Parenting from the Deep End

I love summer!  I love that my husband has a few weeks off so we get to spend more time together as a family.  I love all the seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I love lounging by the pool, going to parks, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and wearing flip flops (although living in California, I get to wear flip flops year-round)!  And swimming has always been one of my favorite summer activities.

I grew up going to our family cottage as well as other beaches and spending all day in the water.  But now that I have kids, gone are the days of mindlessly floating in the middle of the lake for hours. Instead, I usually have one baby in my arms and I’m close by the others who are still learning how to swim. Pool days are a little less relaxing and a lot more splashing!

The Deep End

It’s actually the very picture that sums up my life these days.  As a mom, I’ve traded in my personal time and space for being called on at all hours of the day (and night) and being followed around by my littles.  My time has become their time, and that’s a tough inner-battle to fight.  I naturally want to give all of me to my husband and my children, but I also want to have enough left for myself.  And it’s not a selfish thing to desire, but often guilt creeps in and makes it feel as if it is!  If you’re like me, you know what I’m talking about.

But I can’t keep parenting from the deep end.  I can’t allow myself to constantly feel as though I’m treading water as I attempt to keep up with our busy schedule.

You know the feeling?  It’s exhausting having all your energy depleted as you make meals, do the dishes, grocery shop, keep up with laundry, make deadlines at work, schedule doctor appointments, plan birthday parties, respond to emails, return phone calls, save time to bathe the kids before bed, and so much more!  And yet, what joy, if any, are we experiencing if that’s what our days have become?  And even more, what joy are we sharing with our kids if all they see is the mom who has a strict agenda to keep?

I’m over here raising my hand right now because I know I am so guilty of this. I’m guilty of telling my son I’m looking at what he drew only to have my eyes on my phone.  I’m guilty of standing in the kitchen triple-checking my to-do list instead of spending time on the floor with my baby.  I’m guilty of turning the TV on for the boys so I can fold a load of laundry without little hands unfolding what I just finished folding.  I’m guilty of yelling more times than I’d like to admit in a day because I’m taking my feelings of being overwhelmed out on my sons.

I’m sure we all go through seasons like this.  And it’s so difficult to keep the guilt from turning to shame.  But we can’t let ourselves go there.  Allow yourself to have an off day, week, or season.  Recognize it for what it is, give yourself some grace, and move on.  But don’t let yourself get stuck in that place!  Lean on your mom, sisters, or friends to help you through those times so that you don’t allow those seasons to define who you are as a mother.

Plans Change

When we returned from vacation a few weeks ago, I found myself in one of those seasons.  I was trying to play catch up after being away for a few weeks, and my to-do list was growing by the second with grocery shopping, paying bills, and cleaning.  Emotionally, I was down after leaving family and I found myself being very short with my boys.  Unfortunately for them, my frustration was coming without much warning or explanation. At the end of the days, I was frustrated with myself for yelling throughout the day and not showing them much patience.

After sharing my frustrations with my husband, I decided I’d plan a fun day with them and not worry about my to-do list.  Originally, I had planned to take them to the mall for Build-A-Bear’s “Pay Your Age Day,” but because that was a bust (luckily a woman in the mall parking lot told me not to even bother going in because of the long lines), I let them pick out a park to go to instead.  Everyone was having fun at the park until I heard my two year-old crying going down the slide.  I picked him up and held him until he started to relax.  But when I went to set him down, he started crying even harder and wouldn’t put any weight on his injured leg.  I knew immediately something wasn’t right.  Long story short, the x-rays showed a spiral fracture in his leg and into a cast he went.

While having a toddler with a broken leg has created many challenges for our family, it’s also slowed us down.  And frankly, we needed that right now.  My husband is back at work, my oldest is about to start kindergarten, and we just needed to relax for a bit together and have fun!  I’m not celebrating the injury, but I am celebrating the opportunity to slow our lives down and refocus our priorities.  In these last 10 days, I’ve been able to snuggle with my two year-old so much!  I’ve been able to help the older two boys be creative in finding games and activities to play with their injured brother.  We’ve gone on more walks which is something I had been wanting to get back into.

