The Formula To Making Your Life Matter

If you have read much of my writing, you know a common theme is to stop trying to be who you aren’t. It is my strongly held opinion that many frustrations in raising children could be avoided if we stopped holding ourselves to impossible standards.

You know by now what I am against, but you know less of what I am for. This is intentional, for the most part. Every family differs in their values/faith/dreams, and the last thing I would ever want to do is to burden you with one more thing. 

Which is why writing (or Facebook posts or Instagram photos) only tells a fraction of the story.

In the past few years, I have spent considerable time intentionally creating the life I want for my family. I have cut many things out and added some things back. My no is strong, but my yes is always without regret. 

I am not sure specifically where I got this idea to mindfully develop my family’s goals and live accordingly, as it’s a common theme today, but my manager at work shared with my team and me that this is one of the most important decisions a company (or family) makes.

Knowing who you are and why you do what you do is crucial for success. 

While I happened upon this way of living haphazardly, there is actually a formula for success that I highly recommend:

Vision + Mission + Goals + Measures = Behaviors (VMGM = B)

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I don’t know about you, but I love a good formula. And this one works. I will share specifically how it works for families, but it also applies to your job, creative ventures, and more.

  1. Create a vision for your family. In my leadership journey, I learned an easy way to remember this is by thinking of a telescope. This is what feels very far off…your dreams, aspirations, hopes for the future, etc. These are personal but are somewhat broad and can almost feel unattainable if no action steps are taken.An example from my family:
    “I want my kids to come home for Christmas,” is a mantra that I have etched in my mind. It’s a cheeky way of saying I want a relationship with my children that is so strong that even when they’re adults, they can’t wait to come visit home. Christmas is not literal, in this situation, but it’s an easy way for me to remember my long-term vision for my family when the days get long and gritty.
  2.  Determine a mission. Think of this as binoculars, if you’re a visual person. This is the strategy for what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. It makes the vision applicable to everyday life.To continue my example:
    If I want my kids to visit home when they’re grown, I have to create a home they love now. My strategy for this is to do my best to make my home feel safe, welcoming, and fun. It goes without saying that I do not do this well all of the time, but having a mission allows me to get back on track easily when I’ve derailed.

    My hope is that my children feel safe in my home. I listen to their sweet conversations, I value their opinions, and I remain calm when they tell me hard things. It may feel insignificant and silly when they’re little, but it creates a healthy foundation for when it’s very important.

    While I do not believe in a home where the world revolves around the children, I do believe in creating a home where kids can live loudly. Nothing is sacred in my home. My daughter can play in my make-up. My boys can wrestle in the living room. (Please remember, this is MY mission. If you are not the same, that is healthy and good.)

    I do not feel the need to constantly entertain my children, but I do want a home that is fun to live in. We laugh at mistakes and try not to take life too seriously.

  3. Set goals. Like eyeglasses, goals give clarity to your vision and mission. Goals should be realistic, time bound, and measurable. They bring the potentially overwhelming feeling of the vision into manageable ways to carry it out.For me:
    Maintaining a strong relationship with my children can feel overwhelming when my pre-teen son tests every ounce of patience I have. Instead of beating myself up for this season of life where it feels like I fail more often than I succeed in dealing with his testiness, I set realistic goals. When he asks to ride with me somewhere I would rather go alone, I say yes when possible. I take those moments to enjoy the conversation with him. He is such an awesome kid, and it’s much easier for me to see that when his sibs (as he affectionately calls them) aren’t around to bother him.

    I make bedtime tuck-in’s a priority. Every night I am home, I lay with each of my kids individually. This is my way of assuring that, no matter how the day went, I end well with each child. I have four children, but I do not worry if they’re getting enough attention…because I know I will have this touch point with each kid every day.

    I cannot stress enough how these are merely examples to get you thinking. These are not hard and fast rules for every family. It is what works for me to achieve the vision I have for my family, but it is not necessarily what will work for you.

