The Truths of Being a Stay at Home Mom

2P8A0451.jpg

Truth #1: You have to deal with a lot of shit.
I mean this both metphorically and literally (gasp!). Not only will you find yourself changing endless amounts of stinky diapers, but you also have to deal with the not-so-fun-never-ending demands of children. "Mama, I need a drink..." after his 25th freakin glass while the baby is spitting up all over your bare breast. Not to mention the taunting sound of Yo Gabba Gabba: "don't...don't...don't bite your friends", blasting in the background while your toddler is grunting and red-faced in the corner working on another epic diaper change. 

I can remember a moment when I literally was walking around with my boob out for the world (a.k.a my children) to see as I tried to reattach my newborn while simultaneously pouring a drink for my son. At that moment I glanced up into a mirror hanging on our dining room wall and realized I had shit smeared across my cheek. Yes, shit. Somehow I had smeared shit on my face. Worst part- I had changed the baby 4 hours ago and it took me that long to realize it was even there. 


Truth # 2: You may feel guilty.
For some women who stay home, they admit to feeling like they are not contributing to the family enough. Smack that right out of your head ladies. The truth is, our families could not survive without you. Sure, you may not contribute financially, but you save money by not sending the children to daycare, by not shopping for convenience (snack) foods for yourself and the kids for daycare or work, and by saving on gas money from treking to work each day. Also, it becomes easier as a stay at home mom to budget, menu plan, and shop sales (money savers!). Not to mention, you organize, schedule, educate, bathe, feed, clean, and provide for your family in endless amounts of ways. 

As a stay at home, I feel that I am not contributing to the girl-power movement per se. I do not deck myself out in business suits and heals, I do not strut into a building or office with commands or demands, I do not have the time to update myself on politics or news, I am not highly educated and I do not make people drop their mouths at my professional title. But, in my little house on my little street in my little town...they call me Mom. And god damnit, I am proud of that. I have battle wounds on my stomach, a constant aching back, and I can carry a carseat in one hand, a toddler on my hip and 5 bags of groceries at one time. Sure, I may not be the proud modern-day women taking over the world, but I'm in charge of what matters in my little dot on the map.

Truth # 3: You may not get the respect you deserve.
Now, hopefully this is not true when it comes to your husband (or children). After all. the decision for you to stay home was most likely a joint one. But as a stay at home mom, you have to be prepared to be looked down upon. Is it right? Hello no. Does it happen? Yupp.

When people ask what I do for work, I usually respond, "I'ma Mom." To this I get blank stares, a dropped mouth...or even disapproval. Some even go as far t tell me that there aunt's friend always says how lazy stay at home moms are. Are you sure this is what your aunt's friend thinks and not YOU? Then, some ask if I am bored, if I feel guilty for wasting my college education, or what the heck I do all day...as if I have nothing to do. Well...let me tell you bucko, I do a hell of a lot more than you do in a day. Infact, I can do it all with smeared shit on my face and a smile...beat that.

Truth # 4: You will never poop in peace.
This may be the worst of it ladies. As a lady...we like our privacy in the bathroom. After all, it is not a very lady-like moment. But, as a stay at home mom, your poop becomes a family affair. 

I usually have either a breastfeeding baby attached to me, a child asking me pointless questions about an absurd topics (that appraently could not wait), or a toddler crying and pulling at me with painted hands and a snotty nose, all while I'm glamorously committing this very unlady-like act and hoping for just one moment of pride. Nope, your pride goes right out the bathroom door, along with the swealtering smell of your shit. 

Truth # 5: You will someday embarrass yourself in public.
Whether you walk out the door with baby-poop smeared on your face, run into an ex-boyfriend with no makeup and a frazzled fro, or begin leaking out milk through a white t-shirt with your nipple peering through...it is inevitable that you embarrass yourself in public. At some point or another you will leave the house in slippers or pajamas without even knowing (afterall, this is your daily attire) or you will find yourself with random and uneccesary stains of spit up on your dress at a wedding. Motherhood is messy.

Truth #6: You will realize it was worth it. 
You may not be using that college degree (who really is working in the field their degree is in anyway?), you may not be taking over the world with your girl-power, you may not even get out of your pajamas for work....but you are working. Goodness gracious, are you working. You will never look back and say, "Gee, I wish I worked more." But you will always look back and say, "I wish I was home more." So, after the guilt is gone, the poop is washed off your face, the diapers are dry, the laundry is done, bellies are full, and children are sleeping...you kiss their eye lids, tuck them in, and smile at your husband and know that today was worth it.

