Motherhood (part five)

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This last post in the motherhood series sums up an epiphany I had earlier this week. If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, I am sure you’ve heard me call my daughter the brightest of all silver lining. I dedicated my book to it, I write about it in parenting articles, and I remind myself of it when the blending gets hard. So, I write to the mamas out there who can relate. The ones who went through the hell of betrayal and heartbreak. 

If you’re in a painful place right now, will you give credit to that marriage you’re not all that proud of for giving you this beautiful child? When that’s all you got, you have to bask in it. Your brightest silver lining. I wrote this in my book and I will scream it from the mountaintops, I would go through it all again and then some if it meant I got my daughter out of it. She’s the biggest blessing in my prayers thanking God for what I went through. If it weren’t for that union, you wouldn’t have your baby. And repeat. 

What I hadn’t thought about until earlier this week was if my divorce hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have my sweet baby boy. Disclaimer: I am also well aware that if it weren’t for my divorce I wouldn’t be married to the saintly dreamboat I now call my husband. I don’t discount this for a split second, it’s just we are on the topic of babies. So, it dawned on me this sweet baby boy would not exist in the world if it weren’t for me coming out of that painful divorce and starting all over. Life is just so darn crazy when you take a step back and look at how all of the pieces fit together. 

And there it is … “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Our babies have God’s good written all over them. They may be the sole light that came from all of your pain. Keep that bright light in the forefront of your mind. Especially this weekend as we celebrate the gift of motherhood. Do something extra special to celebrate the fact that you are rocking this mama gig. Your babies will learn a strength from you that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for all of the crazy you’ve gone through. 

I am praying that all of the mamas out there are celebrated real good this weekend and that God blesses you with peace above all else. ❤

Motherhood (part four)

IMG_0449I hope you’ve been enjoying all of the mama goodness this week on the blog. As you know, lately, I have been preaching Rachel Hollis pretty hard. I read her latest book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and it changed my life in so many ways. I often meditate on her words about motherhood. I know it’s not just me that feels the constant judgement/guilt about how to be a good mom. Parenting styles, family dynamics, working moms, stay at home moms … not to mention all of the little intricacies that make up this little human you’re trying to raise. It’s all VERY overwhelming if you let it be. I remind myself of a few truths when I struggle in mommyland.

The first one came from a grandma I met at the park when I was past due with my son, just waiting to become a mom of two, desperate to take in any wisdom she had from her years as a mother. She told me, “You can’t take all the blame and you can’t take all the credit.” Our best efforts sometimes fail because, well, our kids aren’t robots. We could train, redirect, punish, praise, and repeat until we are blue in the face, but even with our greatest efforts, our kids will still have a big ol meltdown in the middle of Target. Fact. And even if we teach them manners all day, at every meal, around every table, they will do things that make Emily Post turn over in her grave. And then, there’s that other evidence. The good stuff. When your years of hard work align perfectly with their behavior and you take a big sigh of pride. When you just want to give yourself a big pat on the back (or pour yourself a big glass of bubbly) for the fact that your kids are finally getting it. Praise Jesus.

To top off the wins and losses are the qualities that make up these kiddos in the first place. Their personality and natural talents/interests, are they strong-willed or more compliant, full of energy or mellow … And the list goes on. All of these pieces together are what make the world and this next generation so rad. We are in a time as mamas where we are free to encourage and parent our babies based on who they are as individuals. This also plays into how we shape and parent our kids. It’s a big job we have, no doubt. Just do me a solid and go easy on yourself. Remember the blame and credit balance the next time a meltdown happens or they do something awesome.

Back to my girl, Rachel, I want to leave you with a few of her words as an internal pep talk for this mama life:

“You can’t fail at a job you were created to do.”

“The intention to do well will see them through. I will do my best and I will trust my best is what God intended for these babies.”

“Being a perfect mom is a myth – but being a petty great mom, most of the time, is actually possible.”

Repeat these truths over and over until your heart and mind really, and I mean really, believe them.  ❤

Motherhood (part three)

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This is one of my all time favorite pieces on having a daughter. I laugh every time I read it and in light of our motherhood series, I had to share it with you! If you have a little girl, (hopefully) every part of this poem will make you smile. My favorite line has to be the Hollister scene because it just screams something that would happen in my future.

