Thursday, July 30, 2015

The 2 Most Powerful Truths After 12 Years of Being A Stay-At-Home Mom


When I write from my heart about being a stay-at-home mom, part of my boldness withers because I in no way want to diminish the other fierce roles women are choosing/have chosen. I DO NOT want this post to be about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms. For real? There is already a long enough buffet of differences for us to feast on. Please hear my heart, I'm not starting a food fight. Today, I'm tracing back through my own journey trying to offer hope, hilarity, and human experience.

*clause over*   

We were so stinking cute; 17 and 19. We had been an official couple for all of one hot week. We were sun-baked, self-focused love birds. All I wanted was him, in every holy and fleshly way. AHEM. But I needed him to know this one thing. Being assertive was a weakness of mine at the time (16 years later,  I think he wishes I was a little less assertive :) None-the-more, we arrived at a moment where I owned 'assertive soul'. 

"I want to be a stay-at-home mom. I will live in a card board box if that's what it takes. But I want to raise my own kids!"

It was bold. It was risky. It was a non-negotiable in my mind. As much as I wanted him, if he had put up any type of fight, I would have walked away. Passionate has never been a weakness. ;) He didn't fight, he didn't hesitate, he said, "ok!" 

At the time, neither of us knew what we had just signed up for.

Fast forward 12 years. There is a series worth of book material I could spew about the 12 year journey of "swimming across the ocean without a life preserver" (thanks, Ames :) One week from today, I will officially step down from a role I have intimately known for 12 years, 24/7, 365 days a year. No one pours their bone marrow into a career for 12 years, and simply walks away unscathed. One week from today, I will drop off all FOUR of my babies into the care of another human soul. I will walk away from each of them and walk back into our quiet, still, and empty home for the first time ever. And as sure as the sun will rise, I will grieve.  

Here are the two most powerful truths I've learned the last 12 years.

1. There is nothing sexy about being a stay at home mom. 

Nothing. Absolutely nothing, sexy about this role. It is the hardest, longest, least accolade producing job on the planet. The mundane repetition required, HAS to kill brain cells. There is no lunch break, vacation, sick leave or mental health days. There is no income, 401k plan, health insurance, over time, Christmas office parties, or monetary bonuses. There is no yearly review, raise or promotion. The majority of this job is spent in the sleepless, thankless, over-worked trenches. Knee deep in poop, crumbs, toys, tears, whines, Barney, diapers, and wet gold fish. Most days, your sucked on, climbed on, spit on, peed on, bite, hit, and hated. You have no company car, no reimbursement plan for work attire, and no plush conferences in Vegas on someone else's dime. The work never ends. There is no closing time. There are no weekends for a stay-at-home mom. Your job performance is based on a trip to Walmart, while of course, your child screams the entire trip and mean people give you ugly looks. 


It should not at all surprise us then, that many SAHMs are depressed. VERY DEPRESSED. When we elevate the position of SAHM without very clear warnings, we end up with isolated, lonely women who are vulnerable to believing lies and then acting on them. Once upon a time, SAHMs had this beautiful protection called community. Moms, grandmas, sisters, mother in laws, sister in laws, cousins, aunts and friends all lived in community. The saying, "it takes a village" is a sweet reminder of how it used to be. They all lived in a village together where the weight of raising human souls was shared. Today, we do a HORRIBLE job supporting the family unit in a community type setting, but the pressure to be 'fruitful and multiply' remains as oppressive as ever. So many of these mamas are drowning without a prayer, without a friend, without a safe place to share their struggles openly and honestly. I want to hug every young mama I know and whisper in her ear, "Get help. Ask for help. Hire help (even if it means going in debt...Tell Dave Ramsey to jump in a lake...) Go back to work if you need too. Admit your broken and tired places and oh btw.... GET HELP!!"

We had just welcomed Julia into the family. Katie was 26 months, Mark was in his first year of engineering school taking 18 hours, and we had just moved into a new town with few friends. I was tired, SO TIRED, far from family, isolated, lonely, and TIRED...SO TIRED. Zero kiddos to one, was a major transition. One child to two, almost killed me.  My sweet husband, who was intently watching and helping as best he could, made an executive decision to hire a babysitter once a week so I could have a four hour break. It saved my sanity, my life, our marriage. Thank you, love!

Being a mom is so hard! ALL TYPES OF MOMS! We must lean into these women, pull them out from themselves, help them, engage them, encourage them. Rescue them in their weariness, redeem them from the mundane, offer them space and a place to recharge. We can do better! 

