Journey of Motherhood

Happy New Year from The Motherhood Collective!

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For those of you who joined us for the first time yesterday morning, welcome! We enjoyed meeting each of you and truly hope you were able to connect, learn and receive support. If you have any questions about yesterday's topic, panelists, our resources, please let me know: lbarnes@themotherhoodcollective.org. The Café panelists covered a vast array of subjects, from adding value to our children to their methods of correction. They encouraged us to embrace today, reminding us that the challenges we face today will fade and new obstacles will arise with each year of growth (even when our children are grown!). Each season with our children is precious and brief. Eileen spoke of how she writes out a blessing for her children full of hopes for their future and affirmations of who they are today. She reads this to them on their birthday and frames them. What a beautiful idea!

Our hope for this year is to bring more depth to our education and support by serving you in love, on purpose and with focus. We are honored to create spaces where women of all philosophies, parenting theories, ages, and backgrounds can come together and support one another. Together we will "nurture the mother to grow the child".

Most sincerely,

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Print the Pictures

Last night I had a rare opportunity. I was home for the most part by myself. Girls were with Grandparents, Josh was out with some guys for work, so it was just me and Tacy. I had grand plans on what I was going to do with my night and I ended up spending it working on photos.Every year I say I want to get better at documenting our lives. It is an easy thing to SAY it’s much harder to do. Last year I was actually pretty good at getting photos. But in this digital day and age it’s way too easy for those photos to stay on my computer or phone. So last night I bit the bullet. I created and ordered a photo book with my favorite 200 photos of 2013. I also ordered all the photos I have taken in the month of January so I can try my hand a new scrapbook system. Lastly I sorted through all the printed photos I have and organized them chronologically. All in all it was a good night, though not at all easy. It wasn’t the time or money, though both of those were a bit frustrating. More than anything it was spending hours and hours looking at photos of myself. While it has been a wonderful year it has been a hard year and giving birth to a baby rarely does kind things to our bodies. So here I sit a month into the new year staring at pages and pages of photos of myself I would rather bury. It would be very easy to hit delete but I didn’t I hit print. In 12 years when my now six month old is struggling with her body image I want her to look back and see pictures of me… a little stocky, exhausted, wearing a bright pink shirt standing on Aztec ruins in Cozumel my belly growing with her in it. I want all my daughters to see that I lived a full life. I want them to see that I didn’t let my insecurities hold me back. And so I hit print. And I will continue to take silly faced selfies with my girls, and let my husband snap photos even when I am covered in baby spit up, and I will continue to hit print. And I encourage you to do the same. Take photos, hit print, put them in a book, stash them in a drawer, just do something with them. Your children think you are absolutely beautiful, leave being proof for them that they are right.

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Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Debbie Perdew

Ever wonder who’s behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers – once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support.0010 We’re so excited to introduce you to Miss Debbie! She is our Lead Childcare Worker and spends her Café Monday mornings lovingly caring for the children of our local mamas.

Miss Debbie has transformed the Childcare we offer on Monday mornings at the Café. As a mother to many, her years of experience as a mama and grandma probably have something to do with this.

Greeting the little ones, ages 1 – 4, with a warm smile and big hugs she works with her two assistants (Miss Amanda and Miss Abby) to bring fun and order to the two hours she spends with the children.

By limiting the childcare number to 15, Miss Debbie and her assistants are able to provide careful attention to allergies, special needs and requests. In addition, Miss Debbie creates an environment that is warm and welcoming for many of our little ones who are experiencing their first childcare situation.

Children spend the morning in a room directly adjacent to our Café meeting space. During check-in, mamas fill in detailed name tags, complete with allergy information, age and nickname. The children are then welcomed into a room with a soaring ceiling and lots of light, and filled with age appropriate toys, books and activities.

Our Cafés meet the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Registration for our Café Childcare opens at noon on the Monday before a scheduled Café. Registration is available on a "first-come, first-served" basis and closes after reaching 15 spots or at 7pm the Sunday before the Café (whichever comes first).

If you are local and have utilized our childcare, we hope you will take the time to thank Miss Debbie for her excellent care of your children. She has filled a very specific need most beautifully.

