Vacation Envy: What’s It Really About?

Is it bad to say I hate school breaks? I guess that’s not entirely true, I like breaks. I like having the kids home. I like camping in the spring and swimming in the summer. And lucky me married a teacher, so I get to see him every day during those breaks. Those things, I love. What I hate, is my social media feeds plastered with everyone’s vacations for the entire break. Vacations to Hawaii, traveling the country with happy kids (and dog) in tow. A family reunion at a pricey resort, with a quick stop at Disneyland on the way home. A beach trip, a beach trip, and another beach trip. Can you guess where my family’s going this break? Yup. Nowhere.

If you can relate then you have the same question each break that I do. How can my family enjoy this break when we can’t vacation like we want to? Or maybe vacation at all? The answer is, you have to step back and look at what you’re really feeling. Once you understand that, you can tackle the envy head on and get back to enjoying your family time again.

family vacation envy

 

What are you REALLY envious of?

When I see posts of my friends and family on vacations, I don’t typically want to be on that specific vacation. So why am I so jealous that they’re there and I’m not? My reason is because I’m my best self when I’m not hindered by work and other stresses. When does that usually happen? You guessed it, when I’m on vacation. THAT is what I’m jealous of. I want to be carefree, spending fun, memory-making time with my family. But guess what else? Vacation isn’t the only place we can do that.

 

The Common Ingredient is You.

Believe it or not, kids don’t need expensive vacations to be happy and neither do you. Yes, they’ll talk about the big trips the most, but they aren’t necessarily the ones they remember the most fondly. A child’s happy formula is a lot like ours, if they can laugh with you, have your undivided attention and do something fun and out of the ordinary, that’s all they need.

Here’s some no-cost / low-cost adventures my family went on that gave my kids something to say when the teacher asked, “What did you do over the break?”

 

Low-Cost High-Adventure Family Time

 

MOVIE FORT

One of my families favorite no cost adventures is building a movie fort in our family room. We pin and staple sheets and blankets to the ceiling until the entire room is encased. Then we pop some popcorn, bake some cookies and watch a movie or two (or three or four). Some times we even sleep in the fort. The kids love it. It’s also a great activity to invite friends to join in on. Their friends always leave saying, “We never do that at my house.” Which will be a major confidence boost for your child.

family vacation envy blanket fort

 

SECRET MISSIONS

This one is great for shorter breaks, like spring or winter break. It’s as simple as having one or two easy activities planned for each day. When your kids wake up (and finish their chores) you hand them their secret mission for the day. Some ideas we’ve done in the past are:

  • Boxes, Crayons and Sidewalk Chalk: I load these three into their secret mission box, and their “mission” is to create a town for their scooters and bikes using those items. It keeps them busy ALL day. Then my husband and I go for a tour of their town on one of their scooters when they’re done.
  • Making Cookies Blind-folded: This mission works best with older children, that can read. One parent or child is blind-folded, while their partner guides them through making the cookies. Cracking eggs and mixing in flour can get really adventurous! I may have purposely missed the bowl and poured the sugar on the counter before, just to make them laugh.
  • A Grocery Shopping Race: Let’s face it, sometimes you still have to get stuff done over the breaks, but why not turn it in to a fun activity for the family? For this one, the family is divided in to two or more teams. Each team has a portion of the grocery list. There’s a designated meeting spot once the team has gathered all the items off their list. Fastest team wins! The winning team gets to choose the family treat – like which flavor of ice cream – but everyone gets to eat it.
  • Fake Money and Garage Sale Stickers: Following the grocery store theme, this secret mission was a favorite for my kids when they were little. You give them free reign of the pantry and a room in the house that can be transformed in to a grocery store. They are allowed to stick the garage sale stickers (or any other stickers with prices on them) on the food you already have in your pantry and then go shopping for it to buy with their fake money (Monopoly money is perfect for this). Laundry baskets are great shopping carts, and a stud-finder from the hardware store works great for their food “scanner” since it makes an awesome beeping sound.
  • Secret Service: One of the fastest ways for you or your kids to stop being jealous of other’s vacations is to get out and do something nice for someone else. The secret missions in this department are endless! Why not take some of those cookies you made blindfolded to a neighbor (as long as they’re edible)?

CAMPING 

Camping is cheap, kids love it, and most parents can handle it for one night! There’s other alternatives too, like setting up the tent in your backyard, sleeping on the trampoline or having a campout in Mom and Dad’s room (you get your comfy bed and the kids will think your floor is an adventure).

Not up for a whole night outdoors? Find a park that will allow you to build a fire and make S’mores or roast hot dogs for dinner. Bonus points from the kids if it’s near water they can throw rocks in!

family vacataion envy camping

 

As weird as it might seem, the final piece of advice is to rehearse with your kids what to say when someone asks them what they did over the break. I know that might sound odd but think about it from their perspective. The main reason that a kid wants to go on a vacation (aside from being with you), is because they want something to tell their friends about. Help them know what to say that they’ll feel proud of. Things like, “I went on a Mission Impossible week.” Or “My Mom made cookies with a blindfold on.” Each one of these scenarios will…

  1. Get their friends asking questions
  2. Will help them get the positive attention they’re craving
  3. Will get you a break full of memories you can afford and… maybe a thing or two you can post on Instagram.

