Chapter 4: Perfect Schmerfect

Happy Easter!! He Is Risen! 

                                                               

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, so many emotions flooded my body, but the desire to be the perfect mother was the strongest. I read book after book trying to prepare myself to be the perfect mother. God blessed me with an 8 lbs 1 oz baby boy who would turn my world upside down. He was not the easiest baby in the world. He was just 9 days old when 9/11 happened. I felt so vulnerable and wondered what the world would be like for my child. At 2 1/2 weeks old I discovered his inguinal hernia. He wouldn’t have surgery until 8 weeks of age and I had to keep him from crying too hard for almost 6 weeks (a tall order for the easiest baby). Then after his surgery, he got extreme eczema and never slept. I tried so hard to eliminate all foods that were possibly causing his outbreaks. He wasn’t gaining a lot of weight so I offered him the breast non-stop. He scratched and cried all day long. I was frustrated because I couldn’t make him happy or satisfied. I was failing at being the perfect mom. The worst part is that I wasn’t enjoying being a mother. I was angry most days because I was so frustrated. I just wanted to run away all day long and escape. If I hadn’t been so exhausted or proud I would have asked for help and a long nap, but I had to be the perfect mother. I forced the smiles out in public and cried alone at home.  There was a time when I looked at my son and didn’t feel the love that I thought I should feel for him. I was far from the perfect mother. I was so nervous that someone would find me out and discover that I was the worst mom on the face of the planet. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I cried out to the Lord for help, ” Why had he given me this child? I am a terrible mother. I never do anything right. I can’t do this anymore. My best is not good enough.” I don’t know how to describe it, but suddenly I felt God’s presence. It was this warm feeling that washed over me and a voice spoke loud and clear to me without any sound. God said, “He is mine. I am His father. I will take care of him. No matter what you do, I will make everything “right” in his life. You don’t have to be perfect because I am perfect.” I just exhaled and knew I could give up being perfect. I knew God was here with me and most importantly with my son. No matter how tired I was. No matter how angry I was, He would fill in the gaps where I failed. Yes, I still have to be the best version of myself, but I don’t have to be perfect. Parenting from that moment forward was different for me. I no longer carried the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was that moment that I started loving my job as mother instead of being overwhelmed by the task. 

Of course I still have my ups and downs. I often look at other moms who have it together and think, “Why can’t I be like that?” That is normal and actually it is great to get ideas from other moms on how to do things. Heck, we need community. It is when we compare ourselves to others and feel that we are lacking that it becomes dangerous. I am blessed and relieved to know that God entrusted me with 4 beautiful children and I am the mother He chose for them. I am worthy and capable because God makes me worthy and capable.

Momnipotent: Chapter 3 Nothing More Than Feelings

It’s a day late, but it is here! Life has been challenging, but a play date, orchestra practice and a car nap made it happen today!

Did you laugh like I did at the opening pages of this chapter? I chuckled because there have been many times when I have let my emotions get the better of me and taken them out on my unsuspecting people. I am still on the journey learning how to control my emotions. I thought I would share a story of my perceived emotional weakness and how my emotions move me to compassion.

I have always been an emotional person (i.e. crier). I remember my third grade report card. I had excellent grades, citizenship, and effort. In the comment section my teacher noted “cries easily.” My parents talked to me about it and guess what? I cried. I can cry when things are sad, and I even cry when things are good. I cry when I confront someone who has hurt me; I cry when my kids are hurting. I think almost everyone I know has seen me cry at some point in my life. It is part of who I am. I grew up feeling ashamed of not being able to control my emotions better. No matter how smart I was, if I cried over something then it equated to me being inferior to those around me. I can’t tell you how stupid I felt when I went in and talked to the school principal about my son when he was struggling in school. I knew what I wanted to say, but as soon as I wanted to talk, that lump came up in my throat and I became a blubbering idiot. I felt stupid. I could see the principal not taking me serious and thinking I was one of “those” moms. Thankfully I brought my husband with me that day and he spoke while I cried. I was mad at myself for not being able to control my emotions and speak logically and calmly with the principal.

As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I see the strength in my emotions. They allow me to feel the world’s pain so I may act with compassion. I remember my first year of teaching middle school. I had almost 180 kids that year. I had a hard time teaching because there were so many student distractions. My kids, as I used to call them, were hurting. They came from broken homes where the parents didn’t speak to each other, they were going through divorces. One dad suddenly died of a heart attack, another parent was a stripper (and all the entire school knew it), they were struggling with peer pressure to have sex, to try drugs and alcohol, and they were all hormonally challenged. I was supposed to be their science teacher, but they needed me for so much more. Our school had a wonderful school counselor on site where teachers could refer kids who we thought needed assistance (with approval from the Assistant Principal). The counselor soon realized I was able to spot the kids who needed help and I didn’t need to get the AP approval. I think her whole case load was entirely my students that year. I even had to call CPS that year for one of my students. I cried through the entire call as I reported what I knew.