A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter

by Tina Fey

“First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.”

Hope that gave you a laugh and all of you mamas are planning something special for this upcoming weekend. My prayers are with you! ❤

 

Motherhood (part two)

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The next piece in our motherhood series comes from a writer who shares the straight up truth that being a mom is HARD. She wrote this post for a mom blog in Waco, and her words wring in all sorts of wisdom, especially in the fresh mommy stage I’m currently in. I say, fresh because I had a six-year break from the newborn life. And while now, three months in, I will brag all day every day about this perfect boy I have who sleeps and is happy every hour of the day, I must say that the first weeks were brutal (and in a very unexpected way).

I thought to myself, I’ve done this before. What could possibly be so hard? Those damn emotions, that’s what. The swings were REAL and out of my control. I found myself upset for no good reason, most days. I am thankful that time has passed and I feel more and more back to my normal level-headed self. But, even so, is it all still really hard? Absolutely. Balancing my time and attention with this sweet three-month nugget and my energetic and fiery six-year-old is just hard. And, to be clear, I don’t mean to label my daughter in a negative context. The very things that make my daughter so freaking amazing are the same things that make her a challenge to parent at times. That’s just the fact of the matter. Now, back to the amazing article, I am sharing with you this morning: This Stage of Life? It’s Hard.

Enjoy and be encouraged that we are all in this same mommy boat. If you think this stage is hard, then you must be doing all the things right!

 

Motherhood (part one)

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Today marks the start of my motherhood series! This week’s articles will be all about those mamas out there! My first post was one I wrote TWO years ago. You’ve heard me say this before, but, oh man, SO MUCH can happen in two years! This post was written from a time of me reflecting as a single mom and all of the losses that went along with that season.

May of 2016, I wrote:
The photo above is one of my all-time favorite pictures of my daughter and I. She’s about six months old and at the time, I felt like I had my dream life. My little family was beautiful, full of so much love and joy. My husband treated me like I was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He adored me as a wife and mother of his daughter. If someone had told me the events of the year that followed this picture, I would have laughed in their face. A double life, the destruction of an affair, my husband moving out, a single mom to a fresh one-year-old … Actually, had someone even told me ONE of these things was to happen, I would have bet them all the money in the world that they were wrong. Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t make that bet.

My first Mother’s Day was one for the books. What every new mom’s first Mother’s Day should look like. Relaxation and pampering to the max. Didn’t change one diaper all weekend, went on a shopping spree, drank coffee in bed, ate deliciously planned meals with paired wine and cocktails, flowers, cards, you name it … the works. A lot can happen in a year. The next Mother’s Day my husband took me out to brunch where we sipped mimosas and ate some amazing food with our darling daughter. Sounds pretty standard, right? Well, this celebratory brunch was actually his first attempt at coming back to our marriage and family after he had been in an 8-month affair. There were flowers, coupons, and promises galore. Having him come back to our family was a nice Mother’s Day gift in a twisted sort of way. However, it was very short-lived.

The following two Mother’s Days were spent with my mom, aunts, and friends celebrating the sweet gift of motherhood. Celebrating the gift that God gave me this amazing daughter to nurture and raise. And as much as I did feel loved, supported, and thankful, I was still husband-less on this day, which stung. Last year, our divorce had just been finalized and I was greeted with a card, champagne, and flowers from my baby daddy. Of course, it was thoughtful that he appreciated how I was raising our daughter and wanted to acknowledge me. I am not dumbing down this gesture, but it’s still a loss. It was not a celebration planned by my husband. We did not wake up on this special morning, all together under one roof. I had my daughter all day, on my own.

Loss. Even though I felt loved and celebrated, there was loss. This was not how I pictured this stage of life. And that’s just plain hard. It’s hard to see all of your mommy friends with one more baby on the way, spoiled by their husbands on this heartfelt day and you are now divorced at square one. Mother’s Day is meant to celebrate motherhood. The ups, the downs, the beauty, the mess, the joy and the tears. Sadly, for single moms, it can feel like just another day. If you’re a single mommy of little ones, I encourage you to create the perfect day for yourself. And if that means hiring a babysitter, THAT. IS. OKAY. This is one of those days, full of triggers that have the potential of letting you down all over again. We need to do what we can to minimize this. For our own well-being. We look out for the well-being of our little ones all day, every day. Look out for #1 on Mother’s Day this year. Don’t dread the day that you don’t have a husband to spoil you, spoil yourself instead! Spend time surrounded by your mom, loved ones, fellow single moms, dear friends … whoever will bring YOU joy on this day. Give yourself the gift of whatever will help the day be a happy one! I will be praying that your triggers are few and that your cards/flowers/gifts/cocktails are many.