Thank you, Miss Debbie, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

Click here for additional details regarding our Café Childcare can be found here.

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Maria Hayden

Ever wonder who’s behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers – once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support.0012 Meet, Maria, one of our Managing Directors, who might best be described as the "Swiss Army Knife" of The Motherhood Collective©.

Without Maria we’d be all over the place. She has many job responsibilities, and somehow, they all seem to involve keeping us in line.

Her main focus as one of our two Managing Directors is serving as our Non-profit Consultant in everyday, behind the scenes “business” work. Running an organization such as ours is not all hugs and coffee, and we are very thankful for the hours Maria spends on the not-so-thrilling tasks that make our time with you more enjoyable.

Maria also handles the placement of our volunteers as our Volunteer Coordinator. We are extremely fortunate to have women rise up continually to serve with us. These volunteers help on both large and small levels and they come to us with differing skill sets and available time. Maria works with these women to find ways they can best contribute and give back.

On Café mornings you might never see Maria, because once again she is holding us together - this time as our Café Morning Stage Manager. She assigns morning tasks to the leadership team, checks us in on arrival, runs the soundboard and gathers donation dollars... all so we can serve you better.

Maria wandered into a Café one morning; pregnant and unsuspecting of the role she would one day play. Now the mother of a beautiful toddler, she shares her joys, struggles, and lessons learned in an honest and refreshing way.

With big dreams for the year ahead, Maria brings us years of management experience, a "peppery" frankness and a dry sense of humor that will make anyone smile.

Thank you, Maria, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

 

PS - Interested in volunteering with The Motherhood Collective©? Contact Maria at: volunteer@themotherhoodcollective.org.

A Look at Centra Medical Group: Women's Center

I was given the privilege of interviewing our local CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) group—Centra Medical Group: Women's Center (formally Forest Women’s Center).  Under Centra, the Women's Center provides full Gynecological care for women in the central Virginia area, as well as comprehensive Obstetrical care that includes prenatal check-ups, labor support, delivery at Virginia Baptist Hospital, and postpartum health.  They have five wonderful midwives— Billie Hamilton-Powell, Erin Baird, Christina Dubay, Nancy Prothero, and Tami Stevens—and one FNP—Ruth Robertson. The Motherhood Collective has been thrilled to add the CMG Women’s Center to their list of non-profit support, and many of us have enjoyed hosting Erin Baird on our Café panels.  I have personally used the midwives for my pregnancy and birth journey with my son and was more than pleased with the care I received!  I enjoyed meeting all the midwives during my prenatal visits, and when my time came, Christina did a wonderful job supporting me during labor and catching Gabriel when he was born.  The whole time she remained calm, encouraging, and quiet—only saying something when it needed saying.  When she was caring for me afterwards she realized the bulbs were out in the overhead lights, so she sent one of the nurses down to her car to grab the flashlight out of her glove compartment.  Great resourcefulness (and a great way to put a mom at ease :) )!

I hope you enjoy reading about the passion these women have for Mothers and Babies!  Thank you, CMG Women’s Center, for serving this community (and this organization) so beautifully. Holding Hands

1.       What is your primary goal in the care you provide for women?

 Our group is focused on offering women and their families holistic, individualized maternity and gynecologic care throughout the lifespan.  We want to be a trusted and caring member of their healthcare family.

2.       What unique passions and practices do you offer?

 Each of our Certified Nurse Midwives brings their own unique set of specialties and philosophies within the Midwifery Model of Care.  We support women in being an active participant in their care – from pre-pregnancy to menopause.  As Nurse Midwives we are specifically trained in natural non-interventionalistic care.  We are trained to see the woman as a summation of all her parts: family, life, religion, work, children and parents.  This allows us to see the many different influences that may affect her health.  At the same time our training allows us to identify and treat the medical issues as they arise.

  • 3.       What birth mindset do you hope to encourage in the women of Central Virginia?

 We hope that all women will become educated on their options, their wants and the evidence-based practices of pregnancy, delivery and post-partum.  Pregnancy and birth are extremely personal and individual experiences for each family and we want to support all women no matter what their plans or desires be it natural, medicated or cesarean.

