Friday, September 29, 2017

Celebrate the Victories!

It is Friday, but not just any Friday for me this year. This week last year is when everything started to unravel at a rapid uncontrollable pace for me. All week my facebook memory reminded me of my struggles from this week last year where I was desperate for sleep from a then six month old that decided to have a sleep regression crisis all while I was trying to prepare for an observation in a class where though I had one more week than I do this year to memorize kids' names that my foggy brain could not grasp while I was also suppose to be getting papers graded on the new grading scale for upcoming interim reports on top of the usual chaos at home with chores and this kid has that and this kid has this.

I pulled this from the blog post I wrote on this exact day last year:
"So this week I failed. I feel miserably.  I failed at my job, I definitely failed as a housewife as the dirty dishes in the sink can attest to that, I'm not doing very well in the marriage department at the moment, my uncharacteristically crying seven year old and my four year old putting baby food in her brother's eye and not having a six month old sleep through the night might be indicating I'm failing motherhood at the moment too, and I even failed at being the damn tooth fairy this week."

I was trying to find the humor in it all but two half weeks later I reached a point I never thought I could reach. Hitting that crashing wall of reality was a huge blow to my self esteem and to my sense of self. No one probably puts higher expectations onto me than I do myself, and as much as I can sit here and say we all need to cut ourselves a break and love ourselves, I am sometimes the first person that needs to hear my own advice. I had this vision in my head as I headed back to work for the first time as a mom of three a year ago as I was also approaching the big 3-5 in October that I was going to nail this whole working mom balancing act. Year after year I felt like I fell short but yet felt a little more balanced and headed in the right direction. So when I failed miserably it was like I had a self identity mid life crisis, if that is such a thing.

Even though the unraveling of myself peaked in October, it was a longer road than I'd like back to myself. I know for all of us at some point it feels like every day is a fight- a fight with ourselves to be who we envision with who we are in that moment, a fight with being who everybody else thinks we need to be verse who we are, a fight to get over the failures and the let downs and get back up and move forward.

This past summer was the absolute best medicine I could have given myself. I got time away alone with my husband to just be "wife", I got to be a stay at home mom with my kids for four weeks and just be "mom", I put in a lot of working at home hours on preparing for the upcoming school year to focus on the  "teacher" me without the pressure of being teacher and put in hours as the "writer" me without having to battle time to fit it in amongst all the other roles I typically fill throughout a day. I got to individually dedicate so much individual time to all the roles that make me "me", but as approached going back to work and juggling all those roles at once again, my anxiety was through the roof. There was that little nagging voice in my head saying, "It's all too much. You can't do it. You're going to miserably fail again at balancing all the balls in the air."

But here I am at the end of the fourth week of school when the to do lists and the expectations seem to grow and start to consume you. There were about two times this week I could feel my anxiety start to kick in with some unrealistic expectation, but with a little help from my oils it passed quickly. Who knows what's around the corner but if there's anything I've started to learn it's to take the victories where you can. I don't know about you but sometimes it feels like there are way more defeats than there are victories. So here it Friday after staying after school to help students make up work this week before the interim cut off, catching up on grading for those irrelevant but must do interim reports, organizing the school's underclass portrait pictures for next week, getting the yearbook up and running this week, having some great teaching moments with kids in response to stereotypes and race, completing my book revisions to begin the final process to get it ready to publish next month, getting in two of my three workouts (Sundays are typically #3), participating in an online writing promotion event that though I wouldn't do it again I gave it a try, getting another essay accepted for paid publication, working some more on the kids' individual photobooks that I'm hoping to give them at Christmas, running kids every night but one to Girl Scouts and soccer practices, starting to look into refinancing our rental house, and even finishing the sixth book in a series I'm reading. And I feel great! I don't feel overwhelmed or crazy stressed. I feel like the girl that can do it again! I can do busy again. I can juggle the balls without completely losing myself or my mind.

It's not like it was a perfect by any means. I dropped my keys in the trash can one day after work so that was fun to dig out, my laundry- oh my laundry- it's ridiculous but who cares, I haven't mopped our new floors since we got them a month ago, my house is a DISASTER right now (but don't worry everyone will be pitching in tomorrow to clean it up because I think they know by now this is all of our house, not just momma's so everyone pitches in to take care of it),   I did lose my patience with my kids a few times, and I was going to attempt to cook chicken parm but then passed it off to my husband to do at the last minute so I only ended up being the cook one night this week when usually I've had two of the nights.

