Having it All

A re-post for Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day!

First off, I have to apologize for using the most overused title in all of women’s literature. For many reasons, this is a subject that is often discussed and will never be resolved. Women ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” For the people who really know me, this is a funny question because I don’t really do that much. It is a lot of smoke and mirrors, truly. This is especially true compared to the women who came before me.

I have six kids. My mom had seven. From the time she was 22, until the time she was 53, she had children that needed raising. She had no formal college degree and no work experience to speak of, even well into her 30′s. But when my dad finished his education and went to work for the IRS, he was not allowed to work a second job, so Mom went to work outside the home. She applied at a Piece Goods store, something she knew about because she sewed all our clothes for years. That was the beginning of my mom’s life as a “working mom.” It was the 70′s. She was not alone.

I’m about to turn 39 in a few days. The first time I was aware of my mother’s age was at her 39th birthday. I was five years old. My youngest is now five. This was near the beginning of her working mom days. I have never been to college or had a job. Well, not since I filed and answered phones for an insurance office my senior year in high school. I have wondered if I could do what she did, and she would say, “of course you would if you had to, like I did.” But becoming the manager of a store is not exactly having it all, granted.

My mother circa 1965ish

Later, my shy mother would take on a sales job that was totally out of her range of experience. She would go on to be very successful at her job, even making more money than my dad for a few years. It was the 80′s. She was not alone in this either. I was entering my teens and I knew my mother did not like this job most of the time, but she was very good at it nonetheless. It was a time when we needed that income for college for my sisters and all the things teenagers need. I really don’t think I could do that, but she would tell me I could, if I had to, like she did. But again, a door to-door, drive-all-over-the-territory, fill-out-Saturday-paperwork job ain’t exactly having it all, I know.

In 1988, when I was 17, Mom landed the perfect job for her. She became a tour guide for a local bus tour company. Mom has said many times that raising seven children uniquely prepared her for leading retirees around all over the country. She got to travel and make money doing it. She got to take my dad with her occasionally and she got to visit her children and grandchildren around the country. She was loved by everyone who traveled with her. She had been preparing for this all her life, raising children, managing a store, going door to door until the shyness was no more. She was in her 50′s and she got to see the country and have a great time doing it. This I’m sure I could not do, no matter what you say, Mom.

My mom is a praying woman who leaves the worries of this life to a mighty God. She was 39 like me, with no IRA, no 401k, probably not even money in a jar anywhere. Now she has been retired from the travel job for years. At 70 years old, she and my dad celebrated 50 years of marriage. She enjoys her grandchildren, bakes cookies, visits the nursing homes, gets her nails done, and does needlework. That may not be your dream, but it is the very definition of fulfillment for her. At no one time did she “have it all” but if you add it all up now, it is more than she ever dreamed.

Knowing all this history about my mom has always helped me not to panic about what I don’t know or haven’t done yet. I feel sure there is a plan for me and I try to stay ready for what I am meant to do. I’m pretty sure, I’m meant to have it all.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer. 29:11

Two Years of Blogging

birthday-candle-2-thumb63639961Today is the second anniversary of starting my blog. I still don’t know what the point of it all is except that people still do searches looking for help and ideas and they read what I have learned. The blog has over 14,000 views now. That’s pretty cool, right?

People find me mostly through Google searches. As I have shared before, this can get pretty weird. There’s still an undercurrent of jealousy toward Ann Voskamp that leads to this blog. There are a lot of parents reluctant to send their kids to sleepovers that can read this post. And then there’s one Google search that should make us all reluctant to send our kids to sleepovers. Everyone, seriously look into what your kids are searching. There are several searches that cause me to send up a prayer. I will type it out exactly as it is on my search information on my analytics: how to get dirty at an all girls sleepover 5th grade. I wish I was kidding and I hope they ended up doing something like this. 

Anyway, if you have been reading, I appreciate it so much. I am compelled to write by a drive I don’t fully understand. Thanks for participating while I figure it all out.

Our “Most Pressing Decorating Dilemma” ?

coffee tableIn addition to themed baths and elaborate birthday parties, we have important household responsibilities. Has your coffee table been sitting around un-styled? Come on you slacker. Get it together. You can squeeze in some coffee table styling if you would just organize your time better. Thankfully, we have this article to help us with this priority. Don’t just sit there! Go!