4.       If you could tell one thing to a woman trying to conceive, what would it be?

 Pregnancy, birth and the raising of an infant is like a marathon.  Preparation should include becoming as healthy as possible.  Schedule a pre-conception appointment with your provider and make a plan for your pregnancy.

5.       If you could tell a pregnant mother one thing, what would it be?

Pregnancy is one of life’s best challenges.  Many well-meaning people are going to tell you what to do, what to eat, how you should look and what their labor/delivery was like.  Remember that your pregnancy and delivery will be unique to you and your life and rejoice in that.  Try not to compare yourself to others as we are all so very wonderfully different.

6.       If you could tell a mother with a newborn one thing, what would it be?

 No one can prepare you for all that is the immediate post-partum period.  It is both a wonderful and extremely trying time.  Initially you will have so many different emotions it can be overwhelming.  The exhaustion and physical demands of those early weeks can make even the most dedicated mother doubt her decision to do this!  USE YOUR RESOURCES!  We recommend that every new mother, breastfeeding or not, rest at every opportunity.  This means if your baby is sleeping, go lay down yourself, even if you are not tired.  If you have family or friends around, let them have some bonding time with your sweet baby so you can rest and recuperate.  If you are struggling, go see your provider and find out if it’s just exhaustion or something more serious like post-partum depression.

7.       What is your favorite aspect of prenatal and neonatal care?

Getting to know the families and being part of the miracle that is life.  You share something magical when you help a couple bring a child into this world, whether it’s their first or 12th!

Centra Medical Group: Women's Center Contact Information:

2007 Graves Mill Rd., Forest, VA 24551 434.385.8948 http://forestwomen.centrahealth.com/

The Gift of Giving: In My Arms

The cover image for Plumb's "Blink" Album, https://missinginkshop.com/plumb/store/music/blink

 

"Your baby blues, so full of wonder

Your curly cues, your contagious smile

And as I watch, you start to grow up

All I can do is hold you tight  

Knowing clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms  

Story books full of fairy tales

Of kings and queens and the bluest skies

My heart is torn just in knowing

You'll someday see the truth from lies

 

When the clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms

 

Castles they might crumble

Dreams may not come true

But you are never all alone

Because I will always, always love you

 

When the clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms, in my arms."

The Lyrics from "In My Arms", Written and Performed by:  Plumb

 

This song by Plumb is one of those mommy songs that always “gets” me.  I can be guaranteed a good cry by the time I get to the chorus, and by the end I’m pondering motherhood and all its many joys.  It’s good sometimes to step back from the daily routines and truly ponder what it means to love and be loved.

When Gabriel was young, I used to hold him close in my arms.  I had a sense of control that while there, he would be completely safe.  The clouds could race in, the storms could rage.  But he would be safe.  It was that fairy tale time—I was queen and he was my little prince.  But even in my arms I could not keep his heart beating, or feed him if his little tummy did not first send the hunger cue to his brain.

He is only 18 months now, but his independence has grown, and I have already felt those strange moments of him growing up.  And though it feels forever away, if what every mother says is true, I will blink, and he will be 18.  His dreams may not come true, his castle might crumble, and the storms might rage against him.  Even then, I will figuratively hold him in my arms, and tell him how much I love him.

The hard truth remains that he will never be completely safe in my arms.  I will do everything I can as a mother to protect my child physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  But he will be exposed to hurt and prayerfully growth in all of those areas.  I don’t want to “overprotect” him.  I think most of us have seen the harm in that extreme—need I follow up Plumb’s song with creepy Mother Gothel’s “Mama Knows Best” from Tangled?  Not the ideal either.

Thankfully, even though I cannot completely keep my child safe, I have found comfort in another truth.   It’s the love that I feel when I am so in love with my son.  It’s the fact that I am not the only one who feels this love for my son.  There’s my husband, and my parents and his parents, and Gabriel’s myriad of aunts and uncles, and his three boy cousins, and friends, ranging from 0-90 years old.  I find comfort in the fact that it’s not just me trying to help him through the storms of life.  Our community is right there helping.

