Thursday, May 29, 2014

Life's Too Short for Mommy Guilt

Jim Gaffigan is right.  It is amazing that mothers have anyone to talk to!  He lays out his brilliant case in Dad is Fat:

"Motherhood is filled with executive decisions, and with each decision comes possible conflict with kids, husbands, and other mom friends.  With these other mom friends, there are so many opportunities for major disagreements and awkwardness.  Let's say that a woman starts with twenty friends when she finds out she's pregnant.  There is going to be awkwardness with, let's say, six of those friends because they have no interest in babies or are jealous she is pregnant.  Then four won't agree with how she behaves during the pregnancy.  She's too uptight, too casual, or not available enough as a friend.  We are down to ten friends.  Then there are the decisions of how the baby will be delivered, breastfeeding, circumcision, blanket or no blanket in the crib, and whether or not to return to work after the birth.  These topics turn out to be more divisive than opinions about politics and religion.  After a couple of kids, there might be one good friend left.  And that friend is never available because she has too many kids herself.  I'm amazed mothers have anyone to talk to.  When a man finds out he's going to be a father, it barely covers more than twenty seconds of a conversation with his male friends.  'I heard you two are expecting!  Congratu...Who do you think is the best quarterback in the fourth quarter?'"
Oi vey.  As if motherhood weren't tough enough, now we have the digital age intruding.  Everyone has an opinion on every single itty bitty little facet of mothering.  If you're somehow connected to social media, someone will come along (if they haven't already) and tell you how you're doing it all wrong.  The digital age makes it so much easier for the smug know-it-alls of the world to let you know that you're an idiot.  If we're not careful, this tendency can bleed over into the world of mommy friends, and it can be downright toxic if we let it.  The steady build-up of mommy guilt creates a crazy mama.

I don't think she had mommy guilt.  She had more important things to focus on.
I'm still a rookie in the world of parenting, but I've learned to own one thing: life is too short for unnecessary mommy guilt.  (Note:  Guilt is a good thing.  If we have a well-formed conscience, guilt is God's way of setting off alarm bells to STOP whatever we're doing because it's bad for us.  Unnecessary mommy guilt is the huge load of self-imposed guilt we have for not parenting the way someone else thinks we should.)  I don't parent the exact same way as my own mother, my sister and sisters-in-law, or my dear friends.  Philip and I have figured out the brand of parenting that's working for our family, and we keep reinventing things or making it up as we go.  There will always be the people telling us that we're doing it wrong or that we should rethink something.  Of course, there will always be areas that I need to work on as a mom.  So long as I'm human, there will be room for improvement.  God, my conscience, and family do a bang up job filling me in on my shortcomings.  Unless mommy advice is coming from the Holy Spirit or a sweet loved one with my family's best interests genuinely at heart, we keep rolling with the punches. 

I'm learning to own my role in this family.  A big part of that is figuring out what makes me me--for better and for worse.  That means spending a lot of time asking God to reveal my strengths, weaknesses, habits, vices, and virtues.  It means humbly accepting my limitations and asking for an extra heap of grace on the days when my capacity to serve isn't meeting my family's needs.  It also means seeking absolution in the confessional for all of my failings.  Beyond that, letting go of unnecessary mommy guilt is one of the best things I've done for our family. 

Everyone will have different versions of mommy guilt.  Letting go of mommy guilt around here looks like this:  

I love sleep.  A good nap is more precious than gold for this lady!  If the kids' naptime rolls around, and I'm feeling like I'm not going to make it to dinner without losing my mind, I lay down.  I may lose out on some valuable time to get some housework done, but the nap replaces the crazy lady with the short fuse with a happy mama.  In my experience, the guilt associated with crazy lady with the short fuse is not worth the dusted family room.  When my pillow beckons me, I give in.

Congratulating myself for breastfeeding all three babies (no matter how long)
I tried breastfeeding all three kids, and my record is 5 months with Harry.  I plan to breastfeed any future kiddos we may be blessed with, and I'm still hopeful that I can make it longer with future babies, but I'm not going to breastfeed at the expense of my sanity or the peace of the whole fam.  Yes, absolutely, breast is best, and breastfeeding moms are huge heroes in my book.  However, I've learned that attaching breastfeeding to my self worth as a mom does more harm than good.  Ironically, when I let go of all of that, I was able to breastfeed for the longest amount of time.  Here's to hoping we will be blessed with more babies and that breastfeeding goes swimmingly.  If it doesn't, I'll remember that how I feed my babies is only one part of mothering.  

