Thursday, February 28, 2008

A tangent - For a Reason Part 2

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 7:48 PM 1 comments
God can, however, bring good from evil. Romans 8:28 tells us that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This does not mean that God causes bad things to happen to people so that something good can come out of it. What it does mean is that when bad things happen to people, if they continue to love, trust in, rely on, and believe God He will bring good out of it. The something good is not the reason for the something bad, but it is a possible outcome.
So why doesn’t God bring the good without allowing the bad? If He is omnipotent (all-powerful), can’t He bring about the good without the bad? Of course He can. But in His infinite wisdom God made us creatures of choice. He gave us the ability and right to make our own choices about our actions and beliefs. We all make bad choices, some more than others. Much of the hurt, pain, and suffering in the world are caused by decisions other people have made. God could have created beings that didn’t have the option to make bad choices, but the only way for us to truly love God and receive His love is to choose it. Forced love is not true love. Love by choice is.

A tangent - For a Reason Part 1

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 4:38 AM 4 comments
Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

I hear people say “everything happens for a reason” all the time. I have to presume that if they are saying it that they believe it. The more I think about people believing that everything happens for a reason, the more disturbed I am by this philosophy.
The main reason this philosophy bothers me is that there are a lot of bad things that happen to people that they have done nothing to bring on themselves. Specifically, I think of children who are molested, people killed by a drunk driver, someone struck with cancer, the mom who loses a baby to miscarriage or SIDS. The list could go on. I have a hard time looking at these situations and thinking that these things happened so that something else could happen. And that’s really what people are saying when they adopt the “for a reason” philosophy.
A child is molested so that what? I can’t think of anything good that would be worth a child having to cope with the repercussions of molestation. Cancer happens to someone so that what? Some people find a new passion for life, while others die a slow, painful death. Losing a child happens so that what? Again, I can think of nothing good that would be worth losing a child. Losing a family member because of a drunk driver, or a distracted driver, or a bad driver, so that what? I just have a difficult time believing that the good things that sometimes come out of tragedy are worth the tragedy.
The other reason I have a problem with the “for a reason” philosophy is that there is an implication that God causes these bad things to happen. I’m sure many people with this philosophy don’t believe in God, but if things happen for a reason, who else would cause them? So, if there’s belief in God and belief that everything happens for a reason, that by default puts Him in charge of causing those things to happen. However, true belief in God includes knowledge of His nature, which is wholly good and wholly loving. He is also joy, peace, patient, kind, faithful, and gentle. Those characteristics do not allow Him to create evil.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Expectations of Motherhood

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:34 PM 1 comments
Today there is an expectation that we come home with our baby, our husband goes off to work for 40+ hours each week and we are to take care of baby, our home, our husband when he comes home, possibly returning to work ourselves after a few short weeks, or begin the activities of mommy groups and babycise, retain all our friendships and minister to other people in our lives. And this is all to be done while spending either 8-10 hours alone with baby or 8-10 hours at work and juggling home life afterword.
It’s no wonder so many new moms experience depression. Reality is often a far cry (sometimes a frequent cry) from the peaceful sweetness we tend to picture before becoming a mom. The expectation of what motherhood will be like generally does not match up with what we experience. We are all so generally good at hiding our struggle from others, not wanting to seem like we can’t do it. Therefore all the other moms seem to have it all together and we feel like even more of a failure when we’re not enjoying motherhood or can do nothing but cry because we’re so exhausted. But ask for help? Forbid! That would be admitting failure. I’m not a good mother. Or maybe just not adequate, because I can’t do what needs to be done as the mother I so longed to be.
The truth is, however, that we were never made to do it all by ourselves. We are interdependent beings. We were made to live together, love each other, help each other, and rely on each other.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cultural Independence

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:43 PM 0 comments
We live in a very independent culture today that makes it more difficult for families to really join together in raising families. One issue is our mobility. We generally don’t live close to extended family and nor do we live close to the people we grew up with. Although there are plenty of exceptions, most people, either through geographical moves or emotional moves, we don’t live interdependently with each other. At least not after we have children. Singles, whom don’t need the same type of support as parents, tend to rely on each other more. When we had no major responsibilities or commitment to take care of a family most of us wouldn’t think twice about calling a friend for a ride or to help out with something. But when we start a family most of us adopt a philosophy of needing to do it all by ourselves. Countless articles in parenting magazines advise new moms to ask for help when they need it and accept help when it’s offered. Recently an expectant mom asked me what advice I’d give her, and those two things were on the top of my list.
Why do we find it so hard to ask for and accept help? Part of the answer is the “I can do all, be all, and have all” myth. The culture that grew out of a desire for women to have more lifestyle choices has ended up putting huge pressure on women and especially moms. We have a feeling of needing to be supermom. We were made to bear and raise children (I don’t care what you say, look at our bodies – even if you choose not to or are unable to have children, it is one thing that women are uniquely equipped to do) and naturally have strong instincts to care for our children. If we didn’t have this instinct, children wouldn’t survive. How we are to raise our children according to our culture, however, is where a lot of unnecessary pressure comes in. Women used to have babies, take care of them, strap them on their backs or hand them over to an older female family member and keep on living life, which was of course a lot simpler than it is now.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The biggest challenge

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 3:57 PM 0 comments
When asked what their biggest challenge was in being a stay-at-home or go-to-work mom the following answers were given: time management, prioritizing, keeping balance, time for myself, finding time to get everything done, task management, time to just “be with” my child, time for housekeeping, and getting everything done. Can you tell who these answers came from? They came from both moms who are at home full time and moms who work outside of the home. The biggest challenges for moms seemed to have less to do with whether a mom was at home full time or not and more to do with the general expectations placed on moms. We all have challenges when it comes to “getting it all done.”
Regardless of our working situation, moms have a lot of responsibilities. As we discussed previously, as moms keeping balance is essential. In addition to taking care of ourselves, we also would benefit greatly from taking care of each other. Throughout history people have raised children in a village atmosphere. We are all familiar with the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” but in today’s mobile, independent culture we have lost touch with this truth. Never before have the majority of women raised children in isolation. Regardless of the culture, time in history, or socioeconomic status women throughout history have joined together to raise children. Many people I talk to this about bring up western expansion of the U.S. when families were settling in new territory. First, this was a unique time in history. It was also short lived. And a single family did not head out and settle all by themselves. Multiple families generally traveled together for safety and support. And although individual families owned large areas of land, and were somewhat isolated from other settlers, it was rare that a single nuclear family (two parents with only their biological children) lived day-to-day secluded from other families and individuals. There were more than ever during this time period , but it has not been the norm throughout history.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Random Mommy Tip #1

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 4:06 PM 0 comments
I will occasionally include a random mommy tip-just a little something that makes life a little simpler, more fun, or healthier. Here's the first one:

I started making pancakes from scratch after I began looking at the ingredients on prepared mixes from the store. This pancake recipe is one that I altered from a foodnetwork.com recipe. My kids love these pancakes and ask for them almost every day. They’re so sweet that I don’t even use syrup with them. I mix the dry ingredients and keep the mix in a container, ready to use.

