Mamapedia National Voices
Mamapedia City Voices highlights the inside scoop on your city by selected writers, from up-and-coming mom bloggers to well-known mom experts.
by Rachel of "Hands Free Mama"
Photo by: Rachel Macy Stafford
I know I’m not alone when I share these difficult truths by the reactions I see. When I spoke these words to a group of people recently, I saw the look of recognition … the tears of pain … the sighs of relief knowing we are not alone. More
I felt the blood pumping through my veins and the anxiety balled up in my chest. But here was my littlest girl hysterically crying. I took a deep breath and instead of taking her right to school, I took her More
As the last vestiges of winter leave the air, it dawns on me that I’ve spent the previous several months on my couch, bundled in the cocoon-like security of a $5 100% polyester Walmart blanket that has no business being that soft and comforting.
The sciatic pain, the lethargy, the extra pounds, all calling to me like an exasperated mother whose child is late for the school bus.
My inner voice has threatened to go to the gym for months, but my body is a stubborn sonofabitch. The red flag of vacation pictures where cut off shorts are more circulation cut-offs than anything, signals the final straw. And so I take that straw… out of the milkshake, and slap on the only yoga clothes that still don’t make me look like I showed on Halloween as a Johnsonville Brat.
It’s going to take some time getting back into the groove, building strength, stamina and endurance and re-learning how to lift my legs up off the floor. I’m not sporty. During a hike last week, a friend asked if I walk a lot. My answer was, “Yes, I walk a lot. I walk from the car to the store, the car to the house, the couch to the refrigerator.” Come to think of it, I walk a LOT to the refrigerator. That has to count for something.
I realize upon arriving at the yoga studio that it’s not going to be so bad after all. The room is darkened, and frankly, any exercise class that ends with five full minutes of lying flat on your back, eyes closed, zoning out… is at the top of on my list.
The diminutive, soft spoken Indian woman who teaches the class welcomes me, offering to coach me through my long awaited return to Vinyasa Yoga. Her accent enhances the whole experience. I picture myself in Bombay on a straw mat doing yoga while the scent of cardamom and incense waft above my well-toned imaginary frame. But secretly, I’m wondering where I can score some really good Rogan Josh with a side of naan.
Suddenly, I realize we’re not in Bombay anymore Dorothy. We’re in some kind of yoga boot camp and this little spit-fire yogi is putting us through the paces. You mean this isn’t Gentle Yoga? And why is the 70 year old next to me whipping himself into the tripod position with no problem, while I look like a drunk labrador trying to balance against a fire hydrant?
But okay, I’m up for the challenge. If 70 year old Sid Hartha over here can hold a warrior pose for five whole minutes, I can certainly fight the good fight no matter how humiliating and uncomfortable this turns out to be.
“Just listen to her instructions. Even though you have no idea what she’s talking about, and for the love of God, do what they do,” my obnoxious inner voice urges me.
Yogi: "Lower yourself onto the matt, plank position, deep in hell… downward facing dog… deep in hell… and back up to warrior one… deep in hell…”
Yes! Oh, yes! I love this woman. Such pluck. She’s teaching this self-inflicted voodoo, but she gets it. She knows this is hard. She’s not sugar-coating it. Her mama didn’t raise no fool. We’re here huffing and puffing our way toward a strengthened core, a more balanced mind and a centered, spiritual sense of well being and the road leading to all that freaking serenity is nothing but a detour through Hell. I like her. She’s got a sense of humor. She’s telling it like it is. Keeping it real. She’s leading me toward intensity through Ganesh at a point when I was doomed to density through ganache.
Head down, determined as ever to contort my body into Vinyasa perfection, I hear heavy breathing in and out all around me but I don’t make eye contact. Instead, I follow the surrounding blurred forms, as I’ve taken my glasses off in an attempt at better focus. This is intense! Old Sid sounds like he’s either reaching Nirvana or a cardiac arrest, while the woman to my left is either climaxing or about to pass out. Deep in Hell. Indeed.
Several quick rounds of plank, downward-facing dog and warrior one follow until the blessed cool down, aka five-minute-meditative-zoid-out commences. The Yogi’s soothing voice coaxes us to leave all our thoughts and worries behind, to lose ourselves in the nothingness of the moment. To be part of the ether. And then… deep in hell.