Taking Hold of Him

Luckily it doesn’t always take something traumatic to pull us out of a rough season.  Sometimes it’s something we read or a conversation we have.  Other times it’s a song we hear or an event we experience.  But in each circumstance I am confident that God is the orchestrator.  He sees us in the seasons we are proud of as well as the seasons we feel guilty about.  He sees us losing energy, treading water in the deep end as we try to do it all alone.  And He throws us a float.  God gracefully offers us a way out so that we can stand on firm ground, confident in who we are as a mother.

When we allow God room to work in our heart, we can fully experience the joy that comes from resting in Him.  What better gift can we give our children than the gift of sharing the joy of the Lord with them?  This comes by giving them our full attention when we say we’re listening, by having a good attitude about playing with them even when the timing is not ideal, by using a kind tone when we speak to them, and by loving them through their own daily battles.

I find that on the days when I choose to seek the Lord’s joy throughout the day, my sons are better behaved, I feel more energized, and everything else falls into place.  It doesn’t mean the day is perfect or that my sons do no wrong.  But it helps me see everything through a new lens and, therefore, find the beauty and good in each circumstance.  I’m able to laugh more and love better.

A few years ago, someone shared this quote with me, “Let go of the day you planned and embrace the one you’ve been given.”  What a wonderful change in perspective not only for a particular day, but also for particular seasons of life that aren’t going quite as we envisioned! My prayer is that we can all recognize where we are in this season and make necessary changes to allow God’s joy to overflow in us and radiate to others!

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

When the Nest is Attacked

The Story

A few weeks ago, I noticed a mother and a father bird building a nest in our pergola.  I had a front row seat to their cooperative effort as I watched from our kitchen window whenever I was doing the dishes.

Let me interrupt this story for a second to let you know that I prefer an empty sink after each meal.  This means that I either load the dishes into the dishwasher or hand-wash the non dishwasher-safe items (which I try to limit these days) after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s just my routine and I prefer not to step out of it.  I note this to relay that I spend a lot of time at the sink throughout my day.

Back to my story…

I found it endearing to watch the mother and father “nest” and couldn’t help but think about each time we prepared to welcome one of our sons into our family.  So much time is spent making sure our hearts and our home are prepped for a little one.

Once the nest was completed, the mother rested and laid the eggs and the father came and went to check in.  In the meantime, my sons and I affectionately named the birds.  I chose Harriet for the mommy and they picked T’Challa (after the superhero Black Panther) for the daddy.

Like a dream, the eggs hatched on Mother’s Day.  I’ll be honest and say that I was somewhat obsessed with checking in on the family at this point without bothering them.  Other than my husband grilling a few times, we stayed out of the backyard to give them their space.  Cute, right?!

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve watched Harriet care for her babies so gently.  She only left to find food to bring back to the nest, allowed her babies to nuzzle under her wings, and kept a watchful eye on anyone or anything that she saw as a threat.  Again, this scene consumed me a little more than I’d like to admit considering I’m not especially an animal person and usually don’t like to be too close in proximity to birds.  I even went as far as Googling questions I had about birds in general.  Ask my husband, I love to Google, but even this was a little extreme for me.

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Meet Harriet and her babies (who are camouflaged in there). Please excuse the poor quality of the photo. I didn’t want to get too close to the nest so I zoomed in quite a bit.

This morning as I was washing the breakfast dishes, I gazed and daydreamed about watching the mother release these little birds to fly off.  I wondered if she would ever see them again and if the siblings would stick together.  (Yes, I know I’m crazy at this point). It was all so sweet….

Until it wasn’t.  This evening when I was making dinner, I realized that the birds were gone and the nest didn’t seem intact.  And there was a stray cat in our backyard next to some feathers.  I didn’t shed a tear, but I was pretty angry with the cat, who we can all assume is the suspect in this disaster.

I no longer would be able to witness the baby birds learn how to fly or see their happily ever after. We gently told the boys what we think might have happened (they seemed more intrigued than sad), and went on with our night.

But I can’t stop thinking about it!

Attacks to our nest

So where am I going with this depressing story?  Well, unfortunately, we all experience attacks on our nests.  The focus of these attacks are on our marriages, on our parenting, and on our relationships with others.  The attacks come in the form of comparisons on social media, bullying, and insecurities.  They come from our discontentment in a world where the Jones’ always seem to be doing something bigger and better.  They come from advertisements and media that desensitize us to sex and violence.