Little bits of life lately & my word for 2018.

Let me start this little shin-dig off by saying HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

It's currently January 5th and I am in full blown, this-year-is-going-to-be-the-greatest mode. I believe it with every morsel of my being. I am breathing in this beautiful fresh, new air and can taste the potential of 2018.

I've vented a few times about 2017 to you all. Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful year — one I will always remember for sure. One I will NEVER regret, But it was my work-horse year as well. I dug in deep, put my head down and worked. When I say I worked, I mean I really really REALLY worked. I barely slept. I took on session after session after session after session, and wedding after wedding after wedding, and project after project after project. We grew our nonprofit Spectrum Inspired to astronomical levels. We not only gained our official 501C3 status, but we traveled the world, expanded our reach, interviewed TEMPLE GRANDIN, and became a TRUELY global initiative! 

And then, just for kickers, you know to see if I could make myself MAD from work, I decided to launch Unraveled Academy with a couple of my best friends and create a community of uplifting artists. So far? It's my greatest accomplishment. No, OUR greatest accomplishment. It has become my new home and my favorite way to spend my time. Turns out my love for teaching didn't die when I dropped my teaching degree a semester before I was about to graduate. 

I've digressed as usual. So, simply stated, I found myself in my career this past year. I know who I am and I know without a doubt who I want to be. I've worked my ass off in search of it all. This isn't a post to brag about my successes or complain about my hardships though. This is a post to chat about how I want to improve myself for the new year and regain perspective. 

What I have lost this year was my peace, my connections, my presence in my children's lives, the ability to keep track of my schedule and my mind, and a little slice of my happiness. 

Throughout 2017, I found myself saying the words, "slow and steady....slow and steady," over and over again in my head, as I was amidst panic attacks in my car or on the verge of tears at night because I wasn't sure if I had done enough that day — knowing there was so much more I could have done. The hardest part of the juggling act I was amidst was mothering my four children. While my youngest is in preschool, I am very much still a stay at home mom to them and am required to be there for all of their activities while manning four blooming businesses. Homework, dance, playdates, therapies — that shit is all on me. It's not easy. 

Gosh, I can't even tell you how many angry emails I received this past year about needing to reschedule sessions or not being able to fit people into my calendar or for not responding to their email within 24 hours. And damnit, I LOVE my clients. Like I really, really love them all and consider them to be stitched within my being. Documenting the lives of people year after year has a way of making your clients really MEAN something to you. Being a photographer is this crazy, out-of-body experience where you suddenly believe that you are apart of your clients' story and that it is YOUR responsibility to capture them authentically. But, needless to say, there were many days and weeks where I couldn't keep up — I was sick, my kids were sick (we were all sick) and I was just unable to return emails or had to reschedule sessions and quite literally found myself pulling off the highway once, getting sick all over myself in my car and I just KNEW that it had gone too far. I had pushed myself too hard. 

So, the moral of this vent/post is: 2018 is my year of "steadiness" I will keep myself steady — from now on. I will better delegate what I can and cannot do. Above all else, I will put my time and effort and love into the projects and people I am most passionate about and I will be absolutely intentional, gradual, present and STEADY in every moment. After all, slow and steady wins the race. Am I right?

Steady never felt so right. 

Do you have a word for 2018? 

And here is a little bit of our life lately (aka 20 minutes with my kiddos locked in my room-- being bribed with chocolate for their participation). 

Little bits of lately & finding our life recipe.

I've wanted to be a lot of things in my life. I've wanted to be a teacher and a writer and a photographer. I'm fairly certain at one time I even wanted to be a psychologist. But even when I was confused and changing majors in college; and even when I didn't know who I wanted to be or what my life would look like, there was always one thing I always knew as certain. I would be a mother. I have always, always, always wanted to be a mother and I've always known it would be my ultimate destination.  I've known this with every pore and morsel of my being, truly.  With all the passions and dreams I've had in this life thus far, none have ever been stronger than my passion to mother. 