Seriously….No.

Themed Baths? No.

Image

Themed Baths ? No.

Giving your child a bath is right up there with reading them a story or fixing them a meal. It is wholesome and good and loving. You can talk or play. You can nurture and bond. You are not required in the least to give your child’s bath a theme! Get them clean without getting soap in their eyes and you are mom of the year. Bonus points for having a clean towel on hand. Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one bath every four days for your child? Four days! Themes were not ever mentioned by the AAP. File this under No.

The Coalition of No

Saying-NoToday I’m restarting my blog with a new focus and a new mission. A coalition. This new site will be a place for parents who are ready to say, “enough is enough” to any number of pressures coming against their ability to parent their children. We are increasingly living in a Pinterest-project, Facebook-posting world with an audience of critics. I want to provide an on-line safe haven for those who want to opt out of all the madness and just raise their kids. I’m certainly not  anti-Facebook or anti- Pinterest ( I have over 3,000 pins) but too much of it is plain ridiculous.

The power of “Yes” is a big topic these days, saying Yes to life and being positive and all that. I am a positive,optimistic person and I will say Yes to opportunities and I will try new things on a whim, like this blog for instance. But, I believe strongly in the positive side of No. No is freedom. No is hope. No is the guardrail that keeps you from the ravine. No is the Old Testament that leads to the need for the New. No is life. To say Yes to something means you say No to something else.

I want to bring back the power and beauty of No to parenting. We don’t have to say Yes because the other parents do. Especially if we all start saying No. The kids are starting to rule because parents can’t or won’t say No. Let’s join together to turn the tide. We won’t dominate, hover or helicopter. We won’t break spirits or do any of the damage done to us that makes us so afraid of No.

We can bring an end to hearing that so-and-so’s mom lets them do this or that. We can stop giving elaborate, expensive birthday parties.We can stop giving out goody bags to children who are privileged enough to attend the parties we give.  We can resist the call to pack lunches in the shape of cartoon characters or arrange a snack plate to form a caterpillar.  There are so many things we can opt out of if we simply take the time to dial it all down a few notches. Let’s get to it. caterpillar

Missing You – Dinner for Six in the Emptying Nest

I only get out six plates for dinner now. I used to have to think through who was working or out with friends and then do a little math, ending up with six or seven or eight. Now I just get out six plates. This is not enough and it will always be a little bit sad. Another daughter has already moved out.  She didn’t plan to, but daughter #2 slowly weaned us off her presence by being gone more and more. Turns out to be a merciful way to adjust.

One month ahead of her wedding, she moved out to what will be their apartment together. My oldest moved out after her wedding, so this was new for me. Her apartment complex looks so nice from the road. Is this a good thing or does it make her a target for burglars? There are lots of people milling about around there. Is this a good thing or does it mean more possible criminals to keep an eye on? Everyone around her seems nice, but you know it’s always the nice quiet neighbors who end up on the news. These are the crazy thoughts that play tag in my head when I visit her.

As for the weddings that lead to all this moving out, I don’t think I can write on and on with wedding advice. Weddings are like babies; the first one makes you frightened and full of plans and advice,big on schedules and obsessive to details. The second one just makes you realize how much you don’t know, how much help you need, and how tired you are. Especially if you have two in one year. See? Just like babies. So fitting that it works this way with my first two babies. Their weddings will be a reflection of their very different personalities. Annie’s was bigger, including anyone and everyone. It was spring and pastel and in the big woods. Lydia’s will be smaller, intimate, with warm colors and inside a small chapel – downright cozy on a fall day. Like with children, one is not better than the other, just very different.

One very incorrect assumption I’ve run into is that I don’t miss one child because there are so many left. Of course this is not true. Each child leaves a void when they go. I will always miss them. I miss every stage of them. I miss little pudgy Lydia and grown woman Lydia. At least I can call and visit woman Lydia. Then there’s the bonus of her husband-to-be. He is the perfect fit for our crazy family. We could use another brother or two around here, so we are loving the addition of two big brothers in one year. Even if they are to blame for this emptying nest.

pudgy Lydia

When you are falling in love, you hear every song as a love song. When your kids are moving out, you start to hear things differently. I have always loved the song “Missing You” by Amy Grant. It always seemed like a melancholy song about lost love. Now I’m thinking Amy penned this one when her first child moved away. Listen to the lyrics and see if you agree. Yes, I know that is not Amy Grant, it is Alanis Morrissette, but it is the only link I could find. Looking at her face while listening to a very tame Amy Grant will just have to serve as comic relief for this sad song. Isn’t is ironic? 

