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28 Jul

How I survived as a Stay-at-Home Mom

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Being a stay-at-home-mom is hard. Especially during those early years when your children can only communicate through blood curdling screams. I remember when I left the work force to stay home with my first two little ones, I was excited. My excitement soon dwindled to something else. Depression. Isolation. Resentment. (<< that last one was towards my husband who got to leave the house every day and talk to grown ups)

When our first son was born I worked outside the home. He spent the first 12 weeks of his life with family, I took time off of course, my husband took time after that, and then he stayed with my dad for nearly 6 weeks. It was great. We had this beautiful little blue eyed boy who had never had so much as a sniffle. Then he went to daycare. Just a short 4 days later my son woke up with a 104 fever and double pneumonia. The rest of his daycare career was very similar. I missed work for doctors appointments, as did my husband. My dad kept him a great deal since he was working from home and had that freedom. Our sweet boy was on antibiotics 3 weeks out of every month, had his own pulmonologist and had to have nebulizer treatments daily. Then we found out we were having another baby. I could not imagine having another tiny baby who was going to be sick constantly. I couldn’t imagine double the antibiotics and doctor appointments. Once we started calculating how much it would cost to have a 20 month old and a newborn in daycare at the same time we realized that I’d be working to put them there. It wasn’t worth it.

We decided I’d stay home. At first I was excited although a little hesitant. I already realized that being home alone with 2 small children was going to be stressful but I really had no idea what I was in for.

I took my maternity leave 2 wees early and stayed home with Kaden during my last few days of pregnancy. It was nice. We went to the park and the library. We had snacks and lunches together and then there was glorious nap time. Kaden used to nap for 3 hours a day. It took me 30 minutes of laying in his bed with him so he could rub my ear to get him to sleep but really, in the grand scheme of things, that was time well spent. We had a pretty good system. I enjoyed our time together.

Then on May 25, 2007 I went into the hospital to have Collin. He wasn’t actually born until 1 am on the 27th. I had no idea that his long and crazy birth would be just a little foreshadowing of things to come with this crazy boy. John stayed home for the first 2 weeks with all of us. That was awesome. He took care of Kaden while I took care of Collin, I had an extra set of hands and an adult to talk to in those crazy first couple of weeks. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that when he went back to work.

When John headed back to work I still had 4 weeks left of paid maternity leave. I hadn’t told my employer that I was leaving yet. I felt that was a lifeline, keeping the possibility of working open. The first day I was home alone with both the boys nearly killed me. Collin at that time wouldn’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time, day or night. I was literally up all night with one baby and up all day with the other. I remember getting through the morning until Sesame Street came on at 10 am. At that point I knew it was 11 am lunch and 12 pm naps.I was ready for naps. I nursed Collin and he fell asleep. I put him in his crib and took Kaden to his room. Remember how I told you it took 30 minutes to get Kaden down? I had exactly enough time to use the bathroom once Kaden was asleep before Collin woke up. Screaming. That woke Kaden up. Here I was with 2 babies, one screaming and one who had enough of a power nap to feel refreshed and ready to play. I was drained. I had very little energy left after being up all night with my sleep bandit. I put Collin in the baby swing, he screamed… I found myself sitting on the floor in front of my crying baby and my confused toddler and I just cried. I actually sobbed. I was defeated by 2 little children. I felt like a failure as a mother. I didn’t understand how all these other moms did it, how they enjoyed it. I immediately began to question if I was cut out for the job.

The next morning I asked John to take Kaden to his daycare. I remember the disappointment on his face. I remember watching my not quite 2 year old walk out the door, sad that he couldn’t stay with mommy too. I remember feeling like the worst mom ever.

Our days went on like this for months. I did decide to press on and quit my job to stay home with these little people.  I’m happy to say that I didn’t send Kaden to daycare again but I struggled. I was depressed. We started driving 40 minutes a day to my parents’ house in Fruitland Park. I stayed there because I knew that my dad would help me. He’d be a warm body to talk to. He’d watch Kaden while Collin and I napped. We did this for a long time. Our house was neglected because I was never home. We stayed at my parents until as late as possible. I timed it so that I’d get home just 20 minutes before John and that gave me time to start dinner. We spent a fortune on gas and ran up so many miles on our vehicle it was ridiculous. However, I needed it for my sanity. I didn’t know how to be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t know that you need friends. You need playdates. You need to get out of the house regularly.

