By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
Have you ever noticed the oddities of life?
...like how the birthday cake you’re making never looks like the one in the picture?
Never mind comparing it to the picture – which is actually a cake made of four layers, so that means you actually have to use TWO cake mixes... but the picture won’t tell you that.
Pay no attention to the fact that the sad crack in your attempt at the cake will NOT stay “glued” together, no matter how much frosting you use to cement it together.
And don’t even notice the huge crumbs that are adhering to the once-white frosting (maybe some sprinkles will hide them!!). Perhaps, you conclude, the sides look better unfrosted anyway!
OR - Does it ever seem that the most meaningful conversation you get to have with your spouse is:
-- at the end of the day,
-- at the bathroom sink
-- while you are foaming at the mouth with an electric toothbrush wildly sputtering, unable in the least to utter a sensible word?
So, you play the game of charades or better yet – an impromptu sign language which you try to decipher without splattering toothpaste blobs on the mirror as you laugh through the hilarity of it all?
OR - Do you find yourself seething at the injustice of finding that there are always at least 3 diapers left in the package that absolutely WILL NOT fit your baby before they transfer to the next size up?
AND - Have you tried to mathematically explain why, with so few people in the family, every single cup in the house gets dirtied – including the measuring cups?
I’m probably not the only one who has had more than her share of Pinterest fails and foibles. But if my Better Crocker skills don’t take the cake at least my attitude will. If you’re like me, and even one of these scenarios rings true for you, this might be a good time to take a look at a happy principle that can help every mother and homemaker: realistic expectations. Yes, with a little reality check, you can take anything that comes with ease.
Did you know that some things are supposed to be imperfect?
Mismatched socks... scuffs on your best running shoes... sticky fingerprints on the fridge door handle... Almost imperceptibly, flabby bellies, burnt toast, and layers of dust just happen. Life happens!
There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your family. It is what it is.
And it’s not only OK for it to be this way, it is supposed to be that way!
Take the coffee table for example – an innocent enough piece of furniture wouldn’t you say? But in a house full of children, is it really going to stay a focal piece impressively set with elegant table top décor? Of course not! You and I both know that even the best homes aren’t picture perfect.
We can expect that homes with children have their fair share of crumbs, smelly socks, broken figurines, lost items, scattered toys, ripped pages in books, smears on the sliding glass door, and on and on. It helps when I know that some things will inevitably happen, because it allows me a great deal of sanity for when the unexpected happens and things don’t work out perfectly.
In fact, if you can look at it with a smile in your heart, you might just find it so ludicrous that it provides a moment of laughter that you look back on with fondness.
While mothering my Littles, I frequently found peace of mind through a quote often attributed to Marjorie Pay Hinckley to help me remember that my priorities were just where they should be:
I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here, and that I really lived.
Expecting reality doesn’t mean admitting defeat!
I can expect, for example, that my children will make endless messes (and I will too), but that doesn’t stop us from cleaning it up at the appropriate time.
My communication with my spouse may be spotty at times, but that doesn’t mean we neglect our relationship. We regularly and consistently schedule time to be with one another to just TALK (most times without a dental implement in hand).
We are gloriously imperfect in each and every way, but we set goals, and give assignments. And we put our plan into action with a little elbow grease. We do it, remembering the WHY of it all – not to satisfy some plausible guest who never seems to stop by, nor even to catch up to the Jones family (although we admit that they ARE a nice bunch!) - but because we like it that way. In fact, we even enjoy it!
I am enough.
I can be happy without being Pinterest Perfect. While the Internet world of “reality” sometimes creates a facade of perfectly clean homes, the Gerber baby who never cries, and homes decorated to a “T,” I can be happy with what we have and who we are becoming. I may also (heaven forbid) go without some of the niceties of the luxury homes in order to allow myself to spend more time concentrating my efforts more closely on building a strong home and family. We can also give ourselves credit for being creative, even if it means that we make a mess for a while. We are, after all, learning, growing, and developing together. In fact, we are a living, breathing work of art! I suppose the casual passerby may judge me and my efforts (or seemingly lack of them), but that judge won’t be me. I will give myself grace allowing me and my family space to be real humans. We ARE indeed “good enough.” We can have strength and self - confidence to do and be and achieve in real albeit imperfect ways.
My twin daughters are in a kickboxing class at the local community college and this video was assigned to them as homework. It struck me as so simple that it is well worth the couple of minutes to review information we likely are already aware of but need continual reminders about. Moms, this is what we do -- we are the reminders, the repeaters, the consistent, kind, and friendly reviewers and encouragers!
