Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Planning For the Future Is Another Form of Laziness

While decluttering my house, I found several old notebooks I used for journaling and listmaking through the years. As I flipped through the pages, a sinking feeling came over me. I still have so many of the same struggles, worries, and frustrations. In some cases, I even have similar lists of changes I need to make and goals I want to accomplish. In some areas of my life, I can see clear growth and progress, and that’s encouraging. But in so many areas, it seems as though I am constantly spinning my wheels.

It is clear from looking at these old notebooks that I know the things I need to do, but in many cases I haven’t demonstrated the ability and/or self-discipline to follow through.

The “shoulds” get me every time. I can be so distracted by making lists of what I should do and coming up with plans for personal improvement that I forget to focus on what I can do in that moment. I am more likely to look at the situation and think, “I should come up with better screen time rules for the kids; they are in front of screens too much and I am too, so I should implement xyz” instead of, “Hmm, we’ve all been in front of screens too much today. Time to turn ‘em off and play a board game!” See the difference?

I’ve noticed that when I quit focusing on the “shoulds,” and stop getting hung up on my perceived failures… when I look at the present moment instead of projecting so much into the future… I am better able to do what I know needs to be done. I have wasted so much time and energy making plans and procedures for future improvement, rather than focusing simply on what can be done in that particular moment.

But it’s easier for me to make lists about future change than it is to make a different choice in the moment. Planning for the future can be deceptively lazy; it looks and feels like I’m doing something worthwhile and productive when I am actually putting off making the changes under the guise of “planning.”

Looking back at my last few years of lists and journals, it’s clear that detailing my shortcomings and making lists of goals and plans hasn’t worked for me. I don’t need more systems and plans; I need to be present and active in the moment.

So, I’m gonna try that. ;)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A New Phase of Life

August has been a month of change for our family. Each week, we’ve had someone starting school: the oldest began fourth grade, the middle started attending preschool a couple mornings a week, I started graduate school part-time, and this week my husband’s classes are beginning. Our lives are busy, but exciting.

I’m learning that without the right combination of things to keep me busy, I’m a wreck. I’m so grateful that I have been able to be home with my children while they’re young, but at the same time, my brain craves outside stimulation, something else to do and think about. I need that variety in my life; it’s refreshing and honestly it enables me to be more focused and engaged when I’m with my children. For the past seven years I have been a full-time stay-at-home mom, and I have often made myself feel guilty for wanting or needing a breather. I told myself that if I were a good mom, I wouldn’t need or even want time away from them. Please note that I held no one else to this standard, only myself!

The past year has been a whirlwind. I was solo parenting for 12+ hours a day some days while my husband was both working and going to school full time; we had our third child; we found out one of the kids has Asperger’s and another has apraxia; I’ve been taking the kids to several weekly therapy appointments. And the chaos, stress, and personal growth of the past year finally brought me to the point where I realized it was time to do something for me. It’s time to be honest and admit that yes, I want and need to do something in addition to mothering, and that is okay!

I am already seeing that I actually accomplish more when I’m busier, partially because I simply have more things that need to be done, and partially because I am forced to manage my time better.

I am so excited about the growth and future possibilities for our family. My husband and I are both preparing for careers we will love, I am taking steps to get back in shape (more on that later!), we are preparing to put our house on the market, and the kids are making huge improvements thanks to speech, occupational, and physical therapies. After a few years of feeling stuck in several aspects of life, things are looking up.

I am hopeful. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Over the years, I have believed a huge lie about myself. Perhaps you have believed it about yourself too.

This is the deception that far too many of us are familiar with: Who you are isn’t good enough. Your talents, interests, and dreams are too small and unimportant. If you had different talents, then you’d be valuable and admirable.

Because of this deception, I have tried to play roles based on traits and abilities I admire in others. I have convinced myself that who I am isn’t good enough and I need to be something different. Maybe if I were an artist or a homeschooler or an excellent cook, or whatever… maybe then I would be valuable and admirable.

It ain’t a pretty sight. Even if I do manage to play the role for a while, it is clearly not a good fit. It doesn’t come naturally. I am not like water, effortlessly taking the shape of whatever container I am put in.

