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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Burning Bridges

“Are we soulmates?” He asked late one night during one of our many deep conversations where we connected heart to heart. I felt my body flush with emotion. I was so happy to have met someone that seemed so much like me. I was filled with so much hope. He was sweet and kind, he read every blog I wrote and told me when he read Dear Future Lover that it was going to make him fall for me. I felt safe to be me. I felt we were kindred spirits.

Over the months of our connection, we progressed in our intimacy. We agreed at the beginning that we were just feeling things out. I was fresh out of a breakup, but that was nothing compared to him being fresh out of a marriage with a woman he’d been with for 17 years. We connected so easily and so quickly though, that even while guarded, I allowed it and had hope. I thought we were moving slowly. We went from having a drink together to sleepovers and coffee in the mornings on the weekends. We talked every day all day. We saw each other every single weekend for months. We spent the holidays together; he came to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I cooked Christmas dinner at his house, and we went out together on New Year’s Eve. We took dozens of photos together, went grocery shopping together, and appeared in public as if we were a couple. While I knew that we were not a couple, I believed heart and soul that we were on our way there.

Before I knew it, I was in love with him. I woke up the day after Thanksgiving knowing it and cried out of fear and just from overwhelming emotion. I’ve written over and over here about my tender heart, how I am lover, a nurturer by nature, and ruled by my emotions. My heart is never that much of a secret. I tried to hold it all in anyway though because I didn’t want to scare him away. I knew that he wasn’t where I was at, and I wanted to give him time. So much pointed to that happening, so I swallowed my love, over and over…until it began to choke the life out of me.

You see, we had a few times where he told me that we were just friends. I am guilty of ignoring that, but he made it so easy to ignore. His words on the subject were so few and far between, and no matter the few times that he told me that, all of his actions pointed to the opposite. There were times I asked for clarity, asked for him to tell me if there was no hope…he would say that we would talk, he would come over, I would cook dinner for him, we would have drinks, and then no talk would happen. We were caught up in feeling happy, in enjoying each other’s company, and the night would end with us in a loving embrace. I knew he was scared, I knew he was confused, and I assumed by reading his actions that it would all be okay. And it was…until it wasn’t.

I felt him pulling away and getting more distant. I ignored it. He was still seeing me every weekend and talking to me every day, so that meant we were okay, right? Wrong. I’ve said many times that I’m the kind of person that you have to just be bluntly honest and tell me what you are thinking because I won’t pick up on hints. This is not entirely true though. One huge problem I’ve realized while contemplating all of this over the last couple of days is that I don’t trust my intuition. I second guess and doubt myself. I lie to myself and tell my own heart that things are fine and I’m overthinking and overreacting. So, when I finally pressed for a real answer while face to face several weeks ago about what we were doing, a big part of me was not shocked to see his face fall when I asked. I knew the answer was not going to be what I wanted. I had spent months in love with a man that a part of me KNEW was using me as a stepping stone woman. His words confirmed my fears.

I couldn’t hold my love inside anymore though. It was eating my heart more and more by the day. I couldn’t handle seeing flirting on Facebook anymore. I couldn’t handle drama that was popping up in his life and where I was beginning to look foolish to others because while I was focused on him, he was very much still acting single in private and people began to assume that we were in a relationship and he was cheating. I had to set my fears aside and face reality. I needed to know where I stood. I couldn’t choke on my love for another day more.

He told me he wasn’t in a place to commit. He was vague. I asked him to just hurt me and tell me there was no hope if there wasn’t any, because we both knew I would just keep hoping without those words. He refused to say that too. I was left without much clarity. I was just as confused as ever, only this time with pain in my heart. We were back to just friends. Only…that didn’t last long either.

*The bigger heartbreak…*

The friendship I so desperately wanted to keep, the friendship I so much cherished appeared to be a farce. So quickly, the contact began to dissipate. The very first weekend after our talk, he was with another woman. It hurt like hell, but I had to be accepting. It was clear we weren’t meant to be lovers. What I was completely unprepared for though was the fallout that was yet to come.

Ignored messages… Read messages going without response… Being unfollowed on Facebook… I suddenly felt like I’d lost my best friend. I was stubborn though and refused to just accept it. As a boundary pusher, I continued to push. My heart was hurting, and there seemed to be more layers of hurt being added by the day. I was accepting of the fact there was no longer a romantic component to our relationship, but I truly thought the connection we had was genuine and worth keeping as just friends. I didn’t just love him in a romantic sense. I truly loved him as my friend. I continued to let the hurt feelings and emotion rule me though, and in true Moonshine Niki stubborn fashion, I continued to push.

