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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Do I Deserve Love?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about love. I’ve been thinking not just about romantic love, but many kinds. . . the love between family, the love a mother is supposed to have for her children, and even self-love. You see, my life has definitely lacked love in places where there should have been much, much more.

I was a child bride and had a husband that loved drugs and alcohol, he loved humiliating me and hurting me, but he didn’t love me. I have a family that isn’t close and doesn’t show love at all towards one another. Way more “fuck you’s” are thrown out between each other than “I love you’s.” Hugs don’t happen with my family and support is virtually non-existent. The biggest pain with that is that there is more love and support shown for some of us from my mother than others. Growing up feeling like I was somehow flawed, because I must be if my own mother can’t like me but clearly loves my siblings, has made me not love myself. If the easiest love to come in the world (the love of a mother for her child) isn’t there, and then my own husband couldn’t love me, then I must be truly broken and unlovable. That was my thinking for a long time anyway.

I’ve written several times about how women are harsh to judge and judge ourselves more than anyone else. We have constant media in our faces telling us we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, slim enough. It makes self-love incredibly difficult. Then, when you add in abusive people, absent or hurtful parents, or other issues and incidences that cause pain, self-love becomes even harder.

For me, I had the lack of bonding with my mother as my foundation in life. Then, I got married as a teen and had 4 children back to back with an abusive man. I didn’t take good care of myself through those hard times in my life (thank you, depression), and so of course, I gained a ton of baby weight and didn’t lose it. I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have any family there for me, and I was living through an abusive marriage with no idea that I deserved any better. I did not love me. In fact, I didn’t just not love myself, I downright hated myself.

Now, we can fast forward several years where I have been away from that man for a long, have lost some of that weight, have made many achievements and advancements in life, and had much personal growth. I’ve struggled still with self-love though. I’ve struggled feeling worthy, and as I’ve recently had a falling out with my family and have endured some other tough events, I’ve been thinking even more about love.

I realized recently that I’ve spent a long time hating myself. I’ve hated my tender heart, I’ve hated my body and the weight I’ve struggled with since I started having children almost 18 years ago, I’ve hated how easily I cry, I’ve hated my lack of self-control in so many areas, and the list goes on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked my face in the mirror and told myself ugly, hateful things because I felt I deserved it. If I exercised, I would think those horrible things to myself out of frustration that I ever let my body get this out of control. I just have been truly disgusted and so I punished myself with hate.

Well, several days ago, I suddenly had an epiphany. I’ve battled my weight for a long time. I’ve also battled many emotional issues for a long time. While I have continued to try to fight against these issues, I’ve tried using the same methods and with the same self-loathing I have always had. What’s that saying about insanity…trying the same way over and over again while expecting different results? That’s what I have been doing. I have decided that no matter what is going on with my family, no matter what man I do or don’t have in my life, and no matter how my body looks, I need to love myself anyway. No matter what, I am deserving of self-love. So now, as I do my daily squats, I’m telling myself in my head, “Look at you go! One. Good job getting active! Two. You are beautiful! Three. You deserve love! Four. Look at you empowering yourself! Five. . .” You get the idea.

If hating myself has gotten me nowhere, then there’s an entire world of possibilities if I love myself instead. It’s been easy to be negative for a long time, so I’m not going to assume that it’s suddenly going to be much easier to be kind to myself, but I can promise that I’m going to keep trying. I am worthy of that much.

This new journey of self-love is important because it’s not only for me, it’s for my children, for my friends, for my coworkers, and for everyone else around me. The better I feel inside, the better mom, friend, and employee I can be. It’s a win for everyone. So, here’s to my new journey. . .

Signing off with a smile and love,
Moonshine Niki

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STOP! Stop Comparing Yourself to Her.

Anyone on my Facebook knows that I feel there is great importance in lifting others up, especially women. While that sounds great in theory, it seems to be something that is difficult for us. Why is that?

Think about this, ladies; when you see an attractive woman walk by, what are your first thoughts and feelings? As you stand next to each other in line at your favorite coffee shop or at the grocery store checkout, can you easily throw out a “Hey girl, cute shoes/shirt/purse/hair/lipstick!” at her? Or do you quietly judge her in your head because you are automatically comparing yourself to her. Or better yet, comparing her great parts to your flaws? In my experience as a woman, the latter is much easier, but why?

In my post, I Am More Than My Cleavage, I talk about media, advertising, and the objectification of women. In that post, I was talking about the sexualization of women/girls and all the problems that causes. This post is similar because again, the media plays a HUGE part in this. It is in our faces constantly that we are supposed to be pretty, thin, curvy, confident, have perfect hair, have perfect teeth, have clear skin, be perfect mommies, be fashionable, be a sex goddess, be perfect wives/relatives/friends, and a million other unattainable perfections. This constant “in your face” media makes it damn hard to just be happy with ourselves and happy with the woman we walk by on the street.

One area I personally struggle in is being a mom. For a ton of reasons (none of which I will list here) I often feel a pang of jealousy when I see another mom doing something great. It used to really cause negative feelings in me. I would see something posted on Facebook and I immediately would think to myself about how that mom was just being boastful. Over the years though, I have grown a lot. In that growth, I can now recognize that my negative feelings for other women are so very often a reflection of my own feelings of failure. It had nothing to do with them, I just didn’t realize it. In fact, none of that was even a conscious thought until I’d reconnected with someone I used to be friends with. She is an amazing wife and mother of 5 children, and it clearly shows on her Facebook account. On Sunday, just as I was getting ready to make pancakes, eggs, and bacon for my family for breakfast, my friend’s status showed, “Drinking mint tea and my morning smoothie! Breakfast: Fried potatoes with garlic, pepper, red and green bell peppers and onion, cinnamon rolls I made last night, bacon, sausage, English muffins and I have these fruits ready to there liking: Cantaloupe, cherries, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, sliced up pink lady apples, green and red grapes, sliced oranges, peaches, cherry tomatoes and bananas. Veggie choices: Spinach leaves, celery and carrot sticks, red and green bell pepper, sliced raw broccoli, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, green beans, snow peas, sliced cauliflower, cubed squash, buttered asparagus and raspberries. Three different yogurts, six cheeses, coconut milk or whole dairy milk and nuts galore to choose from! Now for these people to wake up, anytime now, serious!” For a split second, I thought oh my goodness, why can’t I be like that?! I immediately redirected my thinking and remembered that she is just that freaking awesome and it’s okay that she is amazing. It is also okay that my kids were “just” getting pancakes, eggs, and bacon. We were both feeding our families out of love and that is what matters.

Advertising works hard at making us hate ourselves. It does this because they want to sell products. Buy this teeth whitener, that brand of clothing, this brand of makeup, this diet supplement, and that bra. . . The list is endless because it is effective.  It’s mentally exhausting worrying about it and how we compare to others, and it requires conscious effort to remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Ladies, it is not easy to remember with all that is in our faces every single day that we are all worthy and we do not need to compare ourselves, but it is worth the effort. There will always be someone else that is more pretty, has better hair, has a more flattering figure, etc., but those other women DO NOT affect you. Embrace the differences, lift each other up, compliment what you like in others, and go to sleep at night knowing that those around you don’t make you any less of the amazing woman you are. 

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