What it all boils down to is that a vacation is not as much about where you go as it is about spending time with your family and getting away from the ordinary. I think it’s about time we take a break from the mindset that going on a vacation means you have to leave home. Get creative, laugh with your kids and I promise this break you’ll have the best family “vacation” you’ve had in a really long time.

family vacation envy family time

 

About the Author

Jenner Porter lives in Austin, TX with her husband, four kids and kitchen aid mixer. They spend long, happy hours baking together. Sometimes she hangs out with her husband and kids too. Jenner writes picture books, middle grade novels, magazine articles and short stories. Humor is an important element in her writing and can be seen throughout her works. Her works have appeared in Jack and JillFriend, Ensign and Highlights magazines. She also has a picture book featured on storybird.com.  Follow Jenner on Twitter here: @slushpilestory

 

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10 Simple Ways To Say I Love You (BFFs Included!)

We all want to be loved.  There’s this little part of our heart that gets all warm and melty when we feel cared for and acknowledged. I don’t know about you but when I am told all the things I “should” do to make sure my spouse or best friend know I love them, I get incredibly overwhelmed. Really it’s the perfect recipe for me to shut-down and completely swear off any kind of positive interaction. Little dramatic much? Maybe.

With that said, I started to sort through the many ways my spouse (who is my very best friend) acknowledges me every day. I realized that these small acts, words or gestures really make my day and I’d be lost without them.  If you don’t have a spouse, there are plenty of loved ones that could use these same simple acts in their life — and it won’t kill you to do them. Trust me. If I can do it, so can you.

 

1. Send a quick text

It does not have to be extravagant. It doesn’t even have to turn in to a conversation. Heck, don’t even expect a reply back. A little text saying “Hey, hope your day is going well!” or a too-good-to-pass-up GIF is always appreciated. The key here is that the text is being sent for the other person, not for you to receive gratification. Do it because you are thinking about them and want them to know.

Ways to Tell your BFF I Love You

 

 

2. Share things you love (and think they’ll love, too)

Is there a podcast you are freaking excited about? Is there a post on social media that makes your sides burn with laughter? Is there a book you’re reading that you can’t put down? TELL THEM ABOUT IT! Even if they don’t follow through with your same excitement, the shear fact that you want to introduce them to it will mean a lot. Not to mention the pure joy it brings when you both can’t handle how great Stranger Things on Netflix is.

 

3. Do an act of service (without any expectations)

A perfect example of this would be when my loving hubby does a load of dishes and doesn’t follow up his act of service with “Did you see that I did the dishes?”  A service is meant as a sweet act or gesture with no expectation in return (are you seeing a theme here)? Acts of service are meant to be helpful and a show of love. If you force the other person to acknowledge the act, or simply expect it, then the service wasn’t about them but about yourself. Acts of service can be as small as wiping down the counter or rolling garbage cans up from the sidewalk (yes, even if it’s for your BFF who lives a city over). No true act of service is too small.

 

 

4. Compliment Them

Seems simple, eh? How many times do we see someone we adore and don’t tell them? Start telling them! Don’t be creepy about it (not all of us deal well with compliments), but be honest. Their hair killing it? Tell them! Do they smell nice? Tell them! Even something as easy as “I love you” (yes, even to your non-spousal BFF) can go a long way.

 

5. Amazon A Little Love

One of my favorite things are random treats my sister sends from Amazon.  She and I speak a lot of the same love languages (food anyone? okay fine, that may not be an official love language, but whatever), so I have gotten random surprises from my favorite candy, a hilarious coloring book to a fun game for my kids. I know she is busy and doesn’t have a lot of extra funds to be spending on me, so the thought of her stopping to do that truly warms my soul.

 

ways to say i love you amazon

 

6.  Listen to Them Without a “You” Response

I have learned that when I try to “connect” with people, it’s done by sharing a story I think is related to the conversation. At times this can come off as me trying to talk about myself and not acknowledging the other person. I have to consciously make a choice to simply listen. We don’t always have to reference our experiences or share our point of view. We just need to be willing to hear them. Heard = loved.

 

7. Ask “How Are You?”… And Wait For A Response

Weird, right? Nope. How many times a day do we say “Hey! How are you?” but don’t really mean it?  Just once, when you say this, really mean it; wait for a response. If you really love someone, you may have to tell them “No, but really…how are you?” We’re all guilty of glossing over this question, so now’s the time to pick one person you really love to try this on.

 

8. Fold The Clean Laundry

This may be a totally selfish request, but I’d marry each and every one of my friends that did this for me.  Folding laundry means so much, in fact, that if I’m ever babysitting at a friend’s house, I try to fold any laundry they have laying out.  This could get weird if you don’t really know the person, so maybe use this one at your discretion. If you’re hanging out at your friend’s house, turn it in to a laundry folding party. Sure it may be weird at first, but the joy (and relief) you bring will be worth it.

 

ways to say i love you laundry

 

9.  Hug It Out

Hugs are not only a way to say I love and care about you, but it is scientifically proven to have numerous health benefits. Benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, pain relief, and decreased levels of depression.  If any of you are like me, my real feelings are rarely hidden in a hug (not those side-hugs, a true bear hug).  If I’m on the verge of a melt-down or having a bad day, a hug usually brings me to tears. I can’t help it. I let go when I’m hugged and oftentimes it’s a much needed release.

 

10. Bring Them Bacon

I don’t feel like this needs any explanation. Bacon = love. However, if you have a non-bacon-lover (is there such a thing?) then bring or send them whatever their heart adores. A sweet friend of mine was having trouble finding gluten-free donuts only to be greeted by a delivery man courtesy her friend who lived across the U.S.  I’ve also been surprised by an UberEATS delivery courtesy my husband who knows I never feed myself lunch even though I need it. I’m telling you…food should be an official love language.

