Better Than Candy

The days leading up to the day when I heard the best sentence ever were filled with tears. Tantrums and mood shifts hung in the air like burnt microwave popcorn.

I am in the middle of raising a three-year old boy. These moments are normal. Challenging, but normal. There is something that happens to a kid in their 30th month of life and it totally changes the way their brain interacts with their world. I happen to be extremely present in this world created daily by my brilliant little dude, so my perceived sensible world is definitely impacted by all his exciting brain development.

On the day of the beautiful sentence, I was in need of a break from parenting. I text my husband to say I’d be going out that night. For everyone’s safety and sanity. I don’t even think I had a plan. I just needed to remove myself from the life of a preschooler for a short while and regain my sense of humanity. As I stood there in the entryway of our home, zipping up my coat, these sweet words flew into my soul like a bird hitting your window pane: totally shocking.

“I love you more than candy!”

From the tiny little mouth of my first-born boy, who is now old enough to build flying trucks out of DUPLO blocks, and spread peanut butter onto toast, but young enough to have a melt down over the wrong spoon in his cereal.  From that tiny mouth came words of raw truth. His heart’s voice reminded me of the deep connection we have despite the growing pains and emotional storms.

“I love YOU more than candy!” I said back to him as our blue eyes locked.

Over the next few days and weeks I hear his sentence when days are annoying. I choose to tell him I love him more than candy when what I’d really like to do is go for a long run around my neighborhood, and return home to a clean kitchen smelling like freshly baked chocolate cake. Instead I stick with it. I stick with him and with my people inside my home where love is growing, and yeah it’s not always sweet but it is better than candy.

Photo cred Pixabay

Why I Thought Being a SAHM Was Weak

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This is a special lake for my family. It’s taught me so much about love, listening, and showing up as I am. Being on this water brings me joy. I can say the same about being a SAHM.

A wise friend challenged me to ask myself different questions, because the questions we ask either grow us or keep us stuck.

In my other post about the label of Stay At Home Mom, you can read it here, I ended with four questions I’ve been asking myself.  I’ll answer them in black and white text, because the answers will grow me.

Why did I think being a stay at home mom (SAHM) was weak?

I’ve been wrestling with this question since the fall of 2015. I was coming out of a baby fog and began experiencing some hard truths and false truths about parenting. I struggled with feeling powerless, insignificant, and forgotten. Being a SAHM was a balance I hadn’t figured out and I’m still discovering.

Here’s my recent realization…

I believed women who worked while raising kids were more capable than women who didn’t work while raising kids.

About a month ago I stopped believing this. Like really believing it. I might have spoken like I didn’t believe it, but somewhere within me the lie still had roots. I finally decided to kill those roots and make a total mind-shift.

Mothering is not weak. Deciding to not work outside the home or collecting a pay-check is not weak. Balancing a career with kids is not stronger than balancing life with kids. It is not weak to know my limits. It is not weak to nurture, and it is definitely not weak to be a woman who answers a call to be a stay at home mom. On the contrary, she is equally strong and capable to answer the call to return to her career as a mom. Either way, mothering requires strength.

What changed your mind?

In short, experiencing mothering changed my mind. And don’t confuse that with being an experienced mother, because I am only three and a half years with two kids into this journey.

At the moment a little pink line showed up on my pregnancy test I became someone different. The change is powerful and behavior modifying. There is a thousand years of journeying between the physical experience of being a mom and the emotional experiences. It’s within this gap where courage and bravery take root. Being strong is my only option. People rely on me at an entirely different level than ever before.

Mothering takes tenacity, intuition, emotional intelligence, patience, fully functioning on sleep deprivation, and loving unconditionally. All of these things are never on a college syllabus. They are learned in the moments of real-life mothering.

I changed my mind because I chose to stop believing what research might say about SAHMs, or what companies might pay a SAHM once she returns to work. Most importantly, I stopped talking negatively to myself about how my role as a SAHM wasn’t as valuable as someone out there in her career. Those things clutter my perspective, and I need to see clearly and move freely as I lead my kids.

Oh, one more thing that changed my mind: the word And.

I am one person, raising two people. My ability to do “and” is different from her ability to do “and”. What I’m saying is this: during this season of mothering, I am doing what brings life to my kids, me, and my family. Those are my “and she does this…”. My friends have their own “and, I do this…”.  That’s what makes us fun and unique. My “ands” don’t have to be equal to or greater than her ” ands”. We seem to place extremely productive women on pillars because they can accomplish many measurable things. There AND is huge. My and is small.  That’s a comparison I had to close my heart off to. It’s made a big difference in how I show up to my day.

