by Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
When I was first married, I told myself that although I might not be rich, I could still be clean. In my exuberance as a new bride, I felt like that was something I had control over. Later, as children multiplied and the demands on this mother’s time began to pile up, I changed my tune a little to this familiar adage:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow
While this poem has some truth to it, and we should definitely treasure the time we have with our children, I do not think it means we need to neglect our homes. And I have found that I am not truly happy in a dirty, cluttered home. In fact, I believe that if we do it right, our homes can be a refuge from the world – a happy oasis so to speak. And so, while it may be virtually impossible to keep an absolutely immaculate home, I do my best to help it be clean, orderly, and beautiful. Here are a few tips I have found to help our home be both clean and happy.
1. Everything is not always clean at the same time. What kind of promising list is it that must begin with a disclaimer? Yet, remember that the goal is not only to be clean, but happy – and that means the mother too. This means that I must be realistic. After all, even Betty Crocker has her limits. I have found that if the dishes are done and the downstairs is clean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the laundry is folded or that the toilets are scrubbed. Time is always a tradeoff. If you see “clean” in one room, you must know that other things are not done. Likewise, if my day has been full of errand running, grocery shopping, or volunteering at the school you can be guaranteed that the house is not entirely tidy.
2. 10 Minute Tasks. My friend Caren taught me to do those unavoidable, yet necessary jobs as quickly as possible. She offered to do my dishes once. I felt it would be okay to procrastinate, but she insisted that it would only take 10 minutes. Soon, I began to follow this line of thinking and I have found great success with it. Seldom do I have big blocks of time. And other times, I feel too tired or overwhelmed with big jobs. So, I try to think small and simple. By setting the timer for 10 minutes, I allow myself success by working furiously to get as much as possible completed. Yes, racing the clock is a mind game for adults as well as children. And the snowball effect it has on me works wonders. And do you know what? The very process of just beginning gives me energy for more!
3. Put your “helpers” to work! Let’s call it teamwork, folks! I figure, if they can help make the mess, they are old enough to help clean it up. Giving them jobs not only prevents more mess in the meantime, but helps their self - esteem and sense of contribution and personal responsibility. What a great gift! True, this may take more time initially, but eventually, as children are trained, this tip actually becomes a time saver. A word of caution: A clean house does not equal happiness if it takes a fight to get it that way, so practice patience and use your creativity to make it fun and rewarding for them.
4. Get out one project at a time. There is definitely wisdom in not running faster than we have strength. We would not think of making our baby run a marathon before they learn to crawl nor would we hand our toddler juggle 50 pound weights, so why would we do it to ourselves? All right, I will admit that I am not always good at this, in fact, it seems that there are often many balls in the air all at the same time. Yes - never a dull moment! But I know that at those times when I have put away the first project before I proceed with the next, things are definitely less chaotic. For example, a few moments in the kitchen after each meal saves a lot of time later.
5. Have a cleaning schedule. Having a certain time of the day or week to do things helps me relax and not feel guilty about undone work. I know when and whose turn it is to help with this or that. Everyone is on the daily schedule to clean their rooms and do a dish job. With a schedule, I know which day I will do the laundry and I never have to scramble to take out the garbage. Chores that only come once a week are scheduled as well. I can calmly go about the tasks at hand and realize that even though there is always something waiting to be done, I can take it easy and tackle today’s load because the rest will be done on the proper day.
6. Be flexible: Now wait a minute. Didn’t I just say to have a schedule? And now I’m saying to be flexible... Well, yes. A schedule is great for some things, but if the baby is crying or your toddler needs a friend to play with for a while, a rigid schedule can become the family enemy. People are always more important than a task to be done. Sometimes other things call for our attention as well, don’t they? Sometimes we need a few moments to ourselves to rejuvenate. So, give yourself a little wiggle room. It’s okay when things don’t always run like clockwork.
7. Less is more. Years ago, I read a marvelous decluttering book by Don Aslett entitled, Clutter’s Last Stand. I fell in love with the ideas from it and would encourage anyone to read it who has a difficult time hanging onto EVERYTHING! The basic idea is that if you do not use it, like it, or need it, no matter who gave it to you, or how much it costs, or how long you’ve hung onto it, toss it or give it away! Just how many neckties, Legos, envelopes, and knick - knacks from Aunt Paddy Whack do you need anyway? While you’re at it, teach your children to go through their school papers and belongings as well. This is a life skill. And I find it incredibly freeing to realize that by simplifying, you have less to wash, polish, scrub, fold up, dust, or trip over and you have more space, money, and time to share with your family and others in meaningful ways.
8. Organize. There are a zillion and one ideas out there to organize every nook and cranny in your home. I had fun with an old book called Confessions of a Happily Organized Wife. (The title alone makes me smile). But to simplify, may I suggest some basic ideas.