  4. Measure the above often. You know by now that raising kids is much easier said than done. You will derail from the vision and mission you have for your family. That is expected. The benefit of writing it all out is that you can recalibrate quickly when you realize you’re off course. Take the time every couple of months to evaluate what is working and what is not…and make changes accordingly.
  5. Your Vision, Mission, Goals, and Measures will always determine your Behaviors. By being purposeful in creating the family you want, your daily life will show it. You will live your life on purpose and with intention.

I would encourage you to carve out time to consider your VMGM = B, both personally and professionally. Rather than let life happen at you, you can take control and live in a way that aligns with what you value most.

You only get once chance at life. Make it count. Make it yours.   

 

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Hey Mom, Are You Too Hard On Yourself??

I woke up this morning to a pudgy face sharing my pillow.

Just last night, a friend and I wondered aloud to each other if we would survive our babies starting Kindergarten.

The obvious answer is no.

The baby of the family should not be permitted to grow up.

This..
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Became this…
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In like three minutes.

With my first born, every new phase is exciting but also beyond nerve wrecking.
With my second, it’s mostly just exciting.
With my third, each stage feels comforting and natural.
With my baby (who hasn’t been a baby for quite some time), it’s the end. The baby closes every chapter.

Some chapters I am happy to close (potty training, I am looking at you.)
Other chapters, not so much.

Feeling my baby kick for the first time. The smell of a newborn. The belly laughter of a toddler. The most precious voice of a preschooler. Those are the best.

The little years are the sweetest of years. Impossibly hard, to be sure. But with the little years almost completely behind me, I would give nearly anything to do them all over again. Except the lack of sleep and engorged boobs.

That is the weird thing about life. When you’re living out the dailyness of it all, it is hard to enjoy it. It is hard to enjoy the toddler cuteness when you have a screaming infant. The cute voice of a preschooler is not so cute when you haven’t slept in a week and he is asking question #4,328 of the morning.

But when you’re closing the chapter, all that remains is the good. Sure, I can recall the terrible. I can remember barfing 25 times a day while pregnant (though I am prone to exaggerating, that is a factual number). I can remember being peed on, pooped on, and barfed on. (I am sensing a barfing theme.) While I can intellectually recall the grosser, uglier parts of the little years, I have mostly blocked it out.

Which is my point. (And you thought my point was to reduce you to a puddle of tears.)

You are too hard on yourself. 

Yes, you.

Just as you blocked out the time your precious little spawn painted with poop, shoving it in every crevice possible…your spawn blocked out the time you temporarily turned into a raging psychotic version of yourself.

The beauty and redemption of the human mind is that we tend to forget most things.

(We don’t forget everything, of course. And I do not want to minimize the real and lasting wounds of abuse, neglect, and pain worse than can be imagined. While that is an important conversation, that is not what I am addressing here.)

You are a mom who loves and adores your children. But even the best of moms will not love perfectly.

You will speak ugly words. You will raise your voice to a level you previously thought impossible. You will be ashamed for how you acted.

Contrary to what the 70’s taught us, love means having to say you’re sorry. A lot.

You are going to blow it a million times between now and the day you die. Maybe two million.

To be human is to mess up. To be a parent is to mess up every five minutes. Ten, if you’re hiding in the bathroom.

If failure and mistakes are a part of the human experience, why do we berate ourselves for every little mistake we make while doing literally the hardest job in the world?

We applaud Thomas Edison for the 1,000 failed attempts at the lightbulb, but when our children announce to the PTA board how much they enjoyed their McDonald’s dinner (which is not even an actual failure)…the Happy Meal somehow becomes a scarlet letter of shame.

I am thankful for light. Your children are thankful they’re fed. And happy to get a break from the kale we are all pretending to like.

It breaks my heart to see you sacrifice so much for your child, give all you have to the task of raising your cuties, and spend every waking moment with the five and under crowd…only to berate yourself constantly and believe you aren’t doing a good job.

Stop being so hard on yourself. 

I’m serious.

Do you love your child beyond any love you’ve ever known?
Does your child have a home where he is safe and adored?
Did you feed her today?
Then stop telling yourself you’re a terrible mom. (You aren’t.)

