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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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.
I’m at a point in my journey as a mom where time has taken on new meaning. Specifically speaking, I don’t like to be constrained by a time commitment. It really stresses me out. Now more than ever before. I respect that people assign times to begin and end things like play dates and nap times, and for the most part I can make it on time to nap time. However, getting out of the house on-time for anything else is a major hustle.
For context, at the time I’m writing this, I’m six months pregnant and raising a strong-willed very curious and super observant toddler. He’s two. I could have just wrote “he’s two” and you’d understand, but I figured I’d share a bit more than his point in time. These two truths seem to be a perfect mix of getting nowhere on time or in the time my rational adult brain thinks we should arrive or depart.
This morning I hit a tipping point and fell into freedom from the unnecessary hustle we moms so often find ourselves in. I intended to run errands, but when I looked at the weather forcast and it was too perfectly classic of a summer day to waste pushing our bodies around stores. So in an instant I said to my two-year old, “We are going to the splash park!” We both cheered. Then came the moment of total freedom, when I casually began preparing a picnic lunch and getting us ready to get out the door, without freaking about a time crunch. We’d get there when we get there and we actually got there when I secretly wanted to get there!
My heart rate stayed totally consistent while my little person begged to read a book on the couch. Throughout his protest to not wear pants, and then a second protest to not wear water sandals. I remained calm during his slow and distracted walk to use the potty. Before, during and after he begged me to play a quick game of pretend baseball. Then, I even gave myself some grace as I heard my stomach grumble for food just before I was about to load everything into the car. It’s okay, I thought to myself, no one is expecting me and I’m not letting anyone down by pausing to feed myself and my developing fetus. Eat mama, eat! So, I did.
By the time I opened the car door I felt a little tense. Mainly because I was aware of how I was judging myself to be more timely and prompt. That’s when I noticed my heart rate rising and my patience dwindling. That’s also the exact time my little person insisted on putting himself into the car seat. I wanted to say no, but slowed down and realized this is a kid who is growing and needs to gain independence where he safely and rightfully can. Like, climbing into his car seat. Even if it is totally not the way I would have put him in or climbed in if I was his age, and even though it took him nearly four minutes to do something I’d do for him in one minute.
In those four minutes I paused and had this thought: early motherhood cannot be rushed. Tiny people’s lives are developing within the hustle. As we buzz throughout our day like queen bees managing time and tasks, our littles get swept up in the purposeful crazy, when all they want to do is learn and grow. And, isn’t the point of early mothering to foster learning and growing? That’s what I had day dreamed up before becoming a mom, but it’s so easy to forget.
Maybe this is what living in the moment feels like? I don’t know because basically my entire life I’ve thought about the future and how to be most prepared for putting my best foot forward. Now, however, I’m going to proudly “slack off” and kill the hustle. I’m about 90 days out from welcoming a second person into our family, which also means my little boy is also about 90 days out from not being an only child. We have big beautiful adjustments in our future. So for now, I’m going to chillax and enjoy the thrill of doing what we want when we want. Early motherhood changes so fast. I’m going to attempt to slow it down and live in the freedom that being my own boss allows.
Let’s raise a wine glass and cheers to letting go of the hustle so often found among the hood of awesome mamas. Sip it slowly. It’s your time. I’ll join you, after my baby’s born and while I’m learning an entirely new level of time management as a mom of two under three. Hahahaha…no, really, it’s going to be ah-mazing!
You know what it’s like to wake up three times a night and still rise for the day with the sun.
To you, strong mama, who knows compassion.
You know what it’s like to carry and nurture a small life while facing poop, puke, endless dirty laundry and dishes.
To you, strong mama, who believes deeply in the future for your children – you are a visionary.
You see past the daily stuff, and can rise above a toddler’s melt down in the cereal aisle, to see a developing independence that will drive your Little toward great future goals.
You can look into the eyes of your frustrated kid and see passion and determination- things that will make the world a better place.
You can see past your needs and confidently walk into social situations without a shower in the past three days.
You, mama, have a tenacious love. You are deeply valued at home and in society. You are beautiful, brilliant and you are the perfect person for your important role in life- now and later on. For always.
I had my first, and so far only, baby when I was in my mid-thirties. It was a perfect surprise for us, but we both knew we were totally ready to be parents. At the time, we had been together for 11 years. You’d think that was plenty of time to ease into the role of “parent”, but we were wrong.
There is no amount of time that adequately prepares you for taking care of a tiny little infant human. You just need to show up and do it. Looking back, we both reflect on the first three months of our son’s life as a blur. We were always tired, always hungry, and always asking ourselves if we were doing it right. I’d change that last part.
There is no “do it right” route. There is, of course, safe ways to keep your tiny human alive and healthy, which could be considered doing it right. We did that. We just don’t totally remember it all. Then, right around the fourth month of his little life, things changed. We changed.
We began to understand our baby’s likes and dislikes. We began to understand our own likes and dislikes as his parents. We were still sleep deprived and still always hungry, but we were less concerned about doing it right and more focused on loving and living together as a messy growing family of three (plus our dog and cat so that would make five of us in our home). I think what happened during the fourth month is the intense love and awe that we felt, from the moment we heard our baby cry, started to win over the fear of being perfect parents. That made a huge difference.
Recently, when I friend asked me what a few essentials are for helping new parents with their first year, I crawled back to those first three months of my little boy’s life (and maybe I began wanting another baby, but we won’t talk about that now) and really thought about the essentials. Since every parent is different, because every baby is different, the essentials will be different. Right? Right. And, let’s define essentials as: making life with an infant easier and safer.
I jumped on Facebook and conducted non-scientific qualitative research. I asked parents to share the top four items they couldn’t live without in the first year of their baby’s life. There were so many on-point recommendations, and so much mention of legal stimulants (for the parents). I have narrowed in on the most mentioned helpful essentials and dropped them into a list for you or your friend, or your friend’s friend.
The Top 10 Essentials For Raising A Baby: A list for the new parent.
Diapers and Wipes (Pampers was a hit, night diapers and cloth were major too)
Parenting is a blast. You’ll learn so much about life and your limits. You’ll learn how to love while also getting pooped on, literally. If you’re doing this parenting thing solo or with your partner, remember one thing: you’re not supposed to be perfect, you’re supposed to unconditionally love your Little. And, that begins with liking you. Plus, stocking up on the essentials helps. Cheers, to you, Parents!