Help! MOM GUILT! Before our babies are even born, we wonder if we are doing everything right by our child. Am I eating healthy enough? I forgot to take my vitamins. After they are born, it doesn’t subside. EVER. Am I playing enough with my toddler? Am I allowing too much screen time? Am I strict enough? Too strict? I yelled at them for not making their bed. I let my middle schooler quit soccer in the middle of the season. Why don’t I want to spend time with my pre-teen? I shouldn’t go back to work. We need the money for college. Should I have taken away my teen’s cell phone? Am I enabling my adult son?
AM I DOING IT ALL RIGHT ALL THE TIME? Mom guilt.
Join me today as I talk with two moms of toddlers, one who works outside the home (my daughter Sarah) and one who stays home (my daughter Sarah’s close friend, Elizabeth Enns Petters – known as Lizz). We tackle this universal mom language and we uncover some valuable insights into combatting this monster. Sarah and Lizz are wise, young, smart, capable, kick-butt moms who teach this old-timer some new tricks on keeping this beast corralled and even quieted down. You don’t want to miss out!
I have always made jokes that I didn’t like her (or more importantly, she didn’t like us). That I couldn’t wait to have my house back again without pets (it’s been 25 years of pets)!!!
But as she climbed up on my lap for the last time around 6 pm (I can’t remember the last time that happened – seriously!) and she actually let me pet her without biting me, my heart twinged. It was like she knew what was about to happen only an hour later. She seemed to be saying goodbye as well.
I still can’t believe I cried.
It amazes me how I can appear light-hearted, strong or even callous on the outside most of the time, but that deep-feeling, vulnerable, tender spot within me rises without much provoking and my eyes tell the real story!
This very pretty, calico cat named Tuesday was more like me than I care to admit. Appearing light-hearted, yet deep-feeling. Appearing strong, yet vulnerable. Appearing callous with an “I don’t care” attitude, yet tender.
When she looked up at me for the last time as I said goodbye and told her that I actually did love her, I was in many ways, looking into the mirror of my own soul.
Thank you, Tuesday, for helping me to see that I am not fully one or fully the other, that I am both, all mixed up inside! Thank you, Tuesday, for the weird gift you were to our family and to me!
I still can’t believe I cried, but I’m glad I did.
One of my favorite parts of being a mom is when all my children are in the same room, sleeping under the same roof and sitting around the same table. I can see their huge bodies curled up in a ball on the couch, hear their voices singing in the shower, and give them hugs like I never want to let them go. I am with them and my heart is happy. Right now, in this season of momhood, sadness comes knowing it’s temporary and that I stay here and they go there.
It’s true. I am still with them. I cheer for them in their triumphs, am sad for their struggles and pain, and plop my mom heart down next to theirs during the every day stuff of life. I want them to know in the depths of their souls that they are not alone.
But this is also true. I am not with them the way I used to or even want to be. This is the hard part, the letting go part, the budding adult part, the “trusting God” part.
God is with them even more than I could ever be. He’s not limited physically like me. That calms my heart when I can’t be there in bodily mom form. He reaches them in places that I will never be able to touch. He is the only One who can do that. I rest there.
He also doesn’t have weird mom agendas for them like I do. He doesn’t lecture them to “get their act together” like I might. He doesn’t have fear when they don’t like I might. He is just with them. I rest there.
He doesn’t try to fix everything for them like I’ve been known to do (cough cough). He lets them be right where they are, in all their good and bad choices, and sits beside them in all of them, holding them close to His heart. He loves them no matter what. I rest there.
He believes in them even when they might not believe in themselves. When they can’t see their own goodness and value, He reminds them gently. He is fiercely committed to them for their whole life, actually forever. He isn’t going anywhere. I rest there.
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I’m soaking this into my soul today: God goes before me. He goes before them. He’s with me. He’s with them. God will never leave me. He will never leave them. Take courage, sweet heart of mine. REST. RIGHT. THERE.
Please don’t forget to “LIKE” the post on social media! I know it means you have to “go back out and click on something,” but it would mean the world to me!!!
If you have the great privilege to meet Brian Herbert Maret, you immediately like him, but more importantly, you immediately feel liked. Did you catch that? You immediately feel liked. Listen again. You immediately feel liked. This is the man I call Dad.
