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A blog to support, encourage, and mentor at home moms in all aspects of home making and family life.

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The Mistake Of Valuing Motherhood

I'm a full time Mom.


I'm the one up in the night cuddling teary eyed, drippy nosed, little ones with sweaty backs, breathing in staccato from a scary dream.  

I'm the one who tenderly nurses a baby so new, he can't support his own head.  With a tummy so tiny, it can't hold more than a thimbles worth of milk.  And so I wake to feed him, from my own body, four or five times a night.  So blurry eyed from exhaustion, I'm close to tears myself.

I'm the one who accomplishes little during the day, when I'm called to snuggle on the couch, by a bright faced, curly haired little one, who can't really speak yet, but knows her favourite board book by heart and "reads" along every time.   

The one who by four o'clock is so ready for adult company that even Daddy Pig is a welcome companion.  And while the first smells of dinner start filling our home, and we snuggle in our blanket on the couch, I know there is absolutely no where else I'd rather be.  And nothing else I'd rather be.  

That the lack of sleep and the 24 hour nature of motherhood is what makes it so rewarding.  That I've earned the title of Mom.  From the agony of having them torn from my body.  To holding them through the night when they're sick.  To the being responsible for them in every possible way, every minute of the day.  For their safety, their health, their happiness, their security and emotional well being.  The development of their faith.  How they'll see and relate to the world.  I hold that in my hand.  I rock the cradle.

I've dreamt of this since childhood.  Since I held plastic, tenderly in my arms, cooing and petting to ensure baby doll was okay.  All my life I've wanted this.  I didn't crave a pay cheque.  I didn't crave promotions or favourable reviews.  I don't take offence at the fact that I don't have a "job."  Anymore than a fish would take offence that it can't fly.  He's a fish.  He swims.  I'm not an employee, I'm a mother.  You don't need to quantify what I'm worth.  I know my value.  I see it in my children's faces as I read to them.  In the safety I bring when they call out in the night.  I know I'm a nurse, a teacher, a cleaning lady, cook, chauffeur, etc., etc.  You needn't list all I do, because I can promise you, you'll fall short.  Because what you can't measure.  What is unquantifiable, is who I am.  My children's mother.  No one can replace me.  No one can measure the tasks or chores I complete in a day and put a price on it, because those things are just the busy work of a much bigger goal.  The means to an end.  I'm raising a child.  I'm cultivating the next generation.  Preparing souls for eternity.  There is no pay appropriate for such a task.  One can only look at what I do and put a value on it.  And that value is immeasurable.

I'm a full time mother.  I'm someone's entire world.  They will grow to have loves of their own, children and homes of their own.  And each time someone asks them why they do something a certain way, and they respond, "It's just the way my mom did it."  That will have been me.  When they are kind.  When they use good manners, display patience, or understanding.  When they look at the world, with calmness and security I will be with them.  When they create homes where family is paramount and God is honoured, I am honoured too.

You can't tell me what I'm worth.  Don't you dare even try.  Money is crass and insulting.  I don't labour for you, for recognition, or worst of all, for pay.  I labour for the future, for my legacy.  I labour out of love.  A love that began with conception, was tried with birth, a love that endured and performed for 20 straight years without respite.  Without vacation pay or bonuses or promotions.  I don't want what you have to offer.  I'm not seeking remuneration.  You're not complimenting me when you estimate my hourly rate.  I'm invaluable.  I'm a mother.




Let Your Children Fail

~For my beautiful friend, who's in the midst of figuring out how to motivate her teenagers...

I've written about this before.  The importance of letting our kids fail.

Fail at school assignments.  Fail at relationships.  Fail in sports.   Fail, fall down and hurt.  Get detentions, get their hearts broken, get left to ride the bench.

And not to try and fix it for them.  Smooth it all over.  And in doing so, telling them, that in failing - they've failed. 

But rather to emphasize the lessons learned.  The things they've come to grasp, and would do differently next time. Because really what is life but one big experiment at trying, failing, learning and trying again. 

Whether in how we live out our faith, how we behave within relationships, or learning from day to day errors -whether in school, work or life in general.