I once thought my emotions made me into a weak woman, yet I know that God didn’t make a mistake when he created me or any other woman. We are the feelers of this world. What I feel and what my husband feels are two different things. My husband and I are complimentary on the feeling scale. There are times when I feel too much and he feels too little. It has caused many a discussion (ok, fight) when things were out of balance. We have been married almost 17 years and at the end of the day we realize we are on the same team, working for the same goal.

Momnipotent: Chaper 2 Beautiful Me, Beautiful You

Hmm…can we just skip this chapter? Yes, I struggle with everything here! I said it out loud. I struggle with my own worth and how much I should take care of myself. Just trying to type how everything makes me feel is overwhelming, yet I know it is something I need to share because I know there are other moms (hopefully) who feel just like me.

I struggle with my femininity. On one hand I want to be the beautifully put together wife and mother. My hair and make-up always done perfectly with a trendy, stylish outfit. Yet, trying to achieve this, doesn’t seem practical. I mean, really, my little kids are always smearing their food or boogers all over me. Why am I doing my hair and make-up for a 2 year old? He doesn’t care how my hair looks. I would love to invest in a cute pair of shoes, but they don’t help me run after my kids. Oh, and lets talk about the time it takes to do all of these things. How do other mothers do it? Do you get up at the crack of dawn? Do you have a way to stop time? I struggle with it all. Yet, I don’t like looking ready for the gym or bed everyday.

So more days than I care to admit, I have looked like frumpy mom. I hate frumpy mom. Frumpy mom makes me feel trapped in my life. Frumpy mom is not fun to be around. I kind of get mad that my attitude and self worth comes down to hair, make-up, and a nice outfit, but sometimes it does change everything. I have more confidence when I look my best. I hate to admit this because I really wish I had confidence no matter how I looked. This past year, I have been trying to do my hair and make-up more with an outfit that looks good and is mommy friendly. It has changed my days for the better.

I also have to admit that I have been primping more now since I realized my daughter was watching me closely. She is taking mental notes from me about being a mother. I don’t want her to see motherhood negatively. I want her to see me taking care of myself and enjoying being a mother.  I want her to have a healthy femininity. One where she knows how to take care of herself so she can take care of others. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I inadvertently taught her to give until she was depleted. So I am working hard to find the balance and be a good example.

Momnipotent: Introduction and Chapter 1

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First I would like to welcome you to my online reading of Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood. I am ready to dive right in and share my thoughts with you. I am sharing my reaction and feelings to the book. I don’t think everywomen has had the same experience as me or will come to the same conclusions as myself. We are all unique in our experiences, but our “feminine genius” unites us.

Introduction:

I have been a mom for 13 years now and for most of that time I have been struggling with my identity as a Catholic woman, wife, and mother. I have all too often uttered the words that Danielle Bean didn’t dare utter, “I am not happy. I hate this life. I want to give up!” During those times I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to turn and I was sinking fast. No mom wants to admit those deep dark feelings, but they come when we are weak and tired. It is not so easy to find comfort in the secular world. Even if you go to church seeking the comfort of another mother, I think we are often intimidated by everyone looking like they have their act together. The good news is, those moments pass and there is such joy and peace to find in motherhood. I am on a motherhood high right now. I feel the joy and peace of being right where God wants me to be. I am so thankful to writers like Danielle Bean who tackle the subject of Motherhood. I am thankful to you who are reading (and hopefully commenting) that we can be a source of comfort to one another during the dark times.

Let’s start with the title of this book, Momnipotence.  Danielle Bean defines Momnipotence as “a special charism that all moms have. Momnipotence is the special array of gifts given by God-lived out in particular through the vocation of motherhood-that blesses our families and the world.” I know I always need reminders like this, that God has given me a special array of gifts to carry out my vocation to motherhood. Yet there are many times when I don’t feel like I am even equipped for the job. I am thankful for the gift of knowing there is a God and He will walk with me on this journey.

Chapter 1

After reading this chapter, I was overwhelmingly struck with gratitude for another woman putting into words how I felt. I am from the sesame street generation. I received the messages that subtly and not so subtly degraded motherhood. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be. I was told that I could have it all. I believed it all, hook line and sinker!

