Sometimes Being A Mother Means You Have To Put Your Dreams On Hold

Having children has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Despite all the snot, laundry, and meal prep, it gives me a purpose greater than myself. I know that kids are not for everyone, and I give the utmost respect to those people who don’t want to have them. I get it, even though I have three of my own.

Being a parent–at least a good one–means that the life you have envisioned for yourself often changes drastically. And this cannot be any truer for a woman who is destined to rear the children.

Although there are stay-at-home dads, which I personally think is super cool, often times it’s the women who are left to hold down the fort and keep the kids alive while Daddy is off at work.

But what about all the dreams you had for your life, the ones that were for you, the ones like becoming successful or traveling the world? Those dreams get put on pause, and for those of us who don’t have the emotional support, financial means or the courage to pursue them once again, they often fade away.

For me, when this happened, it became a major problem. My dream was to combine a passion for something I loved with the opportunity to earn a decent living. I grew up with a single mother who worked her ass off to provide for me and a younger brother and I have a burning desire inside of me to earn money. I know that my husband loves me, and perhaps I’m a little jaded given my past, but I want to know that if something happened I could provide for myself. For me, I need that mental security.

I can say for myself that finding my dream again has made me a better mother. Not only because I am earning and I can help my husband to pay for things which helps to alleviate his stress, but because I get to reignite those passions and those dreams that I locked away for years when I was deep in diaper mode and playdates. I would say that I am lucky but that really isn’t the case. I worked tirelessly to get to the point that I am at in my career. I sacrificed so much of myself to get here. I earned this dream that I am now getting to live.

For me, that was my dream. Everyone has their own. Sure, I’d love to travel. That would really fantastic, but that will have to wait till I am much older and my kids are grown. They need me too much now. I can’t part with them without worry. And besides, all those beautiful places will be there in another 10 to 20 years. It can wait. For now, I am perfectly happy with this dream.

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How I Learned To Be The Mother I Never Knew I Could Be

I remember when my world used to feel so small. Me, my husband and our growing family up against the world. I think of the times when the little things used to bother me to the point of borderline insanity. I used to relish the fact that I had it all. Boy, I was stupid back then. Before you become a mother, you create this allusion in your mind of what life should be. The perfect life. You envision your kids becoming athletes and honor roll students, keeping those date nights regulated with the hubby and never having to worry about the heavy shit you didn’t plan for.

Then life happens. Things change. Warning: that life you dreamt for yourself isn’t going to go the way it did in your head.

I think to myself of all the things I took for granted. All the things that I used to put so much energy into that make me shake with anger and clench my teeth just thinking about now. Why was I so selfish and petty? Why did I always sweat the small stuff and forget the bigger picture?

I would trade everything that I thought was wrong in my life to change what breaks my heart now. I think of my children and my husband. He was that perfect person that I thought I could never, ever live without. Now there are days when I want to just be alone. I think of last summer, and how I’d made these hypothetical plans to potty train my youngest once he turns two. Now I’d give my left arm to just hear him call me “Mommy” again, like he did for months and stopped doing.

When you have kids with special needs, it softens your heart. I can say that. And the thought of something ever being “wrong” with a tiny person that you created is enough to make you feel like you’ve lost your appetite for an entire week. As a mother, you don’t plan for these things, but you do know that there’s a reason greater than you that made you this child’s parent, for men are not strong like we are. Men don’t fight and plead and beg to find out what the underlying issue is—they typically go with the “wait and see” or “it’s just in my wife’s head” approach. That is simply not in a man’s nature. (And if it is, please correct me for I have never heard of it—I’d feel relieved to know if it actually existed somewhere out there.)

The first time I knew something was “different” with my second child she was only 6 weeks old. Already born 5 weeks premature, she had cemented herself in my heart and my mind as the little warrior that made me strong but who I knew needed me just the same. I spent the next 4 years championing until I finally received her formal diagnosis, something I saw coming all along but still cried for the day the words were said to me over the telephone.

3 months later my life started to take a quick shift in another direction, one far more serious that made my first special needs child experience feel like a day at Disneyland.

I think of the first time the doctors suspected that my son had autism. But then immediately I think of the first time I finally admitted that this was a valid possibility. This is when I stopped lying for him, and for myself. This was the only way to take a step in the right direction and acknowledge the truth in front of me.

I went from a social person who loved entertaining and going out to a person that hated leaving her house and used any and every opportunity she had to travel when she could. I still am this person, but I am learning not to hide so much or escape. I think of the type of mother I want to be. Then I think of the type of mother I need to be. On good days, those two get a chance to meet.

