Motherhood is More than a Mirror Image

We all do it. We all stand in front of the mirror every morning, some mornings are less hectic than others. But we all stand in front of that mirror looking for the flaws, the pieces of us that only we can see. The pieces of don’t really make us into the person we are inside. This rings true even more so with mothers. There’s something about mothers, who sacrifice each day of their lives for the sake of their family, but only focus on the negatives and I am no exception to this bad habit. It’s time that we truly begin to value our worth and learn to love ourselves as we are. We stand in front of that mirror with self-pity, something my grandmother told me to never have, yet there it is creeping in. But why? Why do we allow ourselves to only focus on the mirror image?

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Credit: DMHeckenkamp

Maybe it’s from the fact that we spend more time getting our children ready than ourselves. Shower? Who has time for a shower?

Maybe it’s because we spend hours making dinner, but only get an opportunity to finish the toddler’s plate of picked-over food. We really can’t blame the toddler for our actions.

Maybe it’s because we no longer find the desire to go shopping for clothing because it either won’t fit or it will only get covered in food from the two year old’s fingers.

Maybe it’s because we would rather spend the time sleeping than taking a shower and putting on makeup. We have all been there.

Maybe it’s because leggings are more comfortable than anything else. Don’t get me started on my opinion of leggings as pants.

Moms. These aren’t good enough excuses. Yes, we have a tough job, one of the toughest as we teach our children how to obey, behave in social situations, and learn life lessons, but they still aren’t good enough excuses.

We are all tired, and yes, there are many different stages of motherhood. Of course, if you just had a baby, you get a pass. If you are going through mental turmoil, you get a pass. If there is a death in the family, you get a pass. But don’t allow these passes to become part of your everyday routine. If we want to teach our children to be upstanding citizens one day, then be their first example. Teaching is more than just speaking words, it is actions. Just like the infamous saying, “actions speak louder than words.” Something my grandmother would repeat to me on a daily basis. What are our actions saying to our children?

Are we telling our children, by our behavior, that only high expectations apply to others? Or are we setting the bar high for ourselves making it easier for our children to follow, because they will follow. Are we showing ours friends, family, and strangers that we have given up on life during this “stage”? Because if that’s the case, then motherhood doesn’t look very appealing to young women.

Motherhood is difficult, but did we really expect it to be easy? There are countless expectations from society and even ones we put on ourselves. Motherhood is a gift, a true vocation of pure selflessness. That doesn’t mean we should take care of everyone else and not ourselves. We must also care for ourselves, because if we don’t, our families and friends will also suffer the consequences.

Motherhood is not a mirror image. What you see is not what you get. EVER. But that is fine. We must only be able to recognize who we truly are within ourselves so that we may help our families thrive and our children learn to grow in virtue and goodness. If we are to look for what is good, true, and beautiful, as mothers, we should be the first to portray that image. For if families cannot be the first to give this gift to society, then what do we have left to rely upon? Because the world is dark and full of heartache, yet, what better place to bring light than through ourselves as mothers and through our children. We can’t change the hate in the world, but we can start by taking care of ourselves which will in turn transfer to our children – the ultimate gift from God.

 

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Credit: DMHeckenakmp

The Happy Jar – A Children’s Book of Memories

If you are looking for a great children’s book for the start of summer vacation – I recommend The Happy Jar, written by Jake Frost. I always love a children’s book that draws our little people into a deeper understanding of life and The Happy Jar is just that – a book about family and the little moments that help the world go around. I definitely recommend it! My eight year old daughter read it to my son’s kindergarten class and the children loved the book. It’s a great way to start summer vacation as a family – create your own happy jar.

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Photo Credit: DMHeckenkamp

I look forward to asking my children what they see in their own “happy jar”. Here are a few of my “little moments”:

Snuggles with my children

Kisses from the 19 month old

Drawings from my 8 year old

My husband as we walk together side-by-side each day of our lives

Date nights with my husband

Good friends who are always there for me

A warm and loving home – a secure place for my family

My parents and siblings who love unconditionally

Rainy days and books

Sunny days and sparkling water

The smell of freshly cut grass

Campfires and roasted marshmallows

LOVE

 

What’s in your Happy Jar?

