Underlying Anger

Hello internet readers. So sorry it has been so long since my last post. It’s been a very busy year and if I’m honest with you, there’s been a fair bit of mild depression keeping me from doing anything more than the absolute bare minimum.

I was always a happy-go-lucky, carefree kid. I was the girl who smiled all the time. People used to describe me as being steady, grounded, thick skinned to the point that problems left me unruffled and slid off my back like water off a duck. I was hopeful. I was an eternal optimist. I could see the silver lining in anything. I was a devils advocate, but always on the side of finding virtue in anyone. I still am those things mostly, but none of us are immune to the world around us and somewhere around high-school my strong persona started taking hits and cracking.  Of course I didn’t know this at the time. It wasn’t until sometime in College that I started to notice the damage. It wasn’t until after I got married and had kids that it really started to weigh me down. And, it wasn’t until last week that I truly realized what it was and the extent of what I had been internalizing.

Let me preface by saying, I love my kids. I am intensely protective, but try not to hover. I am constantly teaching, but try to let them discover. I research EVERYTHING, but try to find the middle ground in every opinion.  I work hard to give my kids structure, but try to be flexible enough for their personalities and needs. Living this kind of dichotomy is draining and exhausting and you get very little recognition or quantifiable rewards for it. Recently I found myself being short tempered with my kids and struggling with this constant underlying simmering irritation. While manning a yard sale for my mother-in-law, I found a book titled, “Getting The Best Of Your Anger” by Les Carter.  I was intrigued, so I picked it up. To be honest, I was kind of expecting it to give me actionable steps to control anger.  It did, to an extent, but not like I was expecting.  The majority of the book was about what anger is, how people express it, what causes it, etc.

Obviously everyone has some working understanding of what anger is, but I was really surprised by what I learned in that book. Anger, a perfectly normal and even beneficial feeling at times, is simply our response to injustice, legitimate or not.  Obviously I am paraphrasing. I don’t have room to write a book and it’s already been written.  You can go buy the book yourself if you are curious (and I would highly recommend it!).  The point is, we all want to feel valued and appreciated. We can either get angry at injustices toward others that devalues or insults them, or we can get angry about injustices towards ourselves.  If the anger is destructive, it is an unhealthy use of anger. If the anger is constructive and respectful, it is a healthy use of anger.  The problem is, most of us default to unhealthy uses of anger.  Stuffing it is an unhealthy use of anger.  Silent treatment is an unhealthy use of anger. Depression can even be the result of an unhealthy use of anger, as well as the stereotypical expressions of anger; yelling, hitting, guilt tripping, etc.  The book described many ways of expressing anger (in both healthy and unhealthy ways), but what I found for myself was that my underlying anger and mild depression was a result of feeling undervalued and disrespected by my family and stuffing it rather than expressing it in a healthy manner because I had the false impression that anger is all bad and ignoring it would make it go away. Right. Like that has ever worked.

Sometimes, it really isn’t healthy to express the anger, even if it’s legitimate, because you know it won’t be received well or it’s not the right time or you can’t think of a respectful way to do it, etc.  In such cases, we should drop the anger and move on.  Of course that’s harder than it sounds. Typically when people “drop” their anger, they actually stuff it and internalize it and hold on to it, allowing it to fester inside until it turns into apathy or depression or something like that.  If we choose to drop something, we have to drop everything about it.  No stewing over it. No bringing it back to sling dirt later. Honestly, this is actually something I’m good at.  I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been unable to remember past offenses, even though I know they happened, because I chose to drop them and forget them. BUT, I am also a pro at internalizing things. Re-hashing them. Analyzing them and picking them to pieces. So yeah, reading the book about anger totally changed my perspective on it.  I could see it for what it was now.  I could see my loved ones anger for what it was.  And the overwhelming feeling I got from it, was compassion.  I could understand now.  I could relate. I could empathize.  Sure reading it hasn’t changed my situation, but it’s changed me.  It’s changed how I view anger. It’s changed how I choose to respond to my own anger, and to the anger of those around me. Why did I feel disrespected? Because it seemed like no one noticed my efforts and my kids were constantly disobeying (of course, they are just toddlers, it’s kind of in their job description to push limits), and I had this subconscious belief that my work should be noticed.  Was I doing it to be noticed?  No.  My motive was and is to raise healthy, kind, well adjusted, kids and my choices and efforts are a result of that.  BUT, the underlying expectation was there, and when it wasn’t fulfilled, I felt disrespected and undervalued.  There will probably be other expectations I am unaware of that I will have to work through. Such is life.  But I do what I do out of love for my family and I know my value is no less or better than theirs, or anyone else.  I choose to do what I do because I feel it is right. For now at least, I am satisfied with the knowledge that I’ve done right. I choose to call anger what it is and move on because living with hidden underlying anger doesn’t do anyone any good and just perpetuates the cycle.   My kids deserve better.  My husband deserves better. I deserve better.

Link To My Food Blog

Just a quick notice; I’ve been getting more follows on my mlhutchinson blog, which is great and fine and all, but I’ve mostly been posting on my food blog which is attached to this one, and I’m not sure you can get there from here.  So in case some of you were actually wanting to follow my food adventures, here is a link to that page so you can follow it. 🙂

Please Stop Villifying Parents!