Being a mother is a hard freaking job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom who works, doesn’t work, has a nanny or struggles to survive. We are all in this together. I look at other mothers who are unflinching with courage. I see them, observing with adoring eyes when I go to my two children’s specialist appointments.

I wish they knew how beautiful they are, how easy they make this all look.

When they seem somewhat approachable, I often pay them a small compliment. It brings me joy in this strange way to see them smile, to let them know that they are just an awesome human being navigating through life. I too know that they most likely had those same dreams that I had of becoming a perfect mother to perfect little kids.

Someday, as I grow stronger and more confident in my role as a mother to special needs children, I hope that another mother can look to me for strength from a distance and know that they are strong and they are tough as hell, and that everything will be okay. There’s a reason that you are that child’s mother, and you will become stronger each day. I can promise you that. Don’t doubt your strength, it’s in there, even if you haven’t found it yet.

Also featured on Downs Ups & Teacups.

I’m Not Religious, But That Doesn’t Make Me A “Bad” Mom.

Religion to me is a lot like politics. People are going to believe what they want to believe and there isn’t much you can do to sway their opinions otherwise. I find it surprising when I meet people who feel the need to be over-the-top religious. I’ve always felt if you’re true to yourself then things should come naturally. You don’t need to share your bible journaling on social media every time you do it or preach about being #blessed 24/7.

I feel that regardless of age, people can change their personal beliefs about religion. I know that when I was a little girl, both of my parents told me that I would ride my bicycle singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of my lungs. My mother didn’t have a religious bone in her body but would attend church somewhat regularly with my father and I (who became a Christian at the ripe age of 50, shortly after I was born) on Sundays. This was until they split at the end of 1992 when I was 8.

For little kids, there’s just something about learning about religion from those that truly believe with that blind faith. It’s the type of faith that hasn’t been jaded and mistrusted that helps a tiny person to believe that all is good in the world. I didn’t have a conventional upbringing, I had a rough early adulthood (much to my own demise), and marriage and motherhood haven’t always been easy for me with the hardships that I’ve faced. Not to mention that I buried both my parents by the time that I was 30 years old, which although is a natural chapter in life, still weighs you down and overwhelms you with emotions.

When I meet people and the topic of religion ever does come up, I do my best to completely avoid the situation. I don’t want to have to explain to someone why I don’t believe, and I most certainly don’t want someone to make me feel bad or that I’m simply “missing out” for not believing. I don’t want to hear that there’s a book I “have to read” or that they will “pray for me” to change. Everyone needs something in life, and all religion has done for me is to make me question it to the point at which it makes me feel torn up inside. And to be completely honest, I feel much more at peace not dealing with that in my life.

I feel that to teach your kids to be good people, not taking your children to church every Sunday will not permanently damage them. I baptized all three of my children, mostly as a favor to my husband’s side of the family–as well as mine–because I knew that it meant something to them and that would make for a nice memory and celebration. I chose to send my two oldest children to a private religious preschool for one year because I wanted them to learn about God and the Bible and the things that I learned before I was old enough to make decisions on my own and choose what I wanted to believe.

Never will I shame someone for not taking their kids to church, or for not praying as a family or practicing religion. It’s not fair for me to be judged, especially since I’m pretty sure it says somewhere in the Bible that judging another person is wrong, anyway.

For myself, the door to religion has been closed. It’s not locked, but it’s closed for right now. Perhaps one day it will open again, but if for some reason it doesn’t, my life will still be complete.

Be Affectionate With Your Kids. They Need It. And So Do You.

I can count on one hand how many times my mother told me that she loved me. And I can count on two fingers how many times she told me that I made her proud.

Those words matter. Not only to a child, but also to an adult.

When I was growing up, had it not have been for my father who I saw irregularly, I would never have received affection at all. My mother was just not that type of person. As a child–when your perspective is rather limited to not much else besides your family–you think of things as “normal” because you don’t really know the difference.

I didn’t mind it then, not receiving affection, because I naturally assumed this was how all families are.

Clearly, I was wrong.

For the rest of this story, click over to Life As Mama!

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Learning To Unplug From Life–And Work

When you work from home it’s not the same as working in an office. Sure, you are working, but “shutting it down” is just not the same as leaving an actual office when the clock strikes 5PM.

We are all guilty of “taking our work home with us” from time to time. For myself, I have been very guilty of this. But I’m actively trying to get better. I’d like to think it’s working.

