Today was probably the most real remembrance of how uncomfortable this is all going to get with the thoughts of, “Oh man, I’m REALLY doing this again.” It IS amazing how quickly I forget how awful pregnancy is for me. I have had severe depression, I’ve convinced myself my marriage was over (even though it was far from it). I felt like my lowest of lows in life have been while I was pregnant. I hesitate to blame it all on the pregnancy itself. I gotta own up to what I can.
There were two distinct feelings I had after Aelynn was born. When I say after, I mean, I was looking at her in the hospital before she even had a name right after. I felt first, she was a middle child. Second, like the hardest challenges of my mental stability while pregnant were over.
After Aelynn came, I’ve never felt happier. I had some scary things to decide, like homeschooling and stopping photography to do it. That felt like a true sacrifice. But ya know what came of it? I found a new way to focus photography. On my kids, who I care about most. Homeschooling brought me to my knees SO much in prayer to know if it was right, to have the strength to do it, to know HOW to go about it. As a result my faith and convictions were strengthened. Things became clear, I started to become the kind of parent I always made myself feel guilty that I wasn’t before. I had a better relationship with my kids. I let go of things the world holds onto so tightly and I finally was completely ok with myself.
Life is good. Then the feeling came to Nathan and I that it was time for number five. I had some new ideas on how to combat my struggles this time but I knew it possibly wouldn’t work (like every other time). My plan was, at the very least, to make it as stress free as possible. Just let go of the little things, do what I can, and be OK with what does not get done.
Then about the time the positive sign showed up, we decided to move to a bigger house. I was glad for the distraction and getting everything ready to sell has been helpful to keep my mind off things.
The emotional side? Yes, the VERY short fuse side of me has come out, the side that wants to sulk and hate every aspect of what I need to do every day has showed up, the completely indifferent person who doesn’t care about anything has knocked on my door.
But here is the thing. I know who I am now. I know that any of those feelings aren’t me. I can step back and say, “that’s not me. I’m a positive, loving person and I don’t have to be like this.” That has made all the difference.
At first it felt like I was faking being nice and caring most the time. This was really difficult, I couldn’t forget myself for a moment or I would get mean fast. I would have moments of “lucidity” (that is the best way to describe it because I really did feel crazy most the time) I would revel in the lucid times when I actually felt happy. Then it just got easier from there. Lucid times got to be more and more. I paid attention to when it was the hardest to feel normal (usually after trying to rest) so I try to stay busy. That can be difficult since I can only do so much feeling sick and tired. Now it feels mostly like I’m normal with a little bit of crazy that will go away after I get busy on a task.
I used to be more focused on the “now” and how pregnancy affects me during this time. Especially with Aelynn, I was so wrapped up in being pregnant that I all but forgot about the baby at the end. Luckily this time, I vividly remember how amazing child birth and a new little life is. I used to be afraid to admit that I love child birth, even after this all natural, worst-pain-of-my-life-by-a-million-times-over birth, I LOVE child birth. There is nothing more special and it only happens in a certain season of life. After that it is lost to you. You can only be a support to someone else when it is gone. So remembering this isn’t about me, its about this awesome new life I get to help create and I only get to do it so many times makes it easier.
I tend to think (for me since everyone is different) that the pain of child birth makes the joy better. It didn’t come like I expected it to. Everyone says your recovery is better and you have that euphoric feeling from endorphins right after that help you bond to your baby. The recovery was the same as with an epidural. I was relieved when they had to whisk her away right away instead of getting to hold her because the beyond painful experience was all just too much to handle for me.
The quiet moments the next day or so in the hospital were much more memorable however. I just enjoyed her so much. It might be partly because it was with no pain meds and partly because I had no anxieties that come with inexperience. Either way, I got to keep those memories in my mind much more than previous births, and that has helped me focus on the end instead of the now.
I’m thankful to God for the opportunity to really stretch and get to know myself this last year and also memories to help get though the tougher times. All the struggles are there from before, coping with them has been SO much easier, and I really think it is because I can say, “Those feelings aren’t you, you are an optimistic loving person, and you don’t have to feel this way.” And I actually, really, truly believe it.
