Archive for For New Moms

Motherhood as Sanctification

Today I was going through old posts on our family blog, and I came across this post from five years ago.  I’ll copy it in its entirety:

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E suddenly entered the terrible twos this week.  Butter in Daddy’s coffeemaker.  Dumped out all her tiny choking hazard elastic bands on the floor right in front of the baby.  Emptied half a brand-new container of clorox wipes into the toilet.  Got into the fridge and ate the tips off of a bunch of strawberries.  Got into the hand lotion I’d bought for our stocking for a soldier and spread it all over herself, her clothes, and a bunch of toiletries for the stocking.  Dropped her sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich on the kitchen floor and ground it in with her heel.  Tore open the granola bars for the soldier stocking, and when my back was turned, egged T on to cut the tags off the baseball cap I’d bought for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox.  Whereupon I announced tartly that it was quiet rest time and everyone had better wash their hands and get into bed.  At which point she pooped in her panties and sat down on the potty, smearing it everywhere, and wiping it up with the hand towel.  This was all in under five hours.

By the time everyone was down for naps and the poopy clothes were in the washer, my sinus headache had grown to a full-blown throbbing body ache.  I just had enough energy to cry out to God, “Please help me.  I can’t keep doing this!”  What a way to start a week that will have my hubby gone Tuesday evening for a candidate dinner and out of town Wed-Sat for a conference in DC.  One or two instances of severe naughtiness in a day don’t phase me anymore.  It’s the cumulative effect (plus fall colds) that knocks me off kilter.  (The afternoon included incidents with a pencil sharpener, the toilet bowl brush, the rest of the clorox wipes, more poop, an overripe banana, stickers, and two more wardrobe changes.)  Several times lately, I’ve been so tempted to just shout, “I’m done!  This is too much!”  Rachel Jankovic recently had a great post on this whole phenomenon.  She notes,

I think it is common to have this mental ideal of what your days as a mother are supposed to be like. We think that if we were doing it right, then it wouldn’t be this hard. Of course there are a lot of ways to improve what we do, that make things easier. But it is like improving the form of a runner. They still have to run in order to use it. It still won’t be easy. You can continue training to the point that you are no longer puking in the bushes and all red in the face by the end of the first block, but you aren’t ever going to take the running out of the running.

She’s great at reminding me that right now, motherhood is instrumental in my sanctification.  I keep thinking I’ve been at this for almost five years and shouldn’t be surprised by anything now, but I guess I have a lot more growing to do!

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I thought I’d share this blast from the past with all of you to say a few things.  First, toddler days are hard.  I think my life is crazier now with my kids being older and having to juggle activities and tween issues and whatnot, but it’s not harder.  Two year olds are hard.  The two year old in the scenario above was by far my easiest child.  She is generally a cheerful, helpful, sweet right hand woman.  But even she was difficult at two!  Moms of toddlers, you are in a hard phase.  I promise that you’re not stuck there forever.

Second, with five year’s distance from that crazy day, I can see the progress of sanctification in my children and myself.  I’m writing tonight with a horrible cold that has knocked me out of commission all week (while my husband has been busy at work), but I’m managing to hold it together better than the Emily of five years ago would have.  I see that as God stretching and training me to keep my temper, to have patience, to feel compassion for the child who is really just pushing all my buttons.  And while my kids did bicker and act up today, I see the progress in their lives, not just in basic maturity (which helps!), but in growing to want to please God (and please me).  I’m not saying that motherhood is no longer a challenge for me or that I don’t still lose my temper way too often, but that when I look back over the past decade, I can see progress in my own heart and mind.  When you’re in the trenches, it’s hard to see that growth, but I want to encourage you, dear readers, that it’s happening, slowly but surely.