Dry ingredients to keep mixed:
3 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

When you’re ready to make the pancakes:
1 ¼ cup mix
1 egg
¾ cup milk
1/3 stick butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix each wet ingredient in separately. Spray pan and heat on medium. To make it a little more fun, make tiny, small, medium, and large pancakes. I also make letters and spell words for my children (no, I’m not very artistic and they’re not perfect, but my children can usually tell what they are.) It’s a great way to throw in a little fun lesson with breakfast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We can all be good moms

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:16 PM 4 comments
Working moms know that they miss out on some things, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be great moms. There are plenty of working moms who have close relationships with their children and have been able to find enough balance to be there for their children. We know that quantity of time spent with our children is as important as quality time. But plenty of moms have found a way to prioritize time with their children despite the challenges presented by working.
Likewise, women who stay at home full time aren’t necessarily the best at mothering. I’ll never forget when I was reading a book in preparation to stay home full time and read the statements of children who’s “stay-at-home” moms kept themselves too busy to build relationships with them (Leaving the Workforce.) Just because a mom stays at home with her children does not mean that she makes the best decisions for her children and family. Whether a woman works outside of the home or in the home does not determine how good a mom she is and we need a disconnect from this thinking.
It’s really amazing how much women have in common, regardless of whether they work outside of the home or not. Probably because so many people have focused on the differences, most of us don’t really realize how much we have in common. In speaking with other moms, I was surprised at first how similarly they answered particular questions. But as I got to thinking about it, it made more sense. We are all moms, we are all trying to do our best raising our children and taking care of our families and homes, and we all have personal needs that we have to squeeze in somewhere.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Guilt from not meeting the ideal

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 6:20 AM 0 comments
It becomes obvious when you talk to enough moms who are willing to be honest that not one of us “has it all.” This is an idea that causes many women to feel guilty and like they don’t measure up. Women who work outside of the home are often made to feel guilty because they don’t feel like they are spending enough time with their family. When they arrange things to spend more time with their family they are often made to feel guilty about not being dedicated enough at work. Or because they are letting housework slip. Or because they are not able to make healthier food choices due to a lack of time. I haven’t talked to many moms who work outside of the home who don’t feel somewhat torn because of how many directions they are being pulled.
Moms who stay at home, however, often suffer from their own guilt. They often are made to feel guilty because “all they do” is stay home. It is often expected that moms who stay at home are always available for whatever. They can sign up for this activity and that meal because they “don’t work.” They are made to feel guilty because they are not contributing to society or putting a financial burden on their family or not setting a good example for their children. They are often accused of giving up the privileges that women have worked so hard to get.
When moms talk about their choice to work outside of the home or stay at home things are often said that make the other feel guilty. I don’t think it’s done intentionally, but because there has been a debate about what moms “should” do, the reasons for making a particular choice have become arguments for everyone to make that same choice. When moms who work outside of the home say things like they chose to work in order to have an impact on the world, they don’t mean to imply that a stay-at-home mom can’t have a positive impact on the world, but she does. When moms who stay at home say things like they chose to stay at home because their child is their top priority, they don’t mean to imply that a working mom doesn’t make her child a priority, but she does.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What we miss, what we get

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 11:53 AM 0 comments
Women who work out of choice or necessity know that they miss out on things. It may be a first step or first word. It may be the excitement the first time a child really feels successful at something. It may be time spent just hanging out on a daily basis. Some of the things moms who work outside of the home have said that they feel like they are missing are: “the big things,” “bonding time with [my] baby … and getting to see him do all his new stuff,” “time during the day with my son,” “organizing my home to reduce stress and make evenings go smoother,” and “everything.” The differences from one mom to the other is obvious in these answers, but the main thing in common is that working moms did feel like they were missing out on something.
When asked about the rewards they received these women talked about things like getting time to run errands alone, financial rewards (for the present and future), adult time, rewards from accomplishing tasks, job satisfaction, having a positive effect on the world, friendships built at work, independence and fulfillment from working, and relationships beyond family. These are some of the things that women who stay at home feel like they’re missing out on. But the rewards that they list look very similar to the things that moms who work outside of the home fell that they are missing. At home moms say that their biggest rewards are: “I get to be here for the little things,” hugs (and) cuddles,” “freedom…flexibility…experiencing things with my child,” “being able to see every ‘first’ my child has,” and “seeing every milestone.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The myth

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:21 PM 0 comments
More people than ever before, especially women, are suffering from depression, anxiety, and a host of other emotional and physical problems. These problems are linked to stress, lack of sleep, and general unhealthy lifestyles. Our expectations have been set so high that we run like the Energizer Bunny until we wear out and/or get sick. When we are unable to fully and successfully complete any one of the tasks on our plate we beat ourselves up. We are so busy doing things in our lives we are not actually living our lives, and illnesses such as depression sneak up on us when we’re not looking. We women need a new revolution that lets us be honest with ourselves and each other. We CAN NOT have it all! We CAN NOT do it all, all by ourselves! We are not made that way and the wear and tear on our bodies should be evidence to these facts.
I know that many people will argue with me. They have a job and are dedicated to their family as well. There are many women who are successful in the business world and raise well-adjusted children. This is true, but that does not mean that they have, or have had it, all. Ask a mom who’s worked full time throughout raising her children and I guarantee that her list of what she’s missed out on is long. Similarly, as a mom who has stayed at home what she’s missed out on, and you will get different answers, but there will still be a list. It is physically impossible to have what we think of as “it all.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Say "goodbye, debate"

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:55 PM 0 comments
Nevertheless, there is a camp that supports the view that a woman isn’t living up to her potential, or worse making a detrimental decision for herself and her children, if she doesn’t maintain her career after having children; and a camp that supports the view that mothers returning home is the only answer to solving many of the problems that children and families face today. These camps have had their supporters ever since the debate began. I would like to dissolve these camps and have moms join together in support of each other, regardless of our working situations. We are not doing anyone any good by continuing to provide fuel to the debate. We are, however, propagating a harmful myth, placing incredible pressure on ourselves and others, and putting far too much focus on an issue instead of the health of women and their ability to take care of their families.
The myth that is so harmful to us moms is this: that we can have it all. I have heard this statement my whole life. Ever since the women’s lib movement, women have been able to “have it all.” We can have children and a career. We can eat our cake (be promiscuous before marriage due to birth control) and have it too (have a great, committed marriage regardless of the decisions we made in relationships before marriage.) We can be a corporate executive, room mother, and sex goddess all in one day. Can anyone say: “yeah, right!”

