The Life Not My Own

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Mommy Wars, or Why Stay-At-Home Moms are Silent

I grew up with a brilliant, strong woman for a mother who had left off scaling the career ladder to be a stay-at-home mom to my sisters and I.  We were encouraged to do the same someday, and I came into adulthood and motherhood (by no fault of my mother’s…just my own convictions) staunchly believing that being a full-time stay-at-home mom was the best way for a mom who actually wanted to mother her kids and be a godly mother.

Actually being a mom changes things.

Since entering the world of motherhood, I’ve met moms from near and far and from all walks of life.  If I’ve learned anything, it’s we can’t put godly motherhood in a box.  It doesn’t look the same for every mom.  I have friends who are working moms who are doing exactly what God has called them to do. 

I’ve also come to realize that most moms are self-conscious about their own chosen path.  Working moms, in particular, complain that they don’t feel comfortable around stay-at-home moms…that they feel judged for working and still pursuing careers.

Working Moms, let me let you in on a little secret…stay-at-home moms feel judged too.  They’ve heard the whispers about how they’re lazy, or must be bored just sitting home all day, or are just lucky that their husband’s bring in the big bucks.  And each whisper stings deep.   

Many stay-at-home moms struggle with feelings of inadequacy.  They watch their working mom friends juggle a career, kids, and a home with seemingly flawless ease.  The old argument that you’d be paying someone to watch your kids while you work anyway (and, therefore, being a stay-at-home mom is a real job) only serves to fuel their feelings of worthlessness.  They want to be seen as more than a glorified baby sitter.  They want to feel like they are doing something important and worthwhile…but some days they’re honestly lucky to get out of sweatpants or fold a load of laundryTheir hard-working men march off each day to bring home a little to put in their bank account, and they meanwhile only seem to drain it. 

They listen to their working mom friends talk about all the awesome things they’re doing and accomplishing at work.  They listen to talk of grand, important things and a kind of busyness that makes the bottoms they wiped and the PB&J sandwiches they made seem insignificant and mundane.  

And so, they keep silent.  What, really, can they say?  “Oh, you saved a patient’s life today or taught a room full of third grader’s math?  I picked up blocks and cleaned up cracker crumbs.  My main struggle today was getting my son down for his nap, and I cried when my husband called and said he’d have to work late tonight.” 

The truth, however, is that a stay-at-home mom’s job is just as important as a working mom’s…it’s just different.  Take it from someone who’s been both a SAHM and a working mom…you feel just as exhausted, drained, and sucked dry after a day at home with your children as you do after a day at the office dealing with people and papers and money.  Yet, there can also be just as much joy, just as many accomplishments, and just as much self-worth.  What truly matters is that your day was spent right where God wants YOU to be, doing the things that He’s called YOU to do.

We are all moms, but we are also all unique.  The way we mother and live our lives should be unique as well.  We need to stop criticizing one another’s choices and instead encourage each other on the path God has led us each on specifically.  We won’t always understand each other or agree, and that’s okay.  It’s okay to be different from one another.  What’s not okay is to demean someone else for being different from you in order to build yourself up and make yourself feel better about your choices. 

Ladies, being a mother is stinking hard work.  We all have those days that we lock ourselves in the bathroom knowing that we’ll have a nervous breakdown if we hear that nasally, whiny, “MOM!!!” one. more. time.  Being a mom is tough enough without having to deal with the constant critiques and judgments from other moms.  Lets stop arguing about whose path is better, and start encouraging and supporting each other instead.  Lets stop focusing on our differences and start embracing the similar experiences we share as mothers.  Lets stop the mommy wars and start building each other up. 

Working mom, stay-at-home mom…what does it matter really?  What matters is that we are all women trying to navigate the unknown waters of motherhood. Better we do it together than all alone.   

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Seasons of the Mundane

The newborn season of motherhood is full of seemingly mundane busyness.  Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, or just on maternity leave, it often seems like all you do all day is feed the baby, change dirty diapers, and attempt to go to the bathroom (mostly unsuccessfully).  In reality, that's probably all you are doing.

Pretty much my entire day yesterday consisted of nursing a baby who was obviously going through a growth spurt, and taking a potty-training toddler to the bathroom while the baby screamed bloody murder.  Supper came in the form of a crockpot freezer meal hastily eaten in front of the tv while my husband held the baby.  On days like yesterday, it's easy to look in the mirror and wonder what happened to all your dreams and goals.  Wasn't it just a few short weeks ago that you were more than just a sleep-deprived, milk-producing, diaper-changing machine?  

This isn't my first rodeo.  I know from experience that all too soon this newborn phase will pass.  In the blink of an eye that tiny screaming newborn will be the potty-training toddler proudly announcing every time she toots, far too busy to happily snuggle with Mama all day.  Even still, I have to fight off negative thoughts:  I'm not getting anything done all day.  I've abandoned the other passions and ministries God has called me to.  I've lost who I am in this whole business of being a mother.  All lies meant to distract me from the glorious, fleeting things God has called me to in the here and now.

Each time I take that toddler to the bathroom, I'm taking one more baby step in the process of molding and shaping him into the man God is calling him to be.  Each time I feed that baby, I'm providing her with the nourishment she needs to grow and one day fulfill the wonderful things God has in store for her.  Each time my husband holds her as I eat, I watch him fall more in love with her, becoming the daddy that she needs.  Each time I apologize to the toddler for snapping at him for kissing the baby too roughly, I see a little more clearly God's heart towards us...and see Him using this season to shape me into the woman He wants me to be.