When I was four years old I decided I would go to Harvard and become a doctor.  I watched Sesame Street as a kid and I am sure that I listened to the song that the author, Danielle Bean, referred to.  All through elementary school, junior high and high school I worked toward my goal of medical school.  During that time I looked at motherhood and marriage as obstacles to accomplishing my goal.  Not only were they obstacles, but it was ingrained in me that they were beneath women and completely oppressive.  I was empowered to never be oppressed by a man.  Never rely on them and be completely self sufficient.

I went off to college with this sense of feminism to conquer the world.  At the same time I left for college, God was calling me to His Church.  As I became more interested in being Catholic, I was sure the Church was backward on all of its “rules” about women (sex before marriage, abortion, the pill, having a large family, gay people, etc).  I started off being the cafeteria Catholic because I knew the Church needed to modernize and would come around to my way of thinking.  I am soooo laughing at myself right now.

 Then the summer before my junior in college I met my husband to be. He was a devout Catholic man struggling himself with the world view of women too. As we dated, there was a welling in me that was calling me to marriage and motherhood.  It was completely biological. At first I took on the mindset that, I could have it all.  I could go to medical school, marry my love and eventually when the time was right have children.  My future husband was supportive, but when I talked to medical students and learned the rigors and time demanded of them, I couldn’t see how I could have it all.  I felt like a failure.  I couldn’t have the happy marriage/children and pursue a medical degree. I had to decide which was more important. I was tormented inside.

 Thankfully for myself, I was seeking God and the love that only He could give.  For the first time in my life I felt God’s divine love and sought to understand the church.  I started to see the beauty of God’s plan for me.  I couldn’t explain it to my family or friends, but I knew that I needed to give up my dream of a doctor and marry my college sweetheart. It meant exploring different jobs and taking on a new role in my life.  People were shocked and stunned, but inside there was peace and joy.

 A year after I graduated college, I married my college sweetheart.  We were only 23.  Many family members thought we were crazy, but we were following God’s plan in our lives. I was working for a pharmaceutical company putting my degree to work. As we talked about when we would be open to starting a family, another biological urge welled in me. I wanted a family. I wanted to kids and somehow  I knew that I needed to be their primary care taker (yikes, a stay at home Mom!!).  I went back and got my teaching credential thinking that a job in teaching would give me the flexibility I needed. (I was still determined to be a career women and take care of my kids.) Yet, the thought of working and being a mother divided me. My husband thought I was crazy and quickly pointed out he didn’t make enough money to support a family. Three years after we got married I was pregnant.  Seeing those 2 lines on the pregnancy test brought so much joy, excitement, and even fear. I looked my husband in the eye and said, I have to be a stay at home mom. He laughed nervously. I prayed.  Two weeks later he got a job that was equal to both of our salaries.

Now, can you imagine me explaining to family and friends that I wouldn’t go back to work after I had the baby.  This was the girl that dreamed of being a doctor, decided on a lesser career of being a teacher (a women’s profession), and now was going to enter the world of stay at home mom. I have had family members tell me that I wasted of time and money going to college. All my potential was wasted in their eyes. I had even felt like I let down the pioneer feminist who paved the way for me to attend college and aspire to be a doctor. I was pulled in two directions. I had the peace of entering motherhood knowing I would be staying home with my child and I felt the disappointment of the modern world that made me feel like I had betrayed all the women who forged the way for me to be a successful, career women.

I would like to report that I was strong enough to shut out the world and sailed off into the sunset happy and fully content with my decision.  Instead, it was been a roller coaster ride of emotions.  Some days I have been happy and content and other days I seconded guessed my decision.  Not many of my friends or family at the time were stay at home moms and it has been lonely and isolating at times. The street I live on was empty during the day and I didn’t have many people to share in my journey. All I had was God’s call and a biological drive to be the best mother in the world. So I set out on the journey searching for the truth about being a mom.

Can’t wait to hear your stories and comments.

Online Reading of Momnipotent

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So the mom’s group at our church is reading the book Momnipotent: The Not-so Perfect Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean. There are many of us who can’t make the study for various reasons and I just think it’s too important of a topic for us to miss out on. So I am going to dust off the old blog and give mommies who can’t make it down to church a place on the internet where we can meet and discuss. It’s not the same as face to face, but heck, we need each other and the season of life we are in right now might be keeping us physically away from each other.

You don’t have to be a part of my parish to join in. You probably should purchase the book to join the conversation. I also have a copy of the journal that follows the DVD study of Momnipotent. The moms at church are watching a video, but I think the book and journal (if you have it) present enough information for us to discuss our vocation of Motherhood. I haven’t read the book in its entirety, so it will be a journey that I will be taking with all of you ladies.