This is the first year I feel like I’m “In the Spirit.” Previous years everything just felt hard and like lots of work. My attitude was that of trying to keep up with what was “expected” for the Christmas season. People would give us plates of treats so I would have to make sure we did them too. People are suppose to do Christmas cards so we did them too, but I will admit we had fun with making those. Nevertheless, that expectation feeling was there and my motivating force in doing them. I gave to the Christmas baskets, I tried to do some kind of service, I bought all the presents and stocking suffers and let kids believe they were from Santa.
There was nothing wrong with any of it except I found no joy in it (except the Christmas basket part, I enjoy that and of course Christmas morning)
I also have always felt really guilty about lying to my kids that Santa exists. I know, I know, it’s fun and magical and kids love it. For real though, I just felt like I was lying to them and I had trouble getting past that feeling.
This is the first year I felt like IT WAS TIME to do our own traditions.
The first thing I did?
Get presents done early and I had a budget that was more of a guideline than a rule. We are super money conscious and I would often get angry when it was time to get gifts because I felt like we couldn’t afford what I actually wanted to get people and the list of people just gets bigger. This year I just got what I wanted to get them and it honestly felt SO good. I know there is a flip side to the coin where there is no restraint in gift buying, but that is not me. I usually agonize over any purchase until the last minute, so my shopping is never done early and I’m never satisfied with what I end up getting. This year I’m excited about what I got the grandparents instead of feeling anxiety about hoping it was “enough.”
Our Traditions starts with a new Christmas book that gets unwrapped every day until Christmas Eve. Not just any Christmas book, but ones of Christmas Miracles and of the Savior. Ones with rich meaning of the season. Next year they will get wrapped up and used again, just chosen in a different order. Also, everyone will be a year older and the books will have different and deeper meaning to us as we read them every year.
Next, is a new scripture we read every day of God’s gifts to us. Honestly, we haven’t been as awesome about doing this one everyday. But most days we will take one out of the little advent calendar I made and read and talk about it together.
Lastly, I told my kids who Santa really is. He is a symbol of giving with joy and without thought of anything in return. So as a family we are working on “Being Santa” and doing service together at least once a week. Instead of just me getting things for the Christmas basket, we are going to choose and prepare things together. Instead of just me thinking I NEED to try and serve in a special way, WE are going to serve together.
Ahnna and Isaac both offered to give their Nintendo DS’s away. I hesitated at first thinking it was too big, but what will that teach them if I don’t allow them to give freely? Should I buy them new ones as a reward for their sacrifice? Should I let them feel the loss? I haven’t decided on that yet. I’m just happy they are thinking of it, I’m hoping this idea of giving sinks in over the years. I like it MUCH better than seeing Santa as an expectation of getting presents they feel entitled to. They will still get presents, Christmas morning will still be wonderful, but maybe they will have a heart more of giving than receiving.
This is the best Christmas season yet! I think it is because I’m letting myself relax about what is expected of us and doing what I feel is most important.
There are a few categories of comments to people with young kids get at the store. The first and most frequent comment is… wait for it… everyone together now:
1. “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!”
Number of kids required for comment: 1 +
Tone in which people say it: ranges from friendly to utter disgust
I know (about half of you) mean well by this comment, but please, stop.
This one is meant well but is just irksome:
2. “Enjoy them while they are young! It goes by so fast!”
Frequency: 2-3 times a week
Number of kids for comment: 1+
Tone in which people say it: Friendly
I know you miss those years but your comment only makes the ragged mom feel more guilt. Or lately I feel like saying “I am thank you.” I really DO feel like I am enjoying them as much as I can. We have great times together and with homeschool we are learning and sharing together ALL. THE. TIME. So comments like that makes me want to say “you don’t KNOW me, do you really think I want your advice?” I know I’m in the wrong for taking it in a pushy way and wanting to push back, but it happens all the same.
The next one is not as frequent and somehow always takes me a few moments to process, it’s something the the effect of:
3. “How much for one of them? Didn’t know they were selling those here, where can I get one?”
Number of kids required for comment: 1+
Tone in which people say it: Friendly
Since I have something that is actually for sale at the store active in my brain, when someone says this I automatically think something like “Sure they sell bread here, what in the world are you talking about…. Oh you mean my kids… I have no idea how to respond to this comment, just courtesy laugh and move away from the person, JUST IN CASE they are serious about wanting to by one.”