So why should failing be considered a bad thing

Something to be avoided at all costs?  Something we gloss over to avoid feeling the shame of having failed?  And why on earth would we try to prevent our children from failing?  From learning the hard learned lessons we ourselves have gained through failure?  Isn't that the reason we learned them so well?  Because we failed.  Got bloodied and decided we'd never let that happen again.

So don't deny your children the same privilege.

Let them fail! 

And then, let them reap the consequences.  Learn the lessons.  Make the changes - of their own volition.  Or if they choose to do the same thing again - let them fail again!  Eventually they'll stop banging their head against the same wall.

Let them fail while they still have life's training wheels on. 

Let them fail in elementary school, when the ramifications are almost non-existant.  Let them date while they're still in school, (responsibly and with rules and parameters), when the stakes are still so low.  Let them learn that without actually practicing they won't make the rep team, or that maybe they're not cut out for that sport at all, freeing them up to try something else.  Let them learn that success comes with a price.  And that price is usually trying, failing, learning and trying again.   

And don't feel that their failure is necessarily yours.  Let them reap the of consequences for their actions or inactions.  Let them bear the weight of personal responsibility and the pride in hard won accomplishment when they succeed.

Give them the gift of failure.  And with it the opportunity to try.  Let them learn that although they might not be the math king or the team's allstar, that there is still pride in trying, in striving, in doing their best.  Eventually, happening upon that one thing they're great at!  The thing that they love!  The thing they'll do without being nagged.  The hobby, sport or subject they'll take pleasure in because they have a knack for it.

In a time when parents are throwing around words like "entitled," "unambitious," and are waxing poetic about how different things were when we were kids.   Maybe we should back up a little and ask ourselves what the difference is between our childhood and that of our own kids. 

When I was little I rode my bike to softball practice, I got there on time, without being told or reminded to do so.  If I was late my coach made me run laps.  During the early years when the ball never left the infield I was repeatedly placed in left field where my coach could be sure I'd never have the opportunity to even touch the ball.  And I was aware of this!  But there was no parental intervention.  No one lobbied to ensure that I was given equal time in the infield.  I knew I wasn't the best player on the team.  But I still enjoyed myself!  I learned the lessons that teamwork teaches, valuable lessons.  Lessons in humility, cooperation, and functioning as a whole rather than for individual glory.  Then when I hit my growth spurt, a full year and a half before the other girls - overnight I became a super star!  Hitting home runs, catching fly balls too high for the other girls to reach, rounding bases on my newly lengthened legs faster than everyone else.  I enjoyed it because it was real.  No one pushed for me to get my fair share of glory before I had earned it.  I had ridden the bench and stood in the outfield, twirling and picking buttercups, for years before hand.  And I had loved those years.  They were childhood.  Carefree, pressure free, I wasn't the best, but I was still allowed to play, still made to feel that I was part of the team.  And in being part of that team part, I was part of the personal politics and hierarchies that are part of any group, and are as much or more of what childhood team sports teach us, than the actual sport.  Did I fail during those early years?  Kinda of.  I failed at catching fly balls, fielding grounders or even paying attention to the happenings on the infield most of the time.  But I was allowed time.  I was allowed to participate without being shamed.  There were consequences for my lack of ability and motivation, I wasn't falsely puffed up, I knew I sucked, I knew I had been given the worst position on the field.  But I didn't particularly care.  I was there for the chitter chatter on the bench anyway.  And when I finally did get good, it meant something.

As I've gotten older, and the pressure to be great at things has lessened.  I truly enjoy trying new things.  Because at 46 no one expects me to be a Olympic quality athlete -  I'm free to exercise for my own personal pleasure and accomplishment.  I now learn things because they interest me.  There aren't any tests with gold stars or the possibility of classroom accolades, and that's made the learning all the more meaningful.  When I was in school and constantly ranked against other students the focus was on success or failure, not the actual lesson.  And to be honest with you the pressure to "place" distracted me from the learning itself.  If I couldn't "succeed" why try?  So I often didn't.  Now that, that pressure is gone, I feel like I've become a much better student.  And having failed at many things I've tried, I would say I'm more empathetic of others who are struggling and yet carry on the fight.

Let your children fail.  Let them get humiliated every now and then.  Let them be left out or passed over.  Remain silent and let them experience life.  Or at least a micro version of it.  It will teach them more than winning, being praised or promoted under false pretenses ever could. 