2. I am NOT a victim, I chose to be a SAHM.  

I chose this. I still CHOOSE this. The last 12 years, I re-upped, I re-signed, and extended my maternal contract. No one forced my hand. I willingly walked back into the throes of this position, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. And now the chapter is over, and I can hardly catch my breath. I have no pay check stub to prove my worth. I have no degree to solidify my education. I have no marketable skill competitive enough to out pace my peers. These four kids are my ONLY resume item. I put ALL of my eggs in one basket. 


I don't have a SINGLE regret. NOT ONE!

For the last 12 years, I intentionally chose to be the full-time museum curator of my children's hearts. It has been the hardest thing I have EVER done. It has required GREAT sacrifice and struggle in EVERY department. I have sweat, celebrated, bleed, laughed, cried, complained, rejoiced, enjoyed, hated and quit every other day.

But oh friends, there is zero regret in penning this story hand in hand with my children. Zero regret in molding, folding, and holding their every days, their little moments and great big moments, their success and failures, their firsts and lasts, their good days and sour days... I was there, and I am so glad I was!

These four:

My masterpiece.
My final project. 
My thesis. 
My dissertation. 
My manuscript. 
My magnum opus.

My life. I chose life. I choose life.

And know what?! I'd do it all again, if it meant I got to do it with them! 

Here's to you Mama!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

3 Reasons I Stopped Homeschooling

I finished my last year of "full load" homeschooling, during the thick fog of my mother's illness and death. I had a 4th grader, 1st grader and Kindergartner. It is by the grace of God, the girls were able to be retain and advance academically. The gorgeous gift of homeschooling, is the freedom to do school from the bed, the park, the nursing home, the pool or the museum. The sweet schedule of homeschooling, allowed us to persevere during this really difficult time in our home, and still actually learn something together.

By the time we entered the final stretch of stale, slow, sanctifying January; I knew deep down into my toes, it was time for traditional school.

While I continued to keep Anderson at home for preschool and Kindergarten, I was ready to relinquish the girl's schooling. I knew this was necessary because of these 3 reasons. Before anyone loses their 'happy' with me, rest assure I know these are the 3 reasons WE chose traditional school. There are a myriad of reasons to stop homeschooling, this is just our story! There are also a myriad of reasons TO homeschool, and believe you me, I am a fierce defendant of the homeschool option! It is NEVER off the table for us.

1. Grief:
Because of the intense grief churning in my gut, lots of places in me were exposed. Namely my inability, at the time, to continue to homeschool while I grieved. Grief requires a margin of space unlike any other emotion. There was no space for my grief while I was homeschooling AND still raising babies. Giving up homeschooling stung BADLY. My pride took a major hit. I ultimately loved teaching my kids. It was SO fun to discover new and exciting concepts together. It was incredibly satisfying to watch them learn under my care. But bearing the entire weight of overseeing someone's academic life, (in ADDITION to overseeing every other area of their life) can be stifling, incredibly demanding and destructive if not managed correctly.

2. Damaged Hearts:
Homeschooling was causing an unhealthy rift in my relationship with our kids. When we started the homeschool journey, I envisioned homeschooling allowing us to build a tighter relationship with one another, and it DEFINITELY did for a season. But the entire list of our reasons to homeschool, became null and void when I began to feel their hearts pull away from mine because of school. I was unwilling to sacrifice my relationship with my kids, all under the banner of maintaining "control" of their schooling. Our relationship is forever, school is only for a season.

3. My kids needed sandpaper.
There comes a time in everyone's life, when one must learn to listen to another voice of authority outside of one's parents. There comes a time in everyone's life, when one must learn to learn under another method outside of their parent's method. Our kids needed another voice speaking into their lives with responsibility AND authority.

School is SO MUCH bigger and broader than just reading, writing and arithmetic. The sandpaper of other voices, including the voices of their peers, has been the greatest launching pad for our kids wild growth with other humans. Mark and I desire for our kids to be academically strong, but our GREATEST desire is for them to be able to navigate all kinds of relationships successfully. Relationships with teachers, peers, older students, younger students, difficult relationships, encouraging relationships, strained relationships, awkward relationships, blossoming relationships, painful relationships, and unknown relationships. Traditional school has offered us all of these fundamental situations AND MORE! Each encounter has allowed us to gently guide our kids through the terrain TOGETHER, while they are still under the safe space of our home.

I thought I was homeschooling for all the right reasons, until I stopped homeschooling and the grossness floated to the top. Much of my motivation for homeschooling was founded in fear, control and pride. All very bad reasons to homeschool.

Raising kids, is learning to constantly balance and define our motivations and intentions, against our own junk.  IT IS SO HARD!

Please do not hear what I am NOT saying, I know so many amazing people who have struck a beautiful balance in the homeschool world. I respect them and support them with all there is in me! My sister, who is my best friend, is one of them. And I in NO WAY, want my readers to use my words as weapons against one another. NOT OK. But rather, I know some Mama out there needs permission to walk away, guilt-free, from the homeschool world. You are not failure dear friend, if you need to let go, walk away and make a change. You are not less than or unworthy. You are a woman of valor, who is seeking what is best for your child and your home. I applaud you. I support you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!    