Hey everyone. I know it’s been a while since I posted on here.  I’ve been posting just about daily on my food blog, Off The Cuff Foodie. Anyway, when I became a mom I was unceremoniously thrust into the mommy wars…just by being a mom and making decisions for my family in what I think is in their best interest. For the most part I try to stay out of the typical debates because honestly, I don’t care if someone breast feeds or uses formula or co-sleeps or vaccinates or doesn’t vaccinate…I know how much I thought about those decisions before I made them. I know how much research I did. I know my own strengths and limitations (for the most part)…I know how hard it was to make those kinds of decisions for myself and my own family, and I would never tell someone they are wrong for the choice they made for THEIR family.  I know how personal it is, because I’m a mom too.  If they ask for my input on a specific topic or want information, I will be glad to share, but I try not to offer it unsolicited.

That being said, sometimes I get really angry when other people attack differing opinions, directly or indirectly, simply because they think differently.  And I don’t just mean arguing why they disagree, I mean severely biased and jaded attacks that try to paint the other opinion as harmful or unfeeling or ignorant…

One of my friends is a new mom, and she posted a link to an “article” about why the “cry it out” method needed to end.  The “article” began by telling a story about the author visiting friends with a baby. Right from the get go, it attacked these parents choices by stressing that the baby stayed in his swing for most of the visit (even if this WERE a true story, which it clearly was not, that may not be where the baby typically spends his time…it may have just been BECAUSE of the visit so mom and dad could actually visit..) and then it made a point of saying the mother abruptly said it was the baby’s bedtime (as though it was wrong to put the baby to bed at a regular time each night).  When the mother put the baby down, the story continued, he began to scream (that was the word choice) and the parents “Ignored” him and said he would calm down eventually.  I know the arguments against cry it out methods, but this author clearly had no actual knowledge of what “cry it out” means or how to implement it.  It was clear, because the language he used would never be used by those who embrace the method, and the actions he stressed are nothing I have experienced from people I know who have used some version of the cry it out method to teach healthy sleep habits. I would also question whether he was even a parent himself (almost every child has a bedtime!).

These kinds of “articles” make me angry, because they vilify people who are simply trying to make the best choices for their family, and they are based on ignorance of other methods.  Maybe both parents work and they can’t spend all night holding their infant because they need sleep too.  Maybe Jr. gets held most of the day and that mans fictitious visit was the only time that day he was NOT held.  Maybe mom has back issues and CAN’T hold her child constantly.  Maybe that couple believed children need independent play time. You can find scientific studies to back up just about any parenting choice, so really, when you attack someone for believing the research they’ve done, you’re also calling the actual scientists liars..or at best fools. And I highly doubt we’re all qualified to tell researchers they are fools.

When I see those kinds of articles I inwardly fume, and it is SO hard sometimes not to respond, but I don’t because I know it would be pointless. Maybe I feel like posting my response on my own blog is my way of “Speaking out” against this kind of thing, but my blog posts never go viral so realistically, it probably does nothing. Still, it’s out there for people to find if they decide they want to look.

Parenting is hard enough without everyone and their neighbor passing judgments on someone else’s personal choices for their family.  Please lets just end the mommy wars!

Just Be Ready

I’ve discovered that I’ve been just a little bit bitter and depressed for some time now.  Not clinically depressed; I can still function and find joy in life, I’ve never considered ending it, I’m still able to recognize blessings and be thankful, etc….but bitterness and discontentment can look a lot like depression sometimes, especially when you start dwelling on what you are bitter or discontented about.  In my case, I wasn’t really able to articulate what it was for a long time, until one night, lying in bed in the middle of the night sleep deprived due to a newborn waking up every 2-3hrs and taking an hour or more to fall asleep, and unable to fall asleep myself because of the stress and an over active mind that I couldn’t “turn off”, practically BEGGING God to give me patience and rest, I distinctly heard in my mind “Just be ready”.

Just be ready – like the maidens expectantly waiting for the bridegroom, and making sure they are ready for him to show up at any time.

Just be ready – like the servants not knowing when the master is coming back, making sure they are doing what was asked of them and keeping the place ready for his return.

Just. Be. Ready.

Maybe it doesn’t immediately make sense, but in that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of rest and release and peace and yes…even patience!  It was like all of a sudden my perspective shifted and I realized I just needed to be ready to do what needed to be done whenever it was required of me. Once I reached that point, I had the realization that all my bitterness and discontentment was coming from mourning the loss of dreams.  I was feeling bitter and discontented because I was feeling like all my dreams had died. Like I had been forced to give them all up when I became a mother and I would never get to do them. It’s true, I HAVE had to give up hoping for some things I used to dream of being/doing, but I was failing to see what I had GAINED instead.  All that moping had made me miss some of the joys and beauty of motherhood and had made me resentful of anything that held me back,…which translated into my kids and marriage.  I didn’t really NOT want them, but I was subconsciously associating them with holding me back from what I thought I wanted, so whenever my responsibility to them demanded more of me, I felt frustrated and irritated. Having that realization didn’t magically make the dreams go away, but I WAS able to let go of them, almost magically, and in the same moment, I wasn’t so irritated by my children’s needs.  It was like all of a sudden, I became content with the position God had put me in for this time.

It’s weird how epiphanies can do that, but I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise…It’s God after all!

Anyway, that is my new mantra…”Just be ready!”.

A living Sacrifice

Lately I’ve been thinking about purpose.

It’s a big theme in the church, and in society in general.  In the church though, we talk about our purpose for being here, and God’s purpose for our lives.  We talk about spiritual gifts, and the great commission, and what it means to be a missionary or a disciple.  The ultimate purpose for our lives is to love God and glorify him.  I don’t think anyone would argue that.  But HOW we do that is what people talk about.

