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mind-over-motherhood

Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

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Saying no to Mommy Peer Pressure

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall (from the Huff Post)

I just read an article on the Huffington Post Life & Style Blog, and it really hit home with me.

Kudos to this list! It’s spot-on in terms of what I strive for in my motherhood. (And it supports my blog premise perfectly, so that’s a bonus.)

And if you only read the bold parts of the lists, you’re missing out on the real meat of it.

Read the list here: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

#1 – Find things outside of your motherhood that help make you happy.  (The MORES)

#2 – (THIS is a HARD one) Learn to say no to some things. Find your stress threshold and accept that yours may not be the same as the Supermom on the PTO, and that’s ok. Your kids need you happy, not winning awards and stressed out.

#3 – Make time for yourself and your spouse (significant other). Find a good sitter and don’t feel bad about leaving the kids behind to focus on your relationship. It’s better for the kids!

#4 – (THIS is an even HARDER one) I love the quote she uses here. I’m practicing so I can become more like this, but I admit it: I yell first and apologize second sometimes. I think it’s equally as important to admit when you lose your cool and explain to your kids that it happens, because I’m human, too. But the important part is to come back and do it again with a level head, so they realize that (though my response may not have been ideal) what ever behavior set me off needs to be corrected (just like I had to make my overly emotional response right.)

#5 – I’ll be their friend when they’re adults. Right now I have to get them successfully to adulthood. No, I’m not letting you have a Facebook page when you’re 9 and then posting pictures of you posing in the mirror like a seductress and tagging you in them.  You’re the kid. I’m the parent.

#6 – Two of my favorite quotes:  “I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.”  and  ” If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”  — I’d much rather that my little birds make the mistakes (THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE) now, while they are young and under our guidance and love… learn from those mistakes and put what they learn into practice as they move out of my tutelage.  Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

#7 – This one gets easier as they get older.. but I still struggle with it. I keep reminding myself that if I want them to be good decision makers (just like anything else), I have to give them the opportunity to practice making decisions.  Sometimes this means I have to stuff the urge to stop my 8-year-old from walking out of the house like this:

#8 – Again, I remind you.. this list doesn’t mean to say we have to be perfect, but these should be our goals. I hope my children don’t one day judge me based on the tone of our mornings, because I’m not a morning person and getting ready for school is a tricky one for us. None the less, I keep trying to improve on it.. and then we always end the day with our “BESTS” – Gratitude for the day. Sometimes I follow-up by praying for a little more patience in the morning. They pray with me and know I’m trying. (But the likelihood is that when they are adults, they’ll be telling their therapists horror stories about their childhood mornings..)

#9 – My kids get rewarded based on effort rather than results.  Performance evaluations and performance-based bonuses will soon be implemented in my house. (No, I’m not kidding at all, and there will be a blog post about that in the near future.)

#10 – Well, on this one, if you’ve only read the bold print, you’re covered.  Real isn’t perfect, and perfect isn’t real.

Making Friends with my Limitations

{Although it may appear so in the first few paragraphs, this blog post is not about my physical health and my love for yoga, so if the yoga mantras are corny to you or my rambling about my injuries gets on yours nerves, please hang with me anyway.. it moves beyond that.}

If you’ve been following along a while you know that I’ve been battling some injuries that make some of my “MORE” goals a little difficult. My last post about seeing the Ortho was followed by an MRI and some interesting news. My issues (this time) are because, well.. I’m getting old. The hip issues I thought I was having were actually caused by degeneration and arthritis in my back. I think the exact words they used were, “Have you been really active all your life, because your spine looks a lot older than it is?”  Me: “What do you mean?”  The PA: “Well, it doesn’t look like it’s 80 years old or anything that bad, but you do have more degeneration in your spine than you should at your age.”

—Just great. Because my saggy ass and boobs, wrinkly skinned stomach and knees; sudden mass of wiry grey hair, failing eyesight; joint issues, surgically repaired hip, stiffness; high cholesterol, early onset mental-pause, failing brain, and terrible memory weren’t enough to tell me that I’m old and just NOT what I used to be.   What I really needed was medical confirmation that not only am I getting old, but I’m doing it at an unusually increased pace.  (What I’d really love is if my run pace were increasing as well. Instead, it has completely halted.)  {Refocus, Jenny}  —

I’ve now been in physical therapy for a few weeks, and while my hip is better, the issues in my back are much more evident.  Each day it was slowing me down more and more. And I don’t do slow very well.  I keep reminding myself that this is a tiny little hiccup in my life and nothing – at all – major, so I should not complain. But the truth is I have given into the frustration here and there, too.