9. Dovetail. It is really fun to do two things at once. For example, my mom taught me to put my “maids” to work in the morning (dishwasher, washer/dryer). I can also do this when I talk on the phone while sweeping, catch up on the child’s school day while folding socks together, or letting breakfast cook while I make lunch. Remember again, that relationships are always more important than “getting it all done.” If you neglect your children, for example by tapping away at the computer or scrolling endlessly on your phone while they are begging for attention, you have only fooled yourself.
10. Survival mode. Part of the inevitable with raising a family are those times when it is just less important to have a totally clean home – maybe someone is sick, you have a new baby or a time - consuming church assignment. Forget about cobwebs, dusting, cabinets, closets. At these times, I feel that it is better to settle for some clean for the sake of your sanity rather than to let the whole house fall to pieces. I have decided that the three main things of importance are dishes, laundry, and making my bed (which gives the general appearance that the room is mostly clean). My next favorite strategy is to whisk through the living area with a laundry basket for a little clutter pickup. I let everyone do their part to empty it. Aren’t I thoughtful?
At the end of the day, remember to smile. Don’t worry so much about perfection. A clean and happy home is within your reach, so be your own best friend. Put your feet up for a bit and give yourself a pat on the back for what you have done.
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.
By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
One of my favorite things to do while growing up was to visit my grandmother’s homes on both sides of my family. I think everyone enjoyed it! I have to mention that while some people have “cookie” Grandmas, I had TWO "ice cream Grandmas!” My Grandma Durrant always had her freezer stocked with a favorite flavor at a moment’s notice. And my Grandma Tenney would let us sit on her back porch and grind the handle of the old-fashioned ice cream maker with a fresh cream mixture until the ice cream was nice and thick! YUM! So, was it the ice cream factor that made my Grandmas' homes such special places to visit? Being the ice cream lover that I am, I confess my answer to that question: “YES!”
But, of course, there was more -- much more!
In fact, everything in my grandmothers' homes spoke in a special way to my heart:
Don’t we all want that kind of a home? A home filled with warmth and love! Happily, it is something we can all achieve with work, creativity, time, and a whole lot of help from above! One song that describes this loving ambiance we want in our homes is called, “Home,” written by Caroline Eyring Miner:
Home is where the heart is
Where warmth and love abound
Home is where encircling arms
Go all the way around.
--by Caroline Eyring Miner
A home, as we all know, is more than just the furniture and the stuff we own. It is made up of the people who live there – our family! Therefore, in order for a home to have that ambiance of love that we desire, one of the most important things we can do is to prioritize our time to strengthen our relationships with our families.
In families, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
Time spent with our families is a true investment that pays long term dividends. When we spend time with our family, we increase our family’s capacity to feel loved and secure in our home. What we are really saying is, “I have time for you. You are important to me.” Time spent with family doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but both quantity as well as quality are important and consistency is key.
How do YOU spell love with your family? What message are you sending with the events on your calendar? Here are a few ways that strong families send their families a little love note to pump up the love-meter in their homes:
1. Set aside a weekly family night – What could be better than a time reserved just for your family each week where you all have a blast together?! Start out with one and build up to planning out a few at a time. Keep it simple or spruce it up. Just make it a night that the whole family looks forward to! It’s a great time to teach your family values as well as life skills. Play games and activities or go on outings! Maybe even work on a project together once in a while! And always – I mean ALWAYS - include a special treat!
2. Set aside a weekly family planning meeting – This is a great time to calendar events, share goals and dreams, and express ideas that will strengthen your family and leave everyone feeling calm and reassured. What can you do to assist them? How can they in turn help the family run more smoothly? You can do this as part of your weekly family night or at dinner. Just find whatever time works best for your family.
3. Individual Attention – One-on-one time with your children can be an effective way to connect with them even if it’s only a few minutes a day. Maybe you do this as you prepare dinner together, go on a short outing, run an errand together, or enjoy a special bedtime routine. Letting them talk about whatever is on their mind and really listening to them without judgment or criticism will help them to feel important and loved.
4. Unplug – In a world that is running at breakneck speed, we don’t want our families to get lost in the shuffle. So be sure to take a little time each day AWAY from phones, computers, television, and so on, not only to benefit yourself, but so that the whole family can really connect. This electronic free time becomes your chance to look each other in the eyes, talk together, laugh together and learn from one another, so don’t let it pass you by!
5. Eat meals together - Even if you can’t do it for every meal of every single day, do what you can to regularly schedule this important time together. Making it a priority to eat together blesses our families tremendously! Children whose families eat together not only develop healthier eating patterns and have better health, but they have a better vocabulary and academic performance, a higher self-esteem, a greater sense of reliance, and a lower risk of depression, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.
