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How I Survived Postpartum Depression

Let’s be honest. Being a mom is hard. Being a person is hard. Sometimes it’s hard just to “be”. Period.

I am not perfect. I am not happy all of the time. Sometimes I even totally lose my shit…but you might not know that about me because I have a tendency to mostly share just the positive…because that’s what we do. We celebrate what we’re proud of, and we sweep the rest under the rug.

I was at a MOPS meeting the other day and felt such a profound connection with all of the women there as we started sharing stories of postpartum depression. To be honest, I was completely floored when I heard story after story that kept sounding like my story, and as I looked around the room, I noticed not just a room full of tears, but a room full of love and support. It made me realize that none of us really have the answers, but by sharing our stories, we feel connected, we feel like we’re not alone, and it made me feel, well…ok, almost normal even.

The bottom line is that it made me want to share my story. I have tried to write this blog for a long time, but I could never find the right words, and then I realized, there are no right words. There are just words – words that come together to form a story, and that’s what I’m going to do now; I’m going to share my story. Just know that yes, I’m happy now, and I’ll share that part of the journey too, but first I want to take you to some of the darkest moments I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.

Postpartum Depression Round #2

About 9 months ago (when Julian was 13 months old, Ophelia was 2, Elliot was 4, and Ruby was 6), I started writing a blog called, “I’m Choosing to be Happy Today”, as way to work through some of the depression that I was feeling. But while everything I was writing was completely real, raw, and full of emotion, there was no happy ending, and so I had to put it aside until things weren’t so bleak.

Now that I’ve been able to crawl out of the depths of postpartum depression (for the second time), I think I’m finally ready to share my story.

It was the middle of winter and yet another cold and flu season was upon us when I noticed a little bit of spotting, and then a bit more, and pretty soon, I was experiencing the first period I’ve had since…gosh, I don’t even know how long! (4 births in 6 years…hello!) My mom warned me about fluctuating hormones, but I brushed her warning away thinking,

“I’m too tough to get emotional. I’ll be okay.”

At the same time as I got my period, it seemed like my milk was drying up. Julian was up to feed in the night just about every hour, and he would get really rough, pulling on my nipple, hitting me with his arms, and flailing his legs. (On a side note, I think this is what led to my nursing aversion.) When he woke up with a practically dry diaper after an all night nursing marathon, I knew that it was the beginning of the end of our breastfeeding relationship.

This made me so sad – desperately sad. The only way he would go to sleep was with me nursing him, and even though he ate food with us at every meal, I never really had to worry about how much he ate because he would just nurse him all. the. time. (In hindsight, I wish I would have started this bedtime routine with him a little sooner.)

The thought of not being able to breastfeed Julian anymore, the ongoing lack of sleep, the constant busyness and business of our daily lives, feeling overwhelmed and constantly behind, and now these hormonal changes with the onset of my period absolutely turned my head upside down. It was a gradual change for sure, but one day, it felt like a switch had been flipped. Everything that used to make me happy was suddenly driving me bat-shit crazy.

The way that everyone needed me every single moment of every single day made me want to run and hide. I felt like a failure, a loser, and a fraud. I started fantasizing about going back to work and putting them all in day care. I just didn’t feel like I could handle it for one minute more…and then I remembered feeling this same way when Elliot started to wean. I tried hard to pinpoint why I was feeling this way. Was having two little ones 2 and under just too much for me to handle? Did I need to work on creating more of a balance in my life? Did I need more things just for me? I just couldn’t figure it out.

Usually, I’m pretty good about seeing what I’m doing well and planning new areas of growth for my future, but with everything going on…

My self-doubt started to outweigh my self-worth.

I started feeling like I was failing everyone. I started feeling like I was doing everything wrong. I started feeling like I wanted to quit being a mother. I started feeling like I wanted to find someone more capable to take care of my kids and just get a job where I knew I would be able to succeed (as if that would be so much easier).

Whenever I would hear the little voice of self-doubt in my head, the one that said, “You’re not good enough. You are a fat, frumpy, disheveled mess. You are a failure.”

I would scream, “NO!” and I would try to quiet that little voice and instead look at my sweet little darlings, and I would choose to be happy.

I felt like I was at the edge of a precipice and could go either way. With one more little negative event or thought, I knew that I would tumble into the abyss of sadness, but with every conscious choice placing me into the world of “happy”, I saved myself from that doomed path.

Then one day, I woke up, looked in the mirror, and noticed a giant zit on my chin. That was it. It was the zit that broke the camel’s back so to speak. Everything came crashing down around me, and all of those little walls of happiness that I had worked so hard to build suddenly came crashing down.

I tried to choose to be happy again like I did before, but I just couldn’t. Every little thing was making me cry, and I felt like a complete and utter failure.

Usually, I have a long list of things that make me happy – things like making a healthy meal from scratch, cleaning out and organizing a drawer or cupboard, designing a new learning activity, cuddling up and reading with one of the kids, getting the house clean and organized, writing, or researching a new blog topic,- but no matter how many times I went through the motions, NONE of these things were making me happy.

And then I couldn’t even go through the motions.

I would find myself just sitting there on the floor, looking out the window with a blank stare while the kids played around me, feeling like I was in a fog, and like I could just start bawling at any second.

When my husband came home for lunch one day and didn’t say the right thing, I snapped. I got angry and told him to LEAVE. We fought via texts until he came home hours later, and I just bawled about all of the things that were making me sad.

He was very kind and supportive, but he said,

“It doesn’t make any sense. None of these things were making you depressed a few weeks ago. Where else could this be coming from?”

Those words really struck me because he was right. I didn’t have a reason to be depressed. My life was good, and I was surrounded by things that should make me happy. Why couldn’t I see that? Why couldn’t I feel that? And of course…that just made me even more depressed.

But I kept thinking over and over again about choosing to be happy. And even as the tendrils of depression tried to reach out and pull me into oblivion, I kept thinking, “NO! YOU’RE NOT TAKING ME!!!”

I tried thinking about all of the things that were spiraling me into depression in a positive way, and so instead of thinking, “When will Julian ever sleep through the night?” I started thinking about his sweet little smile, the feel of his body tucked into mine, and how I was the only one who could comfort him at night.

That evening, I cracked a beer, slipped into a warm bath, and just thought about all that was good in my life. Then I pulled my daughter Ophelia into the bath with me. She was so happy to pour water and to “swim” in our sitting Jacuzzi tub. I looked at her face, really looked, and noticed how she was happier than ever just by being with me. She didn’t need any special activities or toys, she just needed me.

The more I started to think about how I was enough, how just the mere existence of me was enough to nourish and sustain all of my children, I could feel the veil of sadness begin to lift.

Where before every thought had been in a muddled in a fog of sadness, suddenly everything started to look so clear, so simple, so…attainable. And just like that, I felt my breasts fill up with milk. I almost wept with tears of joy! It was almost like all of my worry, self-doubt, and depression had inhibited my milk supply. I was overjoyed to feel my milk let down as Julian nursed hungrily. In the times of nursing him after that, I noticed that if I wasn’t present in the moment, I couldn’t make any milk, but as I became aware of his warm body, his sweet eyes looking up at me, and my love for him, I could feel that old familiar fullness of milk.

And that was that. It wasn’t a long list of things that helped me to lift my head up, it was a moment. I forgot about my insecurities, my fears, the future, and my past, and just really and truly tried living in that moment. Noticing the smells, the sounds, the textures, the sensations…just being in the moment…it was my life preserver.

Now, it wasn’t a completely magical fix after that. I still felt like I was at the bottom of a deep dark well, but it was like the sun finally came out and illuminated a step that I never noticed before. Every day, I worked hard to see the sunshine at the top of the well and the light that illuminated the way, and brick by brick, I found a way to climb out.

Postpartum Depression Round #1

Now, before I delve more into what helped me come out of my postpartum depression for good, I want to step back in time to my first experience with postpartum depression because this was truly my darkest time, and I never even thought that this could be connected to postpartum depression until my experience after Julian.

Before we had children, I loved being a teacher, and I mean LOVED it. After I got my Master’s degree in Linguistics, we were blessed with our first child, and the year after that I landed my dream job as an ESL coach working with teachers to help make input more comprehensible for English language learners. Little did I know, however, that I was pregnant again. After only one year on the job, I knew that I just couldn’t leave my sweet babes in daycare anymore, and so I quit my job to be a stay at home mom. (Read more about that story here.) We decided to move back to our home state, lived with my parents for 8 months, and then finally moved into a rented house in the city (which we would later come to find out was a pretty rough neighborhood) while my husband worked over an hour away.

Instead of feeling like we had made it, I felt completely lost. Who was I? How would I fill my days? And what was there to stimulate me besides poopy diapers and preschool activities???

