Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Mother's Guilt

I always heard people talk about "mother's guilt" before I had children of my own, but like so many other things about motherhood, you can never fully understand or appreciate it until you've lived it. Like anything else, some days it's worse than others, but for a person who struggles with misplaced guilt anyway, it's ALWAYS in the back of my mind. I feel guilty for so many things (sometimes all in one day!) that I never imagined feeling guilty for. Like taking a nap or catching up on a t.v. show or 3 while my children nap in the afternoon instead of tackling my to do list for the day, or the handful of times I've taken a trip for a few days and left them with my mom (I usually feel more guilty about leaving them than how much I miss them while I'm gone!), or letting them watch t.v. so I can get something done (or take a shower!!), or not spending enough time with them on any given day, or letting them eat some unhealthy snack before dinner just so I can get dinner finished! I could go on and on, and of course I try to reason with myself about how nobody is perfect or there is nothing wrong with taking time for myself every now and then, but the guilt never seems to fully go away. Then, of course, there's the one legitimate guilt that I'm sure almost every mother experiences from time to time when your children push the wrong button and you loose your temper and yell at them louder than you should or hand out some other unwarranted punishment because you're angry rather than because it fits the offense. That is the worst! But, in my short 3+ years of experience as a mom I have figured out this one thing at least. As unpleasant as the guilt may be, it only comes out of love and wanting to be the best mom I can to my babies. I'm not here to be their best friend and make them happy all the time. As much as I want to it's just not the best thing for them, they need to learn discipline and boundaries. And as much as I sometimes hate to admit it, taking better care of myself will ultimately make me a better mom in so many ways. So I'm going leave the kiddos with Granddad for a few hours this weekend and go get my birthday pedicure with my mom and maybe do some shopping (the kind where I don't have to monitor little sticky fingers that like to try to pull everything off the shelf as we go by, or get everything done in a hurry in case someone has a meltdown in the middle of the store forcing me to make a premature exit), and I'll remind myself, probably more than once, that it's as good for them as it is for me to get some time away every now and then, not to mention the great bonding time they'll get with my dad while I'm gone :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

6 weeks and counting!

It seems like it should get easier each time John leaves after a visit home, but it doesn't. He's been gone for almost 11 months now and we've had a handful of visits, mostly over long weekends like this past one and it always seems like they're over before they've even begun. Just about the time the kids get adjusted to him being home, Gracie is laying in be with us on the morning he has to leave, just like she does every day he is home, asking him in her own sweet way not to go back. She only ever succeeds in keeping him here an extra hour or two. I can't help but wonder what Will thinks about all this. He was about 9 months old when John left and has mostly gotten to know him through a web cam, pictures, and these occasional trips home.  Amazingly, though, he is always just as excited to see him as Gracie and I and never has to take time to get reacquainted with him like I'm always afraid he will. It is an adjustment for both of them when he is here, though. Like most kids, the excitement, change of pace, and missing daily routine they've grown accustomed to is hard for them to comprehend and it comes out in their behavior, especially Gracie's. I can't help but be a little fearful of what it's going to be like around here 6 weeks from now when he comes home for good and we bring a new baby into the picture shortly thereafter. Not to mention the very likely possibility that we will have to move because whatever job John ends up with (sooner than later I hope!) may be somewhere outside of the city or state or won't pay enough for us to stay in this house. That's a lot for me, so I can't imagine how difficult it might be for 2 young kids who can't wrap their mind around all the huge changes that are about to take place. 
That said, I can't wait for him to come back, to stop feeling like a single parent, to stop having to try to explain to Gracie how long it will be before she sees him again, and to have a normal relationship with my husband. We've survived this long, the next six weeks should be a piece of cake. At least provided I don't have to make any more premature trips to the hospital! It serves me right I guess for trying to do more than I should have to ensure that John finished everything on his exhausting to do list and still had time to spend with the kids. But it all got done and they definitely got some time together Sunday afternoon while I was hanging out in the hospital having more contractions than I should at 30 weeks. They eventually had to give me medicine to stop them, but everything is fine now and I have learned my lesson...I hope! God has been faithful in so many ways even (maybe especially) in the moments, days, or weeks when I can't find the energy or the right words to call on him for help. And I know he will continue to be faithful in the future, however unknown. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guys and Dolls

You know all those theories and studies about kids and gender specific toys? The ones where they put a masculine and feminine toy in a room and the boys gravitate to the "boy toys" and the girls gravitate to the "girly toys"...I'm pretty sure they can't be as accurate as they let on, at least I'm sure that game would not work with my kids. Will learned to say "princess" and "baby" way before he learned to say "dinosaur" and "car" and the very first time I took Gracie to Target with her own money and let her pick out a toy she chose a bucket of dinosaurs. Don't get me wrong, Gracie is about as girly as I can stand for her to be, she loves to paint her nails (and Will's! though I only let that happen once) and play dress up and reminds me every day that she's a princess. And Will loves to play with cars and his tool bench and throw balls and, as much as I hate it, has a new found fondness for spitting...which he learned from Gracie. Truthfully though, I don't think I would have it any other way. I'm not sure why it bothers John so much more that Will likes to play with Gracie's baby dolls and barbies than it does that Gracie likes to play with dinosaurs and throw rocks and sticks in the creek. I just think it's great that they have so much fun playing together. If they want to do a study that would be worthwhile they should put a cardboard box and some exciting new toy in a room and see if they can figure out why kids loose interest in the toy in about 30 seconds but will play with the box for hours. AND, even more importantly, when will they start making a toy vacuum that really works?!?!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Keep Moving Forward

I’m not a coffee drinker, and trust me I’ve tried pretty hard to like it on more than one occasion. So I get my caffeine from chocolate, hot tea, and Diet Coke, it’s kind of a necessity when you spend your days caring for 2 young children. I’m pretty sure a lot of people would say that the life of a “stay-at-home mom” of 2 and a half is hardly worth reading, but if it’s good enough for me maybe I’ll occasionally find something in my day worth sharing :) Mostly it’s the same routine, but there is nothing like the incredible joy and overwhelming responsibility of raising children whether you do it hands on full time or you work away from home to support them. 

This past year has been an incredible challenge for my family. Between John having to close his law practice and go 13 hours away to active duty, loosing 3 loved ones in the span of just 6 months, facing the stress an unplanned pregnancy brings, knowing that John comes home in 2 months and is still without a job, and looking around and seeing family and friends I care deeply about struggling with their own difficulties great and small it would have been easy to become discouraged. But God has given me incredible peace and my dad’s personality so stress never comes easily and I have been able to see blessings where many would see only pain. I have so many things to be thankful for! I certainly have a new appreciation for single moms, my marriage relationship has really grown from time apart when it could have suffered, and how can I not feel blessed to be part of the miracle of life when so many are unable? Not to mention our great fortune that John was still in the states and able to come home occasionally. SO I keep my focus on what I can do now to make the best of my situation and look forward to seeing how God will use this thankful for the promise of Romans 8:28, and knowing from very real experience that His strength is sufficient to get me through any circumstance. 

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13