6. Make and keep family traditions – Silly or special, extensive or simple, taking time to infuse family traditions lights a spark of joy and love in families. Some families have a song or a cheer. Some gather for a family prayer and group hug before heading out the door each morning. Some explore a special place each year. It really doesn’t matter what the tradition is, only that you do it and remember to keep doing it. Whether it’s as simple as having green eggs and ham on St. Patrick’s Day, strawberry pancake stacks on Valentine’s, or a treasure hunt on birthdays to find the presents, traditions not only give children something fun to look forward to, but help them to feel emotionally supported.
My grandmothers always had time for their family. They could have done a million other things, but instead they chose us. They turned on the love-meter in their homes by including us in their lives - teaching us how to do ceramics, raking the leaves together, playing a game of cards, going for a walk together to the post office. The ambiance in their homes was more than just physical surroundings, although that was certainly part of it. By opening up their calendars, what they were doing in essence was allowing us the time to open up our hearts to them, time with which they could then use to share their powerful influence for good. Now that’s what I call time well spent!
By Meagan Waite from the Discovery Family Coalition
Dr. Seuss, the beloved children’s author, wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” on a bet. The co-founder of Random House Publishing, Mr. Bennett Cerf, wagered that Seuss couldn’t write a book that had fewer than 50 unique words. Seuss won 50 bucks, and we have a piece of literary art with which one cannot help but rhyme along.
If you haven’t read it, you should. It can get you thinking about the relationship between what you believe and what you experience. It can encourage you to think outside the box (no would-nots, could-nots for you!) and try new things. It can give you courage to show resilience in the face of challenges, opposition, and adversity.
Yes, reading can do that for you.
March is National Reading Month. It has been designated as such in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2. My Discovery Destination! is celebrating. How? With a Discovery Hunt, of course! In fact, we bet YOU that you are going to love this Hunt, and we dare you to try and prove us wrong.
Oh the places you’ll go! It’s easy! Download the GooseChase app and search for the Hunt with the name “Oh The Places You’ll Go” (named in honor of Dr. Seuss, as is this article) or with the game code “SEUSS”. You are going to want to get started right away. The Hunt is full of Adventures that are educational. They are fun. And they have the ability to strengthen your family and build resilience in your children.
Yes, Discovery Hunts can do that for you.
By Esperanza DeLaLuz
Being a mother is a thing which changes you forever. Once you make that commitment to a child, it’s the child’s well-being, growth, and happiness that is the most important thing in your world. You’ll go without sleep, go hungry, clean up disgusting substances, labor for hours to create the perfect event or costume, and spend hours and hours repeating activities that would otherwise be incredibly boring.
Recently I found myself playing 27 games of Candyland in a row because my 5-year-old granddaughter loves that game and can play it competently. I don’t like Candyland, but I love the excitement on her face when she makes a good move, or the exuberant thrill when she wins. Even the sadness when she has to go backwards is just adorable!
Do you know the history of Candyland? An article in the Atlantic recently described it! During the Polio era, before vaccines, there were lots of very young children in hospitals and they were very bored, lonely and unhappy. But many of them were too young to read and unable to play games without adult involvement.
In 1948, a retired schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott decided to create a board game that could become a distraction for very young patients. The outbreak had forced children into extremely restrictive environments. Concerned with the spread of polio, parents kept their children indoors, and children were frustrated. Games like Candy Land became an ideal way to keep them occupied.
Children who had contracted polio were isolated, physically weak and often confined by equipment. Candy land was designed to let young children play by themselves. As long as the child can count to 2 and match colors the child can play. Candy Land offered the children confined in hospitals welcome distraction—but it also gave immobilized patients a liberating fantasy of movement. The joy of movement, especially for polio patients, seems to have been integral to Abbott’s design philosophy from the start. The original board even depicts the tentative steps of a boy in a leg brace!
The game teaches pattern recognition and following instructions. It shows children how to play together—how to win humbly or lose graciously. The game is designed to be outgrown. As soon as a child realizes that there is nothing that, they can do to alter the course of the game, they begin to desire more challenging entertainments. But there will always be young children who need a game that they can play, and Moms and Nannas who will play 27 games in a row for the pure joy of watching a child play.
READ the whole history here: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/07/how-polio-inspired-the-creation-of-candy-land/594424/
By Sam Allred, Momivate's Music, Inspiration, and Laughter CouncilMom
Anyone who has spent an entire day with kids knows that it can be overwhelming and difficult. Many days are full of laughter, playing, and joy. But some days are full of tears and tantrums - all day long.
On those bad days, it is easy to start down a spiral of stress and frustration and those emotions have a huge impact on our kids. That’s why it is important to know how to change your bad days into good days.
Here are a few tips you can try the next time you’re having a rough day at home with the kids:
1. Get Outside!
If you're cranky, then the kids are probably cranky too. Dishes and laundry can wait for an hour while you take the kids on a walk or to the park. Let your kids run, soak up some sun, and explore. Being outside is a fantastic mood lifter.
