A Life of Questions?

Have you ever had a question about parenting?  Not like, “Which diapers should I be using?” or “At what point do you take a feverish child to the ER?”  No, no.  I am talking more along the lines of:  “What ever gave me the idea that I could do this?”

Mama, I.have.been.there.  Depending on the day, I am still there.  There was even a time in my not-so-distant past where nearly every waking thought ran along these lines:  Should I stay home?  Should I work full-time?  Should I work part-time?  Should I home-school?  Should I put them in French immersion? Should we be eating better?  Should we get rid of the TV?  Do I read to them enough?  Do I do enough crafts with them?  Should we be practicing printing more?  Should we be practicing math skills more?  Should I be speaking more French with them?  Do I worry too much?  Do I worry enough?  Should we be reading more Bible stories?  Should we be praying with them more often?  Am I being an example of good behavior?  Am I meeting their needs?  Am I smart enough?  Patient enough?  Firm enough?  Loving enough?  Creative enough?  Entertaining enough?  Tender enough?  Nurturing enough?  Attentive enough?  Funny enough?  Wise enough?

 

Can I do this?

 

Am I enough?

A rare moment where I believe we are reading "enough" for one day! ;)

A rare moment where I believe we are reading “enough” for one day! 😉

The truth is that I am a far-from-perfect mother who struggles on a daily basis to reconcile the mother I am with the mother I feel I “should be.”  I have, and oftentimes still do, wrestle with feelings of inadequacy.  I compare myself to other moms.  I have denied the existence of my own gifts.  I have been lost in the box of what God has called someone else to be, instead of embracing who I am.  And I have failed to live up to my own expectations.  I have constantly questioned the purpose behind the plan, or if there even is a plan.  It is only now, after having failed miserably to succeed as someone I am not, drowning in questions with no answers in sight, that I am able to see that my idea of success was inherently flawed to begin with.  I now realize that many of the things I believed I had to be to qualify as a good mom are actually meaningless, and that there is no one better equipped to raise my children than I am, because I have been chosen as their mother by the One who never makes mistakes and never leaves me without answers.  So I say: I will no longer live in a way that produces questions without answers.  I can do this.  I am enough.  And so are you.

The truth is that when you became a mother it was not an accident, a mistake, a random event, or a coincidence that you ended up with your specific child or children.  They are with you, here and now, for a purpose.  You are their mother because no one else could be.  They are your children because they need to learn something that only you can teach them.  They are calling out for something that only you can offer.  You have a gift, or maybe even many gifts, that God has given you in order to mother them in the exact way that they require. When you accept that, how can you fail?

Worrying about things like which soccer team my kids play on and how many grams of sugar they consume on a daily basis will never get me the answers I am looking for, as a mother.  I have arrived at the point where I now realize that “things” and activities are good, and time spent with my children is always time well-spent.  However, if my focus and motivation for providing things, planning activities, and spending time is to convince myself, and those around me, that I am worthy of the title “Good Mom”, then the reality is that I will fail my children.  No amount of, or even LACK of, primary-readiness worksheets, French immersion registrations, Pinterest crafts, Bible stories, or worry will ever transform me into the mom God calls me to be, or my kids into the human beings He has called them to be.  If my goal is to turn out good kids that will in turn make me look good, I may impress a few human beings along the way, but that’s where it will end and that is not enough.

francis chan

It is so hard to be a mom, no matter how your family has been called to operate.  It is even harder to be a good mom, and entirely impossible to be a perfect one.  In fact I have discovered only one perfect parent in all of history, and He did not concern Himself with what other parents thought of Him, nor did He lie to Himself about what was truly important.  Likewise, I have discovered only one perfect child, and He was not in French immersion, nor did he play hockey 6 days a week (although, He probably did wear cloth diapers).  Instead He watched His Father, and by doing so learned how to live in such a way that His purpose was fully realized.  Who could ask for more than that for their children?  I know that it is not my job to be what other human beings consider to be perfect or to produce perfect kids, and that even if it were possible to accomplish such a thing, it would still not be enough if in the end they never discover their true purpose.  I now know that it is my job to teach my children to watch their Father, and I can only do that by watching Him myself.