I mean sure, I was loving being home with my little ones and really enjoyed challenging them with creative learning opportunities, but I started to get depressed…and I mean REALLY depressed. I thought that by moving “back home” we would be surrounded by the positive support of friends and family, but what they had to give just wasn’t enough to fill the deep whole in my heart. I longed for adult interaction and the need to be challenged intellectually, I wanted to own a house in the country, I wanted a good friend group, I wished my husband worked closer to us, I felt like I was missing so many parts of me…and then, just like with Julian, my period returned, my milk started drying up, and I started slipping into a really really deep and dark state of depression.

Because it was so long after giving birth, I never thought of it as “postpartum depression” or even “depression”. (I think technically it’s called postpartum distress syndrome.) All I know is that I would cry…a lot. I would check the mail ten times a day hoping for something exciting to happen. I felt listless, restless, lost, and worst of all…empty. I hated that I couldn’t lose the last 10 pounds of belly fat, and I hated how I looked in the mirror. I used to have all of these dreams and aspirations, but then, I felt like I had nothing, and then I would feel so GUILTY! I mean, I was able to be home with my two golden treasures, wasn’t that enough? I got to cuddle them, read to them, take them to play groups, build forts with them, go to the library for story hour, put them down for naps, feed them healthy food, and just BE with them.

But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel whole, or complete, or even like me really.

Then one night, my husband and I got into a HUGE fight that ended up with him driving away. I wasn’t sure if he would come ever back because he’s usually never the one to leave. I was so relieved when several hours later he came back. We were finally able to talk without screaming, and we decided that we didn’t want to end our marriage. I also knew that I wanted to find happiness as a stay at home mom, and so that’s what we set out to do. It wasn’t always easy, but we just took things one day at a time.

After that conversation, I started discovering the new me. I read Nourishing Traditions like it was my Bible, got really into feeding my family healthy food, I started working out and eating a better diet, we found out we were pregnant again, we moved one mile away from my husband’s work to a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood where he could come home for lunch every day, and I started my blog about embracing the new me…embracing motherhood. After Ophelia was born, I was prepared. I encapsulated my placenta into pills and started taking them after she was born. Whenever I felt the first signs of depression, I would take a pill, and I would immediately start to feel better.

Now, as you know, postpartum depression did find me again after our fourth child, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time, and somehow, I found my way out of it once again.

What is Postpartum Depression?

After going through all of this, I started to realize that it was more than just a choice of being happy or not. Yes, that was a battle going on in my mind, and yes all of the chaos of my life made me more susceptible to depression, but there was something going on with my hormones that made it the perfect storm.

When you’re pregnant, your body produces extraordinary amounts of estrogen and progesterone to help you grow your new baby. The moment the placenta leaves your body, however, estrogen and progesterone return to pre-pregnancy levels. This hormone crash is why up to 80% of women feel the “baby blues” in the first few weeks after pregnancy. About 10% of women will suffer from a more severe form of the “baby blues” in the first year, and this is what is known as postpartum depression (PPD). After the baby is a year old, postpartum depression is actually called postpartum distress syndrome (PPDS), but is still primarily related to fluctuating hormones. A more serious form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis (PPP) in which the mother may suffer hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, and thoughts of harming the baby. This is more related to a bi-polar disorder and should be treated immediately.

The reason why postpartum depression can affect mothers so long after birth is because many of the hormones present during pregnancy still remain afterwards. Relaxin, for example, takes about 5 months to leave, which is why you are more prone to sprains at that time, and prolactin, that hormone that produces milk, will stay present during the entire phase of nursing. Proloctin is also what suppresses the production of the fertility hormones estrogen and progesterone (which prevents ovulation and menstruation). Once the baby starts to nurse less, estrogen and progesterone levels will increase, ovulation will resume, and the menstrual cycle will return. If there is an imbalance with these hormones and there is too much progesterone, anxiety can occur, and if there is too much estrogen, depression can occur.

The bottom line here is that after you have a baby and when your period returns, your hormones can get out of whack and make you feel crazy, especially if you already have a history of depression.

Tips for Overcoming Postpartum Depression

These are the tips that have helped me to completely pull away from postpartum depression, or postpartum distress syndrome, or just plain old depression, or whatever the heck you want to call it.

  1. Find happiness in the moments. At first, you just have to find the happy moments…the moments that make life worth living, the moments that make you smile, and the moments that make you see that being on this earth is where you need to be. After awhile, you can find the happy days, and then the happy weeks, and eventually they will lead to happy years and a happy lifetime, but you have to start small. Baby steps. Find the happy moments first.
  2. Build a support system. Talking with other women who have experienced the same thing is so valuable, and something I simply can’t even express enough. Now, if you talk to someone about what you’re going through, and instead of listening to you, they try to “fix” you and tell you all of the things that you “should be doing”, RUN! You need to find someone, anyone, who can just listen to you and let you talk about every feeling you have, every thought, and every idea without judgement, and without trying to fix you. All they need to do is listen. Sometimes, the best option might be to speak to a therapist or psychiatrist about what you’re going through.
  3. Know that the cause of (and the solution to) your depression lies within. Does it seem like your husband, your kids, your job, your appearance, etc. are all contributing to your depression? If you fall into this trap of thinking, it can make you think that if you leave these things, then your depression will simply end, but it’s not that simple. The way you perceive the world and interact with the world is controlled by you and only you.
  4. Have open and honest communication with your significant other. My husband has been there with me through the good times and the bad, and through it all, I have learned that he cannot read my mind, he cannot always pick up on subtle clues to figure out what I am thinking and feeling, and that I need to share my feelings openly and honestly on a regular basis. If I bottle things up, they will eventually explode, but when I share my feelings often, it helps me to figure out why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, and that’s what open communication is all about.
  5. Feed your intellectual adult brain. Yes, being a stay at home mom is a very rewarding, thrilling, and amazing experience, but I needed something to stimulate my adult brain too. By creating a reading system for young children and blogging, I feel like I have an outlet, a voice, and a form of expression. It continuously motivates me to research, learn, stretch myself, and grow.
  6. Accomplish something. Sometimes you need to see something checked off a list that isn’t part of your daily routine. For example, once I found my niche of blogging and creating a reading program for young children, I have continuously needed to see myself making progress in order to be happy. Sometimes, I need to complete something as small as making a list of blog ideas in One Note, collecting some research based articles online, drafting an outline for a blog, or perfecting the rough draft of a flashcard sketch. But whatever it is, I need to feel like I’m moving forward.
  7. Know that sometimes you might need a life preserver. Have you ever physically felt what it’s like to drown before? I have. When we lived in Colorado, we stupidly went tubing down a river that was full of spring rain with no life jackets and cheap little inner tubes. As I went over a mini rapid, my tubed slipped out from underneath me, and I was immediately pushed to the bottom of the river by the very powerful pressure of the rapid. I tried desperately to reach for the surface, but it was so so hard, and I thought, “This is it”. I could feel myself slipping, ready to let go. I could literally see my life flashing before my eyes, and suddenly I thought, “NO!!! I’M NOT READY TO DIE!!!” With every last bit of strength, I reached for the surface, and as if by some miracle, my hand latched onto something. It was a kayaker, my guardian angel, there to save me. As my head exploded to the surface, arms flailing and mouth gasping for breath, he yelled at me to STOP panicking, to hold on, and to kick my legs. When he brought me to shore and then disappeared down the river as if he were some sort of apparition, I felt as though I had been given a second chance at life. That story is pretty much the best analogy I can think of to describe depression. When you’re in the depths of depression, it literally feels like you’re drowning, and sometimes you just need a life preserver, something to rescue you so that you can tread water again. Maybe it’s a trip to the spa, maybe it’s making a big change in your life or many small ones, maybe it’s seeing a therapist and/or taking some medication, but the important thing is that you need to grab ahold of something so that you can tread water again.
  8. Don’t be afraid to facilitate change. If it bothers you that your house is continuously messy, find a way to keep it clean! Get rid of the clutter, get your kids and spouse to pitch in more, or hire some cleaning help. If you hate your body, find a way to work out, cut out the sugar, or count calories. If you’re upset that you haven’t accomplished anything, find something to accomplish! Try a new recipe, sign up for an online class, or do a paint by number. If you’re mad at your husband because he won’t help out enough, TELL HIM!!! How else is he supposed to know? If you are frustrated that your kids don’t help out enough, TEACH THEM HOW! How else are they supposed to learn? Anyways, you get the point. 😉
  9. Create healthy habits. This may sound simple, but it is so so important. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and plenty of sunshine, eat a healthy and well balanced diet, make time for mediation/yoga/reflection, and find something to be thankful for every day. Before you can take care of everyone else, you have to take care of yourself.
  10. Take placenta pills. I didn’t learn about encapsulating my placenta into pills until my third pregnancy, and boy what a difference that made! Whenever I would start to feel a little depressed, I would pop a couple of placenta pills and feel like a completely different person. Now I just to remember to save some to see if they’ll help when my period comes back.
  11. Know that sometimes, it’s just hormones. Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, it’s just hormones. After Julian, when I realized that it was actually the hormones making me sad and not my entire life, it was a lot easier to mentally switch gears.