Did you lose your crap this morning?
Has it been awhile since your kid ate a vegetable?
Did you silently (or not-so-silently) wish your child would shut up for three whole minutes?
Did you linger at the grocery store a little longer, just to avoid having to go home to those people who call you Mom?
Congrats. You’re normal. And you’re still a good mom. An awesome mom, actually.

If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would not have spent so much time telling myself how much I sucked at this mom thing. I would not have cried so many tears of shame over the mistakes I made. I would not have let myself be robbed of the joy of the little years with the fear that every wrongdoing on my part would mean future therapy on their part.

Because, in spite of the thousands of mistakes I’ve made over the years, my kids are turning out just fine. Not perfect. Not even close. But they’re doing just fine. And I think their therapy will be minimal.

My daughter plans the most extraordinary parties…even though she’s only ever known mediocre birthdays.
My son chooses salads over burgers…even though I forget to serve veggies with dinner on the regular.
My other son chooses burgers over salads…but he is healthy and has a killer sense of humor.
My last son chooses to eat his boogers…whatever, man. Saves on groceries.

The fact that I am even using food as example of mom failure is the only proof you need that we are living in a time where the standards of raising kids are impossibly high and beyond ridiculous.

We create imaginary worlds where all of the other moms are doing it all well…then compare our ugliest self to that pretend world…and conclude that we are terrible.

I think it’s time to take this crazy train back to the station…recalibrate what it means to be an awesome mom (spoiler alert: you are already one!)…stop being so dang hard on ourselves…and enjoy the beauty and crazy and amazingness of raising incredible children.

And, while we’re at it, let’s leave the kale at the station. Because that crap is gross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Year In Home-Based Direct Sales

A Facebook notification pops up on my phone. “A message from a childhood friend? So fun! What is she up to these days?” I wonder, as I click to see.

Oh. She thinks I would be perfect for her new home-based business that is making her so much money. “I’m so flattered,” I mumble sarcastically.

To say these recruitments annoyed me would be an understatement. Partly because I genuinely love to connect with friends (so I was bummed to find a form letter), but mostly because I enjoy sales as much as Rosie enjoys Donald.

I could not sell water in the desert, so selling literally anything does not interest me…mascara, vitamins, jewelry, clothing, skin care, a workout regimen…I was an equal opportunity hater.

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But I have this weird quirk where I do not like to criticize that which I am unwilling to try.

When my children complain that their suburban lives in their climate controlled home with parents who adore them are SO HARD, my repeat mantra is “We Do Hard Things.” Some children in the world walk barefoot for miles and miles to school, but I can understand how asking you to change out of your pajamas is SO HARD. But we do hard things in this family, sweet children of mine with zero perspective on actual hard things.

I adopted that same mantra (and also their fake dramatics) and decided to try home-based direct sales. Some women work three jobs to barely provide for their family, but you have to understand that asking women to purchase beautiful jewelry with an important purpose is just SO HARD for me.

I hope you are giving me the biggest eye roll right now. Because I kinda hate myself for even admitting it.

I signed up for a company whose mission I believed in and wanted to support. And decided to give direct sales a try. (Full disclosure: this company is not actually multi-level marketing and involves no diamonds or cars. Remember, I was taking baby steps into this world. Selling was hard enough. Asking people to join under me was definitely not happening.)

And, you guys, this was WAY HARDER (to be clear: first world hard) than I ever would have anticipated. I was ashamed of how hard I had judged my friends for recruiting me for their sales teams. To me, the form letters and Facebook invites felt disingenuous, but in actuality, it takes a lot of courage for my friends to ask. My theory was correct in that I should never criticize that which I am unwilling to try. Because I had it all wrong.

I definitely underestimated how hard direct sales is, but I never even considered how awesome it could be. Even though I can’t speak for every company, I imagine it to be a somewhat universal experience…the camaraderie I found in this group of women is indescribable. Long distance friends have become some of my very best friends (thank you, Voxer!). If I were being honest, if the Facebook messages led with this rather than the promise of a huge income, I would have jumped on board a long time ago. (This may or may not be a not-so-subtle hint. Do with it what you may.)

