Baby-making years, For a better life

Hexpectations

Birthdays. Mother’s Day. An empty Saturday on the calendar. Housework.

Traditions and expectations can be a disappointment trap. Nobody likes to be disappointed. So how do we overcome that pattern in our lives?

I’ll tell you how: tell people what you want.

So many of us have an unspoken belief that our loved ones should KNOW what we want. Or that a gift given after we spell out what we want is not as meaningful. (So I guess Santa gifts fall under this category.) But humans are not mind-readers. If you know what you want, let it be known! You don’t have to be rude about it; you can be kind. And this does not mean that your people will grant your wish, but the odds are much better than if you had not told them at all.

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This year will be my 15th Mother’s Day. (Yikes!) I used to have ideas of how I wanted Mother’s Day to go and just thought my husband should know, because of course he knows me better than anyone else in the world. He often knows what I want for dinner before I do! After being repeatedly disappointed I realized I needed to make some changes. I either needed to not have expectations and just let the day unfold how it will, or speak up and tell my family what I want.

We all have our own beliefs about how Mother’s Day “should” work out. Often times, all I want for mother’s day is some pampering or time alone. (Introvert, anyone?) My family wants to make it a big deal that requires me to expend “extra” energy– which is not my idea of a good Mother’s day. So then I have to ask, Who is Mother’s Day for? Is it for me? Is it for them? Or both?

Some soul searching may be required. Do you even know what you want? Then how can you expect anyone else to? Do gifts lose their meaning for you if you have to say exactly what you want? Does a clean kitchen mean as much if you have to specifically ask for it? Why is that? 

I would love to hear your thoughts or how you struggle with this issue.

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Baby-making years, Inspiration

Beware of the victim in your story

Were you successful at defining success for yourself?

Did you keep thinking about reasons why you can’t be successful?

Not enough time? Too tired? People in your life holding you back?

Beware of making yourself into a victim. What story are you telling yourself about your life? There is always another version you can tell.

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I lived for years being unhappy and unsuccessful. At least I didn’t feel happy or successful. I had these kids around me who needed me and wanted my attention. And you know what? That was my dream. All I ever wanted was to be a mom.

Until I got there.

Then I wanted something else. I wanted kids who cleaned up after themselves. I wanted appreciation. I wanted recognition for all the hard work I was doing. I wanted someone else to make dinner and wash the dishes. I wanted a night out. I wanted to just be able to sit down and read a novel!

The grass is always greener….

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“I’ll never be a good mom because I don’t like to play with my kids.” “I am not as good as So-and-so because I am just not patient. I can’t be patient when I have kids that act like this.” “My kids will need years of therapy because I am ruining them already. Why can’t I stop yelling at them?”

Poor me. When you are the result of your circumstance, then you are like a victim. Powerless to defend yourself.

Change your story.

“I don’t like to play with my kids, but that’s ok because I teach them how to get creative when they are bored.” “I am learning how to be patient and having kids is the perfect way to learn that quality!” “I inherited the bad habit of yelling from my parents, and I am trying to not pass it down to my kids. But sometimes we have fun being loud when we turn the music up and dance in the kitchen.”

As I have said before, the story you tell yourself is powerful. Use kind words. Look for the positive. And never forget that you still have the power to change your story, even in mid-sentence.

Baby-making years, Background, Germany, Homeschooling years

In Retrospect

My husband says I am never happy. Of course that’s not entirely true, but what he really means is that I am never content. I am always looking to the next thing. After we were married and still newlyweds, I really wanted a baby. Even though we were young and both finishing college, it seemed like the thing that would make my life perfect. Later, when our beautiful little girl came along, the transition to full-time motherhood was really hard. I had spent my entire life getting good grades and proving myself to others through academic performance and all of a sudden there was no one giving me that A+. That combined with my ingrained desire to be The Best was the perfect storm for a huge hit to my self-esteem. Looking back, I think that was the beginning of me feeling really lost in my life.

Of course raising a baby keeps you pretty busy, so I didn’t really think about it all that much. It’s only now in retrospect that I can see what was happening. And I do think I was a pretty good mom, but one with really low self-esteem. The things of life took over: we bought and sold a house, we moved states, bought another house, had another baby, and then a third right on the heels of the second. Those years are still a blur in my mind. My second and third children are only 21 months apart and there are days (or weeks?) that I just don’t remember at all. The status of BUSY kept me from figuring out why I didn’t ever feel content.

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When that third baby came along, my oldest was starting kindergarten and there is a huge learning curve in that whole rigamarole. When she went to first grade, it all just felt wrong. I loved the preschool years, but sending my kid off to school for 7 hours a day only for her to return home hungry, tired and grumpy left a bad taste in my mouth. So, for that reason and many others, I started down the path of homeschooling my kids.

This seemed to be an almost-thriving part of my life. I had always pretended to be a teacher as a kid, and it just came naturally to me. It was still really difficult, especially with a preschooler and a baby underfoot as well as a second grader. But I liked it! It gave me a sense of doing good and spending my time well the way nothing else since becoming a mom had.

Five years of that went by and suddenly our family was faced with an opportunity to move to Germany temporarily. What homeschooling family doesn’t take advantage of that? “It’ll be a grand adventure! We can learn another language! What a great bonding time!” we said. The pickle was that homeschooling is illegal in Germany. We are not a military family so if we took that plunge, it would shift our lifestyle tremendously. “But it is only temporary, two years max.”

And here we are, seven months into our stint in Germany. The kids, especially the oldest who was more than ready to dive back into public school already, are doing well and love their school. It keeps them busy.

But me? Well, not so much.  I get up with the kids and get them off to school, making them breakfast and lunches before they stampede out the door at 7:15 am. While my husband goes off to work all day supporting teams both here in Germany and in the U.S. eight time zones away, I am home.

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Because I am not accountable to anyone for how I spend my time, I have gotten really lazy. This makes me feel very guilty. I have a hard time not being productive with every minute of my time. And since the dust has settled on our international move, the silence of my days has been very loud. I am not busy. I don’t have friends or extended family vying for my time. We rent a house so we are not responsible for home improvement projects. I am involved in some church responsibilities, but it doesn’t take much of my time. I don’t work because I don’t speak the language. I actually thought I would spend this time getting some years-in-the-making projects done, but I don’t work on them.

Why not? I am living someone else’s dream life– seems like I should be able to write a novel or something. But instead I sleep a lot and pretty much just figure out what is for dinner and make sure all the dishes and laundry are getting done. I don’t even watch TV or movies; they make me feel like I am wasting my time- oh the irony! And I just feel…. lost. It’s like all the silence has made me realize that my soul hungers for something more. I am missing the passion and purpose in my life.

I have wondered if I am suffering from depression. It is a thought that has come up in my mind regularly over the years. I have lost my ability to feel happy for more than a fleeting moment. I am often angry. I remind myself of my mother and in many ways that scares me. I have no doubt that she was depressed.

I don’t want mental health issues to be a part of my story, but sometimes we don’t get a say in how the story of our lives unfold. And sometimes the protagonist in the story only has their own demons to overcome. I am certain there will be a time when this chapter is  behind me. Today I am trying to make it so.