Before we even bring our babies home from the hospital, we dream.  We dream about what it’s going to be like to have a new son or daughter.  We dream about who they are going to be friends with, where they will go to school, and what hobbies they will enjoy.  We dream about taking them on their first trip and introducing them to our favorite places.

When we finally bring them home, we realize that these dreams seem so distant.  Because in the present, we receive opinions from everyone and their best friend, spoken and unspoken.  We see what other parents are doing as we scroll through Facebook and Instagram and begin to feel inferior about the choices we are making.  Are we doing too much?  Are we not doing enough?  Are we becoming THAT mom?

My kids are still young, but already I have the fears of when they begin to be more influenced by their friends from school.  And don’t even talk to me about when they get to the age of having their own phone or social media accounts!  There is so much yuck out there for them to be exposed to!  (I already have lots of conversations with God about these concerns of mine so that He can be prepared for my crazy when these days arrive…and so that I can work on laying my worries at His feet in the meantime.)

And, like I mentioned, it’s not just our parent-child relationships being attacked.  It’s our marriages because we no longer make time for each other.  It’s our families because we spend so much time passing each other by on our way to and from activities.  Our priorities slowly shift over time and before we know it, we’re all just roommates!

Self-Defense

So how do we fight these pervasive battles?  How do we prevent our nests from being torn apart?

We begin by tuning out the opinions of the world and focusing on the opinion of One.  The One that matters.  The One who sees us trying our best on the little sleep we’re getting.  The One who knows the child we are dealing with because He created that child and chose us to be the parents.  The One who equips us with everything we need to care for our children.  And the One who gives us grace in every moment to reset.

We do this by surrounding ourselves with other parents who we respect.  We find and rely on our mom tribe for care and support.  We turn off the TV and put our phones down to enjoy a family game night.  We find a babysitter and schedule a date night, or have a date night at home after the kids go to bed.  We monitor what our children are watching.  We intentionally seek out relationships with people who will encourage us in our walk.  We equip ourselves with Scripture to intentionally fight the attacks.  And we pray…a lot!

It’s worth fighting for

Our homes are sacred.  Our marriages are sacred.  And this is exactly why they are being attacked.  Can we make a pact to fight together for our homes, our marriages, our families, and our relationships?   Instead of focusing on the agendas of the media, opinions of others, and the expectations of the world, can we promise to focus on what’s best for us and our families, seeking first His will for our lives?

Poor Harriet didn’t have a fighting chance once her nest was attacked because she was alone.  She did the best she could to care for her babies.  But luckily for us, we are not in this battle alone.  We have a sovereign Father who is with us every step of the way.  And we have others around us who want to help us protect our nests.  Take heart knowing that when we look to the Lord and do the best we can do with what we have, we’ll be just fine.

I’d love to hear from you on how you protect your nest.  I enjoy hearing your experiences and trying out new things in our home.

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

A word on social media:

I love social media for many reasons.  Living so far from my extended family, it’s a great way to “stay in touch” with relatives and friends, sharing pictures and stories.

But I also try to be aware of when it’s affecting me negatively.  When I notice I’m starting to compare myself to others and discontentment is creeping in, I take a break.  I highly recommend doing the same if you notice those feelings in yourself.

Finding Your Tribe

I have said it before, and I’ll never tire of saying it again…when you become a mommy, find your tribe!  If you’re already a mom, it’s never too late if you haven’t found yours already.

What’s this “tribe” I speak of?  It’s your support network.  It’s the moms you can rely on to pick up your child from preschool because your baby got sick.  It’s the friend you meet for ice cream after the kids go to bed.  It’s the moms you meet at the park for a playdate, as much for yourselves as for your kids to play.  It’s the shoulders you cry on when being a mom is feeling too overwhelming.

And the best part?! Your tribe will get it every.single.time!  These moms understand whining and tantrums.  They get the endless to-do list and the feeling of drowning in household chores.  They relate to the busy schedules of husbands and the challenges of marriage.  And they share in your sorrows and your joys.