Wait – what? It’s all good now, right? The hard part’s over.
Yogi: Let it out (whooshing) then…deep in hell…
Everyone breathes in deeply.
Linda Roy is the wisecracking musician behind the humor blog elleroy was here. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two boys who swear she’s the female Larry David. A 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year for Humor, she is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Humor Outcasts and has been featured at Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, BlogHer, Mamapedia, BonBon Break, Midlife Boulevard, 10 to 20 Parenting, Aiming Low, Better After 50, Project Underblog and The Weeklings. She is co-author of the humor anthologies ‘I STILL Just Want To Pee Alone’, ‘Clash of the Couples’, ‘Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness’, and the upcoming ‘Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor’, ‘The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets’, and ‘Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee’. Kvetch with her on Facebook and Twitter.
“Mommy! Can you brush my teeth?!” she yelled from the upstairs bathroom.
“Brush them yourself, Rebecca.”
“I don’t want to.”
I can hear muttering and then the beginnings of teeth being brushed.
(3 minutes later)
“Mommy! Can you put my socks on?” she yelled again from upstairs.
“No, honey. I have to get dressed. Please put them on yourself.”
“You never help with anything!” she screamed before the breakdown and sobbing begins.
A very common, and very legitimate complaint I hear from parents is that kids who are completely capable of doing things, continuously ask them for help with simple tasks. It drives parents crazy. I mean, one day the kids are crying because they just want to “do it MYSELF!” and the next they are completely helpless.
There’s really a simple explanation and I’ll explain it as I tell you about my week.
It’s one of those crazy busy weeks. One where I’ve had to fit much more than I would liked into too small of a time period. I’ve been staying up until after midnight, and waking up before the kids to finish projects. Matt had been traveling, and I was feeling overwhelmed. My to-do list was endless.
Friday was supposed to be the busiest day of the week. Matt woke early to go to Virginia for a meeting, and in the evening we had to leave for the scholarship auction which I helped organize. I was supposed to spend my morning working out with a great group of women, and then head to school to transport all the auction items to our location. At night, the girls had a sitter, who thankfully is one of their favorite people in the world.
And this is where my daughter, Rebecca, had had enough. Or, to be more precise, she hadn’t had enough. Her bucket needed to be filled.
The morning was full of tears. And I don’t mean cute, little tears or even crocodile tears. I’m talking huge, big, fat, she-can’t-breathe tears that make me wonder if she’s still conscious. I declined when she asked me to brush her teeth for her. I asked her to put on her own socks. I think the only solid attention I paid to her this particular morning was when I was putting her hair in pigtails.
And that was the problem. In asking me to do all these simple tasks for her, she was looking for a way to force me to connect with her. Her brain is still developing so she’s not able to convey that request in words but not many adults can either. She was asking for attention in the only way she knew how. She was asking for help with everything.
She needed me. She needed me to pause and give her some time. For the record, I think I tend to do this too. When I need more from Matt, I find myself asking him to do things for me that I can surely do myself. “Can you kill this spider?” “Can you unclog the toilet?”
It would have been easy to ignore her pleas for attention and tell her to “suck it up” and “get moving,” but that wouldn’t have helped. The tears would have continued, and she would have still been looking for ways to connect with me, except then she may have started looking for more inappropriate ways to get my attention. What she needed was ME.
So what did I do?
I felt the blood pumping through my veins and the anxiety balled up in my chest. But here was my littlest girl hysterically crying. I took a deep breath and instead of taking her right to school, I took her with me to run some of my errands. We stopped by my workout group to say hello, we dropped something off at our church, we went to the grocery store, and then headed home to unload the groceries. During this whole time, I put my attention on her. By the time I dropped her off at school, she had missed two hours of school. In the big scheme of things, two hours is nothing. Know what is something? She was happy when I dropped her off. To be honest, she didn’t even look at me when I left the room.
Her bucket was full.
Sometimes we think the quickest response is the best. It certainly can be the easiest – for US, but not our kids. In reality, if we can take an extra five minutes, or in my case, two hours, the problem is simply solved.