From the YouTube Description:
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery. This short animated video explores the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and helps people understand the practical strategies and ways they can begin developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. To learn more about SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative, click here.
I have enjoyed the privilege of being a mother to over a dozen foreign exchange students over the years! My Hindu son from India openly and enthusiastically shared his religion with our family. Some of the stories are quite meaningful -- I've included one below.
After reading it, consider how this perspective might influence how we treat ourselves? Our husbands? Our children? It gives depth to our relationships when we believe in the dignity and potential of each individual.
At one time, all men on earth were gods. But they so sinned and abused the divine powers that Brahma, the god of all gods, decided that the godhead should be taken away from man and hidden some place where man would never find it to abuse it again.
"We will bury it deep into earth," said the other gods.
"No," said Brahma, "because man will dig down in the earth and find it."
"Then we will sink it into the deepest ocean," they said.
"No," said Brahma, "because man will learn to dive and find it there, too."
"We will hide it on the highest mountain," they said.
"No," said Brahma, "because man will some day climb every mountain of the earth and again capture the godhead."
"Then where can we hide it where man cannot find it?" said the lesser gods.
"I will tell you, said Brahma. "Hide it down in man himself. He will never think to look for it there."
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
By Grant Colfax Tullar
Regan Barnes, Momivate's ChairMom of the MotherBoard, shares her insights on hugs and random thoughts about hugs that she's gathered over the years.
As I was growing up, hugging didn't happen much in my family. My mom had been molested by her step-father, so her subconscious reaction was to respect her children's personal space, to the point where we just didn't hug. Then my older sister learned in a college class about the importance of hugging and how this physical act has many benefits—even psychologically! So she started hugging. She put up a "Free Hugs" sign in her dormitory. And when she came home for the holidays, she would hug us, somewhat awkwardly, convinced that she could change our family's ways so we could all gain the promised blessings of embracing. Of course, hugging is best when it's a two-way thing, so most of us hugged her back, playing along. If she patted us on the back during the hug, we would emit a burp as though we were babies who had swallowed air while feeding. I'm glad she got us started hugging because I married into a hugging family (though they don't appreciate the fake burps).
Hugging still isn't second nature to me, I admit. "Hug the kids more" has been a New Year’s resolution for me more than once. Gradually I've learned to hug more freely and commonly, and recognize the power hugging has in making a relationship whole. Since I've experienced both the hugging and the non-hugging life, I feel authorized to declare that it is definitely better to hug than not to hug.
Over twenty years ago, I received an email that listed some facts about hugs. I don't have a source to give credit to, and for that, I apologize. It was back in the days of chain letters that claimed a curse would come upon you if you didn't pass it along to all the contacts in your address book. This particular email assured the recipient: "You are under NO obligation to forward this electronic hug. For once, NO bad luck will befall you if you don’t want to or don’t have time to keep this moving . . ."
Then came this list of reasons that hugs are so great!
NEVER WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW TO HUG SOMEONE TODAY!
You could copy and paste this onto your Facebook feed or send it through Instagram to all your followers. E-hugs just might be more necessary now than before coronavirus demanded all of us to socially distance. But please, please, also put down your device, and use your hands to close the physical and emotional distance in your home and give real hugs to your husband and children! There can never be too much hugging in the world, and the world is made up of our homes.
Written By Camille Parker in May 2019 as part of a project for Alana Hutchins, Momivate Director of Energy and author of Last of Her Kind: How a mother of eight can help you move from striving to thriving. (Book expected to be available in 2021) Published here with permission from both Camille and Alana. Thank you!
I never considered that infertility could be in my future. As a young bride of 19 years old (just a baby myself, really), I married a wonderful man and was blissfully naive to the possibility of being infertile. After our first anniversary I planned to get pregnant and have a child every two years until I turned 30. Five children; that’s what I wanted, and believed doable, with the full support of my man. Fast forward 10 years, and six weeks after my 29th birthday we adopted our first, and only, child. Funny how life is. And by funny, I mean fickle, inconsistent, painful, chaotic, unruly, and so very heartbreaking. We enjoyed lovely days together, my husband and I, during the 9 solid years of invasive infertility tests and procedures, coupled later with aggressive adoption interrogations and paperwork. We worked, traveled some, and spent time with friends and family, but mostly I remember experiencing extreme sadness, anger, frustration, jealousy, and a constant pleading with God for one successful conception and pregnancy; but it never came. The grief that accompanies infertility, and in my case, barrenness, is ongoing in some ways. I still flinch a little when a friend or relative announces her pregnancy. I still struggle when said friend or relative asks me to hold her newborn baby, because it feels too painful to engage with a precious life-form. I still try to avoid the maternity section in clothing stores. And I still get a glimmer of hope when my period is a day or two late, because maybe, just maybe...even though I know my period will come. It always does. Its consistency is oddly reassuring.