But it's all okay.  I'm calling this week a big win for myself. I wallow in my defeats sometimes way too long, so for today I'm celebrating the victory of this week.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Put Guilt in Its Place

Today's digital world puts unrealistic expectations of perfection on us as moms at times. Even if we can let the idea of perfection and society’s judgments go and are happy with the mothers we are, for most of us it still doesn’t completely eliminate the guilt we sometimes encounter as mothers. In my own journey I found letting perfection and judgment go to be much easier than letting go of the guilt. This one I find much harder to walk away from and at times have questioned my own choices because of my own guilt.  No matter what choices we make, especially when it comes to that tough decision of staying home with our babies or maintaining our career outside of the home, there can be that sense of lurking guilt. If we work, it’s the guilt that we should be spending every possible moment with our babies and nurturing them ourselves, rather than leaving them in the care of a babysitter or daycare provider.

If we stay home and sacrifice our career ambitions it could feel like we’re not contributing to the household finances or have guilt about giving up our own career or dreams. This tug a war of mom choices I feel has lead to an epidemic of mom guilt. I often wonder due to modern choices and media influences if today’s mother suffers from more guilt than the generations before us.

The thing is it wasn't the managing all the balls in the air that was so hard for me. Many of us have done that in our pre children lives. Many of us worked, had extra activities or commitments, went to school sometimes on top of a full time job, ran a household, and planned for whatever big life event was next. The modern, post feminist woman of today is incredibly ambitious; she can handle juggling all those balls in the air. I had managed multitasking well before I had kids. What I came to realize though was although I could balance lots of things, if I couldn’t give everything 100% in the past I was okay with that because I would always still accomplish everything. I could BS my way through any homework assignment if I didn't have time; I could put off cleaning the house or washing the dishes or doing the laundry. I could not be there 100% mentally for my job for a day or so when things got to be too much.  I was okay with doing all those things at once but only giving them 75% of myself when needed in order to get everything finished. But I was not okay with giving my kids 75%. They deserved 100% plus, but unfortunately with all the things as a working mom that I had to take care of in a given day, there are too many days than I care to admit that they didn't get the 100% they deserved from me. This is where as a mother the guilt overwhelms me at different points and makes me question every choice I make with raising my children.

To work on overcoming my guilt, I remind myself often to focus on the positives and not the flaws I see in my mothering abilities or choices. I remind myself that it’s not quantity but quality that matters. Even if I can't be at home with them all day, I try to make the best of the time we do get to spend together by coloring, baking, playing in the backyard, going for walks, taking family trips and adventures, and cuddling every chance we get. Hopefully, in the end they'll turn out to be the remarkable people my husband and I  know they can be, and our children will  know and understand how much we truly love them, even if it did seem at times we were too distracted with all the other things going on in life.

Sometimes though the mommy guilt is not even about working or not working, but rather it’s feelings of guilt that we didn’t make them a more nutritional dinner and opted for drive thru chicken nuggets again, that we let them cry themselves to sleep, that we yelled at them too harshly for misbehaving, that we don’t see our friends anymore, or that we took a night away from home to go spend time with our friends or have a night out with our husband. We feel guilty that we sometimes rush the kids off to bed so we can just have a moment to ourselves. We feel guilty that we want to go to work because sometimes work is easier than being at home.

We shouldn’t even go to Pinterest or Facebook to see all the great meals, crafts, parties,  home décor, and do it yourself projects everyone else seems to be mastering. Half of the time we even feel guilt for that. We see it as a reminder of what we haven’t accomplished yet. We think our kids are going to suffer because we’re not that “cool” mom that’s the jack of so many trades.  For me feeding my kids, finding matching decorations for their next party in the Walmart aisle, fixing the hole in one of their shirts, and making sure they got their homework done without coloring the walls or whatever else is victory enough. Our mothering capabilities aren’t dependent on our Pinterest successes. 

No matter what decisions we make something always makes us feel guilty or that we’re not doing something we should have done. We always wonder what it’d be like if we made a different choice. But there is no rewind button so I’m slowly learning to accept and make the best of the choices I have made and put guilt in its place, back in the closest with all the other monsters.  