Discussing the debate

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 5:40 AM 0 comments
One reason there is such a debate around the stay-at-home/go-to-work issue is that we all want to believe that we are making the best decisions for our family. When we make a major decision such as this, we want reassurance that it’s the best decision. Somewhere in our subconscious we believe that since our decision is the best for us, it must be the best decision for everyone. Out of all of the books I’ve read on either choosing to stay at home or choosing to stay at work, all of them have tried to justify why each choice is the right thing to do. Most of the books are geared to women who have made a particular choice and aim to reinforce the decision made, encourage women in that decision, and give them tools to make it work. These books are very helpful in giving women support that is helpful in the challenges that come with either staying at home or staying at work.
For some reason, however, there is tension between the two groups. Somehow the encouragement and support for making the choice has become a debate. There has even recently been a book published that admonished that all women should work, and if they don’t they are doing a discredit to themselves and their children. My stand on the issue is that there should be no debate. There’s no possible way that all women can work. There just aren’t enough jobs out there. Not to mention that many women would be miserable and more stressed trying to balance work and raising children when their heart is not in it. Nor could our economy handle it if all women chose to stay home. We’re a huge part of the workforce. Not to mention that many women would be miserable at home, and some families would collapse under financial debt if there wasn’t a second income. It’s not always necessary, but our economy requires in many families that there be two incomes just to survive.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The issue that can't be ignored

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 7:52 AM 1 comments
There has been so much written on these topics that I won’t address most of them. But there is one that I can’t ignore. Even though it’s probably the most written about and talked about choice, it bears visiting. No mom’s book would be complete without entering in the stay-at-home/go-to-work debate. Where I come down on this issue is that there should be no debate. Just as there’s no one-size fits all dress out there (no matter what the tag says), there is also no one-size-fits-all answer to this hot topic.
I have experienced a little of it all, and have talked to dozens of moms about the work/home issue. Some moms work and wish they could be at home. Some moms work and wouldn’t have it any other way. Some moms feel stuck at home and have to work at having some adult outlets. Some moms are perfectly content being home full time. Some moms work at home and manage it very well. Some moms work part time and feel it’s the perfect balance. Each mom is different in her situation and reasons why she stays home or goes to work, but one thing every mom I’ve talked to has had challenges unique to their situation. So why the big debate?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What is my main job?

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:44 PM 0 comments
Now that we’ve covered some the general answer to being a successful mommy, it’s time to tackle some more specific questions and answers. The first question asked was “What is my main job as a mom?” The answer to that question is, of course, to raise my children to be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy individuals. This answer possibly raises more questions than almost any other. The evidence for the complexity of the answer to this question can be seen in any bookstore or library by the shear numbers of books and magazines written for moms. These books answer all of the little questions (yeah, right. Are there really and little questions when it comes to mommyhood?) that we answer in raising our children. Questions like: Do I breast or formula feed? Do I work or stay home? If I work, what’s the best child care situation for my child? Do I make my own baby food or buy it prepared? Do I send my child to preschool? And when? And where? What’s the best way to educate my child – home school, private school, or public school? What activities should I sign my child up for? The list goes on and on.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Balance through letting go

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:00 PM 1 comments
Now that we have added some tools to our balanced life toolbox, we need to discuss “those days.” You know, the day where everything gets out of balance. Whether because of circumstances out of our control or because of our own decisions, we all have “those days.” One of my girlfriends confided in me today that she allowed her day to get all out of whack. How she spent her time did not reflect her priorities for the day. Her confession got me to thinking. Has the way I spent my time today reflected my priorities? Today I did okay, but reflecting back over the week showed me that I had spent too little time just being with my children.
The guilt and disappointment in myself is something that I believe we all (moms) share. Because of being pulled in a variety of directions it often happens that we don’t get everything done. Sometimes we feel disappointed in ourselves for not living up to our own standards. Sometimes we feel guilty about missing something important for something trivial. Sometimes we just don’t ever feel like we can keep everyone happy. On those days (or weeks) it’s essential to evaluate what’s going on and what went wrong.
We are often afraid of doing this because it means looking at and acknowledging our faults. And that just makes us feel worse. Therefore, the next step is to determine where changes need to be made. Some of the tools we’ve already discussed will be helpful in making necessary adjustments. Once you’ve determined to, or actually made, some changes to get back in balance you’re only part of the way through the process. The next step is to let go. Let go of the disappointment. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the self condemnation. Recognize that you’re human and forgive yourself. I find that I often skip this step and kind of “rake myself over the coals” over and over about the same issue. Even if it’s been years since I’ve made a particular mistake, the guilt can creep up on me.
Holding on to these negative feelings are not helpful to anyone. They just drag me down and tip my scales (and life) out of balance. They are damaging to my health and may negatively impact my relationships. Most importantly they affect how I see myself, how I treat myself, and how I expect others to treat me. If I’m able to forgive myself and be content with who I am (and who I’m striving to be) I will be more likely to take care of my health and thus be better able to take care of my family and all of the other responsibilities I have.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Don't "have to"

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:46 PM 0 comments
Now that we’ve added a word to our vocabulary, it’s time to take a phrase out. I am just as guilty as anyone else about using this phrase, but I am working diligently to stop using it except when it is truly appropriate. I once had a teacher who said, “There are only two things in life that you have to do: pay taxes and die.” Well, there have been plenty of people who have proven that you don’t have to pay taxes. You still have the option, just most people don’t want to pay the consequences. So, really, the only thing we have to do is die. We don’t have a choice in that one.
If you listen to many of us talk, however, you would think that the world could come to an end at any moment. I’m not even sure how often I say “have to,” but I know it’s too much. I have to cook dinner. I have to go to the grocery store. I have to go to work. I have to clean. I have to… It never seems to end. But we really don’t have to do all of these things. There are plenty of people who chose not to do many of these things. Their lives may not be what we would want, but they’re still around.
The phrase “have to” brings with it a sense of burden. If I have to do something it’s an obligation. If you’re anything like me, you kind of trudge through obligations like walking through knee deep mud. The same task can be skipped through light-heartedly with the simple exlusion of the phrase “have to.” I’m going to cook dinner because I’m hungry and want us to be healthy. I’m going to the grocery store because we’re getting low on some food items that we like. I’m going to go to work so that we can continue to have the things we have. I’m going to clean the house so that it looks nice and is a healthy place for us to live. Just as we talked about changing perspectives earlier, changing how we say things can also change our experiences. Saying “I’m going to….because” it give me this good benefit improves my mood, motivation, and attitude about what there is to be done.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Balance through Self Discipline

