Finding 365 days of reflection

img_6435I have been waiting 365 days to write this blog post. 365 long, short, happy, sad, exciting, boring, fun, mundane, busy, slow, up and down days. 365 days that have each been unique… each their own snowflake within the year. Each day has tested me in its own way, making me better (even though some days I got worse first). When I walked away from a job I loved one year ago yesterday, I vowed to myself that I’d write and publish a post exactly a year and a day later reflecting on what I’d learned through my new role as a stay at home mom. Of course, at that time I didn’t predict that I’d spend the last four months of that year crippled by terrible writer’s block, with a head full of content and observations to share but an inability to translate them into shareable material. Perhaps that itself is the metaphor for my year…. a jumble of emotions and experiences too great to put into words. Or maybe, I’ve been so consumed by being home with my kids that I haven’t had a chance to reflect on what that has meant. Or maybe, the words haven’t come as easily as they once did. At any rate, I’m here now because I promised myself I would be, and that is a promise I intend to keep.

When I started out these last 365 days as a stay at home mom, I had great expectations of what that would look like and I’m simultaneously proud and saddened that I didn’t live up to much of that. I had lists, spreadsheets, projects, recipes, ideas and plans… most of which still sit in the same format that they did when I’d initially put them together, completely untouched. It’s not that I failed or that the expectations were too lofty, but rather that I had no idea what my days would be like until I lived them. Until I was the hot mess mom running her kid into her classroom late… again. Or the completely with it mom who planned great birthday parties. Or the mom who baked cookies and sat in the backyard making wishes on dandelions with her kids. Or the mom who had all the time in the world and yet no time at all to get anything done. I’ve been all these moms, and more.

Here are just a few things I’ve learned since this day last year:

  • Being a mom is the best job I have ever and will ever have.
  • Kids are resilient. They need a guide to help them navigate the world around them, but they are stronger and more intuitive than we realize.
  • Moms need a time out every once in a while. Sometimes that time out includes coffee. Or wine. (I’ve yet to need both at once, but never say never.)
  • Going to the bathroom alone is a luxury.
  • There will always be more laundry to be done and as much as you will it to happen, it will never fold itself.
  • Sometimes a bowl of cheerios and milk is dinner enough.
  • You can have ratings for your yoga pants, ranging from your nice ones to the ones you only wear around the house. Also, practicing yoga isn’t a requirement for wearing yoga pants.
  • Watching too much television isn’t healthy, but sometimes the television is the best (and cheapest) babysitter around.
  • Nothing teaches patience better than a child who asks “why?” all the time. Except for the child who says “mommy” on repeat for 30 minutes straight.
  • Pinterest is a great place to collect ideas for projects you’ll never do and recipes you’ll never make.
  • Breathe.
  • Put the date for a birthday party in your calendar. Check the date against the invitation. Don’t show up for the party a day early (or a day late for that matter).
  • Siblings fight. Sometimes they need you to step in and sometimes they need to work it out themselves because you can’t be a referee forever.
  • Every toy, shoe, and worksheet needs a home. I’ve yet to find a home for most of these things, but they need a home nonetheless.
  • You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Or any of the time.
  • Patience really is a virtue.
  • Laughter is the best medicine. Kid laughter is the best form of it. Laugh with your kids often.
  • Ask for help. Accept it graciously.
  • Put the phone down. Sit on the floor and play.
  • Ask questions. Listen to the answers.
  • Be present.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Burned toast is salvageable. Burned chicken is not.
  • The drive-thru carwash with music blaring is an entertaining afternoon activity. (Oh, and your kids will like it too.)
  • Find your tribe. Make friends. Talk to people.
  • Being a mom (and being a parent, for that matter) is not easy.
  • Be kind to yourself.

img_6861This list is in no way complete, but it’s a good start. I was sure that after a year in this new life I’d have some deep and profound thoughts about what this transition has been like. I thought that I’d have a true understanding of both sides of the field having been a working mom, a stay at home mom, and, as I do now, straddling the two. But the truth is… there is no truth. I don’t have a profound understanding, I just have my days. These last 365 gratifying, challenging, amazing days. We spend so much time fighting the “mom wars,” comparing our experiences to others, longing for something else or being completely rooted in where we are. Maybe for some the grass is always greener on the other side. Maybe the grass is perfectly green exactly where you stand. Or maybe the grass needs to be mowed, the laundry needs to be done, dinner needs to be made, work needs to be completed and the kids need to be bathed. It’s just grass, so do with it what you will.

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Finding a thick skin

When I first started writing my blog, the only people reading it were my close friends and family. As I gained traction in writing, I also slowly gained followers – more friends, friends of friends and absolute strangers. I love writing about my adventures in parenting and sharing my insights and vulnerabilities through my posts. And I love hearing people’s reactions – positive and negative – to what I write about. My blog is a wonderful outlet, and a great way for me to capture today’s moments that will become tomorrow’s memories.
mama and girls
So, each time Kveller picks up one of my pieces and publishes it on a national platform, I feel giddy with excitement that something I wrote is getting shared with a much broader audience. They’ve published pieces I’ve written ranging from kugel to missing my oldest’s dance recital. It’s a very empowering feeling.

Then, last week Kveller published a piece I was particularly proud of – a diatribe on our family’s rules which stemmed from an argument with my 4 year old about having to wear socks. The piece is playful and ends with a lists of 16 family rules – some of which are serious and others that make me giggle from the broken record I’ve become saying them. And this piece, more than any other that I’ve written, elicited a lot of commentary from a broad audience on Kveller’s website and Facebook page.