In Conclusion

I have been very hesitant about sharing my experiences with postpartum depression because I don’t want people to judge me or feel sorry for me. I don’t want people to look at me like I’m weak, and most of all, I don’t want people to look at me with pity and say things like, “Are you really okay,” while touching my arm in a consoling but also slightly condescending way. I’m tough, I’m strong, and I’m capable, but I’m not stronger than postpartum depression, and I think I’m finally okay with that.

I’m glad to share my story because I think that we all need to share our stories. It’s the only way we can feel – it’s the only way we can know – that we’re not alone. So, if you have a story that you’d like to share, share it. Share with your loved ones, share it with your girlfriends, or share it here. If you’d like to submit a guest post about your experience(s) with postpartum depression, that would be awesome! You can even post it anonymously if you want. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone, you’re not a failure because you’re depressed, and there is a way out, you just have to find it.

Additional Resources

  • Click here to see a map of the United States to find someone to talk to about what you are going through.
  • Tools for Mom – Here you’ll find checklists, questionnaires, support groups, and more.
  • Postpartum Support International – This is a great portal to learn more and to find many additional resources.
Embracing Motherhood Should We Homeschool Our Children?

Should We Homeschool Our Children?

Many times I have wondered if homeschooling would be for me. With my experience as a classroom teacher, my Master’s degree in Language Acquisition (basically), and my own experience being homeschooled from 2nd – 8th grade, it has always just seemed like something that in the back of my mind I thought I would do. But with two little ones close in age (1 and 2) and two older ones (5 and 6) who needed lots of guidance, it has never seemed possible. Until now…

Our oldest daughter, Ruby, is 6 years old, in the first grade, and loves school. She loves recess and her weekly show and tell, but I feel like there is so much more academically that I could be doing with her at home. But then I am nagged by the social piece. When would she interact with others? How would she make friends? And the other nagging question,”Could I do it?”

As I contemplate whether or not homeschooling would work for us, here’s a list of my pros and cons.

Pros of Homeschooling:

1. I would get to be with all of my kids as much as possible. They grow up so fast, and I want to be there for as many of the moments as I can.

2. I would know exactly how they spend their days. Whenever I ask Ruby about her day, it’s like pulling teeth. I have to go through each subject and each time of day just to try to elicit the smallest response.

3. I am totally qualified to do this! Not only did I teach for 8 years and get my Master’s degree in Education, but I loved it as well! In my heart and soul, I am a teacher. Who better to teach than my own children?

4. I could make sure they learn everything right the first time. The other day, I noticed that Ruby makes a few of her letters in a really backwards and random fashion, and I just thought, I was not the one to teach her how to make her letters. Now, I am sitting side by side with Elliot working through every letter, and we’ll get it right the first time around.

5. They could work at their own pace without competing with others. Ruby is really struggling with her addition facts right now. We continue to try to work on the concept of addition at home, but there’s only so much time in a day. At school, they keep giving her these weekly timed tests that are causing her a lot of anxiety. If she were at home, I would be able to work with her as long as she needed in the areas where she struggles, and zoom through the areas she’s good in.

6. I could differentiate every subject as needed. Ruby is a very advanced reader, but she still spends just as much time as all of the other kids learning about phonics. Sure, she may have chapter books for homework, but there is a lot of wasted time in her day where she is “learning” things that are way too easy. At home, I could make sure that all subjects were in the zone of proximal development for all of my children.

7. I could choose my own resources. I would be able to pick and choose whichever resources seemed exciting to me, and whatever I thought would meet the specific needs of each of my children.

8. They would maintain their innocence. Here’s an example of what I mean by that. It was spirit week awhile back and everyone had to wear a Christmas hat one day. We didn’t have a Santa hat, but I had Ruby try on one of Scott’s old Christmas stockings on as a hat. It looked like a cute little elf hat, and she loved it. Sometimes her school posts pictures to a closed group on FaceBook throughout the day of what’s going on, and my husband and I both noticed a picture of Ruby’s class that day with Ruby sitting in the back, head down, and no stocking hat. I asked her about it at the end of the day, and she said that kids were teasing her for her hat because it was really just a stocking. It really hurt her feelings. Not only that, but her teacher told me after school that day that I might want to work with her on addition problems with three sums because she had kind of a melt down when doing them that day. She just took a test where she aced addition problems with three sums, but the teacher had no idea that her meltdown was really because she had been teased about the stocking cap,and her feelings were hurt. I know I can’t protect my children from everything, but that doesn’t mean that I need to throw them to the wolves either.

9. They wouldn’t feel as much pressure to conform. On more than one occasion, I have had to talk to Ruby about being more of a follower than a leader in order to fit in, and when I say it out loud, it just sounds ridiculous. For example, during spirit week, everyone had to wear their holiday best. Ruby proudly wore her big beautiful poofy dress from her grandma. She felt beautiful and she loved it, but when I was in the classroom teaching an art class that afternoon, I heard several girls make comments like, “Ruby’s dress is soooo big!” (And not in a fascinated complimentary way, but in an unflattering questioning way.) These comments haven’t changed her as a person yet…but how long until they do?

10. We could accomplish way more in a day than is possible at school. With 28 kids in a classroom of varying abilities, transition times, lunch time, two recesses, busy work, behavior management, and so on, I know from experience that the amount of actual learning in a 7 hour school day could easily be done in 2 hours at home. That would allow me to get through all of the standards and skills with plenty of time for free exploration, imagination games, outside time, crafts, field trips, and more!

11. Their tanks would be full of love. When Ruby comes home from school, decompresses, does her homework, plays with her siblings, and has some choice time, there is very little time that we actually get to spend with her. What will life be like when all four kids are in school? How would we ever be able to fill all of their tanks with love? If they are all at home with me all day, however, I can parcel out special one on one time for each child throughout the day.

12. They would learn from each other. Yes, there are varying abilities in any classroom, but in a homeschool environment with siblings ranging in age, the younger ones can learn from the older ones and the older ones can learn from teaching the younger ones.

13. I’m here anyways! I am going to be home anyways with Julian for the next five years, so why not throw a few more kids into the mix while I can!

14. We wouldn’t waste time driving. Because we go to a school of choice, it’s a 20 minute drive each way. Without that drive, Scott could save an hour during the mornings when he usually drives her to school, and I wouldn’t have to disrupt naps and such to get her in the afternoon. We would also save on gas. (Although we would probably drive just as much going on field trips!)

15. We could take vacations whenever we wanted. Instead of worrying about the school schedule, we would be able to make vacation time happen whenever we wanted.

16. My heart is telling me to homeschool. In my heart of hearts, this just feels like the right decision, but I want to make a decision that is best for our whole family and equally consider everyone’s needs.

Cons of Homeschooling:

1. Public school provides a big social scene. Ruby loves recess and doing her weekly sharing time. At school, she gets to be a part of a group where they have PE, music, concerts, group activities, field trips, and more. There aren’t any homeschool groups in our area right now, and if we wanted a social group, we would have to create one.

2. School has introduced new things. In kindergarten, Ruby really took off with writing more than I was ever able to do with her at home. This year, she learned about Pixie 4 in her computer class, started reading chapter books, and gets excited about taking care of the Earth or whatever else they are learning about.

3. Ruby’s special time with daddy in the morning. Right now, Ruby enjoys breakfast with daddy and they listen to a book on tape on their way to school. This is very special time for them.

4. Would I have enough time for everyone? Ruby likes to do a lot of intricate projects that require a lot of help from me. In doing these projects with her, I’m not able to spend as much time with the younger kids who need me too. I’m just worried that if I were to homeschool, there just wouldn’t be enough of me to go around.

5. One day our kids will be out in the world, shouldn’t we prepare them for it? Being independent, being autonomous, being on their own, learning how the world works…these are all things that public schools help to teach our children. How young do children need to learn this, however, and/or do they?

6. Would I get stir crazy? I kind of enjoy getting out of the house to get Ruby every day, and I like being a part of the school community and going to math nights and school carnivals. Although, I must say that I have tried to get involved in the PTO, and it’s the same story as the last school. Everything is decided by the committee, and you can come to meetings to see what they’re up to, but they’re not looking for any real input from anyone.