Choosing Philip
This culture wants me to choose my kids over my husband, but I won't because I know I can't if I want our marriage to be in top form.  In order for me to be a good mom, I choose to be a good wife first.  No mommy guilt in this department means regular date nights, no kids allowed in our bed, a regular bedtime routine for everyone (remember, I love sleep!), and lots of making out.  Lots and lots of making out.

Asking For and Accepting Forgiveness
When I screw up (ask the peanut gallery how often that happens), I've learned to both ask for forgiveness and accept it.  I make it a regular point to ask the kids for forgiveness when I screw up--yelling, nagging, being too strict, the list goes on...  Have you ever asked a 2-year-old for forgiveness and heard their sweet little voice say, "I forgive you, Mama"?  The hard part is believing them when they say we're forgiven and resolving to make a change.  

There's always the temptation when I leave the confessional after hearing the words of absolution to think, "Nah.  I'm such a wretch.  There's no way God forgives me for that."  Stewing in guilt is a slap in the face to God who offers us His Divine Mercy.  It's some sort of twisted power trip that only ends up making me bitter for being a wretch.  So, when I go to sleep, instead of stewing in whatever ways I screwed up as a mom that day, I believe in my kids' words of forgiveness (even if they don't completely understand how I screwed up), and I resolve to do better the next day--praying that God will give me a huge heap of grace to actually change.  More often than not, I end up asking for forgiveness for the same things every single day.  When I complained to a priest that I keep bringing the same things into the confessional over and over again, he said, "Well, I suppose it's better than bringing in a bunch of new sins!"

Asking For and Accepting Help
The silly, younger me soldiered on through the tough times with so much as thinking of asking for help.  "Only the weak do that!  I've got this."  Silly, silly, silly me.  Somehow, I thought accepting help from people offering it would be imposing on them.  It wasn't until I miscarried our baby, Thérése, that God taught me the great healing that comes when we allow others to be the Body of Christ to us.  I realized it was healing for me to receive their love during that time, but I learned another thing.  People love us, and they have a genuine need to show us that love.  When we constantly shrug off their genuine offers to love us through loving acts of service, that's not brave or admirable; it's actually selfish.  If we're going through tough stuff, people want and need to help.  (Now, don't get me wrong, there's such a thing as the intrusive sorta folks.  I'm not talking about them.  I'm talking about the dear woman in your parish who brought you that delicious home-cooked dinner after you had a baby or the neighbor who put a gorgeous planter of annuals on your front stoop after learning that your father died.)  God made us body and soul, and it's a good thing for us to exercise giving and receiving the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  The only reward for the self-appointed supermom who soldiers it alone day after day is exhaustion and self-pity.  

How exhausted self-appointed supermom feels
A writer over at Yahoo shared a story about how she was having one of those mornings with her kiddos.  When another mom asked her what was wrong at school drop-off, she regaled her with the play-by-play of everything that had gone wrong that morning.  The concerned friend kindly asked her how she could help.  The author calls this offer of help the "'nice' mom gesture that kind of irks me."  I had to reread the article to make sure I understood correctly.  Another mom saw her need for help, went out of her way to offer assistance, and the frazzled mom's reaction was something like, "How DARE SHE think I can't handle this!"  

The old me was totally the indignant frazzled mom.  The new me is still frazzled, but when there's an offer of help on the table, I'm able to say, "YES!  Please!  I'd love some help!"  What the old frazzled me didn't get was that the moms who are offering their help aren't doing it out of some charity for me.  (Besides, even if they are, the good news is that I'm still getting help, right?!  Joke's on them!)  In my experience, the mom friends who are the first to offer help are also willing to accept it.  I learned that they accept their own limitations, empathize with another mom's need for help, and strive to be good friends by giving and receiving.  With the mommy yoke temporary lifted off of our shoulders every now and then, we come back refreshed and ready to pay it forward with the other mamas around them.  If I knew the author of that article, I'd tell her to start accepting offers of help before they disappear.  If we're honest, we know that we could use some help every now and then.  Besides, the people who love us need to be needed, and it's good to let them love us!  

Are You Ready to Let Go Of Mommy Guilt?
There is always going to be someone out there telling you or just making you feel like you're a complete failure as a mother.  Remember this: you have no idea what's going on behind closed doors in that woman's life.  Besides, even if her life is as perfect as it looks from the outside, her family's needs are not your family's needs.  So long as we're honest with God about our shortcomings and are asking Him for the strength to keep giving it our all everyday, there's nothing to fear, shame, or stew in.  Look in the mirror, know that God entrusted your children's souls to you, and that you are exactly the woman He is asking to faithfully form and guide them until you give them back.  That's all there is to it.  No more comparing or keeping score.  