How To Teach Your Children Character By Simply Shutting Up

Shut up, butt out and mind your own business.  Seriously.

Your kids don't need you defending them at every turn.

You know what that teaches them?  To be self absorbed, demanding, little Mumma's boys (or girls).  Throwing hissy fits whenever they don't get their way.  Brats.  Yup, that's right, brats.  A term that needs to be reinstated as far as I'm concerned.

You know what being left out, picked last, short changed or getting less than they were expecting teaches your kids?  Patience.  Grace.  How to handle frustration.  That life isn't fair.  How to speak up for themselves.  How to handle conflict.  How to handle disappointment.  In short.  It teaches them character.

In a time where children (and dogs for some odd reason - but that's another topic completely), are dotted on to a point verging on worship, we're seeing less and less character in our children.  And we, as parents, don't fail to recognize it.  Many are the conversations I've had with parents frustrated with adult children who fail to "launch".  Suddenly these little idols they once paid homage to so willingly, feel burdensome.  Which only makes sense.  Standing up for a 27 year old who lives in your basement somehow isn't so fun or cute or primal anymore.  There's a point at which the parenting instinct switches off.  A point at which children have overstayed their welcome.  A point at which we're simply - tired.  When we've put in our years and we're ready for quiet evenings and control over the remote.  When we'd prefer to use our disposable income on, well…  ourselves.

But why would they leave?  And more importantly, when did we teach them how to?  (I know I finished a sentence with a preposition.  Get over it!  See!  There!  I did it again!  Wait, is "it" a preposition?)

When they were developing, learning from all we said, did, demonstrated, allowed them to try or not to try, were we teaching them independence?  Were we teaching them character, work ethic?  Were we teaching them how to interact with the world at large?  Or were we coddling them?  Protecting them at every turn?  At every injustice?  Creating a utopia in which the sun rose and set around them.  Sounds great to me!  I'd never leave that place either!

If you want your kids to grow up, actually "grow up."  To become adults that are capable of creating lives for themselves, where they can navigate the ins and outs of the world.  The trials and disappointments of adult life.  Where they can fall down and yet pick themselves up and try again.  Then you'd better let them start practicing that now.  We don't leave the training wheels on until the day a cyclist participates in the Tour de France and expect them to aptly compete.  Let your kids experience disappoint for pete's sake!  It won't kill them!  I promise you! 

I totally get the relief and pleasure there is in seeing the joy on our children's faces when disappointment turns to satisfaction.  The peace that is brokered when the melodramatic fussing stops and they settle down quietly, having been given the object of their desire.   Utopia.  A world in which all their wants are appeased.  Never shall they suffer not being given as many turns as the next kid.  Never shall they be given a failing mark on a test they couldn't be bothered to study for.  Never shall they miss out on a sports camp so they can work a Summer job.

Instead of meeting your child's frustrations with appeasement, how about meeting it with solemn understanding, an explanation of the realities of the situation and an expectation that they figure out how to process the idea that they won't be getting what they want.  If that fails, there's always discipline.  A quaint old custom where children were reigned in and told to  - "Smarten up!"  "Stop it!"  To "Stop crying or you'll be given something to cry about."  

Your children are darling.  Seriously.  I'm not being sarcastic.  Children are adorable.  With their wispy hair, big sparkly eyes and funny little voices.  They're absolutely adorable!  I can easily melt into a puddle around babies and children.  They are also however, capable of being told no and proceeding on without having a complete melt down.  Of being disappointed and yet still going ahead to lead a full and productive life.  They will not die if they get the green lollipop and their sister gets the pink one.  Trust me!  I'm a doctor!  (I'm actually not.  It just sounded really good at the end of that sentence!)  

Stop worshiping your children.  Stop defusing or negotiating every disappointment or frustration that comes their way.  Let them take a few knocks.  They'll survive.  They'll grow up.  And then they'll leave home.  The end.


Your Husband Is Not The Man You Married

Gone are the days when we were misguided enough to use the fool's arsenal of, "You did this."  "You said that."  A typical newlywed, rookie mistake.  

Most couples learn, or at least are told, by friends, family and any advice column worth its salt not to do that.  The wise ones listen.

We learn to have selective memories and deal in the present.