Because this is the thing: I know myself well enough to know I will never sell my way to a million dollars. Or even twelve dollars. But I will do nearly anything for really great friends. (A knowing that has proven true as I’ve discovered amazing truths about myself this year.)

If I learned anything from my year in direct sales, it’s that it is 100% not for me. I suck at sales even more than I thought I sucked at sales. But not everyone does. Just because I can’t do it well doesn’t mean no one should do it. And I have become infinitely less critical of those trying.

Because no matter if you jump on every new sales company or roll your eyes at them, every single sales person I know is simply trying to help their families. They believe in the product enough to humbly ask their friends and family to try it out. I promise you that this is not even 1% easy to do. Sure, there are certain pushy people who seem to ignore any and all social cues that kind of ruin it for the rest of us, but generally speaking, it’s just a mom trying to figure out how to pay for braces.

The judgements I had were because I was too concerned with my own self (and apparently the thirty seconds it took to respond to a Facebook message) to pay attention to the “why” behind the ask.

As I’ve become more self-aware, I understand why sales are nearly impossible for me. I have many strengths, and I have many areas to develop. And I have loved learning to differentiate the two.

Which is why another year of direct sales is likely not in my future. But another year of writing is. Building connections through writing is super important to me. I wish you could all be my BFF’s and that we sit down together over a cup of coffee. I have come to realize that I would rather support my friends in their endeavors than attempt my own. I am a great wing man, but that’s where my skill set stops with sales. And that’s okay.

Knowing yourself is so valuable. Understanding how you function explains why some people have the pink Cadillac and some people can’t understand why that’s even a thing. This truth applies to most every aspect of life, not just direct sales.

Long story short, my year in direct sales has taught me you can’t be someone you’re not, but you can do you really well. And being the best you is the best.

 

Is Connectedness Actually Disconnecting Us?

You guys, we made it. We have closed the door on 2016.

I feel like we all deserve a standing ovation for enduring.

On a mass scale, 2016 felt long and hard and full of loss.

On a personal level, 2016 felt long and hard and had some loss.

In short, last year was not my favorite. And that’s being kind.

Even so, in the midst of the hard, there was definitely much good. So much good. As there always is.

My kids are more awesome than ever. We had a lot of fun.
I went on some really cool trips and met some amazing people.
Dreams were fulfilled.
My husband and I grew stronger together as we went through the proverbial fire of life.

I do not make new year’s resolutions because I have pretty much figured out who I am and what I do and don’t do in a given day.

I will eat healthy when my jeans get too tight, but I will never turn down a cupcake.
I will like the idea of working out, but when I calculate the time it takes to wash and dry my hair after a workout, I will make a mental note to skip the cupcake instead. Which I won’t actually do. 
I already spend a million hours a week with my kids, and my husband and I prioritize date nights.
I will delete Facebook from my phone, but I will download it again when I remember I can be present with my kids and still enjoy downtime. The two are not mutually exclusive.

This is a long way of saying resolutions and I have never been friends.

What I do like to do, however, is reflect on the last year (what worked, what didn’t, what I enjoyed, what I loathed, etc.)…then use that information to dream about the upcoming year (what I hope to do, dreams I hope are fulfilled, things I want my kids to develop, etc.).

When I reflect back on 2016…the good, the bad, the ugly…one of my most favorite experiences was (and will continue to be) learning to better understand myself by meeting with a personal coach as a part of my PeopleTek Leadership Journey.

The awesome part of this experience is that many of my friends, family, and colleagues completed an in-depth questionnaire about me. Along with my own assessment, the feedback from my people was absolutely incredible. My coach talked me through the results and allowed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses.

I am naturally pretty hard on myself, so identifying my faults comes easy. Even so, I loved getting specific ideas for how to work to improve those.

The part that was the most freeing was actually realizing my strengths and owning them.