Happy Traditional Schooling!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How A Mother of 4 Spends Her Summer

Oh, heeeeeyyyyyy!

Long time no typ-Y. Or typ-IE. Or typ-EY.

Recently, some one inquired after my seemingly silent presence on the blog for the last month.
"Are the culture wars too overwhelming for you?" "Are you formulating your response?" "Are you about to make a big announcement?"

I giggled inside.

Actually...... my children are at home. Every writing cell in my brain has been dead on the bottom of the fish tank since the summer bell rang and the monkeys came home. Every sane thought has washed out to sea. Question fatigue, in a Pac-Man like manner, has eaten all the neurons in my brain. Every day our need for Jesus and August grows exponentially.

It's so crazy, for ten years we spent every day, all day together. But when the great need for natural space and healthy margins were an absolute, we all learned to function with a larger bumper in our lives. So.....when you throw us all back together for endless days and weeks, we begin to rub each other raw. We are beyond nap times, early bed times and quiet times. But in exchange, I get to sleep in every morning, I have the option to go for a walk or run an errand BY MYSELF, and we can hang out late into the evening at a friends house with no remorse of people missing their bed time. All in all, it's a pretty sweet exchange. But it's been A LOT of togetherness. I'm the mom that always cries on the first day of school, and the first day of the second semester. I honestly enjoy having my kids at home, I really do! But I also enjoy the natural and healthy space we gain when school starts.

We've had a good mixture of busy and bored this summer. Just how I like it. My kids work endlessly during the school year, so I love for them to actually get to unwind and be still for so long, they bottom out in boredom.

One of the BEST things we have done this summer, is grow our very FIRST garden. After 12 years of motherhood, I felt like I finally had the mental and physical energy to oversee another living creature besides my own four, small children. So Mama with wee ones, NO GUILT because you have no garden plot outside in your back yard. NO GUILT, because you can hardly see straight just keeping up with feeding your mini-me around the clock. NO GUILT, over stuffing your face with french fries and chicken nuggets... I've SO been there, and I am harvesting vegetables especially with you in mind. Your time will come and you too can join the garden club. :)

Any who!
I wanted a small garden with 6 items. Because Mark and I are garden virgins, I wanted something small and manageable.... Ok, ok, controllable. Enter Mark. 22 items later, we have an out of control jungle. But oh my, we are having a complete BLAST!

(Isn't that gardener sexy in that straw hat? And his little helper is just too much! :)

The garden has been sweet therapy for the soul. Pruning, pulling, tending, nourishing, and picking. All good processes as you process. And we've had some stuff to process, yeah?! When I'm in the garden smelling dirt, pulling harmful weeds, killing squash bugs, standing in awe over the fact we actually produced a crop, eating tomatoes from the vine, and dancing in delight over the cutest watermelon baby you've ever beheld; God is so near to the weary places threatening to consume.
And we all have weary places, yeah?! There is no doubt in my mind now why God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and birthed His intimate relationship with them amongst the zucchinis and lilies. It comes full circle for me, when I contemplate the hallowed garden ground He bleed upon when He honored His father and drank the cup of suffering, and then again when He crushes death and His resurrected body take its first steps onto the soil of a garden. God has a long history of dwelling in garden spaces.

At each sign of precious garden life, we've celebrated. I mean, for real. When the first seed sprouted and pushed up through the earth, we jumped with joy. And I have a fierce fight in me, when I see the tiniest squash bug trying to destroy my handi-work. I'm all, "DEATH! DEATH TO YOU, SQUASH BUG!" Then I dance again when the enemy is overcome with dish soap and water. VICTORY for the gardener. Y'all, I'm dancing over onion seeds and pepper plants. I cannot imagine how my Savior dances over me; a soul. A soul made, copy and paste, of His soul. He keeps a tender and watchful eye on me at all times. He dances when I bare up under the weight of this dry and parched land, and He rejoices, as He and He alone, infuses me with the power to overcome the bondage of sin and death.

We serve a great, attentive and kind gardener. He knows His crops, and He knows the enemy of His seed. He remains faithful, tried and true. He knows His land and has promised to tend to His crop until the fruition of His plan has blossomed. His way is not thwarted by storms or droughts. He is not overwhelmed by bugs and floods. He gently paces His perfectly planted rows and speaks joy and wonder over them. He calls to them to grow up from under the darkness of the dirt. He calls them to LIFE. Real, unashamed LIFE!

I'm more in love with my Gardener today, than ever before!

Happy Gardening!