Listening to our kids is not just listening to the words they say. It’s also listening to their actions. Every need and misbehavior is a form of communication. Sometimes? Sometimes, it’s just not about the socks.
What is your child saying to you?
Kristina is a wife and a mama to three girls 7, 6, and 4. She’s a certified Parent Educator who took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days, She strives for ways to connect with our kids, while using short cuts to manage and organize their home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in motherhood that is just lurking around the corner. You can read more on her blog, and also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
She is like a sun,
Shining over me
She makes the good things better,
Better than I ever dreamed.
-Green River Ordinance
The other night, my friend and brilliant writer Alexandra Rosas shared a glimpse into her life. With short, non-descriptive sentences, it wasn’t intended to be profound. With text structure unpolished and informal, it wasn’t meant to evoke an emotional response like the well-crafted essays she writes. But yet her words brought me to my knees. I read them three times and then I cried. This is what Alexandra shared:
I fell asleep on the couch at 7 last night. Woke up two hours later at 9, looked around, everyone gone. I popped in to check on littlest, found him in bed reading. “Where is everyone, honey?” He looked up and answered, “We all went to bed, Mom, because you’re the party.”
That’s it, I thought to myself. This woman has achieved life’s highest honor. She is the party. She is the heartbeat. She is the reason for gathering. She is the celebration. If there is a more important role in life, I do not know what it is.
For days, I thought about that ultimate compliment spoken by a little boy about his mother. In fact, I became a little obsessed with it. Could I be the party? The question frequently popped into my mind in the following days …
As I played Frogger with my younger daughter at the orthodontist’s office and we both squealed when my frog made it safely to the other side…
Could I be the party?
As I talked to my eleven-year-old daughter at bedtime and she said, “Just put your arms around me and stay a little longer”…
Could I be the party?
As I congregated with old friends and we laughed, cried, and shared our difficult truths…
Could I be the party?
As I participated in the silly “Furry Language” my daughter made up to communicate with Banjo the cat…
Could I be the party?
As I spent the morning playing with my little nephews and happily agreed to “more jelly beans and more stories, Aunt Wachel”…
Could I be the party?
As I hoisted my growing girls over my head to do an “underdoggy”, their favorite move on a swing…
Could I be the party?
It wasn’t until I pulled the car into the garage after picking up my older daughter from swim team practice that I finally had an answer. Our latest favorite song was playing on the radio. We had the bass pumping and the windows rolled down as we belted out the lyrics. My husband happened to be entering the house at the time. But when he saw us, he stopped for a moment and just smiled at me. The way he smiled with such joy—like he was happy to see me happy—made me catch my breath. He was happy to see me happy. He was happy to see me being the party.
And that’s when I knew why Alexandra’s words had affected me so.
There was a time in my life when I wasn’t the party. I could plan the party like a boss. I could clean up the party without wasting a moment. I could wow the partygoers with beautiful presentation and decadent treats. I could make my family look picture perfect for the party. But when it came time for the party, I wasn’t really there. I was not a present and joyful participant.
I was not the party.
After all, how could someone who wasn’t emotionally present be the party?
When I saw my husband’s wide smile as he stood at the garage door, I remembered what he looked like when he was most worried about me. It was during the height of my overwhelmed life. I’d blown up when he said I needed to slow down … to stop doing so much … to smile once in a while. I locked myself in the bathroom and squeezed myself into the dusty corner between the powder blue wall and the toilet. I rested my head against the cold porcelain as my body wracked with sobs.
“I don’t want to be here anymore… I don’t want to be here anymore,” I whispered over and over and over.
I was just so tired. I was just so empty. I was just so stressed. I was just so sad all the time. I envisioned running away from it all, and then I felt like a monster for even thinking that.
My husband kept knocking on the door and insisting that I let him in. But I stayed in my little corner, tucked into a ball until my tears ran out, wondering if I’d ever feel life in my heart again.
I wasn’t able to articulate it then, but I can now. And it is always something I tell others when I have the privilege to share my story in person. I say:
Life is meant to be lived…
not consumed by distractions, big or small, obvious or subtle.
Life is meant to be lived… and sometimes we lose our way.
