…what would they say? Or better yet, if *my* walls could talk…what would *they* say?
This was a concept that was brought up between my longest known best friend and myself when we had a rare visit today. While the conversation about it was very short and actually not a reference for what I’m about to write about here, my immediate reaction to thinking about the question made me a little queasy as my mind went to negative thoughts first.
You see, while I’ve been incredibly quiet over the last several months, it’s not been because life has been unbelievably busy with happiness. I’ve been going through several big life changes going on at once. One of those changes is that my oldest child not only turned 18, but he decided he wanted to be independent and move out. Talk about a momentous occasion…
I have a very clear memory of when my boy was a brand new, tiny infant and I was upset because someone had hurt my feelings. As I clutched my happily sleeping, milk-drunk newborn to my chest and tears fell into his feathery blond hair, I remember wanting so fiercely to protect him from all hurts in life. I had felt maternal and protective over him since early in my pregnancy, but this was the first moment I clearly remember so desperately wanting to guard and protect his heart more than I’d ever wanted something before in my life. The love of a parent is strong.
In the blink of an eye, my doe-eyed, sweet baby boy turned into a tall, handsome grown man–a strong-willed, stubborn one at that. While he knew that I wanted him to wait for a while to move out (and for all good reasons), he was itching to be out on his own and made the choice to pack up anyway.
He’s my oldest so this is the first time I’m experiencing this momentous mommy occasion. Not only that, but it’s a big realization that my other kids that stair-step down immediately in age are right behind him. With my youngest being almost 16, I’m not all that far from having an empty nest. This is a big deal for any parent, but it’s even more so for me. You see, I’ve been a mama with kids in the home since I was still just a kid myself. I went from being a kid in my mom’s home to being a mom and wife before I was even 18. All I’ve known of adult life is parenting. It’s a whole new me and life in the process of transition right now and so many emotions that go with it.
Going through this, I’ve struggled lately with feeling weight of guilt and grief over ways that I have made mistakes over the years. I carry hurts collected over the years in ways that I’ve failed. As parents, we all know that we aren’t perfect and that we are bound to make mistakes. But being faced with the reality of how my time is up with my boy being a kid in my home and there are no more chances of parenting him in that aspect has been a hard pill for me to swallow.
All of this thinking lately has had my heart so very tender. So today, thinking about if my walls could talk, I immediately thought of my mistakes and dark and hard moments. I started turning it all around in my head though as soon as my friend left. Have there been mistakes? Have there been regrets? Have there been moments I wish I could take back? Absolutely. Is all that stuff what my walls would talk about though…?
We are often our own worst critics. I’m no exception there. Thinking about my children’s lives up to this point though, I’ve had some amazing moments too. I have overcome battles that many succumb to. I have lived life as a single mom for many years, often with very little financial support from anyone else, without my children’s father’s presence, without family checking on me and lending a hand, and often even while working two jobs. I have cared deeply about my babies and what they’ve had in life. I’ve struggled and fought hard, but…I’ve been fighting a winning fight. My children have been provided for and have turned into these teenagers that regularly blow me away with their kindness, helpful attitudes, and gentle spirits. They have been the kind of kids that regularly get compliments for being good kids. I can be hard on myself, but I then have to remember that it’s not just chance. My babies are good people because of the work I’ve put in and done right.
I love my kids more than I love having air to breathe, and I’ve never been shy about expressing that. Their whole lives, I’ve made sure to assure them of my love, both with my words and my actions. I have freely handed out “I love you’s,” hugs, and kisses. My kids have never had to question whether or not they are important to me. I fail daily because I’m human, but I also do right every single day.
