Hi, mom. You matter. You are enough.

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Reading blog posts, tweets, Facebook comments, HuffPo articles and pretty much anything and everything else on the Internet can be quite overwhelming, especially as a parent. Every day, I am bombarded with tips for getting my picky eaters to eat their kale chips and advice on how to find balance in my life as a mom, wife and driven woman. I am told which articles about parenting I should read and why. I am reminded of how I should cherish my time with my kids and let go of my quest for a maintainable work-life balance. The Internet provides me with examples of “bad” parents and “shameful” kids. Everyone has an opinion about how to parent or how not to parent. And the Internet makes it easy to share these opinions and provide unsolicited advice to those of us who clearly need help with our parenting skills and philosophies on raising decent human beings.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy staying on top of what’s trending on Twitter and Facebook. I find helpful information online about what I could do differently to be a better parent, and I find some valuable and honest insights into motherhood and parenthood by reading other blogs. Sometimes this information makes me question my parenting techniques and worth as a parent, though. Am I doing enough to raise responsible, intelligent and healthy human beings? Should I have put my not-even-four-year-old in preschool this year like every other mom on Facebook? Will having frozen chicken nuggets for lunch cause my children to become obese? Do I spend too much time on my iPhone when my kids are playing together at the park without needing my assistance? Sure many of my questions are silly, but as silly as these questions are, these questions are real.

Every day I ask myself what I could or should be doing differently as a parent. Every day someone has an opinion about what I should or should not be doing. Every day. It gets to be overwhelming. And sometimes this causes me to stress over things I should not stress out about — like trying to be the perfect parent. There is no such thing. I truly believe that, now. Coming from a perfectionist, this is a hard pill to swallow, but it is a good one to swallow. Swallowing this pill is allowing me to understand and focus on the real responsibilities and goals I have as a parent.

What is important to me is raising kids who are happy, healthy, confident, respectful, responsible, caring, independent and believers in goodness. Instead of focusing on what other parents are doing to raise their children, I need to focus on how I can help my children achieve their potential. And I need to give myself more credit for being a kick-ass mom, and you do, too.

Instead of focusing on what every other parent and supposed parenting “expert” is doing or telling you what you should do, make it a goal to focus on yourself more. Forget about those parents who should be ashamed of themselves for not properly disciplining their children after they broke into that home. Forget about the moms who were judging their children’s friends for posting selfies on Facebook. Forget about the dad who decided that he had to remind those who don’t have kids that they have “no clue” what it is like to go grocery shopping with little kids. Forget about all of that. And just spend some time focusing on yourself, because you matter. You are worth a blog post, too.

My mom made more sacrifices than I can count to raise my sister and me. I don’t like using the word “sacrifice” when talking about motherhood and parenting because it often has a negative connotation. But a sacrifice can also be good. A sacrifice is an offering to something or someone greater. As a parent, my mom made many offerings to provide my sister and me with the upbringing we needed and deserved. And now it is my duty to make the same offerings to provide my children with the upbringing that they need and deserve. It is the duty of each and every single parent. And the way in which we accomplish this task will vary because we all have different needs, and all of our children have different needs. In the end, what is most important is making sure our children have what they deserve and need. They deserve our love. They deserve to be children. They deserve to be given opportunities to pursue their interests. They need our love. They need to be taken care of every day. They need boundaries. My mom made countless offerings to provide my sister and me with what we deserved and needed, even though these offerings required a lot of action on her part. But even though these offerings were difficult to make at times, my mother never regretted having to make these offerings because she knew she was doing something great for her two daughters. She knew she was doing something that would have a permanent and positive effect on our lives. My sister and I are certainly not perfect creatures, as much as we would like to think that we are, but we have been given the desire to love and be good people. What more could a mother ask for of her children?

My mother’s countless offerings during my childhood are a part of my life that I keep more private than others, but I will offer some sort of a back story. To put it as simply as possible, my biological father was not the most stable person. He could not take care of himself in a healthy way, and this distracted him from being the type of father that my sister and I needed when we were kids. This was difficult for our family, but no matter how my mother felt about her situation, she never took it out on us. She continued to love my sister and me. She continued to do the best she could do to make us feel important. She continued to take us to dance class and to our sporting events. She continued to cheer us on and help us study for tests. She continued to provide a healthy home, even while she was trying to help our father overcome his challenges. And even when it got to be too much, even when she knew that our father would not change, even when she probably wanted to just sit in bed and not move, she got up for me. She got up for my sister. She went to work. She did her job. Then she came home and continued to make us feel like we were the most important creatures in the world. She gave us her all. And because she was able to do that, my sister and I turned out to be pretty decent people.