Finally, my mind changed because I have lived to believe my identity and self-worth is not in what I produce on the daily. My identity is rooted in a creative and purposeful Love existing beyond my title or role.

What about when they go to school, what will you do with all your time?

In my opinion one of the greatest outcomes of the women’s rights movement is our right to have more choices. The choice to go to college and enter into a career then to choose to stay home raising little babes is a gift. So many women didn’t have that choice. They could only stay home, indefinitely. I don’t have to stay home but maybe I’ll want to. I will choose my route based on what is best for my family and my creative desires. Maybe I’ll go back into Producing, maybe I’ll write a book, maybe I’ll do both. Either way, while my kids are away learning I’ll pursue my options.

Have you had any challenges with wanting to go back to work?

Over the Christmas break I got an awesome gift. It was a job offer to produce with Disciple Media. The offer came as a total surprise. It was one of those too perfect for reality offers…but it was reality. Flexible schedule, work from home, be on-set minimally. It’s all in my wheel-house and was so enticing! Okay, so after about two weeks of thinking and asking questions back and forth I said no to the offer.

What? Crazy. I know.

Crazy because I had such a peace about saying no. The gift of the offer was within this: the job offer was my personal push to begin writing. I had been thinking about writing since September. I did nothing though. Oh wait, I did make a lot of excuses, but none of them were written down, so in effect, I did nothing.

In the email I sent with my no thanks, but thanks for thinking of me response, I shared with the owner of The company my reason for not saying yes. In the bold “that takes guts” email I wrote out my current calling in life and my future professional goals. I literally told him, the owner is a guy which matters because it’s not like I was talking to another woman about being a mom. So, I told him that my calling in this season of life is to be a mother. A full-time mom, and time is really limited lately with my kids the ages they are. I told him it wouldn’t be right for me to give such little time to Producing while also trying to give quality time to this crazy life as a SAHM. I told him I have a goal to write. I also said Disciple Media creates inspiring and motivational films, and those two things resonate with me big time. My hope is in the future our paths will cross. His response made my eyes shed a few happy tears.

I have to share it here, because I believe when someone decides to make a choice they know is true to their calling, something great will come out of it later on in life.

Hi Teresa!

I greatly appreciate your honesty and commitment to the plans God has for you. Our kids grow up so fast and we have such a small window to be an influence in their lives; we share the same commitment. It’s also exciting to hear about your writing direction – I wish you the very best!

Thank you again for your consideration and hopefully we can collaborate on something encouraging and inspirational in the future!

Chris Dearolf

Owner & DP | Disciple Media

This is the stuff of strong people, people!  Yes I think about going back to a career. Yes I think about what it’d be like to be around adults for most of the day and on-set and organizing compelling stories. I think about a quiet lunch in my office, or a business lunch. I think about not telling people to use the potty. I think about not making three meals a day and handing out snacks. I daydream about a day without negotiating with a three-year old or not hearing anyone cry. Then, I think about why I’m home raising two young boys and it stops me from thinking about going back to work, and refocuses me on our story as a family.

These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked myself since becoming a mom. There will be many more questions to live out the answers.

Are there any questions you’ve been exploring as a nurturer?

Stay At Home Mom, Check!l

The first time I had to deal with the issue of being called a house wife/stay at home mom was during a weird season of my life. I had just moved to a new city because my husband started a great job. We had been trying to start a family. By trying I mean it had been two years and no kids later. I was also trying to find a job while knowing I just really wanted to be a mom. That season of life pretty much felt as comfortable as wearing soaking wet jeans, with sand in my unmentionable places, while walking on a beach in 90 degree weather. I had to keep moving forward, but it was awkward.

Anyway, the house wife label crashed into me while checking a box on a travel visa for an upcoming trip to India. I was freelance producing a documentary short. We were going to Mumbai and Kolkata to interview girls rescued out of sex trafficking. This was a big deal trip, with big deal outcomes, and I was stuck on how the only categorical documentation I could note on a visa was “house wife”. Some of the girls we were going to interview didn’t even have birth certificates. They were healing from a life no human should ever endure. Yet, in my selfishness, I was lugging around the pride of a label I thought was beneath me.

It’s taken me five years to walk away from any negative perceptions hidden among labels. Three of those five years I’ve actually been a mom. Yes, it happened! We finally got the chance to become parents after thirty months of infertility. It’s a bit ridiculous for me to have allowed semantics to hinder my walk in freedom, because for me and maybe for you too a label can really mess with someone’s true self.