Do you want to read more about embracing and loving yourself as the mother you are? Today you can get my book Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas for $8 plus shipping.
I'm also a part of Chicken Soup for the Soul's The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide and their recent Curvy and Confident and have an overstock I need to sell so  message me at for a signed copy for today's special of $12 including shipping payable through paypal or check.
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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Youth Sports: The Parent on the Sideline

My husband and I both grew up with youth sports dominating our childhood lives. We loved the game; no matter what sport there was something about pushing yourself, the adrenaline of a close win, the heartbreak of a close loss, the momento victories that I'm sure we've both made bigger than they actually were by now, and we'll both often reflect on the character traits and passion that youth sports gave us that has served us well into adulthood.

For our kids to be reaching that age to begin playing competitive youth sports is probably one of those parenting experiences we've both been looking forward to since we began parenthood.Though we've always said we would never force them to play something they didn't want to play, obviously our kids loving sports makes our hearts happy. If they weren't interested in sports at all, as much as we would hate to say it, we would let it be, as long as they were interested in something besides video games and watching TV all day.

Our girls are active kids who like to be involved in things and try new things. Our oldest I'm pretty sure would try every sport that is out there if we could find the time and money to fit it all in. But as much as we've been excitedly looking forward to this point in parenthood, when we would get to sit on the sidelines and cheer our kids on in youth sports, I'm coming to realize this is a much harder role to play than I realized.

By her own choice my oldest decided to move up to the more competitive travel club soccer league this year. We were excited for this- all day tournaments, trophies for actually winning, having to earn her playing time, girls she could grow up with playing for years to come. But we could see right from the beginning she was intimidated. These girls were GOOD. When she gets intimidated we've notice she shuts down. There are lots of things she could work on to get better, but one of the most frustrating things was watching her lose her confidence, not play up to her potential, and her lack of aggression. It doesn't matter what sport you play, you have to be a confident, aggressive player.

There are mental parts on top of the skill part of being an athlete. Honestly, it's those mental parts of an athlete that we carry way beyond our time and years on the playing field.  To sit on the sidelines when your kid is slacking (not being aggressive or playing up to their potential) can push your own self control to the limit. There have been times we've just wanted to yank her out and demand to know what the heck she is doing?!?! So then of course our first response when she comes off the field is to light into her about what she's not doing. We've been pretty hard on her. But as I've taken stock of her reactions to our reactions to her playing, I've had to reevaluate this whole parent on the sideline thing.

As someone in a profession who feels like people just want to pick apart my flaws and shortcomings right off the bat rather than commending my strengths, and knowing my own reaction to that is to shut down or want to "escape" so I don't have to deal with the criticism anymore, I've had to ask  myself "really are we helping her here" or are we just stripping her of what's left of her confidence?
I don't necessarily think going easy on her is the answer - even being as young as she is- as I'm not one to "coddle" my kids in fear of hurting their feelings. I think experiencing disappointment and frustration at people's feedback and knowing how to manage her feelings in reaction to those is a valuable lesson in itself as unfortunately we're all going to face people's criticism and corrections and have to know how to respond and manage those.

The kid is a super good kid. She wants to please people and she responds very well to directions or redirection or whatever it is you need to ask of her. I know one of the greatest lessons of sports is how to take constructive criticism and earning your place and any recognition we may receive. I don't necessarily think it does her good to tell her good game every game when there are things she can work on to get better.  I'm finding there's such a thin line though in how to encourage them and give them constructive feedback without killing their love of the game or self confidence.

There's such opportunity here for her and us to learn valuable life lessons when it comes to playing the game. I'm not sure we have it figured out yet but we're working on it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let's Talk About Sex

I shared this article about sex on my Stepping into Motherhood facebook page the other day. Between that and I'm a part of these moms groups on facebook as well, I've found women are oddly curious about how much sex other women are having. I feel like I get to be a fly on the wall as I watch all these women respond these sex inquiry threads in these groups. The responses of "normal" range anywhere from a barely ever within a year to a few times a week. Actually I'm pretty sure a few even maybe said a few times a day to almost daily. With small kids at home! Sorry, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor on that. Really? Do you think she was for real???