I know I’m not alone when I share these difficult truths by the reactions I see. When I spoke these words to a group of people recently, I saw the look of recognition… the tears of pain… the sighs of relief knowing we are not alone. The cause of our overwhelm might be different from person to person, but our desire to live a fulfilling life is not. It took many, many small, daily steps to free myself from my distracted state and get to the place where I woke up excited and happy… where I could turn off the outside world and turn toward my family … where I could offer my undivided presence and attention… where I could take time to love and be loved.
I do not need to hide in the bathroom anymore. I am able to deal with struggles and challenges by staying present, communicating, and forgiving others and myself. I feel a new sense urgency in my life now. It is no longer about how much can I accomplish in a lifetime, but rather how much living and loving I can do each day.
Last Sunday afternoon I felt that heart-stirring sense of urgency so I said no to an outside request. I said no to a pile of laundry. I said no to my dinging devices, my full inbox, and my dirty kitchen. I said yes to hiking up a mountain with my family.
We got to the top of the glorious summit feeling triumphant and connected. After we ate our picnic, I stretched out on a big slab of rock. The sun relaxed me as the spring breeze blew back my hair. The next thing I knew, there was one daughter on each side of me. With no space between our bodies, we laid in silence warming our dry winter skin in the sun’s nourishing light.
That’s when my younger daughter turned and looked straight into my soul. She said, “This is the life, Mama.”
But what my joy-filled heart heard was, “This is the Life Mama.”
I am the party.
I am the gathering place.
I am the heartbeat.
I am the celebration.
By the grace of God and many, many tiny steps toward the light of love and connection, I am fully alive and well with my soul.
My friends, where do you find yourself today? Far from where you want to be? Missing the joyful person you once were? Huddled in a tight corner with weary bones? Wherever you are on your own personal journey, I want you to remember it is not the grand gestures, the glowing accolades, or the perfect presentation that make you the party. It is something you do every single day whether you realize it or not.
When you squeeze his hand as he walks into that new building and smile bravery right into his heart,
You are the party.
When you answer every single question with an inordinate amount of patience,
You are the party.
When you wait and wait and wait so she doesn’t have to wait alone,
You are the party.
When you think of one nice thing to say when no one else does,
You are the party.
When you sing softly when he’s frightened and say, “It will be okay,”
You are the party.
When you give up what you desperately want so she can have what she needs,
You are the party.
When you take a deep breath and choose love,
You are the party.
When you tearfully delight in the wonder of your precious ones,
You are the party.
You are the party because of the love you offer in small, daily doses. So don’t worry about how you look. Don’t worry about what you did or didn’t do yesterday. Don’t worry about that long list of flaws and failings no one is keeping but you. Your love and presence are the highlight of someone’s life—the highlight of someone’s life.
Keep waking up.
Keep showing up.
Keep picking yourself up from off the floor.
You are the party—the Life of the Party.
Your daily doses of love and presence make it so.
Rachel Macy Stafford is a certified special education teacher and New York Times bestselling author of . Through truthful storytelling and simple strategies, Rachel helps people overcome distraction and perfection to live better and love more. Rachel’s second book, , is currently available for pre-order and releases this fall. Join her on her Hands Free journey to grasp what really matters at www.handsfreemama.com.
One of the most commonly heard phrases in this home is… you guessed it!
“It’s NOT fair!”
Granted. This expression is mostly coming out of the little people in our home . All under 4ft tall. But when a momma hears those three words a gazillion times a day, she tends to lose a little bit of her empathy and compassion towards her little grumbling hearts.
For them, “It’s not fair!”, when they are asked to do an extra chore, when they don’t get to stay up late, when they are asked to help a sibling with a task, when they have to eat fish for dinner, when they are picked over at school, when they don’t receive a requested playdate, or when they are asked to bathe. Their “It’s not fair” lists are endless and tiring.
They can’t help but feel justified in their emotions. Why? Because my kids are spoiled.
They are well-behaved, polite, and compassionate children, but they are 100% a product of their culture. They are growing up in a world where material items are within their grasp. Where they can take privileges and blessings for granted. In a world where empty bellies and cold homes are foreign concepts. They are completely surrounded by people who not only love and adore them, but people that protect and care for their every last need. They are healthy and strong. They are unbroken and completely blinded by their own prosperity.