Family Guilt

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Any This is Us fans out there? I am talking about the kind that excitedly looks forward to Tuesday evening only to sob their way through the entire hour. I was crying extra ugly during the Season 2 finale. If you don’t follow the show, first, I recommend binge-watching the entire thing pronto. Second, bare with me and do your best to read between the lines to connect with the point I am trying to make here.

Before I go any further, I am well aware that I am comparing real life to an NBC drama. However, one of the reasons the writing of this storyline is so genius is its relatability. So even though I am comparing real-life events to that of fictional characters, I still feel strongly about connecting our stories to theirs.

As a fellow daddy’s girl, I can completely relate to Kate and the closeness she feels to her father. Now, I am fortunate enough to have my father still living, but that flashback scene to when Kate was young talking to Jack about the guy she’ll marry had me all weepy … “The guy that gets to marry you, Katie-Girl, he is one lucky guy,” 

Now, fast forward to Kate and Toby happily married and then a year in Toby deciding to up and leave. How disappointing would that be for not only Kate (of course, Kate), but her entire close-knit family. They gave Kate fully to this man, trusting with 100% of their being that this man was going to care for their dear sister/daughter. Almost like it is partially their responsibility for who she ends up with. We’ve all had friends who have dated douchebags and we’ve felt like it was our place to speak up before god forbid it goes any further. Now, magnify that feeling times a billion and that’s how a father feels about their daughter. I imagine entrusting them to someone in marriage is an unreal experience.

If you’re close to your family and you’ve been through a divorce, you know that it affects evvvvvvveryone. Each family member goes through the divorce with you. And it’s easy to take other family member’s pain on yourself. I remember thinking, I can’t believe I am putting my parents through this. I felt so much guilt for so long that I caused my family this pain.

Even though I was the victim of our divorce and did all that I could to stay married, I still felt like it was my fault that my parents and family had to go through this. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone in my close circle was concerned for me, not blaming me. In hindsight, I put a lot of extra stress on myself, feeling guilty for what I had put my own family through. I know it’s natural to place blame on yourself at some point, but while the load is already heavy, let’s do what we can to make it lighter, not add to it. If you’re in this same boat I was in, remember your family cares about you and are devastated for what you are going through. Think that guilt out of your mind and focus on what will help you grieve today. Let your family experience their pain the way that helps them. Don’t take on the extra losses when you have so many as is. Your family will get through these painful times and come out stronger.

As always, please write in with any specific questions that may have come to mind from reading this article. My prayers are with you!

Welcome, 2018!

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Hello, all and Happy New Year (one weekish late)! I write to you starting this new year with a heart of gratitude. Not because this is always my natural outlook (although it should be), but because it is a focus of mine for 2018. I want my life to be consumed with more gratitude and less of the compare game. If you’ve followed my writing for awhile, you know I am big on making gratitude lists (even when it’s hard to muster up). This has been my biggest weapon against bitterness and comparison. Comparison is one of my worst vices and I am working extra hard to squash it this year.

With each new year, I lose some of who I was and find who I want to be all at the same time. I just love how we are constantly changing as humans. These changes are refining and humbling. I want to embrace them and find contentment in the in between.

Speaking of changes, I have some changes coming at me any day now, as our baby boy was due on Sunday. With this, I am still committing to invest in this community and my writing. However, it will look different. Not because of the baby, but because my life is vastly different from when this community started.

While my heart/priority is always to help women through the trauma of betrayal and divorce, you will see a shift in the content on the blog. This shift is because I want to share my present-day life with you. I want to share the co-parenting wins, the hope of an incredible second marriage after divorce, and the triggers that still surface. I want to share the rich blessing of starting over and the benefits that come from going through that raw healing I speak of so often.