2. Set the Timer for Ten Minutes
If you are feeling overwhelmed with a to-do list a mile long, tell the kids you are setting the timer for ten minutes, invite them to help, and do everything you can before the timer goes off. Do the dishes, tidy up, switch the laundry over, take out the trash, sweep the kitchen, or whatever else is an immediate need. You will be surprised at how much you are able to accomplish in a short amount of time. When the timer goes off, stop your chores and focus on your kids. In a few hours, set the timer again. After a few ten minute sessions, hopefully you will have most of your chores done.
3. Talk to Someone
Adult relationships in motherhood are so important. Talking to a friend about life can be a great stress reliever. We all require connection to thrive and it can be hard to feel connected when you only talk to tiny humans all day. Make sure you can talk to somebody about your struggles, your hobbies, your current favorite TV show, or whatever else you want! Consider joining a facebook group or a support group for mothers in your area.
4. Listen to some Mood-Boosting Music
Music has been proven time and time again to distract us from fatigue and exhaustion, elevate our mood, lessen anxiety, and even improve our health. Play a favorite album, find some fun action songs to get the kids moving, or have an impromptu dance party in the kitchen.
5. Give Yourself Grace
Remember that you are a good mom. Having a bad day as a mom does not define you. You are allowed to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Everybody has bad days occasionally. Let your kids see you practice the important skill of turning a bad day into a good day. If you find yourself having bad days more frequently, make sure you make yourself a priority by taking a break and practicing self care. You cannot pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first.
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.
Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there.
Ours boasts it quiet openly,
The signs are everywhere...
For smears on the windows,
Little smudges on the doors.
I should apologize, I guess,
For toys strewn on the floor.
But I sat down with the children,
And we played and laughed and read,
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
Their eyes will shine instead.
For when at times I'm forced to choose:
The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook, and clean, and scrub...
But first I’ll be a MOTHER.
If you want to know the value of...
ask a teenager who's been grounded.
ask a student with a research paper due.
ask a substitute teacher.
ask a guy getting bombarded with questions by the parents of the girl who is still upstairs getting ready for their date.
ask a basketball player, down by 1, in possession of the ball.
ask a gymnast.
ask a running back at a football game.
ask a bungee jumper.
ask a teenager who buys his own gasoline.
...a phone call...
ask the person who just put in a job application.
What would you add??
In each passing mortal hour
All around me there is need,
There are hearts that yearn and tears that fall
And hungry souls to feed.
I must seek the Spirit's wisdom,
Learn compassion's gentle art,
For I cannot give with empty hands
Nor love with barren heart.
If I would bear my brother's burden,
If I would share my sister's grief,
Extend the hand of sweet compassion,
Offer the weary ones relief,
If I would ease the thirst of strangers,
And serve His children heart and hand,
I must drink of Heaven's wells o'erflowing,
I must learn to fill the well within.
I will serve my Savior gladly,
Seek his little lambs who stray;
But if I would lead them safely home,
I must know the way.
I must seek for understanding
That I may teach His children well,
If I seek to fill the soul athirst,
I must first be filled.
That I may bear my brother's burden,
That I may share my sister's grief,
Extend the hand of sweet compassion,
Offer the weary ones relief,
That I may ease the thirst of strangers,
And serve His children heart and hand,
I must drink of Heaven's wells o'erflowing,
I must learn to fill the well within.
By Sally DeFord
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."
Being empathic -- able to feel the emotions of others -- can be a gift, showing compassion and wanting to ease sadness. It might also be stressful, since the other person is the one in charge of whether their complex emotions get resolved in healthy ways or not. Being able to "LET GO" is a skill that empaths must learn and practice! But what does it mean?
In high school, I took a class called Peer Facilitation, and it taught us how to keep ourselves emotionally level while reaching out to those who were off kilter. Here is one of the handouts from that class, which I've kept almost 30 years! It describes both what "LET GO" is AND what it is NOT.
May it help you in your journey as a mother, definitely a position of empathy! Also, a position with the temptation to try to control another person. Gaining this perspective, this ability to LET GO will make motherhood a much more enjoyable journey -- full of love instead of fear.
To "let go" does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can't do it for someone else.
To "let go" is not to cut myself off,
it's the realization that I can't control another.
To "let go" is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To "let go" is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To "let go" is not to try to change or blame another,
it's to make the most of myself.
To "let go" is not to care for,
but to care about.
To "let go" is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To "let go" is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To "let go" is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcome,
but to allow others to effect their own destinies.
To "let go" is not to be protective,
it's to permit another to face reality.
To "let go" is not to deny, but to accept.
To "let go" is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To "let go" is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.
To "let go" is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
To "let go" is to fear less and love more.
The Mom in the Mirror
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you queen for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what *that* mom has to say.
For it isn’t your facebook or instagram likes
Whose judgement upon you must pass.
The woman whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
Some people may see all your beautiful posts
And think you’re free from all wrongs.