No season of life is ever mundane or only seems that way on the surface.  

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Shaming the Breastfeeding Challenged

I'm going to be real honest: breastfeeding and I have a love-hate relationship.  As much as I loved nursing my son and am very pro-breastfeeding, I don't believe that breastfeeding is always the best way.  There are way too many moms out there (me included) that are made to feel like less of a mother for either struggling with breastfeeding, not enjoying it, or choosing not to breastfeed altogether.

This was circulating recently, and it was awesome, but I think that some women forget that there are other reasons besides health ones that can prevent moms from being able to nurse their babies.  For some, the stress of nursing is just not worth it.  For others, breastfeeding is a struggle and at some point the benefits of fighting for it don't outweigh the physical and emotional exhaustion.  For still others, their supply, their physical attributes, or their baby's mouth keeps them from being able to breastfeed.  

I've not really shared this here before, but I really struggled nursing Miles in the beginning.  I had dreams of effortlessly nursing my newborn in what would be a completely natural and incredibly bonding experience.  Unfortunately, a combo of issues between me and him made latching impossible.  For several months, the only way I could get him latched was with a shield.  Even then, it was a struggle.  There was a lot of screaming and frustration.  Finally, though, he got the hang of it and became a pro.  Breastfeeding became a beautiful, peaceful thing, and I loved it.  I couldn't understand how anyone who could breastfeed would choose not to.  I was terribly proud of myself for sticking with it and persevering.

When Nora was born, I prepared myself for another struggle.  To my surprise, only minutes after she arrived she latched right on.  She was such a good little nurser that she wanted to nurse constantly.  My poor husband had to go to Walmart at 5 am to get a pacifier and give me a break.  I was in proud Mommy heaven.

Then engorgement struck.  Terrible, painful engorgement that I wasn't able to get to go down for several days.  Suddenly my nursing champ couldn't latch.  After a sleepless night of trying unsuccessfully to get her to nurse, and her not getting more than a few drops of milk, we gave in and gave her a bottle of pumped milk.  One bottle.  That's all it took for my nursing pro to decide that nursing was simply too much work.

My dreams of easily nursing my newborn whenever and wherever crumbled into a heap.  I can't even begin to describe to you how hard it is to have your own child screaming in rejection of you, in favor of a cold, artificial substitute.  Meanwhile, all you can think of are the many, many friends whose baby's latch right on and never have any trouble nursing.  You know it's not true, but you can't help but feel like a failure.

You see, I know from experience that not being able to "Exclusively Breastfeed" (or "EBF", as it's known in the cyber world), whether by choice or necessity, is never easy.  Something deep down whispers that you are less of a woman.  After all, women have been doing it for thousands of years so why can't you? 

Then there's the judgement from other moms, especially those that don't know the pain it is to struggle to nurse your little one.  Whether imagined or not, you feel the stares when you pull out that bottle.  You hesitate before posting that cute anecdote about your child on Facebook because it includes the world "bottle", and you know what certain moms will think.  You cringe inside when that mom who doesn't understand the whole situation gives you advice on what will help with your "problem".  You skip over that article someone shared for the millionth time about how much better breastfeeding is, implying that your kid will be less healthy, smart, and developed than those lucky kids who nursed until they were 2.

Mamas, if you've struggled with breastfeeding or have had to give up on it altogether for whatever reason, take heart.  You are not less of a mama, and your child will not lack because of it.  My grandma likes to remind people that all of her three amazingly smart, high-IQ, beautiful children (which include an orthodontist and a PhD psychologist) were, in fact, formula babies, as were my sister and I.  If you can breastfeed, that's wonderful, but breastfeeding alone will not dictate the future and health of your children.  What's far more important is for our children to have a mentally stable mama who loves them with all of her heart.

To those of you to whom nursing comes easily, think twice before passing judgement.  If you haven't struggled with breastfeeding, you can't fully understand the struggle of those who have.  Make the choice to support other mothers, whether they breastfeed of bottle feed.  What is best for one family and one child will not be best for another family and another child.  We need to embrace one another and the unique paths that we are all on.  Remember that breastfeeding your children does not make you a better mother than the woman who bottle feeds.  


Nora is almost three weeks old now, and she's had more bottles than I can count.  I'm producing more than enough milk, so it's all been mama's milk, but it's still not my preference or my choice.  Pumping often enough to produce enough milk for your little one is exhausting (especially when that includes pumping in the middle of the night after already having fed your baby a bottle).  There have definitely been days that I've wondered how long we'll make it before switching to formula.  Being a busy wife and mama makes exclusively pumping for the next year impossible.  I had to come to terms with the fact that, should she not return to breastfeeding, my sweet Nora might end up on formula...and I had to be okay with that.

Thankfully, taking it one day at a time has worked.  By the grace of God (because it's certainly nothing I've done), my sweet Nora has suddenly decided that she really does like nursing after all.  It's 3 in the afternoon and she hasn't had one bottle all day.  Yet, I know that that could change in a heartbeat, and that's perfectly fine.  My worth and value as her mother is not tied up in my ability to feed her the "natural way".  Instead, it's found in the love and devotion I have for her, whether she's fed formula in a bottle or right at my chest.  

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