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:27 PM 0 comments
Ourselves is a good place to start with saying no. This is otherwise known as self-discipline. Mommyhodd teaches us a lot about self-discipline. Discipline often gets a bad rap, but it is hugely beneficial trait. All self- discipline is is to tell yourself no when it is in the best interest of you or someone else. When that baby is crying in the middle of the night and you want to roll over and go back to sleep, you get up because you know that baby needs you. When you don’t feel good and would like to curl up in front of the tv, you dress and feed and maybe even play with your children. When you would really like a bowl of ice cream for lunch, you fix the salad (and maybe have the ice cream for dessert.) We all have the foundations of discipline, we just don’t like to exercise it very often.
What we don’t realize is that we will pay now or pay later. If I choose to eat unhealthily and not to exercise, I will pay by feeling sluggish and not being able to fit into my clothes. If I choose not to clean my house at all, I will pay by my family being sick more. If I choose to take on too many responsibilities outside of my home, I will pay by losing the close relationship with my husband and my children. If I choose to neglect any of my areas of priorities, I will pay in some way at some time.
In order to become better at saying no, I have to practice saying it and being okay with it. If I don’t feel that a certain responsibility or project is something I should take on, I don’t need to worry about who will do it or how it will get done. If I feel that a person is going to be disappointed with me for not doing something, I have to realize that their disappointment is more about their incorrect expectations of me, not a devaluing of who I am. I have gained an understanding that my self worth is not wrapped up in what I do or what other people think of me, and that has helped my be able to say no with confidence. I still have a lot of responsibilities, but I make sure that they are the right responsibilities for me and my family for right now and that they won’t throw me off balance.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Balance through Saying "No"

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 3:29 PM 1 comments
The next tool for achieving balance is one that we, as women, tend to have an especially hard time with. Many of us have never put it in our tool box of life, and others let it get buried so far down it hardly ever gets used. This tool is the ability to say “no.” Such a simple little word, such a difficult thing to say. Because we often tie our self-definition in the things we do (which is no wonder, with all that we have to do) we feel that we should do whatever we are asked. Especially if it’s a good thing and most especially if it’s something that we enjoy doing. We life in a world that is full of opportunities of every kind, which is great, but people (okay, I) often want to take hold of every opportunity. Which is, of course, impossible and leaves me feeling overwhelmed.
Our culture pushes us to be “overachievers.” It starts in school. The more activities you’re involved in, the more community services you perform, the higher your grades, the better college you’ll get into. Once you’re at college you’re encouraged to continue in this race of high grades and extra-curricular activities to be able to land the best job. Then many people start the rat race in the business world to keep moving up in the world. Even though many mom don’t join the business rat race, the same thing takes place in the world of moms. Instead of promotions, it’s being on the Parent Teacher Association, or being room mom, or making sure that your child is signed up for the right amount of activities, while still contributing to your community in a helpful way. Not all moms do this. I have a good friend who is in no way whatsoever compelled to take on the world like I am. She’s perfectly content to be at home, take care of her family, and do one or two extra things for them. She has learned the art of saying no when it’s appropriate and her family, I believe, benefits from it.
Just like any new habit saying no takes practice. You may even start with “I’ll think about it,” which is a good tool to let you actually think about whether this is something that you should take on or whether it doesn’t fit in your goals and objectives. It also gives you a chance to consider how your family would be affected. I came across an opportunity recently that I would have loved to taken advantage of. It was something right up my ally. As I thought about it, though, I realized that it would take time that I didn’t want to take from my family and that it would possibly also cause conflict in my family. It wouldn’t be worth what it would cost me, and it felt good to say no, even if it was just to myself.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Balance through Changing Perspectives

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:09 AM 1 comments
Changing perspective is another tool to achieving a balanced life. Balance isn’t just about what you have going on. It’s also how you look at and feel about what’s going on. When I start to feel overwhelmed with housework and taking care of my family I stop and give thanks. I’m grateful that I have a house that is safe and warm and has plenty of room for my family. I’m very grateful for my three children. They are true blessings in my life. Just because they’re blessings, though, doesn’t mean that they aren’t work. Just like the house and the husband and my calling to write, these blessings come with responsibilities and need work to maintain them. But if I never stop working to enjoy my blessings, they lose their positive influence on my life.
When I have a pile of laundry and ironing to do, I remind myself how blessed we are to have a full wardrobe of clothes. When the dishwasher is full again, I remind myself it’s because we have plenty of food to eat. When my children’s toys are all over the den, I remind myself that they are healthy. When my husband comes home late from work, I remind myself that he has a great job and is a wonderful father and husband. When I’m exhausted, getting up for the second or third time in the night with my baby, I sing praises that I have this sweet person who’s been entrusted to me.
I am not happy all of the time, and I have to work at changing my perspective. I have down days and do get frustrated. But I’ve learned that if I wallow in these moments, I’ll miss the great moments. I don’t ignore the things that need to change. Part of my job is to teach my children manners and to clean up after themselves. I ask for help when I need it. I take care of the things that need to be taken care of (eventually.) What I don’t do is dwell on these things. I choose instead to dwell on the hugs and kisses, the few moments alone my husband and I snag, the things and people that I have been abundantly blessed with. When I do this, I’m much more grateful and don’t feel as overwhelmed as often. It tips the balance of my mood to the positive side, which helps me bring balance to the other areas of my life.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Balance through Relationships

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 6:27 PM 0 comments
Lists, goals and objectives are helpful in giving concreteness to priorities and increasing motivation, but they most definitely don’t guarantee balance. I have even gotten out of balance in making lists and goals before. These are just tools that can be helpful in maintaining balance. There are many other tools that can be used to maintain balance in your life. Another way that I keep myself in check is through my relationships. The people in my life that I’m closest with know me well enough to notice when I’m out of balance. They are able to see things that I can’t or don’t take the time to see. Accountability relationships, as I call them, can include a husband, best friend, mother, sister, etc. These are the people you share your inmost being with and are comfortable enough to be vulnerable with. They are also faithful and trustworthy and will always build you up. They are there for you, because sometimes all you need is a sounding board. Just talking through your feelings, frustrations, and fantasies (on what all you’d like to get done) if often helpful.
These relationships also help remind you that you are more than a mother. Although we often get overwhelmed with all of the roles we play in life, there is healthiness in being able to define who we are separate from being a mom. Especially when mothering takes up a majority of our time and we feel completely wrapped up in mommyhood. It may seem contrary to what many think, but maintaining your identity outside of being a mom actually helps you be a better mom. Remember the metaphor of the air conditioning unit? We talked about needing to do regular maintenance. An air conditioner doesn’t spend time being a refrigerator or washing machine, but it doesn’t run all the time. Even though it doesn’t provide another function, it does its job of heating or cooling and then it takes a break for a while. We’re not appliances (contrary to some popular jokes), we have more than one job and more than one relationship to maintain. If we look at these other relationships as avenues of support and outlets, they become tools to helping us maintain balance instead of just adding more things on our to do list.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A tangent - For a Reason Part 2