The love that has overwhelmed me the most is the love from God, who says He loves us with an everlasting love, one that is higher than the heavens, deeper than the oceans, and farther than the East is from the West.  He has that same love for my son.  Love deeper than mine.  A love that can not only protect from the storms of life, but send them running the other direction with a simple command.

All these are the arms into which I find myself, my son in my arms.

Intentionality

At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC Intentional My goal was to write for this blog at least once per month. Yet, the last post I wrote was oh...in October. Are there reasons? Oh yes, there are lots of reasons: family visiting, sickness (as I write this I'm on day 4 of something awful...thank God for babysitters!), allergy and amino acids testing for our little man, Thanksgiving, Christmas, traveling, a death in the family. Yes, there are reasons. But I think the overarching reason? Lack of intentionality. Granted, all of those things are more important than writing  a blog post (sorry TMC), however, if I'm going to constantly give myself a guilt trip for not completing a blog post, or a craft project, or whatever it may be, then I think I need to do a little self-examination.

Our little one is full of energy, and I work 25+ hours each week outside of the home. Many days, when bedtime hits, I'm drained, and all I feel like doing is sitting on the couch, mindlessly surfing the internet (read: Facebook and/or Pinterest) or watching TV. And sometimes, that is OK, and needed. However, I then begin to rack up in my brain all of the things I haven't yet done: blog, paint that cabinet, organize the storage area, start running again, etc.; and I begin to feel guilty. Then, I feel overwhelmed because I don't know where to start on any of those things, so I turn to the fall-back and am right where I started.

What I'm realizing is that I can choose how to spend that downtime; I control it, it doesn't control me. (OK, some nights, it wins. Let's be honest) I need to own my decisions. If I am choosing to spend time online, fine. Then I must be happy with that. If I am not happy with that, then it is up to me to choose differently. Sitting by idly and wishing I'd spent my time differently does nothing to actually change the way I am spending that time, it only adds to my frustration and guilt.

Today, today I am sleeping, resting, blogging and possibly finishing up a few episodes of Downton Abbey with my husband (who is finally hooked, hooray!). Why? Because I am sick, and I need the rest. And those are the choices I am making. Tomorrow, whatever decisions we make with our time, let them be because we thoughtfully and intentionally chose to do those things, instead of passively letting our life live itself for us.

The Gift of Giving--Crazy Love

Les Miserables How far would I go to care for my son? 

This is a thought I have often had during those trembling, earth shattering, lioness raging up in me, crazy love moments where I look at my toddler sleeping in my arms, and wonder if there is ANYTHING I would not do for him.

The story of Les Miserables is gaining quite a bit of popularity right now, and I will say that I have been a fan for years.  It became my favorite piece of literature as soon as Jean Valjean walked away from the priest’s home with those candlesticks that forever shouted grace to his heart.  As soon as I met Fantine, Cosette’s mother, I admired her.  She was placed on my shelf of “people who are passionate above calculating”. You've got to give them credit.  They do things we would probably never do.  Fantine’s love for her daughter, and utter desperation in providing for her, extends further than any other person in literature.  She descends to the darkest depths of misery, eventually selling her body in prostitution to scrape together whatever she can to send to Cosette, who lives miles away under the care of less than admirable people.  I remember shaking my head at her in disbelief.  Does anybody love another person like this?

When I recently revisited the story of Les Miserables in theaters, I didn’t just admire Fantine this time.  I understood.  As a mother now, I understood the desperation that would bring a mother to such sacrifice.  I understood the kind of love it takes to live for years without your child, but still care for them with every breath you take.  I understood how some people (Fantine in mind) summon up the notion to do crazy things for their children.  This crazy love is a gift that Fantine pours out on Cosette, and it’s also one that gives back in greater fold, for as Fantine and Jean Valjean joyously sing at the end, “To love another person is to see the face of God!”

Still, in the day-to-day moments, I am filled with selfishness, and wonder whose ornery kid is destroying my living room.  I am often guilty of desiring an orderly day more than the happiness and creativity of a messy toddler.  I often love myself so much.   That admirable love just seems so very far away because I mother under a roof of relative comfort, ease and safety.