If these walls could talk, they *could* talk about “unspeakable mommy moments” as another girlfriend of mine calls them. They could talk about mistakes, tempers lost, dirty dishes that have stayed stacked in the sink for too long, carpets that went too long without seeing a shampooer, and laundry that did three go-’rounds in the washer due to failure to get them into the dryer before they smelled sour. They could talk about endless times where pizza was bought for dinner because I’d rather pay for food to be delivered than to cook after working 12 hours in steel toed boots and coveralls in 20 degree weather, the times I’d skipped a shower in favor of just falling into bed in exhaustion, or times I’d rather toss leftover food-filled Tupperware dishes than to wash moldy spaghetti sauce out. I could easily write a thousand words here on my mistakes or poor moments. Is that truly what my walls would talk about though…?
I don’t think so.
My walls would speak of love and determination. They would speak of a strong family bond. They would speak of kids that grew up knowing their mother loves them unconditionally and would lay her life down to protect them if need be. My walls would speak of dance parties in the kitchen while cooking, silly sing-song voices being goofy when we’re alone together, loving life lessons being taught about growing up, and laughter–SO. MUCH. LAUGHTER.
I have never claimed to be perfect, and this post isn’t about boasting. I’ve decided though, while I fall short, my walls would glow talking about a family that is fierce, strong, and united. My walls would talk about what life and parenting all boils down to… Love. My walls would *proudly* speak of love.
I remember my very first anxiety attack. It came out of nowhere. I was lying on the couch watching a movie with my now ex-husband. I felt fine, and then I suddenly lost my breath and began to cry hard, with body shaking, choking sobs. I felt panicked and afraid. I cried so hard that I could barely breathe, let alone talk to explain to my panic stricken husband who was staring at me with shock in his eyes what was suddenly wrong. And the truth is, I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know why I was suddenly terrified and sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t know where it came from. I didn’t even know yet what it was and that there was a name for it. Now, 14 years later, out of the blue, they’re back.
I’m dealing with some incredible stress right now. I’m not talking I got a flat tire on my way to work kind of stress. I’m talking I don’t know how my entire life is going to work right now kind of stress. The other day, as I was trying to get ready to go run some errands, I was having a difficult time getting dressed. I have recently lost a lot of weight and while that’s great in many ways, it makes getting dressed frustrating. As I searched through my closet seeking something casual, yet put together, I began to get upset. I put on the first pair of jeans and a tight tee and then decided I didn’t like how the jeans looked. I put on a second pair of jeans that somehow was baggy in the stomach and still was tight in the waist. As I looked in the mirror, I knew I needed to change the shirt now as I clearly had a “muffin top” going on and the shirt was too tight. In the middle of all of this, I was getting upset at the idea of feeling frumpy and looking unkempt. I worried that if I went to the store in my small town and was seen looking less than put together in combination with my dramatic weight loss and the skin condition I’ve been battling from working almost 60 hours a week in the sun, that people would make assumptions that I was on drugs. I was overthinking and worrying over nothing, but in that moment, it felt like a big deal, and I was upset.
As I sat on the foot of my bed thinking about the clothing problem, feeling uncomfortable in my clothing (a big deal for those with sensory issues) and starting to tear up, I began to feel a familiar feeling of panic rising in my chest. And just like that, seconds after recognizing the feeling, the tears began to pour and choking sobs began. Panic took over and the world felt like it was ending. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t control it. I knew I just had to ride it out. After a few minutes of intense crying and shaking, I could feel that I was over the worst part of it. I was upset and hot. I stood up and stripped off the clothes that I knew contributed to how uncomfortable I felt. Kicking them onto the floor and climbing back on the bed, I laid there and let the rest of it out knowing intellectually that it would feel better soon, but not truly feeling it yet.
When it was over and I had more control again, I thought about how it had been more than 10 years since I’d had an anxiety attack. Calm tears rolled down my hot cheeks now over the feeling of grief over the fact that I was staring my past problem in its ugly face. I thought that I would never have to face a panic attack again. Yet, here I am, stressed to the max, crying every day, wondering how I’m going to get through, and battling demons I never wanted to be familiar with in the first place. My old friend, panic, I have not missed you.