A year went by like this. By this time Collin was sleeping better and both boys napped 3 hours a day at the same time. Things were better but I was still lonely. In August of 2008 Kaden started preschool. He was gone 3 mornings a week until lunch time. It was there at preschool that I met my first mommy friend. She had 2 boys the same age as mine. She was 10 years older and had a much better perspective. We became fast friends, as did our boys. We began setting up playdates several times  a week. We’d take the little boys to the library while the big ones were in school. She showed me how to do this mom thing. She showed me that with a friend to walk with you it’s actually possible to enjoy it. I will forever be grateful to her for helping me find joy in this journey.

When I look back now and see how far our little family has come my heart is filled with happiness. That first year was harder than anything I’ve ever been through but those times make me appreciate the life we live now so much. When we were first starting out we weren’t in church. We weren’t connected to God the way we are now. God sent me my friend to help me see the joy of motherhood. He brought her family in our lives at exactly the right time. She and I don’t talk as much as I’d like now. Our boys have grown up and grown apart over the years but they will always hold a special place in my heart for how they helped us along the way. Their mother will forever be one of my favorite friends because of the love she gave me through tough years.

If you are just starting out on this journey please know that you need help. You shouldn’t try to do it on your own. Get outside, go to the park, the library, anywhere other moms and children congregate and meet new friends! Pray for God to send you special families for journey. Our heavenly father didn’t mean for us to do life alone. He gives us friends and families to walk with and he always sends just the right person at just the right time. God never fails,  and neither do mothers.

 

 

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23 Jul

Get out of the boat!

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When I first felt God calling me to homeschool in the spring of 2013 I laughed. It started as something mentioned by a good friend. She and I both had our children in a local private school that we loved. We also both had brand new babies that prevented us from working outside the home which made affording the school a challenge. I was determined to afford it, however, because in my mind I was not a homeschool mom. I didn’t have the patience.

Still, God kept whispering to my heart. Finally after a few weeks of the Holy Spirit tugging me, I mentioned it to my husband. He laughed. He knew what I knew, I’m a bit selfish with my “me time” and I enjoy the time the kids are at school. We both felt fairly certain that I wasn’t cut out for it, especially with a 4 month old who had just entered the worst sleep regression known to man. We put the idea out of our minds. We were hoping my husband would get a promotion soon and that would take care of our ability to afford private school. We would wait on God.

Funny how waiting on God works. It’s like waiting for the bus and then along comes a taxi. Not what you expect but hey, it’ll still get you where you need to go right? The last week of May came and the promotion we hoped for didn’t. While we fully trusted God we were still worried, well, I was worried. My husband never worries. He’s amazing like that.

That night we started talking about homeschool again. We started reading a bit and I felt God tugging at my heart even more than before. John didn’t feel the tug but trusted my instincts. We decided we’d pray about it, and we’d talk with our parents to get some opinions. Do you remember the first time you talked to your parents about this crazy thing called homeschool? I bet your conversation went better than ours did! My mother wasn’t for it or against it, she trusted me and would support me in any situation, but my dad… my dad was a different story. He was dead set against it. He comes from the generation where homeschooling was looked at as weird and anti social. He was scared to death that our 2 social, outgoing, confident boys would miss out on something. That they’d become introverted and struggle socially as adults.

I’m one of those women who need their Dad’s approval. I know it’s silly but I trust my father. He’s always been there for me and for my family. He’s always got our best interests at heart. He’s a good provider, a very wise man. But he’s not God. God knows things we don’t know. I felt as though God was calling me out of the boat onto the waters with Him, but my family was telling me “Please stay in the boat! You have to stay in the boat!”

It was a struggle for me. We decided to press ahead and we ordered our curriculum. We were going to homeschool our kids! It was exciting to make a decision where you know you’re following God’s heart but you know what happens when you follow God? The devil will do everything in his power to distract and derail you. And that’s exactly what he did. Towards the end of the summer my fears took over. My daughter was up all. night. long. Every night. She never slept more than 45 minutes at a time. We felt like our house was where sleep went to die. In my weakest, exhausted moment I went to a friend, a fellow homeschool mom. When  I asked her for advice she surprised me. She told me to quit. She told me that I had an infant and kids who were thriving in private school and that I shouldn’t put myself through this if I didn’t have to. She gave me an excuse, a way out. I started rationalizing with her and with my fears. I started rationalizing with God. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that my kids went to school that year. We returned the curriculum, I packed their little backpacks and lunchboxes and drove them away every morning and picked them up every afternoon. We saw each other for about 3 hours a day after homework and most of that time was doing what I call the “hurry ups.” Hurry up and get dressed, hurry up and eat your breakfast, hurry up and do your homework, hurry up and get your bath so you can hurry to bed and we can hurry all over again tomorrow! The hurry ups are stressful, and you know what? When you are living outside of God’s will, you don’t have peace.