 

What is love language?

If you don’t know, you need to hop on this as soon as possible. After hearing about love languages from a source I didn’t fully respect, I pulled it up and took the test in the most immature and mocking way possible. Guess what happened? It was the best test I have ever taken for myself and my relationship. There are 5 Love Languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, physical touch.  When you know how someone (including yourself) feels loved, it is 1000 times easier to express love in ways that will make a big impact.

Don’t know your love language? Take the test here. It’s free!! (Click on “Learn Your Love Language”)

You can also have your kids take a test meant just for them. Click here, click on “Learn Your Love Language”, select “My Child”.

Trust me when I say that knowing your love language(s) will improve your relationships ten fold. Knowledge is half the battle, amiright?

 

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Cultivating Gratitude For Your Body

We live in a weight- and body-shape-obsessed society, and it’s easy (and normal) to develop body dissatisfaction.

I recently heard the term “normative discontent,” coined in the 1980s by researchers who found widespread negative body image, particularly among women, in the United States. I really love it, I think it describes the issue perfectly, and also makes it so obvious how easily we fall prey to cultural norms, even if they make us miserable.

Essentially, it’s become really normal and socially acceptable to hate your body to the point that if you don’t, you are the minority. Isn’t that sad? While this may be more common among women, men come under the same pressure to look a certain way.

It starts young, too. A staggering 42 percent of girls in first through third grades want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Further, eating disorders affect 10 million females and 1 million males.

body positive girls happy

While there are many causes for developing eating disorders, we see exponential increases in body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal (or muscular ideal) and disordered eating with increases in exposure to media and popular fitness culture. Feeling inferior or flawed can make us desperate, as evidenced by the $60 billion diet industry.

Why cultivating gratitude can help

As a nutrition professional who regularly counsels individuals with disordered eating and body hatred, I have found real benefit in helping clients cultivate a sense of gratitude for their bodies.

With such extreme societal pressures, it may not feel realistic to love — or even like — your body, at least right now. It may be easier to practice body respect, weight neutrality and less emphasis on appearance in general. Shifting focus from appearance to how your body feels or functions can help cultivate gratitude for what it can do, or what it allows you to do.

This quote from Robert Holden perfectly summarizes why I feel cultivating gratitude for your body is so effective, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”

As you cultivate gratitude for your body, you embrace where you are, allowing you to connect with what your body needs. This leads you to take care of yourself in a way that can bring about improvements in overall health and well-being. It has nothing to do with changing or manipulating your body and everything to do with supporting, respecting and caring for it. If your body changes as a result, then there’s that.

If it doesn’t, it’s no less deserving of support, respect and self-care.

 

SEE MORE: 5 Ways to Raise Kind Kids

 

How do you do that?

So how can you cultivate gratitude? When I think of November I think of cooler weather, crisp and juicy apples and Thanksgiving. Most notably, I love the reminder November brings to practice gratitude.

This November I am about 6 months pregnant.  I’ve had really positive body image throughout my pregnancy and obviously that has nothing to do with getting smaller.  My belly is growing and some of the rest of me is too.  But because this pregnancy was such a huge surprise and I really didn’t ever imagine I would be pregnant again, I’ve had such a profound sense of gratitude for my body and for all it’s doing to grow a baby.  I have no idea how to do that, but it does, and I’ve trusted it to let me know what it needs.  That may be extra food or rest or physical activity or something else entirely.  I’ve had gratitude and trust for my body which I know is the reason for my positive body image.

That’s important because we typically think of positive body image happening after we change or manipulate our body to be smaller or stronger or fit any other societal expectation.  In reality, you can cultivate body trust and gratitude right now.

love yourself body positive

I asked some of my favorite body image gurus to comment ideas for how to cultivate gratitude.  I hope you find their insight helpful.

“Feeling thankful for one’s body often doesn’t come easily, but everyone can develop a practice of body gratitude. No matter what your size, fitness level or health status, your body is doing its best by you. Begin by choosing one part of your body and saying something positive about it. If this feels too scary, start with an easier, less triggering body part. It could be as simple as, ‘My ears keep me connected to the people I love by letting me hear their voices. I love to listen to my children’s stories.'” — Barbara Spanjers, therapist and wellness coach

“Learning to cultivate gratitude for your body can feel really difficult when you are struggling with negative body image. One way to combat that is to allow yourself to let in a mix of feelings — both positive and negative. Giving yourself permission to feel grateful for a healthy set of lungs won’t eliminate the judgment you feel about your thighs. But it will open the door for you to have a more nuanced experience of your body rather than one that is dominated by negativity. This will help open the door to a more peaceful relationship to your body.” — Marci Evans, registered dietitian and food and body image healer

“YOGA! Yoga was the beginning of my well-being journey, and it continues to prove itself valuable. No matter the pose, I feel as though it’s the best way to express gratitude for my body. I accept my body exactly how it is, which creates a space to stretch a little further if it feels right. If not, I’m still breathing, and that alone is something to be grateful for.” — Maggie Danforth, registered dietitian

gratitude body image healthy yoga

“Body-hatred takes time to learn and thus, it makes sense that body neutrality (or even body love) is a process that takes time as well.” — Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW, psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist

I hope this has given you an idea of how to practice body gratitude. While it’s tempting to think you can hate yourself into feeling motivated to change your body, it’s never effective, it keeps you stuck and only causes emotional distress. I know food and body peace is possible and cultivating gratitude is the path to get there.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

 

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Don’t Give Up On Me Because I’m ADHD: A Letter From My Son