I didn’t start to truly understand the importance of friendship between women until I was in my 30’s. When I was younger, I always said it was easier being friends with guys, citing reasons like drama and backstabbing. As I have gotten older though, I have realized the incredible power in women supporting women. There are going to be people who aren’t genuine and don’t have your back in life, male or female, and the relationships between women are powerful. This is especially true for mom friends.
I’ve been meaning to write this blog for months. A few months back, in a moment of anger and frustration, I made a personal post on social media expressing frustration over women that have much support and even a partner that is currently out of town/state complaining about being single mothers. I said their feelings weren’t valid. I said they weren’t single moms and didn’t deserve to put themselves in the same category as moms like me who are without any support from a partner or my children’s father, financially or otherwise. In that moment of frustration over my personal life, and even jealousy, I did exactly the opposite of what I preach about women supporting women. I was tearing women down. As you can imagine, the post blew up with comments from all sides. I eventually had to delete it, but even once deleted, I couldn’t take back the negativity I had put out into the world. I couldn’t take back where I had taken frustration from my own struggles and used it as a way to put down other women. This behavior is normally out of character for me, but that night, I put ugliness out into the world. I was incredibly embarrassed, and I deeply regretted putting anyone down.
I talk often about women lifting up other women because it is incredibly important to me. As I’ve gone through hard moments in life, I’ve had the most uplifting words, advice, and acts of service from other women. This is often true of women that are older, more wise, and more experienced. They have been there. They have struggled. They have felt alone. So they know the best ways to help and reach out to younger women.
I recently sat at the dining room table with my very best friend, and as we were surrounded by rowdy kids, a naked toddler, and a fussy nursing baby, we discussed being moms and the support we really need. We are in very different seasons of motherhood and have very different lives. I am a single working mother, and my kids are now teenagers. She has 5 little ones ages 10 and under, is a (wonderful) stay at home mother that homeschools, and does whatever she can to help support her hardworking husband. I had children much younger than she did, and we discussed the ways that mothers need help regardless of age, number of children, and marital/relationship status. We talked about the saying, it takes a village to raise a child, and how much truth that holds.
While some mamas have mothers and sisters that provide loving support, there are many mamas out there without that support. There is a lot of pressure on us in today’s society to be super women…to be able to handle parenting, have well-behaved, clean, happy children, work, survive on sleep deprivation, keep clean houses, take care of ourselves, keep in shape, please our men, be desirable, and still be social–all without support from anyone else. Well, you know what? I’m telling you that’s a load of crap. For one, it’s impossible to do and be all of those things all the time. For two, we weren’t meant to have so much on our plates without help from others. In American culture, there’s become an intense pressure surrounding being mothers and stretching ourselves thin and the more on our plates the better, like it’s the fashionable thing to do. Women post on social media about all that they are accomplishing or all that they have to do and take care of, and then other women compare themselves and see all of their flaws and ways that they are falling short. Stop this! When you are comparing yourself to the mom that seems to have it so much more together than you, you forget that you are comparing that mom’s highlight reel to your lowest moments. The mom speaking on social media about where she is doing great in one area isn’t talking about where she is falling short in another area. We are ALL struggling in one way or another, but most of us aren’t willing to post about it. We talk about long hours at work or the amazing dinner we are cooking, but we don’t talk about how there’s been dishes sitting dirty on the counter for 3 days, or the same load of laundry in the washer that’s been washed who knows how many times because we keep forgetting to throw it in the dryer, or how we can’t remember the last time we’ve had sex with our life partner because exhaustion makes sleep more important than intimacy for weeks and even months at a time.