I don’t want to keep playing roles that do not mesh with who I am. I do not want to imitate someone else’s life; it is ill-fitting and uncomfortable. It is time to find and cultivate my own path.
“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bold is Beautiful

My talents, interests, and experiences are an important part of who I am. I love listening to people and letting them know they are valued. I enjoy building one-on-one relationships. I have a strong sense of empathy and compassion. I have always liked writing and reading. I am great at planning and organization. I love talking about practical applications of faith in everyday life. I was a teen parent and married young. I am fascinated by pregnancy and birth; I have birthed three children, two of which were unmedicated homebirths, and I have had a lot of experience with breastfeeding. I am educated in child development and positive discipline. I have experience dealing with special needs such as developmental delays, Asperger’s, sensory issues (both sensory-avoidance and sensory-seeking), and apraxia.

When I am in environments where my strengths and experiences are useful and appreciated, I feel fulfilled. Alive. Buzzing with energy and excitement. I feel wholly like myself.

And yet I make the mistake of downplaying or ignoring my strengths and passions. Sometimes I try too hard to be what I think other people want me to be, at the expense of who I truly am. Because I want to matter to other people and be liked, I end up trying to figure out what they want from me so I can hopefully deliver that, rather than giving them who and what I really am. What if who I really am isn’t what they want? I fear being seen as uninteresting, irrelevant, or offensive by people I care about. And I end up being uncomfortable, reserved, and guarded, presenting half-truths of who I really am.

I have tried for too long to paint over my bold colors with muted shades. Something must change here. I want to boldly live in my passions and strengths, rather than trying to be a people-pleaser.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Maryanne Williamson

Sunday, August 12, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week

I meant to post this during World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7 each year) but life was chaotic as always and I forgot to come back and finish the post. So here it is, a few days later than I intended, but that’s okay!

I was 18 years old when I first attempted breastfeeding. My oldest son had a hard time latching, I was in terrible pain, and I switched to formula after a few tearful, exhausting weeks.

Ten years later, I am typing this post while nursing my third baby. He is eight months old and still going strong. My second child weaned at 27 months old.

What changed? Was it easier to establish nursing with my second and third children? No, not really. With my second child, I had a particularly hard time with latching at first. It took several weeks for nursing to be as easy and comfortable as I had expected. It took less time with my third, I suppose because I was much more experienced at breastfeeding by then, but it still wasn’t easy right away.
I think people often assume that because breastfeeding is nature’s design, it will come very naturally. But for me and many others that hasn’t been the case. It really does take practice and patience. Sometimes it takes time to figure out a good latch and to find the most comfortable breastfeeding positions for you and your baby. Some women have trouble producing enough milk; some have issues with oversupply. And sometimes it can be frustrating!

But the benefits of breastfeeding are so worth it. Not continuing to breastfeed my oldest is one of my biggest regrets. Looking back, I truly believe we could have continued successfully if I’d had more education, support, and encouragement from professionals, friends, and family. I did have some, but it wasn’t enough.

And that is why I am posting this: to inform people of the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage new moms to seek support. It is why I breastfeed publicly when my child is hungry, to demonstrate that it is natural, normal, and beneficial. It is why I offer friends encouragement and support when they have babies. Many new moms have called or messaged me over the past few years asking for advice or just needing someone to commiserate with them, to affirm that yes, it can be hard at first; yes, you can do it; and yes, it is totally and completely worth it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, then continued breastfeeding with complementary foods up to age 2 or beyond. Breastfeeding offers so many benefits. The baby receives antibodies through breastmilk, has a reduced chance of developing ear infections and diabetes, and the baby’s brain development is boosted. Breastfeeding moms benefit too, with a lower risk of breast cancer and the lovely calorie-burning perks of breastfeeding (yours truly has lost all her pregnancy weight along with another 15 pounds, thanks to breastfeeding). And that’s not all; the benefits of breastfeeding could fill a book– and many such books have been written! I recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.

Also, I saw this sign at my local breastfeeding support group and wanted to share.