More than anything, I came to understand that relationships with people matter more to me than anything else. I love people. I enjoy being around people. I like to connect people together. I love talking, and I love listening. While I can be alone, I don’t prefer it.

Part of the reason 2016 was so hard for me is that I did not spend nearly enough time with people. And by people, I mean adults. I spend approximately six million hours a week with the ten and under crowd. Which, as important as that is to me, does not count towards fulfilling my need for people.

And while there are a variety of very valid reasons why this happened, I know I have to make different choices in 2017. My emotional health depends on it. But as I brainstorm ways to do this, if I am being honest, I am saddened by the state of our culture. In an era when we are more connected than ever, we are more disconnected than ever. 


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Busyness has become a way of life and even a badge of honor in our culture. It feels like we don’t have time for each other. And while I realize now that relationships are more important to me than most, I think we are all feeling the loss of meaningful relationships. Even well-intentioned friends find it difficult to connect because kids are time consuming and exhausting (and also awesome…but that’s not the point here).

I am a girl who likes solutions to problems. I do not like talking about problems unless we are looking for ways to solve them. According to my assessment, creating an influential social network is my strength. Since I take issue with the lack of connections in our culture, I plan to use that strength to bring the change I wish to see. Pushing against all of the social norms to be busy busy busy, I am going to figure out a way to connect with people more in 2017.

If you’re someone who has great success with this, I would love to hear what’s working for you.

If you’re like me and looking for deeper, stronger friendships, let’s figure this out together.

The thing is, I have great friends…people who I love being with. And I am sure you are the same. But there is definitely a disconnect between the number of people I enjoy spending time with and how much time I am spending with them. Which definitely needs to change.

Social media connections are incredible and so much fun, but nothing replaces face-to-face friendships. The surface connections that come from Facebook will never fulfill the innate need to be known and loved and cared for.

I am not sure how it will look, but my goal (NOT my resolution, because, as I previously established, we are not friends) this year is to know and be known by the friends in my life…to not let the busyness of life rob me of the joy of friendship. I’ve been the guiltiest of all in letting too much time pass without connecting with the people I dearly love, and because I know it is as nearly as essential to me as breathing, I will find a better way this year.

Do you feel the same? Are you feeling the disconnect among all of the connections? Tell me I am not alone in this.

The Meaning Of Myers-Briggs In Marriage

My home decorating style could best be described as “she tried really hard but fell a little short.” I know a beautiful home when I see one, but I don’t quite have the budget or eye for decor to pull it off. Even still, I love pretty things, so I continue to try. Some projects turn out better than expected. Others are total failures.

Fortunately, I am married to a man who has as much interest in home decor as I have in hobbies that require Cabela’s. As long as he does not have to assist in a project, he gives me free rein to improve our home as I see fit.

Awhile back, I decided that a gallery wall would be the best option for our living room wall. It was turning out quite well until I decided to hang deer antlers (horns?). To reference my above sentiments, when Brett promised to love me until death do us part, that vow included the absence of animal carcasses hanging in my home. But then one thing led to another and I found myself hanging deer antlers in my home. It’s totally trendy, I assured myself. 

Deer antlers I spray painted silver. Because I am the kind of wife who asks forgiveness rather than permission.

My home decor typically comes neatly packaged with an easy way to hang it, and I know this may surprise you…but I am not used to hanging pieces that were once alive.

That stupid piece of decor took me two hours to hang. TWO WHOLE HOURS. Two hours of cussing. And yelling at my kids. And cutting up my hands. And cussing some more. But the antlers were the necessary final piece of my gallery wall, and eventually my stubbornness prevailed.

I finished this unexpectedly laborious project around the time my husband came home from work. I’ve been married long enough to know that there would be no pomp and circumstance for a job well done, but I, at the very least, expected him to be proud that one of his dead animals had finally made its home outside of the attic.

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“You know they’re not facing the correct way, right?” was the first thing he said. And maybe the only thing he said. I don’t remember. My head was too busy exploding.