But what about forgetting who your spouse was as a person.  What they wanted, how they acted, how they responded to situations, when you first fell in love, were first married. 

You'll often hear people who have divorced siting the reason as, "He just wasn't the person I married anymore."  "She isn't the girl she used to be."

Of course not.

First of all in her case, she's no longer a girl.   And in his case, he was wooing you.  Now he's got you.  At some point he's going need to relax and watch a game.  For those who marry young, and even for those who don't, I've got news for you.    

Your spouse is not going to remain exactly the same person he was when you were married.

I know!  Your mind is blown!

But seriously.  Think of the age you were when you were married.  Okay.  Now.  How long have you been married?  Let's, for argument sake say, 10 years.  So if you married when you were 25 and you're now 35 why on earth would you be the same person?  If you reversed those 10 years would you expect to be the same as when you were 15?  I sure hope not.

So why on earth would we expect our spouses to remain the same?

When we married I was 20, my husband was 22.  We are now 45 and 47.  We've had two children together, raised them, build a business, (him, not me), logged countless miles away from home traveling for that business, (again him not me).  Lived in 6 houses, 4 of which we owned, one of which we built.  (One of which we fled like refugees because of all the drug dealing going on next door - yes, it was our first.  What it was cheap!!!?)  We've gone to Europe twice, Arizona a kagillion times, and various other places around North America.  Buried both our mothers, seen all four parents through various cancers.  Married off two daughters, gone through empty nest (me not him - well him too, but more so me), and become grandparents.  And…. earlier this week, celebrated our 25th anniversary.Then - 1989. Don't you just love my dress, hair and eyebrows!!??Now. 2014. With our very precious grandbabies.

So what about this list of life events would cause you to expect someone to remain the same?  Could you imagine if all of this left someone unchanged?!  You'd have to be Rain Man or something!

But here's the trick.  Getting to know your spouse over and over again.  And I'm going to let you in on a secret.  You won't necessarily like each new incarnation of your betrothed.  Yup.  That's right.  Sometimes the stage of life your spouse is experiencing will not cause him to be the glorious, joyful, life loving person you married.  Some stages of life bore us, some beat us up.  And who do we beat up when we're feeling beat up?  Yup!  The ones we love!


This too shall pass.  

That's it.  

I'm not going to tell you that you're going to grow from having gone through these stages together - but you will.  I'm not going to tell you that seeing these other sides of your spouse will cause you to see their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and allow you to know how to better care for him more deeply - which they will.  Or that these changes are simply part of growing into a wiser person, who, when the current situation is gone, will leave your spouse a deeper, kinder, person to go through life with - but they will.

Because really, that's what you're doing.  Going through life with someone.  Each version of them.  And the longer your time together the more versions there will be.  Some you're going to love.  Some not so much.  Such is life.  Such is marriage.  Such is the nature of our natures.

Stick around though.  First of all because that's what you pledged to do.  But also because growing up, growing old together.  Experiencing life together, is a wonderful thing.  Because really it's not about the happily ever after that we're all sold as little girls.  When it all comes down to it, it's about simply having someone there, beside you, experiencing what you experience, caring about what you care about, building a life that's yours.  Together.  All of it.  Including the occasional bumps and bruises.

You're not the same person you were last year.  You're going to be even less the same 10 years from now.  So will he.

Let your spouse grow and change, just as you do.  Just as everyone does.  Yes we love and adore who we marry.  The first edition, but there are many sequels to come.  Some better than the original, some not so much.  But be there, listen, seek to understand.  Be patient and kind, just as you'd want him to be when you're going through something, because believe me, you will - that empty nest stage is a doozy!  Value what you have.  Because it's yours and yours alone.  Your story, together.  Let it be written.  Page after page.  Let it evolve.  Don't fight the changes, grow through them.  It's lovely to see the years and experiences accumulate on each other, the lessons and the memories.  It's life, it's fluid.  Embrace it.


You're No Longer Mothering, You're Mentoring

So this Sunday is Mother's Day.

This is a very weird day for me.

It's only been 3 weeks since my Mom died.  So standing, choosing cards for my daughters' first Mother's Days, was a gut twisting experience this week.  I was so excited to choose a "First Mother's Day" card for them - which by the way is almost impossible to find.  But kept getting choked up by all the "Love You Mom" cards bursting from the racks.