As always, wherever you find yourself in the journey of betrayal, divorce, and moving forward, search this place for what will help you today. Use the categories of my writing and find what will speak to the current state of your heart. This is always the prayer I have for my readers as there are so many pieces to put back together.

I thank you for your continued support and look forward to this new chapter of the blog and the hope it will reveal to your future. 

 

Four Keys to United Co-Parenting

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The past seven years of my life have looked a little something like this: happy marriage and sweet baby … turned affair, betrayal, and double life … skip to divorce, grief, and healing … and now, finding love again, an amazing second marriage, and blending all of the above. Successfully navigating through the past seven years has been tricky at best and now, the co-parenting dynamic in a blended family is no different. The complexities that go into the relationships that now make up our new family unit run deep. This has a lot working against us at times. We, however, are all working for one thing, our daughter. So, in my experience, here’s what has helped the most.

We Leave the Past Where it Belongs

More often than not the reason people arrive in a blended family is the product of heartache and trauma. At least two people in the co-parent foursome have experienced the pain of their divorce and that takes serious time and healing to recover from. Taking that time to grieve is crucial in how you’ll operate parenting together. Our magic number was three years. During that time, no one had re-married quite yet, allowing for some focused healing, forgiveness, and mourning the losses that came from the divorce. This time set us up to interact on a healthier level for the sake of our daughter. By the time remarriage was on the table there had been enough time and healing in place to move forward. And what to do with that extra water under the bridge? Make the choice not to drown in it. As co-parents it’s not about your former marriage, it’s about your child(ren).

We Keep the Lines Open

Aside from how we all arrived here, if there’s one thing we can all agree on present day it’s that we want to raise our daughter to be the best little human, thriving in every way possible. Talk about common interest! We could all go on and on about the funny things she says, how amazing her latest painting was, and how proud we are of who she is at only six years old.

As a parent, I will say, hands down the most lingering pain of divorce is sharing your child. From missing the major firsts to simply not getting to tuck them in every night. It gets really sad if you keep your focus there. The ways we soften the blow are a whole lot of pictures, videos, and updates in our “team sweetie” group text that the four of us have going. I missed my daughter’s first flight this past summer, but the video her bonus mom sent me was as second best as it could possibly get. I watched that video on repeat, and it made my heart so happy knowing that she was experiencing this first with a set of parents who love her as much as I do.

This solidarity doesn’t just apply to the joyful and gushy moments of parenting, it’s just as important (if not more) when dealing with the challenges. The behavior issues, the discipline, the consequences, the consistency in all of it … and if you’re a parent, you know that the list goes on. Once you’ve semi-handled one stage of your child, they throw you for a loop and it’s something brand new to deal with. We keep our rules and expectations as identical as humanly possible across the households. And with this, we are all in the know about everything that goes on. If there’s a behavior issue at one house, we all know. At school or soccer practice, we all know. She knows she’ll get the same answer, consequence, reward and so on from each one of us. She knows that we all talk and share and that between the four of us, she can’t get away with much.

We’ve found that there is an exception to the parenting rule when your child is one of a blended family. Some days, they need a little grace when going back and forth from household to household (and that’s okay). They aren’t robots and we can’t expect for them to act like ones. We notice more emotional outbursts and acting out in our daughter when she goes from house to house. She doesn’t express exactly what she’s feeling, but there’s something she’s processing internally that’s beyond us. Do we let her get away with murder? No, but we are mindful that there is an adjustment period needed at times. We give her that space to settle into one environment, family dynamic, and set of parents to the next.

We All Show Up

Softball games, parent-teacher conferences, dance recitals, school meetings, soccer practice, birthday parties, preschool graduations … We all show up, all the time. We continually show her that she is not only lucky enough to have the love, support, and encouragement from mommy and daddy, but also from her two bonus parents. She will never be short on love or support, that’s for sure. We also show her all of our different strengths and interests and see if they spark anything in her. Whether a child has two parents or four, personalities and passions will differ. Children will find that in certain seasons they’ll relate better to one than the next. We hope that she sees what each of us bring to the table separately as something that helps guide her. Parent to parent will always look a tad different, but what looks the same is the consistency of love and support our child receives. Our daily choice to all stay united and show up for our daughter trumps every reason the past has tried to divide us. We choose day after day to be the adults, to show up, and to ensure our daughter always has the loudest cheering section at the softball game.