Now, I am not saying we should all post all of our ugly mommy moments on social media, or that we should not talk about our good and strong moments either. What I am saying is that moms need to stick together. Be real with your good girlfriends. Talk openly and honestly about your struggles because chances are, they can relate and have their own struggles they want to talk to you about. We all need loving support. We all need good friends we can tell about how we had a moment where we were so angry with our children, we wanted to physically hurt them, or how we lost it and screamed so loud that we fear the neighbor might question our parenting skills, or how we have worn the same pajamas and unbrushed messy bun for 2 days in a row and skipped a shower in favor of 15 more minutes of sleep and bathed with a baby wipe. Have you let your preschooler watch some obnoxious kids’ TV show for far too long just to have some peace for a while? Have you fed your kids McDonald’s for dinner 3 nights this week because you’re worn out? Have you let your 5 year old go to bed in his favorite new rubber boots because you just didn’t have the fight in you to battle making him take them off? Have you thrown out Tupperware that sat too long in the fridge because it’s just easier to buy more than to wash out last week’s molded spaghetti? This and so much more… guess what? We have all been there. There’s so much mommy shaming though that we don’t feel safe to acknowledge these hard moments.
So this is what I would like for you to do:
- Be real and honest with your friends. Be the example they need. You just might inspire that for them, which then inspires it for others, and so on. Let’s put an end to the judgmental mommy shaming. Also, ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in that.
- Stop comparing yourself to others on social media. Remember that you are only seeing a tiny snippet of what others are saying and then comparing your worst moments to these great moments that make it online. Allow yourself to be real on social media as well. Don’t pretend life is perfect when it is not. It is okay to say you’re stretched thin, tired, and overwhelmed.
- Be there in practical ways for other moms that need it. Do you have a mom friend that just had a new baby or is just struggling in general? Show up with dinner for the whole family, and maybe even a bottle of wine. Go over and do the dishes or fold the mountain of clean laundry that’s become a living room couch decoration. Pick up the kids and take them to the park to give mama some time to just breathe. Offer to babysit for a date night, or better yet, if you can afford the splurge, offer to babysit AND buy a gift card for your favorite restaurant for the couple. Just be there in the ways you would like someone to be there for yourself.
- When you find yourself getting ready to mommy shame others, stop yourself and try to put yourself in the other mom’s shoes. We all fail at times, and we all make mistakes. Spread love and kindness instead.
- Share this blog with your mom friends. We all need a reminder that our real, messy, true lives are normal and understood.
I know this one was on the long side, but I’ve been holding it all in for so long that I had to share it all. To the moms that I offended and hurt that night with my angry rant, I am sorry. I pride myself on being the kind of person that will freely admit when I’m wrong, and I was really wrong that night. I hope you can forgive me.
Stick together, mamas. We are each other’s village.
My life lately has been rapidly changing, and I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but that’s because of how incredible all of this change has been. One hurt started it all in motion, and with the snowball effect, there’s suddenly rapid change in all areas. Not only have I realized that I need to be focused solely on my kids, God, and my health–mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but I’ve had many realizations and change in my behavior and choices.
I’m not looking to date and realize that I need to be alone right now. I need to clean up my life first so that I’m able to truly bless my future partner in the ways I’m wanting him to bless me. I know that I’m a prize, but I’m not ready to be the wife I know I can and should be yet, and until I know I can, I’m determined to keep focusing on me and reaching out to God in my loneliness instead of casual relationships that only make the void feel bigger. I’m not just not looking to seriously date, but I am intentionally living a celibate life. This is necessary to keep my focus where it should be.
I’m going to church every Sunday and bible study every Thursday because I need to grow out of the baby Christian stage I’ve been in my entire life. I’m wanting to grow in my knowledge of the word and grow in my spiritual gifts. I’m watching what I’m allowing into my heart with television and music because of this too. One day, I was leaving work in a great mood and got into my car to drive home. I turned on music and a sad, angry song came on. I suddenly was filled with sadness and anger at the people that have recently hurt me. It made me want to lash out. I realized though that it was the song that made me feel that way, so I kept my behavior in check and decided not to allow those emotions to bog me down. Soon after, I had thought about how I had my church class that night and was suddenly filled with love and hope. Man, how powerful it is to realize that outside influences had that much control over me and that I could control what I allowed those influences to be! This reaffirmed for me that I need to be mindful of what I allow into me.