I believe this group, however big or small, is crucial for all moms whether they work in the home or out of the home.  The women in your tribe may change in different seasons of your life or you may have them around for life.  Either way, it’s okay!

After joining my first mom’s group at our former church (see more in my Raising Mighty Warriors blog post) and finally getting to know some of the women, my husband and I moved to a new city about an hour away.  While this was a great move for our family, I found myself feeling lonely.  At this point we had a one and a half year-old son and I was 6 months pregnant with our second son.

About two months later and just a few weeks before our son was due, I found a mom’s group at our new church.  Like I did the first time at our former church, I convinced my introvert self to go and see what it was all about.  Once again, I was slightly intimidated and nervous, but almost four years later I can say that it was one of the better decisions I’ve made as a mom!

Yes, it’s super awkward putting yourself out there and meeting new moms.  For introverts like myself, it is unnatural and incredibly uncomfortable.  Oftentimes, we walk into a group like this and many of the moms already know each other.  It’s like the first day of high school all over again!  Ugh, that makes me feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it!  But I’ve found that with an open attitude and a whole lot of prayer, it’s not that bad.

The hardest but most important part?  Keep going back!  If you don’t meet your best friend the first week, don’t be discouraged.  Go back!  Honestly, it’ll probably takes weeks, maybe months to connect on a more than superficial level.  Maybe it’ll only be with one mom from the group.  But do you know what?  That’s one more mom on your team than you had before.

Maybe you’re blessed and live close by your sisters, sister-in-laws, cousins, or best friends.  Maybe these women already make up your tribe and you don’t need to rely on others.  Can I challenge you with something? Look for moms who don’t have the luxury of family and friends near by and invite them in.  I can promise you that they are desperate for some mommy friends!

Maybe a church group isn’t for you or your church doesn’t have one.  That’s fine too!  Find, or start, a local moms playgroup at a park.  Or just take your kids to the park and instead of sitting on a bench by yourself scrolling through social media (I’m guilty of this too), reach out to another mom there and engage in conversation.  Again, awkward for many of us?  Absolutely!  Will it lead to a long-term friendship?  Not always, but what if it does?

Maybe it’s an online community to start.  Great!  Start there. Maybe your kids are in school or are involved in extra-curricular activities.  Can you take that uncomfortable step to introduce yourself to the parents of the other kids?  It might just be worth it.

If you’re feeling stuck in this area, I’d love for you to reach out to me and we can brainstorm some other ideas.  But I promise you, finding your tribe will make a world of difference in being your best mommy self!

I’d love to hear from those of you who already have your tribe!  Where did you find the women you do life with?  Please share in the comments.

Let’s raise His mighty warriors (our sons and our daughters) TOGETHER!

Raising Mighty Warriors

Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Before our first son was born, my husband and I made the decision together that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom.  This was a dream come true for me!  We knew we wanted to grow our family quickly (we weren’t joking…we now have four boys, five years-old and younger), and I wanted to be home with them at least in their youngest years.

However, I didn’t realize what a challenge this would be without my extended family close by.  I am number seven of eight children and the furthest from our hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Living in California, we have very little family near us to help us out.

I quickly found that I needed to find my “tribe” to help me through these young mommy years.  I was invited to a mom’s group at our church and was quite intimidated when I first joined.  Many of the moms were “veterans” and seemingly had everything figured out with more than one kid.  Not to mention the fact that they all seemed to already know each other.

But what kept me returning week after week was the study we were going through,  Priscilla Shirer’s “Gideon.” Without getting into the entire story of Gideon in the Bible, Gideon and his men were the underdogs charged by God to defeat a strong, Midianite army.  Before going into battle, an angel appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12 NIV).

Ever since that mom’s group study, this verse has stuck with me.  If there is one thing I want my husband and I to teach our sons, it is that because God is with them, always, they have the strength to be His mighty warriors.  It’s as true for my sons as it is for myself.  In my weakness, God shines.

Through this blog, I hope to inspire others as I share my everyday mommy moments.  If God can use not only my successes, but also my failures and insecurities as a mom to encourage one other person, than this blog is worth it.

Let’s raise His mighty warriors (ours sons and our daughters) TOGETHER!

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” -Judges 6:12 (NIV)

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