No. Of course, I don’t know that. Nor would I ever know that. Or ever even care. They’re deer antlers, not the Mona Lisa.

Because there was no way those antlers were coming off of the wall after my victorious fight to get them there, I assured him that he was the only person in our entire county that would even know the proper way to hang deer antlers, and he assured me that my reasoning was stupid.

The lifetime union of two people is so tender.

Something that I did not know when I walked down the aisle on cold day in 2005 was that I was walking towards a life with someone who was different than me in most every way. For you visual learners, I made a Venn diagram to represent this:

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Different does not equate bad or wrong. It is a beautiful part of marriage to still be surprised by your spouse once in awhile.We actually have an awesomely fun marriage, and our differences work well together. Unless we are trying to leave for a trip together, which is a whole other thing which I do not have the emotional bandwidth to discuss at the present moment. 

I am fascinated by human nature and what makes people act a certain way. I could hardly wait for the Myers-Briggs session in my PeopleTek Leadership Journey, because I totally nerd out to this information. I have taken the free version of this test an embarrassing number of times, but the legit version was much more telling.

It is my opinion that knowing your own Myers-Briggs profile and your spouse’s is one of the easiest and best ways to improve your marriage. The results make you (and them) make sense.

It explains why I view traffic laws as suggestions, rather than absolutes, and why my husband thinks this makes me a brat.

It explains why my husband would rather gouge out his eyes than talk about the weather or how those Dolphins are doing this season…but I could talk to a wall and enjoy the conversation.

It explains why we both like to be on time, but sticking to a budget eludes us.

It explains why he notices small details like the antlers hanging upside down, and I am positive no one will notice. Vast amounts of eye rolling are optional for either party. 

Most every quirk of our personalities can be explained by our Myers-Briggs type, which I find to be absolutely fascinating.

Some marriages are harder than others, to be sure. But learning this aspect of your personality is both freeing and encouraging. You can own who you are (and stop apologizing for who you aren’t) and allow your spouse to be who they are (without trying to change their very core).

I will never understand why my husband would prefer to watch Netflix rather than go to a party where he knows only me, but I know it’s how he’s made. I used to think he just didn’t like my friends; it turns out small talk actually exhausts him.

He will never understand why I need to rearrange my furniture on a monthly basis, but he gives me the freedom to do so.

In many ways, we could not be more different, but we have chosen to allow each other to be who we are. I will never understand how he finds enjoyment in waking up before the sun to sit in a tree in the freezing cold weather to hopefully shoot an animal when he could buy a perfectly butchered cow at the grocery store. He will never understand why shopping at the mall can solve most every problem I have because to him, I already have a shirt just like it hanging in my closet. But we (mostly) understand what the other one needs and give each other the time and freedom necessary to be and do what makes us feel alive. In more ways than just shopping and hunting.

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I highly recommend the entire PeopleTek Leadership Journey, as it has been one of the best things I’ve done in 2016. If the entire journey isn’t possible for you, you can complete the individual Myers-Briggs instrument with a coaching session. I promise you won’t be sorry! Email me (sarahw56@gmail.c0m) if you would like more information.

 

 

The Letter My Daughter Will Want To Write Me

Dear Mom (or should I say Grandma? Have we decided what you want to be called?),

Your little girl isn’t so little anymore. I bet when I was locking my brothers out of my room and spending hours planning my next party, you could have never imagined the birth of my first child would come so quickly. Sure, you were constantly told how fast time would go (a sentiment that mostly made you gag at the time when you had four kids under the age of six). But as we all grew and this became truer and truer, you hoped somehow time would be kinder to you.

But, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And, boy, did we have fun!

It’s hard not to have fun when I was surrounded by the three most awesome brothers. When they weren’t driving me crazy, they made me laugh harder than anyone.

We all loved to laugh. When you didn’t know I was watching, I saw how Dad made you laugh until you cried. I could not have known then how important a good daddy is. He took me on dates and told me how proud he was of me. I never doubted how much he loved me or how beautiful he thought I was. Because he told me everyday.