7. It would cost some money. Workbooks alone would be about $50/child (just stuff I found on Amazon to cover the basics at this point), if we wanted to get involved in any Koinonia classes, they are about $200/each, and then there’s all of the extra materials that I might need to do science experiments and such, not to mention field trips, and so on.

8. When I was homeschooled, I missed the social interaction and wanted to go back to public school. I was homeschooled from 2nd – 7th grade and went back to public school in the 8th grade. When I was in 6th grade, I really started missing the social interactions, but when I went back to school, I was just too innocent and it was not a positive experience for me at all (lots of bullying). So, then the question becomes, “Do we prepare our children for the social pressures of middle and high school by exposing them to it from a young age, or if we homeschool, is it possible to provide them enough social interaction so that they don’t feel like they’re missing out?”

9. What if they complain? What if I work really hard to get materials, books, and supplies, set up a routine, and get everything all into place only to have them whine and complain about it? I imagine that I would just keep going back to the drawing board until I got it right, but it could be frustrating.

10. What if they spend too much time in front of a screen? I plan on having a pretty set routine that wouldn’t allow for too much screen time (pretty much like we do now, but a little stricter, like no choice time until after lunch), but what if I’m up late in the night with little ones, or feeling sick, or have too many things piling up?

11. Will Elliot be able to get his energy out? To be honest, I’ve kind of been looking forward to Elliot going to school because it’s hard to keep him busy all day, especially during these cold winter months when the little ones are sick and we’re not going outside much. We’ve talked so much about kindergarten next year so much that Elliot is actually really excited to go to the same school as Ruby.

12. Ruby doesn’t want to homeschool. I thought that once I talked to her about homeschooling, she would be really excited about it and want to switch right away, but that hasn’t been the case. She is too into the routine of it. Some people have recommended “deschooling”. If I want to give her a fair choice, I’m really going to have to show her the fun of homeschool, the social opportunities, and the benefits of it before she can really decide. Ultimately though, if she’s not excited about it, I don’t think it would work.

In Conclusion

It really comes down to the fact that if I were to homeschool our kids, I would be able to provide them with better academic support, but I wouldn’t be able to provide all of the social opportunities that school provides. What do you think? Have you ever weighed the pros and cons of homeschooling?

Stay tuned to see what we choose!

Embracing Motherhood It's Time to Stop the Mommy Wars

It’s Time to Stop the Mommy Wars!

After watching this viral video about the Mother ‘Hood, it really made me think about the way that we judge each other without sharing our stories face to face.

In the same way that we can experience extreme road rage simply because we are not looking at the people who have enraged us, it can be easy to judge each other based on stereotypes until we have actually met each other and shared our stories. It is these biased judgments that fuel the mommy wars, and they need to stop.

I would love to be part of a world where these mommy wars don’t exist, and so I am trying to do everything in my power make myself a part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem.

If we could all focus on lifting each other up instead of putting each other down and loving and accepting each other even though we may be different, we could really break down some of the barriers that are preventing us from living in a more harmonious way.

Here are nine things that I think will really help to end all mommy wars. (And honestly, many of these tips are great for breaking down barriers between all people, not just mothers.)

1. Don’t Be a Bully

I don’t think that bullies always realize that they are bullies. When I was an elementary school teacher, I would talk to my students about bullies, and I would tell them that I felt sorry for them because they are usually people who feel insecure, alone, and scared. I would explain that even though bullies are hurting however, it didn’t make it okay for them to hurt others.

Bullies don’t just happen in the world of children, they happen in the world of adults too. Have you ever seen or experienced bully behavior in your mommy world? Or even worse, have you exhibited bully behavior yourself? Have you ever judged someone for doing something different than you and made a sarcastic remark about it? That’s what bullies do. Have you ever ignored a new mom at playgroup because you were too scared about fitting in yourself? You were being a bully. Have you ever rolled your eyes at the mother whose child was having a tantrum at the grocery store instead of offering her a reassuring glance? That’s bully behavior.

We need to stop bully behavior, and we need to stop supporting others when they exhibit it. Bullies can do a lot more damage when they have followers. Weak people often follow bullies because they don’t want to be bullied themselves. Moms who are scared and alone may saddle up to the strongest voice, looking for protection, looking for acceptance, looking for direction, but it is never worth it if it hurts someone else. Bullies are the ones leading these mommy wars, and their bully behavior needs to stop.

2. Motherhood Unites Us

Regardless of whether we are married or single, had a natural birth at home or a c-section at a hospital, breast feed or bottle feed, co-sleep or crib sleep, cry it out or nurse to sleep, feed our children organic food or processed food, or any other number of differences, we are all first and foremost mommies, and that is what’s most important.

We all created and carried a tiny human, and we all felt it kick and move inside of us for months and months as we struggled with questions, insecurities, and self doubt. “Will I be a good mom? Will I know what to do? Will I make the right decisions?” We all melted into a puddle of goo when we first smelled our newborn’s scent, and we bonded. We each bonded in our own ways, but we bonded with our tiny little humans nonetheless. We were changed forever. We became mothers.

We need to remember what unites us when we meet each other at the park, see each other at the grocery store, let our kids play together at play group, and join in discussions on online groups. We need to remember that even though we may make different decisions based on our upbringings, personalities, situations, influences, and resources, we are all still connected and we can all still support each other. When we are united, there is no room for mommy wars.

3. Be a Good Mom Friend

We have the potential to have many mommy acquaintances through playgroups, online groups, social functions, and the like, and if we’re lucky, we’ll also have a few good mommy friends. I have been fortunate enough to have a collection of wonderful mommy friends that extend far beyond my small town city limits. With so many small ones underfoot, I don’t get out much, but thanks to the advancements in technology, I am connected to them nonetheless.

The mommies that lift me up, that make me feel better about myself, that make me feel like I can do anything – these are the ones that I keep close to my tender mommy heart. The mommies who question me, put me down, make sarcastic comments, scoff at my choices, try to tell me how their way is better, and only talk about themselves – these are the ones that I don’t let in.

Your good mommy friends will help you to be a better mommy. They will lift you up, support you, help you to see things that you might not have seen otherwise, offer a new perspective, are excited for you, want to learn and grow with you, and most importantly, they know what it’s like to be a mommy and they share their mommy heart with you. When we can be a good mommy friend, we are building bridges that connect our souls and we are breaking down the barriers that lead to mommy wars.

4. What’s Right for You Isn’t Right for Everyone

Even if you’ve done all of the research and you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt the best food to feed your children, the best way to teach them, the best way to give birth, and the best car seat, you cannot assume that this is the BEST way, this is just the way that works best for you.

I get so excited every time I learn something new, and the main reason why I wanted to write this blog was to record and share what I’m learning, but I have to be really really careful that my voice doesn’t come across as “I know what’s best for everyone”. I know that every mom is on her own journey and will choose what works best for her based on her  experiences, personalitiy, resources, and so on. This blog is about what’s best for ME based on MY research, MY personality, MY needs, and what makes ME happy. Maybe, just maybe, some of the things will resonate with you, or make you think about what works for you, or motivate you to do your own research, or just comfort you to know that there is someone out there looking for answers…just like you.

What’s important is that we all have the right to choose. Sadly, some of these rights are being threatened because while individuals are smart, society is perceived as stupid, and therefore, the government tries to tell us what to eat, how to sleep, how to give birth, how to medicate, and so on in sweeping “one size fits all” generalizations. I encourage you to seek out your own answers, to do what works for you, and to try not to impose what you have learned onto others. If we can treat others how we want to be treated, we can put a stop to the judgments that have led to these mommy wars.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Moms

Whenever I scroll through Pinterest and see a mom doing a bunch of crafts with her toddler that I just don’t have the time for, or I see a blog post from someone I’m following who is cooking something I just haven’t mastered yet, or I see images of moms one step ahead of me on Facebook, my first reaction is to compare myself to those moms. I don’t mean to, but it’s like my brain is saying, “You should be doing that! Why aren’t you doing that?” And then the feelings of guilt start to bubble up.

I start to justify why I’m not like the other moms (who all have it together way better than me, obviously), why I’m not doing what they are doing, how what I’m doing is more important, and then it’s like a switch where I’ve gone from guilty to angry. “Why are they doing that? I would never prioritize that! What I’m doing is better! ” And just like that, my feeling of guilt have transformed into feelings of loathing for the other mom.

Isn’t that horrible? Have you ever felt yourself headed down that path? I am trying to make it my new mission to not get swept away comparing myself to other moms. If I see them doing something that I would also like to try, I tuck that idea in the back of my mind to save for later, and if they’re doing something that I’m just not ready for, then I am training myself to say, “Good for them! I am glad that they are doing what makes them happy!” If we can all support each other even when we are in different stages of motherhood, I think it will most definitely help to end these mommy wars.

