When it comes to parenting, I consider myself a trial-and-error type of learner! I’ve had a bit of practice, of course, with 6 little ones (well, one “little” one is actually 13 and has 5 inches on me). You name it, I’ve done it: bribery, spanking, time-outs (both for the child and for myself), redirection, taking something away, reward charts, distraction (again, both for the child and myself), not to mention, a bit of yelling, pleading, and begging. Then my first child turned 2…
No, seriously, though, parenting is HARD. I’ve dealt with many issues and felt super guilty at times because I haven’t LOVED absolutely everything about being a mom. Now that I have a family of 8, I’ve had many moms say to me,
“Geez, I just don’t know how you do it! I can’t imagine doing it with (insert number here). I’m pulling my hair out with just one!”
I will be more honest here than most people and confess a top-secret, do NOT ever tell anyone I told you this because I’ll totally deny it….Ready? Okay, here it is: Having child #1 and #2 was harder than having #5 and #6. Oh, I definitely won’t say that having a full house is a piece of cake because it’s not, but that initial transition into parenthood was so very TOUGH. Even the time when my first few were little was a rollercoaster as well. Now, I’ll be even more honest and tell you another secret: When I had my first, my second, my third, and even when I was expecting my fourth…there were so many things that I just KNEW in my heart to be true, like how I was a firm believer in day care, and how I would never want to be a stay at home mom, and let me tell you, home-schooling was the FURTHEST thing from my mind. I even remember dreaming with absolute longing for the day that they would ALL be in school and I no longer had to wipe any butts! I felt so guilty for thinking that back then and probably would’ve never told anyone, but now realize that it was wrong to let anyone make me feel that way. I secretly love hearing newer, frazzled moms call me supermom simply because I get the chance to now share all of this with them. I would see them shaking their heads in amazement at the revelation that I was pregnant with my 6th at only 30 years old, but, really, if they saw the chaos that has been my life, well, let’s just say that they might not call me supermom. The truth is that it’s only gotten better and easier and more fun with each addition to our family!
Looking back, distinct memories fill my mind. I still remember a time when I was crying on the floor in a postpartum, hormonal heap, having just slipped in poop, only to discover that my toddler had removed her diaper and was also covered in poop, at the same time as my kindergartener needed to be picked up from school, and my newborn was crying to be nursed. This very vivid memory is exactly what comes to mind when I look a fellow mom straight in the eye and respond with,
“Instead of supermom, I feel like the star of an episode of ‘Dirty Jobs’.”
So, when I hear all the whining and groaning of a new mom or a frazzled mother dealing with a toddler and a newborn, my heart TOTALLY goes out to them! My instinct is to drive to their house (with a bottle of wine, if necessary), offer to do dishes, change diapers, or kidnap their babies while they take a bath, take a nap, or hide in their room to simply be alone! I remember feeling like I’d never sleep again, never shave my legs, and never have a chance to pee alone. I don’t envy being back there in that time with my first and second babies, and the last thing they want to hear is the infamous,
“Oh, you really need to enjoy this time, because it goes by so fast.” (I’ve itched to slap someone when they’ve said this at the worst possible time to a vulnerable mama).
While it does go by fast, it doesn’t change the fact that there are some pretty intense challenges that we face in parenthood that aren’t glamorous or fun. I’ll name a few just for kicks: digestive issues, the sex talk (with your child), laundry, broken bones, bad attitudes, snot, the sex talk (with your husband), potty training, bills, discipline…need I go on?
On another note, there are so many things that I’ve learned throughout parenthood, such as: which ages go with which milestones, not to give a baby a bottle with Dr. Pepper, don’t let them touch a stove, put them in car seats while driving, don’t let them run with scissors…blah, blah, blah. JUST KIDDING…kind of. I really have learned a lot of truly important things that I value, but let’s be honest, doesn’t it sometimes seem like so many moms talk as if they are experts on things they’ve learned that really aren’t life or death issues? For example, I recently overheard… okay, so I eavesdropped a tad, but they were talking loud and everyone could probably hear them. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was standing on the other side of the pillar with my sunglasses on, texting away on my droid, trying to look inconspicuous and invisible. Anyway, I overheard some moms talking at school while we were waiting to pick up our kids from class. Their entire conversation consisted of how other moms they know should just NOT be allowed to have children because (and these are just some of what I’d heard): so-and-so gave their baby rice cereal too early, one mom lets her baby co-sleep, another mom lets her baby cry to sleep, their cousin lets their kids walk to school and watch pg-13 movies, and another mom lets her toddlers eat stuff with red dye #4, but her really “good” friend, unfortunately, vaccinates, and to top it off, one of her neighbor’s refuses to breast feed. SHOCKED?!?!?! I was so disturbed that I wanted to poke my head in between them and in my most seriously concerned voice, suggest they turn these moms into child protective services immediately! Don’t worry, ladies….I held my tongue, (barely)!