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.” -Ephesians 5:1-2

A life of love.  So simple!!  Not a life of things.  Not a life of accolades.  Not a life of human approval.  Not a life spent worrying myself and my kids to death over details that don’t give us what we need.  Not a life spent in hopeless pursuit of an ever-shifting definition of perfection.  Not a life of questions with no answers.

A life of love.  To me this means a life spent watching what is good, doing what is good, teaching my children what is good, keeping company with and learning from God, and then living the rest of my life loving the people God has called me to, trusting that my children will learn to do the same, in whichever way this is meant to look.

A life of questions?  No, thank you.  Mama, I promise that my life will never be perfect.  Neither will yours.  I will never be you, and you will never be me.  But I believe with all my heart when we each strive to live our individual lives with love that points our children to their Father, that our lives of questions will become lives of answers.

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My Breastfeeding Story

**Please join us in welcoming Jenn to Mama Might**

In the three months since becoming a mother, the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone has an opinion about every issue surrounding how to raise my child. They have very strong opinions. Not only do they readily share their opinions, but they make you feel like you are going to ruin your child’s life if you don’t adhere to the same philosophy as they do. This was manifest in my life as a mom when it came to the issue of breastfeeding.

My husband and I have been married for seven years, waiting until a few months ago to have our first child. This means that most of our friends and family members already have children and have “tried and tested” methods for raising them. Leading up to delivery, we attended the prenatal classes together. I read every book and blog I could find on labour, delivery, the first weeks and especially breastfeeding. I was prepped. I was ready. I knew what to do.

Little Man had to be evicted five days after my due date. He was just shy of seven pounds and because of the drugs in my body, he was a very sleepy and reluctant latcher. The nurses and I tried for the first 12 hours to get him to drink, but he kept falling asleep. They checked his blood sugars, but he was fine so we didn’t worry. He had dropped 11 ounces before we left the hospital.

When we got home, I was not prepared for the hormones and exhaustion that took over my life. Besides dealing with the trauma my body had just endured, I was trying to nurse this little infant. Pushing through the pain and cracks, I kept asking everyone, “Is this normal? Should I dread every time he needs to be fed?” But we pressed on.

We started taking him in for his Well-Baby check ups about a week after he was born, going every few days to monitor his progress. By the time he was three weeks old, the nurse was getting concerned that he hadn’t gained enough weight. He wasn’t back to his birth-weight yet. She said they would give us a few more days and he may need to be given formula. I cried on the nurse. I felt so ashamed and disappointed. Mostly in myself. I thought that there was something more I should have done. What was wrong with me as a woman and a mother that my body couldn’t give my baby what he needed? I tried following the advice of the nurse to the letter: drink more, rest with your feet up, wake him every two hours no matter what, and do everything you can to keep him awake while he eats.

I went to meet with the local lactation consultants. They watched me feed my son, gave me a few suggestions about positioning, but told me that we were doing great together. They urged me not to fret and to continue doing what we were doing. They really frowned on “giving up” on breastfeeding by “giving in” to formula. Later that week, we were attending a breastfeeding support group meeting when my phone rang. The pediatrician told our nurse that he would really like us to try formula, at least for a few days, so they could rule out other health related causes. I was devastated by this recommendation.

I felt like there was no way to win. Every path I chose had someone nay-saying, frowning and clucking their tongues about my choice. Oh, and on top of everything else, my husband left to be away for work in the middle of all of this. I talked to him and we decided to listen to the medical professionals and do what we felt was best for our son. Nay-sayers be darned!

So I would breast feed him as usual, then I would offer him formula in a bottle. That first bottle he gulped down almost two ounces. I will admit that I cried, feeling like I must have been starving him if he was that hungry right after drinking from my supply. He started out only taking between a half ounce and two ounces at every feeding. He then started crying after he breastfed, looking for more, until I gave him the bottle. I started to believe that I was insufficient and he would always need more than I could give. BUT at least he was still getting the benefits of breast milk.