Third, I was reminded by my 29-year old self that whatever crazy stuff my kids throw at me in a day, I can choose to be complain or look for the blessings.  It’s hard when we’re sick and tired and our kids are sick and tired and we probably let them watch too much PBS Kids and the house is a mess and there’s nothing for dinner.  I’ve been there–we all have been there!  We don’t need to pretend we love cleaning up kid poop while hacking our lungs up and breaking up fights over stupid toys.  It’s not fun.  But we can check our attitude when we respond to a super stinky day.  And after the fact, we can try to laugh at how crazy it was and how we all survived.  I have wise friends who encourage me to laugh about these things.  Do you have friends who will listen sympathetically and help you react to your rough days in a positive way?  Can you use your own experiences to empathize with and encourage others?

We’re all in process, my friends.  Press on!

Posted in For New Moms, Friendship, Home Life | 1 Comment

Stocking Up

stocking-upSo many great food sales this week!  Did you stock up on staples along with your Thanksgiving turkey?  I have enough flour, sugar, and canned pumpkin to last me well into the spring.  My husband rolls his eyes at me, but it’s an investment in our food budget.

Lately I’ve gotten to hang out with two new moms, and I’m struck by how much the early months and years of motherhood are a time of stocking up for the busyness to come.  A few months into parenthood, if you establish a fairly predictable routine and prioritize your child’s sleep needs, you’ll likely find yourself feeling that this isn’t too bad.  (If you’re ten months in and still hating your life, please get a hug and maybe talk to some different seasoned moms about adjusting your parenting philosophy–Anna and I tend to be on different sides of the sleep training/co-sleeping spectrum, so remember that what works for one family might not be the best for yours, and there’s not one perfect way.) But in general, once you figure out baby basics, you find your groove, you have about three dependable naptimes per day, and it’s not as overwhelming as it was at first.  You can do this!  And then you start wondering if you’re being lazy because you have a bit of time to yourself during the day for perhaps the first time in your adult life.

If you have some down time during the day and your child is still taking a morning nap, you have been blessed with the opportunity to stock up on homemaking skills.  Now is the time to figure out how to time meals so that the vegetables and the main dish are done at the same time.  Or how to cut up raw meat.  Or how to stock a pantry.  Or how to buy the right amount of produce so that you have enough for the week but nothing goes bad.  Or how to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes.  Or figure out how to add more vegetables to your dishes.=)  Or how to streamline your cleaning/laundry/grocery shopping/menu planning routines.  Or how to be in the Word every day.  Or just how to set up your day so that you get everything done.

Most of my friends who are juggling work and home say that this is hard to do, and I agree.  When I was working prior to having our son, I simply didn’t have the time to invest that I had once I was home full-time.  So if you are home for the first time with a little person, embrace this season!  I know some people swear by Fly Lady or other services or checklists for getting everything done in their homes, and I’ve learned a lot from reading other people’s menu ideas and cleaning schedules.  But I’ve found that because I invested the time in stocking up on those skills when my children were little, so much of homemaking has become second nature that I don’t need a set program to keep my house running.  And it’s a good thing, too, because we are busy, busy, busy living life as a family of 6!

 

What skills have you improved since your early days of motherhood?  And what great deals did you find at the grocery store this week?  =)

Posted in For New Moms, Practical Housekeeping | Leave a comment

The Support Moms Need, Part 3: Friends You Can Use

Yesterday I alluded to moms who don’t have a supportive spouse: single moms, military wives whose husbands are deployed, and even women married to jerks who think having a stay-at-home wife means they can abdicate any responsibility for the care of their children.  Even for many of us with supportive husbands, life looks pretty different than our grandparents’ generation, when everyone was raising families in the context of family and community.  Since becoming a mother, I have always lived hundreds, and now thousands, of miles away from my parents and siblings.  When you move so often that each of your kids is born in a different state, as we did, you don’t always have a dependable community to turn to for help for those immediate, physical crises we all have from time to time.  All moms, and especially those without help in the home, need to be purposeful about building real friendships.  We’ve talked about friendship before (here, here, here, and here), and we had my friend Sandy, a veteran military wife, talk about being and helping a single mom for a season.  So I won’t belabor the point that we should all can and should proactively reach out to the lonely or overwhelmed sahm in our neighborhood, church, Bible study, or playground.  (If you don’t know any isolated sahms, you need to look harder.)  I will point out that the sacrifice of reaching out to a new friend almost always blesses me unexpectedly.  Building community is a service project that redounds to you.