The standard belief, based on my own experience with various sermons on the matter, is that God gives us talents and desires that he wants us to perfect and use for him.  Like the parable of the 3 servants entrusted with money while their master is away. The ones who took the money and increased it were rewarded.  The one who hid the money and just gave it back when the master returned was punished for not being a good steward/manager.  We also tie this in with spiritual gifts and have come up with ways to determine what spiritual gifts we have, based on the things we are good at, the things we have a natural inclination and aptitude for.  That certainly makes it easier to figure out, but I’ve been wondering lately, maybe we have it all wrong.

There is a popular phrase we use when we’re trying something new; “God qualifies the called, he doesn’t call the qualified.”  It’s a comforting thought when we’re starting a new job or ministry opportunity.  We don’t have to be perfect at it right away, if God called us to it, he will qualify us for the job.  But what if we took that one step further.  What if the things we are naturally good at and WANT to do…things we are “Qualified” in… AREN’T the things God calls us to.  What if it’s the opposite?  If we are already qualified to do the job, where is there room for God to be glorified?  Doing something well that we’ve always been good at doing just gives US the glory.  Doing something well that we’ve struggled at and didn’t want to do gives God the glory for bringing us through. Do you see what I mean?

The bible is clear that sacrifice is needed in order to follow God.  We are called to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.  What if that means we are supposed to sacrifice our own desires, our own agendas, in favor of God’s agenda; the advancement of the gospel. Maybe those desires we “naturally” have, are precisely what he wants us to sacrifice.  The value of a sacrifice is in how much it costs.  If it doesn’t cost us anything, is it really sacrifice?

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’ve been struggling with contentment at this stage in my life.  It’s just not anything I ever “dreamed” for.  I am feeling discontented because I’m mourning the loss of my dreams.  I have consistently made choices I belived to be “God” choices, and they have all lead me away from the things I always desired to do.  When I was younger this never bothered me…I saw it more as a “not right now” kind of diversion.  I still had hope God would use my desires and talents for his glory.  But, as I get older and my life deviates farther and farther from those things, that hope is dying.  It sounds terrible, but it’s made me realize that maybe what I thought about spiritual gifts and purpose was all wrong.  Maybe my ministry is right here, in my struggle for patience and a responsibility to raise up the next generation. Maybe my purpose has nothing to do with what I want or like, and everything to do with what God wants to accomplish through me at that time.  Maybe my purpose is in being a good wife and mother, and not in building bridges or singing songs.

I’m not saying God won’t use our natural talents and interests, I mean, he DID give them to us, but I’m not sure we can base our purpose on them.  I’m not sure we’re right in calling them spiritual gifts.  The ability to sing well is wonderful, for instance, but not everyone who can sing well is called to a ministry of music. Some of us are just meant to be in the audience.  It’s hard to give up a dream, but if God’s not at the center of it, you can be pretty sure he won’t use it. I need to be ok with sacrificing the dreams and desires I’ve held to so dearly.  If God wants to use me elsewhere, I need to accept it joyfully and remember, It’s all about God and his kingdom…not me and my interests.

Could Staying At Home Be Harmful?

Sometimes I wonder if our decision to have me stay home has actually hurt my marriage, and by extension, my family.  Both my husband and I agreed early on that we wanted me to be a stay-at-home-mom when the time came.  We both felt it was the best thing for our children and most important in the early developmental stages (infancy to school age).  I don’t believe our opinions on it have changed, but life happened.

I know a lot of the struggle I’m dealing with right now is the result of a combination of things…of individual spending habits, of timing, of lost opportunities, of long term choices and their immediate consequences, of frustrations and missed dreams, of the economy…but the big elephant in the room always seems to be that I stay home.  Maybe it’s just the scapegoat and the real root of the issue is a personal individual one.  Believe you me, I have prayed long and hard about it, and some days I feel very positive about my position as stay-at-home-mom and our future looks bright, even if a bit distant.  But no situation is JUST about ONE individual.