The sad part of it is--there will be broken love in our homes, whether it’s given out of the desperation of a messed up world (as Fantine’s was) or whether it’s given from a heart that simply struggles to love another over self.

The wonderful part of it is?  Even broken love gives back to us beyond measure—in the joys of our children and in the beauty of seeing God.  Perhaps this is what makes love so crazy after all.

Trust Your Gut

Permissive parenting, passive parenting, Attachment Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, free range parenting, main stream parenting, Intentional Parenting, Peaceful Parenting…yada, yada, yada!!  Then there is the advice of your mother, your mother-in-law, your sister, your sister-in-law, your boss, your BFF, your husband's boss's wife's cousin.   How in the world is one to choose which advice to follow?!

There are proclaimed experts in every area of parenting.  There is one (or many) in each school of thought.  There is a whole section on parenting in Barnes and Noble.  Thousands of pages, blogs, magazines and articles that specialize in telling us how to rear our children fill all of our media sources.  Parenting is big business!

So how does a newly pregnant woman go about narrowing what works and what doesn’t?  The answer is to read it all.  That’s right, read everything that you can get your hands on while you are pregnant.  Take information from all sources possible.  Listen to other mothers.  Sit in on cafes and small groups at The Motherhood Collective.  This is all very important information to gather, especially when your baby is easily contented with your avoidance of spicy foods and nourished from the umbilical cord.

As you start collecting this information, certain thoughts and ideas will begin resonating with you.  Certain parenting practices will just seem “right” to you.  You will get an idea of what to do when your little bundle of joy arrives.  You will get a gut instinct that will continue to develop as you develop as a mother.

So now your little newborn is here, and you want to know why the things you just knew you wanted to do with your baby aren’t working.  You have a whole arsenal of things to try.  The next step in developing your parenting skills is to stop reading those books and to start reading your baby.  Watch your baby’s cues and signals.  Determine your child’s rhythms and work with them.  All of those thoughts and words of wisdom that you have gained from your pre-baby preparation now need to be adapted to fit your baby’s personality.  I am here to tell you that no baby will fit inside one parenting book, but there are many ideas on parenting that will amalgamate with your baby’s personality.

You will, of course, continue to have questions throughout this crazy and fast journey of mothering.  Your baby will continue to develop and you will continue to adapt.  Continuing to grow and adjust are all part of this wonderful journey.  You are your baby's best mother.  You are also never alone.  Continue to seek advice of those other mothers and your trusted physicians; but more importantly, remember to trust your gut, listen to your instincts, and NEVER say never.

The Gift of Giving: Pondering

A column about how emptying yourself as a mother can become a fulfilling lifestyle. The adage that mothers continually give, give, give is nothing new.  If you’re at the entrance of motherhood this universal is right at the forefront…at 2 am, when your nipples are bleeding from breastfeeding.  Or at 8 pm when you have to leave everything early because it’s bedtime, of course.

I truly view Gabriel’s birth as my own birth as well—the birth of a mother.  I strongly believe that life begins at conception, and so I know I had been a mother for nine months already, but birthing my son brought something out of me that wasn’t there before.  I also view Gabriel’s first 12 weeks of life as my “chrysalis” stage, if you will.  I felt cocooned into myself, separated from the world, and cut off from the person I used to be, as I attempted to transform into a mother and, in the process, die to my old self.  (This sounds very dramatic, I know…but please bear with the illustration).  I emerged, not a perfect butterfly mother, but a mother nonetheless.  One willing to give of myself.  One willing to find joy in giving, and thus embrace the gift of giving. Butterfly One of my favorite quotes about mothers is from Tenneva Jordan:   “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” To me, it’s such a funny and practical illustration of what I want to be—not fulfilled by eating the pie (and I do LOVE pie, and would have a hard time denying it), but fulfilled by watching my family enjoy eating the pie.