This label also refined me.

I had to dig deep to figure out why answering the question, “What do you do?” bothered me. Strangely I didn’t realize I had to dig deep into the stuff of mothering to find out why I was ashamed to announce my stay at home status, even though said status was my choice. There I was on my knees loading dirty laundry into front load washer when the hard truth hit me. Somewhere along my journey through life I had adopted this belief:

Staying home to raise children is weak and anyone can do it.

Just typing that out feels disgusting, but it was a paradigm I carried around with me and didn’t realize I held it until I became a mother.

I have lived the answer and discovered my belief is all kinds of wrong. I’d even stand up in a crowd and say: being a stay at home mom takes tenacity and a lot of emotional intelligence.

It’s all on-the-job training without annual reviews or raises. A mom, working outside her home or inside her home, is a mom always. At 2am, 2pm, and 11:57p she is always there where her children need her. I had a warped view of what a stay at home mom’s role was, and how it differed from that of a mom who puts on a belt to accent her work pants.

We are raising people. Living, breathing, thinking and creative people. Who happen to love us more than is explain-ably possible. My mother-in-law (also a brilliant and educate woman who stayed home to raise three young children) referred to the early years of parenting in a way I had never thought about. She said, “You are their entire world.” I mean wow. The minute a baby is born into our world, is the minute you become a person’s entire world. This is true until they become teenagers, and then I hear you have to remind them that you kept them alive and cuddled them in the early years.

It took me a while to live a lot of icky feeling moments to realization my belief about mothering was being refined. Over the past year, as a mom to two, I’ve been chiseled into a new pillar. It bears the markings of strength, sacrifice, and love that is equal parts fierce and tender. Every challenging experience has marked my soul and made me a bold advocate of being a stay at home mom. It’s my current role, therefore I’m a fan. What’s your current role? You need to become a fan of yourself too.

So, if I had to check a box titled “stay at home mom” today, I’d do it without shame. I’d claim it on a public document by checking the box with a neon green marker. If I had to stand in front of a stadium of educated Ph.D. holding women with a visible career path, I’d still gladly answer “What do you do?” with “I’m currently a Stay at Home Mom, smartest vocation I’ve chosen to date and is providing me with the most on-the-job learning, and we are encouraged to hug and have dance parties where I work.”

If you’re a mom who struggles with staying home or going back to work, ask yourself this question: what is my current belief about mothering and how does that belief affect my behavior?

In my next blog post I’ll answer the questions:

Why did you think being a stay at home mom was weak?

What changed your mind?

What about when they go to school, what will you do with all your time?

Have you had any challenges with wanting to go back to work?

Nurturing People Takes Root

Hello, I began Nurturing People as a hashtag, and it still remains as such.

But, I have a long relationship with writing. Mainly writing stories told by other people, and mostly those stories were shared through videos, but always began with words on paper.  Stop. I’m wrong. They always began with listening.

Although never proven, I think my heart is partially shaped like an ear. I adore listening to other people’s stories about the stuff of life. The second thing I love next to listening to others’ stories is composing her story or his story or their story for others’ hearts and souls to hear. Stories, when told in the right place at the right time, connect us and grow us.

And, so…

After three years of full-on-momming, and dabbling with freelance writing jobs, I decided to focus on my own thing and take Nurturing People beyond a hashtag.

My vision for Nurturing People is to share moments about growing through life as a nurturer. To share stories from my home and hear stories from your home, that grow you and will grow us. As this blog changes from less of my voice, and more of your voice, I hope we can stay connected.

And, just because backgrounds are part of who we are…

At home, I have two boys and I’m married to a great guy, both facts make me the only woman in my house. That’s a huge responsibility for many reasons. Sometimes I freak out about the depth of my calling to raise and nurture boys, but mostly I am grateful. Being a parent has taught me, and brought me into a live-able belief, that we are all created to nurture people at all seasons of growth.

My background in writing and interviewing began a long time ago in 1st grade. My teacher, Mrs. Findley, was most likely tired of answering all my questions and she told me I should be a journalist. So naturally I asked a question like, what is a journalist? Her direct answer lacked a sugar coating and was more like a hammer hitting a nail, a journalist is a person who asks a lot of questions.  I did in fact ask a lot of questions. My first spelling test was straight-up anxiety inducing because I thought I had to write out the entire sentence containing the spelling word I memorized. “Cat, the cat jumped over the fence, cat.” I raised my hand in the middle of the test and asked if we had to spell out the whole sentence. Getting the answer to that question, which was “no” with a laugh, “Just spell the word cat,” made me braver about asking questions. The right questions help with life. It totally grew me.