Yes. My dad is a gardener and can grow a mean crop of tomatoes. Yes. He’s a missionary and has lived his life serving the God he loves. Yes. He’s a sports fanatic and will watch almost anything with a ball in it. Yes. He packs the best boxes in the safest ways for shipping items all the way to Africa or even New Jersey. Yes. He loves fishing and touching worms and pulling out all the hooks that get lodged in places fish (and squeamish daughters) are not happy about. Yes. He’s a husband who has loved my mom for more than 63 years. Yes. He is all those things and so much more.
Nature and/or nurture passed down only some of those things to me. No. I am not a gardener. Yes. I love God. Yes. I’m a sports fanatic. No. I can’t pack a box to ship across the street, much less to Africa. No. I don’t like catching fish or touching worms or pulling out hooks. Yes. I love my husband and hope to make it to 63 years (28 and counting – check it out HERE).
BUT BUT BUT…
There’s a few more powerful life lessons he shared with methat made me be a better mom (and a better human)…
1. GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR
For as long as I can remember and especially during my young mom years, the image I have of my dad is ON THE FLOOR surrounded by children (and toys and crafts and books). The key is ON THE FLOOR. At their level. Doing what they love.
One day, I watched my daughter crouch down to speak with a child who was asking her questions. I asked her why she did that and she responded, “I learned that from you, Mom. It shows basic respect for them, even though they are little.” “Oh my goodness,” I said, “I learned that from my dad. It just comes automatically.”
Thanks, Dad, for helping me to “get down on the floor” with my own children and those I don’t even know very well, to be a respecter of persons, no matter whether they are two or 92, brown-skinned or blue-eyed, the King of Ethiopia or the poor Somali boy with no shoes. Based on the podcasts I have done with my now child-adults, this idea of respect at all costs for all people seems to have struck their deepest chord. Thanks, Dad.
2. TALK TO STRANGERS IN GROCERY STORE LINES
I know how to embarrass my kids. That’s for sure. Especially when my two youngest were teens. I talked to strangers in strange places, but especially in grocery store lines. If they were wearing a Steelers hat, I would strike up a conversation about the latest game they lost or won. If their cart was filled with healthy fare, I would make some comment of admiration, knowing my checkout receipt was laden with Cheetos, Gogurts and frozen pizza. To add to the problem, their older brother joined in the fun! They, however, hoping to avoid this horrible atrocity of connection, would rebuke me quietly in my ear or poke me in the ribs, reminding me that we were just here to shop and get home.
I was a little kinder to my dad when he did this very thing (probably because I secretly loved it). It wasn’t just grocery store lines. It was the man sitting next to him at a sporting event. It was the new neighbor getting their mail. It was the teenager crabbing on the same pier. I am still kind to him when he does it and in fact, I spark up the conversation right along with him.
Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that people, and even my own kids, want to be known and seen and heard. That you can always find that “something” that provides the sacred space of human connection and by doing so, reminding each one that they are of great value. Thanks, Dad, that finally, my now 19-year-old admitted to me (the last time it happened) that she “gets it” and that she actually likes that part of me. Thanks, Dad, for passing along that trait and your friendly self to my second-born who is relentless in his pursuit of a common connection with those he meets (as one of his friends reminded me just yesterday).
3. MOW LAWNS THAT AREN’T YOUR OWN AND KEEP IT A SECRET
I found out recently that my eighty-something parents drive their widowed, ninety-something neighbor to get groceries. Lots of secrets were kept about these very kinds of things. I would find out from others all the little (sometimes big), kind, generous, unseen gestures that my dad would do for them. Mowing lawns (“I’m outside anyway.”), washing endless dishes every night when we were teens, sharing zucchini from his beloved garden, giving money to the poorer at a time he was poor himself, praying every single morning for us kids and now his grandchildren (along with my mom), and of course, so many things that are still a secret.
Thanks, Dad, for encouraging me during those unseen times of being a mom (countless loads of laundry, lunches made, sleepless nights and booboos kissed…something I now have in common with my own child-mom). Thanks for reminding me that it all counts (not just the stuff that’s noticed), that nothing is too little, that each ordinary act of kindness makes me a better mom and the world a better place, a place where God and all His kindness, generosity, and many times unnoticed Self is revealed to those who need it most.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD! And all you other amazing dads out there! It’s your day and I celebrate you!