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Photo Credit: DMHeckenkamp

Finding My Place As A Mother

I had a one-of-a-kind experience last week. For those of you who don’t know me well, I graduated with a BA in Political Science and then earned my Paralegal Certificate after college. I worked several years in the legal field, it was enjoyable, yet stressful all at the same time. After giving birth to baby #1, I made a career change and became a stay-at-home mom. Off and on, I still work for the law firm, but mostly by working at home on extreme part-time hours. Last week, I filled in for a paralegal who was on vacation. It wasn’t exactly full-time hours, but it was close and it was an experience I will never forget.

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I have not worked full-time since having children, and on the tough days as a stay-at-home mom, my mind occasionally drifts to a “calm” office environment – free of the tantrums, demands, and disturbances. Yet, after spending four days working busily at a desk, I missed being home with my children, even the demanding 18 month old. It was nice to have a break from the daily routine and to interact with adults for hours on end, but looking back, it wouldn’t be the best choice for our family long-term.

I can’t even tell you the loads of admiration I have for working moms, because I was barely making it through the day. I was doing pretty good, until I picked up my kids and my energy levels were suddenly depleted. I felt horrible that there was barely anything left for them. Everything became an annoyance, and it wasn’t their fault. They were only missing me. I admire the moms who work everyday out of the home and still run an effective house, while also keeping up with all the family activities. I personally know so many of you. You are truly amazing!

Looking back, I know that the right decision was made when I chose to stay home with the kids. Yes, I miss those moments of completing work assignments and interacting with adults on a professional level, but ultimately, I personally need to be with my children, because that’s what is best for me. We all make choices in our lives, and no matter what any other mother chooses to do (whether work outside the home, inside the home, or to be solely a homemaker), it’s a beautiful choice and I hope that every mom out there is able to truly understand and be appreciative for their role in society. Because, no matter your job, degree, or social standing, all mothers (biological, adoptive, step-mothers, or foster mothers) are remarkable. Mothers make the world a better place, and last week has taught me to appreciate where I am with my family, for it all passes away too quickly.

boysPhoto Credit: @dmheckenkamp

Thanks to that experience, I am more grateful for my role as a stay-at-home mom than ever before. It is truly a gift.

  • I am grateful that I am able to fold piles of laundry during the day, rather than after the kids are in bed.
  • I am grateful that I can change the dinner menu at a drop of a hat, because it’s easy to run to the store during the day. I hate crowded stores!
  • I am grateful that I can wake up and only get myself half dressed before dropping them off. I can always take a shower later.
  • I am grateful that I don’t have to drive the extra distance each day to drop my kids off at my parents’ house during a work day. The additional 2 hours of driving each day was killing me.
  • I am grateful that I can drop off and pick up my children from school. I can be involved in school and after school activities. It’s a luxury!
  • I am grateful that I can have a mini writing session for my book while the 18 month old takes a nap and the 3 year old watches a show.
  • I am grateful that I can do homework with my kids before dinner and then have time with them after dinner to play or read books.
  • But most of all, no matter if I worked in the home or outside the home, I am grateful for the gift of life – my children’s lives. I am blessed to have four amazing children who are so different in their own way, but each exemplify the beauty of God’s greatness through their daily actions, hysterical laughs, or tantrums. For they are truly my world and they are such a blessing to my husband and me. We could not imagine life without them and I am grateful to be at home with them – watching them grow through each milestone.

Surviving Motherhood: It’s Not What I Envisioned…It’s Even Better

Motherhood brings so many different phases. Places we never thought we would go, decisions that seemed so far away when the baby was born, and dreams we thought were simple to attain. We all have dreams and goals for our lives as mothers – whether working out of the home or working in the home. As my oldest reaches her 8th birthday in three and a half months (yes, she has been counting down the weeks), it has brought a sense of reflection for my role and place as a wife and mother.

