Friday, May 30, 2014

Moving Past the Lies

In the midst of all my perfectionism and idealism I wrote about last time, I did discover some things that are truly important to me. Even when I let go of many of my ideals, I still held on to these things because I deeply believe in them.

Examine your goals as a parent, listen to your heart, and be brutally honest with yourself. What is truly important to you? Perhaps your non-negotiables in parenting happen to come naturally to you; if so, awesome! On the other hand, perhaps some of the things that are most important to you don't necessarily come easily, but they are still worth it to you so you work to achieve them. If so, that's awesome too. If you believe in it, it will be worth your time and effort.

If you believe in something with your heart and soul, do it! But stop should-ing on yourself. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to live up to an ideal just because you think you "should." And don't worry about what other people think; if you believe in what you're doing, other people's opinions won't matter to you anyway. Someone's going to judge you no matter what you do, so you may as well do something you believe in.

I know what my non-negotiables are as a parent. I don't regret the time and effort I have put into making them happen, and no one else's choices are going to convince me to change my stance. I also know what works best for my family, and if that doesn't look like my formerly held ideals, that's okay.

What are your non-negotiables? What works best for your family? Once you've determined that, remember to let go of perfectionism too. Even if something is important to you, you probably won't always do it perfectly. Because, you know, you're human. ;) Give yourself grace, and keep moving forward.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lies About Mothering

The lie that a woman's value-- or at the very least, MY value-- comes from joyful full time mothering creeps into the back of my mind when I least expect it. I don't believe it, not anymore, but the lie persists in whispering to me in my moments of self-doubt.

How did I ever come to believe it in the first place?

I suppose it began innocently enough, with the nearly universal motherly desire to be the best mom I could be to my kids. But, as a lifelong perfectionist, my perfectionism reared its ugly head.

Quietly, gradually, but insidiously, my perfectionism convinced me of three things. One, that an ideal mother exists-- complete with all the little details that make up this idealistic vision. Two, that the "best mom I can be" is synonymous with being the ideal mother. If, after all, I was enlightened enough to see what the ideal mom should be like, then I was obviously capable of achieving that vision.

Even if it drove me to depression.

Even if I slowly lost touch with my longtime interests and passions.

Even if I became ever more resentful of trying to live up to an ideal.

I said my perfectionism convinced me of three things. The third may have been the most devastating of all: I became convinced that my value as both a mother and a woman was inextricably tied to my ability to perfectly and joyfully live up that ideal.

At the time, I don't think I would have been able to admit that this was what I believed. But it was.

Thinking of some of the ideals I once tried so hard to live up to now turn my stomach a bit. Not because they are inherently bad things; no, in fact, they are really good things. But some of these ideals were never a good fit for me. I cringe to think of how I tried so hard to force myself into a mold that wasn't right for me, then criticized my own worth for not fitting.

I'm not going to detail what my vision of an "ideal mom" was, because that isn't important here. But I suspect that many other moms have a similar struggle with not living up to the ideal in their heads. And I wonder what would happen if we let go of the ideal. What if we decided to embrace our natural strengths and interests, and allowed those to extend into parenting, rather than trying to reinvent ourselves to be what we think a good mom "should" be?

For me, I've found that as I began living in accordance with who I really am, I became much happier. And ironically, I feel like I am actually a better mom to my children than I was when I was striving for an ideal.

Maybe none of this resonates with you. But if it does, what is one thing you can do to begin releasing yourself from the grip of the lie that says your worth is tied up in living up to an ideal?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


When I was six years old, I wanted to be a teacher.

By the time I was eight or nine years old, I would read my mom's parenting magazines for fun, because I thought it was interesting to learn about kids at different ages and stages.

Despite my shyness, I began performing in choir when I was in fourth grade, and I tried out for my first school play in seventh grade. Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, I continued acting and singing, and I became more and more comfortable with being in front of an audience.

In high school, I loved my school counselor, and I thought I might like to become one myself eventually.

At the age of eighteen, I became a parent, started college, and began taking child development and sociology classes. All together, this led me to developing an interest in working with teen parents and their children.

When my oldest son was in preschool, he was diagnosed with developmental delays and possible autism, and I quickly became acquainted with IEPs and therapies.

Around the same time, I also immersed myself in learning everything I could about positive discipline and emotional intelligence, because these were very important in being the kind of parent I wanted to be.

