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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I Am A Prize

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.

Hard Times, Harder Fight

This last week has been one of the hardest I have endured in a long time. As I have been fighting hard to make my life better, it seems that for every step forward I take, I am knocked back two. While I’m working hard to keep making forward progress, this last week made me feel like what little light I had going on at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

I have written over and over again about hope, positivity, and choosing to focus on the good in life. I struggled this week though for a variety of reasons. It was like life needed to knock me on my butt, and once I was there, the blows just kept coming.

I got a new full time job. Yay, right?! Wrong. For one, I’m not thrilled to be back to living the two job life. Working 6 to 7 days a week is exhausting. It pretty much takes away any kind of personal life I can have and makes it seem like I just live to work. Two jobs is temporary though, so I can get over that. For the first time in my life though, I’m now in a factory job. The work is hard, the days are long, the rules are extremely strict, and my position is outside in the elements all day. Coming into winter now makes me cringe at the thought of having to spend 40+ hours outside in it each week. I was devastated when I realized my position assignment for this. It was definitely not what I had wanted.

On top of the work stuff, it seems that my entire personal life decided to fall apart at the same time too. While I don’t want to go into much detail because it’s not just my privacy at stake, but many others too, I can say that this week was nothing short of a shitshow. Every single day, life was throwing punches that were pummeling my heart. I cried, I screamed, I yelled, and then I cried some more. I even had a full on meltdown. Let’s just say that life was not kind to me over the last several days. I had several moments where I felt like this is all just too hard, and I wanted to throw in the towel. Exhaustion, adjusting to major new life changes, getting my feelings hurt deeply, dealing with parenting rebellious teenagers, and more all at once was enough to leave me crying like a little baby every single day. It was just an incredibly hard week.

As I’ve been thinking about all of this the last couple of days though, I am reminded of one thing. I can’t change a lot about my life circumstances right now. The one thing I can control though is my attitude. I have a choice in whether or not I crumple to the ground and let my entire world fall apart. I have a choice in whether or not I want to start this new job with a positive outlook. I have a choice in whether or not I want to wallow in miserable self-pity or if I pull myself up by the bootstraps and push forward with a smile on my face.

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It is okay to have those occasional meltdowns, especially when life is throwing the amount of crazy curveballs it has been throwing me lately. It is okay to cry and scream and lose it. Go ahead and meltdown. But then, when you’ve cried it all out, dry your eyes, wash your face, and then get back up! If life is going to throw punches, then throw some punches of your own back! You own your life, you own your reactions and choices, and you own your behavior. Focus on what you can change, and let go of what you cannot. These were the big lessons I was reminded of this week.

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And lastly, if you are struggling to the point that you are considering suicide, please reach out. There are many resources available and you are not alone. Your life is worth living.

Hang in there, my friends. Life is all about seasons and if you are going through an incredibly hard season right now, take comfort in knowing that a good one is coming soon.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki

Where Are My Happy Memories?

Two days ago, my therapist gave me a writing assignment (bless her heart, she already knows me so well). Here’s the thing though, for the last two days, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what I’m going to write.

I’m supposed to write about something positive or happy memories. She explained that for those that suffer from PTSD, our brains become hardwired to always see negative first and that focusing on the positive helps to redirect the brain. It didn’t seem like a big deal when she said it, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I totally get it. Every time I think of something happy or positive memories, I immediately associate it with something else bad. Every positive moment cancelled out in my brain by the negative. I think about events with my kids and immediately, my brain is telling me, “You can’t write about that, you haven’t been a very good mom.” I thought about memories of my dad (my step dad) when I was young, like him teaching me how to drive or playing one-on-one basketball like we used to do, and my brain responds, “You shouldn’t favor your dad, you are a bad daughter for not being closer to your mom,” or, “How can you write about your dad when your relationship is virtually non-existent now?” It’s hard enough to come up with a positive thing to write about here at all, but even worse my mind is telling me constantly that I’m somehow bad for it.

While trying to think of what the hell I’m going to write, all I’ve done is cry and put myself down and think of what a failure I’ve been. This is exactly why I went and got signed up for therapy in the first place. I know logically that the negative thoughts are lies from the years of pain and brokenness and trauma, but feeling differently is definitely going to take some work. So, for now, I’ll keep on trying to figure out, where are my happy memories?

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*Image origin unknown*

Onward and Upward, Baby!

When I sit down to write, I normally have a specific topic and some kind of outline I intend to follow. Every once in a while though, my heart is just full and the only clear path I have is to just actually open the computer and let my fingers go. Today is the latter.

Heartbreak…. Man, oh man, heartbreak. It’s something we all are familiar with, but it’s one of those things that unless you are in the thick of it, it’s easy to forget how difficult it can be. Sadly, for this, I’m also currently experiencing the latter. In. The. Thick. Of. It. The crazy thing about this heartbreak though is that it’s a complex mix of emotions. More complex than I have ever experienced before. I didn’t initiate it, but I should have. Things weren’t right and we both knew it. I’m a sap though and loyal to a freakin’ fault, so out of love, I kept trying.

While he initiated it, even while it stung and hurt and part of me didn’t want it, I still knew it was the right thing. What I did not realize was how much it still would hurt. So what do I do now? My financial situation is up in the air and I need to come up with a plan, and quickly. In fact, everything is up in the air, and it is terrifying. I hate the way it feels, stress constantly tearing my stomach up, nights spent tossing and turning and not being able to sleep deeply for long, and being exhausted, but sleep not easily coming either. I did not want to be here again! And even more than that, I didn’t want my kids to be here again.