What happens when you lose your dad eight hours after your first baby is born and then lose your husband one month before your second baby is born?
How do you survive, much less thrive as a parent in the middle of a hugely difficult season, and even a lifetime of loss?
On my Dolly Mama podcast, my friend and young mom, Becky McCoy, tackles the topic of parenting and grieving at the same time. Becky is a mom to two young children ages six and four and a very brave hope-bringer right in the middle of her heartbreak.
She answers tough questions about her own beautiful and messy grief process. She reminds us that there are ALL kinds of loss in our lives and we ALL have to navigate some kind of grief in the middle of our parenting season, even though many times we might not even recognize it as such.
As you listen, you will want her to “keep on talking” as I did, gleaning so much goodness not only from what she says, but who she is. We cry (well I do) and laugh lots which, in and of itself, hints to some of the profound wisdom you will hear from her. My biggest surprises are the VERY universal parenting truths that grief forced her to learn so very early on.
If you need encouragement today (she has one particular thought I can’t wait for you to hear) and you want to have HOPE for your parenting journey, you have come to the right place! Don’t miss out!
“Beloved one, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you physically, just as your soul is getting along well.” (III John 2)
For the past seven weeks, my body and I have been in a fight! The “conversation” has been going something like this:
BODY: “Hey! Can you help me?! I’m not okay.”
ME: “Pipe down! You are messing things up! I have a lot going on! You need to get your act together!”
BODY: “HHHEEELLLPP! I’m not doing very well. Can you please take care of me!?”
ME: “I am not happy about this! You are supposed to help me live my very important life! You’re just being a loud-mouthed, trouble-maker! I have people to see, places to go, things to do. You are not being very nice at all!”
The battle goes on and on! UNTIL…
When I decided to wave my white surrender flag. Call a truce.
I am normally a very healthy, rarely-sick human being. (Confession: I’m a little proud of that fact.) I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking care of myself.
Most mornings go something like this: hair in a ponytail, minimal eye makeup on, teeth brushed (sometimes), and super simple pull-on clothes and slip-on shoes. Top that off with nothing physical “going wrong” and I am able to get out of the house in about seven minutes flat from the time I wake up. I don’t even know if I look in the mirror again until I am brushing my teeth at night before bed (I do that for the most part unless I fall asleep watching a movie with Allen – I cannot go horizontal on our couch after 8:00 pm or I never make it past the first 15 minutes).
I get amazed at those of you who spend lots of time plucking your eyebrows, carefully applying makeup, diligently flossing, shining your shoes and choosing just the perfect outfit. (Confession: I secretly wish to be you and often wonder why I don’t take care of myself better.) It’s been a lifetime battle to do any of those things, one I have asked God about quite a bit (I’ve never plucked my eyebrows)! Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because I’m a third-culture kid or if it’s just me. Probably a little bit of both.
I guess God heard my plea and decided the age of 53 was a good time for me to practice what I preach. “TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF (and your stuff)!!” is one of my big mom mantras! I’ve shouted it from the top of the stairs, the front of the car, the texts on my phone and here on this blog! I know in my head it’s the right thing to do. But living this out day-to-day-to-day-to-day is another.
Having a body is tons of work. I have to get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, floss, take a shower, primp, eat, take vitamins, exercise, drink, sleep and then do it all over again. The amount of energy and time my body needs to keep on ticking borders on ridiculous (at least according to this underachiever). It’s a lot of my day. Add in some (ahem) parts screaming at me for lack of care and my day feels consumed.
I am not lost on the irony in all of this. My Word of the Year is “shalom,” which means true human flourishing (BODY INCLUDED)! I spend lots of my time and energy on other flourishing (mental, emotional, spiritual), but my body gets neglected. Not a good “look”(pun intended) on this Dolly Mama.
The “conversation” (I mean fight) continues even after I decide to wave the white flag:
ME: What am I supposed to do when you take so much time just to look presentable, much less not as old as you are? And now you are really making a fuss!
BODY (Shouting back!): Hey! I’m genuinely important. I house the “real you.” When I’m not working right, the “real you” suffers (as you’ve now noticed).