You know you have graduated to the next level of big family when you start getting this doozy:
4.”Are they all yours?”
Number of kids for comment: 4 + (I don’t remember getting this one with three kids but I may be wrong)
Tone in which people say it: shock
I actually feel pride when I say “yep they are!” Even when it is said with a less-than-well-meaning tone.
The next one requires no words at all
5. The “Don’t you know what causes that?” judgy stare down as you walk by
Frequency: 2-3 times a week
Number of kids for look: 4+
Yes I do and don’t you have something else better to do than judge me?
This is the one I actually LOVE and the reason I am writing this post today. This comes from specifically empty nesters or nearly empty nesters:
6. Oh I had “x” amount of kids and it was so wonderful, we used to… (insert brief story here)
Frequency: Maybe a few times a month
Number of kids for comments: 4 (for me)
People like this loved their family. Maybe they soaked up every moment or maybe they wish they could have done more. Either way, what they have in common is this: When they look at my family, they lovingly remember their own and it shines through their eyes. They recharge me. They remind me that family is worth it and there is much joy to be had.
As a parent with young kids, it is easy to focus on the hard. It can be REALLY HARD. I don’t know if anyone else does this but often times, when I hear the word “hard,” I brush it off like it’s not so bad. Much like when doctor’s use the word “sore.” I had a very small minor surgery about 7 years ago. My first experience with surgery really, and the doctor said, “Take some of this hydrocodone if you start to feel sore.” What he should really have said is “Take this within the hour or you are going to be in excruciating pain for a half hour until it kicks in again. “Sore” is a euphemism for excruciating pain. Before I had kids and someone would say “parenting is hard” what they really meant was, is it is going to put you over the edge in what you think you can handle.
My point is, when we are in the thick of it with young kids, it is easy to only see the hard part. It is easy to be discouraged (another euphemism people use I have discovered for “utterly hopeless and in the depths of despair, convinced you are the worst parent ever”) It takes effort to focus on the good. It takes effort to encourage rather than reprimand. It takes effort to choose love and communicate. In all this effort to mold a little person into a well rounded individual, it is exhausting and if done with humility, I believe, all the edges on ourselves get knocked off too. In the end you can become a loving, selfless, Christlike individual because of all that effort of trying to inspire others to be that way. So after the kids who put you through the ringer are gone, you become a wiser person who’s been though it and remembers “the good old days.” They were “hard” but they were good because they were work. You love what you put effort into. If there is anything that requires blood sweat and tears, it is raising a family.
I believe these are the people that often stop me in Walmart when they see my gathering of little ones along with me. The people who came out a better person because of the work that went into their own family. I see the love in their eyes as they remember the precious days of having little ones and they often tell me a little snippet of what they miss. They might squeeze my hand or touch a child on the head. There is no judgement, no overused phrase thrown out to be interpreted however my mood wants to take it that day. Only love, and that is what I, or every mom needs. Love.
To the commenters who want to throw out a one liner, choose:
“Your doing a good job”
The Book A Thomas Jefferson Education is a must read if you are concerned with the educational system in the US right now. When I was researching different forms of homeschooling, I Googled “Thomas Jefferson Education” (TJEd), and a few bad reviews came up so I ruled it out. Then I heard a webinar from the founders of TJEd and I loved what they had to say. I have come to find that there are as many different homeschool’s are there are homes and you really have to find what is right for you no matter what someone else says about any other method or curriculum so don’t go off someone else’s review. Research. Know your values, your budget, why you are homeschooling, and then find a method/curriculum that goes along with it.
Having said that I urge everyone to read this book. Even if you don’t follow the method 100% it will give you a really good insight on education. Instead of being a teacher that forces your kids (if you are a parent or a school teacher) to do their work. You are a mentor that guides and inspired your child to educate themselves. You use classic books and what your child is interested in to guide them along. I felt like this method makes SO MUCH SENSE. The more you can apply what you are learning to life, the more interested you are in what you are learning about, the more retention you are going to have. I’m just starting to understand how homeschool does not have to look like public school in the least and your kids (and you) will get a better education for it.
I’m not very good (yet) at expounding upon something so I’ll just say READ THIS BOOK and I hope it speaks to you like it did to me.