6. Stop Trying to Portray Perfection

We all want to share the good in our life, to post our proudest moments to Facebook and Instagram, and to show the world that we do, in fact, know what we are doing. But sometimes, we can work so hard on trying to prove that we’re doing good, that we even fool ourselves into believing this caricature of perfection. Our lives as mothers aren’t always full of perfect Pinterest posts. Yes, we all have our shining moments, but most of the time we’re elbows deep in poop, puke, and pee simply trying to remember what day it is.

I think it’s good to share the good and the bad, and to know that the bad isn’t really bad, it’s just real. I’m not saying that we need to sit around and complain about how tough motherhood is or post pictures of all of our failures, but we need to be able to get real with each other. We need to be able to share with those who we are close to what it’s really like, what we’re struggling with, what’s perplexing us, and what we’re trying to do about it.

If we all do this, if we can all share what it’s really like, then it won’t seem like we’re the only ones who are actually struggling. If we can all get real, it will create a culture that welcomes honesty, introspection, and meaningful relationships. This is the kind of culture where mommy wars don’t exist.

7. Avoid Being a Copycat Mom

I have always been fascinated when I see two or more girls in a group that are all wearing similar outfits. It’s like, did they all call each other before heading out and say, “Today we’re going to wear leggings, baggy v-necked t-shirts, and open toed shoes”? I see this so often that I’ve joked with my husband about wanting to create a coffee table book where I document all of the “twins” that I see.

We all have a desire to fit in, to be accepted, and to belong, and when we’re in a group where there is common ground, an agreed upon set of “rules”, it creates a sense of security. There’s nothing wrong with belonging to various groups, but if we start looking to the group to answer our questions instead of first looking within, it could be a problem. I mean, maybe you love wearing leggings, but maybe you don’t. What if everyone in your group was wearing leggings and you showed up with jeans? You would feel like an outsider, you would feel like everyone was looking at you, and you would question yourself.

As mothers, we may associate with a home birth crowd, a baby wearing group, or a working moms clique who all share similar characteristics. When we’re in these groups, there seem to be these unwritten rules about what all of the moms do and believe in. If you’re a natural mom, you should have a home birth, use cloth diapers, eat only organic food, co-sleep, wear your baby, breastfeed, and homeschool. If you’re a modern mom, you should have an epidural, vaccinate your children, teach your baby to self soothe, pump stores of breast milk, get back to work, and send your child to the best preschool.

But what happens when we pick and choose what works for us rather than adhering to the guidelines of a certain group? What happens when we abandon the checklist and just follow our instincts? Is it possible to be a part of the attachment parenting online forum if you don’t sleep with your baby? Can you still subscribe to the organic moms newsletter if you let your children have McDonald’s from time to time? Will you be shunned by the working moms group if you don’t vaccinate your children?

I have really struggled with this concept because my desire to fit in is strong, but my desire to march to the beat of my own drum is stronger. I choose to do what’s best for me and my family, and as a result, I kind of feel like I don’t really fit in anywhere. Slowly but surely, however, I feel like I’m becoming a part of a really cool new community. In this community, we are bonded by the fact that we are mothers, we love being mothers, we love doing what’s best for our children, and we support each other. It is truly liberating, and it is a mindset that will not allow for the behavior that leads to mommy wars.

8. Don’t Take Everything Personally

Did someone just post a Facebook comment that you KNOW what was meant for you, share a personal story that you’re POSITIVE was meant to teach you a lesson, or explain what they’ve tried when they were in your situation as a way to show YOU that YOU don’t know how to be a mom?

I think that sometimes we can get so lost in our own little worlds, and so absorbed with ourselves, that it seems like everyone else must be too. But the reality, is that everyone is living their own lives, struggling with their own daily battles, focused on their own goals and tribulations, and they really, honestly, don’t care about you as much as you think they do. (This concept is discussed in more depth in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, and I highly recommend you read it!)

I know that we can’t control our interactions with strangers, but with the people that are in our lives (who are hopefully in our lives for a good reason), we should give them the benefit of the doubt. When they say something that taps into one of our insecurities and it hurts, we can’t assume that they were trying to hurt us on purpose. If we can assume that everyone loves us and has our best interests in mind, it will reduce our stress levels and put us in a much more positive place.

Then, if time and time again, it becomes clear that a person in our life is trying to make us feel bad, is trying to put us down, and is definitely trying to hurt us, then we have two options. We can confront them about it and/or we can cut them out of our lives for a little while. There is no reason to associate with a bully. There is no reason to keep people in our lives who make us feel bad about ourselves. But there are also miscommunications that occur, and through open and honest conversations about our feelings, we can usually get to the bottom of them. In this way, we can stop the mommy wars one friendship at a time.

9. Find Your Own Happiness

My 6 year old daughter is already such an old soul and loves discussing her life plans. She’s always talking about what kind of mother she’ll be and what career choices she’ll make. Right now, she wants to be teacher, but she also sees herself as an artist, a mathematician, a writer, a nature girl, and a scientist. I always tell her that before she gets married, she has to find her own happiness. I tell her that before she can fall in love with someone else, she has to love herself first. I tell her that in order to love herself, she has to know who she is and that she can do this by figuring out what she loves to do. I encourage her to follow her passions, I help her to see what her passions are, and I guide her towards options that will help her to learn or grow in the areas she is passionate about.

Maybe you were lucky enough to have parents or a mentor who did that for you when you were a child (I was, thanks mom and dad!), but maybe you are just starting out on this journey to find your own happiness.

What makes me happy is always changing as I change and grow. Before I got married, I moved to Colorado, snowboarded like crazy, traveled, had adventures, and followed my heart. Now that I’m married and a mother of four, I feel like the true adventure is just beginning! I find happiness researching and learning about nutrition and how it affects our bodies, trying out recipes that are delicious and meet the nutrition needs of my family, learning about the brain and how children learn, creating learning activities for my children that are in their zone of proximal development, arranging our home into stations that encourage independent learning and creative play, and of course I love writing about what I am learning!

I don’t do all of these things so that I can show off or look good, I do what makes me HAPPY and as a result, my family is too! Maybe you’re a mom who is happiest to get outside and explore, maybe you love doing crafts and posting them on Pinterest, maybe you love learning about history and being a part of historical reenactments, or maybe you love computers and learning programming. If you do what makes you happy, if you follow your passions, if you follow your heart, your family will benefit.

Don’t follow some checklist of what you think you should be doing. Follow your instincts, do what makes you happy, and don’t let anyone else intimidate you to be something you are not. Get rid of the guilt if you’re not into making your own Christmas ornaments. Let go of what society tries to make you feel you should be doing. Just listen to your heart, do what makes you happy, and never look back! When we find our own happiness, there isn’t as much room for the self doubt that leads to us judging others and fueling these mommy wars.

In Conclusion

If we can all take steps to stop bully behavior, realize we are all united through motherhood, be a good mom friend, stop comparing ourselves to other moms, know that what works for us doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, stop trying to portray perfection, avoid being a copycat mom, refrain from taking everything personally, and most importantly, find our own happiness, then I believe that we can stop these mommy wars once and for all.

If we can all embrace ourselves and our role as mothers, and if we can embrace each other, regardless of our differences and regardless of our preferences, then we can end these mommy wars, and get back to what really matters, being moms.

Embracing Motherhood The Story of How I Became a Stay at Home Mom

The Story of How I Became a Stay at Home Mom

I worked full time until my children were 6 and 18 months old, and choosing to be a stay at home mom was the best decision I ever made. I often wonder and regret why I didn’t do it sooner, but I did it nonetheless. Here’s my story.

I’ll always remember what it felt like the first day I went back to work after spending a glorious three months uninterrupted with my sweet first baby girl, Ruby. As I walked down the long hallway to my classroom, I was greeted with hugs and sympathetic sentiments.

One teacher said,

“It’s okay to cry. I cried at first too.”

And I thought, yes I probably should cry. But oddly enough, I didn’t feel any tears. I wondered what was wrong with me that I wouldn’t be crying at the mere thought of leaving my sweet, precious, exclusively breastfed little infant in the arms of someone else.

I mean, it was my mom watching her, but still…

So, as I stood there in my classroom, all set up and ready for the students that had been waiting patiently with a substitute during the first three months of school for me to return, and I tried to see if I could cry.

But before I could get at my true feelings, I had to peel back a few layers that were covering them up.

First, I peeled back the excuse that I had to do this because we couldn’t afford to make ends meet any other way, then I scraped away the sentiments that she was in good hands with my mother, and finally I sloughed off the guilty feelings about how bored I sometimes felt being home without any adult interaction, and how hard it actually was to be a mother.

What I found buried underneath was a very fresh wound that was very sensitive to these probing thoughts.