ME: But… But… my time could be spent better doing something of more value like making my dreams a reality, writing this blog (for all of my amazing and wonderful and lovely readers), spending time with my family and working towards my goals!
BODY (more gently): You have friends who are really struggling right now with their own version of me. You’ve even had a taste of this these past seven weeks. It’s really really hard! So, my sweet caregiver, would you mind sending me a little love?
(Somehow, in the middle of this, GOD pipes into the “conversation.”)
GOD: Esther, my Esther, give a little listen to Me just for a moment. I love bodies. I love yours. They are so very important to me! I came in one after all.
ME: Okay. Okay. You’ve got my attention (at least for a minute).
GOD: I used My body to communicate My love for you in the most tangible way. I wanted to know what it was like to be you, right down to your gall bladder and your toenails. I couldn’t have done this FULLY any other way. I’ve given you your body to enjoy all the wonder and beauty I have for you right here and right now!
ME (defensiveness diminishing): So true! So true! I hear you.
BODY: Just remember, supposedly “wise” Dolly Mama, the ways I am working to make God’s dream for you to know pleasure and His love for you in all their fullness come true!
My eyes provide the way for you to see your precious grandson’s smile and the gorgeous sunset over the water in LBI.
My ears are for you to hear the “I love you Mom” on the phone from one of your kids and the spring peepers as they call out to each other in your yard.
My nose brings the joy of a Mother’s Day lilac and an early-June peony and the delicious smell of chocolate chip cookies baking.
My tongue tastes a hot cup of tea (with all your favorite sugar and light cream) and gives a way for you to experience the pleasure of a stuffed cabbage and perogie from S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District!
My skin helps you to receive the loving touch of Allen and the feel of the fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day.
I allow your soul to wonder, your mind to grow and your heart to love! Don’t forget your Word of the Year when it comes to me! Shalom, my dear Dolly Mama!
ME: Okay. I give in. You win, my precious body! Thanks for all you are and do! It feels so good to have called a truce for the moment! Keep fighting back when this “conversation” keeps happening (as we all know it will again and again and again)! Please be patient with me in the process! I’m a little pig-headed and a have a long way to go!
BODY: I’ll keep an “eye” on you! I’ll be cheering for you when you reach for your toothbrush, your eye patch, your mouth rinse, your vitamins, your pillow and all the small, but very kind ways you are taking care of me and reminding me how valuable I am! When you floss tonight, don’t forget to clean out all those crevices with a vengeance! WOO HOO! You’ve got this!
“Now may the Lord of shalom Himself give you shalom always in all ways.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
CONFLICT! Some of us engage in it, enjoy it and view it as a form of communication that brings connection. Others of us avoid it, despise it, and deem it the destroyer of relationships. What about all that fighting we are in the middle of as parents? Among our kids and also with them? Who should say they’re sorry? When should they say they’re sorry? How should they say they’re sorry? What about forgiveness and reconciliation? How do they happen? When do they happen? Who should forgive? THIS BIG QUESTION is worked through: should I make my child say “I’m sorry” when they’ve done something wrong and “I forgive you” when another apologizes? Join me with Josh, my super wise 22-year old, as we let you in on my “fits-and-starts” journey with this never-ending parenting battle.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. (Dr. Seuss)
“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (King Solomon)
In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates. I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college. They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).
The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year. For a long time, I loved it. It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness. It helped people look “on the bright side” of life. It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking. Or so it seemed.
I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss. Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.
“Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.”
“A person’s a person no matter how small.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”
Wisdom. Hope. Life.
So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?
I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes). I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.” But that pride gets me into lots of trouble. I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in. I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside. I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it. I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness. JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).
(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)
I’m discovering ever so slowly that:
CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress. Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it! What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.
It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.
It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.
It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.
It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes. One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm. A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene. What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated, beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.
BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…
I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences. But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day? What then?”
I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.
I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.
I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.
I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.
All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound. What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane. I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.
I do love Dr. Seuss. It’s his birthday when I am writing this (March 2nd)! So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel. You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children. For that, I am truly grateful!
BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…
I wish your quote said this instead:
“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”
King Solomon was right.
P.S. When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point. I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.” I think he’s saying remember to smile.” So there you have it. If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company! Point taken.
P.P.S. If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question: can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time? What was it?