But the mom in the glass knows about the burnt toast,
And the flats and the sharps in your songs.
She’s the woman to please - never mind all the rest,
For she’s with you (and your kids) to the end.
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the mom in the glass is your friend.
You don’t need to convince the whole instagram crowd
That they’ll never know anyone dearer.
Adore your imperfect self and be proud
To love that real mom in the mirror.
For when you accept that perfection you lack
And pursue simple progress instead,
You offer yourself the best kind of feedback
And happier feelings are spread.
Other moms need to know that your struggles are real
And how optimism can play
A critical role in how you manage and deal
With life’s topsy turvy melee.
No need to complain, no need to hold back
Let authenticity be your goal
And the mom in the mirror will share her life hack:
“Be true to the mom in your soul!”
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
By Elisabeth Balderree, former Director of Music, Inspiration, and Laughter
My son and I have a unique way we communicate with each other. I call it a pass-along book, and it’s a little bit of magic in our relationship.
I don’t remember how the idea of the little pass-along book began, but it’s something that connects my son and me together in a simple, yet meaningful way. He will write a question for me in it, or tell me something funny or important to him, then he’ll leave it on my nightstand. When I find it, I’ll write my reply, and then leave it on his desk. Sometimes I’ll ask if he wants to play a game, color or draw, or I’ll ask a specific question about his day or what’s on his mind. Other times, I’ll give him a sincere compliment. He writes similar things to me.
Maybe we will write in this one little notebook, or perhaps it will turn into years of passing notebooks back and forth. In some ways, it’s like a small journal for just the two of us, capturing moments in time. Although it may seem rather ordinary, it is very meaningful. Creating this unique, yet simple avenue for communication is important to me, because he knows he can come to me with questions, thoughts, concerns or anything else on his mind.
I know this little book has strengthened our relationship, and, to me, that makes this little two dollar notebook priceless.
Photos by Elisabeth Balderree
By Ericka Moore, Momivate's Director of Energy (Eating, Exercise, and Sleep)
It’s not a coincidence that this blog is addressing the importance of breast milk during the month of March. March 8th is International Women’s Day and March 3 is IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Day. Both days commemorate women’s achievements—and why not spend a moment discussing breast milk? It is a wonderful accomplishment for a mother to be able to provide this gift for her baby. Granted, it is easier for some mothers than others. There is also a social, political, economic undercurrent to the very act of providing breast milk—which is a discussion for another day. I just want to go back to basics and focus on the awesomeness of breast milk.
Why is breast milk important?
I know there is a ton of information on breastfeeding from a variety of sources. Which positions are best? What pump to use? Should I use a pump? How do you know baby is getting enough milk? It can be overwhelming at times to figure out who or what to listen to.
Why is there an emphasis on feeding your child breast milk? What’s so great about it? When I nursed my first child, I didn’t have this information. I didn’t participate in a breastfeeding class because I thought I could wing it and ask for help when needed. Knowing what I know now, I highly suggest taking a breastfeeding class and speaking to an experienced Mom who has nursed her own child.
Simply put, breast milk is made specifically for humans. It’s your baby’s first food. It contains the perfect blend of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and antibodies. Breast milk is easily digestible and is specifically made for the needs of your baby; it is a living item. In other words, breastmilk operates like an attendant at your local drive-through restaurant. When a baby latches to a breast, messages from his/her saliva are transmitted to the mother and the mother’s body adjusts the components of the breast milk for that session. In fact, the composition of breast milk varies throughout the day, depending on the needs of the baby. If a baby needs more carbs during the morning and more fat during the afternoon, no problem! Mom is able to produce the right combination for her child.
This process is also used when making antibodies to combat illnesses. A baby can communicate his/her needs for specific antibodies through saliva. Mom also participates in this process. When a mother encounters various pathogens in her environment, she immediately begins producing antibodies and other immune factors to protect the baby from illness. This is the reason babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and other illnesses.
Another plus to providing breast milk for your child is early exposure to Mom’s diet. When breastfeeding, mother’s milk carries traces of food flavor which introduces and trains her child to appreciate variety. So, in essence, you are already training your child to appreciate fruits and veggies. That sounds fantastic to me. Breast milk is a glorious gift.
Mothers—and those who support them in giving this gift—should be thanked. Not just on their days of celebration, but every day!
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer
Parenting can be challenging for everyone, but parenting with a chronic or life altering illness brings a unique set of difficulties. It is important for you to accept outside support and take it easy on yourself. Realize there are many simple ways you can be an amazing parent, even if you're not feeling up to doing many activities.
Use Outside Support
Don't hesitate to seek and accept outside help. Get help with childcare, housework, meals, or whatever you feel in need of.
It has been found that new mothers with outside support are more optimistic about parenting. That finding could apply to any stage or situation in parenting, and it makes sense that if you're more optimistic about something you will feel happier doing it. If you’re happier parenting, you will show up in more positive ways for your child. Because of this, accepting help will benefit not only you, but your child as well.