You may have also noticed in my blog writing that I mention yoga a good bit. I’ve come to really love it over the last 7 – 8 years. (WHEN I could manage to make it a priority.) Around the time that I went back to the ortho for hip (back) issues a few weeks ago, I also quit doing yoga. I’ll be honest, the whole “Don’t use your full range of Motion” directive from the doctor really took something away from the idea of my yoga practice. The part I loved was pushing myself to that full range of motions and beyond.. in order to get that super-stretch. Now, not able to do so, I figured I wouldn’t get what I needed from yoga. *

Realizing that quitting because I couldn’t do yoga “all the way” was really childish and stupid, I made the decision to go back last week.

The first yoga session went OK.. I could do about half of the poses with no pain, and fought the urge to be frustrated by my limitations in the one place that I used to be able to let it all go and reach my fullest expression of a pose.. and of quiet prayer. Yes, I know that this place should be church, but my three little woodpeckers birds are always with me in church, and truthfully I’m a little distracted by my efforts to make sure that The Starling doesn’t lift up my skirt, pull down my shirt, or tear a bracelet off my arm – sending a hundred beads flinging across the entire place.. bouncing around and creating a serious hazard for the rest of the parishioners. (Did I describe this in too great of detail to pretend that I don’t have firsthand experience with any of these?) And if by some true miracle The Starling is behaving (read: my WAPI husband has saved me and wedged himself between her and me – despite her protests), The Pelican will surely be in a needy, passive-aggressive, I-need-attention mode, which always means she’s attached to my side like a leach and leaning her entire body weight on me.. while I’m wearing fun wedges or high kicks (because it’s the one time a week I get to forego my flip-flops or running shoes). It’s like having a defensive lineman coming full-on from the blind side on a quarter back wearing big pretty wedges… now, you know the wedge-wearing QB is going down.  – Much like The Owl, who ALWAYS, I mean always, mysteriously falls sick on Sunday morning and puts on a pitiful case of “the Sunday Virus” – complete with his attempts to sprawl his 13-year-old, 100+ pound, 5-foot-4 self across the pews in the middle of mass.  None of these scenarios are very conducive to me (with my child-induced ADD) to focus on prayer. I know God understands and is just happy to have me – and my attacking little birds – there.

{Apparently, this is going to be one of those blogs where I go off on tangents a lot and have to bring myself back to the point I’m trying to make. Back to yoga class we go…}

Yoga has no bracelet-flinging, tackling, or angry teenage birds coming at me from all directions, so you can see why it’s a lot easier for me to find prayer time there. When a pose is hard and I’m shaking, I just think of my Warrior-God and offer up the intentions of my friends and loved ones. When flowing through poses I pray the “Our Father” in my head. During those moments of stretching surrender, I rest in His Grace and listen to what He needs me to hear. So why didn’t I focus on those things instead of giving it up all-together when I was given some physical limitations?

The good news is that I went back for a second class on Thursday. And the yogi began this class with something new.  These words: “Lately there has been a lot of talk about yoga causing injuries. But yoga doesn’t cause injury. Injury occurs in yoga when a person ignores their body and listens to their ego. Ignore your ego. Dismiss your expectations. Embrace your limitations.”

Yeah. Ok. Talking right to me.

Her words struck a chord with me and reminded me of another yoga class I used to attend regularly – one that is actually a Christian-based alternative to traditional mind, body, spirit practice. Each and every class begins with the instructor reminding us that “Our bodies are the Temple of the Lord. Honor your body. If it hurts, don’t do it. Be still and allow God to speak. Let go of expectations. Let go of judgment. Let go of competition.”

Somewhere in that second “return to yoga” class I made friends with my limitations. I let go of the competition I had with my “old” self. I let go of the expectations I had of myself, and I opened myself up to what good could come from my limitations.

And guess what? Although I couldn’t do every pose, I felt better when I was done. Physically and mentally. The tension was gone from my shoulders/back and my mind was at peace.