Which causes this mama to pause for a moment.
When you are ten, eight, and five it is hard to see beyond your present state of being. Their world is the only world they have ever known. A world, that as parents, we are so thankful we are able to provide for them. And yet, we see how easy it is for their culture to deceive them into believing they are entitled to their lifestyle. That somehow, they are deserving of everything and anything they desire.
How gross and ugly the mentality of entitlement can be.
As my children grow, I want them to learn compassion for the needy, to be work hard, to be empathetic towards the hurting and generous with their resources. I want them to give and give and give, with open hands, and willing hearts.
Because a life lived for others is truly a richer life than merely living for oneself.
Which is why the other day upon hearing another, “It’s not fair! ” statement from the backseat, I whipped around to face them and quietly replied,
“You are right. Life isn’t fair. But it is very fair to you. “
All wide eyed, the three of them stared at their seemingly calm yet deathly serious mom. Having their rare, yet complete attention, I continued…
Life isn’t fair to the child who can’t go to school.
Life isn’t fair to the mom who can’t feed her children.
Life isn’t fair to the dad who lost his job and can’t find work.
Life isn’t fair to the family without a home, without shelter, without clean water.
Life isn’t fair to the children without parents. Or to the parents with sick kids.
I went on, hoping they absorbed just a little of what I was trying to share. My point wasn’t to shame my children, or guilt them into feeling bad for what they have. But an attempt to give them awareness of what they do have, and a realization of just how blessed they are.
I desperately want them to look past their own whims and desires. I desperately want them to see others’ needs and brokenness. Because when they gain that ability, they also gain the ability to change lives. To make a difference. To be an impact.
As I was sharing with them, and again later that night, it occurred to me that they weren’t the only ones who were spoiled. How humbling it is to realize as words are flowing out of my mouth, that they were words I also needed to hear.
Perhaps my children are simply mimicking my own attitudes? Maybe their hearts mirror mine?
Sometimes I find my heart turning cold and uncompassionate. Instead of choosing contentment, I find myself focusing on what I don’t have instead of what I do have. In my haste to secure my children’s futures, I fail to see others around me. In my own selfishness I choose my own desires over other’s real needs.
Sometimes I choose to live for myself. I fight for this false belief that I am deserving. That I should have more. Receive More.
Most of us have the luxury of mulling over meal plans, and making dietary and nutrition choices for our children. We have full pantries and fridges. How many times have we thrown away uneaten produce or spoiled leftovers? Our piggy banks are full, and we have saved resources for a rainy day. We have the ability to redo perfectly acceptable kitchens and upgrade our homes and cars. We change over our wardrobes as new seasons arrive, recycling jeans simply because they aren’t fashion worthy. We indulge our kids with soccer lessons, and dance lessons. We spent more on lattes and mochas in one week than some other moms have the ability to spend on their entire grocery budget for the month.
Do I even see these other moms?
- These moms who lay awake at night wondering how they will put food on the table the next morning.
- These moms who wonder how they will send their children to school to better their future.
- These moms with precious children who slumber in unsafe and unsanitary environments.
- These moms with children who are vulnerable and often sick.
- These moms who can’t afford healthcare, or wellness check ups making the vaccine debate seem pointless.
These moms? They have the same heart for our children as you and I, and they are hurting. Too embarrassed to ask for help, but desperately needing it. I’m not even referring to moms in third world countries. These moms are our neighbors next door, they are the moms at our kid’s schools, they are the moms in the grocery store, and at the park.
They live life right beside you and I. In our community. Struggling. Broken. Hurting.
Do I see them? Do you see them? What are we going to do about it?
Because for them? Life isn’t fair. It’s just not fair.
To learn more about the homeless in your state, click here. Then find out what you can do to help.
Cari Dugan is a lifestyle photographer and writer in Minneapolis Minnesota. She writes candidly about everyday life and experiences on being a wife and a mother on her blog Dugans in Cahoots. Her husband, three children, and chocolate lab make life what it is – A Beautiful Mess. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.
