The Best Damn Dad – Me

          You don’t have to have followed me for long to realize that I’m passionate about empowering people–especially women. If you’ve followed a little bit longer, you might have even picked up on the fact that I’m a single mom. While I often direct my support and attention towards women, there’s something I want to say that involves men. There’s been a lot on social media these days about men and masculinity, and it seems even that there’s been a blanket attack on them/it. It’s a hard day and age to be raising boys in. As a single mom of two teenage boys (and one teenage daughter), I have had to play the role of both mother and father. My football playing daughter will proudly tell anyone that it was not her absent father that taught her how to throw a football or has driven her home from countless practices and games and cheered her on at every game I could attend between my two jobs. That’s been one of the cool things about being “dad.” The less glamorous side is needing to be dad to boys in all the ways that young men need too.
          Men. Your precious little boys are going to be men, and we need to train them to be good men. It is important that they get good life lessons and examples, even if their fathers are absent. My oldest child is almost an adult. I have had to be the one to talk to my boys about sex (safe sex, not pressuring women, consent), shaving, hygiene, etc. Today, as I stood in the kitchen complaining of cramps while my almost 18 year old son cooked breakfast, I realized it was a good teaching moment.
          I talked to him about when he has a wife, he needs to be understanding about her period and period pain. I told him to offer to go buy her preferred products. Take a picture of the packaging to ensure getting the right ones. Pick her up some chocolate, or ice cream, or something else she likes. I told him not to make a big deal about blood. It happens. Sometimes it gets on surfaces in the bathroom. Sometimes leaks happen on the sheets. I told him to be loving about it. Let her know that it’s no big deal. I took the opportunity to add in some other life lessons as well. Buy her flowers once in a while, for no reason. Women are emotional creatures and we need loving reminders that we are cared about outside of the bedroom.
          As I talked, my son continued to cook, but I knew he was hearing me. Not just hearing, but listening with his heart. I told him that life isn’t guaranteed and I can’t promise I’ll be here forever to teach him about life, so I need to have those moments with him when the opportunity arises.
          “Yes, Mama,” he said. He understood.
          Life has not been easy on us, and it has not been easy for me to parent by myself. I know that I am giving my boys the best start that I’m capable of giving though. They know that it’s okay to cry, but they also know that it’s okay to be strong and all the things that make them set apart and special as men. My ex-husband has provided the example of what NOT to be as a husband and father, but I have tried my damnedest to be the mama that puts on my boots and teaches them what a man IS. I’ve worked hard, I’ve given them life lessons, I’ve taught them how to throw a football and how to shoot a gun, I’ve taught them about shaving their faces, taking care of themselves, driving–both an automatic AND a stick shift, and have been the one to teach them how to put on cologne. I want them to be well-adjusted, loving, strong, sensitive, God fearing, caring, independent, compassionate men. I may be their mama, but I’m the best damn dad they’ve ever had.
th*I don’t completely agree with this photo, because my boys are going to be more than husbands, but you can see my point here.*
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We Are The Village

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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The Things I Fear Sharing…

I have to admit that I watch the people’s lives around me and I often feel jealous. I watch people so in love and I’m happy for them, but I want that for myself. I see women that are supported in life by loved ones, and I’m happy for them, but I want that for myself. I have friends that are so secure in themselves and completely happy and content alone, and I want that too. My own life is a mix of chaos and work and often times, pain. Lately, I’ve been working 7 days a week between both jobs, and I’m simply burnt out on top of everything else.

Every day, my alarm goes off at 3:30am, and I know that no amount of snooze button hitting is going to make me feel like getting up while still getting out the door on time. I make coffee and use it and music to pull me out of my sleepy stupor. I get ready, defrost my car, and drive to the plant where hundreds of us file in like cattle herded in for slaughter. My day job is physically demanding and even with coveralls, multiple layers of coats, and hats and gloves, it’s not enough to keep out the cold of the day I spend most of my hours in. If I have nothing going on after work, I come straight home, cold, dirty, and exhausted. I don’t have much energy to accomplish much in the evening. On a good day, I’ll cook, maybe do some laundry, shower, and get everything ready for the next day. But some days, it’s a minor miracle if I can even get myself into the shower. Because my kids are in after school activities at a school in another town, I’m lucky if I can even see them for a few minutes before I have to go to bed. It’s all so very lonely.

On the weekends, I work a second job. Even though the hours are far fewer than a full day at my day job, that job is also physically demanding. I come home from that one in more pain than any person should have to endure just to make a living. Chronic pain, plus working physically hard jobs 7 days a week, plus extreme loneliness is a perfect recipe for heartache.

When I work late at night on the weekends and the people I want to see are unavailable and I come home to a quiet, messy house, my feelings are… I’m not sure I can even easily describe them actually. In my moments alone, where my mind and heart can ramp up with sadness and anxiety… it’s not pretty. It’s downright ugly actually. As human beings, we are meant to have more than this in life. We need genuine connections. We need things to look forward to. We need love (in many ways, not just romantic love).