One of my biggest fears about motherhood is not what I’ll do wrong to my kids, but what I’ll do wrong with my heart.  I fear the bitterness and resentment that I see overcome attitudes in moms—something that will harm me, my husband and my kids.  I fear the temptations to say “You don’t know how hard it is to be a mom,” or “I never get a break as a mom,” or “why do you always need, need, need.” These feelings are embarrassing to even admit.  Especially when I am rewarded with the love of my son, that smile when I treat him to something special, the unexpected (though snotty) kisses I get on my nose, and the way his arms reach out to me when I pick him up from childcare.

These things and more make it all worth it.  They fill me with more joy than my petty, selfish complaints.  They give me a fresher outlook than my inward focused one.  They give me more energy than my self-pity.

The gift of giving becomes fulfilling when we ponder all things motherhood in our hearts.  During this time of year I am reminded of the nativity story, and how Mary rode on a donkey at 9 months pregnant, was denied even a private bed and room for birthing, labored and birthed in a stable surrounded by the smell of manure, and wrapped her newborn in strips of cloth (go mama, right?).  Their only visitors were shepherds (again with the manure).  What does it say at the end of this humble story (which I doubt went according to her birth plan)?  Mary pondered all these things in her heart.  Not just when the heating blankets arrived, or the sitz bath, or lactation consultant (because she probably had none of these things).  She pondered the treasure and gift she had been given.

I was surprised when I looked up the verb “to ponder.” These days, it means “to consider something deeply and thoroughly,” but I like the archaic meaning, “to estimate the worth of, to appraise.”

This holiday season, I am encouraged to ponder the worth of motherhood, to appraise how it can satisfy me when I sacrificially give.  It is a priceless gift.  This may not make the days less hard, but it will certainly make them more worthwhile.

 

Balancing Balance: Yet Another Mothering Irony

In September, the Motherhood Collective will feature posts on balance - having it or not! It's certainly a state most of us struggle to find. September is, for some, the calm before the storm. Our kids are back in school, fall activities have begun and we have a few precious weeks before we really have to start thinking about the holidays. What better time to take a few minutes to reflect on how we spend our time, juggle our lives and what we can do to achieve our own perfect balance! ~TMC Okay, I’ll be honest.  This was a crazy summer for our family.  We ran around like, well, my son after his birthday cake—eyes roving and all.  We have recently crashed and burned—and are taking this opportunity to re-evaluate.

Finding balance?  It’s hard.  Especially when you try to balance good things.  I feel like I have weeks in which I spend the perfect amount of time at home, taking care of Gabriel, cleaning, cooking, and resting.  Friday comes, and guilt overtakes me—I didn’t spend time with others, or serve anyone else in any way!

So I call up my friends—let’s book up the next week!  That Friday comes, and I feel like I’ve just lugged Gabriel around to whatever plans I made, without thinking of his needs.  Or my husband comes home from work, and I haven’t even started dinner.

Balance

Ugh!  The irony is that I feel like I don’t have time to figure out balance.  It takes too much work, too much strength, too much thought!  Sometimes I think I’m still figuring out my identity as a mother, let alone how I’m going to be the same wife, friend, daughter, and sister that everyone else knows me as.

Of course, it’s very easy for me to speak the language of failure.  I mean, my son is 12 months old.  Shouldn’t this whole mothering thing be figured out by now?  Ha, ha.  Funny you should ask.

Come to find out, this is a universal struggle.  I love reading proverbs of every kind—they have a way of putting the daily grind and the wisdom that solves it into one sentence.  One of my favorites is from the Bible, Proverbs 14:1, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down (ESV).”

Does this describe how I feel about all things homemaker at times?  Most definitely.  I spend the morning building a fortress of peace, instruction, sweet kisses, vacuumed floors, and homemade bread (just for good measure).  I then find myself in the afternoon—with a jackhammer between my hands, pointed at the foundation of all I built that morning, a crying baby in the carrier, a caffeine headache (because I just can’t get around to that cup of coffee), and a constant stream of “You’re doing this ALL wrong,” going through my head.

I have been taking some practical steps every week to help get me on the right track.  Even if every plan deviates from what I expected, I have assurance that next week is a new week.  I get to start all over again!  (And honestly, isn’t every day a new day?  I even feel like my child waking up from every nap is a new day.  We are given endless grace in this!).