No matter what your particular religious beliefs are OR what level of fitness is (or is not) part of your life, there is a good message to be found in this yoga-speak…. And one that not only applies to our aging Mommy bodies and minds. But one that even better applies to our motherhood. My personhood (for lack of a real word).  The realization hit me that the physical limitations are equaled in frustration by our personal limitations.

Making friends with my personal limitations is a little more daunting than making peace with my physical limitations.

In the last couple of years I have realized something important about myself.

My stress threshold may be a tad bit lower than a lot of other people.

In the past, I have found myself getting resentful of – or even angry with – others because I felt overwhelmed with the level of commitment or expectations that were required of me. Sometimes it happened in the work world (way back when), but even more so since I have been a SAHM.

You already know my feelings about the way I think we overdo sports for kids. (The World Has Gone Mad) And there really are SAHMs out there who take everything they do to super levels.  (She Can Do It All..) I’ve been involved in PTO at multiple kids’ schools, and let me tell you, some of the PTO Moms could take over Major Corporations and take them to a WHOLE new level. In doing so, they commit themselves totally to the role in the PTO and forget that others may not be willing or able to do the same.

And I’ve been involved in other organizations recently that also expected serious – and very  specific levels of – commitment. Every time I would get overwhelmed and frustrated in any of these realms, I would automatically default to venting about how it was TOO MUCH or the expectations were RIDICULOUS.  My level of stress always became someone else’s fault.  And while it may be true in some cases that moms/parents have taken the levels of expected involvement (their kids’ and their own) to over-the-top levels, I realized that the real problem wasn’t always them. Sometimes it was me.

My stress threshold may be a tad bit lower than a lot of other people.  I get stressed OUT and require venting a lot quicker than a lot of other people (especially moms) that I know. The time, commitment and stress level involved that it takes to achieve an award-winning PTO is just simply a bit over of my acceptable threshold. (This is not meant to come across as me “bashing” myself.. I have my strengths, we all do. This is also not to say that I can’t handle a fairly big load of responsibility or stressful situations. I can. But I have come to recognize where my stress threshold is, and I know that it isn’t high enough to ever be the PTO President. Nor do I want to be. And I’m OK with that.)

As a Southern girl, I’m a pleaser. ~ A yes girl. ~  I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or let anyone down. While I embrace that part of my character – and it serves me (and others) well in many circumstances, at times it takes its toll on me, too. The problem I have with myself in this scenario is that – in the past when I felt the pressure – my natural inclination was to resent the people around me who seem to be handling more than I can.. or that I want to handle.  At some point in my motherhood (much like my “a-ha” yoga moment), I realized that I could not control everyone else’s expectations of me or change how much anyone else is willing to do, but instead I could work on getting to know (and get comfortable with) my limits.  I can be OK with the fact that I’m not willing to sacrifice my life and sanity to my (or my kids’) extra curricular  activities **, while not being bitter that others around me may be hoping for me to join them in their trip to the loony bin. Figuring out how to be involved within the confines of my comfort zone (not theirs) is the tricky part, but I’m getting there.

So here’s another area of life where I’ve been striving to find some balance… between that giving, want-to-be-able-to-do-it-all, yes girl – and the girl who is well-adjusted and self-aware enough to know when to say no. And be OK with it.

I realized this fact last year, and I made the decision to be ok with giving only what I was comfortable with.. even if it wasn’t as much as someone else was able to do (or expected me to do). And yes, even when I that means I have to walk away and focus my efforts in other places.

So I resigned a couple of my positions. Without feeling anything negative at all.  I found that “place” inside myself where I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any good “helping” when it prevented me from doing any aspects of my life well.

I’m working on getting more comfortable with approaching projects and volunteer work with an attitude of “This is how much of my time and energy I am able/willing to give to this particular thing. If that works for others or is helpful to them, then I’m happy to be part of it. If they need/want more than I can give while maintaining a semi-sane state of motherhood, then I’m out.”

It’s that simple. Or, at least, it should be.

If it hurts, don’t do it. Let go of expectations. Let go of judgment. Let go of competition. Ignore your ego. Dismiss your expectations. Embrace your limitations.