I will post my reflections on each chapter and share of few of my reflections from the journal questions. I encourage you to comment and share your own journey. Please be open and honest about your journey, but refrain from being derogatory to one another. I do not wish to join the mommy wars. I will delete any comments that I feel are not beneficial to the conversation. Remember, this book is written from a Catholic perspective, and we will be exploring Motherhood from a Catholic perspective.

This is new for me! I am nervous and excited. I will post my first reflection on February 23. That gives you enough time to purchase, read, and reflect. I will post every other week to give us time to comment and read the next chapter. Sound good? Ok, I look forward to chatting with you soon.

Posting Schedule:
February 23: Introduction and Chapter 1
March 9: Chapter 2
March 23: Chapter 3
April 6: Chapter 4
April 20: Chapter 5
May 4: Chapter 6
May 18: Chapter 7
June 1st: Chapter 8
June 15: Chapter 9
June 29: Chapter 10

Homeschool Update

This is a poor and neglected blog. I am sorry for that. I really do want to write more but life has gotten in the way. There is plenty of life to share and talk about, but not enough time to sit and write. So today I will start again.

It has been over a year since I have started homeschooling. I started with my son, who is now in 7th grade. There is so much to report about his progress. I don’t even know where to begin without seeming like a gushy mom. I love this kid sooooo much! He is truly amazing.

A year ago he was a shell of a kid. He was tired from public school. He was bruised and broken. I knew things weren’t always great or easy for him, but hey it’s school and we ALL have to go to school. At home we were always fighting. When I say we were fighting, we would yell and scream and a few doors were slammed. He seemed to hate his siblings and was always complaining about them. I chalked it up to sibling rivalry and those pre-teen hormones. Every kid I knew was looking and acting the typical pre-teen part. My mommy friends and I started bracing ourselves for the dreaded teen years.

That isn’t who he is today. Today is happy and joyful. He is comfortable in his own skin. He has made some amazing friends in our homeschool group and has kept in touch with his friends from public school. We don’t have fights! I mean there are still times when he doesn’t like me, but the slamming doors and screaming have stopped. Nothing warms my heart like seeing him play with his siblings again. The 2 ½ year old is his shadow and it’s not annoying or embarrassing anymore. There are times when the 8 year old girl and him can be found in a serious game of Monopoly with lots of giggles. He now looks you in the eye and wants to have a conversation with you. At church he can often be found sitting at a table with one of the elders, just talking to them. They are so tickled pink that he speaks to them instead of brooding in the corner waiting to go home.

I am not exaggerating, it is the most amazing transformation! Just recently we took him to the eye doctor for a vision check. The last time we visited, his eyes were starting to take a dive. My husband and I both wore glasses by 2nd grade so we have been waiting for our kid’s vision to follow in our footsteps. She was shocked that his vision had returned to NORMAL! She told me that never happens and was a bit perplexed. She started asking me how homeschooling was going. I gushed about how he is a new kid, happy and not stressed. Then her face lit up and she said, “That’s it! He wasn’t losing his vision. It was a stress event that was affecting his vision. You removed the stressed and it went back to normal!” I wanted to cry. I knew it was going well at home, but I didn’t think I could prove it medically.

Now I am sure you want to know how he is doing academically. Today he knows the difference between a subject and predicate (He didn’t know that a year ago). He is writing in complete sentences and he enjoys reading. His favorite subject is history. He has taken on learning Latin and loves it. There are times I find him getting started with school at 6 am without any prompts from me. We often get off on tangents learning new things and loving it. He knows how to budget his time so he can finish his work.

Is he a genius? Is he way above grade level? No, he is right on track with his peers. He enjoys learning and is learning how he learns new information best. He is learning the art of time management. That is what middle school and life is really about. He is discovering himself and learning tools to be successful in life. I am amazed at his progress and feel so blessed to walk alongside him.

So is homeschooling working for us? Yeah, it is!!

The First Year of Homeschooling: What We Learned

I haven’t written in so long.  Not because I don’t want to, but the words haven’t been flowing.  There is so much in my tiny little brain that everything gets scrambled and I can barely write or talk.  So here is another attempt.  Everyone keeps asking for my final “report” on homeschooling.