I know for a fact why I do, and why I did this for so long to the point at which it was unhealthy. I liked feeling important. I liked the feeling that other people “needed me” outside of my home life. Sometimes when you have kids back to back and you’re deep in the trenches of diaper duty, meal prep, laundry and covered in spit up and snot, it’s nice to feel like your opinion matters to someone over the age of 5.

It’s also nice to hold adult conversation. For me, it serves as a fundamental outlet to escape and to satisfy my unbreakable passion to earn money and earn purpose outside of my family. None of this would be possible if I couldn’t work from home. My personal life wouldn’t allow for that. I have to be home to play shuttle bus driver, among other reasons.

But when is it “too much” that it becomes unhealthy? For me, it was when I realized what I defined as my level of “commitment” was a stark extreme compared to others. The phone can wait, the messages will still be there after the alert goes ding.

Above all, I’m actively learning that you don’t need to go on an actual vacation just to get away from work. You should have enough strength and will power and commitment to yourself and to your well-being to be able to shut it down even when you are at home.

Life needs balance. Without it, there are sure to be consequences. I think back to January of this year. I’m one of those corny people who goes guns blazing with personal “New Year’s Resolutions” I seek to fulfill because I convince myself that it will “make me a better person” when all is said and done. Typically I choose 3. This year was to give up caffeine, alcohol, and to try and take on side jobs and grow my “writing career” other than my editing career in hopes of self-fullfillment.

Fast forward to mid February and I was sick as a dog. My body, mind, and spirit were so run down and exhausted I could hardly move. Why am I killing myself to try harder? I couldn’t see that I was trying too much. For anyone that’s ever worked freelance at anything–or commission based–you understand the strange feeling of declining offers. You have this overwhelming sense of guilt that’s attached that makes you worry that you may not get this golden opportunity again.

Having to turn down the opportunity to earn more money was hard, but not when it came at the expense of spending less time with my kids or less time allowing my brain to have some downtime. The sense of worry was outweighed by practicality and I made myself speak up for the tiny voice in my head that was begging for a break.

Take those 5 extra minutes for yourself. Sleep an extra hour if you need it. We are all human and being a mother is like working two jobs that no-one is sending you a check in the mail for and if you throw a career on top of that it’s damn near impossible not to lose your mind on a few occasions. It’s okay to “shut it down” and detach. Don’t feel bad for needing or wanting that each day. Because if not, you’ll just be doing yourself an injustice that will transform into a major issue before long.

Time Is Always The Best Medicine When It Comes To Family

For people who are siblings, often times there are many things in common. Which, coming from the same parents, doesn’t sound so surprising. Sometimes these similar traits can serve as something to bond over, and other times it can be a source of frustration and even pain.

Spending your childhood with a sibling only to disconnect as an adult hurts.

Sometimes it’s over little differences that can’t seem to work themselves out, and other times it’s a falling out that leaves a person feeling damaged to the point of despair. I’ve experienced this and the only way to make the hurt subside was to push it to the back of my mind and to lock it in a safe spot that I wouldn’t allow my mind to wander to.

Don’t open that door. Don’t let that pain back in. It needs a place to stay because that’s what’s needed to feel protected from the questions that linger and hook into your brain.

Time is a funny thing. It has a unique power as it’s earned. Change cannot happen overnight. This is especially true when it comes to a person and who they are. In recent years, since the passing of my mother, my last living parent, I’ve grown up a lot. Not only as a human being, but in the roles I wear in my everyday life. As a wife, as a mother, as an employee, as a friend. I’ve become more aware of the person that I am playing in this thing we call life and the impression I am leaving on those I meet and surround myself with. I’ve gained a broader perspective of my actions onto another person. I realize now that some of this hurt and the painful rifts that were formed weren’t all someone else’s fault.

I was wrong. I said things that I learned are hurtful to others. I’ve talked about myself too much and fell short when asking questions about how someone else might be doing. I’ve been quick to judge. And most importantly, I realize that for a person that you are related to by blood it can cut like a dagger straight in the gut when these actions come from a person that you once spent each day of childhood with.

Time shows you things you need to see, but only when you are ready to see them. When you are able to learn and grow from the past, you have the ability to turn those mistakes into life lessons. You never know when your life can change or what the future holds. Make those relationships right. Don’t live with regrets. If you miss someone enough that you call a brother or a sister, pick up the phone. Tell them. Chances are, because of that blood that runs deep and links the two of you for life, they might be feeling the same way, too.

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