  •  Weekly Planning Retreat:  I try to take time every Sunday to ponder the coming week.  I prefer to do this while Andy watches Gabriel, and whether I’m home or at Starbucks, I make a list of three things.
  1. What goals do I have for this week?  I write down the things I want to accomplish in housekeeping, errands, time with the Lord, Andy, Gabriel, and friends, and a fun project that I can look forward to (like that awesome new recipe, or my ever-beckoning sewing excursions J).
  2. What meals do I want to prepare this week?  I decide on those, make my grocery list, and gather my coupons.
  3. I space all these things out as evenly as possible through the days.  I’ll admit, I’m a “get it all done” kind of girl, so my Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be busier than my Thursdays and Fridays.

This may sound simple, and you may already be doing this (if so, keep it up!), but if you haven’t and you want to start—it’s not hard.  Ask your husband or friend to help you establish this routine.

  • Ask Yourself Good Questions:  When you’re young, all the “old” people ask you challenging questions that help get you on track.  When you’re a “big girl,” you’re expected to be able to do this for yourself now.  But it’s easy to forget!  Something I’m working on is asking myself a few simple questions every week (these are adapted from Lindsay Edmond’s blog “Passionate Homemaking” http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2012/04/take-time-to-live-intentionally.html).
  1. If you follow a certain faith, ask yourself about your place spiritually.  What areas can you improve in?  What new character traits would you like to develop?
  2. If you’re married, ask yourself questions like these:  How can I bless my husband? How can I love him like he has never been or ever will be loved? What is one aspect of his character that I could thank him for? What is one thing I could say to cheer him up?
  3. What practical steps can I take to love my children? What is one creative activity we could do together? Think of a one-on-one activity to do with each child. How can I bring life to them through my words?
  4. What practical step can I take to serve others, express thankfulness and/or encouragement to a friend?
  5. What practical steps can I take to simplify my life - what is one area I need to simplify to provide more peace in our home? What steps will I take to accomplish this?  (This is a big one for me!)
  6. What is one step I can take towards completing long-term goals?
  •  Gratitude List:  So this doesn’t exactly plan my week for me, but I do find that it keeps my attitude in line!  I like to keep a pad of paper out, and periodically write down anything and everything that strikes me as beautiful.  Beautiful things become blessings.  Blessings produce thankfulness.  Thankfulness literally transforms us.  Of course, it’s great to remember the blessings of food, clothing, shelter, jobs, a husband, and children.  I like to also remember really small things.  Here’s an example:
  1. Kisses initiated by Gabriel
  2. Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies (since I’m allergic to dairy!)
  3. Sunlight streaming in on my plants—a reminder of the slow yet beautiful process of growth
  4. A new notebook
  5. Movie time with Andy
  6. Five senses to fully experience my son
  7. Breezes while walking
  8. Early morning bird songs

I, by no means, have perfected any of these practices.  I certainly find them helpful, though!  The Motherhood Mountain is a journey, and it’s not just about “making it” to the top.  Our kids are following close behind.  Let’s find small victories in jumping over streams, and working together to scale boulders—dirty diapers, sticky fingers, and all!

You Just Never Know (Until You Know)

learning

tools of the trade by juliesorgeway  

I want to talk about my five-month-old, and pee, and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Nine years — almost my entire adult life — I have worked as an educator. My husband is a college professor too. Education, facts and research are a big part of our lives, and we were willing suckers for every baby book and doodad that claims to be somehow educational. Black and white brain stimulating mobile? Check. Baby sign language? Alphabet sheets to somehow ooze literacy into his wispy baby head? Check check. But even after just a few months with our little boy, I feel like, cliché or not, really it's I who have most to learn.

Most people are familiar with the paradoxical phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect, even if they’ve never heard of it before. Basically two Cornell researchers did a bunch of observations indicating that in general, the more you actually know about a topic, the more you worry that you don’t know enough. And, not coincidentally, the less you truly know, the more likely you are to overestimate your own expertise! Now, if you're like me, you can instantly, snarkily think of one or two people in your life who this just perfectly applies to. But maybe it’s more useful if we each were first to try applying it to ourselves.