For me, a diagnosis of infertility was soul-crushing. In varying degrees, its doom infected every aspect of my life: my job, my hobbies, my social life, my future plans, my relationships with family, friends, and with God, and, of course, with my spouse. There were several years when sex was difficult. Not the mechanics, mind you, but the desire. Just have fun! Have as much sex as you want! It’s the best part of trying to get pregnant! people would tell us. But after a while, sex wasn’t fun; sex was stressful. Our intimacy was suffocated by the pressure of trying to conceive, and sometimes, yes, even the mechanics were nearly impossible. You try being aroused when all your hopes and dreams of becoming parents depends on the perfect timing, position, physical environment, and kismet of a single passionate shot to the uterus. Add in dozens of infertility tests, treatments, painful procedures, surgeries, oral and injectable drugs, vaginal suppositories, vaginal ultrasounds...vaginal EVERYTHING, weight gain, mood
swings, hot flashes, and countless tears, to an already tense situation, and then tell me how sexy you feel. While all of this is occurring, try not to be angry at your spouse if he has the reproductive malfunction preventing your vision of motherhood; or harder still, try to not drown in guilt and sorrow over your own broken body that can’t seem to create or sustain life, even with extensive medical assistance. Not to mention the thousands of dollars - sometimes tens of thousands - you’ve shelled out to take this ill-fated ride. This is infertility. It’s a trip. A long, expensive, and brutal trip. Especially if every procedure has failed.
For those who are blessed to reach their goal of conception and bring forth biological offspring, I can only imagine the elation they must feel. In many ways, they have the hardest go of this whole parenting thing. First, all the difficulties of infertility followed by all the difficulties of birth and parenting. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, I suppose. But after so long a road, being thrown into the parenting-fire must feel very welcomed – maybe even magical – and not nearly as painful as the infertility frying pan was. For those who never bear children, the pain of losing the infertility game is eased only by the optimism that by some alternate miracle, children are still possible through adoption.
Brace yourself, Reader, for what I will say next might sound downright cruel, but I promise you it isn’t, it is simply the truth: Adoption is rarely anyone’s first choice. There. I said it. When we shifted our focus to adoption it was as a last and final attempt at parenthood, as it is for many couples. While it was not our first choice, it was absolutely the right choice. When people flippantly say ‘maybe we’ll adopt’ after little to no difficulty conceiving and having children – or choosing not to have biological children – an anger bubbles up inside of me that wants to burst: ADOPTION ISN’T EASY! IT’S ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS YOU AND YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH PARENTS WILL EVER DO! To treat it otherwise is ignorant and disrespectful to all involved. What makes adoption so challenging, compared to infertility, is that you are now at the mercy of someone else’s choice. You have zero control. With infertility, you are in charge:
you research, weigh options, make decisions, work with doctors, plan procedures, timing, choose to take medications, and even inject them yourself; you own this journey. Even if you never have a successful pregnancy, every detail and procedure was your choice, but adoption is hoping and praying that another mother will choose you. To hope for a successful adoption is to fully surrender the micromanagement of your experience that, up to this point, has helped you maintain precious sanity through immense disappointment and heartache. It is hoping that another mother will have the courage to break her own heart to heal yours. This is a deeply humbling realization. And the process is rigorous.