God can, however, bring good from evil. Romans 8:28 tells us that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This does not mean that God causes bad things to happen to people so that something good can come out of it. What it does mean is that when bad things happen to people, if they continue to love, trust in, rely on, and believe God He will bring good out of it. The something good is not the reason for the something bad, but it is a possible outcome.
So why doesn’t God bring the good without allowing the bad? If He is omnipotent (all-powerful), can’t He bring about the good without the bad? Of course He can. But in His infinite wisdom God made us creatures of choice. He gave us the ability and right to make our own choices about our actions and beliefs. We all make bad choices, some more than others. Much of the hurt, pain, and suffering in the world are caused by decisions other people have made. God could have created beings that didn’t have the option to make bad choices, but the only way for us to truly love God and receive His love is to choose it. Forced love is not true love. Love by choice is.

A tangent - For a Reason Part 1

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

I hear people say “everything happens for a reason” all the time. I have to presume that if they are saying it that they believe it. The more I think about people believing that everything happens for a reason, the more disturbed I am by this philosophy.
The main reason this philosophy bothers me is that there are a lot of bad things that happen to people that they have done nothing to bring on themselves. Specifically, I think of children who are molested, people killed by a drunk driver, someone struck with cancer, the mom who loses a baby to miscarriage or SIDS. The list could go on. I have a hard time looking at these situations and thinking that these things happened so that something else could happen. And that’s really what people are saying when they adopt the “for a reason” philosophy.
A child is molested so that what? I can’t think of anything good that would be worth a child having to cope with the repercussions of molestation. Cancer happens to someone so that what? Some people find a new passion for life, while others die a slow, painful death. Losing a child happens so that what? Again, I can think of nothing good that would be worth losing a child. Losing a family member because of a drunk driver, or a distracted driver, or a bad driver, so that what? I just have a difficult time believing that the good things that sometimes come out of tragedy are worth the tragedy.
The other reason I have a problem with the “for a reason” philosophy is that there is an implication that God causes these bad things to happen. I’m sure many people with this philosophy don’t believe in God, but if things happen for a reason, who else would cause them? So, if there’s belief in God and belief that everything happens for a reason, that by default puts Him in charge of causing those things to happen. However, true belief in God includes knowledge of His nature, which is wholly good and wholly loving. He is also joy, peace, patient, kind, faithful, and gentle. Those characteristics do not allow Him to create evil.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Expectations of Motherhood

Today there is an expectation that we come home with our baby, our husband goes off to work for 40+ hours each week and we are to take care of baby, our home, our husband when he comes home, possibly returning to work ourselves after a few short weeks, or begin the activities of mommy groups and babycise, retain all our friendships and minister to other people in our lives. And this is all to be done while spending either 8-10 hours alone with baby or 8-10 hours at work and juggling home life afterword.
It’s no wonder so many new moms experience depression. Reality is often a far cry (sometimes a frequent cry) from the peaceful sweetness we tend to picture before becoming a mom. The expectation of what motherhood will be like generally does not match up with what we experience. We are all so generally good at hiding our struggle from others, not wanting to seem like we can’t do it. Therefore all the other moms seem to have it all together and we feel like even more of a failure when we’re not enjoying motherhood or can do nothing but cry because we’re so exhausted. But ask for help? Forbid! That would be admitting failure. I’m not a good mother. Or maybe just not adequate, because I can’t do what needs to be done as the mother I so longed to be.
The truth is, however, that we were never made to do it all by ourselves. We are interdependent beings. We were made to live together, love each other, help each other, and rely on each other.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cultural Independence

We live in a very independent culture today that makes it more difficult for families to really join together in raising families. One issue is our mobility. We generally don’t live close to extended family and nor do we live close to the people we grew up with. Although there are plenty of exceptions, most people, either through geographical moves or emotional moves, we don’t live interdependently with each other. At least not after we have children. Singles, whom don’t need the same type of support as parents, tend to rely on each other more. When we had no major responsibilities or commitment to take care of a family most of us wouldn’t think twice about calling a friend for a ride or to help out with something. But when we start a family most of us adopt a philosophy of needing to do it all by ourselves. Countless articles in parenting magazines advise new moms to ask for help when they need it and accept help when it’s offered. Recently an expectant mom asked me what advice I’d give her, and those two things were on the top of my list.
Why do we find it so hard to ask for and accept help? Part of the answer is the “I can do all, be all, and have all” myth. The culture that grew out of a desire for women to have more lifestyle choices has ended up putting huge pressure on women and especially moms. We have a feeling of needing to be supermom. We were made to bear and raise children (I don’t care what you say, look at our bodies – even if you choose not to or are unable to have children, it is one thing that women are uniquely equipped to do) and naturally have strong instincts to care for our children. If we didn’t have this instinct, children wouldn’t survive. How we are to raise our children according to our culture, however, is where a lot of unnecessary pressure comes in. Women used to have babies, take care of them, strap them on their backs or hand them over to an older female family member and keep on living life, which was of course a lot simpler than it is now.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The biggest challenge

When asked what their biggest challenge was in being a stay-at-home or go-to-work mom the following answers were given: time management, prioritizing, keeping balance, time for myself, finding time to get everything done, task management, time to just “be with” my child, time for housekeeping, and getting everything done. Can you tell who these answers came from? They came from both moms who are at home full time and moms who work outside of the home. The biggest challenges for moms seemed to have less to do with whether a mom was at home full time or not and more to do with the general expectations placed on moms. We all have challenges when it comes to “getting it all done.”
Regardless of our working situation, moms have a lot of responsibilities. As we discussed previously, as moms keeping balance is essential. In addition to taking care of ourselves, we also would benefit greatly from taking care of each other. Throughout history people have raised children in a village atmosphere. We are all familiar with the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” but in today’s mobile, independent culture we have lost touch with this truth. Never before have the majority of women raised children in isolation. Regardless of the culture, time in history, or socioeconomic status women throughout history have joined together to raise children. Many people I talk to this about bring up western expansion of the U.S. when families were settling in new territory. First, this was a unique time in history. It was also short lived. And a single family did not head out and settle all by themselves. Multiple families generally traveled together for safety and support. And although individual families owned large areas of land, and were somewhat isolated from other settlers, it was rare that a single nuclear family (two parents with only their biological children) lived day-to-day secluded from other families and individuals. There were more than ever during this time period , but it has not been the norm throughout history.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Random Mommy Tip #1

I will occasionally include a random mommy tip-just a little something that makes life a little simpler, more fun, or healthier. Here's the first one:

I started making pancakes from scratch after I began looking at the ingredients on prepared mixes from the store. This pancake recipe is one that I altered from a foodnetwork.com recipe. My kids love these pancakes and ask for them almost every day. They’re so sweet that I don’t even use syrup with them. I mix the dry ingredients and keep the mix in a container, ready to use.