When we were first married, we both had jobs and most of our school loans were in deferment.  We did not lack money.  In fact we grossed a tidy sum that first year.  Enough to move across country to Colorado, so my husband could attend Colorado Christian University for a degree in worship arts.  While I do not regret moving, I do sometimes wish we had saved more and put it towards our loans then…but what do we know when we’re young and comfortable in life?  Anyway, we went to Colorado, we both got jobs, and it was tight at first but God provided.  I saw our marriage grow a lot that year.  Moving to Colorado was good for us.  Then we got pregnant with our first daughter.  We had always intended to come back and settle in Maine, and my husband had been paying more attention to debt (and getting out of debt) so he had chosen to stop going to school and work full time instead.  We had nothing keeping us in Colorado, so we moved back to Maine.  Again, I’m glad we did it. It enabled my mom to be at the birth of our first daughter, which was very important to me at the time.  However, the economy in Maine is much worse than in Colorado, even if the cost of living is a bit lower, and my husband wasn’t able to find work that paid enough for us to get ahead of loans and move out of my parents house where we’d been staying.  On top of our normal monthly expenses, we also had some taxes to pay back due to a short job my husband held where he was considered a private contractor.  My husband called his former boss in Colorado and he practically begged us to come back.  So, we made the decision to go back to Colorado for financial reasons.  We’d pay off the taxes, pay down some loans and come back when we were in a better financial situation.  By this time, I was a stay-at-home-mom.  The move to Colorado did help put us in a better financial situation, but only in that we could now pay our minimums as well as rent. We still weren’t saving much.  We’ve never lived “high on the hog”, but we still probably spent too much on outings and restaurants.  It’s hard not to when you live in a city.  We were doing alright, though I was struggling with adjusting to staying home, and I think my own dissatisfaction and struggle was perhaps wearing on my husband too, along with his own disappointment and dissatisfaction that our finances weren’t improving as much as he’d hoped/wanted.  I really think he started to resent me for staying home.  It’s easy to blame the one who isn’t “working” for financial stress.  All of a sudden I wasn’t using enough coupons, I wasn’t saving enough on groceries, I wasn’t letting him know in time when bills came in.  He never said as much, but I started feeling guilty for wanting to buy even the smallest thing we didn’t need, while he still flippantly spent money on things he probably thought he needed, but I could see no use for.  It’s easy for that to turn into discontent and bitterness.  It’s easy for that to turn into criticism.  But still, even though we weren’t making much headway, we were still making ENOUGH to stay afloat.  Then I got pregnant with our 2nd daughter.  We again started thinking about moving back to Maine, where all our families were and it looked like everything was going to line up perfectly.  My husband found a job that, while not his ideal, would pay well enough with the addition of a nice sign-on bonus, and we had friends of family who were willing to let us stay in a house they had for a reduced rent. Everything seemed to be working out, so we came back to Maine.  Then it all just….didn’t.   The company he was supposed to drive for never called him back to put him in a truck (he’s a truck driver) and the house turned out not to be ready for us.  There was someone else living there.  We weren’t about to kick them out, so we stayed with family and ate through what little savings we had until my husband had to find other work.  The schedule is much better for our family, but it just doesn’t pay enough.  We have too many loans, combined, and they can only be deferred for so long.  We are at a point now where, if we do not get more income by January, we won’t have ENOUGH.

God has always provided for us, and I have faith he will this time too, but the stress of always worrying about finances is really wearing on our marriage and I really think my husband resents me.  It’s not that I haven’t tried to find ways to bring in more money, but it’s a lot more difficult with a toddler to consider.  Most part time jobs don’t pay well enough to cover child care and transportation AND produce income, we only have one car at the moment, and I have yet to find a work from home position that is actually legit.  Most of the ones that are require you to have an undistracted environment and reliable internet, which I certainly don’t have at home.  Other than that there’s working for myself and selling services/products….like crochet or beading on ebay or etsy, or babysitting other people’s children, which I am not really qualified for.  If a friend wanted me to, that would have worked, but I don’t know anyone in my area who needs that service.

And so I sit here, too pregnant to do much (when I try to be productive I always end up over-doing it), but trying to keep up with housework and laundry and groceries and meals, and I wonder if choosing to stay home has hurt my family more than helped.  If my husband can’t provide all we need, is it selfish to insist we try to keep me as a stay-at-home-mom?  I mean, I love my daughter, and I want to be able to stay home with #2 and nurse her exlusively and there’s really no one who’s as good as you to care for your kids, but if we don’t have enough income, isn’t it hurting them more for us to be constantly struggling and constantly dissatisfied with ourselves and each other?  I know the issue isn’t really ME per-se, but I also know no individual stressor is the issue…rather it all combines into overall stress and is a matter of how we individually react/respond to it.  Still, there is only so much I can do at home to help.  I can’t really cut the grocery bill much more and still feed my family healthy meals (and yes, I do meal planning and we eat left overs and I make meals from left overs and have done some freezing and canning this year).  I can’t cut household expenses because I already don’t buy anything we don’t immediately need.  And all my attempts to find stay-at-home work (including selling stuff I’ve made on etsy) just haven’t worked out.  It makes me very sad to feel like my husband sees me as a burden.  I’m thankful he doesn’t react that way towards our daughter, she certainly doesn’t deserve that, but neither do I and maybe, just maybe, it would be better for all of us if I found work outside the home.  Even if I didn’t make a whole lot, it would perhaps look more productive to my husband.  I understand it’s hard for him to work so hard and still see us falling behind, and then come home and not see the results of my work.  Obviously they are there, especially in our daughters behavior compared to other children, but they are difficult to quantify and people don’t usually notice them until they aren’t there.  I understand it’s hard for him to understand how I can be so tired all the time and want his help when he gets home from work.  If you’ve never been a stay-at-home parent, it’s almost impossible to really understand the mental fatigue that is the norm.  I understand these things, and I don’t want to compromise my daughters, but sometimes….I just wonder…in the long run, has it really helped my family for me to stay home?

The Clash of Parenting Styles

I know I’ve mentioned before some of my struggles with motherhood and expectations I feel from others.  The “mommy wars” are very real, especially in the U.S. it seems, where we want everything to be perfect and we harshly judge ourselves and other’s if it’s not.  Today, as I was reading a couple articles online about differences between modern-day American parenting styles and European parenting styles, I realized that was exactly what I was struggling against.

As a whole, American parenting styles tend to place the children in control.  Parents are afraid of their children’s temper tantrums, they never want them to feel disappointment, and they don’t prioritize teaching patience and delayed satisfaction.  As a result, kids are demanding, whiny, rude, disobedient, and otherwise unruly (and as a result, American parents have less satisfaction in parenting than European parents.)  These generalizations come from the two articles I read this morning, this one, and this one, but the truth of them rings painfully true when I consider my own experience as an American parent and my interaction with other American parents.

What I realized as I was reading these articles, was that my parenting style is more in line with European styles, which is a direct clash in many cases with American parenting styles.  As a result I came to two “epiphanies” if you will.