My son was diagnosed with ADHD at 8 years old.  I knew something was different from the moment he was born.  As my first born, my pregnancy was met with story after story about how I should cherish the time in the hospital because the nurses can care for infant in the nursery allowing me some recovery time.  Or nap when the baby naps and make sure you are feeding them every 2 hours; sometimes you may even have to wake them up to eat! And so many more…

Can I just tell you how wrong every single person was about my newborn experience?  From the moment my son was born he would eat, nap for 45 minutes, wake up for 45 minutes, eat and repeat.  This did not change until he was 6 months old.  Sometimes at night I would get a 2-3 hour span, but if I had any light on (even in the next room), a car drove by, my husband breathed heavily or the TV glowing he would stay awake and do spin moves (at 1 week old) to see the TV or find the noise.  He also started walking around 10 months old and was climbing out of his crib at 11 months old.  He kept me just as busy (if not more) as he was.  I could tell by the look on other parent’s faces that my son was not the typical newborn or toddler.

Fast-forward eight years and it makes a lot more sense. My kiddo is just my busy-bee and once I understood him more, it was much easier to be patient with him.  It was also at this time that we made personal and family decision to place him on medication.  His ADHD was not only affecting his schoolwork, but it was affecting him socially.  He didn’t understand why kids had a hard time with him at recess or in class–and try figuring out a way to explain it! However, the first day he refused to return to school after an incident with “friends”, I knew we needed additional help.  Medicine was a blessing.  Simple as that.  A blessing for him, his education, his teachers, his friends, and most importantly…for him. I could actually follow a conversation with him for the first time in years. When I asked how he felt he quickly replied “My head doesn’t feel all buzzy any more!”.

(Source)

As each school year approached, he knew that we would need to have conversations with his teachers about his behavior. You can only “island” a kid’s desk so many times before he realizes something is up.  Halfway through 6th grade we needed additional resources from the school and teachers to ensure he had a successful school year. We talked with our son a lot about what he wanted and felt he needed. It was during this time I asked him to write a letter explaining his ADHD and how he felt. I wanted to see his perspective.  Here is what he presented to me:

“I’m 11 years old and I have ADHD.  No, I don’t mean just A.D.D. ADHD is different because it isn’t just my brain that works faster–my body in general works and moves faster than most other kids.  I’ll admit that to some this can be seen as a blessing or a curse.  I say it is a blessing because it allows me to figure out problems, improve on other ideas and see things in other ways faster and more effectively than some. I have the energy to keep trying and trying and trying.  I would like you to know that some times (in my case) I don’t realize what I am doing and I need someone to snap me back in to reality. Things like tapping my pen on my desk, wandering around the room, or tearing up paper.  Also, a lot of the times, when I seem spaced out, like I don’t have a care in the world, it is actually those times when I don’t feel engaged in the activity or more simply — I AM BORED. I need to move and be involved as much as possible to keep my focus locked on. Please try and involve kids like me in the subject or game that is currently happening. Even if it takes a bit more work.  Whatever it is, just get our attention.

Next I would like you to know that if people think that ADHD means that ADHD kids are always bouncing off the walls and always not listening to anyone or anything, please understand that even when that happens, we are trying our very best. It can be really hard at times. Please try to get our attention and involve us in whatever it is that you’re doing.  Just put in some effort and it will all pay off. That’s what I would like you to know about ADHD and kids like me.”

 

adhd letter from son

What his letter taught me is this: I am trying and please don’t give up on me.

Simple as that.

I’m trying, guys. Please include me. I’m doing the best I can.

My heart hopes that I remember this on the tough days. My heart hopes that his teachers and friends can see and know this. If my ADHD son feels this way, I can almost guarantee someone else’s ADHD child does too. Let us all be a bit more patient and take the time to ask our child how they feel and what they need.  They’ll tell you every time.

 

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Dad Can Still Dad, Even At 2AM

We all know the proverbial mamahood is rampant with controversial topics: co-sleeping, bottle feeding, c-section births—everyone has an opinion.

And, of course, feels the need to share it.

*cough* …every mother-in-law ever… *cough*

Even so, I had no idea when I brought home our teeny tiny bundle that the biggest controversy we would encounter was how my husband and I chose to handle nighttime feedings. As in, we’d both be up taking care of our son.

Together.

Crazy, right? At least, that’s what I’ve been told. That I’m forcing a crazy feminist agenda on my poor husband. That said husband is completely whipped. That, in no uncertain terms, his sleep is far more valuable than mine—after all, he’s the one with the job. (Because we all know being a full-time mama isn’t the most demanding job on the planet…)

 

 

But trust me when I tell you that my husband’s loss of sleep isn’t coming from an obligation to support the equal rights of women. Rather it stems from his love for us and an understanding that we share this burden of parenting equally as mom and dad.

Yes, my husband helped create that little insomniac of ours and genuinely feels a sense of responsibility in taking care of him. Even. At. Night.

So can we talk about this for a minute? Why are my husband and I having to justify his waking at night to help with the baby instead of celebrating it? Why do people still believe nocturnal baby business is only for moms?

I keep hearing the argument that if mama is breastfeeding, there isn’t much for Daddy Dearest to do. Except there is. Like grabbing a snack for the starving woman whose breasts are being sucked dry day and night. Like rocking and shushing baby after a feeding hasn’t quite done the trick. Like changing a midnight pooper. Like tracking down that dang burp rag after the burps have turned to projectile vomit.

