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.

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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?