It's strange.  Years ago I "claimed" Mother's Day.  

After years of hosting every occasion for both of our families, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter - you name it, I hosted it.  And suffering through many crowded Mother's Day brunches out - so I "wouldn't have to cook," I'd had it.  I declared that from then on Mother's Day was mine.  That my husband would take his Mom out for lunch on the Friday before and I would take out my Mom.  Which left Mother's Day free for a relaxing picnic just him, the girls and me.  In fact last year my youngest, bless her heart, insisted we all drive out to the lake and go for a picnic, because that's what we'd always done.  I loved it.  The girls packed up the food, and we all piled into our SUV, lawn chairs, blankets, bocci balls, you name it, we brought it.  And spent an hour and a half driving out through beautiful farm land to a local lake.   It was dreamy.  You know the kind of dreamy where everything is just wrong enough to be amusing.  The lake shore was full of somewhat sketchy characters, there was geese poop all over the grass, I had to pee and my husband kept blowing past gas stations.  The kind of family antics that make these kind of outings so funny, and even funnier when the "kids" are two pregnant, morning sick girls, two full grown sons-in-law, a somewhat reluctant husband, who couldn't understand why we couldn't just lay around the pool in our own backyard.  We spent the day enjoying one of the first warm Sundays of the season, I was in heaven.

What a difference a year makes.  As I write this, I'm realizing that today, Friday, should be my lunch date with my Mom, and I'm sad to realize that I can't remember our lunch from last year.  I'm guessing it was at Milestones Restaurant, but I'm not sure.  

This year I've told the girls that the day now belongs to them, now both mothers themselves.  They're free to spend it how they like.  They're mothering.  I'm not.  And then it struck me.  I'm also not being mothered.  I'm in limbo.  But really I'm not.  I'm "grandmothering", I'm "grown up mothering".  What I'm doing isn't mothering.  It's mentoring.

Gone are the days when I'm up in the night with babies as my girls are now.  Gone are the days when I'm caring for curious, talkative preschoolers all day, or running kids to sports, volunteering to lead their clubs or sports teams.  I no longer have teenagers petitioning to stay out late or wear make up.  I've mothered.  I'm done.  But I'm not done mentoring.

I firmly believe, and my belief was proven right this past month when I lost my Mom, that we look to our mothers through out our lives.  Regardless of our age.  Whether we realize it or not.

By relegating my Mom's Mother's Day to Friday, I had told her, that I was the one mothering now, it was my season, hers was past, just as I've now passed the day on to my girls.  But what I failed to realize, was her season hadn't past.  That a mother's season is never past.  

This past week, as I've begun to plan how I would honour my own girls' first Mother's Day I realized how much I'll miss having my Mom here.  As an adult, as a 45 year old grandmother, who is long past needing to be mothered, I miss having my Mom here.  But not for her sake, for mine.  I'll miss her hand writing in my Mother's Day card.  I'll miss how lovely she'd have looked for our Friday date, always so well put together, with a pretty outfit and matching accessories.  I'll miss her interest in my kids and their babies.  I'll miss knowing that even though I no longer live with them, that just across town my parents were there, in their little town house, still together after 51 years.

What I realized, is that no, my mother was no longer mothering me, but she was still mentoring me.  Through her actions, her choices, the silent examples, that I'd overlooked until now, that they're gone.

I thought I had outgrown my mother's influence, I was wrong.  Yes, I know how to run a home, plan a party, raise a family, but her influence far out reached these things.  I think what I'm missing most is knowing that I'm loved by my mother.  Which is a very unique kind of love.  The kind I see in my girls' eyes when they hold their babes.  Sheer and utter delight and devotion.  Regardless of how old I became, I was still my Mom's baby.  This is what we don't out grow.  This is what, regardless of what we've already learned from our mothers, regardless of what skills of theirs we perfect or even surpass, we never stop needing.  

So this Mother's Day I'll delight in the joy of my daughters' first year as mothers, in the joy of being a grandmother and in having had a Mom who loved and delighted in me until her dying day when, in her last lucid moment we spent together, she told me how very proud she was of me and of the family I'd raised.  And I can live off that until I see her again one day.