When I was entering my pre-teen years, I hugged you and thanked you for being a safe mom. You made our house a home, and there was no place I would rather be. You told me everyday how strong and important I am. I destroyed the house constantly with projects and ideas and new businesses I created…and you only complained once or twice. I knew when I cut my bangs twice in one year and you laughed it off that my creativity was safe with you.

Growing up in our home with our family is a gift I treasure.

But, Mom, it’s my turn. I get to be the mom now. And start my own family with my own inside jokes and my own traditions. There are some things I won’t know how to articulate for years to come, which is why you are writing this to yourself decades before this day actually arrives. I know there are things that you will want to remember but that thief of time will allow to fade.

Please remember, Mom, that this is all new to me. As I am holding my baby for the first time, you’ve been raising children for over one hundred years (cumulatively). You obviously know way more than me, but I still need to figure this out of my own. Please don’t roll your eyes at me when I say, “Times are different now, Mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I am insecure and unsure and wondering if I have what it takes to raise this baby, and just like I’ve needed you in my corner so many times before, I need you now.

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I need you to tell me that I am doing a really good job. It may take me weeks to realize I have to point a boy’s wiener down. Breastfeeding may not come as easily to me as it did you. But what I need from you more than anything is to hear you say I am a good mom. This eight pound little chubster makes me doubt that I am the strong and powerful woman you raised me to be. I have never felt more alone and more unsure than I do now. Please look me in eyes, give me a big hug, and remind me that I was handpicked to be my child’s mom. Because right now, I feel like the least qualified person on the planet to be responsible for human life.

Make me take a shower and a nap. Don’t ask. Don’t suggest. Take my baby and don’t give him back until I emerge from my room hours later with wet hair and less baggy eyes.

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Then take that baby, hand him to Daddy, and fold my laundry. I will be trying too hard to impress my new husband to ask for help. Do not ask what you can do to help. Just do anything. I know you’re good at this, and I am too embarrassed to admit it doesn’t come as easily to me. Clean out my fridge. Cook dinner. Mop my floors. I may try to talk you out of it, but please do not listen to me. I have many, many days ahead to do this on my own. Right now, I need you to baby me while I hold my baby.

As the days go on, I will come to you for advice, to be sure. But please wait until I come. I know you are a woman who likes to fix things, and I know you probably have some great advice on how to get my baby to stop being so fussy. But, as I’ve said before, my husband and I are trying to figure this out on our own. Give us the chance to try. Call your best friend, if you must, and tell her how we are making everything much harder than it has to be. But when you talk to me, remind me that I am a really great mom. Because I am having a hard time believing it.

This letter is getting long, and my baby is beginning to stir. There is more I would like to say, but I can save that for a different day.

For now, I will close with this. Feel free to send cash. You may have forgotten how hard it is to make ends meet in these early days. A little extra cash may be the difference in paying our electric bill or not. Or if it’s a good month, it may mean we get to have a date night. Cash is always welcomed and appreciated.

Mom, I know I have so much to learn. And experience will be the best teacher of all. Today, as I hold my baby and tears are streaming down my face, just be there for me. I am not sure if I am overwhelmed. Or grateful. Or both. But I only need you to sit next to me and tell me until I believe it that I am a really good mom.

Sincerely,
Chloe, in a couple of decades

 

 

How To Have A Stress-Free Holiday Season

The most wonderful time of the year is finally here! The holiday season is my favorite. Parties are happening every weekend, and I love social events. Retail shoppers notwithstanding, people seem to make an effort to be kinder and more hospitable around this time. Even though it’s still hot where I live, the Christmas season somehow feels cozy. And feeling cozy is my fave.

There is one thing that disheartens me about the holidays, and that is how often moms complain about how stressed they are.

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The true meaning of Christmas often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the seasonal obligations.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I want to propose an idea: You get to decide whether or not the holidays are stressful. 

Yes, it’s true. You are in charge of your life. And you get to choose how to spend your time and energy.

There will always be external circumstances that vie for your attention, to be sure, but ultimately you get to decide to say yes and no.