Identifying and accepting each of our own personal limits WITHOUT resenting others for not conceding to our limits takes constant work – for me.  — And here I thought that the physical limits were the hard part of growing up.  My arthritic back, failing memory and saggy skin have nothing on my attempts to get to know and accept my personal limits. So, I guess the newest addition to my “MORES”  is: making friends with my physical AND personal limitations – getting comfortable with them, so they work FOR me, not against me .

Just to be clear – making friends with my saggy skin is my least favorite on the list. I really wish my “Saggy” would just move out of the neighborhood, so I wouldn’t have to work so hard to befriend her.

*  Ironically, my back has gotten worse since quitting yoga.. even WITH PT.

** And I owe my kids better than a stressed out, over-committed mom.

The Pinterest Effect

I read another blog post this evening that I really liked. To preface the actual blog link, I have to admit that I’m a girl who LOVES me some Social Networks*.. Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are part of my daily life (well, most days).  And I may just have tried more than a handful of projects via Pinterest.  I also can’t deny posting at least one of my own DIY project photos to Pinterest. So.. I’m in no way saying that Pinterest (or the fun projects and good ideas we can get from it) is a bad thing.

None the less, this blog makes a really good point.

It’s all too easy to look at other people from the “outside” and be led to believe that they have it all together. In turn feeling less than stellar about our own motherhood. It’s exacerbated by the presence of the social  networks we so dearly love, because it makes these “over-achieving motherhood moments” seem all too commonplace. I would venture to guess that these moms who post their DIY projects** and fancy cakes, also have seen the laundry pile up at some point in their motherhood***.  And certainly at some point in their motherhood they have at least entertained the idea of feeding their kids cereal for dinner when dad is out-of-town. They just don’t post pictures about the dinners that follow a Captain Crunch theme or the cakes that were brought to their table courtesy of Betty Crocker. (Or my favorite, those  Warm Delights where you “just add a teaspoon of water and microwave for 30 seconds”. Makes me happy with no effort. Don’t judge.)

{By the way, why don’t we share those things more often? I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I will repeat it in posts to come,  –  I believe we do ourselves AND  other moms a disservice when we only show or talk about our super achievements, the happy moments and the successes.. how much better would we all feel about our own lack of pinterest-picture-worthy lives if we heard – and saw – more about the mundane, everyday failures, frustrations, and slacker-stuff? }The truth is our kids would rather have us playing a board game with them than spending that time hand-making one for them. And my kids are the most excited about Kraft Mac n Cheese night than any fancy recipe I may have seen on Pinterest and served them. I don’t believe that the motherhood (or at least not mine) is meant to be a perfect, beautiful monogrammed burlap wreath (as much as I love those gorgeous things and WANT them on my front doors!) — in reality it’s more of a “I wish I could pull a burlap sack over my head” kind of lifestyle.

So, back to the actual blog post that prompted all this talk, check it out at motherhoodmatters.com and don’t miss the question and challenge at the end!  http://motherhoodmatters.blogs.deseretnews.com/2012/04/10/your-children-want-you/

“QUESTION: How do you keep the right perspective on your importance to your family–in the midst of so many ideas and temptations to compare yourself with others?

CHALLENGE: Recognize any tendencies you might have to get wrapped up in discouragement, and set up a regular way to remind yourself that your children want you.”

After thinking about it, a little less Pinterest in my particular motherhood and a little more of my kids’ interests might just be a good thing. (I’m not going cold turkey or anything, because it’s good stuff!)

Plus, too much Pinterest makes me want to eat everything in the house.. and I try, even though I never am quite satisfied, because NOTHING I have in this house (yes, even my beloved Warm Delights) could possibly taste as good as those crazy recipes for homemade Gnocchi Mac & Cheese that I drool over, post to my “Recipes to Try” board and will likely NEVER actually attempt to cook . Because they made pasta that comes in a box with cheese already measured out. That’s just too easy to pass up. (Now, the link is here, so if one of you needs to super achieve in the kitchen – if it just plain makes you happy – and you want to try your hand at that Gnocchi, I will gladly eat it for you and give you positive feedback.)

* Yes, I know it isn’t grammatically correct, but it felt better this way.

** I guess that includes me, though I am completely happy owning the fact that the majority of my cooking comes from a box or a can — and I embrace any respectable short cut that saves me time.

*** And if they don’t, I guarantee you they are fast tracking themselves to the loony bin.

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