I’ve probably blogged enough about how practicing hospitality–having people into our homes–is a huge friendship builder.  I’ve also found that asking for and giving sacrificial help instantly deepens the bond of friendship.  Our church community group once had a discussion about whether we felt comfortable calling each other to get a ride to the airport.  Though we all were friends, most of us felt that that was too much to ask!  Then I broke my foot (and re-broke it 11 days later) and realized I needed to ask my community group for help.  Some of our group members live an hour away from me.  It was humbling to see how many of them showed up at my house with a meal last summer.  So a few months later, when one of their kids broke his arm, I found myself driving 45 minutes to drop off a meal for them.  Now I think either of us would be willing to ask for a ride to the airport!  It often takes a medical emergency (a broken foot, a new baby, a particularly bad stomach flu when the fridge is already empty) to get me to ask people for help, but after I’ve done it once, it’s easy to reciprocate in kind.  I often say that I’m not really friends with someone until we’ve been in each other’s kitchens.  Maybe I could add I’m not really good friends with someone until we’ve exchanged sacrificial favors–watched each other’s kids or run an errand for each other.

Some moms truly are so alone that there is no one they can ask to watch the kids during a doctor’s appointment.  I’ve certainly had my kids lined up on the floor during my annual exam or while getting a dental check-up shortly after moving to a new town.  It is depressing and so, so hard.  But many of us actually do have people we could ask for help in such a situation but we just don’t want to trouble.  It sounds selfish to “use” a friend, but it actually indicates a closeness that you don’t have with a mere acquaintance.  I have never been turned down when I asked a retired mom from book club or a CBS classmate or a Sunday School teacher, “Could you please watch the kids while I go to the OB-GYN?  My husband can’t get off work, and my son is too old to come along with me anymore.”  Most of my friends were happy to be asked.  I rarely have friends ask me to pick up the kids for them or borrow an ingredient for dinner, but I am always thrilled that they feel they know me well enough to ask (even if I can’t help that that particular time).  I can see how a single mom might feel that all she’s ever do is asking for help, which is why I’d probably go out of my way to ask her for help so that she feels things are mutual.

 

How many friends do you have who you could ask to run you to the airport or pick up your kids for you?  Do you have a support network of friends right now?  How did you grow to feel close enough to ask for help?

Posted in For New Moms, Friendship | Leave a comment

The Support Moms Need, Part 2: Dads

Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

Yesterday I noted that young moms need support, and that our kids can be part of the solution, not just the cause of our stress.

For most mothers, there is one other built-in supporter: our husband (I’ll talk about supporting single moms and military wives later).  This is a blog for women, but we can’t talk about a young mother’s need for support without pointing out that a young father needs to make some sacrifices for the family, too.  For our family, that meant my husband’s earning potential peaked at 27, when he quit his prestigious law firm job to pursue a career path that would allow for more time with the family.  For another family, that might mean that Dad doesn’t take the promotion that would require him to travel 4 months out of the year.  It might mean not running for public office.  It might mean working a ho-hum job that pays the bills rather than up and moving your family to LA to pursue your dream of making it big in Hollywood (I know way too many of those guys out here!).  It might mean turning down an opportunity to attend a conference so that you can be home on Saturday to coach your son’s soccer team.