As with so much of parenting today, there is immense pressure to execute the perfect holiday season. As with so much of my writings, I would argue that these expectations are ruining Christmas.

I recently read about what kids wanted most from their parents. And would you believe that the top answer was for their parents to be less stressed and tired?!

More than the latest gadget, more than the most elaborate Christmas decorations, more than a tree full of gifts…kids want you to be less stressed and less tired. 

Ouch. 

In my decade of parenting, I have noticed a trend. I am most exhausted by parenting when I am doing something out of obligation (rather than desire) and guilt (because everyone else is doing it).

I am not talking about the physical exhaustion that comes from teensy babies and little toddlers. I am also not talking about the emotional exhaustion that comes from navigating pre-teens and teens. Those are natural byproducts of raising kids.

The exhaustion and stress I am talking about comes from deep in your soul. The exhaustion that tells you that you will never be enough or do enough. The stress that causes you to lose perspective, where you value looking good to others instead of loving your family well.

You can choose to enjoy beautiful traditions that create unity and fun in your family.
Or you can choose to be all things to all people and not really be anything to anyone.
You have the choice.

And I hope this holiday season you choose to be present with your family, even if (especially if) it means letting go of your expectations for the perfect Christmas.

The topic of the PeopleTek Leadership Journey session I just had last week is the perfect remedy for overstressed holidays. “Magic Dust” refers to what you are really good at and enjoy doing, and I think that’s an awesome place to start in making this holiday season as stress-free as possible.

When deciding how you want the next few weeks to look, consider what you are really good at and what you enjoy doing. When you do something you love, it hardly feels like work. When you do something because you think you should, you loathe it. When you do something you’re good at, the feeling of accomplishment feels great. When you do something you kinda suck at, you are almost always annoyed with the outcome.

Oftentimes what we are good at and enjoy doing comes so naturally that we fail to see the awesomeness in it. We tend to overvalue what other people are good at and undervalue what comes easily to ourselves.

Think about all of the possible holiday traditions and celebrations.
Decide what is your seasonal Magic Dust (what you are good at and enjoy doing).
Decide what is your kryptonite (what you suck at and hate doing).

Though not an exhaustive list, here are some ideas to get you started:
Holiday parties: Are you an introvert or extrovert? If parties exhaust you, consider saying no to some. If they exhaust your kids/spouse, enjoy the festivities on your own.

Baking with kids: Do you love it or hate it? Store-bought goodies do not determine your worth as a mom. In fact, they’re preferable if you lose your mind when flour and kids are in the same hemisphere. If you love to bake, share that love with your neighbors!

Elf on a Shelf: Some moms love creating antics every night. Some moms don’t. If you don’t enjoy it, stop doing it. Your children will live. I happen to enjoy a very modified version of the elf, but if you don’t, take heart that we all enjoyed an elf-less childhood and turned out just fine. Most of us, anyway.

Advent: My kids enjoy their subpar chocolate each day. It’s zero effort on my part. I wish I was more dedicated to a thoughtful Advent season, but it’s just not in my wheelhouse. Perhaps this is where you shine. Do you. However that looks.

–  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions: Establish what works for you and your family. I’ve never lived close to family, so perhaps this is easier for me…because I don’t have to spread time between sides of the family. My husband and I decided early on in our marriage to stay home on Christmas Eve and Day. I wanted my kids to wake up in the same place every year, and I am a much happier person in my own home. My best friend couldn’t imagine spending a Christmas without her huge extended family. Neither is better than the other; it’s just what works for you. Decide what is best for you and your family, and the people around you will eventually adjust.

I could go on forever. The opportunities to enjoy yourself or exhaust yourself this time of year are endless.

No life is exempt from exhaustion and stress. Especially when children are involved. But as December comes full throttle, say no to anything you can that is outside of your Magic Dust. Say yes to what you love. And watch how the holidays feel way less stressful and way more fun this year.

You can’t be all things to all people. But you can be really awesome to the people who matter most.