If infertility means having five doctors and nurses simultaneously poke and prod your body, stare up your vagina, and inflict physical and emotional pain while trying to “fix” you (true story, friends), then the adoption application process is the personal, bureaucratic equivalent. (But at least you get to keep your clothes on.) Interview after interview, together and separately, background checks, home inspections, health inspections, financial inspections, parenting classes, endorsements, caseworkers; every aspect of your life is investigated, questioned, and then questioned again. I’m not saying this process shouldn’t happen – children have the right to be placed in safe, loving homes – but it is extremely draining, and takes the better part of a year to complete. Once your home study (official title for said scrutiny) is finally approved, the waiting begins. Not passive waiting, however, an intensive profile-building, blogging, marketing, matching, spreading the word, anxiety, sleepless nights, fervent prayers, birth-parent contact, “yeses” then “no’s”, “maybe’s” then “no’s”, forced smiles, and hidden tears kind of waiting. During those agonizing months and years, our intimacy was driven by a deep need to find temporary refuge from the inward grief we both felt but couldn’t outwardly show, because, who wants to give their precious baby to a clearly miserable couple? No one, that’s who. Heaven-forbid we express any feelings about our new endeavor other than positivity and excitement. And so, love-making became our secret, fervent attempt to experience something other than the constant emotional pain and broken hearts of childlessness.
If you are matched with birth parents and begin a relationship, born of varying levels of desperation in both parties, there is still no guarantee that you will bring home a baby. And even if you do, until the adoption is finalized (i.e. legally binding, varying by state, but generally 6-12 months after placement), there is no guarantee you will get to keep that baby. Complications with birth parents, legal concerns, dishonesty, bonding issues, negotiation, manipulation, and fear regularly prevent successful adoptions. Failed placements (the phrase used when you’ve been selected to adopt, and the birth parents change their minds) are both common and devastating for adoptive couples. Even more devastating is the experience of the birth mom who goes through with her decision to give her child to someone else. It’s a cruel reality that an adoptive couple’s most joyful moment comes at the expense of a birth parent’s most agonizing one. I will never fully comprehend how our daughter’s birth mother (and father) did it, but I am eternally grateful that they did.
I don’t know how it feels to give birth, but I do know how it feels to have a mother hand me her child so that I can assume that sacred title. It felt like my broken heart burst into a million pieces and then reassembled itself into a new organ, capable of love and sacrifice in a way it hadn’t been before. It felt like going from white-knuckling a steering wheel through a never-ending blizzard to have the landscape instantly replaced by sunny skies and dry roads; my whole body exhaled. I felt relieved, renewed, and energized, and at the same time so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that I was weak to the point of near-collapse. It felt like I was a Phoenix, suddenly consumed by the flames of a decade of exhaustive trying, only to rise victoriously from the ashes of the childless woman I used to be. It felt like a miracle. Too many metaphors? Perhaps. Sound dramatic? It was. Stunningly, tenderly dramatic. This is adoption.
Our daughter is now 6 years old and is breathtakingly beautiful and out-of-this-world amazing. While I don’t have the physical battle scars of motherhood (my boobs still resemble perky, full water balloons, thank you very much), the fight to become a mother dealt brutal blows to my soul, unseen by others, which I now bear with deep appreciation. She was hard won. She was wanted and loved before she existed. She was prayed for, begged for, sacrificed for, searched for, and then one day, she was found; or rather, she found us, through selfless and brave birth parents. And she was absolutely worth the wait.
Becoming parents to our precious child brought love, laughter, light, and peace back into our lives. The depth of despair we once felt has been overcome by the joy we now experience as parents. Also, our sex is amazing. As two survivors of a reproductive war – waged by biology and saved by our champion, Adoption – we are well on the road to healing, and our love-making carries with it a new passion intertwined with shared wounds and triumphs. While parenting is undoubtedly challenging, for me it has not been as arduous as the journey to become a parent. Some say I’ll be singing a different tune when she is a teenager, and perhaps they’re right, but for now the slow burn of this parenting-fire feels pretty darn wonderful compared with the childless hell I’ve already endured.
The Barren Woman
By Camille Parker
You do not know what it is to be barren.
To have an empty womb that cries;
That longs to grow a precious child
And to carry, to hear, and to feel
The thump-thump rhythm of life inside.
You do not know what it is to be barren.
To be unexpanded physically; spiritually;
By a connection that will never be.
No flesh of my flesh, no bone of my bone;
No piece of me giving life to someone new.
You do not know what it is to be barren.
The grief of never growing, never knowing, never bearing
A soul that is separate but part of me,
Created by love, by hope, by prayers unfulfilled.
You do not know what it is to be barren.
Not you, with the glow and the beautiful protrusion.
Not you, who’s hand absently strokes your child as she rests within you.
Not you, who’s pain will bring forth joy and new life.
No, you do not know what it is to be barren, but I do.
My womb is empty.
No eruption of cells; only space.
No tiny beat-beat; only silence.
No flutter of new life; only stillness.
No miracle; only sadness.
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