Oh, the projectile vomit…

Anyway, I promise, that next time my husband and I are both up come 3 a.m., it’s not because misery loves company. It’s because, though our roles in parenthood are different, they’re pretty much split down the middle, just like the genes of our perfect baby boy.

 

 

Kara Baxter Clark  is a mama in her rookie year, just starting to find her place in the ‘hood. She loves running, reading, and discovering the answer to every “why” in the world.

 

 

 

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Rules For My Son

Mama Law, It’s REAL

Dear Kids, Think of Me.

 

Rules For My Son

1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.

2. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs ain’t one.

3. The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king.

4. In a negotiation, never make the first offer.

5. Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.

6. Request the late check-out.

7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

8. Hold your heroes to a higher standard.

9. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas.

10. Don’t fill up on bread.

rules for my son father wagon

11. When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.

12. Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be.

13. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.

14. Carry two handkerchiefs. The one in your back pocket is for you. The one in your breast pocket is for her.

15. You marry the girl, you marry her whole family.

16. Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath.

17. Experience the serenity of traveling alone.

18. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.

19. Never turn down a breath mint.

20. In a game of HORSE, sometimes a simple free throw will get ’em.

21. A sport coat is worth 1000 words.

22. Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising.

23. Thank a veteran. And then make it up to him.

24. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

25. Eat lunch with the new kid.

26. After writing an angry email, read it carefully. Then delete it.

27. Ask your mom to play. She won’t let you win.

28. See it on the big screen.

29. Give credit. Take the blame.

30. Write down your dreams.

*This was a list consolidated from my favorite sayings at this (Source).

For more rules like these, check out the book Rules for My Unborn Son and Rules for My Newborn Daughter by Walker Lamond.

 

About the Author

Aaron Conrad is a husband, father and follower of Christ. His thoughts, inspirations and insights can be found on his personal blog at http://www.aaronconrad.com.  In a addition to his website, Aaron also contributes to blogs at I Am SecondWhat’s In The BibleJelly Telly and Compassion International. Aaron spends his days living the dream as the Director of Business Development and Marketing for Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports.

 

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On the Ugly Business of Comparison: A Letter to Us Moms

Can I say something to all us mommas, something God has been speaking to my heart?

I have been reading in Galatians 5 for a study I am doing. I read it, and it’s like I can hear it written just for us moms on this very real struggle of comparison and the weight of expectation we live under.

Would it be okay if I take my liberties with this passage that was written to the church of Galatia in the first century and write it to us, in our time and just for us moms?

For in Christ Jesus neither is homeschooling nor public schooling nor private Christian schooling anything…

Neither is Walmart nor Target nor Whole Foods. Neither are cloth diapers nor disposables. Neither gluten free, paleo, whole food, nor McDonald’s drive thru. Neither breastfeeding nor bottle-feeding. Neither all-natural home birth, planned c-section, nor begging for the epidural the very second you enter the hospital.

Neither is minivan, jalopy sedan, nor hybrid SUV. Neither is a streamlined chore system nor a pile of laundry sitting on the couch for 3 days. Neither is birthing a child every eighteen months nor stopping after one.

But the only thing that is anything is faith working through love.

mom comparison

Sisters, you were called to FREEDOM. Freedom to prepare bento boxes for school lunches or not. Freedom to adhere to baby-wise or to just wing it. But, sisters, do not turn your freedom into an opportunity to think yourself better than anyone else. THROUGH LOVE SERVE ONE ANOTHER. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you compare, judge, gossip, and try to find yourself a morally superior high ground that is better than one of your sisters, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

But I say, walk in the Spirit…

Motherhood is this vulnerable place. No matter whether you chose to ride into motherhood on the premise that it couldn’t be too hard or whether you read no less than twenty-three books on parenting before you pushed that first baby into the world at some point you will feel clueless.

Even if book-learning and the sage advice of experienced moms could give us a leg-up on this parenting gig, there are things like colic, illnesses in a babe who can’t tell us where it hurts, terrific two’s, even more terrific three’s, mean kids at school, and preteen hormone surges that all level the playing field. And if none of the aforementioned scenarios leave you stumped, there are always those awkward moments, like when your daughter calmly and matter-of-factly announces to company that mom and dad shower together. (?!)

Friends, we all find ourselves feeling clueless, our shortcomings laid bare, and so very vulnerable in this thing called motherhood.

{And don’t we hate that?}

I think in all the beyond-our-control variables of parenting, in all the mistakes we just know we are making, in all the guilt we feel for all things we never get around to…

Our lives shout at us: “You aren’t enough! You need to do better! You need to try harder!” We miss the grace we have been freely given and the invitation to walk arm in arm with the Savior.

Our finite minds seriously miss the eternal view God has of our lives, our kids’ lives, and the way He is beyond able to use it ALL and work it ALL out for His Glory.

We struggle to accept God’s love for us.

We try to do motherhood by law, instead of grace.

We compare ourselves. We play judge. We treat the intelligence and talents of our kids as a competition and as a measure of our worth as parents. We think we have some kind of place to look at another mom’s life and determine whether she’s right or wrong, better or worse. Sometimes in our zeal for whatever passion we have stumbled into, we assume it must be best for everyone.

We look at a mom glowing in her talents, walking in her call, and read her personal excitement as a personal attack on the way we are living life.

We feel like we are somehow less of a mother for bottle feeding when we get up in the middle of the night AND make a bottle. We feel like we are somehow missing our badge of honor because narrow hips required a c-section AND a month of recovery with a newborn. We look at our mess of a home and feel like a failure AFTER a day of errands, wiping bottoms, picking up toys, and feeding… and feeding… and feeding again.