Fast forward through high school and into college where I landed at Liberty University for both undergrad and graduate degrees.  When higher education was all done with me, I left with a bachelor of science in broadcast journalism and a master of arts in communication. That nail hammered into me in first grade made a good kind of mark on my ego.

I’ve practice my interest for listening, asking questions, then creating content as an assistant news producer with ABC, a producer for The Zone Music video show, the executive producer and story producer with Facing Life Head-On, a producer with Zone Communication Group, a digital media producer at Possible World Wide,  a video producer at Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, OH, and a content producer for Water Street Mission. I plan on continue producing great content that inspires people.

Cheers!

Teresa B. Duffy

 

Would You Rather?

Would you rather have a sexy body or a beautiful mind?

Would you rather live in a big house with stress and chaos or a small house with peace?

Would you rather be popular and physically ill or healthy and have one good friend?

Would you rather have crows feet around your eyes and laugh lines around your mouth, or would you rather be in debt to beauty trends?

Would you rather have stories that are daring and bold that include failing or stories about safe attempts to be normal?

Would you rather give money and things away and feel deep joy, or would you rather have everything and feel apathy for life?

Would you rather know what it means to miss someone or someplace, or would you rather never have known the person or place that creates a sense of void?

Would you rather have no scars from acne or pregnancy or falling off your bike, or would you rather have no reason to ride, no family to nurture or no reminders of how much you’ve grown?

Would you rather watch a plot twist or experience your own plot twist?

So, let’s go and live the rather instead of wondering what would have been.

#nurturingpeople

A Wise Walk in Faith

Every time I look at the star I think about the crazy long journey three kings went on. It took them 1-2 years, following a bright star in the eastern sky, to finally find the King who was rumored to have arrived. Those three wise leaders went on a faith walk for thousands of miles. I wonder if they ever wanted to quit and go home? I wonder if they got totally annoyed with one another? I wonder if they got sick or dehydrated or they had to buy a new camel to travel on? But as the story goes, they met Jesus face to face after moving forward with persistent faith. They kept their eyes fixed on that star, and their hope set on someone not yet seen. When they arrived at Jesus’ parents’ house they knelt down and looked into the eyes of a two year old. They met their King. This boy, who would spend about 30 years of his life as an apprentice to his wood working dad, would then go on to revolutionize religious paradigms. The wise men gave gifts to Jesus, toddler Jesus, which had deep meaning and prophetic intentions…nice to meet you here is embalming oil (myrrh). In faith they traveled and by faith they believed that this boy would be their savior; everyone’s savior. All they had to do was believe and have faith. So much has changed since then, but really so much has remained the same. Believe and have faith. This star is glowing with a reminder of adventure, faith, hope, rescue, redemption and celebration. #bemerry #youareloved #nurturingpeople

If you’re a mom, then you are a badass. Period. Done. No need to go above and beyond the typical around the clock labor of love called momming to be noted as a person who is impressive due to courage, skill or toughness. You got that badge the moment you found out you were pregnant and then chose to walk boldly into the next chapter of your life raising another human being.

Where is this coming from?

I was scrolling Facebook and someone shared an article about a recent Ironman competitor, who is also a mom, but it was shared with the caption “this mom is definitely a badass.” I was all like, wow! Yeah she is! But then I was like, hold up. To the mom who never left her house today because her baby was sick and her toddler is potty training and her first grader wore high-top sneakers with no socks and no raincoat on a cold and wet November day…wow, you are badass too!

Ok, so you can read all about runner-mom’s amazing finish and race here, Air Force mom pumps milk in 70.3 mile Ironman and smashes her personal record. because yes, the fact that this fellow mama actually made time to train insane amount of hours and continue to fuel her body while also keeping her kids fed, one who is still obviously being breast fed is ah-mazing! Air Force mom inspires me and makes me want to do harder things. Really. It really is all about the effort and the training season that leaves me awestruck, and can I just make the leap here to say that you, we, us–we are all in a training season and making a definite effort.

Why does it matter? 

We can all totally understand the amount of discipline and community it takes to enable a mom to train for an endurance race. Right? Like, I have to work hard at eating 2,300 calories a day and drink 96oz of water and I’m not training for anything, Yet I’ve definitely had days when I bonk, like an energy depleted endurance athlete in mile 62 of her 100 miles. Minus the obvious finish line and good press that might accompany a grand effort to finish while, say, pumping milk.  Seldom do moms get the level or recognition they deserve for the insane amount of courage they bring to each new day. I mean we have an entire grown population of millennials who know how to pee on a toilet (mostly) and we can thank our grandmothers for that. That training wasn’t easy. Amen? Amen!