Eventually my parents divorced. I was old enough to understand that it was one of the healthiest choices my mother could make. But it was still difficult because it meant that for two weekends out of the month, my mother could not take care of us the way we had needed to be taken care of by a parent. I was old enough to take care of my sister, though. I was old enough to make sure she was oblivious to our father’s unhealthy lifestyle. Without my strong mother to look up to, I might have never been able to remain so responsible and brave those weekends. Without a selfless mother, I might have never felt important enough to be a good person and to make smart and healthy choices. You see, my mother didn’t put me in piano lessons at age three. She didn’t take me to the library every week. She didn’t even breast feed me, mainly because I was a stubborn newborn. What my mother did do was much greater: She gave everything to make sure my sister and I knew that we were loved. She gave everything to make sure we knew what was right and what was wrong. And she showed us how to be caring, respectful and strong people. She showed us how to stand up for ourselves. She showed us the importance of making healthy choices, and she showed us how to be great mothers. What more could a mother do?

You matter. As a parent or caregiver, you have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. You also have one of the most rewarding jobs. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, you matter. You have the power to be a great influence on the children in your lives. You have the power to make a difference. It doesn’t matter whether your parenting style differs from how your siblings or friends parent. What matters is that your parenting techniques are healthy and effective. It doesn’t matter whether you are able to put your child in numerous activities or a select few. What matters is that your child knows that you are willing to support them and their interests as best as possible. Life is busy. Life is crazy. There are a lot of distractions. And there are a lot of opportunities. As much as we all may strive to have it all, we still have boundaries. And these boundaries are not always bad. Sometimes these boundaries remind us to slow down and to focus on what really matters.

My mom faced a lot of boundaries and barriers when she was raising my sister and me. But she always focused on the positive. She found a way to make these boundaries work for us in our favor. And she also found a way to overcome the barriers. Eventually my mother did remarry. She found someone who could be the supportive husband she needed, and she found someone that my sister and I could look up to and respect. My mother is the strongest person I know. And I am honored to be her daughter. What more could a mother ask for?

It’s easy to get distracted by all of the messages you see, hear and receive about parenting every single day. It’s easy to second-guess your parenting techniques when someone else tries to parent your child in front of you without realizing what they are doing. It’s easy to make yourself think that you can never do enough for your child. While I have been spending the last few weeks painting a desk, doors, storage closet and kitchen instead of writing, I have had a lot of time to think about this and reflect on my thoughts about my own parenting abilities. And this is my conclusion: I matter. I am enough.

My kids don’t “need” to be in preschool yet. They don’t “need” to be in dance, or gymnastics or swimming lessons or french class. They don’t “need” to know how to read before starting school. Sure, it’s great that there are so many options for kids these days to learn and take part in a variety of activities. But putting my kids in these activities does not make me a better parent. I love my children. I make numerous offerings to provide for them. My children know that I love them. They know that they are important. I am not a perfect parent, but I am enough. What I am doing matters.

And the same goes for you. Stop worrying about everyone else around you. Yes, we can all learn a lot from each other. But you have to know that what you are doing now does matter. You are a great influence on your children. You have the power to teach them how to be good and brave in this world. Your love matters. You are enough. Hi mom (or dad, or grandparent, or aunt, or uncle, or teacher, or any other caregiver) you matter. You are enough.

Appletini, tawny birch and deep, dark thoughts, oh my!

It’s been a paint-a-thon in my house the last couple of weeks. With starting my new job, my son starting soccer and my husband starting up classes again, I have suddenly had a burst of energy to paint. I am finally getting to painting the basement doors (a project I started in January), I started repainting a desk, and now I have the urge to repaint our kitchen. Why is it that change and transition scream “makeover!”?

While I have been giving my house a makeover one nap and late evening at a time, I have been able to slow down again and reflect on all of the changes that are happening in my life. I was in a dark place last spring, and it is amazing how bright things have become in just a few months. To celebrate, my husband and I have decided to paint our desk Appletini by Behr with a few accents of Tawny Birch. It’s bright, and glossy and yummy looking. Our desk has been hiding in the basement for the past couple of years, but we have plans to show it off once we create a new office nook in our kitchen.

There are a lot of other things I have been thinking about during my painting adventures. There is much to write about and new ideas to explore for this blog. But where do I begin?

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to create a sense of community. I don’t want this blog to be all about me. This blog certainly allows me to express who I am, but I also want others to be able to express themselves.

So while I take some time to sort through my reflections and ideas, I will direct you to another blog.

One of my friends from college recently started a blog after leaving her job without having another job lined up as well. She is now searching for a new job and writing about her adventures. Her posts are insightful and honest. She writes beautifully about her experiences and reflections. I truly admire her writing.

