Identity and Motherhood

My daughter is an amazing, unique person. I love her style. I love the way she runs around with carefree abandon. Barefoot. In dresses. In Werewolf costumes. I love her creativity. I wonder what she’ll be. Because there is so much potential contained in her beautiful little self. She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

I want her to have dreams, and I want to see them come true. I want them to be as far reaching as the stars. Big, big dreams.

I was pondering this the other day and realizing that I was once someone’s little girl. And my mom had all those same thoughts for me. I know she does, because she tells me.

That got me thinking. Thinking about identity. Identity once you’ve become a mother.

I love being a mother. I love my children. I feel the need to put that out there even now for fear claiming I love anything else might undermine that. Because…so often anything else in our lives is treated like it does undermine that love. Like any other aspiration we might have somehow robs from what has now become the primary part of our identity.

Very often when I tell people I’m a writer, the first comment is: That’s so wonderful! You get to be home with your kids.

I find that interesting. As though the only truly great thing about my accomplishments is how I’ve somehow managed to find a way to get paid to make myself available to do the one thing I really should want to do: be home with my kids.

But that perspective underserves the way our family works. I am not ‘home with my kids.’ I work full time at an office in my home. There are many challenges that go with that. My husband is the ‘stay at home’ (HAHAHAHA) parent. Who puts in so many miles on our car getting them where they need to go, who bears the burden of housework and grocery shopping and keeping us all functional.

Yes indeed, I am flexible in schedule, and that’s a wonderful thing. But…I have a job. A job that requires me to put in full time hours and sometimes LOCK my office door and build a security fence around my time.

My husband is a hard working stay at home parent. He spends a lot of time working on his music. He’s good at it. It makes him happy. It’s part of who he is. Because there’s more to him than ‘dad.’

Though, he’s never asked to justify these things. Often, he’s in that unenviable position of justifying his position as full time caregiver to the kids. People always want to know what ‘else’ he does. (And that’s a whole problem too.)

I find people often don’t want to know what ‘else’ moms do. Too often we’re only seen as one thing. Too often we see ourself as only one thing. 

I don’t like it when people justify that I use my time for anything BUT my children. “It’s great because you’re home with your kids.”

I think it’s great because I love what I do. Because it makes me happy. Because me being happy makes me a better wife and a better mom. 

Because I am living out my dreams. Because I’ve kept that part of myself that ran barefoot in dresses and let her hair fly in the wind, just like my daughter.

I don’t want her to lose that when she has children, if she has children. Because I prize all of who she is.

I should prize those same things in myself.

We all should.

Finding Some Balance in Life

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Somedays I feel like I’m doing pretty well. I’ve got my priorities straight, things under control, kids all headed in the right direction… It’s all good.

And then there are other days- like today- when I can hear Life laughing at me and what it thinks as my feeble attempts to make any progress.

I’ve got a job that keeps me running during the day, sometimes into the evening, and a volunteer list that fills up quite a bit of my dance card fairly often. But my girls are out of the house, leaving me with just a pooch that’s needy for attention. So, why is it that I still can’t seem to get a good work, writing, volunteering, exercising, sleeping, fun-time schedule figured out?

I homeschooled my girls for multiple years and kept a pretty rigid schedule during the day. We had to in order to meet the goals I’d set out for them as students. While I was in my both of my master’s programs I had a detailed schedule for reading, homework, research and writing. And I’m proud to say I was a great student. 🙂

So again, why is it that with others or when others are involved I’m better at trying to ensure everything is good to go. But when it comes to just plain me– exercise to feel better, write more often because I love it and plan to sell someday, sleep more because my body needs it– I keep falling off the wagon?

I’m wondering if it’s my need to help others or focus on others rather than focus on myself. Sometimes that’s a good thing– others before self. Sometimes, it’s a bad thing– help others to the detriment of self.

It’s about balance. That’s what I talk to my girls about. So, I’m thinking it’s time for me to practice what I preach.

Recognize that if I want to sell a book or feel healthier about my body, then I need to do something about it. Make it a priority just like I make thinking about others a priority.