1. I shouldn’t feel ashamed or upset at myself for not devoting all of my waking time and energy to my daughter.  This “expectation” is bred by the American influences around me, that, while they never expressly say I SHOULD devote my time to my children this way, reinforce the idea with never ending phrases and judgments like “Your child shouldn’t have to give up his/her childhood so you can live your own.  You should sacrifice so THEY don’t have to.” – Not a bad sentiment, but the underlying message is that the child should always come first all of the time and be the priority in every situation.  Sometimes people do have to wait, sometimes people do have to be patient, and as individuals, we still need to take care of our own well being, otherwise we’re no good to anyone around us. The same is true of children.  Yes, we shouldn’t continue being children when we grow up and have our own children, but it doesn’t mean we become slaves to our children either.  From now on, I refuse to feel ashamed of not playing every developmental game out there with my daughter, of not coming up with endless toddler games to make her feel entertained…she needs time during the day to learn to entertain herself, and some of the best developmental lessons are learned by exploration that is best done on her own.  If I show her how a Lego works, she will keep coming to me to put it together, especially if I keep obliging.  If she figures it out for herself, she will be able to play with the Legos on her own for much longer and probably find a bunch of ways to put them together that are entirely products of her OWN imagination.  Yes, sometimes we need to show them, initially, how to do something, but after that, they need to be encouraged to do it themselves.

2. American parenting is often called “over-parenting”, “Helicopter parenting”, etc.  The idea is that we hover and jump at every cry, whine, question, altercation, etc.  While reading these articles I came to the epiphany that perhaps there is such a thing as Helicopter GRANDparenting.  For example, my mother definitely was not a helicopter parent with myself and my sisters.  I’m sure much of my parenting style comes from growing up with her.  But for some reason, with her grandchildren, she is so much more…nervous? Uncertain?  I’m not sure what the proper word would be, but she definitely hovers. If I say “no” to something and my daughter cries, my mother immediately wants to swoop in and placate her.  Like I said, this is not something she did when SHE was parenting, but for some reason as a grandparent she does.  Maybe it’s a result of forgetting much of how she parented us, maybe it has something to do with working in the public school system and witnessing the results of American styles of parenting daily….either way, she is a much different “parent” with her grandchildren than she was with us.  The result of this, is that my daughter gets two different messages that conflict each other every day (since we are currently staying with my mother).  One says, “you should never be unhappy and I will make sure that is so”, and the other says “You will experience disappointment, and I’m sorry, but I believe you are smart enough to learn how to help yourself.”  When my daughter is crawling around under the table and gets “stuck” and starts whining I tell her, “You can figure it out sweetheart. You got yourself in there.”  And guess what, she does figure it out.  When my mother finds her in such a situation, she removes the obstacle for her.  Can you see the difference?  One says, “I believe you can” and the other subtly reinforces the idea that she needs someone to do it for her and the role of these adults in her life IS to do it for her.  One teaches perseverance, and the other, dependence.  Another example is with food.  As a toddler, my daughter is quickly developing her language skills and she can ask for a lot of things now (Thank goodness!).  However, if I give in to every request for “foo” (Food), she will snack all day and not eat her meals.  If I tell her to wait for dinner time, lunch time, snack time, breakfast, etc. she will learn patience and have a better appetite.  Giving in teaches instant gratification, establishing times to eat and enforcing them teaches patience and obedience. Having these clashing styles influence my daughter daily, adds to the struggle of parenting.  I actually think I am sometimes more frustrated by my mother than by my daughter.

I feel a heck of a lot better about my struggles now that I’ve read those two articles.  It’s funny how sometimes you need someone else to say something to really understand what you’ve been thinking on your own.  I value patience and obedience, I want my daughter to learn to be independent.  Therefore, It is only natural I would struggle with expectations I feel based on parenting styles that do not emphasize those things.

Obviously this is not to say American parents are bad, heavens no, we just emphasize different things; like sharing, individuality, and open-mindedness. These are still good things, they are just not the ONLY good things.  I think sometimes, and this is a judgment on myself as well as my own nation, Americans tend to think their way of doing things is the ONLY good/right way of doing it.  But you know what, it’s not.  If you value patience in your children, teach patience.  If you value sharing, teach sharing.  Just don’t ignore the other important qualities, or lessen them, in the process. Why not have children who are patient sharers, in stead of just patient, or just sharers?

Be encouraged moms, you don’t need to give in to pressures from others.  You don’t need to kill yourself trying to meet your own needs and devote all your available time to munchkin at the same time.  You don’t need to feel judged by parents with differing values than your own. The underlying message here is “balance” and “modeling”.  If we model the behavior we want our kids to learn, and balance that instruction with allowing them opportunities and times to practice, fail, and succeed on their own, they will eventually learn it.  We know, based on research, that people learn more effectively when they discover things for themselves.  This is no less true for school subjects than it is for life skills.  Why should we view parenting as any different than teaching? It is all an exercise in learning, is it not?

Lets not judge other parents parenting styles, and instead, encourage parents and reinforce their efforts where we can.  Rather than getting annoyed at the toddler having a meltdown in the grocery store and giving mom and child disapproving looks, say something like “Sorry hunny, you’re mommy/daddy said no.” or just give an understanding smile. And when someone says something like this to you or your child, don’t get embarrassed and lash out at that person. The more our authority is reinforced to our children by people OTHER than mom and dad, the more they will both obey mom and dad, and respect other positions of authority…particularly if mom and dad also reinforce those other positions of authority as having authority. We are not islands.  We need other people to help mold our kids and reinforce the messages we try to instill in them daily.  My grandfather always used to say, “when you receive criticism/instruction/correction consider it.  Is it true?  Is there any truth to it? If not, ignore it.  If yes, respond accordingly.”