It could be beneficial to talk to a trusted person about your feelings surrounding your difficult circumstance. If you're struggling to cope, you may benefit from seeing a counselor who can help you work through your emotions.
Take it Easy on Yourself
Taking care of a child is a lot of hard work. It is more consuming physically, emotionally, and mentally than any other job. Add illness on top of it, and there is no doubt a need for as much rest as possible. Let yourself rest whenever you can without feeling guilty about it.
Focus On The Ways You Can Parent Well
You may feel disappointed or feel a loss if you are unable to do active physical activities with your child. It's okay to feel that way, but it is important to remember that your value as a parent isn't dependent on how much or what things you do. You can love your kid and bond with them in many simple yet profound ways.
Find ways to make deep and meaningful connections with your child through spending time together. Some ways bonding can occur without expending a lot of physical energy can include
snuggling on the couch, talking, reading, or drawing together.
You could take turns telling stories. Try pulling up a list of questions for your child to answer, and as a bonus, audio record them giving their answers on your phone as a form of journaling. Listen to audiobooks together (you can check them out online from the library) or a podcast with children's stories. Color, draw, or watch movies together.
Having a secure relationship with your child will bring many benefits for both of you. Your child will have an increased feeling of stability and confidence, have resilience in difficult times, and a better ability to navigate difficult emotions. Connecting with your child will bring you joy and fulfillment amidst the difficulties of your illness.
Hugging and cuddling your child even has benefits for both of you. Hugging and cuddling causes the brain to release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin contributes to bonding with others and has many other health benefits as well. Oxytocin has been known to decrease stress, bring blood pressure down, increase pain tolerance, and help with anxiety.
As a parent with a chronic or life altering illness, you deserve to go easy on yourself. Don't hesitate to seek and accept the outside support you need, as this will benefit you and your child. Focus on all the ways you can parent well, and do those things to create meaningful connections with your child.
Crnic, K. A., Greenburg, M. T., Ragozin, A. S., Robinson, N. M., & Basham, R. B. (1983, Feb.). Effects of Stress and Social Support on Mothers and Premature and Full-Term Infants. Child Development, 54(1), 209-217. 10.2307/1129878
Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother, 51(1), 57-80. 10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
Are you convinced that screens are hurting our children's brains?
I am. Not just in theory but based on personal experience! Maybe not the way you think -- my case is a counter-example.
When I was 12 or so, my mom cut the cord off the TV because we weren't keeping the rules -- and so I enjoyed a very *rich* teen time frame despite being raised by a single mom, well within poverty level.
I was *rich* in my zeal for living a real life! I wasn't weighed down by expectations put into my brain by watching TV shows or seeing commercials about everything I couldn't afford and being convinced that I needed those things. I had free time to find out what was important to me and then do it!
I rarely felt "left out" when conversations about TV shows seemed irrelevant to my life. In contrast, my friends often felt left out when I described how I spent my time discovering and developing various hobbies, enjoying real-life social fun like impromptu pizza parties, long drives to interesting destinations, and long talks with my on-again-off-again boyfriend (our relationship was not defined by TV's examples). Yes, I still watched TV at friends' houses sometimes -- I wasn't against it altogether -- but those exposures solidified my philosophy that TV's pressurized influence would have greatly clouded my vision, and likely was blinding my peers from seeing their potential.
Nowadays, it's no longer TV alone trying to program our children's behavior and thought processes. It comes through so many screens that cutting one cord wouldn't make much of a difference! How can we help our children navigate this territory that's also new territory to us as parents? Is it really possible and plausible to keep them away from such a pervasive influence -- or is keeping them away the goal anymore? Despite my past that I'm proud of, I'm parenting in extremely different circumstances, and I've determined that the goal is not to avoid screens altogether, but to build the ability to manage screen time effectively, and ultimately flourish with screens.
Our family has a Family Technology Plan that is consistently being reviewed and sometimes revised as we encounter new situations that may not have been covered by previous drafts. As parents, we are straightforward with our children about how screen time (even educational screen time!) can be detrimental to our brains. Yes, we restrict the amount of time, redirecting repeatedly, and with the responsibility placed incrementally more on the child according to their age. Our goal is to help our children develop their own healthy habits, with a strong desire to be actively architecting their own lives rather than just watching someone else's scripted life through a screen.
If you haven't gained a conviction yet of the necessity for parents to be pro-active in their children's journey to safe screen use, please watch this documentary! Yes, the struggle is real, and so worth every effort!
The following is copied and pasted from the YouTube page:
For the first time in history, mental illness and suicide have become one of the greatest threats to school-aged children. Many parents still view dangers as primarily physical and external, but they’re missing the real danger: kids spending more time online and less time engaging in real life, free play, and autonomy.
What are the effects on the next generation's mental, physical, and spiritual health?