So, I ask you, is there something you’ve been wanting to do or thinking about doing that you keep putting aside? Is now a good time to work on that or try that? Maybe, maybe not. Only you can decide.

But I’d love to hear how you’re coping with finding balance in your daily life. It can be a struggle. Hearing how others handle it, make it work, or maybe flounder sometimes, too, helps me realize that I’m not alone in this. And maybe something that helps one of you might be a great tip for me or our readers to try.

Thanks for sharing!!

The problem with being an introverted mom

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You’ve probably heard of the Myers-Brigg personality assessment. If you’re a writer, I know you have. In any case there are 16 types and you can take a test, there are a slew of online ones and they tell you about your personality type. It’s just components, certainly not all inclusive. Now I say as a writer I know you’ve heard about it because us writers are pros when it comes to personality tests and we’re on a first-name basis with all our baggage. For example, I know I’m a total control-freak (also very common among writers, well and moms), I’m reluctant to try new things because I’m not sure I’ll be able to do them right (AKA perfectionist), I have serious body-image issues, and I’m bossy as hell (is that the same thing as being a control freak?) One of the other things I know about myself, and to bring us back to the subject matter and the Myers-Brigg assessment is that I am an introvert. Now I don’t know if there are levels of introverts, but if there are, I’d think I was a Class 4 (on a scale from 1-5), nearly as introverted as one can get. This doesn’t mean I can’t function socially, but I do need my space. Which brings us to the problem with being an introverted mom.

Okay so there’s probably not just one problem, but there is a significant one. There are days when I wake up and though I might not recognize it immediately, it is a day when I need to be alone. Not simply because I need to recharge, but because if I’m around other people I tend to get snippy. I’m not in the mood to talk. At all. I just want to be inside my head and have quiet. These are the days when I’m the worst sort of mom. Most of the time I won’t even notice it until mid-afternoon and I realize I’ve been grumpy with my girls all day. I’ll try to stop and reassess the situation, think of ways I can either (a) be more patient or (b) occupy them without having to engage too much. It’s not that I want to ignore them, but as an introvert, I crave, I need, alone, quiet time in order to function properly. And sleeping doesn’t count. I need awake time to be quiet and alone.

It’s not so much that I don’t like people (though there are days…) it really just has to do with my energy level. The stuff I need to be the best me, that stuff only gets refilled during those alone moments. They’re few and far between these days. And this week, which marks the third year we’ve had our girls, I’m so thankful for my children and the family we’ve become. But I also believing knowing this about myself and taking action to make sure they aren’t the butt of my grumps, makes me a better mom.

So how about you? Do you know where you are on the spectrum? Do you think your personality brings challenges to your parenting?

 

The Can’t Win Feeling

I know we’ve talked a lot on this blog about ‘mom guilt’ and its fire breathing bad feelings of doom, but it’s something I always find myself coming back to. Why? Because it’s something I haven’t conquered. Likely, it’s something I’ll never conquer. Every so often and I have to reboot. Every so often I have to change my mindset – either to remind myself that I’m doing okay, or to remind myself to put down the iphone and eat dinner with my family.

Balance isn’t my strong point. And I know that. But back to guilt.

Mom guilt is a many-headed hydra, and just when you think you’ve defeated it, another, uglier head grows in its place.

This is the first year we’ve had two kids in school all day. Which has been wonderful on the one hand, but on the other hand, I’m struggling with a feeling of there never being enough hours in the day. School, after school stuff, homework and bed. And with all that, I just went on a big trip to England. And that’s only my first business trip of 2014.

There are four more. One that was just added unexpectedly, but it’s an amazing opportunity and I didn’t want to turn it down.

But with all that is this sort of underlying feeling that I’m never doing enough. That I can’t possibly do enough. (Hey, workout lady with the flat abs on Facebook who wants to know what my excuse is? I’ll send you a list. The file might be too large for your inbox though.)

I can’t do enough with my kids, or my husband, or my parents. I can’t workout and have a job, and watch what I eat and have a clean house, and have a social life, and make crafts and volunteer at school. Maybe some people can, but I can’t. Something has to give, but even with that, even maxing out the list, I sometimes feel deep anxiety over the things I’m not doing.