Two rules, in particular, struck a chord with the Kveller readership – leave a house that has a gun in it and kiss your grandparents hello and goodbye. Who knew that these would cause such a stir? That by writing that my kids should leave a home with a gun in it, I wasn’t properly educating them about gun safety? And that by telling my children to kiss their elder relatives as a sign of respect, I was exposing them to a future of abuse and body confusion?

I understand the arguments the readers were making and I appreciate that people took the time to read my post and share their opinions. I welcome feedback and comments – it’s fun to see how my writing impacts and influences others. But some of the comments on my last post made broad judgements about my parenting and ventured to say that I was wrong for having some of the rules that we do. While one reader said that each family’s rules are unique to them, other readers said things like I’ll make my kids a doormat by encouraging them to be nice to everyone or that I should never ever tell my kids to kiss a relative. By making such strong statements in response to the rules in our family, I can’t help but think about the litany of arguments, judgements and lines in the sand we draw in these ever present mommy wars.

mama and babeBreastfeeding. Bottle feeding. Formula. Breast milk. Pacifier. Thumb sucking. Attachment parenting. Cry it out. Organic food. Non gmo food. Regular ol’ food. Extracurricular activities to provide structure. No extracurricular activities to provide freedom. Stay at home mom. Professional mom. The list goes on and on. We all have such strong ideas, ideals, and approaches to parenting. We can read books about it. We can quote studies. We can wing it. We can do our absolute best and still feel like it’s not enough. And, although we are our own harshest critics, the commentary on my latest post reminds me that we can be each other’s harshest critics too. Instead of drawing a line in the sand of what we believe to be the right thing, why not open a dialogue in which we each speak out own truths while accepting those may not be the same truths for somebody else? I’m not upset or offended by the comments readers made, but am more so inspired by what the readers could have said.

We all know that raising kids takes a village, and in my experience that’s absolutely true. But the definition of village is loose and long, extending from our inner circle to the adult who attempts to discipline our kids on the playground. We need to find a way to lift each other up and support each other as we forge our own path, whether or not it’s the one we would take ourselves.

Finding peace with my body

Like most women, I’ve had my fair share of yo-yo’s of weight, and the associated self-deprecating thoughts. I’ve stared at the changes my body has gone through over the last decade as I transitioned from cute college co-ed to mom of two (my dad would say “you’re still cute!” So, thanks dad!). I’ve seen my belly change from flatter than I ever believed it was to stretchmark-ridden and pudgy. I’ve seen my butt and boobs go from lifted and perky to, well, the opposite of that. And what is up with the whiskers on my chin that were a lovely gift from pregnancy hormones?!

Cookie Monsters

Starting the love of cookies early…

But the truth is… each of these changes happened because my body did what it was designed to do – grow from girl to woman. I was blessed to have children in the process, but for the plenty of women out there who have chosen not to or cannot conceive, their bodies have undoubtedly also gone through the similar transformations and maturation that occur somewhere between the teen years and the mid-thirties. With that comes the maturation of mind, as well, to accept and eventually embrace these changes.

Of course, that’s not always easy. A few weeks ago my husband and I decided to join Weight Watchers to get our eating in check. We’d used WW before our wedding and had been so successful that we thought we’d give it another go. After my first week, I lost six pounds. I was floored, and on cloud nine. That is, until I got on the subway to work and someone eyed my stomach and offered (almost insisted) their seat. How was it that when I WAS pregnant, even at the end, it was rare for someone to offer their seat, but now 16 months after delivering my second baby and six pounds lighter than I was last week, someone was clamoring to do so? Of course, I appreciate their kindness and awareness of the possible need. But it was also a stark reminder that my relationship with my body is deeper than a number on a scale or a calculation of my dinner’s worth.

Lately, there have been so many postings on Facebook and in online articles about moms’ bodies – working out and toned, not working out and content, and somewhere in between. And somewhere deep in the center of that is the “mommy wars” debate. When will we, as a society, recognize the beauty and complexities of our bodies and embrace our own, and each other’s, bodies? When will we, as women, stop sizing each other up, longing for someone else’s toned arms or flat belly?

And a curiosity for gardening (and hopefully eating vegetables)

And a curiosity for gardening (and hopefully eating vegetables)

Earlier this week, I was at a professional conference where I made a new friend next to the cookie table. No, not like we met by the cookie table and then moved on as we swapped stories and shared a few laughs. Rather, I made a new friend while we stood firmly planted next to the cookie table and sampled each of the cookie varieties (with witty commentary) as we bonded over a deep love for chocolate and sweets (and a pretty intense sugar high to boot). As I developed a fast (and hopefully lasting) friendship with this new woman, I forced myself to push away the thought that the cookies would easily melt off her tall and lean figure, while they would likely set up permanent camp on my thighs (and belly. And ass.). Instead, I focused on the uncontrollable giggles we shared as our colleagues came looking for us, only to discover that we had attached ourselves to this other cookie-loving woman.

This was a big feat for me, as I’ve been challenging myself lately to try to respect different women’s attitudes about their bodies rather than comparing my own physicality to theirs. Instead of thinking “I wish I could fit into a dress like that,” I’ve been consciously thinking, “she is rocking that dress!” Or, instead of thinking “she must work out like crazy to look like that,” I’m now thinking “I’m so impressed with her commitment to taking care of herself.” It’s not always easy, and does take consciousness and some practice. But, it’s also incredibly freeing and is giving me space to find peace with my own body. With practice, it allows me to use the same thought process when I look in the mirror and give myself the same respect. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

How have you found peace with your own body?