After five days, we went back to the nurse and he had gained over a pound! We were all flabbergasted! We continued in this way for another week and he gained another pound! The nurse couldn’t believe it. At that point, he had reached his milestones, so we started giving him the bottles every second feeding or so. He continued to gain, so we eventually stopped giving them to him at all.

I am proud to say that we are back to exclusively breast feeding. He has more than doubled his birth-weight at three months of age (which is the six month growth milestone). He is a happy, healthy, growing boy. He didn’t reject the breast because of the bottles. My milk supply didn’t dry up. He is not scarred for life. It is actually very convenient that he will take the formula now from someone else when I need to be away.

I share this because I know a lot of women go through the same situation. This is especially true of babies with low birth weights or who were born prematurely. The doctor figures my son was getting too tired while breastfeeding and stopped eating before he was full enough. This was enough to satisfy his thirst, but not to gain enough weight.

The moral of the story is: don’t let anyone else shame you into doing something that goes against your instincts. First time mothers often doubt our intuition for our children because we feel that we do not have the expertise that experience gives. However true this may be, please learn from my story that doing what is best for your baby is never wrong. Every mom is different. Every child is different.  What works for one, may not work for another. God designed us to be the mother of that particular child and has equipped us to handle any situation. Even if we doubt ourselves sometimes. As someone pointed out to me, on graduation day, you will not be able to tell which student on that stage was breastfed and which one wasn’t.

Jenn and her little man :)

Jenn and her little man 🙂

Jenn married her high school sweetheart seven years ago. She and Scott just had their first child in March. They live on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, where Jenn is an elementary school teacher.

The Truth About Poop (And Other Gross Things Your Kids Will Do)

As a mommy of three with more than my fair share of experience in the not-so-widely-publicized toilet-related aspects of Motherhood, I feel it is my duty to provide you, the naïve and childless public, with some little known facts about the future that many of you think you want.  I believe that us parents have a responsibility to educate those of you who may be considering joining our ranks concerning the biohazards of rearing a small human into adulthood.  Ideally, this would be done generationally whereby parents would pass the knowledge they’ve gained during their own experiences on to their children.  I think we all know that it doesn’t always go that way though, does it?  (By the way, thanks for that, Mom.  Marching confidently into this parenting-gig only to have feces flung at the rose-colored glasses you provided was awesome.)

Now just to be clear, I am in no way suggesting I would have done things differently had I known “then” what I know now.  After all, I did decide to have two additional children after experiencing near-daily poopocalypses with my firstborn.  I’m just saying that a little “heads up” would have been nice.  It is however, too late for me.  You, however, still have time to mentally and physically prepare for the onslaught of stink about to assault your senses.  With that in mind I have decided to provide you with a few examples of some of the less-sanitary features of parenting.

Now before we even get into what your kids will do, let’s talk about something that you might do.  Ready for this?  You may poop during labour.  I’m just putting that out there immediately in case you were wondering how real I was planning to keep it here.  Now you know.  I imagine that you have probably recoiled from your laptop in disgust and are now frantically typing “Involuntary bowel movement during labour” into your favourite search engine hoping to call my bluff, but just stop it.  It’s true.  There is a risk, and there is practically nothing you can do about it other than to accept it as a possibility.  The good news is that you will probably be in so much pain that you won’t notice or care whether or not you’ve actually (*ahem*) “evacuated your bowels” during what you have always imagined would be a beautiful moment.  This and the fact that your husband, if he is anything like mine, will consistently deny that such a horrifyingly disgusting event ever took place, should be of some comfort to you after it’s all over.

The first time you see your child they will be covered in a ghastly layer of gook consisting of your blood, their pee and poop, amniotic fluid, and a de-LIGHT-ful waxy substance known as vernix.  Say THAT ten times without gagging.

Your baby will vomit directly into your mouth at least once.