Someone once said to me that one of the biggest lies we’ve been told is that we can have it ALL. I found that really interesting. Because there is certainly an idea that we can. That we can one day find a magic balancing point where were have home-cooked meals, and abs. Where we can have successful careers, and happy children, and be a sex goddess for our husband’s, be a constant companion to our friends.

And that would be nice. But I’m not sure it’s realistic, and I’m not sure it’s self-friendly, and I’m sure it lends to the idea that we’re not ENOUGH because we haven’t managed to be all those things. At least not all in the same day!

Social media can really exacerbate the feeling. When a Facebook friend posts links to blogs preaching about organized lifestyles, organic, from scratch cooking, ‘upcycled’ furniture and the unmitigated joy of motherhood, when she posts pictures of her clean house and homemade bread, we might think SHE HAS REACHED THE SUMMIT. She is complete. She is all the things I am not. But social media only provides a snapshot, and a carefully chosen one at that. I sincerely doubt that even lifestyle bloggers are as together as they appear.

Heck, I blog. I’m not together.

I’m just trying my best. As are well.

Like I said, sometimes I need a reboot. Sometimes I need to reevaluate the way I’m spending my time. And sometimes I need to chill out and just let myself breathe. And say: I did enough today.

And so did you. 🙂

Taking Care of You

Hi I’m Maisey, and I don’t excel at taking care of me.

I’m currently in wrist braces and battling wicked tendonitis/RSI after having finished another book. The pain was bad enough that I ended up spending the past few days resting. And when I couldn’t take that anymore…experimenting with dictation software and finally coughing up the money to get a new keyboard that will hopefully help my existence be more ergonomic.

I’ve been sort of facing the fact that I don’t take very good care of me.

I mean, I do in some ways, I don’t lie. I cater highly to my vanity. Hair appointments and eyebrow waxing is a big thing for me. And it gets done. Though, it took me a few years and actually having to face the idea of going to conferences to get there.

I’m vain (not detrimentally so…but you know a bit. Just being honest) so I actually do okay with hair, makeup, maintaining my weight, etc. But what *I* tend to ignore are the things that people can’t see.

My stress. The muscles in my neck and back. My tendons. The fact that I’m eating CRAPPY food.

So back to my tendons. The thing is, no one can take care of this for me. No one can monitor this but me. I think we all have those **things** in our lives. For me, it’s my wrists and hands. For me it’s heaping on high levels of stress that I simply don’t deal with (complete with hives!) or let anyone else know I’m dealing with.

These things affect my quality of life, they affect my ability to do my job. But I tend to operate in a manner that shoves my concerns for those things aside.

Why? In part to avoid worrying the people in my life. In part to avoid worrying me. In part because ALL OF ME doesn’t want to do less because I love to do EVERYTHING and I fear missing out on anything that might be important.

But I realize that I can’t keep ignoring this stuff. I’ve been realizing it for a while. I’ve been slowly changing my work space. I bought a better chair for my desk. We bought a massage chair. Now the keyboard and the wrist braces. And the voice recognition which, let me tell you I was dragged to kicking and screaming because nothing about it is natural to me as a writer. BUT the fact remained that I needed to pause and reevaluate the level I put my own health on.

Frankly, it wasn’t that high. And that’s not good.

I’m not big on extremes. For me, everything is about moderation. (FINE except for how much I write in a year. But everything else!) So my goals are to eat more vegetables (I’ve been replacing my cookie calories with salad ones…and yes, I do feel better) pay attention to my aches and pains and address them. Switch to voice recognition when I have tendon pain (because for me, not writing at all just won’t work). Walking every day again to get my muscle tone back. And to be honest with my husband and TALK about things when I’m stressed, rather than shoving it all down.

In my head, I often imagine that making changes requires extreme measures. ALL paleo or running miles every day, taking weeks off of writing to heal up my wrists, etc. But I’ve found that when I look at incremental changes, I’m much more likely to improve things for myself, than when I’m staring down whole lifestyle changes.