{Could we stop that?}

mom love yourself

I have a feeling the heart of all this originates in the same reason Paul penned Galatians and addressed the Jewish Christians who were preaching circumcision and the Gentiles who were choking on the hard demand.

It’s fear. And it’s pride.

It’s Grace-negating. And it’s freedom-squelching.

Momma, outside of love, there is no law to motherhood. There are only callings and talents and tools.

Follow God’s call for you and your family wherever He leads. Shine in the God-given talents you were given (cooking, organizing, music, teaching, exploring, crafting…) And use the tools that are best for the making of your home and the raising of the precious kids God placed in your care–whether that’s baby-wise, homeopathic remedies, or chore charts.

The only thing that is anything is faith working through love.

So, rather than compare and judge and think we know a sister’s life from the fleeting glimpses of her Instagram account, let’s hold each other up. Let’s pray for each other. Let’s serve one another.

Even in our differences.

ESPECIALLY in our differences.

We are all moms. We all love so big. We are all tilling the fallow ground of a child’s heart: both soft and rocky and full of strong-willed defiance. We are carrying the gospel to an unreached people group—our kids. It’s important work. And, oh sisters, how we need each other’s encouragement. And truly we need a little less zeal for methods and fads and a whole lot more room for grace.

THROUGH LOVE SERVE ONE ANOTHER. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

From one momma to another, I am standing here encouraging you, sister, to let His Grace wash over all your failings, to follow Christ where He leads, to shine in your talents, and to be a YOU kind of momma.

Maybe we could talk about this here? What is the one thing that is hardest to you about motherhood? What is one of the most hurtful comments you have ever heard from another mom? What is one of the most life-giving statements you have ever heard from a fellow mom?

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

 

Amanda Conquers is a cop’s wife, mom to 3 kids, and a cheerleader for weary women. Most days, she wants to hide in her closet with her secret stash of chocolate because she feels like she’s not quite enough. But Amanda lives holding on to the hope that in spite of all her failings, she shall be called an overcomer yet. You can find her writing her broken stories on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Tell You’re an “Un-Mom”

For those of us who find motherhood less ‘natural’ than we expected, life can feel more like a circus than a life choice. We love being a mom, and cherish our kids, but we’re a bit less Proverbs 31 woman and more Lucille Ball when it comes to the daily tasks of mothering.  But rather than feeling defeated or “less than,” when compared to our more organized, ‘together’ kind of friends, God’s showed me how to let go of my need for perfection and appreciate the free-spirited, joy-centered mom I am, despite endlessly burnt dinners and Pinterest fails. Here are ways that you can identify, and celebrate, if you too, are an un-mom:

 

Child-centered activities send shivers down your spine

All it took was one “mommy & me craft time” at the town library to realize I must be missing a maternal chromosome causing other moms to seemingly feel complete joy while gluing pipe cleaners to rocks and begging their kids to stop eating crayons.  I felt similar dismay after loneliness and boredom led me to the unthinkable act of joining a local “mom’s club,” in hopes of scoring some adult company and snacking with both hands if my toddlers detached long enough. But instead of adult conversation about hobbies, current events, or perhaps pre-child stories of days past, there was only chatter about proper breast milk storage and organic baby food recipes. “How ‘bout that Trump?!” Silence. Same goes for activities like volunteering for the church nursery, and basically any other activity related to other people’s kids. Bless each lamb of God, but the last thing we want to do is swaddle someone else’s newborn or ration Cheerios when this is the first time we’ve left the house without yoga pants all week.

 

Your domestic life isn’t for the faint of heart

We’re not talkin’ a little clutter and dishevelment that a quick run ‘o the Dust Buster can’t  remedy. We’re talking the kind of disorder and mess that causes a dead panic when an uninvited visitor arrives, or when a friend texts she’s stopping by in ten. Because for un-moms, “keeping house” brings more than the average amount of difficulty for those of us who’d rather do just about anything other than vacuum or chart the kids’ chores on a white board. It takes focus, self-discipline and constant reminders that if we don’t put the laptop down (okay, yoga mat) and do laundry, our kids will be left wearing their birthday suits, or a Halloween costume to school tomorrow. Dinner looks more like a health risk then a meal time, and I’m fairly certain my only food-related Instagram post was that of a meatball so over-cooked, it permanently melded to the oven tray.  Who wants pizza guys?

 

not a pinterest mom

 

School activities

True un-moms immediately recognize there is no need to expound beyond this heading. Because for us, school-related activities like finishing a science project the night before… “you have to bring in how many pics of tree frogs?!”… searching for ever-elusive school library books, and trying to “help” with eighth grade algebra can be altogether overwhelming. I don’t know when the descent took place, but somewhere between Generation X and millennial movement, school has become so much more involved for parents. We’re talkin’ endless amounts of signatures, checks needed for book fairs, candy-o-gram forms and a hundred different little projects that require our participation. In the course of one month last year I had to construct a “green” boat, decorate a turkey symbolizing our family culture (who makes this stuff up?!), and write handwritten notes as my children’s “pen pal,” thanks to another stellar program initiated by an overmedicated PTO president. I think we celebrate more than the kids on that last day of school, clicking our bare footed heels in the air to embrace a three month break from making mediocre lunches with one eye open at night or tearing apart the house for school store money at 7 a.m.