Please, lets just embrace the many styles of parenting and help each other out.  Parenting is hard stuff no matter how you approach it.  Realizing your own style and embracing it (and other’s) may not make it easier, but hopefully it will make it even a little less stressful.  Hopefully we can feel even a little bit more confident, and thus enjoy our children even that little bit more.

The Crossroads of Knowing and Feeling

Can I just be perfectly open and honest here for a moment?

Motherhood is hard.  Hands down the hardest thing I have ever been called on to do.

And yet, I still believe it IS what God has called me to do at this time in my life.

There are a lot of things I KNOW about being a mother.  I KNOW it is a sacred responsibility God has placed on me.  I KNOW actions speak louder than words and my modeling good behavior is more impactful than any words I say. I KNOW I am not alone in struggles I experience.  I KNOW my children are not really my own. They belong to God and he has entrusted my husband and I to care for them and teach them the way they should go. I KNOW all children are a gift from God.  I KNOW their behavior is not necessarily a reflection on my parenting (but COULD very likely be a reflection on my OWN behavior).  I KNOW that parenthood, just like marriage, is a lesson and exercise in humility and righteousness.  The relationships we have with our spouses and children are meant to mirror God’s relationship with us.  I KNOW that my daughter is just a toddler and does not understand a lot, nor is she as “disobedient” as it appears to me.  One of my biggest pet peeves is willful ignorance/disobedience, but often what LOOKS like purposeful disobedience to me is just her being a toddler who doesn’t understand her choices let alone that any of them are “disobedient”.  I KNOW that this stage of my life is just as much a learning and growing stage for me as it is for her. I am learning and being refined maybe even more than my daughter is. And, ironically, if I learn my lessons she’ll learn them too (back to that whole “modeling behavior” thing).

I have noticed lately that all the things that frustrate and annoy me about parenting and my daughter’s behavior at times, usually boil down to my frustration and disappointment at my OWN short comings.

I get frustrated and loose my temper when my daughter gives me a power struggle over food, because it makes me feel like a failure at a mother if my daughter won’t eat, I don’t understand her reasoning (there may not even BE a reason), and I feel like she is purposefully disobeying me.  What I KNOW; that I can’t force her to eat and THAT would make me more of a terrible mother than offering her good options that she just chooses not to eat, that NO reason is a perfectly normal reason for a toddler and it could very well be my fault for giving her too many snacks before hand, and that to her, it’s a matter of not wanting it in her mouth and has nothing to do with whether or not choosing to spit it out is a “bad” thing to do; sits in the back of my head and condemns me while what I FEEL (irrational or not) comes out in frustration and annoyance.

And then the fact that my FEELINGS won out over my KNOWLEDGE makes me feel even worse.

I see my mother walk my daughter around the yard and after the initial pleasure I get from how sweet it is and how thankful I am that my daughter is developing a relationship with her grandmother, I immediately feel a twinge of guilt that it’s grammy walking her around outside, not me.  I then judge myself for sitting on the couch too much, watching too much tv, being on the computer too much, etc.  Whatever it is I am doing, I feel like I should be sacrificing it to do those sorts of things with my daughter.  Obviously I KNOW that I cannot always do that and it is good for her to spend time with other family members and develop relationships with them, but again, the feeling wins out over the knowledge.

I see my sister coloring with my daughter and playing with her toys with her, and I get a similar dichotomy of emotions and thoughts.  And then, when I TRY to do those things with her, it always seems that she purposefully makes it difficult for me.  Like insisting to sit in the puddles when mom walks her,  or refusing to color when mom tries to color with her, or throwing her toys when mom tries to play with her…. I want to do those things with her, but maybe they are just things she does with THEM, maybe that’s their relationship, and maybe MY reaction to her when she does that and MY trying too hard just makes it not fun for her.

Then there are the “expectations” I feel from other’s (whether they have ever verbally expressed these “expectations” or not).

Everytime my mother picks up after my daughter, I feel judged, because I should be doing that.

Everytime my husband starts a load of laundry on his own, I feel judged, because that’s my job.

Everytime my mom or husband comments that her diaper is dirty, and they get to it before I do, I feel judged, because shouldn’t I, as the mother, be dropping everything to make sure her diaper is clean? So if they get to it first, doesn’t that mean I’m slacking somehow?

Maybe it’s not obvious, but in all these scenarios, my struggle is with ME, not my daughter, or my mother, or my sister, or anyone else.

Again, let me reiterate, I KNOW these are irrational thoughts and I KNOW I need to be more patient with MYSELF (as well as those around me).  What I am trying to convey here, is the struggle I deal with between what I KNOW to be true, and what I FEEL to be true.  For me, for right now, this is what makes motherhood so hard.  I am seeing all the ways I fall short, and it’s beating me up….and my response to it just reveals more short comings!  I have always been a person who, when confronted with something about myself that I do not like, actively takes steps to change it.  This works fine when one is not overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of “flaws”.