So here we are, having a brand new start again. Once again, I’m trying to figure out what will probably end up being a second job, and figuring out what our new normal is. The one thing I know for sure though is that I want to be okay by myself. In fact, I want to be happy by myself. I don’t want to live my life looking forward to the someday when I will inevitably meet someone new. I’ve been on a journey of self-love for a little bit now, and I definitely intend to keep that up.

I am worthy of love, self-respect, happiness, stability, and a good life, even if it is alone. These are my current goals. I know we are going to be okay. So for me and my almost grown babies, it’s upward and onward, baby!

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Healing Hurts

I’ve been thinking a lot about deep hurts lately. The kind that cut deep into one’s soul and make one’s heart bleed for a long time. These hurts…these hurts that steal one’s breath, these hurts that cause body shaking, soul quaking sobbing crying…these hurts, I’m familiar with.

Today, I told someone about a memory of my oldest and youngest child together. It is probably my only clear and specific memory of these two children together since my youngest’s life was stolen from us way too early. The memory is a fond one, but after I mentioned it, I felt a familiar and yet horrible pain that I wish my heart had never known. The pain of grief…the kind of grief that you could never know unless you are a parent that has held your dead child.

It doesn’t matter how long has passed, there will forever be moments where intense grief sneaks up and squeezes my heart so hard it feels like I won’t be able to catch my breath again. Now, admittedly, these moments are rare now (thank God), but they happen at random and will happen forever. I can talk about my daughter without crying, and I do this frequently, but there are just those times where it is painful again like back at the beginning when she was first gone.

I’m certain that today’s pain was a byproduct of other intense hurts I’ve been feeling lately. It’s like having a fresh scab that gets bumped. While that bump wasn’t much, the wound is fresh, so it bleeds easily. That is my heart these days. I can only handle so much before I’m bleeding all over the place, and lately, baby, I’m bleeding.

I get told frequently in life that I am strong, and this is true. I continue to wake up each day with a smile and fresh hope, but it doesn’t make what I endure any easier. In fact, I don’t even know anymore that this is necessarily a good thing. It just is what it is. I personally don’t feel like it’s anything that I have a choice in—it’s just who I am.

So lately, while so much is searing my heart, while I continue to wake each day filled with hope, while each day something hurts deeply and I smile anyway, please know that doesn’t mean any of it is easy. I’m human and I hurt. Like so many others out there, I’m just trying to get through life. I’m trying to not just survive, but thrive. I have no choice but to believe that while there is so much that hurts today, there can be so much that feels amazing tomorrow. It is in this hope that I find healing. A healing that lets me keep going. So in the midst of pain tonight, I smile knowing that once again, I will be up in the morning with the world’s biggest hopes, and maybe, just maybe, tomorrow the hurts will be healed.

My Sunshine Is Coming

I have been so incredibly busy. I have 3 teenagers, 2 jobs, and 1 very hectic life. I’m constantly on the go and when I do have downtime, all I want to do is get into my cozy clothes and hangout on my couch. One thing I greatly miss about having more time though is writing, of course.

I went back and re-read a blog yesterday that I’d written a couple months ago and the yearning in my heart to write was so overwhelming. I have had tons of blog ideas lately, but just haven’t been able to get them out. I sometimes start, but then get sidetracked or overwhelmed with other things. Reading that blog though, I needed it. I needed it to fan the flames inside of me. I needed to be set back on track. While I still don’t think I have time today to bang out anything spectacular, it was important to me that I sit down and at least write a couple hundred words about anything in general.

I’m treading water in this current storm as fast and hard as I can. Lately, I’m working 7 days a week and still barely keeping my face out of the water. My kids miss me and I miss them. Sometimes I get bogged down with memories of my old life and it feels hard. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I full on body shaking, soul quaking sob. But each and every day, I get back up with a heart full of hope and a soul full of determination. Each day, I get ready and get the kids to the bus stop and go to work. Each day, I battle exhaustion and chronic pain and I do what I have to do. I’m strong. I get told that a lot, and it is true. But the thing is, I don’t have a choice. I can’t not pay my bills. I can’t not feed my children. I can’t not go to work. So I trudge on.

I’ve been on a few dates lately and have conflicted emotions about this. It’s nice to be reminded that I am a woman and desired, but I also don’t want to waste time. I’m not looking for random hook-ups or someone to just kill time with. I’m also unwilling to settle and know that I deserve a hell of a man. I deserve someone who has just as much drive in life as I do. I deserve loyalty and dedication. I deserve tenderness and sweetness. I deserve intelligence and thoughtfulness. And finding a man in today’s times with all of this is well, sadly, a hard feat. I don’t hold out much hope that some man is going to swoop in and sweep me off my feet and make it so that my life isn’t so lonely and hard, but let’s face it, I’m a hopeless romantic. I do have a giant faith that my “forever” is somewhere out there and will someday present himself. I just don’t think it’ll be any time soon, and that’s okay.

For now, most of my focus and energy goes into just surviving each day. I’m just trying to maintain. I know that life can’t be like this forever and it won’t be. I also know that some of the brightest days happen after a storm. So for the time being, I’m patiently enduring the rain knowing my sunshine is coming.

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*Photo from Google*