In a nut shell, I LOVED IT!!  I feel like singing it from the mountain tops.  It seriously has been one of the best decisions of my life. I am kind of kicking myself for not listening to my gut sooner.  I have been contemplating homeschooling for years, but it never seemed like the right timing.  God has a timing all His own that is always perfect in the end.  This year, was the right timing.  When people ask me about the year and why it was so good, I am often at a loss for why it was so good.  I know I end up looking like a fool when I can’t explain it well.  I am sure so many have lumped me in the crazy homeschool person club.  I don’t care, but I really would like to articulate what has happened this year that has made it so joy.

I guess the only way to explain, is to know where we started and where we ended.  I was a crazy mom of 4 kids (I still am a crazy mom of 4 kids, but I am happier) with a large age range of children (1-12 years of age).  My oldest was going off to middle school and starting to develop all those middle school, pre-teen attitudes.  I never seemed to have enough hours in the day to connect with my children.  I was constantly frustrated with their school and the ways things were run (I don’t fault the teachers with their large class sizes.  I just don’t like the system).  Everyday became the same thing.  We would wake up by 6 am and quickly get ready for school. I was always hurrying my child up (hurry up get dressed, hurry up brush your teeth, hurry up eat, hurry up get your shoes on, etc…).  I was the biggest nag.  ThenI would drop him off for school and prepare for the afternoon/evening of nagging.  Once he came home from school,  the hurrying up game started all over again.  It was hurry up for snack, complete homework, get dressed for swim, eat your dinner, take a shower, and finally hurry up for bed.  There was no time to just be.  Yes, we had conversations in the car, but most of the time it was me nagging.  This was just with 1 of the 4 kids.  I was nagging the others just as much too.  The kids were fighting all the time.  My oldest was growing up learning to resent me and his siblings (he always thought they were getting more time with me since they didn’t attend school  yet).   We were all hurrying through life, but not really learning much from life.  We were more checking off boxes and making our way through lists.  As we were deciding upon which middle school to send our son to, it became very clear it was time to homeschool.  He is a very ambitious child who wanted to learn more than what was being taught in any school and wanted to do more activities then the days allowed.  Homeschooling became the compromise for him to achieve his goals. So our adventure began with homeschooling the oldest, sending the 2nd child to regular school and the 3rd child attending preschool 2 days/week.

Having my oldest home was amazing.  We were able to cover most of his subjects before traditional school was let out, and he had no homework to do in the evenings that interfered with family time.  Instantly, my son changed.  He started playing with his younger brothers more (1 and 3 years old).  He started smiling.  We began to laugh with each other and I can’t tell you how many deep meaningful conversations happened.  He always commented to me how much more he was learning at home versus regular school.  When he would meet up with his public school friends and hear about school and their life he would always come home thankful to be homeschooled.  The biggest thing that I removed from my son’s life was STRESS.  It was replaced with a safe environment to learn and make mistakes.  He no longer had social drama to worry about when he was trying to learn (oh the social drama we escaped this year).  We, I mean my son,  soon realized that there still wasn’t enough time to accomplish everything on his list, but he was ok with that.  For the first time in a long time he was content.

I joined a Catholic homeschool group.  At first it was for my son to make friends, but now it is my life line as well as his.  The families we have met are heaven sent.  If you have a question about anything, someone has been there and done that!  I always get sound advice.  People often comment that homeschool kids are “different”.  THEY ARE DIFFERENT!  I haven’t found it to be a negative, but the biggest positive.  I would love to invite everyone to watch one of our park playdates.  It is the most amazing thing I have every seen.  You will witness children from infant to 18 years old playing in a park.  Everyone plays with everyone at some part during the playdate.  The older kids help with the younger ones and there isn’t much complaining at all!!  My son even plays with his siblings at park playdates and isn’t embarrassed (he was very embarrassed a year ago).  Playing isn’t about how old you are or what you can or can’t do, its about relationship and these “homeschool” kids know the value of a person.  It’s the most beautiful thing.  Whenever I make comments about how cool it is, veteran homeschool moms laugh at me because it is just the norm here.

In this year, homeschooling has given us the gift of time and seeing the world differently.  So many moms, kids and family’s are stressed out just like I was.  They don’t know that there is a different way.  They feel trapped by so many things.  This year, I am happy to say I am not trapped anymore.  My son is not trapped either.  We are enjoying life with healthy relationships being reestablished in and outside our home.

Yes, there were plenty of trying, emotional days.  Yes, we missed many of our friends from public school.  However, what we gained in the end was priceless.  We gained the time to get to know each other better in the midst of teaching the 3 R’s (reading writing, and arithmetic).  So, not a bad first year at all!!  Can’t wait for next year.  We are adding our daughter, a 2nd grader, to the mix.  Can’t wait for the new adventure.