As I began praying towards the end of that year, looking for guidance, I began to hear God whisper again. Then he started yelling. It got to the point that my husband I would be talking on the phone about homeschooling the boys and whether or not we should and the Abeka rep would call in while we were on the phone! I’d get daily emails and every single devotion was about trusting God to do the impossible in us and be assured, me being a homeschool mom seemed to be the most impossible thing in the world! Something else hit me during this time, I realized that the promotion that my husband didn’t get was part of this plan. If he had gotten it we would have had the money to send our kids to the school we loved and I would have never looked back. Homeschool would have been something we thought about doing once, but never did. I wouldn’t have stepped out on faith. You see, God knew I needed this. He knew I had never had a time in my life where I needed him daily. I grew up in a good home, we had everything we needed and most everything we wanted. My father was my provider. We didn’t experience want. Homeschooling my children makes me come to God daily. I rely on His strength, His patience, His grace, every day. Without fail, He restores me.

Here we are, with our first year of this homeschool life under our belt and we’re gearing up for number 2. My boys and I are closer than we have ever been. My husband has a new respect for me and I for myself. My daughter knows her brothers in a way she wouldn’t have been able to had they been at school for 75% of their day. We are a close family. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always pretty. There are good days and bad days. Any homeschool mom who tells you that it’s easy is lying to you! Being at home with little children all day and trying to teach them something should bring you to your knees on a regular basis. However, the relationships that are built between you and your children are worth more than any amount of “me time” you can squander away. I am so thankful that I finally got out of the boat.

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20 Jul

She thinks I’m beautiful

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One of my biggest struggles is body image. After 3 kids my body isn’t what it used to be. My boys were born in my 20’s and the 60 pounds that I gained came off easily. I was back in my pre pregnancy clothes in no time, however, my daughter was born in my 30’s. It’s as if my metabolism just says “nope.” I get up and go to the gym at 5 am, 3 days  per week. I eat healthy, I walk, I swim, I actively chase 3 kiddos around on a 24/7 basis and yet, I still hold on to 20 or so pounds from my pregnancy with her. I find that I don’t want to be photographed, I rarely wear shorts, I really just don’t like the way I look right now. I watch every little calorie. My mind is rarely on anything other than my weight or what I’m doing to fix it.

There are so many blogs, articles and posts about body image. How we are all beautiful and perfection is unattainable. Let me tell you something, I have never read anything that made me feel better about my vanity pounds. Never.  I know we are supposed to look at the heart, I know that my husband thinks I’m beautiful, I know that I look OK for my age and yet it’s not enough. I want so badly to be in my twenty-something body. I loathe my soft, mommy tummy, the fact that my favorite clothes still don’t fit and that I have limited wardrobe choices. Not because they don’t make clothes that fit me, but because I’m so stubborn that I won’t go purchase bigger sizes.

But then there’s Olivia. I am so aware of how big a part my body image will play in her life. I grew up with a beautiful mother who had the same struggles. She and I share that insecurity. I don’t want Liv’s self worth to depend on her pant size like it does for me. I want her to love her body no matter what her weight, just like my mother wanted for me. This is a hard cycle to break.

I don’t want Olivia to wake up every morning, strip off all her clothes and weigh herself so she knows how she’ll feel about her body that day. I don’t want her to hop back on the scale at night to see the damage done. I don’t want her to know that there is guilt in a treat. I want her to eat a piece of birthday cake without panicking. I want her to enjoy life in her skin because she is beautiful. She is perfect.

And you know what? In her 2 year old wisdom she thinks I am beautiful. She thinks I am perfect. My soft mommy tummy is her favorite place to snuggle. When her sweet little self wakes up in the morning she comes downstairs to cuddle on the couch. She climbs on top of me, pulls my shirt up and lays her warm little cheek on my tummy. It’s her safe spot. I wish I could love it like she does.

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