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 Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom
You have waited and waited AND (have I mentioned?) WAITED for this day! Nine months – give or take – and now, couldn’t you just stare hour after hour, at this little bundle of joy? Can you even believe it? Your thoughts have centered around this little one almost every minute of every day. And – phew! After discovering why it’s called “labor!” the baby has (FINALLY) arrived! Way to go Mom!
Having crossed the finish line, the sheer wonder of a new life placed in your arms fills you with anticipation of what lies ahead. Caressing that sweet downy soft head. Kissing each tender tiny toe and marveling as you trace those little eyes, nose, lips, ears. Those mini-fingers wrap their adorable frailty and dependence around your soul.
Wonder and joy sit side by side with the exact opposite: nagging feelings of exhaustion, inexperience, frustration. The discomforts of pregnancy are now replaced by new ones: Cesarean or episiotomy wounds. Sore nipples. Baby blues. Tired… SO tired. As much as we want to enjoy this experience of Mommyhood, we instantly realize that it isn’t going to be a piece of cake!
So please remember to be kind to yourself.
You are a walking miracle maker and now is the time to take good care of you. A time to heal. A time to take it easy. A time to be good to that number one Mommy.
Survival mode - Just as you finish doing the dishes and laundry, another load is calling your name. How is it possible to keep up with the many demands on your time and energy? Remember that at these times, you and your baby’s needs come first. It is clearly time for Survival mode. We’re talking basics here. The goal is not to have a spotless house, but to “love on” your children. If I can get the dishes tidied up once a day, a batch of laundry running, and maybe even a garbage taken out, I feel accomplished. Or better yet, use paper plates and cups. Save the environment later, when you have more time and energy!
Savor the moment - As with each stage in the life of children, I have found over and over again that with a new baby, there are both really hard things and really beautiful things – things that will never happen again: The sound of the newborn cry, the darling startle reflex, peeling skin, the smell of their neck nestled into yours, their first bath, their tiny toes. You may want to jot down notes about firsts, funny things they do, milestones, and your feelings. Capture the moment with frequent snapshots. There will be plenty of time for scrapbooking later if that’s a priority for you, but for now, just share them with friends and family so you can rejoice together!
Sleep - You know the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Sister, it’s so true! The whole world looks like a friendlier place when you are rested. So toss out all the old important TO DOs on your list. Now is the time for a new list, and loving yourself enough to get some sleep is at the top of that list. If there is a choice between getting something done and getting some sleep, choose sleep. I know that this is not easily accomplished. So, for starters, sleep when the baby sleeps. Yes, this is harder to do once you have more than one child, so don’t be shy in asking for help from a friend or family member. Also, with a little know-how and practice, you can train your child to sleep. They’re going to have to learn how to do it on their own sometime anyway. Don’t be that mom that wished she had learned about sleep sooner, but alas, she was too tired! Two excellent resources on this topic are: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.
Time away - Let’s face it – Sometimes being a mom is just plain lonely. You spend many quiet hours even in the middle of the night, rocking, feeding, cuddling, soothing. All good things, right? But the overall effect can be draining if you don’t get a little time for yourself. Remember that as much as you love your baby, it is good to “baby” yourself sometimes, Mama! What does that look like? A weekly date night! Time with a friend on the phone or in person. An hour or two for personal time to shower, read, relax, or even take a nap. A walk around the block for a little fresh air and movement. Mommy is a person too and someone has to take time to “mother” her. So schedule in a little time for yourself each day. Think of it as a time to rejuvenate rather than a selfish action, because dear, it is anything but selfish. You will come back energized and excited to spread a little love and sunshine in your children’s lives. And besides that, you are worth it!
By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
Snuggled up in my arms, my little grandson stares up at me with his big beautiful innocent eyes. Together we rock back and forth in the overstuffed chair singing song after song and I’m convinced that I love him more every second! As I sing, my mind wanders back to yesteryear when my babies were tiny and I sang song after song to them – hoping to relax them and hush their sleepytime fears. Hoping to instill in them the things I knew were true. Hoping to fill their hearts with the love that I had for them.