We Respect Each Other (and our new family units)

As much as it benefits our daughter to be a united blended family, we are still big on developing and fostering each individual family unit. She has separate outings, traditions, and routines for each household. This gives life to each family unit on its own. Yes, we are blending and co-parenting, but we need each side to have its own individual foundation. We respect that in the other. It’s easy to have that sense of “I was here first” when watching an ex-spouse start over. However, this is not the hand we were dealt, nor is it the attitude we should carry. Point one on repeat. We leave the past where it belongs, and let our new families start over and grow. We keep our communication about our daughter and nothing else. We give each family unit the necessary space. If our daughter misses any one of us or wants to talk/facetime while she’s at the other household, we always allow her to, but we also try to respect the time she’s spending with each set of parents.

Her relationships look different with each one of us and we all respect that as well. No one is out to replace or compete against each other. We respect our daughter’s feelings towards each one of us and find joy in the relationship she has with each of us individually. We each take her out on solo dates, we spend time with her in our separate family units, and we spend time all together. Each facet of time spent is respected, encouraged, and important.

Divorce doesn’t end family life; it reorganizes it. The points made above are all daily choices we make FOR our daughter. Some days there are triggers of the past or painful memories that work against our choice, but we don’t let them win. All in all, we keep our heads above that water left under the bridge and focus on that greater good our child deserves.  

“God Gave Her to Me”

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This past week I went to an adorable celebration at my daughter’s school called Moms & Muffins. I don’t say this to sound like mom of the year nor to be cliche, but one on one time with my daughter is gold. My daughter and I spent four years, just her and I. And now, with our present day blended family, I share her with three other parents. Are there perks to sharing in the parenting of this beautiful little girl? Absolutely (another post I am working on)! Qualities, attributes, and love shown to her by four parents instead of two is not all bad, folks. Okay, let’s stay on topic here … I am convinced the days and nights we spent just the two of us created something real special. She was my drive to keep my shit together when I was on the verge of losing it. She was this insane beauty beaming through the ashes of my dead marriage. That bright bond we created through such darkness will always be there.

Our morning together, celebrating Mother’s Day at her school is a time I will always treasure. We ate muffins, read stories, and she showed me all of these insanely cute projects she had been making for me. When her teachers asked her why I am special, her response was: “God gave her to me” and then of course, what I was good at: “sweeping the floors” … Oh my, I freaking love her.

Her first answer really did make me want to weep on the spot. “God gave her to me” … I think as mothers we can agree that this is how we feel about our children. God gave them to us. They are our gifts. For divorced mamas especially, they are this silver lining that came from so much heartache. And here I am reading her words, God gave ME to HER. ME? Ugh. I am not sure how many of you are with me in that I feel like I fall short as a mommy more often than not. Yet through her eyes, I am this amazing gift. Humbling, no doubt.

I read this really great piece about the Good Shepherd last week and it spoke to my mama heart pretty hard:

“You know yours, and they know you. Just like the Good Shepherd, you rise every morning to lay down your life again. Even in small ways the world never sees. But the Father sees you and loves you. He knows your heart longs to be like the One who is Love.

If you listen, you will hear His voice. What you long for will lead you.

He promised you this. His promises do not fail. He is the Good Shepherd.”

What an incredible encouragement for mothers. Knowing our shortcomings, our sin, and the stuff we lay down morning after morning is made whole through His love and promises. God’s good grace fills in the gaps of our mommy fails. And our little ones? They have hearts eyes for all that makes up our beautiful mess. We are their gift and they are ours. Let us not forget this truth!

Divorce and single motherhood can really magnify the ways we think we are “failing” our littles. Promise me this, if this Mother’s Day greets you mid-divorce or as a single mama, read some advice I wrote when this too was my reality. As most of you know this will be my first Mother’s Day in four years that I do have an amazing husband to celebrate with (there’s hope!). However, I feel deeply for you ladies on the other side. Give my words a read from last year describing past Mother’s Days.

I pray that ALL the mamas out there will feel loved by their little ones, peace from our Good Shepherd and overwhelming gratitude for the many amazing ways they’re raising these incredible gifts we’ve been given. ❤