So this is me trying to take better care of me. I’ve only got one body and I need to be kind to it! And the same goes for all of you. Take care of you, because you’re the only one who can evaluate some of these things, and you’re the only one who can make the proper changes for you. Change, positive steps don’t have to be drastic, they don’t have to be all or nothing. Even small changes can make a big impact.

Let It Go!

If you haven’t seen the movie “Frozen,” my advice is to get your weekend matinee tickets right now! My girls and I saw it multiple times over the holidays and have really taken a liking to the soundtrack. Lyrics have even been texted back and forth between us at opportune moments.

“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” tugs at my heart every time—yes, I’m a sappy mom, but it’s hard not to feel for the young girl who simply longs for a connection with her once beloved sister. I’ll say no more about the song to avoid giving away too much of the plot. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go see the movie. 🙂

But there’s another song whose lyrics and underlying message have struck a note inside me. I’m talking about “Let It Go.”

In this song a character sings about being true to who she is. About no longer being the person she’s expected to be. About letting a painful past slip away so she can reach for a future where she feels free to embrace her true essence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk 

As moms we want our kids to be the best they can be. To achieve whatever it is that will make them happy. We encourage them to go for their dreams.

Yet oftentimes, as we champion our kids, we forget to champion ourselves. As we care for them, we neglect ourselves. Honestly, that’s not good for our kids or for us. One of the best pieces of parenting advice given to me was that I needed to make the time to work on a dream of my own because by doing so I’d model the importance of self-value to my girls.  I’d demonstrate the ability to balance self and family.

The idea was that if I carved time out for what was important to me, while at the same time striving to show my girls that I valued what was important to them, they would learn that caring for your own well-being is equally as important as caring for the well-being of others. And that doing both is possible.

I have to admit that while I was given this advice, I haven’t always followed it.  Rather, more often I’ve tried to be this Super Mom who can take care of any and everything for almost everyone else.

But really, being a successful Super Mom just isn’t reasonable. Sometimes, I’ve made mistakes.  When those mistakes have involved my kids or a parenting or relationship decision, it’s hard to stomach. That’s when my good ol’ Catholic girl guilt kicks into overdrive.

Intellectually I know those feelings aren’t healthy because nine out of ten times I was just trying to do the right thing. Emotionally though… let’s just say that sometimes it’s harder for me to get past the guilt because I want only good for my kids. (I know, that’s not quite reasonable. But, there you go.)

I think I identify with this song because it speaks to what I really want to do in 2014: Let it go.

Let go of the need to be Super Mom. Let go of residual guilt from past failures. Let go of anything that’s weighing me down.

Last week Ellie blogged about having a one-word resolution for 2014. If you missed her post, I recommend you go back and read it. She did a fabulous job getting me to think about what I want for my 2014. That led me to come up with my one-word resolution: Persevere.

This week I decided upon a mantra for 2014: PERSEVERE and let it go!

When I say this I see myself standing at the top of a mountain, just like Elsa in “Frozen.” Only, my arms are open wide, my head tilted up to feel the sun on my face. I’m ready to go for what I want. To champion myself as much as my loved ones.

How about you? Do you have a mantra for 2014 you’d care to share with us?

And if you’ve seen Frozen, did you love the movie as much as my girls and I did?

Oh, and if it’s snowing in your area, have you built a snowman? 😀

MomCon 2014

volunteersresize-300x200Hey Texas Moms,

One of our fabulous readers, Katie Mehnert, shared info about a fabulous event coming to Austin in January, MomCon 2014. Sometimes being a mom is pretty lonely and you wonder if you’re doing anything right. This looks like a great place to recharge and connect with other moms.

Register

Trish Morrison is the CEO of MomCon, and she had a piece in the Huffington Post on why she sends her daughter to an all-girls school. Check it out!

Huffington Post

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Time for Exercise

We hear it all the time. We need to exercise and to eat healthy. It’s way easier said than done. I’m not just saying that. I know it from experience. I especially know how hard it is to eat healthy. I am more of an “I’ll-eat-what-I-want-so-there” kind of person than a eat a little of everything in moderation kind of person.