Just poking at that wound brought back a sudden flood of memories. And as I stood there remembering what it felt like to hold her the moment after she was born, the way she was always happiest to lay inbetween us cooing early in the mornings, the sweet smell of breast milk that was always on her skin, the softness of her little fingers as they would grasp at my face, and the way her eyes would widen and how she would reach for me desperately even when she merely glanced at me from across the room…

I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breath and the tears started to flow noiselessly in a stream down my cheek.

I was just about to start heaving and sobbing when I heard the shuffle of footsteps in the hallway. As I looked at the clock, I noticed that I only had a few more minutes to pull things together before I needed to greet my students for the day.

So, I took all of those memories and all of those feelings, and I buried them deep down into the pit of my soul.

Then I packed all of my excuses back on top until the feelings of pain became but a vague memory. And I felt something grow within me that would only grow stronger as time went on. It wasn’t really a feeling of anything, but the absence of feeling. It was a numbness that allowed me to focus on the tasks in front of me while burying an instinct that I just couldn’t let out.

A teacher who saw me crying ran in for a quick hug.



“Don’t worry,” she said expertly. “It will get easier.” And she was right. It did get easier.

With each passing day, I got better at burying my true emotions, and the painful wound of our separation began to heal into a weird disfigured scar. Every time I would hear my sweet precious daughter cry as I slipped out the door to go to work in the morning or back to work after nursing her at lunch, I would pack more excuses like a salve onto my wound.

Everyone that watched her at our home during the rest of the school year would always tell me,

“She always stops crying a few minutes after you’re gone,” as if that was supposed to console me. But it did.

I knew she was in good hands and that she was being loved and cared for. My mom would even bring her into the classroom for me to nurse her during every break that I had and would even hang out for hours in the back of the room playing quietly for the first month that I was back to work. But they weren’t MY hands taking care of her, and that was a fact that gnawed at me constantly.

When the family was done caring for Ruby and she had to be put into daycare, it really was the best possible scenario. A coworker’s mother in law did day care one mile from where I was teaching, and I was able to go and breastfeed her to sleep during my lunch break every single day. But even though Ruby was happy there and well cared for, I felt like I was missing out.

I would try to linger after dropping her off just to be able to spend a little more time with her, but the pressures of work were calling me, and I had to go. She still cried every day as I left, and it never stop hurting to leave her.

At the end of the day, the eight hours we were apart were summarized in a few sentences.

As I got a report of what she ate, whether or not she pooped, and any other milestones she accomplished, my mind was really only half listening because all I really wanted to do was just whisk her away so that I could be with her as much as I could for the remainder of the day. But there were always errands to run, dinner to prepare, and things to do around the house, and it just felt like there was never enough TIME.

After a tough and emotional return to work, I decided that a position utilizing my Master’s degree in Language Acquisition at another school would allow me more flexibility and freedom to be a better working mother. In my new job as ESL Coach the following year, I found that it was definitely a better blend of my two worlds.

But little did I know that even as I was interviewing for this new job, I was pregnant with our second child, and he was about to change everything.

Elliot was born peacefully in front of the fireplace of our little one bedroom condo in December, and after only four weeks of maternity leave (we couldn’t afford to have my pay docked like we had with Ruby), I went back to work. (Did you know that every other industrialized nation except for America mandates full paid maternity leave? Go figure.)

Elliot was quite different from his independent, happy-with-anyone big sister. He was born ten days overdue, but he probably would have preferred to stay in there indefinitely. Even after he had been earthside for over a day, he still didn’t want to open his eyes and preferred instead to bury himself in my bosom and nurse constantly.

If a little bit of me died having to leave Ruby behind, leaving Elliot behind almost destroyed me. He needed me so much and my only consolation was that he slept most of the day and was up with me to nurse constantly throughout the night.

I almost didn’t even want to sleep inbetween feedings because I just wanted to hold on to each moment where the two of us could be snuggled up together soaking in the feel of his skin against mine and feeling his little body rise and fall with each breath.

Just as with Ruby, we had an onslaught of family visitors who moved in with us and helped take care of Elliot during my first six weeks back at work. After that, I only had to put him in day care for three months until the end of the school year. Throughout it all, he was always really close to my work and even though he would never take a bottle, I was able to go to him and nurse him every four hours.

Right up until before he was born, I had assumed that he would be taken care of by the sweet grandmotherly lady who lovingly took care of Ruby. But due to some unforeseen hip problems, she told me that she wouldn’t be able to take care of a new baby after all. That left me scrambling at the last minute to find someone else. I thought I found the perfect place right next to the school with a busy day care mom who had room for both Ruby and Elliot. I was sad to take Ruby out of her current placement, but happy to have both of my kids together.

When I came to nurse Elliot (10 weeks old) on my first break during their first day at this new place, I noticed that Ruby (17 months) was in her high chair eating food. I thought nothing of it until I came back at lunch only to see her nodding off, still in her high chair. When I came back at the end of the day, she was STILL in her high chair.

I was very upset, and the day care mom tried desperately to console me saying that she fell asleep there and had only just woken up. I was just like,”Why didn’t you put her in bed after she fell asleep in the high chair?” but she had no response.

The next day, I knew that I couldn’t take Ruby back there again, so I called Ruby’s sweet grandmotherly caretaker in tears and asked if she could take Ruby for the remainder of the year. She graciously agreed, but reminded me again that she wouldn’t be able to take care of Elliot too. Elliot seemed to do fine with the busy day care mom because he pretty much slept all day, and I had no other options, so that was that.

I’ll always remember the African lullaby songs that I would listen to every morning as I first dropped off Ruby, then Elliot to a parking lot near his drop off home where I would nurse him. When I hear that cd to this day, it brings tears to my eyes.

I was desperately trying to juggle having a career, being a mom, being a wife, and taking care of myself, but I never had enough to give to everyone and so it felt like I was failing in all areas of my life.

When summer break finally came, I was in total and absolute heaven! I could finally be with my sweet babies all day and all night without any interruptions. We got into a nice little routine, and I really started to feel like not only was I surviving; I was thriving!

Instead of just worrying about our basic needs, I could actually spend time each day thinking of new ways to arrange our little house for the best play and learning opportunities, I had time to cook healthy meals for everyone, I could sleep when the kids slept without worrying about a clock, and most importantly, I could nurse my 6 month old Elliot on demand. He was VERY happy about that!

When we traveled back to our Michigan stomping ground that summer, we fell in love with being a family and being surrounded by family. When we came back to our Colorado home and our third floor condo with no air conditioning in 100° F weather, it just didn’t feel right. It felt empty and lonely, and I just couldn’t imagine what it would be like trying to get through another year while working. When we looked at our finances and saw that with two kids in daycare, it was hardly worth it for my husband to work, we made a big decision to have him be a stay at home dad and take care of the kids while I continued to work.

After those wheels were set in motion, and with the start date of my next school year quickly approaching, I just woke up one day and knew I couldn’t go back. Elliot was just getting used to me being around all the time, and I couldn’t bear to be apart from him again.

It felt like my heart would most certainly break into a thousand pieces if I couldn’t continue breastfeeding him on demand.

And then there was my sweet little Ruby who was already growing up so fast! At 18 months, she knew all of her letters and numbers and she was already starting to read. I wanted to be with her during every milestone, every cuddle, every naptime, and every tear. I wanted to be there for both of them, and I wanted to ENJOY my time with them, not just get through it.

After I made the phone call resigning from my position, I felt giddy with excitement! I was so happy to have finally made the decision to be with my little ones and set up a new life as a stay at home mom, but this in itself is another journey with its own story. 🙂

While we waited on the short sale of our condo, we packed up all of our things, said goodbye to the beautiful state of Colorado, our family there, our friends, and what had been our home for the last 6 years and moved into my parent’s house in Michigan.

After a few months, Scott got a job as a computer tech in a little rural town we had never heard of. He commuted over an hour every day until we finally accepted that even though it was a little farther from family than we would have liked, it was still a heck of a lot closer than Colorado, and it was really a great job in a nice location. So, we moved there. Now, we own an amazing house on a nice piece of land that’s much much cheaper than our condo in Colorado, and with two more kids, we couldn’t be happier!

I’ll always be a little bit sad about the times that I lost with Ruby and Elliot, but it was all a part of my journey and a part of our story, and I am so proud of how far we have come and what we have become.

At first, we tried to make our kids fit into our lives, just like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. But now that we have centered every aspect of our lives around our children and me being a stay at home mom, I couldn’t imagine a simpler, happier, or more fulfilling way to spend these years.

Our babies are only babies for a short little while. Why is there so much pressure and such a hurried rush for women to “get back to work”?

Now, I totally understand that the life of a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone, and I am completely and totally fine sharing the same arena with mothers who choose to work or have no choice but to work, but

I feel like the voices that are out there cheering on the working mothers are MUCH LOUDER than the voices cheering on the stay at home mothers.