If you don't know, I'm a very goal oriented person. I like to set goals and see what I can achieve.
 I don't share them too often because honestly I don't usually achieve them in the amount of time or the way I want or sometimes at all. Recently as my life has seemed to be turning a corner, and we're on the horizon of entering a new phase of our life as parents as we're leaving babies behind and transitioning to older kids, my goals have started to shift to my marriage. It's seriously taken a backseat the past almost decade. I even looked at my husband last night at dinner as I rolled my eyes that the toddler was overtired and screaming and the girls were whining that they had to go to the bathroom AGAIN and told him we're so close to this needy, dependent phase of parenthood being behind us, and I felt guilty even admitting out loud to him that I was quite excited about that possibility. I don't want to rush my kids growing up, but it's been him and I elbows deep on our own with no family or back up doing this parenting thing for almost a decade now. When people invite us out to do things that don't include kids we have to decline because there's no one else to watch the kids except us or someone we'd have to pay. We've had so few dinners alone or kid free with friends I could probably count them on my one hand. It's rarely just him and I in bed alone because they seem to always be in there with us. But as we get ready to embark on our third trip in thirteen months without kids, it's like I can feel the freedom that comes with exiting this phase of parenthood. We've finally started to feel they're old enough to leave for long weekends and even a week with family while we leave town, with the two oldest in school now and the oldest being just a few years away from being old enough to leave in charge we can have a dinner alone again so soon, and they're starting to sleep more in their own beds and less in ours.

We've been buried in this demanding phase of parenthood for so long, I think our biggest goal was survival most days. It still is some days, but my latest goals, mommas, have started to shift to my marriage and sex. Tell me I'm not the only one that's considered setting sex goals. I've been exhausted and overwhelmed for the past decade. I have handed my life over to these little people that I love with all my being but at times they have drained me where I have nothing left to give at the end of the day. I'm four years away from 40, and I read once where women hit their sexual peak in their 40s. I think I now know why! Without children clinging and needing something from me 24/7 and with my body being mine again, I may actually have more energy and desire for things not related to mothering.

So my goals as I head into 36 here soon are about sex. I want to have more sex as I head into mid life here. I want to turn our monthly average into a weekly average, and I want to be motivated to do that and not be too tired!  I hope these little trips without our kids are just the beginning because they have been wonderful this past year for allowing us to reconnect. As much as we both love those three little monsters of ours and the journey to five is something neither of us would ever change, I  don't want to forget the two people that began the journey. Because I think too often as we go from couples to families and we change from who we were to Mom and Dad it's very easy to lose the couple that began the journey.

                                  Photo courtesy of Sandia Pantano Imaging and Photography


Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Don't Need a Mom Blog to Tell Me How to Do Motherhood

I purposefully avoid telling people at times that I have what most call a "mom blog". I love to tell people that I write and even that I have managed to get a few things published; however, mentioning my content niche is kind of a hit or miss thing. I avoid mentioning the term "mom blog" because here are things people assume about mom blogs:

-"oh she must be some mom expert" - insert the eye roll here
-"she's going to tell me how to parent my kid"
-"oh, god, she's judging me!" as they run away in fear
-"she must this pinterest crafting, cooking, home organization supermom; I should avoid her at all costs to my own sense of self worth" as they regard the mom blogger in a projected illusion of perfectionism that we cannot meet anymore than any other mom.

I love to read mom blogs as much as I love to write here on my own, and I've connected and networked with a handful of other mom bloggers. They are wonderful, caring women. We are not writing to pass on our so called "expert" mothering advice. As you've probably discovered from reading mine I don't have much to offer there.  Believe me when I tell you we are not here to tell you how to do motherhood. We don't really know anymore than you do. Honestly, any "expert" insight I may have comes from a teacher's perspective, not from being a mom or blogger. I didn't start a mom blog or join mom blog communities to because I'm a mom expert or expert at anything. If you've been around here or me long enough you know I can't cook (but I am improving!), pinterest and I are not friends, I do like to be organized but really my life is organized chaos at best, and though I talk about supermom frequently I am not her and besides my childlike vision of my young mother I have not met her. Most of our mom blogs aren't for us to judge anyone else's parenting but our own, which most of us probably do a little harshly. We write for the mom blog community because this journey is the most important journey to us.

We do it because we want to connect in companionship with other mommas in the trenches with us. We want support and more importantly we want to give you, the readers and other mommas, that find us, support. Motherhood is a dark corner of solitude at times. Sometimes literally while we're sitting there in desperation in the dark corner of the nursery trying to get a screaming baby back to sleep. We just want you to know in those dark moments we get it, we understand, you're doing the best you can, and it is enough.

We're all in this parenting thing together. We're each just trying to do right by our kids. Sure some of us- mom bloggers or not- are a little misguided sometimes and make mistakes- but in the end I think we all have a similar goal of raising happy, well adjusted, productive kids that can hopefully leave this world better than what it was when they entered it.