In my early-to-mid-twenties, I applied for a master's program in social work because I wanted to work with people who were in poverty. I was accepted and ended up deciding not to go because I was pregnant with my second child.

And then I had a third child after that.

Now here I am, thirty years old, pursuing my master's degree in school counseling. And as I am reading the book Engaging Students With Poverty in Mind, it hits me that so many of my past interests and experiences have been leading to this.

School counseling is a perfect area for my passions, knowledge, interests, and experiences to intersect. Look back over those things that I mentioned. I will be teaching classroom guidance lessons, which would make my six year old self very happy. I will be putting my nearly lifelong interest in child development to use, as well as my knowledge about positive discipline and connecting with children as I work with kids, parents, and teachers. I will be working with kids who have special needs and IEPs. I will be working with kids who are in poverty, and I will be working with teen parents and their children. Even my performance experiences are coming in handy, as they helped prepare me for getting over the nerves that come with speaking in front of classrooms. And there's so much more, so many experiences that have helped prepare me for this.

I am so excited to finally see how all of these interests and experiences are coming together. In the fall, I will begin my school counseling internships, and in May of 2015 I will graduate with my master's degree. I can't wait to begin working as a school counselor. This is truly where I am meant to be.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


One thing we love about the internet is that it gives people an avenue to voice their thoughts.

That is what I do on this blog. But then, it seems that blog readership is dwindling (not just here, but overall). We might want a quick and dirty glimpse of other people’s opinions-- a few characters on Twitter or a short blurb on Facebook, maybe, but if we have to actually follow a link or click on “read more,” forget about it. Someone else is probably saying the same thing in fewer words elsewhere on the internet.

Lately I’ve seen that video posted over and over, the one about looking up from your screens and engaging with people face to face. Some people love the video, some people hate it, and everyone is ready to shout their opinion about social media on social media as loud as they can because they have the most correct viewpoint of all the people.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really care about the video. I watched it, thought it was interesting, and forgot about it until my Facebook feed made darn sure I couldn’t forget. So what the heck? Everyone else has an opinion, so I guess I’ll jump into the fray too. My semester is over, my kids are in school, I have nothing else pressing to do today, and I’m feeling just a hair sarcastic and aggressive, so why not opine a little? You know, on this old-fashioned weblog that only a handful of people will read because I say too many words…

I thought the video made an interesting point worth considering. Certainly I have been guilty of ignoring important face-to-face interactions because I'm too busy reading Facebook, and I want to stop doing that.

Does that mean I think all social media is evil and should be done away with because it stops people from interacting face-to-face? Um, no, and I honestly think the number of people who actually believe that is very, very small-- although approximately one-half of The Internet would have me believe that anyone who found value in the video’s message believes just that. The other half, of course, would have me believe that anyone who ever glances at a screen instead of doing something else is a mindless, selfish drone.

Of course social media isn’t inherently a bad thing. Of course it isn’t stopping people from interacting face-to-face. Of course it can foster connections and relationships. Of course people have been focusing their attention on other things for a long time-- be it books, newspapers, knitting, art, talking on the telephone, writing, and so on. Because of course our lives are not made up solely of eating, sleeping, and socializing face-to-face 24/7. People like to pursue other interests and hobbies. People like to connect in other ways, via phone or email or texting or social media. Big deal. Is anyone actually arguing that all social media should be done away with here and now?

I don’t know. Probably someone out there is arguing just that, but I’m not going to do a lot of research here because this is just a blog where I’m hastily typing out my opinion of utter importance so that everyone can read it and bow to my authority. Or no one. That's cool too.

Aaaanyway. How about this? How about if we all just live our lives the way we see fit? If we want to read a book on a Kindle/iPad/smartphone, cool. If we want to post some pictures on Instagram, cool. If we want to post witty one-liners or overshared memes on social media, cool. If we want to smash all our screens into smithereens and spend our day prancing through fields of flowers and intensely staring into people’s eyes as we interact face-to-face because EVERY LAST MOMENT COUNTS, cool. If we want to share each and every strongly held opinion for everyone to read… or even a not-so-strongly held opinion, just to stir the pot and see if anyone actually reads what we say, cool.

Let’s just make sure that we very vocally point out that other people's opinions and actions are wrong, okay? Because the thing we love about the internet is that it gives people an avenue to voice their thoughts… and that’s fine as long as we agree with them, right?