When I decided to homeschool, I knew there would be a lot of stress. Trying to find the right curriculum for your family is pressure, getting your schedule together can be really hard, trying to figure out chores and how your going to make everything work with all your little kids around all the time is really hard.
In trying to get all this sorted out this first year, there is one thing I have found that will instantly sink any attempt to accomplish any of these things. Something all parents can easily let escape if we aren’t always on our toes. Especially when trying to inspire someone to learn. Here it is. Anger. Specifically, if I get angry. So I have made a new rule. Anger is NOT allowed in our house. Ever. By me.
Whatever behavior I do, the kids pick up on and do too. If I’m happy and encouraging, they are happy and encouraged. If I focus on their strengths, they are strengthened. If I see their potential and treat them gently, knowing they are barely at the beginning of knowing what life is about, we all have an awesome day with lots of I love you’s and “Mom LOOK what I accomplished!” If I’m impatient and rude because they just can’t see what I do for them all the time, the kids are hurt and I’m a wreck feeling like a bad parent, like a “need a break” and discouraged from taking on such a task.
Michelle Dugger from 19 Kids and Counting says when she is feeling angry, she whispers instead of yells. This was what first inspired me. That and knowing if we are going to get through this amazing homeschooling journey, there was going to have to be a lot of love and patients. The MOST important change of all is going to have to be within myself.
If I wake up in the morning and commit to being gentle and have a servants heart, we have a great day. We are all so happy. The moment I let selfishness creep in, I’m in a bad mood and yelling. I’m not saying I never get time to myself. I’ve learned over the years that my “breaks” don’t need to be lengthy. An hour or two by myself, or a nice evening with Nathan, is usually all I need.
I’m just starting to understand the joy there is in losing oneself in the service of others, and there is MUCH joy to be had. I keep thinking of when the late President Hinkley (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints if you are not familiar with him, mormon.org) was on his mission in England and he was struggling. He wrote a letter back to his dad saying that people were cruel and ridiculing and he was sorely discouraged. He didn’t want to waste his family’s money and maybe it would be better if he just went home. His Dad wrote back with a single sentence. “Dear Gordon, Forget yourself, and go to work.” So he did and he had an amazing change of perspective and a wonderful experience.
Those words are often in my thoughts and when I do decide to “forget myself” and just get to work, my perspective shifts and I’m full of patience and love.
So back to the no anger rule. This is a conscious every day effort. Some days are rough, some days are heaven on earth, and some days I fail completely. Luckily there is always tomorrow, and tomorrow is another chance. There are more good days than bad and the great days are starting to pile up too. I know that if I work hard on this it will get easier. A quote President Hinkley loved that has stayed with me since I first read his biography in high school.
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”- Ralf Waldo Emmerson
I also put up this saying to help me remember.
I am amazed at the loving patience of children. Luckily they are made to forgive time and time again. So many times I have felt undeserving of their affection after some emotional rampage. But they still love and forgive completely. Surly this is a quality meant when we are encouraged to “… becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Mosiah 3:19
These kids are amazing and they teach me more about myself than I ever knew possible. In this midst of this refiners fire I sometimes get a glimpse of how these experiences will help us become bright and strong in the end.
I had decided NOT to homeschool. Over the years before Ahnna started school and during her kindergarten year there were things that I learned about public school that bothered me. However, not enough to do something crazy like take their education into my own hands. I had decided even though there were lots of things I didn’t agree with, there was nothing wrong with my personal experience and I was going to wait until there was something specific. Until then (if it ever happened) I was happy to send my kids off to school every day.
Then one morning it happened. The idea popped into my head and it wouldn’t go away. I told myself it isn’t happening. I was the wrong personality for it. I’d be all excited for a while and then get lazy. I needed the break. The kids need friends. All the normal reasons for not wanting to homeschool. But that stinking thought would NOT go away. I was pestered by it. “OK” I thought, “maybe I will just do some research on it.”
Then I started reading. I started with The Brainy Bunch which was very overwhelming and inspiring at the same time. They are a family of 10 who had their kids in college classes by the age of 12 and often sooner. Not that I expected my kids to do the same, but I thought if I was going to follow someones example, I might as well follow someone exceptional.