Oddly enough, the past year or two have been the first I've ever been able to focus on myself and my career. Before that it was straight from college and into motherhood. Surrounded by babies. Always. Deep beneath the depths of four children and a home. It was glorious and awful.  So the past two years have  been a bit of an escape from motherhood and were much needed. They were possibly some of the best years of my life because I was able to prove to myself that I am worthy of more than just motherhood and that I am individual outside of my children, not just a continuation of their beings. I can not only be successful and accomplish my dreams, but I can do so without going completely fucking nuts. My hands are made to write and photograph the beautiful things around me, and not only for changing diapers and helping with homework. My legs can walk away just as quickly as they can run towards. People can see me, and I am not invisible after all. I matter too, it seems. 

So yes, I feel as though these past two years have helped me to realize who I am.  But oddly enough, I've also been a bit sad. Maybe even more than a "bit." Maybe even as wild as"absurdly." 

As of lately, and amidst the struggles of being completely overworked and pain achingly tired from putting in too many hours into my work, I've  realized that my individual self worth is not measured by what kind of success I have in my career. Although maybe it is for some and that is wonderful. But for me, my success and individual self worth is measured mostly in my moments and all the love, the laughter, the tingles, the Eskimo kisses, and all the cheesy-weesy good shit that motherhood gives me. And most important, my success is measured by my happiness and lack of anxiety. I am most happy in my home surrounded by my people —giving them all of my time and preserving our memories. Just us. Nobody else. Unfortunately for us though, bills have to be paid and life can not be lived solely between four walls. Most would go mad anyway. 

But what I've realized is that we have to find our own lives and what works for us. We have to search and build until we create a life and a career and a family that is the perfect mix for us. We really just have to find the right recipe for our lives, ya know? So friggin cliche. But so friggin true. And even at the very beginning of it all, before we really know what we want, we understand that we can taste-test and try a little bit of everything until we find the perfect recipe for us. Needless to say, I'm on way to mastering my recipe. 

Let me just wrap up this rambling with a bad ass quote that sums up the moral of this story,

"create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that looks good on the outside."

and then here is a little bit of lately.....

(in iPhone images)

Rules for Fathers of Sons

fathers .jpg

 

So, many of you have already read my 25 Rules for Mothers of Daughters. If you haven’t, you totally should.

For this post, I thought it would be great to make some rules for all the daddy's out there.  I am almost certain that I don’t have a single male reader…so,  please pass it along to the men in your lives, ladies! Oh, and I assume that most of you who are reading this are the Momma's...so I put some rules in there to help our cause...you can thank me later :-)

1. Love his Mother. He will learn to love like you love, and hate like you hate. So choose love for both of you. Devote yourself to it. Love with your whole heart and express that love each and every day. Then, someday down the road, you will see the way he loves his own wife, and know that you played a part in that.

2. Let him drive. Every child remembers the first time they drove on daddy's lap. For that one moment, he will believe that he is just. like. you

3. Teach him to be picky. Especially when it comes to women and burgers. Teach him to never settle.

4. Take him to a ball game. There is something about sharing a day of hot dogs, sunshine and baseball with your father.

5. Love with Bravery. Boys have this preconceived notion that they have to be tough. When he is young, he will express his love fully and innocently. As he grows, he will hide his feelings and wipe off kisses. Teach him to be a man who rubs them in instead. It takes courage for a man to show love: teach him to be courageous.

 6. Talk about sex. Sometimes, boys need to know that all men are created equal.

7. Teach him to be a man’s man. Show him how to be brave and tough. Then, remind him over and over again that it's still okay to cry.

8. Share secrets together. Communicate. Talk. Talk about anything. Let him tell you about girls, friends, school. Listen. Ask questions. Share dreams, hopes, concerns. He is not only your son, you are not only his father. Be his friend too.

 9. Teach him manners. Because sometimes you have to be his father, not just his friend. The world is a happier place when made up of polite words and smiles.

10. Teach him when to stand-up and when to walk away. He should know that he doesn’t have to throw punches to prove he is right. He may not always be right. Make sure he knows how to demand respect- he is worthy of it. This does not mean he has to fight back with fists or words, because sometimes you can say more with silence.

11. Teach him to choose his battles. Make sure he knows which battles are worth fighting — like for family or his favorite baseball team. Remind him that people can be mean and nasty because of jealousy, or other personal reasons. Help him to understand when to shut his mouth and walk-away. Teach him to be the bigger- the better- person.

12. Let him dance in tighty whiteys. Dance alongside him in yours. Teach him that there are moments when it is okay to be absolutely ridiculous.