Dry ingredients to keep mixed:
3 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

When you’re ready to make the pancakes:
1 ¼ cup mix
1 egg
¾ cup milk
1/3 stick butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix each wet ingredient in separately. Spray pan and heat on medium. To make it a little more fun, make tiny, small, medium, and large pancakes. I also make letters and spell words for my children (no, I’m not very artistic and they’re not perfect, but my children can usually tell what they are.) It’s a great way to throw in a little fun lesson with breakfast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We can all be good moms

Working moms know that they miss out on some things, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be great moms. There are plenty of working moms who have close relationships with their children and have been able to find enough balance to be there for their children. We know that quantity of time spent with our children is as important as quality time. But plenty of moms have found a way to prioritize time with their children despite the challenges presented by working.
Likewise, women who stay at home full time aren’t necessarily the best at mothering. I’ll never forget when I was reading a book in preparation to stay home full time and read the statements of children who’s “stay-at-home” moms kept themselves too busy to build relationships with them (Leaving the Workforce.) Just because a mom stays at home with her children does not mean that she makes the best decisions for her children and family. Whether a woman works outside of the home or in the home does not determine how good a mom she is and we need a disconnect from this thinking.
It’s really amazing how much women have in common, regardless of whether they work outside of the home or not. Probably because so many people have focused on the differences, most of us don’t really realize how much we have in common. In speaking with other moms, I was surprised at first how similarly they answered particular questions. But as I got to thinking about it, it made more sense. We are all moms, we are all trying to do our best raising our children and taking care of our families and homes, and we all have personal needs that we have to squeeze in somewhere.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Guilt from not meeting the ideal

It becomes obvious when you talk to enough moms who are willing to be honest that not one of us “has it all.” This is an idea that causes many women to feel guilty and like they don’t measure up. Women who work outside of the home are often made to feel guilty because they don’t feel like they are spending enough time with their family. When they arrange things to spend more time with their family they are often made to feel guilty about not being dedicated enough at work. Or because they are letting housework slip. Or because they are not able to make healthier food choices due to a lack of time. I haven’t talked to many moms who work outside of the home who don’t feel somewhat torn because of how many directions they are being pulled.
Moms who stay at home, however, often suffer from their own guilt. They often are made to feel guilty because “all they do” is stay home. It is often expected that moms who stay at home are always available for whatever. They can sign up for this activity and that meal because they “don’t work.” They are made to feel guilty because they are not contributing to society or putting a financial burden on their family or not setting a good example for their children. They are often accused of giving up the privileges that women have worked so hard to get.
When moms talk about their choice to work outside of the home or stay at home things are often said that make the other feel guilty. I don’t think it’s done intentionally, but because there has been a debate about what moms “should” do, the reasons for making a particular choice have become arguments for everyone to make that same choice. When moms who work outside of the home say things like they chose to work in order to have an impact on the world, they don’t mean to imply that a stay-at-home mom can’t have a positive impact on the world, but she does. When moms who stay at home say things like they chose to stay at home because their child is their top priority, they don’t mean to imply that a working mom doesn’t make her child a priority, but she does.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What we miss, what we get

Women who work out of choice or necessity know that they miss out on things. It may be a first step or first word. It may be the excitement the first time a child really feels successful at something. It may be time spent just hanging out on a daily basis. Some of the things moms who work outside of the home have said that they feel like they are missing are: “the big things,” “bonding time with [my] baby … and getting to see him do all his new stuff,” “time during the day with my son,” “organizing my home to reduce stress and make evenings go smoother,” and “everything.” The differences from one mom to the other is obvious in these answers, but the main thing in common is that working moms did feel like they were missing out on something.
When asked about the rewards they received these women talked about things like getting time to run errands alone, financial rewards (for the present and future), adult time, rewards from accomplishing tasks, job satisfaction, having a positive effect on the world, friendships built at work, independence and fulfillment from working, and relationships beyond family. These are some of the things that women who stay at home feel like they’re missing out on. But the rewards that they list look very similar to the things that moms who work outside of the home fell that they are missing. At home moms say that their biggest rewards are: “I get to be here for the little things,” hugs (and) cuddles,” “freedom…flexibility…experiencing things with my child,” “being able to see every ‘first’ my child has,” and “seeing every milestone.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The myth

More people than ever before, especially women, are suffering from depression, anxiety, and a host of other emotional and physical problems. These problems are linked to stress, lack of sleep, and general unhealthy lifestyles. Our expectations have been set so high that we run like the Energizer Bunny until we wear out and/or get sick. When we are unable to fully and successfully complete any one of the tasks on our plate we beat ourselves up. We are so busy doing things in our lives we are not actually living our lives, and illnesses such as depression sneak up on us when we’re not looking. We women need a new revolution that lets us be honest with ourselves and each other. We CAN NOT have it all! We CAN NOT do it all, all by ourselves! We are not made that way and the wear and tear on our bodies should be evidence to these facts.
I know that many people will argue with me. They have a job and are dedicated to their family as well. There are many women who are successful in the business world and raise well-adjusted children. This is true, but that does not mean that they have, or have had it, all. Ask a mom who’s worked full time throughout raising her children and I guarantee that her list of what she’s missed out on is long. Similarly, as a mom who has stayed at home what she’s missed out on, and you will get different answers, but there will still be a list. It is physically impossible to have what we think of as “it all.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Say "goodbye, debate"

Nevertheless, there is a camp that supports the view that a woman isn’t living up to her potential, or worse making a detrimental decision for herself and her children, if she doesn’t maintain her career after having children; and a camp that supports the view that mothers returning home is the only answer to solving many of the problems that children and families face today. These camps have had their supporters ever since the debate began. I would like to dissolve these camps and have moms join together in support of each other, regardless of our working situations. We are not doing anyone any good by continuing to provide fuel to the debate. We are, however, propagating a harmful myth, placing incredible pressure on ourselves and others, and putting far too much focus on an issue instead of the health of women and their ability to take care of their families.
The myth that is so harmful to us moms is this: that we can have it all. I have heard this statement my whole life. Ever since the women’s lib movement, women have been able to “have it all.” We can have children and a career. We can eat our cake (be promiscuous before marriage due to birth control) and have it too (have a great, committed marriage regardless of the decisions we made in relationships before marriage.) We can be a corporate executive, room mother, and sex goddess all in one day. Can anyone say: “yeah, right!”