Maybe my open mind is due to the fact that during my long stint of motherhood, I’ve seen myself in just about every parenting scenario that’s out there. I was pregnant young, married young, divorced young. I’ve had to be a single mom, a working mom, a mom trying to date, a mom with kids in daycare, a mom having to move back into Gram and Papa’s house for awhile (not the most fun), a mom that went back to school, a mom on public assistance, and mom with a kid in private school, public school, and even home school. I’ll share with you now that I’m a very happily married, (accidental) stay at home mother of 6 and I can identify with just about every stage of motherhood there is out there. Due to those experiences, I would like to share the biggest thing that I’ve learned and have been able to use many times over in my interactions with moms everywhere. Here it is: Don’t judge one another. Don’t give advice when it’s not asked. When you find that you disagree with a decision that a mom is making, JUST LISTEN and ENCOURAGE. We need to support one another, not become an instant expert in motherhood. Remember! Our perspectives our only ours alone because everyone’s lives, situations, pasts, and experiences are all different. No two are exactly the same, and instead of seeing the lines that divide us, we have a tremendously advantageous opportunity to enrich our wealth of knowledge by the things we can share with one another.
I’ll admit that even I have found myself passionate about causes and things that I’ve become sensitive about during my years as a mom. It’s a fine line, though, between a healthy advocate and a critical mom expert. I’m grateful that having so many children with very different experiences has allowed me to be understanding as to how nothing is EVER the same. MOMS, we need to end the guilt right here!
Example #1 – I’m passionate about breastfeeding, but I also can understand that it’s important that moms know it’s okay to formula feed and that our choices between the two do not reflect our devotion to motherhood! Bottle feeder mamas should never be made to feel that they aren’t as maternal, and they need just as much encouragement and support as all moms do.
Example #2 – I am so excited to be homeschooling my kids, BUT I respect all other education choices that other moms make for their children. I truly believe that each and every parent needs to make the decision that is best for THEIR family, their situation, and their child. Whether it’s private school, public school, or a charter program…it’s what’s right for them, and therefore, the best possible choice.
Example #3 – I love that I can stay at home right now, but my best friend in the whole world has an amazing career and has decided not to stay at home…and she ROCKS as mom! Part time jobs, full-time careers, working from home, or stay at home moms ALL have reasons to be celebrated as mothers that work hard for their families!
Example #4 – I have 6 beautiful children and am a huge fan of big families, but I feel that there are a million reasons to have only 1 or 2 children and that those families are just as amazing as any other. It’s not quantity that matters, but quality! Right, ladies?
We moms are harder on ourselves than anyone else. We feel guilty about a million different things throughout parenthood. Why add to it, by putting guilt on one another? We should be doing the opposite; we need to be on the same team…TEAM SUPERMOMS! Whether it’s 1 baby, or 13 kids; whether it’s a life on a ranch and church every Sunday, or the busy life in a city with hectic schedules, our lifestyle choices shouldn’t be a cause to tear anyone down. Let’s celebrate the differences, grab any opportunities to encourage a weary mom, quit focusing on faults, and start supporting the amazingly tough job we all do. THE GUILT ENDS HERE! We all will mess up at times, but that’s how we learn. I’ll end my ramblings with my own bit of wisdom to share: It’s not the number of kids or the amount of patience that make you a supermom. It has nothing to do with breastfeeding versus bottles, or cloth diapers versus disposables. Instead, when you are in a supermarket and see a mom with a bratty kid throwing a temper tantrum, if your instinct is to empathize with understanding and lend a helping hand when necessary instead of judge with cruel criticism and harsh whispers, then THAT is what makes you a true supermom from the inside out.
Today’s guest post is brought to us by Natalie. She says: I’m a 32 year old, stay at home mom from California, and am married to the most handsome man that I’ve ever seen. I have 2 beautiful daughters and 4 handsome sons between the ages of 13 and 1 year. Right now, I homeschool my oldest, but will be homeschooling all of them starting this fall. I’m blessed to be able to do some freelance writing and tutoring on the side for extra money. Dance and theater are my true loves, but my passion is my family and writing. Family being my absolute heart.