I Think I Can Talk About It Now – Wedding Lessons

Aaand….they’re off!

Over three months have passed since my oldest daughter got married. It has taken that long for me to get clear on what happened and what I learned from all of it. There were so many intense lessons of a practical and emotional nature. Hindsight is not 20/20 in my case. So much of it is still a blur. I’m deeply indebted to the moms that were ahead of me on the wedding path that gave me all the advice I could take in.  Now it’s my turn to pass on some of what I learned. In this post, I will focus on the emotional lessons. These are the things I learned in conversations; things they don’t put on the timelines and the checklists even thought they should. These are just for the MOB’s out there, especially the DIY-ers, who need a heads-up like I did.

You may be sitting alone at your daughter’s wedding. Chances are, your family will all be in the wedding – everyone but you! You might want to arrange for your parents to be sitting with you rather than behind you. If you are married to your daughter’s father, he will eventually join you, but be prepared to be seated alone while you watch your family participate in the ceremony.

I was so worried about crying too much. I am an easy crier, at weddings especially. The best advice I received, hands down, was to cry myself out before the big day. A wise friend told me to give in to the crying whenever I felt it coming on. On the drive out to the venue the day before the wedding, I was alone and thinking of how it would all soon be over. These thoughts led to tears and I remembered my friend’s advice. I pulled over in the parking lot of a tiny church and cried and cried. It was probably the most I have ever cried because I was alone, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone being concerned over my distress. More than that, I think I gave in to it so completely because I had permission and a legitimate reason to let it flow and cleanse all the tension and sadness. Let me tell you, it worked wonders! On the day of the wedding I barely shed a tear. I was free to be joyful because I had mourned already. Trust me – give in to the big cry.

Be sure to take a moment with the bride’s father to marvel at the beauty and wonder that is your daughter. Everything changes after this day, but you two will always be her parents. Embrace the transformation and really watch it all change right before your eyes.

You and your daughter may have been working as a team toward a mutual goal for several months. As soon as the reception starts to wind down, that is all over and you two are at cross purposes. She wants to leave. You want her to stay a little longer. Worse yet, she has an accomplice that likely wanted to leave an hour ago. This stings more than a little, to see the people you went to all this trouble for making a dash for the door. Brace yourself and try to remember when it was you. That helped me a little.

too late to say goodbye

Plan your goodbye time. We failed to plan and it all ended awkwardly with talk of paying vendors and taking care of business. A meaningful goodbye takes a little planning. You want your own private goodbye before the happy couple does the photo-op goodbye.

It all goes by in a blur. One moment I was deliriously happy that the ceremony was perfect and everyone I loved was in the same room and my daughter was so happy. The next, everyone was leaving, all 200 plates are dirty, and I was more tired than I can ever remember being. Make sure you have not depleted all your help before the wedding. Reserve a couple of friends to stay with you until the work is all done. I let all my hard-working friends go home when they offered to help. That left me, my husband, and two sisters to undo what it took months to pull together. I put this under the emotional tips because it was very depressing to suddenly be alone with so much to do. I had imagined a big after-party with music playing, dish washing and laughing….nope. You have to plan that too if it’s going to happen.

Remains of the Day

Then you are home and your life can get back to normal. Whatever that was. Only, you may find you don’t like normal anymore. There’s something addictive about having a project and a deadline. It took the wind out of my sails to be left with nothing pressing to do. Have a plan for this too. Buy a book to read or plan a little get away for you and your husband. Have something to look forward to after the wedding is over.

A few days ago, my second oldest daughter got engaged and they are planning a November wedding! Two weddings in one year – no problem, right? Most likely, I will need a lot more advice. Hopefully, I will learn many more lessons. If I can retain any of it, I will pass it on. In the meantime. say a prayer for us. It’s not easy realizing I am nearly done with my part of raising His child.