In all of this, I’m also learning better life coping habits too. I’m reading my bible more. I’m praying over and over every day. I’m writing more and setting new goals with that. I’ve cut out the connections to others that I would previously reach out to in my need for attention and am reaching out to God and other Christians instead. I’m unwilling to waste time talking with others in a way that is not only meaningless but also those that can take me down the wrong path. I’m focusing on my self-care physically right now just as much as spiritually. I’m being loving with myself, making sure to get my water consumption in, tracking my physical activity and making new goals, and watching what I eat and drink. On top of all of this, I’ve stopped drinking alcohol.
I have gotten into the habit of using alcohol to cope with stress and pain. As life has been harder lately though, I had realized that I was drinking more and I didn’t really like the person I was becoming with it. While I’m trying to take much better care of myself than ever before, I don’t want to add the poison of alcohol to my body. I’m not saying I’m never going to have another drink again, but I need to reset. I need to go back to healthy coping mechanisms and not drink out of habit. My body deserves to be treated better than I’ve treated it before, and naturally, with all of these other changes, it just makes sense to commit to zero alcohol.
I am headed to great places. I’m learning so many life lessons. I want to become strong in my faith and knowledge and want to live a life that allows for me to be a good role model to my children and to others. My ultimate goal is to become an author of books meant to speak hope into others’ lives. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and how I don’t have to stop there. I can figure out a way to reach out and minister and speak to others. The possibilities are endless, and in order to reach those goals, I have to keep up with all that I’m doing now.
I am inspired! I am happy and full of hope. I know that I’m on the right path now, and while I wish I could have pulled it all together before, I take comfort in knowing it’s never too late. I’m so very thankful to be on this new journey because I know it’s going to change my entire life.
My new favorite song. If God can reach me in the middle of a life filled with ugliness, casual sex, booze and bar hopping, and various other ways I was rebelling and running, He can reach you too. ❤
I was having a discussion today with a friend about dating. While I was getting ready to talk about something I’m excited about in life right now, I said, “Guess what?!” He responded with, “You met someone?!” I laughed at this because it seemed like such an absurd concept to me right now. Then I realized what an accomplishment that feeling is!
I’ve talked about being a serial dater in blogs in my past, but it’s something I’ve strayed away from in the last several years. I’ve done better with taking longer breaks between relationships, and this is a good thing. What is new though is that I’m suddenly truly not focused on that desire to be with someone at all. There are things in my life that I want to accomplish first. So when my friend guessed that I had met someone, I realized that I’m not hoping for that to happen. I told him that I actually WANT some time this time. I’m truly focused on God, on myself, on my writing, and on my kids. I want to get more of my life in order, everything from growing in God, to finances being more straightened out, to increasingly better self-care (I’ve lost 35 pounds since August). I’m busy falling in love with myself all over again. I told my friend that I want to have things so together that when I do meet someone new, I want him to say to himself, “Gosh, this chick has her life so together and is on fire for God. I NEED to make her mine.” I need to be a catch. I don’t want there to be a single ounce of desperation about me. I want to be good all on my own, because eventually when I am dating again, it’s not just for fun. I am looking for and deserving of a husband. That desperation in my past has allowed me to be prey for men that are not good and don’t have the same values, and I’m finally done repeating my past. During conversations with two others recently, I had to admit that I’ve been so heartbroken and hurt for so long, that I have no choice but to to recognize that my own choices are allowing this. It’s time for a completely new game plan.
My self-esteem these days has already soared higher than it’s ever been. I’ve been doing things the “right” way; I’ve been going to church, diving into the Word, taking care of my body, being more present with my children, and more. I refuse to be an easy target again for the weak that hunt the wounded. Realizing today that I don’t just not have my hopes up, but that I actually desire time to heal and work on me is an incredible, monumental, and pivotal moment in my life. I recently said on Facebook that right now appears to be the first time I have ever been succeeding in my struggles instead of succumbing to them. Today was yet another reminder of this.
I feel true happiness right now. I have set new goals and a plan to obtain them. I am feeding my soul and not just my body. I am a prize, and someday in the future, there’s going to be a man so happy to “win” me.