It’s amazing how magical music can be! Music has a way of touching our hearts and filling our memories with the best things of life.
Music was at the heart of the home I grew up in, so naturally, as an adult, I shared it with my children. We sang lilting lullabies and fun children’s sing-along recordings. We also offered xylophones, harmonicas, recorders, and rhythm instruments for the little ones to explore creating their own sounds.
As a classical musician, I knew the benefits of classical music: an increased learning capacity, creativity, and self-esteem, to name only a few. Knowing that our children weren’t going to grow up on a farm (like my parents did), we still wanted to teach them hard work, patience, and discipline. We decided to instill these values through formal music lessons! Thus, we became the beneficiaries of practice sessions, morning-noon-and-night! We eagerly attended recitals and concerts galore! Music sweetly and simply lent a soothing atmosphere to our home and even our car, as we traveled to and fro.
Music became a parenting friend that would quiet the mayhem of the moment. When life became a little hairy and scary and the decibel level was a little too high, I would nonchalantly pop in a CD of classical music or church hymns (my secret weapons!) and - voila! - an essence of calm and peace would descend! Soon, things would settle down.
With a house full of rambunctious kiddos, we found that with a little creativity, there seemed to be a song for every situation that could gently persuade, teach, or motivate. Songs to make diaper changes more pleasant, songs to make hair washing less scary, songs to help children cooperate when it was time to brush their teeth. Sometimes songs distracted us from the mundane and helped to pass the time while we did the dishes or other chores. At bedtime, songs even helped us march up to bed in a happy way! We became a train connecting arms at the shoulders and chugging up the stairs singing, “Choo choo choo, what’s coming down the track?” The person in the lead would “pull the whistle” and up we went.
Music was an unseen friend that added joy and spontaneity to our lives at just the right time! Sometimes the music was a toe – tapping “Turkey in the Straw” for a Thanksgiving program! Or the girls would make up choreography to a whimsical children’s song, their fancy dresses swirling in a wide circle. Sometimes a child surprised us with an unsolicited solo of a kindergarten-melody as they stood atop a make-shift stage (aka a chair in the dining room). And impromptu Family Talent Shows gave us rousing marches, emphasized by mini flags in the front room!
With littles on the loose, life is more pleasant with a song in your heart. In your home or on the go, music has the power to create a sort of a haven that smooths the creases of chaos and lifts the spirit. So, whether your family chooses to learn an instrument or two, sing at top volume in the shower, or pop in a favorite CD, music is the power to make any moment a happy one!
By Esperanza DeLaLuz
I hate to hear someone say that! Mothers do the most important job on earth when they raise healthy, happy, productive children. Abraham Lincoln, our great president, said, “All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
What not everyone knows is that the angel mother to whom he refers is actually his stepmother. His birth mother died when he was nine and, the following year, his father remarried. Sarah had children of her own, yet she was a loving and devoted mother to all of the children, and she especially nurtured Abraham in his desire to learn and read.
This is a comforting thought to those of us who are stepmothers, aunts, foster moms, and grandmothers, or who are in other positions of nurturing. The task of mothering is not only the province of those who give birth. To “mother”—which is defined as “to look after kindly and protectively”—is incredibly demanding, and just as incredibly—and critically—important. To mother is a noble task and those who participate in it, to any extent, are doing a great and valuable work.
However, in the midst of diapers, tantrums, mischief, and defiance, it may be a challenge to feel that one is engaged in a noble task. Often it feels like we are in “survival mode.” Roseann Barr once joked that if her children were alive at the end of the day, she had done her job as a mother.
I know for every mother there are days which feel like that. On those days, it can help to remember Abraham Lincoln’s feelings about his “angel mother,” and recognize that someday it may be your influence that sways the world.
The next time you are deciding whether to scrub the crayon mural off the wall or frame it, remember Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, and mother on!
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