When I’m caught up in emotion, when I feel like I have to feel out boundaries instead of being told truths in black and white, I get dramatic. I get intense. I get into a spot where it all feels world-ending. Then, sometimes, I burn bridges just to prevent myself from having to try to feel anything out anymore, to prevent myself from being able to go back to something that is not good. So you can imagine where I’m going here… I pushed about my hurt feelings. I pushed about how I felt we weren’t actually friends. I pushed about how much it hurt my heart to be unfollowed on social media, how I felt he’d completely removed me from his life. I pushed until he snapped at me and blocked me.

I stood staring at my phone in shock. I was hurt, but more than hurt, I was suddenly angry, filled with rage. I thought about all I had invested into our friendship. I thought about all of the ways my feelings were hurt. I thought about how I felt wronged. I cried yet again, and then I took my emotionally drained and exhausted self to bed.

But then, I had an incredible realization the next morning. While I felt wronged in many ways (a list I will not go into here for many reasons, including that I still hold some respect for him), I realized that I played a role in my hurt as well. I chose to ignore the warning signs. I chose to ignore his words telling me that we weren’t more serious than friends. I chose to give my body, and consequently, my heart because the two are very much connected for me to a man that was never committed to me. I chose to believe in the good things, while completely and selfishly disregarding the negative. In my pain and anger, I allowed myself to play the role of the victim and completely take away from my own personal accountability. I realized this is a pattern for myself, and one that has to stop. I can’t always be the victim.

Burning bridges is sometimes empowering. Holding myself accountable though, that’s even more empowering. I am in charge of my choices. I am in charge of what I let in my heart, and I am in charge of what I allow to hurt my heart.

There are positives to all of this too. When this began, I was catapulted into sudden personal growth and life change. When I was busy crying over my broken heart, the heart I had completely given to him, I realized I was pursuing the wrong man and men in general. I need to be pursuing the Lord. All of this made me remember and realize that I need to be more focused on taking loving care of myself so that I can take better care of my family.

Life is tough right now, and I won’t lie, losing my person, losing the friend that was my rock in the middle of an ocean trying to drown me, losing the person I shared my heart and soul with every single day for almost 5 months will hurt for a long time. It’s going to take major time and self-reflection to heal. One thing I know already though is that I’m determined to take on more accountability and stop finger pointing from here on out. It’s time to be more of a grownup.

So while I’ve burned yet another bridge in my life, like the cleansing effect of a wildfire, on this fresh ground, I will now build a new stronger foundation for my future. I have only up to go from here.

27459997_1539849156123249_8636745616146410953_n*image from R.H. Sin*

PS If you read this, I will miss your friendship, my dear. Thank you for your part in this eye-opening wake-up call that is going to forever change my life. It hurts, but I know there will come a day where I’m so grateful for it all. Good luck in life, my old friend.

 

 

An Open Book

I saw a meme on Facebook that said something like, “I’m an open book in a world full of people that don’t read.” This speaks loudly to me as I can relate so well. I’m so much different from most of those around me. I’m a deep feeler surrounded by those that are numb. I’m a master communicator surrounded by those that just remain silent when I so badly just need to hear their words. So what do I do? I hold so much inside. I hold it inside until it feels like it’s all going to make me crazy. I hold it in while it eats my soul. I quietly cry tears of loneliness and frustration in the dark. I privately meltdown feeling I’m just too much for others. Then, I do the only thing I know how to do to cope, and I write.

The biggest problem in all of this is that there is just no changing it. I can’t water myself down. I have no idea how to be any different than the intensely feeling, fiercely loving, caring with my entire heart woman I am. Sometimes I feel like that is empowering, and other times, I feel like it is a lifelong punishment. I can’t help but wonder if this is every really going to pay off, or if I’m just going to spend my life with this complex heart that no one truly understands…

I don’t have much choice in anything though, other than choosing to try to be positive, choosing to keep my hope and faith intact, choosing not to allow the world to make me bitter, and choosing to continue writing. The rest of life is left up to powers bigger than mine. One thing is certain, I’m just always going to be that open book, and maybe someday, that open book can become a real written book and will make an impact on others for the better. This is my biggest life goal.

So, here’s to the open books…

*Photo from J. Warren Welch*