It’s not that we can’t manage to keep sharp objects out of reach and sanitize plastic all day.  We just sometimes question our very existence after getting stuck atop the McDonald’s play scape or massacring another weekly Cub Scouts project. Especially come summer time, we can be tempted to skip our quiet time with the Lord because we’re so busy with the kids, and well, it’s hard to find time. But I’ve learned to somehow get my time in daily, even if it means hiding in my prayer closet, because I’m more patient and energized when gaining strength from him, not just the Death Wish Coffee. We need the Lord, and we need him now. Jesus, take the wheel…

 

Jessica Kastner is the author of “Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet,” and a contributor for Beliefnet.com, Huffington Post’s Christianity blog, and CBN.com.  When she’s not on the trampoline with her three boys in Connecticut, she offers her “fluff free” commentary at www.JessicaKastner.com.  

 

 

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorJessicakastner/
Facebook Community: #UnMom

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessKastner

 

 

To My 12 Remaining Embryos, Sincerely Your First Mom

To my 12 remaining embryos,

The day we learned there were 14 of you we instantly knew our story of hope wasn’t just for us. You have been frozen now for almost 3 years. Sometimes my infertility feels like a distant memory and other times the pain and anguish of an empty womb floods my heart like it was just yesterday. My body went through a lot just in hopes that God would give me one of you. So when the Doctor called to tell us there were 14 of you, we were in shock.

I have been thinking about you a lot lately.

I don’t really know if we will be going back for another round of IVF. Your siblings are triplets and it is kind of a lot right now. And if we decided to have another baby and had the opportunity to bring one of you into this world, it wouldn’t be for a few more years and we know we could only take one of you. I wish we could take all of you, but I know deep in my heart that God didn’t make you so I could keep all of you just for myself.

It saddens me because I honestly can’t bare the thought of someone else raising you. And truthfully, it is hard for me to accept that someone else will be your Mom. She will feel you grow in her womb and share in your first moments. She will be the one to hold you when you are sad, help you when you are sick, keep you safe when you are scared. She will be the one you depend on, the one you cry for, the one you make all your memories with. She will love you with a special kind of love a Mother has for her child. She will know you. She will watch you take your first steps, hear your first words. She will be the one to watch you grow up, graduate from school, and one day get married and have children of your own. I can feel the jealousy in my heart just thinking about her sharing those moments with you. I grieve not knowing you like she will know you. I grieve not being able to look deep into those beautiful eyes of yours and tell you how much I love you. I grieve giving you to her. You won’t be mine anymore.

However, the truth is, as much as I call you mine, or even one day hers, you are God’s perfectly made little snowflakes. And I have to trust in what God told me in the very beginning: “You are hope, hope for many.” Deep in my heart I know that your Mama will love you like I love you. And even though it is hard for me to fully comprehend that right now, I know, one day, He will prepare my heart for her to be your Mom, but I will always be connected to you. I will be apart of you. I will always be loving you.

Sincerely,

Your first Mom.

 

 

Desiree Fortin is a Mom to almost 2 year old triplets. Her journey to become a Mom was not easy, but it is one of hope and beauty. Desiree is a blogger and photographer.  You can read Desiree’s blog, visit her on Instagram, or visit her Facebook page to learn more.

 

 

 

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10 Ways I Battled My New Mom Anxiety

Anxiety is no joke.  The amount of times per week that I have to talk myself back down from a panic cannot be counted on one hand, let alone two.  Everything about motherhood is extra.  Extra stressful.  Extra tiring. Extra overwhelming. Extra scary.  You get it.  Super e-x-t-r-a.  All. The. Time.

I am an extra positive person as well.  The extras extend to the “cup-half-full” side of me, but it takes work. So in preparing for my role as a new mom, I knew it was going to take some full-fledged mental gymnastics to keep my head in the game.  Here are the top 10 ways that I coped with my anxieties as a new mom and kept the extra in check.

Prep for 6-8 weeks of the most exciting exhausting time of your life! I remember when my milk came in I was all of a sudden filled with so much anxiety that was a mix of all things positive and scary at the same time: overwhelming love; hate for the world in its current state; worry that I was doing everything wrong; and the big one…sorrow so deep over the loss of my independence. Yep.  That was a big, fat, guilt-inducing emotion!  I asked for hugs from my husband often during that time, and they actually worked.  Brace yourself for the initial 6-8 weeks, knowing that this is going to be a huge transition hormonally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Don’t even try to do all the things. I mean it.  Just STAHP.  Seriously, that is why people offer to help.  If you are blessed enough to have a support system, utilize them!  I had to remind myself often that as long as the baby is comfortable and cared for with love, she will survive!  And most importantly, you will too.  I would only allow myself to have one to two items on my to-do list each day.  And most of the time, those two things were to shower and drink all the waters.  Allow yourself the time and space to heal and take in every moment.  And don’t let the anxiety of unanswered text messages and missed phone calls get to you.  Everyone can wait.  No text response is worth stressing yourself out about.  I had to fight this urge every time I received communication via text or social media.  Everyone can wait for pictures.  They are just going to keep asking for more anyway.

10 ways defeated new anxiety

Babies were born, and survived, without technology for centuries! There are so many great gadgets for new parents these days.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “They never had this when I had my kids!” from those who went before me on the parenthood journey.  There are also WAY too many choices of all things technology out there.  Enough to, you guessed it, cause a panic attack.  I made a point to set aside my constant fear of something happening to my daughter in her sleep, and opted for no monitor.  “Gasp!  What?  No monitor?  But what about all of the things?”  Well you know what? It’s miraculous.  She is plenty loud when she needs us.  So I will sleep soundly (when I do sleep) until she lets me know she needs me, from down the hall.