Your child will urinate on you and your various belongings on a semi-regular basis for a period of time spanning several years.  Don’t let the fact that they are “potty-trained” tempt you to lower your guard, remove the plastic from the couch, or start leaving your purse unzipped.  Unless of course you find that the faint smell of ammonia on all your clothes helps to scare off unwanted visitors and other predators.

Your baby will spit up down the inside of your shirt, directly between your breasts, approximately eleventy million times.  They will usually wait for a time when you are already hot, sweaty, and far from home without access to a clean garment or running water.  Beware crowded, non-air-conditioned spaces like weddings, funerals, line-ups, and anywhere with the words “Fun Zone” in the title.

No matter what you encounter prior to this event, nothing will ever prepare you for the first “meat diaper”.

You will find things in the toilet for what will seem like the rest.of.your.life.  Things that have no earthly reason to be there will be floating (if you’re lucky) in the bowl like some sort of disgusting prize in a cereal box.  It will be your job to reach in and fish out the Lego Man, the slimy wad of Play Doh, your husband’s razor, your wedding earrings, and maybe even your makeup brushes.  You will need to do this immediately (no time for gloves!) because if you don’t you run the not-to-be-taken-lightly risk of the same little doofus that put the object there in the first place running in and flushing it, thereby ruining your septic system and the back yard in one fell swoop.

Oftentimes, your kids will smell so badly it will be offensive.  It will usually be poop-related, but not always.

You will also smell really bad a lot of the time.  It will usually be kid-related.  To cut back on the frequency of this occurrence don’t forget to wash your hands after the mandatory post-potty high-five.

No matter where you hide the box of tampons, your kids will not only find them but will remove their packaging and use them to decorate the Christmas tree.

You will find poop in strange places.  Like the closet, or the back deck.  Perhaps even in the laundry hamper.  No explanation will ever be forthcoming.  You will almost never find poop in the toilet because for awhile, flushing will be the one thing they do right every time.

You will know, down to the hour, exactly how long it takes for various foreign objects such as stickers, rubber bands, Lego Man’s arm, and pebbles to pass through a toddler’s digestive track.

Your child may one day create a shrine on their bedroom wall for prize boogers.  Despite being asked to wash the boogers off beforehand, your husband may decide to skip that all-important step, paint right over them, and in so doing preserve said boogers for all eternity.  (You’re welcome, future owners of my home.)

I can tell by your horrified cyber-silence that I should wrap this up now.  However in the interest of full disclosure you should know that I am not stopping because there is nothing left to say, but because I truly believe in the whole “just give the people only as much information as they can reasonably be expected to handle at one time” concept.

I trust that in the days, months, and years following the arrival of your own small, sticky, vernix-covered, milk-drinking, poo-factories (because we both know that despite what you have just read, you’re going to go ahead and do it anyways!) that you will think back on this moment with gratitude and thankfulness that at least you went in with your eyes open and a surplus of hand-sanitizer at the ready.  You’re going to need it since the amount of poop and bodily-fluids one small child is inexplicably able to produce is nothing short of supernatural.  They truly are miraculous!

The Kids Are Asleep

Moo Shu Pork in lettuce wraps, sparkling juice, and some background music. Date night doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive, or even out of the house. It just has to happen.

ImageSo give the kids something quick and simple for supper, tuck them in a few minutes early, and reconnect with that incredible man you married. You won’t regret it. Cheers!
~Jaclyn (and Francis)

If She Only Knew…

Tonight while browsing through some different blogs, I came across a post, written almost exactly three years ago, which had a profound impact on me as I began to read through it.

It was written by a young mom of “two under two” and was called “Breast vs. Bottle”.

Okay…wait, wait, wait.   Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh brother, here we go again with the whole “Booby Wars” debacle!”, let me tell you why this particular post got to me.

