing up, I remember. I remember the privilege it is to be a part of this story, this unfolding adventure.

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Why I will talk to my daughter about her body

There is an article circulating about how to talk to your daughter about her body (don’t).

I love the premise of this, and it makes a lot of great points, but there’s a big BUT for me.

There is always going to be the question in every little girl’s (and boy’s) heart, the one that says, “am I enough?” Part of that, eventually, is going to be “am I beautiful?” and “is my body okay?” We might not want that to be the case, but unfortunately in our culture, it IS the case.

My issue is this:

If I don’t answer that question, someone else will.

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You are a Good Mom.

“I’m a good mom, like a really good mom.” I wrote those words the other day and I felt a heaviness I didn’t know was there lift off my shoulders. The words look foreign on the page. Can I say that? I wondered. Am I an imposter if I say that?

I just snapped at my son for getting slime on the couch. That doesn’t seem very goodmomish.

Then I read the words again and I owned them: I AM a good mom, like a REALLY GOOD mom. The same feeling came. RELIEF, FREEDOM, tears rose in my throat and threatened to come out.

I’m a good mom even when I snap at my son and his slime fingers.

Who even told me that I was a bad mom? I wondered.

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When my kids stopped needing me so much.

My kids are growing up. My oldest is a preteen and my littlest is four…and suddenly they don’t need me as much anymore.

They need me, but not like they used to.

They don’t need me to rock them to sleep, or to swaddle them. They don’t need me to nurse them, or help to put on their shoes.

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