Last month, my best friend came to me with concerns about EVERYONE calling her two year-old daughter “pretty.” Her concern was, “I feel like the world only notices her looks and is trying to place value on her outward appearance rather than her real strengths.”
I can imagine people telling my friend and her daughter that they should just relax because they got the long end of the stick. However, I have spent most of my professional life working with children and teens with eating disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorders. I have stood outside bathrooms listening to skinny 14 year-old girls forcing themselves to vomit because they didn’t think they were skinny enough. I have seen lovely intelligent girls cut their wrists because they gained ten pounds. I hurt for these girls. I hurt for their parents. I hurt for the youth of this body obsessed generation who, according to a study by A. Chris Downs, will receive roughly 5,260 ads related to attractiveness per year (or at least 14 per day).
How can this be combatted? Can parents like my friend raise a daughter with healthy body image without moving to Amish country?
In my formal education, my professional experience as a social worker, my own childhood, and most importantly, my experience as a mother of a lovely daughter, I have learned many ways to understand, and combat this body obsessed culture we live in today.
Here are 5 key ways you can help to raise a girl with a healthy body image.
- It starts with you. Peggy O’Mara once said, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Nothing is more true. Your daughter looks to you for guidance on making sense of the world, making sense of herself and her purpose in life. If you cut her down, she will forever fight that voice in her head. Your voice. Raise your children up. Tell them they are beautiful but more importantly, tell them they are intelligent, kind, and worthy. Last week I took my three year-old daughter to the doctor for a routine check-up. The first thing they did was put her on the scale. I asked her, “How much do you weigh?” to which she responded, “Just right.” The nurse was shocked. I smiled and said, “That’s right,” and I had never been more proud.
- Kids learn in three ways; example, example, example. Your daughters are looking to you on how they should behave and feel. They say that the biggest indicator of how far a child will go educationally is how far their mother went. If you get your PhD, chances are your daughter will too. The same can be said about body image, if you feel fine about your body, chances are your daughter will too. If you do struggle with body issues, counseling can help you feel better about your body. The healthier you become the healthier your daughter will be.
- In The Bible, Matthew 12, it reads:
“On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Whether you believe in the bible or not, this is good advice. Be a parent who doesn’t speak poorly of those without ‘ideal; bodies. Study the immensity of the universe, study Christ’s teachings, study the butterfly effect, or read Man’s Search for Meaning. There is so much good to learn, who has time to spend criticizing the shape of someone else’s body? The size of a person’s stomach does not give their life meaning. The number on the scale does not define you or anyone else. The same day my daughter shocked the nurse we played at our local children’s museum where we overheard two moms talking in the tot section about their next diet, the ugly parts of their bodies and form-fitting underwear. I usually don’t talk to strangers, but I did that day. “Excuse me” I said shyly, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but you two are so perfectly beautiful. Why do you worry about things like that?” They were almost speechless. I don’t think they knew they were beautiful.
- When questions do come, and they will, be ready to talk. We live in Oklahoma which is not the nation’s healthiest state. When my daughter comes to me about body size differences we don’t talk about attractiveness or body shapes. We talk about having a healthy heart. We talk about being physically strong so that we can do the things that our family values (basketball, hiking, horseback riding). We also talk about how other people value different things and how it is incredibly hurtful to talk bad about another person’s body. People are sensitive about their bodies, the media makes sure of that. Raise your daughters to be a force for good in the world, to see the strengths in others rather than just a pant size.
- Studies show that by first grade our personality/identity is formed and doesn’t seem to change much throughout our lives. I know that the shows children watch, the games they play, and the songs that fill the room DO shape your daughter’s life. Be watchful. Guard your children. Teach your children. Be an example of what and how much media to consume.
In the end, we cannot control everything our daughters think, feel, and do. They will make mistakes, and goodness knows, so will we! But at the end of the day, we have the privilege and responsibility to heavily influence the first few years of our daughters’ brain development, which are apparently the most important. Hopefully, these steps help vaccinate your daughter against unhealthy body image.
Kristin has a degree in Behavioral Science and has been working with youth and young adults to better their lives. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two young children. You can read more from Kristin at Candy House Blog. You can also find her on Twitter.