The first thing that struck me about this post was that the young woman writing it was obviously over-stressed, sleep-deprived, scared, and sad.  (I dare you to show me a young mother out there who can’t relate to that!)  Like all of us, she was struggling.  Like most robust, healthy, four month old males, her baby was hungry a lot of the time. The gist of the post was that she desperately wanted to exclusively nurse her son, after having “failed” to do so with her firstborn, but was having supply problems.    She nursed, he cried for hours.  She felt like a failure.  She supplemented, he slept like a log.  She felt like a failure.  She obsessively kept track of how many ounces of formula he required, and she despaired as that number grew higher and higher.

As I read, I could feel my eyes well up with tears of sympathy and sorrow until they eventually spilled over and rolled down my cheeks.  “If you only knew!”,  I whispered.  I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to talk to her, and tell her what a great job she was doing.  I wanted to help her understand that no mother, anywhere, was more perfect for her son than she was.  That she was a gift from God to that boy and that having a body which for unknown, and uncontrollable reasons, was not producing enough breast milk to satisfy a ravenous four month old, did not turn that truth into a lie.  I wanted to tell her to spend her time rocking, snuggling, giggling, singing, smiling, SLEEPING, and enjoying.  For I have learned that crying only blurs our sight, blinding us to the joy that is always there if only we would have eyes clear enough to see it.

I wanted to tell her that in exactly three years her sweet baby boy will the picture of perfect health.

I wanted to tell her that he will be one of the smartest children his age that she has ever met.

I wanted to tell her that when he smiles, which will be all the time, that people will be struck by the pure joy in his eyes.

That strangers will stop her in the supermarket to tell her how beautiful he is.

That he will do a mean Tasmanian Devil impersonation.

That he will love peanut butter sandwiches and cucumber slices for breakfast.

That he will struggle to hold heavy doors open for ladies, just like his daddy taught him.

That he will cover his ears and run away whenever she starts to sing.

That he will tell her approximately 250 times a day that he loves her “to the moon and back!”

And above all I wanted to tell her that when she tucks him into bed every night and asks him what he would like to say to Jesus, that he will sweetly and innocently thank God for his “precious Mommy.”

And that three years from now, she won’t be wasting time counting ounces because she will be far too busy counting blessings.

A Voice From Beyond the Trenches

Please join us in welcoming Sue to the blog as our first guest poster!

I’ve been a mom for more than half my life. By the time we were married five and a half years, we had three kids. It was a blur of diapers (mostly cloth), dishes (no dishwasher!), laundry (drying on a clothesline), toys, books, sleepless nights…you know the drill. Four years later we had another baby, and six years later another. Do the math, and by the time our youngest arrived, we had two teenagers.

I think there are two things that helped me most during those early years of figuring out how to be mom, since my own mother was very ill and five hundred kilometres away. One – having two amazing friends whose kids were close in age to my own. We supported one another, made food together, hung out with our kids together, and prayed together. To this day, they are still two of my dearest friends.

Two – having a couple of friends who were also mentors. They were both about eight or nine years my senior, with five kids each when we met. Their youngest children – babies at the time – were the same age as my eldest. They each were a source of encouragement and wisdom when things just seemed so hard. They didn’t use platitudes like, “Enjoy them while they are little. They grow up so fast.” No, they were both realists who remembered how challenging raising a brood can be, but they also enjoyed their kids. One of them taught me the basics of homemaking and baking. She was a lifesaver! I don’t think either of them ever realized the impact they had on my life during that time.

There was no social media back when I was raising our kids in the early years – just the telephone, which I spent lots of time on! (I became very adept at nursing a baby and talking on the phone at the same time.) Social media – especially blogs and Facebook – have opened up opportunities for moms to support one another in ways we never dreamt of all those years ago. And there’s even room for an “old mom” like me, to hopefully support other moms, to let them know that all the hard work, sleepless nights and tears pay off.

Sue A.

Sue is a mom of five and has been married to her husband, Paul, for 27 years. She was a registered nurse before she had kids, and has been a full-time stay-at-home mom since she had her first child, 26 years ago. She spent ten years as a freelance knitting designer and workshop teacher during that time. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, knitting and crocheting, but her first loves are her faith and her family.