Discussing the debate

One reason there is such a debate around the stay-at-home/go-to-work issue is that we all want to believe that we are making the best decisions for our family. When we make a major decision such as this, we want reassurance that it’s the best decision. Somewhere in our subconscious we believe that since our decision is the best for us, it must be the best decision for everyone. Out of all of the books I’ve read on either choosing to stay at home or choosing to stay at work, all of them have tried to justify why each choice is the right thing to do. Most of the books are geared to women who have made a particular choice and aim to reinforce the decision made, encourage women in that decision, and give them tools to make it work. These books are very helpful in giving women support that is helpful in the challenges that come with either staying at home or staying at work.
For some reason, however, there is tension between the two groups. Somehow the encouragement and support for making the choice has become a debate. There has even recently been a book published that admonished that all women should work, and if they don’t they are doing a discredit to themselves and their children. My stand on the issue is that there should be no debate. There’s no possible way that all women can work. There just aren’t enough jobs out there. Not to mention that many women would be miserable and more stressed trying to balance work and raising children when their heart is not in it. Nor could our economy handle it if all women chose to stay home. We’re a huge part of the workforce. Not to mention that many women would be miserable at home, and some families would collapse under financial debt if there wasn’t a second income. It’s not always necessary, but our economy requires in many families that there be two incomes just to survive.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The issue that can't be ignored

There has been so much written on these topics that I won’t address most of them. But there is one that I can’t ignore. Even though it’s probably the most written about and talked about choice, it bears visiting. No mom’s book would be complete without entering in the stay-at-home/go-to-work debate. Where I come down on this issue is that there should be no debate. Just as there’s no one-size fits all dress out there (no matter what the tag says), there is also no one-size-fits-all answer to this hot topic.
I have experienced a little of it all, and have talked to dozens of moms about the work/home issue. Some moms work and wish they could be at home. Some moms work and wouldn’t have it any other way. Some moms feel stuck at home and have to work at having some adult outlets. Some moms are perfectly content being home full time. Some moms work at home and manage it very well. Some moms work part time and feel it’s the perfect balance. Each mom is different in her situation and reasons why she stays home or goes to work, but one thing every mom I’ve talked to has had challenges unique to their situation. So why the big debate?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What is my main job?

Now that we’ve covered some the general answer to being a successful mommy, it’s time to tackle some more specific questions and answers. The first question asked was “What is my main job as a mom?” The answer to that question is, of course, to raise my children to be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy individuals. This answer possibly raises more questions than almost any other. The evidence for the complexity of the answer to this question can be seen in any bookstore or library by the shear numbers of books and magazines written for moms. These books answer all of the little questions (yeah, right. Are there really and little questions when it comes to mommyhood?) that we answer in raising our children. Questions like: Do I breast or formula feed? Do I work or stay home? If I work, what’s the best child care situation for my child? Do I make my own baby food or buy it prepared? Do I send my child to preschool? And when? And where? What’s the best way to educate my child – home school, private school, or public school? What activities should I sign my child up for? The list goes on and on.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Balance through letting go

Now that we have added some tools to our balanced life toolbox, we need to discuss “those days.” You know, the day where everything gets out of balance. Whether because of circumstances out of our control or because of our own decisions, we all have “those days.” One of my girlfriends confided in me today that she allowed her day to get all out of whack. How she spent her time did not reflect her priorities for the day. Her confession got me to thinking. Has the way I spent my time today reflected my priorities? Today I did okay, but reflecting back over the week showed me that I had spent too little time just being with my children.
The guilt and disappointment in myself is something that I believe we all (moms) share. Because of being pulled in a variety of directions it often happens that we don’t get everything done. Sometimes we feel disappointed in ourselves for not living up to our own standards. Sometimes we feel guilty about missing something important for something trivial. Sometimes we just don’t ever feel like we can keep everyone happy. On those days (or weeks) it’s essential to evaluate what’s going on and what went wrong.
We are often afraid of doing this because it means looking at and acknowledging our faults. And that just makes us feel worse. Therefore, the next step is to determine where changes need to be made. Some of the tools we’ve already discussed will be helpful in making necessary adjustments. Once you’ve determined to, or actually made, some changes to get back in balance you’re only part of the way through the process. The next step is to let go. Let go of the disappointment. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the self condemnation. Recognize that you’re human and forgive yourself. I find that I often skip this step and kind of “rake myself over the coals” over and over about the same issue. Even if it’s been years since I’ve made a particular mistake, the guilt can creep up on me.
Holding on to these negative feelings are not helpful to anyone. They just drag me down and tip my scales (and life) out of balance. They are damaging to my health and may negatively impact my relationships. Most importantly they affect how I see myself, how I treat myself, and how I expect others to treat me. If I’m able to forgive myself and be content with who I am (and who I’m striving to be) I will be more likely to take care of my health and thus be better able to take care of my family and all of the other responsibilities I have.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Don't "have to"

Now that we’ve added a word to our vocabulary, it’s time to take a phrase out. I am just as guilty as anyone else about using this phrase, but I am working diligently to stop using it except when it is truly appropriate. I once had a teacher who said, “There are only two things in life that you have to do: pay taxes and die.” Well, there have been plenty of people who have proven that you don’t have to pay taxes. You still have the option, just most people don’t want to pay the consequences. So, really, the only thing we have to do is die. We don’t have a choice in that one.
If you listen to many of us talk, however, you would think that the world could come to an end at any moment. I’m not even sure how often I say “have to,” but I know it’s too much. I have to cook dinner. I have to go to the grocery store. I have to go to work. I have to clean. I have to… It never seems to end. But we really don’t have to do all of these things. There are plenty of people who chose not to do many of these things. Their lives may not be what we would want, but they’re still around.
The phrase “have to” brings with it a sense of burden. If I have to do something it’s an obligation. If you’re anything like me, you kind of trudge through obligations like walking through knee deep mud. The same task can be skipped through light-heartedly with the simple exlusion of the phrase “have to.” I’m going to cook dinner because I’m hungry and want us to be healthy. I’m going to the grocery store because we’re getting low on some food items that we like. I’m going to go to work so that we can continue to have the things we have. I’m going to clean the house so that it looks nice and is a healthy place for us to live. Just as we talked about changing perspectives earlier, changing how we say things can also change our experiences. Saying “I’m going to….because” it give me this good benefit improves my mood, motivation, and attitude about what there is to be done.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Balance through Self Discipline