My friend and I met in Oaxaca, Mexico, in January 2005 during a study abroad trip. We were roommates during our time in Mexico, and while sharing a bathroom that was about two feet by five feet wide, it was inevitable that we would become friends. For real, I could practically shower while sitting on the toilet brushing my teeth. That’s how small our bathroom was. Anyway, you can check out more about her adventures at Embracing the Scenic Route. Stop over, say hi, and enjoy her lovely writing.

S#!+ just got real (in a good way)

When I left my job earlier this summer, my goal was to find something else that would be less stressful and less time-consuming by the end of this summer so that I could spend more time raising my children. I had realized that the job I had was not a good fit for me. I wanted more out of my life, I wanted to be a better mom, I didn’t want to write about depressing events anymore, and I wanted to start taking better care of myself.

On June 7, I turned in my work laptop and my employee badge to my boss. My boss had security open a gate for me so I could exit the building. We shook hands, I walked to my car, and I never looked back.

I had no idea where I would be or what I would be doing on September 7. Well, here I am. I am in my home. My husband and I are still able to pay the bills. I am happier. My kids and I have created many wonderful memories together this summer while I have been home. My husband is happier. The sunflowers in our backyard are finally blooming. We have ripe tomatoes ready for picking. We are happier as a family.

Prior to quitting my job, my husband and I agreed that staying home with the kids would be a short-term gig for me. Taking a couple of months off would allow me to spend some much-needed quality time with my kids while I also looked for a job that was less than 40 hours per week. Before I had kids, I thought I could have it all. I thought that I could continue to advance in my career without having to sacrifice time with my future children. After I had my son, something inside of me changed. I suddenly wanted to be a mom. Having it all no longer included having a full-time job. I always knew I wanted a child someday, but I also thought that it would be easy to go to work and focus on my career  while also being a mom. I thought I would be able to enjoy my time in the office without feeling like I was sacrificing precious moments with my children. I was so sure that I would climb the ladder quickly. I was eager to learn more, make more money, and make a name for myself in the workplace. But when I had my son, I began to realize that I had no clue just how different my life would be as a parent. I was prepared for sleepless nights. I was prepared for poopy diapers. I was prepared to make sacrifices. I was prepared for taking care of a newborn; I was not prepared for “motherhood.”

Motherhood didn’t hit me until the moment I held my newborn son in my arms. I felt a different kind of love I had never experienced before. This love continues to evolve and surprise me. Before I fall asleep every night, I think to myself that the love I have for my children must be similar to the love God has for us. I sometimes have a difficult time understanding that God loves everyone, even me. Does God really love the abuser? Does God really love the drug dealer? Does God really love the murderer? Does God really love me when all I can do is curse under my breath when the last straw has been pulled? Somehow he still loves us. And the only reason why I have any faith that God really does love us all after everything is said and done is because I now have my own children to love. And even though the love I have for my children is more powerful than I could have ever imagined, God’s love is much greater somehow. God’s love may always be a mystery to me, but my children have given me a reason to try to better understand God’s love. The change that happened inside of me after I had my son may alway be a mystery to me as well, but all I can do now is embrace this motherly love for what it is and what it means to me.

This desire to stay home with my children has been burgeoning inside my heart for years. I never thought it would be possible to stay home instead of working a full-time job. And I tried to find comfort in the reasons for not staying home because I was afraid to put my “career” on hold simply because I thought that I should just suck it up and work like many other moms. Then when I quit my job, I thought that I would be able to quench my desire to stay home with my kids by spending the summer with them before finding another part-time to full-time job. I am so silly and foolish.

Within the first few weeks of being home with my kids this summer, I realized that I needed to be home with my kids for a much longer period of time. My husband even decided that he wanted to help me make this a long-term gig instead of a short-term gig. During the first week of August, I was offered a part-time job as a front-desk receptionist at a hair salon in St. Paul. My husband and I looked over our finances and we decided that it was worth it to give it a shot. My pay is significantly lower from my previous job, but I now get to stay home with my kids. I work two nights a week. My shifts are only four hours each. We don’t have to pay for daycare because my mother-in-law has offered to come over and watch the kids when I leave for work. She watches the kiddos until my husband gets home from work, and I make dinners in the slow cooker on the nights I work so that my mother-in-law, hubby and kiddos are well-fed while I am busy being an awesome receptionist for eight hours a week.

Yeah, shit just got real (in a good way). I am officially a stay-at-home mom.

Motherhood and fatherhood is different for every parent. My journey in motherhood involves staying home with my kids. It is what I have wanted since my son and daughter were born. It took several years to get to this point. I still have concerns about finances since my income has changed drastically, but my husband and I continue to work on creating a budget that works for our current situation. I also have concerns about how staying home for a couple of years may possibly affect future employment opportunities, but I can’t fear the unknown any longer. I am still writing my story.

How is the writing of your story going?

Scary Mommy
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