Childhood was more or less unchanged for millennia, but this is CHILDHOOD 2.0. For more resources and to download a community discussion guide and share with your community, please visit: https://bit.ly/32voKpY.
NOTE: Bark is proud to sponsor the free release of this film because we believe every family should have access to such a crucial, powerful resource.
Run Time: 88 Minutes
A Film by: Jamin Winans, Robert Muratore, and Kiowa Winans
Music by: Jamin Winans
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.
Text about the embedded YouTube video was written by Regan Barnes, ChairMom of the MotherBoard at Momivate
Do you ever wonder if all the effort you are putting into motherhood really matters? One of the goals of Momivate is to convince you that your endeavors to raise your children are instrumental in lifting society. The Ted Talk embedded below, "Why Most Parenting Advice is Wrong," seems to be antithetical to our foundational venture to activate moms. Please take 17 minutes to listen to this professor of neuroscience—and fellow mother—and then let’s discuss how she’s actually in agreement with Momivate at our core.
I confess that my skin crawled when this professor revealed the final conclusion of the metastudy! I’ve never considered it to be my goal that my children turn out to be just like each other—not even my identical twins! The scientists are using mismatched logic to conclude that loving parents want to simply program children like computers, dismissing the children’s innate talents, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses.
Part of what makes motherhood so worthy and needful of our best efforts is the challenge inherent in patiently working with the individual aspects of each of our offspring. Because we love them, we’re committed to determining, through a continual, loving process of trial and error, how each child responds to various parenting “techniques” and adjusting accordingly.
By using the illustration of a butterfly controlling a hurricane, the professor convinced me to keep listening. Butterflies are so meaningful to Momivate that they're featured in our logo. The metamorphosis from a creepy-crawly insect to a beautiful creature of flight is symbolic of the changes Momivate wants to bring to the role of motherhood, as well as the potential our children have to transform and grow wings of their own.
Despite my initial distaste for the scientific study, I’m glad I continued to listen to this professor and notice that she never comes to the conclusion that the butterfly should NOT flap its wings . . .
Knowing that my "hurricane child" would not even exist without me is a compelling concept in the face of the overwhelming odds described. The fact that my flaps cannot determine the final outcome of the hurricane doesn't stop me from sending winds of love with each beat of my wings.
If my children were to sense that I chose not to guide them because too many other cultural or environmental forces seemed to overpower our (mine + my child’s) efforts, that's when my wondrous hurricane-child’s indomitable spirit would lose its own sense of ability to change the world. We butterflies must flap—first, to create the hurricane, and then continually so the hurricane will expand in its own whirlwind of potential.
Yes, moms, there are many forces influencing our children, and we must do what we can to increase or decrease the effects of those forces as we deem necessary. We can do that best when we acknowledge that ultimately, control outside of ourselves remains impossible. Outcomes, though somewhat predictable due to patterns discovered over centuries of research and observation, simply cannot be guaranteed when it comes to parenting.
This professor's final point about dragon parenting is incredibly potent: to love as fiercely as the winds of the hurricane, being present in each shared moment, acknowledging that time together is all we really have, so let's make that time enjoyable for the sake of both mother and child, not because of trying to control outcomes.
For instance, when I read a parenting book that helps me improve my listening skills with my children, I must do it for the sake of truly hearing my children, motivated only by my love for them, NOT because said book promises that the improved listening will push the right buttons and, ta-da, the end result is a robot who obeys my every command!
If I work towards goals—including becoming the kind of parent my younger self always wanted—it must be a personal struggle to fulfill my potential rather than a scheme designed to calm the destructive storm that I regard my child to be. My children’s exposure to my exertion empowers them to set goals that, in essence, funnel their hurricane power and focus it towards self-actualization. Even though there will always be myriad forces impacting them, they’ll build their own strength and wield their own power to mitigate those forces, and ultimately gain control of their ability to transform the world.
Mothers, hear out this professor's final points and let those be what sticks with you rather than worrying about or being turned off by the "science" that she refers to at the beginning. You matter because YOU ARE THE BUTTERFLY—and every movement of your wings contributes to that hurricane child of yours, even if it doesn't control them.
From the YouTube Description:
Parenting books promise to show people how to raise happy, successful children, and in the process to reveal why each of us turned out the way we did. But the science of child development tells a different story about how parents influence children—a story that may shock, unsettle, and ultimately reassure anyone who has ever been a parent or a child.
Yuko is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her work investigates child development and environmental influences on children’s thinking, using behavioral, neuroimaging, and computational approaches. She is an elected fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. Her work on child development has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1998, and has been published in top scientific journals and featured in The Atlantic, The Today Show, and Parents Magazine. She co-edited two books on brain and cognitive development, and co-authored a computational cognitive neuroscience textbook. She has received awards for research, teaching, and mentoring.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Written by Cindy Thomsen, Momivate's Director of Schedules & Systems
(Note: Cindy wrote this BEFORE Christmas, and unfortunately I (the webmother) am only getting it posted today, on New Year's Day. Cindy's writing is always worth reading, though, so go ahead and indulge yourself! There's always a mindset to learn and apply even if outside the holiday season.)