I am not here to judge your mothering; I am not here to tell you the best way to raise your kids. We are each the expert of that ourselves. But I am here to offer you support, understanding, a listening ear when you just need to vent or connect with someone that just gets this motherhood thing. As always I'm wishing all of us the very best in this journey of motherhood.

If you want to keep up with my mom fails, my short moments of momma success, and share in my laughter and tears I am now active daily on my Stepping into Motherhood facebook page sharing short little bits of humor and joy on this momma gig of ours.

                                  Last years's Fall photo but planning to get new ones today!

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Loathe Homework

I've been working in public education for going on fourteen years this year. I've been a parent of a student going on four years this year. And this may be a horrible confession to make as an educator. but I loathe homework. Over the past few years I've really started to philosophically question the idea of homework, and though I hate it as a parent I'm not completely convinced as a teacher of the idea of completely eliminating it.

As a student myself the thought of homework did not leave any lasting negative impression on me. It didn't leave a positive one either though. I know I had it; I know I did it. In fact a couple of my football buddies copied my homework quite often, and though I took upper level courses I don't remember it dominating my life after school. My after school time was spent at practices and working when I was older and playing in the street with the neighbors when I was younger. Oh and tackling my mother's chore list left on the fridge.

But my elementary student has had homework about every night since kindergarten. Lucky for me I usually just have to say do your homework, and as she entered second grade I just started trusting that she was doing what she needed to do. Her teacher never said anything to me otherwise so I'm still assuming she did it most nights.

However, the reading log she's had since kindergarten is my most dreaded homework with her. She doesn't like to read; yet she's slightly above grade level skill wise so we argue every other day it feels like because she wants to read baby books just to get it done rather than investing in a longer grade level appropriate book that she could read over the course of several nights.  I remember asking her teacher at one point what was the purpose of the reading homework. I didn't really get a clear answer. To me whether she's reading to learn words and the skill of reading verse reading to work on comprehension and critical thinking over the ideas of the book made a difference in what was acceptable for her to read which is why I felt the purpose of this assigned homework was important for her and me to know. I want her to read but I feel like forcing her to read every single night for however long the requirement is just going to make it harder for her to foster a love for reading eventually. This is where I feel there has to be clear purpose in homework because I even know from my early days of teaching we sometimes assign homework because the higher ups say we need to give kids a certain amount of homework a night, but a few years ago as a teacher I started to rebel against this thinking. I started to hear from students and friends with older kids of kids spending hours- like another 4-6 hours - after seven hours in school doing homework!

I find that reality frustrating as a student, teacher, and parent. Education is important but there are so many other things our children need "educational" experience with than some academic skill set. They need social skills- outside in the neighborhood, on the community basketball court, even in the local Mc Donald's parking lot. If they're sitting inside doing homework not only are they probably in front of a screen the only social building skills they're getting is through social media probably while they're doing their homework . They need to know about team work and collaboration whether that's putting in time after school with a sport or helping out at home. They need to learn personal responsibility outside of completing school work and again that can be taught through chores at home or a job after school. They need time to explore their interest and learn what it takes to pursue them. Again this may be in the form of sports, drama, some kind of art, or a variety of other things. They need to learn how to build and maintain relationships. Again if they're in front of a screen because most education is through a screen anymore rather they're not getting the personal building skills that comes from interacting with friends, family, and teammates. They need time to develop these skills.

I just flat out do not support the idea of bombarding kids with four + hours of homework a night. The health risk for this alone with anxiety, depression, obesity, I think would be enough to deter from thinking this is an acceptable practice. As a teacher of older students I know they have activities and jobs and some of them are going from 730 am until 9 or 10 at night before they even have a chance to look at homework. That's setting kids up for failure and/or sleep deprivation.

It quit being my practice awhile ago  to give kids homework that's due the next day.  They get reading and long range projects that are done in and out of class where they can assess where to best fit it into their schedule after school. The only other homework they get is when I let them take things home to finish. Then if they complain about being up until 2 in the morning for my class I let them know they need to work on their time management skills then because I have them plenty of time to figure out where to best fit in completing the assignment. If there is not great purpose in an assignment though it's not going home.

A little homework is good for teaching responsibility but the thinking that students have to have homework every night so making up something to just say they had homework has to go. So I'm not going to quit assigning homework altogether, but I am really not looking forward to after school homework with my own kids when they return to school on Tuesday.

Find other great homework memes on here