Sometimes, I crawl into bed and I can’t hold it together anymore. I take off the mask I wear for the world, and I cry. I do the ugly cry with body shaking, soul quaking sobs. I think about how fast my children’s childhoods have gone by. I think about how little time left I have with them in my home, and I’m working and otherwise wasting the remaining time away. I think about how badly I wish my family was closer and how my brother is going to have baby that will likely be no closer to me than my sister’s child is. I think about the things and people I desire. I think about every failure and hurt and pain in my life, and I cry until my pillow is soaked and I no longer have the energy to do anything but give in to sleep.

I post a lot on Facebook about being empowered and strong and taking care of myself, which is all true, but this stuff is the ugly truths that I don’t speak of. Even when I’m having a Facebook meltdown and dropping F-bombs like candy on Halloween, I still keep my most inner pain to myself. Even in this post, I hold it all close. I can weep as I write and think of all of the things that pierce my heart to the very core, but I don’t dare speak of them. This is why I have written less lately. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid that if I write, I’ll tell you……my whole heart.

I’m Making Change My B****

*Repost from an old blog site*

Changes.

Man, I’ve never done well or liked change in my life. I remember a story from when I was little that my mom used to tell. I remember her telling me that when I was a very small child (preschool age), my grandma had changed her hair. As soon as I saw her with a different style, I freaked out and was incredibly upset that she no longer looked like the grandma I was used to seeing. And that story pretty much describes how I’ve been with change my entire life.

Lately, there’s been so much change, and I’d be lying if I said I was adapting quickly and easily. It’s been very difficult. It has not been easy adjusting to dealing with every aspect of life completely by myself—cleaning, parenting, car issues, pet issues, cooking, and a million other things. I don’t love having no one by my side, no one texting or calling me because they miss me, no one checking in on me. I don’t love knowing that every single issue there is, I’m the only one responsible. I don’t love that no matter how lonely or sad I feel, there’s no one out there to fix it. I can only fix myself.

It may not be coming easily, but it’s coming though. I’m adapting slowly but surely. I’ve learned a lot about how the only person I can really rely and depend on is me. Only I can save myself. I’m going to be just fine. I will figure out how to not only survive by myself, but I’m going to thrive, baby! I’m strong. I’m independent. I’m smart. I’m passionate. I’m driven. I am woman—hear me roar!!!

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In My Bed

I do a lot more thinking in bed than I would like to, especially lately. Last night, I was lying there wishing for sleep but experiencing some pretty intense back pain from work that left sleep elusive for a long time. This time though, while I was lying there, this blog idea came to me.

I laid there last night thinking about beds. As an adult and a parent, so much happens in bed. It’s the place that lovers make love. It’s the place that moms comfort sick children. It’s often where laundry gets folded, where we take reprieve from stress in the middle of the day, even if only for a moment, and where exhausted people fall in at night in hopes of good sleep.

A lot happens in bed as grownups, and I know that for many of us, it’s our favorite place. When I have a lover, my favorite time of day is when I get to set aside life’s stress and cuddle up to the man I love. I love those few moments of talking, winding down, and snuggling up. I love to lie my head on his chest and just listen to the heart I love beat. If I’m lucky, in those moments before sleep, I get to use my body to show him just how I feel, but even if I don’t, I’m still so happy to breathe in his scent and feel his breathing with mine as we drift off to sleep.

As a single person, I know bed is still my favorite place, just obviously for different reasons. Lately, it’s because my bed is my sanctuary. I get up every day with a determination that I’m going to give my all into making a good life for myself and my kids with just us. I’m making specific effort into not using any of my old Band-Aids to temporarily ease pain. I have a history of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to mask hurts, and I’m hell bent on not turning to those this time. There’s no men that aren’t special to me. No slamming whiskey doubles home alone while I feel sorry for myself. No pot smoking while indulging in high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods to stuff my feelings down.  So instead, I take care of my adult responsibilities each day. I get up, I clean, I do laundry, I take care of the animals, I do all the mommy things (oh my gosh, single parenting is tough work), I keep up with my self-care (which is going to be revealed in depth in a later blog), and I go to work.

Coming home from work, I know I get to still set aside life’s stress and fall into my favorite place, bed. I may be alone in it now, but I get to relax, I get to rest my weary and aching body, I get to just be still. No more stress for the day, no more “adulting,” and no more effort into tackling the world. I get to just breathe.

I feel more peace now than I have in a quite a while. The stress can be high, but there is so much relief in doing things the right way. I’m loving this new me. I’m still the same strong, feisty, sassy woman, but I’m also the woman that for the first time in her entire life, is proudly standing tall in her choices, knowing that she couldn’t be doing any better. So, here’s to my new life, here’s to late night thinking and creativity, and here’s to my bed!

break me