13. Share music. Introduce him to the classics and learn the words to the not-so-classics. Create a rock band with wooden instruments, share your earphones, and blast Pink Floyd in the car. Create a soundtrack to your lives together.

14. Let him win. Sometimes he needs to know that big things are possible.

15. Teach him about family. Let him know family is always worth fighting for. Family is always worth standing up for. At the end of the day, he has you to fall back on, and pray to God that you will have him.

 16. Father him. Being a father—to him—is undoubtedly one of your greatest accomplishments. Share with him the joys of fatherhood, so one day he will want to be a father too. Remind him over and over again with words and kisses that no one will ever love him like you love him.

17. Listen to him now. If you don’t listen to the little things now, he won’t share the big things later.

18. Let him try on your shoes. Even if they are old and smelly. Let him slip his little feet in and watch him as he hopes like hell that someday he can fill them. He will fill them.


19. Give him bear hugs. The kind that squeezes his insides and make him giggle. The kind of hug only a daddy can give.

 20. Give him baths. Because Mom can’t do everything damnit.

21. Teach him how to pee standing up. Let him pee outside- such is the joy of being a man. Mom cannot teach this talent, so someone has to.

22. Know the answers. He will assume you do. If you don’t know them, pretend you do and look them up later.

 23. Toss him around. Because little boys love seeing the strength of their father. Throw him up in the air, so that he knows you will always be there to catch him on his way down.

 24. Ask his mother. He will come to you with questions that he won’t always want to ask his mother, about girls and about love. Ask her anyway, she will know the answers.

25. Love him like you would love a daughter. Little girls are not the only ones who need hugs and kisses. Love is the color yellow of emotions. It is both happy and gender neutral.

26. Grow a big belly. Because every child should get the chance to rest there head on the absolute softest pillow ever. Daddy’s belly is the best place to land. 

27. Don't say, do. American inventor, Charles F. Kettering once said, "every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice." Be a good one.

28. Be his hero. You are anyway. To him, you have the strength of Batman, the speed of Spiderman and the brain of Ironman. Don't disappointment. Prove to him that Daddy's are the biggest heroes of all. Only Daddy's can save the day. 

After all, good fathers make good sons.

How to Raise an Over-Achiever

overachiever.jpg

 

My son is an over-achiever. It was not something that I planned for, but rather a coincidental accomplishment. One that I am both proud of and willing to take complete credit for, if necessary. When reflecting upon the parenting style of myself, and those who have raised over-achievers, it appears that there are some consistencies in expectations and discipline. Consistencies being the operative word. Oh, and it helps if they are the first born. Here are five:

1. Use Positive Reinforcement. Many over-achieving children are smart and determined. However, they also tend to be sensitive, which means that want to excel in order to impress. They do not want to feel as if they have let you –or their teachers and coaches— down. This characteristic can work to your advantage as the parent, to help foster their achievements. By praising their efforts and showing your pride, you drive their passion to achieve.

2. Be Consistent. Children benefit from consistency and schedules. They excel when they know what to expect, and they happily keep their groove when they know the tune of the day. They should follow a routine that starts with waking up at the same time, everyday. From there, the day should follow a similar schedule as the day before. This will ensure they know what to do, and when to do it, which ultimately keeps them task oriented.

3. Reinforce Commitment. Demand that your children start what they finish. If they sign up for baseball and decide they do not like it halfway through the season, be sure that they finish it off with a smile. If they decide to paint a picture of the moon, and want to quit because they could not get the curve right, encourage them to try again. Explain to them that everything they decide to do is a commitment and should be treated the same as a promise; and we all know that promises should never be broken.
 

4. Explain the Many Faces of Success. Explain to your child that success does not look the same for everyone. For some, writing a sentence without spelling errors is an accomplishment. For others, adding a detailed  picture with beautiful colors to accompany a sentence is an achievement. Remind your child to never compare themselves to others, but instead focus on doing their best, always. If they focus on their own capabilities, they will be in constant motion of improvement.

5. Find Positive Influences. Children should be surrounded by great influences, friends who have unique passions and talents, teachers who inspire them, and adults who foster their love of success. They should read the stories of great writers, listen to the songs of great musicians, and see the paintings of fantastic artists. They need to be surrounded by the potential to learn, and grow, and achieve. It starts with inspiration and ends with success.