When I was struggling as a working mom, I got A LOT of encouragement from co-workers, family, friends, strangers, and the internet that what I was doing was ok, that it was hard but it would get easier, that my kids would be fine, and that I would be fine.

Only one brave soul, one of those grandmothers who become a mother again due to unfortunate circumstances, told me the truth.

“You never get those years back,”

she said to me one day. I felt offended and angry that she would suggest something that I felt at the time was impossible, but her words haunted me and were possibly the catalyst for me leaving my job to begin this wonderful career as a stay at home mom.

Comments like, “I could never do what you do.” or “Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your Master’s level education?” are sentiments that my husband and I have heard on more than one occasion. But worse than the negative comments are the absence of comments.

At times, my voice is soft, too soft perhaps, because I don’t want to offend anybody. We live in an age where everyone is fighting for women to have equal rights and equal pay, but who is fighting for the moms who want to stay home and raise their families?

We are looked at as ancient relics from our grandmother’s era, something that our progressive society has tried to do away with.

But I don’t want to be silent anymore. I want to shout from the top of a mountain (or at least blog through the channels of the Internet) that it’s okay to be a stay at home mom.

I’m not saying it’s better than being a working mom or that all moms should be stay at home moms, I’m just saying that being a stay at home mom isn’t a step down, or something we all do because we couldn’t do anything else. I see it as a privilege, an honor, and the best career move I could have ever made, and something I will never ever ever regret.

my five year old daughter outside wearing a winter coat and a serious look on her face

What Happened When My Daughter Told Me She Only Half Loved Me

Ever since our fourth child has been born, I’ve kind of been in survival mode, trying to navigate the life of stay at home mom with an extra little person attached to my boob 24/7. My oldest daughter is 5 and our fourth child is 4 months old now, so needless to say, I’m a busy woman! But even though I’m very busy, I always try to make giving each child a lot of attention my top priority, or at least, I thought I did…

a picture my five year old drew to show how much she loves her daddy

I Love My Dad and My Dad Loves Me

for 100s day Ruby said she wished she had 100 dads

I Wish I Had 100 Dads

 

It all started one morning when I was talking to our oldest daughter, Ruby, about the kindergarten conference I had had with her teacher the evening before, and I asked her why she only wrote stories in class about her Dad and about how much she loves him. To be honest, I thought this “Daddy love” started because she felt sorry for him not getting enough attention, and I just thought it was cute that she wanted to wear her “Daddy Rocks” t-shirt every day, but I didn’t actually think it meant that she loved me any less.

I mean, come on! I carried her for 9 months, I went through 36 hours of labor to meet her, I nursed her every two hours day and night until she was a year old, I gave up my career to stay at home and take care of her…of course I’m her favorite! …or so I thought.

So I asked her. “Ruby, why do always write stories about your dad?”

“Because I love him more than anything in the world,” she replied matter of factly.

“Well, you love me too, right?” I asked. At that point, I expected a quick, “Of course mom!” and then we would all be on our way and I could stop being paranoid. But that’s not what happened. What happened is that she paused. For a looooooong time. “Oh no!” I thought, “This can’t be good!”

And then she scrunched up her face like she always does when she’s deep in thought and she said, “Well, I only half love you.”

“What do you mean,” I stammered, sure that I had misunderstood her somehow.

“I only half love you mom. It’s just what’s in my heart,” she explained without any remorse.

As the weight of those words sank in, I had no response. “Oh, ok,” was all that I could muster before she rushed off to play.

So of course, I let my world crumble around me and reflected on all of the ways that I was failing as a mother. I thought about how busy I’ve been, and I knew that I had all of the excuses in the world! I mean, we’ve only been living in this new house less than a year and there are still an endless amount of projects to be done, my baby is only 4 months old and there are some nights when I only get a few hours of sleep (and the days of me being able to take a nap during the day are long gone), I spend a lot of time preparing healthy food, and then I have this blog that I love, but which also pulls me away.

And then there’s Ruby, so resilient and so strong. She’s been through five moves in the last five years, adjusted to three new babies in her life, and then after we finally got settled in our new home and new routines, she started kindergarten, moved to a new school halfway through the year, and had to get used to spending the majority of the day away from me, from us.

And then my thoughts went in the other direction, and I thought, hey, I’m the mom, not the friend, and if in doing what’s best for her and meeting her needs in the best way I know how means that I’m not always her favorite, well then so be it. Sometimes a mom’s job is hard because we need to see the whole picture, not just get through each individual moment.

But then my thoughts went back in the other direction, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks how I had been putting her on the back burner because I knew that she could handle it. When she started kindergarten, I gave her all of the attention in the world as she made the adjustment, but then my attention drifted to the new baby as we figured each other out and then our other baby, Ophelia, who is 20 months now, needed me more than ever as she adjusted to having to share my lap. And then there was Elliot who finally got to be the oldest while Ruby was at school and his needs were always in the forefront of my mind as I would think about the ways in which I could challenge him and help him grow in this last year and a half that I get him at home before he goes away too.

So after looking into my soul and seeing all of this, I knew that something needed to change. Not a drastic “scrap everything and do a complete 180” change, but a minor tweak that could bring this family back into balance. I knew that I needed to put Ruby back in the forefront of my mind, and when I did, I almost cried because I had missed her being there so much. I thought about her as a little baby and how I would look deep into her soulful eyes wondering what she would be like when she was older, and then I looked at her now, and she is so amazing and so wonderful and my heart felt like it was about to burst with how much I loved her.

And then I found her playing quietly with her My Little Ponies and I just scooped her onto my lap in a big bear hug. I nestled my nose into her hair and told her how much I loved her. And then we just started talking about everything and she said something so amazing and profound. She said, “Mom, I just don’t know where my heart belongs – at school or at home.” We went on to talk about how yes, she spends more time during the week at school, but when you count up the hours at night and on the weekend that she actually spends much more time at home. And then I explained how you can pack up your heart and take it with you where ever you go, but that when you’re home is when your heart is truly at peace and can breathe a big sigh of release knowing that it is safe and sound.

I told her how sorry I was that I had let her slip through the cracks lately, and I told her how I had gotten a little too busy lately, but that she was always in my heart and that I loved her more than anything in the world. I also explained to her that I thought that we were spending a lot of time together because she was always helping me with projects like sewing or making cookies, but I told her that I would spend some time every day doing what she wanted to do like playing a game or something. I also decided to let her ride up front with me on her way home from school (in her booster seat with the airbag turned off) so that we could have more time to chat.

I could just see her soften before my very eyes the more we talked. It was almost like she had started holding her breath ever since Julian was born and now she was finally letting it out. She hugged me tighter than ever, and I felt so close and so connected to her in that moment. The next morning while her, Daddy, and I had breakfast together, the mood was different somehow. Scott and I both clearly noticed the difference in her.

my daughter and I sorting through her school papers

Ruby and I Bonding While Sorting Through Her School Work

It’s been two weeks since that day, and I feel like Ruby and I are closer than ever. Our daily chats in the car after school are getting more and more interesting and complex and I am finally hearing about her school day in ways I never did before. When we get home, I take some time to just be with her doing whatever she wants and when her tank is full, she rushes off to play happy as can be.

Being a mom is a balancing act. It’s like I have all of these plates spinning all the time, and I have to know which ones to tend to next so that they don’t all fall. I let Ruby’s plate wobble dangerously close to toppling over, but I was able to get her spinning again just in time. In doing so, I had to let all of the other plates wobble just a fraction of a second longer as I re-calibrated my time, but now we are in a nice comfortable routine where everyone’s needs are being met…for now that is. As we get comfortable in this new normal, I am keeping one watchful eye out for the next plate that starts to wobble, and so the cycle will continue because that is what is being a good mom is all about.

My Number One Priority as a Mom

My Number One Priority As a Mom

The most important thing to do with your children isn’t teaching them the ABCs, developing their oral language, teaching them how to read, or instilling manners or math skills. And while these things are important, they mean nothing without this…your love, your presence, your undivided attention…YOU.

I’ll do anything for my kids, and I want them to grow up knowing that I’ll always put them first – not with just my words, but my actions too.

Now, putting them first doesn’t mean that I put myself or my marriage second – because children need a happy mother, a happy father, and parents who love each other.

happy couple winter hat

Happily Married for Two Years

What it means is that I don’t want them to feel pushed aside because I needed to clean the house, work on my blog, or go on a date with Daddy. I want them to know without a shadow of a doubt that they are top priority and that I’d do anything for them.