Just as motherhood is often not glamorous, fatherhood can seem less exciting than the workforce.  Men can’t have it all, either, and a dad who stays late at work because he doesn’t want to come home and give the kids baths is being selfish and disrespectful to his wife, who has been working just as long as he has by 7 pm.  As a stay-at-home mom, I am ON every waking moment.  My four year old crawls into my bed at dawn to get me up, I’m homeschooling all morning and trying to do chores all afternoon, and on the nights when my husband goes back in to the office to work until midnight, I’m the one sending overtired kids back to bed until 10 pm (I hate you, daylight savings time!!!).  My husband gets up earlier than I do and works a full day, too, but that doesn’t mean that he’s exempt from bedtime duty on the evenings when he’s home.  It’s poisonous to try for a perfect 50/50 division of parenting duties, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater and throw all the responsibility for child-rearing on mom. Kids are a lot of work, and when you choose to become a father, you should expect to participate in that work.

Moms sometimes shoot themselves in the foot here.  They complain that they have to do everything, but then they criticize how their husbands do things: Dad takes the kids out on Saturday morning to give Mom a quiet couple of hours at home, and they come home, announcing that they had a yummy breakfast at McDonalds!!!!  Mom blows up at Dad for feeding her precious snowflakes junk food, and Dad decides that next weekend, he’ll sleep in.  Mom complains to her girlfriends that Dad just doesn’t care about the kids, and resentment grows.  Or Dad gets the kids dressed, and the girls are wearing church dresses to go watch a soccer game.  Mom lights into Dad (who can’t tell the difference between church dresses and play dresses–they all just look like dresses to him), and next week, he sits in the minivan, waiting, while Mom searches for shin guards and dresses children and mumbles about how unhelpful Dad is.  Know what I mean?  In nine years of parenting together, my husband and I have figured out that yes, I do have certain ways we do things because my routines work for our family, but if he does something differently, it’s okay.  I can’t remember which one of us first let the kids put mini chocolate chips in their oatmeal, but you know what, my kids eat oatmeal every single day, and there’s still less sugar in it than in a bowl of cold cereal, at a fraction of the cost!  It’s okay!  There is not one right way to feed kids breakfast!

And then there are my friends whose husbands seem to feel that if Mom is staying home, they don’t have to worry about parenting.  Or the husbands who are really in a crazy time at work (pre-tenure, or leading up to a big case/presentation/conference) and really don’t have the brain cells left at the end of a long day to do much more than kiss the kids and tuck them into bed.  That is tough.  Most of the burned-out moms I know are the ones who have been doing all the parenting and figure if they go back to work, their husbands will have to pitch in more.  One mom I know announced to her husband that she was chucking her home daycare business and going back to an office job because she couldn’t handle their four children plus two extras, all on her own.  Her husband was totally caught off guard and promised to help more, but at that point, it was too late.  She said if he’d spent the last three years helping, she wouldn’t be quitting now.  This is where I think regular dates with our spouses, talking through work stress and family needs, would really be helpful.  (If you’re like me, thousands of miles away from family, the idea of a regular date night probably has you rolling your eyes.  Maybe you can substitute with a 15 minute conversation after the kids go to bed and before pulling up Netflix?)  It’s hard for me to address this issue with my own husband in a way that respects the hard work that he does for our family by bringing home the paycheck but also communicates my need for specific assistance on evenings and weekends.  I totally mucked up a discussion on this very issue recently and had to ask my husband’s forgiveness for my sinful words and attitude.  I get it, girlfriends, it’s hard.

Perhaps the most important way Dad can be part of Mom’s support network is with his words.  Even though I blog about the importance of full-time motherhood, I can get pretty discouraged on the days (weeks!) when I see no fruit from my work.  When my husband comes alongside me and and praises me for the invisible things I do each day, I feel so built up and encouraged.  In our excellent pre-marriage counseling, our mentors specifically told my husband he would need to do this–a lot–when I was home with a houseful of kids.  Of course, this not-taking-your-spouse-for-granted thing goes both ways: how often do I praise my husband for getting up and going to the office day in and day out, year after year?  Not enough.  If any husbands are reading this, I encourage them to praise their wives today.  And for the discouraged moms reading this, I encourage you to tell your husband that he can help you by praising you for your efforts with the home and the kids.

 

How does your husband support your work in the home?  Do you believe that men can’t “have it all” either?

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Marriage, Parenting | 2 Comments
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