parenthood

Does our work matter?

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Does the unnoticed, messy, relentless, thankless, work matter? In a world full of big and grand, I have been dwelling on this recently. We applaud high attendance at events, we worship those with millions of Instagram followers, we praise leaders who bring help to thousands, and we yearn after bigger houses, bigger cars and bigger paychecks.

But what about the small? What about the mother with several children at home who bathes, feeds, and dresses the same little bodies every day? Does her work matter? What about the mother who balances daycare, employment, and bedtime routines? Or the mother who just gained custody of the older children? Does her work matter?

I would argue that, YES, her work matters immensely. For her investment is not in something that quickly depreciates or that will fade away with time. Her investment is generational. Her investment is in something greater than herself. Her investment leaves a legacy. Her investment, though quiet, teaches the most beautiful of all lessons. Her investment teaches how to love.

So keep up the good work today, my friends. I see you. THEY see you. You are changing lives in the most beautiful way.

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Single Mom Survival Guide: Surviving the Holidays

This time last year, I was a newly single parent. Every day felt like a mechanical struggle to get from beginning to end. My primary concern was waking up on time after being up all night with an infant in order to get bookbags packed, my oldest son on the bus, and getting to my new job on time so that my boss wouldn't perceive me to be the exhausted, scattered mess I was. The majority of my quiet time to myself was spent on the hour commute to work, listening to depressing songs about love and heartbreak and wondering where the hell I went wrong. As the holidays approached, I certainly wasn't feeling the holiday spirit. My mind was flooded with memories of Christmases past -- our first Christmas after getting married, cutting down Christmas trees as a family, staying up late on Christmas Eve night to put toys together. I love Christmas, but Christmas felt so bleak and alone. Knowing my kids wouldn't be with me at the Thanksgiving table killed me. Not spending Christmas Eve with my kids devastated me.

I should have known these feelings were coming. I had several divorced friends give me the "holidays are going to be a little rough this year" speech, while crushing up tranquilizers in my coffee.  Ok, well maybe not that extreme, but you know where I'm going with this. In my stubborn head, I thought I would be the exception to the rule. I went overboard buying gifts for the kids to attempt to fill the void in their hearts with crap they didn't need. If I could have crammed a Christmas tree the size of the one the Obamas had in the White House to make our lives more festive, I would have blown out one of the walls in our tiny house to do it. I played holiday music on constant repeat. I ate my weight in Christmas cookies. And none of it brought me the yuletide cheer I so desperately wanted.

I managed to survive a full 12 months of holidays on a shared custody schedule, and for me it has been an enormous test of futility. I've learned that dwelling on my time apart from my kids only fueled my own sadness. And I've learned the most important things to focus on is creating my own new traditions with my kids and to take advantage of our time apart.

I've been reflecting a lot on how I feel going into the holidays this year. I feel like much of my joy and excitement is returning. I'm eager to enjoy Thanksgiving with my extended family. I'm looking forward to cutting down a Christmas tree with my kids (although I can only ever decorate the top 1/3 of it to deter curious toddlers). And my greatest joy comes with watching my children open their gifts from Santa.Christmas

I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad about going into another holiday season alone, but I am looking forward to making the best of it. I must admit it's nice having every other weekend to myself to shop for and wrap gifts, a luxury I never had before. I don't miss wrapping gifts at 2am to avoid roaming children. And I'm looking forward to baking on my own. I hope to include my kids someday because I love it so much, but they are too young to enjoy it now. So in the meantime, I will enjoy blaring corny Christmas music and baking cookies with a glass of wine in hand. And I will make sure to keep my social calendar booked beyond that to avoid feeling lonely - spending time with my friends and family is my constant reminder that I have a great life, even when my kids aren't with me.

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Barbie Sutton

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. Meet our Café Monday Mama and C0-Founder! Barbie helped design who we are today, read on to get to know her!

0009Barbie is a mother to many; both physically and emotionally. Encouragement exudes from her and she has walked many of us through our delicate transition into motherhood. When we began the process of forming this organization we knew we would need Barbie at our side. Through our initial days of dreaming and grunt work, she has been a needed voice of reason. Her dedication to women in our community is beautiful.

While her own children are almost all completely out of the home, Barbie continues to remain active in the lives of women in their childbearing years. A registered nurse, event planner, health and childbirth advocate, Barbie is a beautiful soul who delights in enjoying this life to its fullest.

Currently Barbie serves the women of The Motherhood Collective© on Café Mondays overseeing activities in our Café kitchen and continually thinking up new ways to serve our mamas. She consistently sits as a panelist and often leads our small group on Parenthood offering advice that is tempered by her many years of experience.

With an open heart, optimism and constant support, we truly could not imagine this organization without our Barbie.

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

I Don't Want a "Broken" Child

I still get baby emails with titles like “Developmental Milestones Your Child Should Have Reached By Now.”  UGH! I’ve taken to just deleting them on the spot. All it does is get me to compare my child to other children. What is the point of that? So that I can feel good about him doing things earlier than the “norm” or feel horrible when he’s lagging behind in some area that he should have been able to master by now?  No. I’m done. My son, Jax's, biggest issue is crying when I put him down and wanting to be held all the time. My kid is needy. He’s clingy. He’s exhausting. But does that make him a bad kid?

I say that allllll the time... “Jax is so bad”.

While I mean it as a joke, I’ve come to realize that he is not “bad”. He is this way for a reason. Maybe his stubbornness now will translate into an incredible quality as an adult.  Determination and drive to succeed, maybe? Who knows.

I was directed to an article by my best friend that talks about this very issue.  http://www.askmoxie.org/2007/02/qa_separation_a.html (Check it out if you’re interested in learning about an intense child or if you have one and need to feel like you’re not alone!)

So often I’ve felt (and been told) that I need to find a way to “break” Jax of this problem. I’ve been judged terribly even by those closest to me..People have told me that I’m not doing the right things to make him stop.  We have done so much to try to “fix” this:

  • letting him cry it out (He will scream bloody murder for hours and hours.  And that is not an exaggeration!)
  • reinforcing structure so he feels secure on his own
  • making him sit on the floor and “play independently”
  • sitting with him and gradually moving away

NONE of these things are working. I’ve been feeling so guilty lately that I don’t love him like I should. How can I love someone who screams all the time?

Well, I DO love him. A Lot.

And I think I’ve determined that it’s ok that he is this way. It’s ok that he needs to be held. I’ve been more loving and gentle and quiet around him lately and he is, in turn, doing the same! I’ve been attentive to his crying in a way that I was definitely not before. Maybe there is something to this. Maybe I cannot control how he acts with other people, but I can control my interaction with him. So, if I’m more attentive and respond to his needs will he be less needy in general? Will he ever be content to play alone? I don’t know. I can’t know. The only thing I can do is what I feel is best for MY child. MINE. Not anyone else.

But I’m about sick of being judged. He’s a sweet boy. He just wants to be held. So, I’m going to hold him. We can work on independent play and we can work slowly on being ok on the floor by himself, but until that happens I’m going to respond to his cues. That’s ok right now. Judge away. I want to respond to his needs. I won’t have to carry him around when he’s 15.

Probably.

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Thoughts? Do you feel like a big, fat, failure? Yea, me too! But it’s ok. Do you have an intense child? You're not alone!

Please share your story or things that have helped you in our comment section.