Putting them first means that I will teach them things that will prepare them for the future and challenge their minds, that I will be there to set boundaries and hold them accountable, and that I will provide them with nutritious food and teach them how to make healthy choices. But most importantly, I will hold them. When they come to me with open arms, I will drop everything to squeeze them tight. I will hug them, cuddle them, smooth their hair, and scratch their backs until they pull away from me to go play. I will fill their tanks with so much love that they will have the confidence to be away from me and still wear my love on their sleeves.

Hugging our children is simply the best!

Family Photo

When children feel loved, they can take on the world. It gives them confidence, strength, and the ability to love others. It makes them feel important and like they matter. Having parents who love them is what gives children their wings.

This is what that love looks like…

1. Hug, Kiss, Snuggle, and Cuddle

With four kids five and under, I have my hands full! I am constantly busy doing dishes, laundry, preparing food, setting up learning stations, writing, and any other number of things. Lately, I’ve realized how much I have to prioritize because it seems that I can never completely tackle my “to do” list. That being said, cuddles, hugs, kisses, and snuggles always take a top priority, especially when I can tell that my little ones need me. Even if I’ve just started making a batch of sourdough muffins or I finally found a time to sit down and write, I will stop whatever I’m doing to drop down and give a hug, or go to the couch and read a book, or just rock them on my lap and smooth their hair.

cuddling a newborn

Cuddling Newborn Ophelia

Even when my kids are happily engaged and playing and I’m elbows deep in chores, whenever I see a little body race by, I do not hesitate to scoop it up in a big bear hug and smother it with kisses, or give a head scratch, or a little back rub. I do not take these moments for granted. I know that they will only be little once and so I kiss their chubby cheeks, snuggle up on the couch with a pile of books and silkies, hug them tightly, and cuddle them close whenever I can.

2. Say I Love You Often

Sometimes, we tend to not say the things that are implied as often as we should. It might seem obvious by your actions that you love your children, but I think that they still need to hear you say it many many times every single day. It shouldn’t be something forced that you say on the hour, but whenever you feel it well up inside of you, just say it! Whenever you find yourself completely in awe of this life that you carried inside of you, that shared a body with you, that you nursed, cuddled, and rocked through so many things – whenever you get an ache in your heart because you can literally feel it growing with love, about to burst with joy, say it out loud! Tell them exactly how amazing they are and how complete they make you feel.

children in winter coats hugging

Ruby and Elliot Hugging

3. Play

My kids have these amazing imaginations and play these crazy intricate imagination games with little figures and houses, building toys, or dress up clothes. my husband and I love getting on the floor with them and introducing new ways of play. Sometimes we’ll show them a new scenario and other times we’ll just follow their lead.

Family Play Time

Family Play Time

They need their tanks to be filled with love before they are ready to go and play on their own. One of our favorite things to do is to just play together. It’s an honor to be let into their worlds and it’s an insight into their brains and a little glimpse as to what is going on inside.

4. Tickle, Wrestle, and Fight

Every night before bed, my husband wrestles with all of the kids, and it is pretty much their favorite part of the day. It motivates them to drop whatever they’re doing and put their pajamas on so that they can race into the bedroom to fight their dad. He loves it too, and it is so cute to see them roughhouse and play. I’m a little better with the tickles than the wrestling. I know how to find just the right tickle spot…under the neck, behind the knee, or right on the belly! The kids love interacting with their grandpas through wrestling and fighting too. I think that wrestling is a very important part of the expression of love.

Tickle Time with Grandpa

Tickle Time with Grandpa

5. Listen

When you listen, and I mean really listen, you stop talking, you pause, you wait. With little children who don’t have the biggest vocabulary, it can be easy to speak for them and to supply an endless stream of chatter to make up for their silence. But when we learn how to slow down, stop talking, and really listen, we can hear so much more. If we get down to their level and get into their world they will open up in ways we couldn’t imagine.

Grandmas Love to Listen

Grandmas Love to Listen

6. Arrange Your Time

I know that we all have a thousand things to do and a million places to be, but we can make our lives as peaceful or as hectic as we want them to be. Trust me, we have gone through five moves and made some major life changes in the last five years so that we could be where we are today. When we had our first child and I came back into the classroom after an amazing 12 week maternity leave, a mother said something that really stuck with me. She actually wasn’t my student’s mother, but his grandmother who had taken custody of him and we were chatting about me being back at work. I said that of course I would love to be at home with my daughter, but I explained that I made more money than my husband and we couldn’t survive on one income. I explained how we didn’t have a choice, but even still, she said to me sweetly, “You can never get that time back.” How rude of her to say, I thought. Doesn’t she know my situation? But now that I’m staying home with my next two children and I see them throughout every single moment and milestone, I mourn for the time that I wasn’t with my first two while they were in daycare and I was juggling too much. We have worked hard to make our children a priority and it is a decision that I don’t think we will ever regret.

Being a Stay at Home Mom

Being a Stay at Home Mom

In Conclusion

There are a lot of things that I like to blog about pertaining to how kids learn, how to use food as our medicine, how to use the best parenting strategies, and my journey into motherhood, but nothing, absolutely NOTHING is as important as what I’ve covered in this post. Yes, all of the things that I write about have helped to bring our family to its current state of happiness, but the number one priority above all is love. It’s about giving your children all of you, the best you, the real you, and it’s about enjoying every moment in the moment and realizing that these sleepless nights, endless cuddles, and constant companionship represents but a fleeting time in our lives that we should embrace.

These Are the Best Days of Our Lives

There are two ways we can look at the different stages in our lives.

  1. We can say, this is a difficult time and I’m going to make the best of it because I know that what lies on the other side will be sweet sweet bliss.
  2.  We can embrace every moment in every stage as the best moments we will ever live.

Right now in this early parenting stage with little ones up in the night, surviving on little to no sleep, trying to figure out how to get our kids to eat healthy, establish a bedtime routine, learn manners…it’s all new, every single thing! It would be easy to say to each other, we’ll get through this. Just ___ more months or years and it will be just me and you, sitting on the couch, enjoying free time to do whatever we want! But then I see us…sitting on the couch, night after night after night with endless amounts of free time, and I get bored just thinking about it! I know that when all of our children are grown, moved out of the house, and having children of their own, we will embrace our new role as parents to adult children and eventually as grandparents. There will be a peaceful sort of bliss as we watch our children venture on their own, make their own mistakes in life, come to us to share their joys and sorrows, and we will patiently listen and support them as they come into their own. But I also know that we will look back at these times with young children as some of the best times of our lives. The late sleepless nights and the worry about what to do with a crying baby, a screaming toddler, or a defiant child will melt away in the farthest recesses of our mind as we remember their chubby little cheeks and how they would look at us like we were the only thing that mattered in the whole world, how their eyes would light up with laughter and delight at the very indication of a tickle, and how their sweet smell would calm and comfort us as we snuggled close for a cuddle.

When we had two children and I was starting to think about going back to work, I felt like I had to “get through” these stages so that I could “get back” to my career, make more money, provide…provide what? After having our third little angel, and settling into this amazing life up north, I am finally accepting that these ARE the best days of our life… and I don’t just say it with a forced grin. I don’t talk about how I “get through” the boredom of being a stay at home mom because it’s “what’s best” for my children. I am finally EMBRACING every moment and it is SO liberating. I see every moment as the last chance I’ll get to experience THAT moment and I want to make the most out of it. There are lots of little things that I have done to get to this stage of ultimate bliss, but the most important thing I’ve done is let go. We still talk about the future and what it could look like, but I’m not waiting for it with baited breath. I am here. I am present. I am living every moment RIGHT NOW.

When Scott and are two old people cuddled up on the porch swing, tucked under a warm blanket while we watch the sun dip below the horizon, we will look back on our lives with nostalgia and joy and we WON’T regret that we worked too much, or that we were too busy trying to cram in too many activities, or that we were so worried about money that it got in the way of what’s really important. Us. People. Time. Family. Moments. We will know that we embraced it all, we lived each moment to it’s fullest, and we were happy every step of the way.

IMG_3031

Who’s Got Time For a Blog?

I am the wife of an amazing husband who works so hard for our family and the mother of three lovely children, a 3 month old who likes to be held constantly, a rambunctious 2 year old, and a very wise 4 year old who is on the cusp of starting preschool. So why oh why would I delve into the world of blogging and web design??? To put it simply, it’s for my sanity. It’s for my soul, and it’s for the fact that even though I am a devoted mother who would lay my life on the line for my children and do anything for my husband, I still need to feel connected to the person who is just me. It’s so easy to give all of me and still feel like there is never enough, but when I am able to give to myself, what I am able to give to others is so much richer and full of honesty and joy. And so I have chosen to write this blog to nurture my soul and feed my adult brain so that I can be there 100% when I cuddle with my children, embrace my husband, and tell them that I love them with all of my heart.