Ourselves is a good place to start with saying no. This is otherwise known as self-discipline. Mommyhodd teaches us a lot about self-discipline. Discipline often gets a bad rap, but it is hugely beneficial trait. All self- discipline is is to tell yourself no when it is in the best interest of you or someone else. When that baby is crying in the middle of the night and you want to roll over and go back to sleep, you get up because you know that baby needs you. When you don’t feel good and would like to curl up in front of the tv, you dress and feed and maybe even play with your children. When you would really like a bowl of ice cream for lunch, you fix the salad (and maybe have the ice cream for dessert.) We all have the foundations of discipline, we just don’t like to exercise it very often.
What we don’t realize is that we will pay now or pay later. If I choose to eat unhealthily and not to exercise, I will pay by feeling sluggish and not being able to fit into my clothes. If I choose not to clean my house at all, I will pay by my family being sick more. If I choose to take on too many responsibilities outside of my home, I will pay by losing the close relationship with my husband and my children. If I choose to neglect any of my areas of priorities, I will pay in some way at some time.
In order to become better at saying no, I have to practice saying it and being okay with it. If I don’t feel that a certain responsibility or project is something I should take on, I don’t need to worry about who will do it or how it will get done. If I feel that a person is going to be disappointed with me for not doing something, I have to realize that their disappointment is more about their incorrect expectations of me, not a devaluing of who I am. I have gained an understanding that my self worth is not wrapped up in what I do or what other people think of me, and that has helped my be able to say no with confidence. I still have a lot of responsibilities, but I make sure that they are the right responsibilities for me and my family for right now and that they won’t throw me off balance.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Balance through Saying "No"

The next tool for achieving balance is one that we, as women, tend to have an especially hard time with. Many of us have never put it in our tool box of life, and others let it get buried so far down it hardly ever gets used. This tool is the ability to say “no.” Such a simple little word, such a difficult thing to say. Because we often tie our self-definition in the things we do (which is no wonder, with all that we have to do) we feel that we should do whatever we are asked. Especially if it’s a good thing and most especially if it’s something that we enjoy doing. We life in a world that is full of opportunities of every kind, which is great, but people (okay, I) often want to take hold of every opportunity. Which is, of course, impossible and leaves me feeling overwhelmed.
Our culture pushes us to be “overachievers.” It starts in school. The more activities you’re involved in, the more community services you perform, the higher your grades, the better college you’ll get into. Once you’re at college you’re encouraged to continue in this race of high grades and extra-curricular activities to be able to land the best job. Then many people start the rat race in the business world to keep moving up in the world. Even though many mom don’t join the business rat race, the same thing takes place in the world of moms. Instead of promotions, it’s being on the Parent Teacher Association, or being room mom, or making sure that your child is signed up for the right amount of activities, while still contributing to your community in a helpful way. Not all moms do this. I have a good friend who is in no way whatsoever compelled to take on the world like I am. She’s perfectly content to be at home, take care of her family, and do one or two extra things for them. She has learned the art of saying no when it’s appropriate and her family, I believe, benefits from it.
Just like any new habit saying no takes practice. You may even start with “I’ll think about it,” which is a good tool to let you actually think about whether this is something that you should take on or whether it doesn’t fit in your goals and objectives. It also gives you a chance to consider how your family would be affected. I came across an opportunity recently that I would have loved to taken advantage of. It was something right up my ally. As I thought about it, though, I realized that it would take time that I didn’t want to take from my family and that it would possibly also cause conflict in my family. It wouldn’t be worth what it would cost me, and it felt good to say no, even if it was just to myself.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Balance through Changing Perspectives

Changing perspective is another tool to achieving a balanced life. Balance isn’t just about what you have going on. It’s also how you look at and feel about what’s going on. When I start to feel overwhelmed with housework and taking care of my family I stop and give thanks. I’m grateful that I have a house that is safe and warm and has plenty of room for my family. I’m very grateful for my three children. They are true blessings in my life. Just because they’re blessings, though, doesn’t mean that they aren’t work. Just like the house and the husband and my calling to write, these blessings come with responsibilities and need work to maintain them. But if I never stop working to enjoy my blessings, they lose their positive influence on my life.
When I have a pile of laundry and ironing to do, I remind myself how blessed we are to have a full wardrobe of clothes. When the dishwasher is full again, I remind myself it’s because we have plenty of food to eat. When my children’s toys are all over the den, I remind myself that they are healthy. When my husband comes home late from work, I remind myself that he has a great job and is a wonderful father and husband. When I’m exhausted, getting up for the second or third time in the night with my baby, I sing praises that I have this sweet person who’s been entrusted to me.
I am not happy all of the time, and I have to work at changing my perspective. I have down days and do get frustrated. But I’ve learned that if I wallow in these moments, I’ll miss the great moments. I don’t ignore the things that need to change. Part of my job is to teach my children manners and to clean up after themselves. I ask for help when I need it. I take care of the things that need to be taken care of (eventually.) What I don’t do is dwell on these things. I choose instead to dwell on the hugs and kisses, the few moments alone my husband and I snag, the things and people that I have been abundantly blessed with. When I do this, I’m much more grateful and don’t feel as overwhelmed as often. It tips the balance of my mood to the positive side, which helps me bring balance to the other areas of my life.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Balance through Relationships

Lists, goals and objectives are helpful in giving concreteness to priorities and increasing motivation, but they most definitely don’t guarantee balance. I have even gotten out of balance in making lists and goals before. These are just tools that can be helpful in maintaining balance. There are many other tools that can be used to maintain balance in your life. Another way that I keep myself in check is through my relationships. The people in my life that I’m closest with know me well enough to notice when I’m out of balance. They are able to see things that I can’t or don’t take the time to see. Accountability relationships, as I call them, can include a husband, best friend, mother, sister, etc. These are the people you share your inmost being with and are comfortable enough to be vulnerable with. They are also faithful and trustworthy and will always build you up. They are there for you, because sometimes all you need is a sounding board. Just talking through your feelings, frustrations, and fantasies (on what all you’d like to get done) if often helpful.
These relationships also help remind you that you are more than a mother. Although we often get overwhelmed with all of the roles we play in life, there is healthiness in being able to define who we are separate from being a mom. Especially when mothering takes up a majority of our time and we feel completely wrapped up in mommyhood. It may seem contrary to what many think, but maintaining your identity outside of being a mom actually helps you be a better mom. Remember the metaphor of the air conditioning unit? We talked about needing to do regular maintenance. An air conditioner doesn’t spend time being a refrigerator or washing machine, but it doesn’t run all the time. Even though it doesn’t provide another function, it does its job of heating or cooling and then it takes a break for a while. We’re not appliances (contrary to some popular jokes), we have more than one job and more than one relationship to maintain. If we look at these other relationships as avenues of support and outlets, they become tools to helping us maintain balance instead of just adding more things on our to do list.
 

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