Here I am feeding another human being with my body, while also raising and nurturing a pre-schooler. I’m also nurturing my nursing baby, too because I know that a person needs love and food to survive. All moms know this and do this…they feed, love, shelter and nurture. Sometimes we forget to do the same for ourselves, and that’s the badass part of it all. We just keep going. We put our obvious needs aside and run hard.

Run Sister, Run! 

Now go on with your brave and courageous day. Hydrate, eat well, sit down for a few minutes at a time and realize when your daily finish line is in view, that you ran an amazing race today. You did.

So, if you are a mom, then you are badass. Period. Done.

(I’m dedicating this post to my sister, Nicole, who recently and miraculously delivered her third baby within four years. You are is most definitely a strong and courageous woman doing the valued stuff of life, while surrounded by community.)

 

 

 

Co-momming and Grocery Shopping

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I was reclining in the chair, at the dentist, a drill was grading away at my tooth when I realized that I was way more relaxed in that moment than when I’m pushing a cart filled with groceries and two kids. It was so relaxing to just lounge there and not do anything. I don’t know if this was a great realization or a tragic one.

I remember that first grocery trip as a mom of two, and I still get sweaty palms just thinking back on it. There’s so many decisions to make while picking out groceries. Then there’s the crowd of other casual shoppers sans kids who seems to be in a totally different minds space. The cart is never big enough for two small people and all the food. Someone will need to use the bathroom or eat or both. One or both kids will lick the cart or grab items off the shelf, most likely both will happen. Both are annoying, one is gross.

When my friend Helena told me she was deciding between going grocery shopping with her newborn and toddler, or to the park I let her know I needed to go grocery shopping too! With slight hesitation, I suggested we go shopping together, then take the kids to the park. I hesitated because it never occurred to me to invite another mom to go grocery shopping. What’s the worse that could happen?

Evidently this invite was exactly what we both needed in our lives. We met up to shop like two co-workers showing up for a meeting. We planned our route through the store and set our expectations about how we’ll split up and then meet up, but we’d never hesitate to text for backup.  Just knowing we were in this together, even though sometimes in separate aisles helped calm our minds. It was not perfect, but it was wonderful.

We are co-laborers, co-workers, co-mommers. Why not meet up to do the hard things together? Even if “hard” gets redefined to all the normal stuff we did pre-kids. I remember strolling through my prefered grocer on a Saturday when I wasn’t a mom, and taking my time. I didn’t love it then, but I didn’t hate it either. It wasn’t hard. It was a function. Now it’s hard and a function of survival. I haven’t researched this, but I’m pretty sure groups did not go hunting and gathering alone. So why go grocery shopping alone?

In multi-family homes, 70% of people grocery shoppers are women.  I must share that Tyler is an awesome grocery shopper and does lots of weekly trips for us. I love when he comes home with extra fun stuff to eat. His bounty actually represents his enjoyment for grocery shopping. Mine is all form and function. Anyway, back to moms and shopping with kids, each time I pass a mom with young kids in a cart I stop myself from high-fiving her. Next time I should, and I should recommend that she calls her friend to meet up in aisle nine.

Helena and I shopped for about 40 minutes, which evidently is two minutes below the average time women take to grocery shop, and within that time between the two of us there was one potty break, two crying kids, and two snack times. At one point I lost Helena and she wasn’t answering her texts. I didn’t panic. I just kept strolling on like Pete The Cat.  Then I found her sitting in an Adirondack chair.  Not a complimentary chair for nursing moms, but for sale chair in the outdoor aisle. She wasn’t testing to buy, she was nursing her newborn. Her toddler was swiping through family photos on her iPhone. We just rolled into the scene like cool cats and began chatting. My son chatted with her son and me with Helena. I was baby wearing, she was baby feeding and we had each other’s back. We decided our hunting and gathering was done for the day and it was time to check-out and get to the playground.

That was a success co-momming meeting. I’d do that again. Thanks, Helena. You’re the best.

P.S. Women do 51% of the grocery shopping But when was the last time you were at a grocery store and saw a mommy & child space complete with a nursing area and some crayons and coloring books for big sister or brother?  The average shopping time of 41 minutes for women, that’s not saying with or without kids, is a long time for little minds and bellies. Maybe there can be a change in the grocery store experience for moms with kids? For now, invite your friend.

| photo credit Prawny via Pixabay |