Maybe don’t read every baby related article on Facebook. Unless it’s this one.  Then you are in the right place.  This is everything right now.  Just kidding.  You know the articles I’m talking about.  The ones that warn you of every potential evil that has ever existed in the entire world.  If you must read them (to set your anxiety about knowing you haven’t read them at ease) then do the following:  make a list of one take away from the article that will help you be a more aware and attentive parent.  Then be done with it.  Don’t worry about needing to warn all other moms of this potential danger you had never heard of.  I guarantee you they are already stressing themselves out over the same article. Move on.

 

SEE MORE: Science Shows How A Trip to Beach Changes Your Brain

 

Allow space for your mother’s intuition. There are so many opinions out there on what to do. Basically all the ways you can either set your baby up for the most emotionally fulfilling success, or on the flip side, all the ways you can traumatically injure them and destroy any hope for a bright future.  But don’t worry…you ultimately get to decide.  #nojudgementzone  Yeah right!  It’s a trap!  BIG FAT JUDGEMENT ZONE!!  Run!  For real though, you are the one who is responsible for your child.  In spite of all the well-intentioned advice, you have to go with your gut at the end of the day.  You will be the one who learns your baby’s cues, and ultimately…you will figure it out one day at a time. Cut yourself some slack.  This was one of the biggest threats to my new mom anxiety levels, and I had to monitor myself carefully.  You of course may need to seek advice, a lot.  But you will learn who your trusted sources are.  Cling to them for dear life.

I reminded myself that the gas pains will subside, eventually. She won’t remember this gas- this too shall pass.  This was the mantra I repeated to myself when she was crying non-stop each evening as she worked through the gas pains.  Remember, their little systems are booting up.  Everything has to work itself out and so you’ll go through some rough phases.  But just as quick as the gas came, it went.  It was an issue for maybe 2 weeks tops.  Although it did feel like forever, and I felt myself spiraling down a few times.  She won’t remember this gas- this too shall pass. Rinse and repeat.

Self-care really did give me a boost. Even running on empty, if I could at least take a nice hot shower I felt like I could take on the world!  (But remember, only two to-do items per day!)  For each person, self-care may look a bit different.  For me it was shower, get dressed, put on a tad bit of makeup, enjoy a cup of delicious coffee and take my supplements.  That was my power combo.  And I’m talking about wearing a capsule wardrobe with a 5-minute makeup routine.  Nothing fancy.  And I wear the same red lipstick and hat every day.  Because who has time to deal with all that post-partum alopecia?  Not this chick.  Find what packs a punch for you in the most efficient way possible, and this will go far in boosting your outlook when facing all these new anxieties.

10 ways overcome new mom anxiety

Do not cave to the vain imaginations! What’s a vain imagination you ask?  It’s all of the things you imagine are potentially going to happen.  And then all of the responses you come up with, because now you are convinced they are going to happen.  And now you are crying and dry heaving, because how are you going to deal with these things that just happened for crying out loud?!  But wait, they haven’t happened yet.  And I actually just made that all up in my mind.  So really, it isn’t even truth because it hasn’t even occurred and may not occur.  See where I’m going with this?

Give yourself and others around you and extra measure of grace. Especially if this is your first time caring for a little one.  Remember that you have to get to know this sweet babe and/or babes.  (Dear Lord, give them an extra measure of grace if it’s babies plural!) When it comes to all the small ways your anxiety wants to take over when you see someone else trying to change the diaper- slowly back away.  Even if it is taking your husband a bajillion hours to change her, and he isn’t even putting the new diaper under the old one in case she starts peeing before he can get the new one on!  ARGHHHH!  But you know what he is doing?  He’s bonding with the baby.  Remember that.  And she’s safe, even if there is an extra mess to clean up.  He’s learning what it means to care for a baby too.  Give your loved ones the space to grow alongside you.  None of you have it all figured out, so just do your best.

 

SEE MORE: The Day I Stopped Saying “Hurry Up”

 

Slow down, and be in the moment. This is easier said than done.  Because if you are like me, your anxiety will pull you under as the laundry piles up.  And the dishes aren’t done.  And the house takes on a particularly dusty hue.  I finally got to the point where I started asking people to clean when they asked how they could help.  Because I was too flipping tired to do anything other than care for my little one and occasionally venture out into the world from time to time.  When the anxious thoughts would creep up, I would battle them back by thinking of all the precious time I was soaking up watching this little human being develop and change.  It was all too important, and I had to protect that time at all cost.

Try out different ways to fight the anxiety that threatens to take you down.  Try new things, don’t be afraid to fail, and keep going until you find little ways to relieve the overwhelm.  No one expects you to be perfect, so don’t even put that on yourself.   Most of all, make sure you talk about how you’re feeling with those whom you trust.  It’s always best to speak out about your anxieties, so they don’t become the monsters in your head.  And remember – you are not alone mama!

Disclaimer:  This is a disclaimer about all the disclaimers, because anxiety.  I in no way claim to know what I’m doing.  I do not have a cure for anxiety.  I’m just a girl with ideas.  I found what worked for me and hope it helps you and yours.  Please like me.

Misty Winesberry has been married for going on 9 years to her husband Jajuan Winesberry. They recently welcomed a baby girl making them a cozy family of three.  As a multi-passionate career woman, Misty enjoys advocacy work in her spare time.  While Misty and Jajuan photograph weddings primarily, they also share their story of hope and recovery while living with mental illness.  Their desire is to fight stigma at every turn, making it easier for others who are struggling to find their voice.  You can find them at their website, Facebook or their Instagram account.


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