Self shame and guilt are not necessarily all bad.  They are a result of conviction and a catalyst for change.  Obviously it would be much preferable to be convicted, recognize a need for change, and then change, without going through some shame and guilt, and sometimes it does work that way.  But, most of the time, (and I am sure I am not alone here) there is some time of feeling disgusted and ashamed of our shortcomings, and maybe even a little bit of feeling sorry for ourselves because we have to give up yet another thing.  How can I expect my daughter to be patient, If I am not?  How can I expect my daughter not to overreact, if I overreact?  Of COURSE I am ashamed of myself when I see these things, the struggle is in moving forward and not getting bogged down by the negative.  The struggle is in recognizing, in the moment, what is REALLY the issue, and RESPONDING, not REACTING.  The struggle is in prioritizing what I KNOW over what I FEEL.

So I will focus on one thing at a time, and rejoice in the little victories.  Right now, I am focusing on patience (along with my daily time with God, which is crucial ALL the time because my closeness to him directly affects my ability to change…since he’s the one with the power to change me, not me).  When I have a day that I can stop myself and exercise patience when I might otherwise have gotten frustrated, I thank God for helping me with that little victory.  And when I have a moment where the frustration wins out, I ask God to forgive me (though the hardest part is forgiving myself). It is a daily struggle but I press on in the hopes that lasting change will eventually come and in the mean time, my daughter will learn both perseverance, patience, compassion, and forgiveness through watching ME learn my lessons, and hearing ME apologize and ask forgiveness.

Please understand, what I FEEL rarely comes across to my family.  I try very hard not to let my own insecurities and struggles affect them negatively, and when I do loose my temper,  it comes out more in exasperated sighs and sometimes yelling, and I pretty much always apologize right away, because I never want my struggles to make THEM feel less, or make THEM feel judged. I know I can’t always control how my words or actions make people FEEL, but I try my best not to contribute negatively to people’s perceptions of themselves.  I want my husband to feel affirmed and confident in our marriage.  I want my daughter to grow up self assured and confident in her identity and secure in our love and pride in her. These are the sorts of things, along with my desire to be the woman God created me to be, that motivate me to keep struggling.

Motherhood is hard, but the fruits of it, if I allow myself to be changed, are far more valuable than anything else I could ever accomplish….for myself….and for my family.

“It’s good that we struggle, cause dead things don’t struggle” ~ Unknown

Modesty is a Shared Responsibility

I realize it’s been a while.  Life has been crazy hectic. I also realize I don’t necessarily write about “new” things….actually I think my blog is more defined by writing about old boring topics from what I hope (and probably convince myself) is a logical and thought provoking perspective.  Anyway, being that it is summer and people are choosing to wear less clothing and the old “modesty” argument is resurfacing with all it’s extreme opposite views, I would like to, hopefully, provide a more moderate view on modesty.

First of all, it is well known and documented that many people, men AND women, are visually stimulated. It’s why we have the phrase “sex sells”. Companies know if they put an attractive woman on their add dressed in a sexually appealing way, they will sell more of their product.  This is not a crazy religious perspective, it’s the truth, and it’s even admitted by mainstream marketers.  If we KNOW this and we still choose to dress with such an image in mind, then we are intentionally trying to stimulate people, even if it’s subconscious.  It might just be intended for one person, maybe that guy at school you like, but there’s nothing stopping everyone else around you from getting the same stimulation, whether they intentionally notice or not.  The whole point of dressing to show off your body, is to SHOW OFF YOUR BODY…like it’s something on display that you want people to look at.

Now, before anyone tries to jump down my throat about adding to rape culture and blaming the woman and being secure in your own image and all that, just stop for a moment and consider what I’ve said.  If you are KNOWINGLY dressing to SHOW OFF, then you cannot turn around and be upset at the attention you get.  Yes, men and boys should be taught to respect women, whether they respect themselves or not, but likewise, women should respect men….it’s really not even just a men/women issue, it’s a matter of respecting that you are in community with other people.  What is seen cannot be unseen.  Some people are better at forgetting things they’ve seen, and some aren’t.  Respecting other people, in this matter, really boils down to being conscious of how you are contributing to the stimulation and temptations other people face.  Sure, maybe it’s THEIR issue that they find a woman’s exposed stomach attractive and tempting, for example, but do you really want to be the one contributing to it?  It might not seem so bad to think of your peer dwelling on an image of you, but what about your friends brother, or dad? Or, in the case of a guy showing off his body, would you want your best buds mom dwelling on that image? The only difference is that YOU don’t want the attention from THEM.  Can we really blame them for being visually stimulated?

I’m not saying take all the pressure and responsibility off men, I’m saying lets SHARE it. Men, take responsibility for what you know tempts you and the necessary steps you need to limit or resist it, and pay attention to what you wear to attract women’s attention. Women do likewise.  I’m not saying we can’t dress attractively, but just consider when you get dressed thinking about that person you want to notice you, that everyone ELSE you meet could notice too.  If you wouldn’t want your friends dad seeing you in it, maybe it shouldn’t be worn in a public place.

I used to wear bikinis in public occasionally before I was married, though I never cared for the attention I got for it, but now that I AM married, I only break out the bikini when I know it’s just my husband and I.  He says he wouldn’t mind me wearing a bikini to the beach…he likes the idea of showing me off, which just shows how much he finds me attractive….but I don’t like the idea of OTHER people seeing the body that I’ve gifted specifically to my husband.  There’s something sacred about saving a piece of you for just that one special person.  For me, it’s a way I show respect for our intimate relationship.  It is also a way I show respect to other women trying to do the same.