WOW! This is has been a crazy year! Covid has changed all of our usual Christmas traditions. Now we find ourselves wondering what we should do as a family and focusing on those things that are most important for us. Is it possible to have a great Christmas this year? How about a perfect one? Click here to learn more about how to add more peace and joy to your home this holiday season.
Link to my blog post…
Discovered by Regan Barnes, ChairMom of the MotherBoard. Beyond discovering it on YouTube, I take no credit! Here are some questions to ponder as you watch:
1) The methods she suggests seem to be rather time consuming. Are you willing (and able?) to commit this kind of time to your child's emotional well-being? This kind of time commitment is one of the reasons Momivate promotes full-time motherhood, with career as a "side dish" or even put off until the children seem grounded.
2) What are some ways you can "parent yourself" and build your own emotional intelligence? Or provide this kind of compassionate parenting to your spouse?
3) Isn't it fun to listen to the Australian accent? Makes me wonder if Australians enjoy listening to American accents?
How did your parents respond to you as a child when you were upset? Can you see the impact of their imprints in your life as an adult? What is the magic ingredient when raising an emotionally intelligent child?
This talk explores all these questions along with how the lack of emotional literacy in our culture has significant power when it comes to the way we parent. It explores how compassion, empathy and mindfulness have a place in raising children – as well as in our education system. If connection, listening, and heart were at the center of every relationship, how different could our world be?
Working with thousands of families for over 16 years as an educator and counselor, Lael has seen the impact that trauma and disconnection have on a family. As an Aware Parenting Instructor, she facilitates workshops and support groups that empower parents to create connections and stronger relationships with their children. She is also the co-creator and Director of Woodline Primary School which is due to open in 2021 – a school based on emotional wellbeing and connection, set on a magnificent 20-acre farm in the Geelong hinterland in Victoria, Australia.
Lael co-hosts The Aware Parenting Podcast, is a regular contributor to several online publications and is a sought-after public speaker who talks candidly about her experiences and her great passion; helping to create wellness in families through connection and communication.
You can find Lael at laelstone.com.au and her school at woodlineprimary.com.au Lael is a birth, parenting and sexuality educator who has worked with thousands of families over 15 years witnessing what lack of connection and attachment can do to relationships and sense of worth. She works one on one with families, runs workshops on birth, parenting and talking to kids about sex and also run pleasure-based sex ed in secondary schools for teens.
Lael is currently putting all her knowledge and learning into practice as she builds an innovative new primary school in Geelong. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Written by Dr. LaReina Hingson, Momivate Director of Relationship Dynamics
Being a mother means most of your social circle is already established--you spend time and energy on your children, family members, and people in your circle you already know. However, social distancing restrictions remind us that meeting and interacting with new people breathes life into our world, whether it’s the cashier at the market or another mom at your kids’ school.Whether restrictions require interacting with people virtually or we simply don’t know where to start, this post offers some ideas.
Seize the day
Often, making friends is as simple as putting yourself out there. Likely, you interact with people all day long; taking the time to talk to them as a person, even for as little as a single minute, can open the door to the possibility of creating new and meaningful friendships. A friendship of a minute is a friendship you created and even if it doesn’t last beyond that, it brings life to your day-to-day routine.Try asking someone you don’t know around you one of the following questions:
Apps aren’t just for dating
If you’re not leaving your house, or are convinced you aren’t going to meet other moms in person, have no fear! Many apps that are traditionally for dating have expanded their services to a “just looking for friends” option. Some benefits of using an app to find friends include:
If this might be for you, be sure to check which apps have friend options and that your spouse (if you have one) is aware of your intentions with the app!
Service can be virtual
Service is touted as one of the best places to meet and make new friendships. Bonus, you know your time is being spent productively so if you’re one of those people who worries about wasting time talking to others, you know there’s a built-in useful aspect to your time. Doing service while meeting others can take the pressure off the interaction as well. For those who aren’t strong social butterflies, this division of mental focus can actually improve your conversation with others by allowing you to relax and giving you a built-in topic. Additionally, you get to pick service oftentimes, so chances are higher that the people you serve and serve with have similarities to your own values and interests.
Nursing homes and other activities are increasing their virtual service options, which again means the mother with limited time can create opportunities to serve without factoring in the travel time that used to be mandatory. You can start virtual service by contacting your local nursing homes, schools for tutoring programs, or by logging on to justserve.org. Momivate, a non-profit, has a few opportunities to serve listed here!
Moms, there's no need to be lonely! Reach out! Your efforts to befriend someone will not only bless your life but also the person whose friend you become.
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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