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It took me a long time to truly value my role as a mom. Yes, it was exactly what my husband and I had wanted and we were so excited to begin a family, but until baby number 4 graced our family, it was a whirlwind experience. Each pregnancy was so different and each child was even more different. I look back at those early years and I was just surviving. Surviving to wake up for the 8th time in one night to nurse an infant. Surviving to stay awake until nap time and entertain the toddler. Surviving to stay on top of the laundry, the cleaning, and the cooking, while also wishing for the next step of motherhood. But what was that next step? Have you noticed that we always wish for the next phase in our lives, but we never know what that entails and somehow we still desire it?

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Looking back, those early years of toddlers and infants were extremely difficult. It was all a new experience for me. My beliefs of what motherhood really included were only slightly true. Somehow, in my dreams, I failed to imagine the screaming two year old who only chose to express himself with a long, loud wail. I envisioned laundry, but somehow I forgot it has to be put into the drawers or hung on a hanger. The thought of cooking for a family sounded creative and fun, but I never thought of the little picky eaters who wouldn’t appreciate the effort (luckily, my husband is very appreciative).

But I eventually learned to call these disappointments “graceful moments”. Small moments of my life as a mom are not what I envisioned. Instead these are moments of self-sacrifice – a true act of love for my family. I don’t have much to give the world through material items, but I can give my love. And isn’t love the greatest gift of all? It is what we all desire in one way or another. We seek love in our spouses, our family and friends, our children, our neighbors, and even from a stranger. A kind word or smile goes a long way.

So through all these small moments, I have realized that motherhood is even better than I imagined. Those sweet kisses and hugs from my children wouldn’t mean as much if I was never tired. Even that screaming two year knows that his mama needs a kiss (even if it’s on my knee while I’m cooking dinner). The self-sacrifices that mothers give and give more each day of our lives is what makes this world beautiful – it continues an ongoing story that has lasted through the ages. So don’t view frustrations and exhaustion as disappointments, they are only small moments of time, but they give us the opportunity to embrace the experiences of motherhood. This may sound like a dream, because in the moment of doing the 5th load of wash with a screaming toddler, it’s difficult to find joy. But we must remember that eventually the laundry will stop, the cooking will slow down, and the screaming toddler will become a 2nd grader and we will look back at those struggling days with joy, because motherhood wouldn’t be such a beautiful vocation if it didn’t involve hard work and self-sacrifice: a true act of love.

 

 

 

Give a Little Love

Take a moment to smile and change the world – any small act of love. Last week I took all four children to the grocery store (I know that’s pretty crazy, right?) and typically my older two like to color pictures and give them as “gifts” to the unsuspecting check-out person. Well, at first I was irritated with myself because I chose the aisle with the crabby lady who wouldn’t crack a smile. My first thought: oh great, she’s going to ignore the pictures and the children will be upset. Note to self – address the situation later in the car. Luckily, my children didn’t notice her mood right away and enthusiastically handed her the colored pictures. The woman apprehensively grabbed the folded papers and assumed they were garbage. She was about to throw them away, but I explained the children made presents for her…and then I waited for her reaction…you will never believe it, but her entire mood changed. The lady loved the pictures and was extremely chatty and kind to the children after receiving the gifts. These little ones who were so excited to color a picture for the check-out person (even though they didn’t know her) completely turned this lady’s day around. I’m sure every nearby shopper heard my huge sigh of relief.

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This experience reaffirmed my belief that adults are jaded (yes, none of us are exempt). We rely too much on our emotions and creating lasting impressions. Adults are self-centered. We truly need to become more like little children and give ourselves completely to the happiness of others. I have heard many people question the deterioration of their own sanity by giving all of themselves to others. Let’s be honest, society constantly asks the same selfish questions day in and day out. “What have you done for yourself today?” “How will you reward yourself?” It starts again with the uncontrollable reward system. Let’s look at this from a different point of view. It’s about time that we love for the sake of loving and helping for the sake of offering unconditional love. Working together, we can create a unified community. The more love and attention I give to my children and husband, the less I focus on myself and interestingly enough, I am transported into a sublime state of happiness. My love has grown leaps and bounds for my family over the years. The more children we have, and the more I dedicate my entire being to the welfare of my family, the more I love them all. There’s an amazing never-ending supply of love. Don’t reserve that love for only close family and friends (even though they greatly deserve it), but spread it to all.