I am not going to point fingers or blame other women for how they contribute to my husbands daily visual stimulation, he says he finds me attractive and he chose to marry me, so it is his responsibility to respect and honor that commitment.  I just wish more women would realize (and men, it just tends to be more of a women issue) that their actions affect the people around them.  No, it is not our responsibility to try to control other people’s reactions, but it IS our responsibility to respect the people around us, and in this case, that means being conscious of where you are and the image you are conveying.  Anyone who tries to say it shouldn’t matter what you wear is being foolish.  It always matters what we wear.  Why do you think there are phrases like, “dress to impress”, “dress for the job you want”, “Business casual”, “Black tie appropriate attire”, “Shirt and shoes required”, etc.  All these phrases show that what we wear very much DOES convey a specific message and appropriateness for various occasions.  Whether it SHOULD is irrelevant. It DOES.  So be conscious of that and respect those around you. People expect to see bikini’s at the beach, but not sauntering down the aisle at a department store.  People expect to see suits and ties at an office building, but maybe not at a construction site.  Modesty is about being MODERATE and dressing appropriately for the occasion. Please lets just respect the people around us and take responsibility for our selves and our choices, and stop pointing fingers at everyone else.  It doesn’t matter what “THEIR” problem might be, what matters is how WE choose to portray ourselves.


I recently read an article about how “privileged” people should stop playing devils advocate and discussing things, trivially and perhaps stereotypically, that they have little knowledge about.

Of course no one should be talking trivially about things they don’t understand, I’m not arguing that.  But it’s not a “privileged” versus “under privileged” issue.  You can’t profile someone and in the same breath tell them not to profile others…that’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

Usually when I hear the word “privileged” in association with a grouping of people, it is used to profile people of white anglo-saxon decent from middle or upper “class” families.  According to this, I am “privileged”.  I am of European decent, my skin is usually classified as “white”, my family was financially stable (and thus considered middle class), and I’ve been educated. The only thing I’m not, is Male, though some would say I am “privileged” as a “white” woman too.

All of that makes assumptions and tries to profile or classify me into a neat little box labeled “privileged”.  It also usually is used with a negative connotation…as though I should be ashamed of being born “privileged”.   What those “facts” don’t tell you, is that my ancestors immigrated to Canada dirt poor, from Ireland.  Potato farmers fleeing the potato famine. They were surfs there, owned no land or house, and most definitely were not “privileged”.  My ancestor that moved from Canada to America was a woods worker, and illiterate.  He couldn’t even spell his name.  It wasn’t until my grandfather’s generation that my family could possibly have been considered “middle class”…he was a mill worker and veteran.  Yes they owned a home and had a car and were able to feed and clothe their families, but they worked hard for it.  It wasn’t given to them.  Even my parents had to make their own way…and I have no expectation of receiving anything from THEM.  My father spent the first 5 years of his life in an inner-city burroughs in Chicago, and his being “white” did him no favors there.  Not to mention when Irish immigrants first came to America, they were discriminated against just as bad as any nationality…people called them “stupid mic’s”.  They were seen as dirty. My Dad is in the military and was a mill worker just like his dad until he was laid off when the mill shut down.  He showed initiative, so he was fortunate to get into a program that put him through business school.  He was the first of his family to go to College.  THAT opened more doors for him than anything, and THAT is why my parents valued education and made sure my sisters and I had the opportunity to go on to college.  By the time I got to college people were already arguing minorities versus majority and the only thing that helped me there was that my dad and grandfather were veterans and I was a woman going into a science field.  It got me a few scholarships, but that’s about it. I still have over 60,000 worth of college debt to work through.  Somehow being “fortunate” enough to have a sizeable debt load before ever leaving home doesn’t make me feel very privileged.  If my family had been just a little bit poorer, I would have gotten more pell grants.  If I had been just a little bit more “ethnic” I would have been eligible for more scholarships.

Being a woman, I have been objectified by people.  I have had ignorant comments about “a woman’s place” directed at me. People are still surprised when I tell them my undergraduate degree was in engineering, as though it is shocking a woman could be an engineer.  I have had people in my own family, who know me and my accomplishments, devalue my opinion in favor of a man’s. When I was younger I had a rather wild style.  I liked neon chunky heels and tight fitting shirts.  I never wore anything immodest, but I was flashy.  And you know what, people made assumptions about me.  I even had a teacher tell me not to wear my heels to school anymore because they were too “distracting”.  I’ve even had people assume I’m ignorant simply because I profess to be a Christian.  And that’s all WITHIN the U.S….I can assure you if I went to some place in the middle east, any “privilege” I might have here would be worth NOTHING.

“Privilege” is just another stereotype, another way of profiling people, and you cannot in one breath call a group of people privileged, and in the same breath tell them not to profile other’s.  You cannot make assumptions about a group of people and at the same time tell them not to make assumptions about other’s.  It is RUDE.  I’m sorry if my ancestry is offensive to you, but I am not ashamed that my illiterate, surf, potato farmer, woods worker ancestors managed to make life better for their descendants.  Every culture has their group of people that are “privileged”.  If you happened to be born in Rome during the roman empire, you enjoyed certain “privileges” as a roman citizen.

I’m not saying there’s no such thing as privilege.  Every stereotype has at least a small grain of truth to it.  I’m not saying it isn’t arrogant and rude to assume you know something about someone else’s station in life, but it goes both ways.  People who are “poor” know no more about the lives of “rich” people than “rich” people know about “poor” people…not without TRYING to learn and understand.  We absolutely should take our blessings and advantages in life and be thankful for them and use them to bless others.  I am all for that.  But we really shouldn’t be vilifying people for things they can’t control.   Calling people “privileged” in this way is rude, and profiling, and we should really stop using it.