I do much better with exercise, but this wasn’t always the case. When I first had Baby Galen, I didn’t think I’d ever exercise again. Anyone feel that way right now? Anyone think they will never have the time or energy to walk a mile much less run one? I’m not saying I always have the energy to do it, but I have found the time. I’m going to tell you what I do, not because I think you should do it, but because it’s worked for me.

I go to a fitness bootcamp at the local YMCA 3 days a week from 5-6. Yes, that’s a.m. Why? Because there’s nothing else I have to do from 5-6, so no excuses. Because it’s a little cooler before the sun rises in Houston. Because my husband is almost always home and my daughter is almost always asleep at that hour, so I’m inconveniencing no one (but me).

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Like I said, this isn’t for everyone. Most of the time, I feel like just making it to bootcamp is half the battle. But I’ve been doing it for 2 years, and here’s what I’ve learned about how to make exercise work if you’re a mom.

1) If you can, do it independently of your child or husband. That way if the kid is sick or tired or cranky or the husband is sick or tired or cranky, it doesn’t mean you can’t go work out. A lot of moms work out after school drop off. I have to work during that time, or it would be a great solution for me.

2) Get some accountability, like a trainer or a partner. If you know someone is waiting for you to show up, you’ll think twice about skipping.

3) Go in the morning. Okay, I know you may not be a morning person, but studies show people who exercise in the morning stick to their routines and are more successful than those who exercise at another time.

4) Do something you like. I hate being stuck in the gym. I am always bored to death on a treadmill. I like to be outside, so I do a bootcamp that takes place outside and where the workouts change every time I go.

5) Set a goal. I find if I set a goal, it keeps me motivated. It doesn’t have to be a weight loss goal, it can be something like work out three times a week for a month or run 5 miles by the end of 8 weeks or something like that. Then, when you make your goal, celebrate!

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Do you have any tips for making exercise work for busy moms?

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a three-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com

Guest Mom Tracy Wolff Answers Our Questions

Fellow writer and mom extraordinaire Tracy Wolff  is our guest today. Tracy writes under several nom de plumes. Check out her book covers at the end of the post.

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First off, I want to say thanks to Peanut Butter on the Keyboard for having me J  I’ve been a fan of your site since the beginning.  I think you guys are awesome—and give great advice for another writing mom.  I’ve got three boys of my own and they definitely keep me on my toes.  And I had great fun answering your either/or questions J

Cheerios or Captain Crunch: Crunchberries all the way.  When I’m on deadline, I’m a big fan of processed sugar—and the pretty pink  and purple “berries” are my favorite.

Cloth or Disposable Diapers: In my head, I’m a cloth diaper kind of person.  I love the environment, am a great recycler, am married to an energy efficiency engineer who has spent years working to save the planet … and yet I’m a disposable diaper person.  I tried the cloth diaper thing and I just couldn’t do it.  Sorry L

Midnight or Dawn: Can I say both?  I don’t sleep much, so I’m usually up til about one and then up again around four-thirty and I honestly like both times of day a lot.

Quiet Craft or Raucous Game of Wrestling: Again, I have three boys.  Quiet crafts don’t exactly cut itat my house.  We’re a raucous game of wrestling kind of family.  And also, hide and seek laser tag in the dark J

Favorite Mommy time off activity: I’m a huge reader, so obviously curling up with a good book and a cup of tea tops my list.  Also, my oldest (who is sixteen) and I pick a TV series and try to watch an episode every night after the younger two are in bed.  I really like doing that with him.  And if you want just pure indulgence : a trip to the MAC counter makes my whole week!

Now it’s your turn:  new lipstick or new pair of shoes?

Thanks for having me, guys!

Tracy_brown

Tracy Wolff lives with four men, teaches writing to local college students and spends as much time as she can manage immersed in worlds of her own creation. Married to the alpha hero of her dreams for twelve years, she is the mother of three young sons who spend most of their time trying to make her as crazy as possible.

Tracy has two books releasing October 28! Looks like some fun Mommy Time reading to me 🙂

Romance

Romance