We will never regret loving another person, even if they aren’t receptive, but there will definitely be regrets if we never try. So, instead of “paying it forward” only around Christmas time or a few moments a year when social media reminds us; it’s time to give ourselves (all of ourselves) everyday. Every person deserves to be loved – family, friends, and strangers. We are social beings who desire love, so let’s unconditionally give that love, while also raising our children to do the same, because ultimately, what is life without love?

Bucket List of Unconditional Love

  •  Invite a friend/family member over for dinner who is lonely.
  • Bake your favorite cookies and drop them off at a neighbor’s house.
  • Pick a handful of flowers and visit an elderly relative.
  • Smile at a stranger everyday (you will never be happy in your own little bubble)/
  • Enjoy every  moment with your family and friends. You will never get a repeat. Those closest to us are sometimes the most difficult to love, but all the more reason to show them respect.

Grateful Beyond Belief

Thank you! Thank you to everyone who has touched my life, even in a small way. Too often we go through life wishing for the next best thing. That’s a tendency of human nature; the grass is always greener. It’s unfortunate, because we forget to examine our current situations and the amazing gifts we have been given. With the start of summer vacation and three months of wonderful one-on-one time with the kiddos, I thought it was perfect timing to contemplate my life and those who have made an impact on me.

This morning I was in an area of the city that isn’t the best, but I saw the most beautiful thing that almost made me cry. A father was holding his child (about 4-5 months old) and wrapped in a blanket with only his face showing, because it was chilly and rainy, while the dad was carrying a large bag, it might have contained the only items they owned. I didn’t know where he was going, but he looked like he was on a mission. The father was very lovingly watching the child to make sure he was o.k., while also trying to not step in puddles and slip. This might not sound like much, but it was such a beautiful sign of love between a parent and child. A love that is missing in this world or hidden. We are so used to a love that only shows itself when it is self-serving. It didn’t matter the economic or social conditions of this child and father, because they showed enough love and trust between the two of them.

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It made me think on the drive home, through the dreary weather, that the old cliche saying is true. “All you need is love”. I know, I know, me of all people who doesn’t care for the corny quotes. But I think we all have those moments in life when everything is going wrong, we aren’t able to control or solve the problems, and have to wait for slow fixes. Then suddenly, something happens to show how each of our lives are intertwined with one another. We don’t understand it all now and won’t probably until after we die. It leaves us in a state of pure confusion, but also relief, knowing that everything has a reason and purpose. It truly does, because if it didn’t, there would be no point to any of this.
Little does this father know that by walking down the street at that exact moment would create such a profound affect on another person. With that thought in mind, our every action is an example of good or hurt. How do we want to be perceived in the world?

After these deep reflections, in a quiet car before picking up the kids from school and the start of spring break… I knew that it was time to think more of others, and less of myself, which of course is hard with our natural self tendencies. To do more for others in small ways, ways that we won’t see the effects, or be able to promote on social media, but ways that will create a better world for all. Then maybe someday, those actions will be shown to us like a puzzle, many little jumbled pieces put together to create a wonderful masterpiece.

 

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I am grateful for a lot of things in life, but I am most grateful for my life and those near to me. The life that has been given to me with all the happiness, sorrows, thrills, adventures, friendships, family, and unsolvable problems. Because without each and everyone of these bits and pieces, it would not be my life. It might not make sense when I am going through the heartache or the celebrations, but no matter the event, each and every one of them have a sincere and utterly beautiful effect on my life and I am grateful that they have helped me develop a love and trust for myself, friends, family, and my children. Because what else matters in life than love?