As I was reading that one, I saw they used what their kids were interested to inspire learning and their kids were able to enjoy it, grab on, and excel. It taught me about using love and support to let them take off in their life purpose(s) and how faith and character training are essential in this process. I LOVED the idea of teaching character and virtue to my kids as part of their every day curriculum. I LOVED that we can talk about how learning obedience to parents who are in front of them is good practice for learning obedience to the holy spirit in their hearts.
About a year ago I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show on the radio. Instead of the usual how to get out of debt talks, he was talking with someone about raising kids. The one being interviewed (I don’t remember who it was) said how usually the goal of a parent is to teach a child to be well rounded in all areas of their life. Then he said, really though, the goal should be to raise a child dependent on God in all things. One who is willing to live God’s way and take decisions to the Lord is truly trying to do what is right for him/herself and those around him/her.
That little exchange has stuck with me and I thought of it a lot while reading The Brainy Bunch. These were kids who were taught to depend on the Lord in all things and to not think highly of themselves, but to thank God for all they have and remember that pride comes before a fall. That is a huge win in my book.
The next book I read was No Regrets, How Homeschooling Earned me a Masters Degree at age Sixteen. This family of 10 used a completely different method of homeschooling. From both these books I understood better how close knit homeschool families can become. They LOVED being together and they loved their parents. The biggest thing I got out of this book however, was in the beginning, when the author’s mother was debating homeschooling in her mind (at a time when NO ONE homeschooled) and she had a dream that she was reading the bible and in words of fire, it read, “Do not send the children to school, lest they be corrupted…for My wisdom is sufficient.”
I don’t know for sure if corrupted means they were not going to become good people, or simply that they were not going to rise up to the potential within them. Either way, when I read that passage I got one of the STRONGEST feelings in my life. I even read it a few more times just to feel it again. I’ve read lots of things about peoples personal revelation before and I’ve never felt this kind of powerful “this is also for you” feeling like I had right then.
So I decided to experiment and try things out during the Summer. It went really well for the most part. I LOVED that I had something to do WITH my kids every day. I realized more than I was taking care of my kids needs and living in the same house, but my interaction WITH them was lacking. I felt a lot of my “Mommy guilt” melt away. It was a really great time.
Then “real school” was getting closer and closer to starting. I felt on the verge of panic often. Like I needed to throw them in too because that is just what you are suppose to do and that it all I have known. I started feeling fear, confusion, and LOTS of doubt. Realizing who uses those kinds of feelings as tools, I decided to pray. I said that I know I felt like I needed to do this but I’m feeling SO much doubt and confusion and I just need some peace if this is still what I was suppose to do. I usually don’t feel answers to prayer immediately, but in this case I did. Immediately I felt peace. Immediately I felt again that I needed to do this if my kids were going to become the people they needed to be.
The panic does come back. The feelings of inadequacy return and I know this is probably going to be a constant battle. Those feelings are also why I’m writing this. It is important to always remember the “why” when doubts come up.
There are lots of other reasons why I feel homeschool is the answer for us. Common core and government are among them but not what I want to focus on. The short answer would be because God told me to and I love the tight families and virtuous kids homeschool can produce.
So we had an interesting thing happen this morning. While Wendy was getting Ahnna’s hair ready for school she noticed that her earring was in tight. She began to pull it out and noticed that it was stuck and causing Ahnna some serious pain.
She continued to fiddle with it until she realized that it had been put on rather tight. So tight in fact that her skin was starting to grown around it. Wendy knew she had to get it out so she began to fiddle with it more. Ahnna started crying. She managed to get the right side out, but the left side was another story.
This left earring of hers was even tighter and the skin had begun to grow even more than the other side. This time Ahnna really began to cry because it hurt so bad. Wendy was feeling so bad but it had to come out. She’d mentioned to me she might need to take her in to numb it so it could be extracted.
I remembered that I had some lidocaine in the pantry. Yes I know….I’m a pharmacist. I had Wendy rub some gel onto Ahnna’s ear. After a minute or so it was numb and Ahnna only felt a little instead of crying which pulls at my heart strings. The earring came out and left a bit of a red mark in her ear.
It doesn’t look like much but the skin was really starting to grow over. I’m glad Wendy was able to catch it in time before it got really bad. Ahnna’s fine and at school now. Dad is an awesome worker of miracles. Ha!