Raising my hand right here: I was a classic Dunning-Kruger parenting “expert” before my baby was born. Reading and note-taking are kind of my favorite thing ever, so I researched the very soul out of every single newborn issue I could imagine. Nine glorious months of page-turning and highlighting! I knew that parts of my pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey would be out of my hands, and parts I could do my best to control. Statistics and anecdotal evidence alike were ready and confident on the tip of my tongue. I spent time reading birth stories of every possible variation of experience. And I don't regret any of that reading, or thinking, or planning. It helped me do pregnancy my way, and made so much of the unknown feel safer to me. Yet within a few weeks of my actual son’s actual arrival? Even though in fact I suddenly had much more experience, I felt so much less of an expert.

Despite having great support, I found there were so many things that felt harder than I had anticipated. It isn't that nobody warned me; on the contrary I had several honest mama friends who shared their hearts and tried to prepare me for the changes newborn life would bring. But nothing really could. So many of the shortcuts, tips, and tricks that had been “lifesavers” for my mama friends didn’t work for me, or for my baby, at all. Even some of the issues I thought I would feel most passionate about, in my prenatal fits of highlighting, ended up falling away as I found myself with a new, smaller set of certainties. Here are just a few of the things I held on to in those early days:

  • Things will get easier. Even though every age will have its challenges, newborn life is a tough adjustment for almost all new parents. The roller coaster cliché is true. But it will be okay.
  • It’s only a little pee. Let’s just say my standards of what constitutes a true midnight laundry emergency have… evolved.
  • Don’t mess with happy. Whether it’s the baby’s happiness, or my own, I have realized how much I tend to over-meddle. He's asleep with his head flopping to the side? That can't be comfortable... maybe if I just "fix" it... You see where this is going, right? It’s not always wise to try to perfect something that is already working out okay.
  • Let him see you smiling. He looks to me so often in this phase of his life. Okay, at first he mostly stared at my hairline or maybe the ceiling fan, but pretty soon he realized it's the parents who are the first center of his universe. So I don’t want to always have my brow furrowed, to always be worrying about the next thing that could somehow be better. I want him to see me smile, because really? We have a lot to smile about.

And even any of these, I know, might not ring true for any one reader in particular. My point is: Not one of them would have seemed like an important idea to me back when I was an expert. And it's this change, from the researched knowledge to the experienced, that no one could really prepare me for.

I still read a lot, when I can fit it in. I still care about doing the best I can to make reasonable decisions on issues that come up. But as my little boy grows, I continue to realize how much is probably out there that I still really don’t know. There are times when I imagine all the questions ahead of us, all the things I don't even know I don't know yet, and within me anxiety starts to rise. But when it does, I try my best to remember good old Dunning-Kruger, take a deep breath, and remind myself that maybe, just maybe, the less I feel like I confidently know “for sure” as a parent, the more I’ve actually learned.

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Welcome, Friends!

Pregnant Mom

Welcome, friends, to the Motherhood Collective Blog!
We are thrilled to launch this new online project and hope that it becomes a trusted resource and place for both education and support. We are grateful to our staff of lovely writers for sharing their thoughts about pregnancy, birth, infancy and parenting.

It seems fitting that we begin our project with an emphasis on birth stories, as this is the birth of our new project. Here at the Collective, we are committed to sharing our stories, information, helpful hints and hopefully the concept that "an educated mother is the best mother". We hope to introduce you to some new ideas and reassure you that you have many choices as you travel through parenthood.

Please, explore our new site and familiarize yourself with our local resources. Enjoy the words of our blog writers. Our group has grown because of the knowledge and enthusiasm of our members. If you have resource information to add, have a personal birth story to submit or are interested in contributing to the blog as a regular or occasional writer, please contact us. We want to hear from you!The Motherhood Collective

We are so excited to watch this site grow and change based on the interests of our audience and varied experiences of our writers. We have a lot coming up for you, including some great giveaways from our sponsors. Come, join us on this journey! (ANd check back tomorrow for another BIG announcement you don't want to miss!)

 "Nurturing the mother to grow the child."

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