Allow the beautiful women you surround yourself with to build you up and be a blessing in your life.  Build them up.  Accept their help.  Be generous in your offers to help them.  Better yet, make your offers specific to your friend's needs so that they'll be less likely to turn them down.  Remember that she's best equipped to raise her family and you're best equipped to raise yours.  When you find those friends who are equally present for you during the rough patches and the good times, hold onto them tight.  They'll help you keep fighting the good fight and remind you to let go of unnecessary mommy guilt along the way.  Listen to them.  Believe them.  Life's too short for mommy guilt.  

Go, play with your kids.  Take breaks.  Accept help.  Give help.  Keep romancing your husband, and make sure he's #2 only to God.  Your kids will thank you for it later.  Ask your kids for forgiveness when you screw up (and you will), and be sure you actually accept their forgiveness.  Pray for the grace to do better tomorrow.  God won't be outdone in generosity.  With Him, all things are possible, and He'll release you from all of that silly mommy guilt you're hanging onto.  

Mama Mary, pray for us!           

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Letter to Walt For His 3rd Birthday

Dear Walt,

I am sorry this is nearly a week late.  I know, I know, life of the middle child, huh?  Moving took over our lives for a little while.  Now that things are starting to settle down, I want to take the time to let you know just how special you are in a letter, little guy.  I shouldn't say "little guy" anymore.  You are getting SO BIG and grown up!

I had a ball going through old pictures, thinking about all of our memories together since you entered our lives.  You, Mister, make me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.  I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures of you!

When Daddy worked a month of nights last summer, you and Janie begged him to bring donuts home every morning.  When he did, your order used to be "brown with sprinkles."  It has since changed to a "Lightning McQueen donut" (translation: pink frosting since you like to do whatever big sis does, but calling it a "Lightning McQueen donut" makes it your own).

August 2012
Look how much you've changed since your first birthday!  You were the cutest wootest little engineer.  Who knew I was feeding your obsession with Thomas so early?  You didn't have much to say for awhile since you had big sis trying to communicate all of your needs, but you have certainly caught up, and we have such sweet conversations.  
May 2012
One of your favorite things is making everyone laugh.  Here's you, wearing sunglasses one random evening just because.  You have the best big, full-bodied giggle!  I'm chuckling at the computer just looking at this silly picture.

You are a little stinker, too!  Unfortunately, I think you got your stubbornness and fiery temper from your mama.  Sorry!  One day, Janie didn't finish her  PBJ, and you fished it out of the trash can.  No food is wasted around these parts with you around!  Silly boy!

You insist on doing everything Jane does, but sometimes it gets you into trouble.  Here's you trying markers for the first time.  It didn't go so well, and Daddy had to irrigate your eye with saline because you had COLORED YOUR CORNEA!  You thought it was sooooooooo funny!  You'll think this is funny, too...when Daddy irrigated your eyeball, blue water came out of your nose!

Since Jane is such a big personality, you tend to let her do her thing while you mostly sit back and observe.  You have a quiet confidence about you that I adore.  This picture captures it perfectly!  Get a load of that hair and those aviators!  Your hair is phenomenal, by the way.  Your Uncle Dave is always impressed by it since the guys on the Witt side don't tend to have luscious locks.  Now that you're 3, we have finally figured out a way to get it to sit down--unless, of course, it's right after you woke up.

I was a little nervous that you would get jealous of all of the attention Baby Harry got when he joined our family last August.  You embraced your role as big brother right away, and your tender heart melts mine when I watch you play with Harry.  You don't like him quite as well now that he's crawling and can get into your toys, but you mostly love the little guy.  I am so glad I captured this moment of brotherly love.

You found your voice this year while Jane was at preschool two days a week.  We had a good amount of one-on-one time since Harry snoozed for most of the morning.  It was so fun to have that special time together. Usually, you would ask me to play engines or cars.  I love, love, love your imagination!  Your engines and cars have fantastic conversations about all of the adventures they go on, and they manage to get themselves into some pretty big problems.  You are very independent and would play by yourself all day if I'd let you, but your eyes get SOOOO big and excited when you invite Janie, Mommy, or Daddy to play with you, and we jump right into the elaborate scene you have going at the railyard or racetrack.  

You and Janie are the best of friends.  You have your usual sibling squabbles, but I am always impressed by how quick you are to forgive and get back to playing.  In the last month, you've started saying, "I love you, Janie," out of the blue when you two are playing.  You are a great brother with a big, tender heart, and Janie and Harry are so blessed to have you!

Your great imagination came in handy during the moving process.  You didn't mind as Daddy and I boxed up all of your favorite toys.  Instead, you'd use that great imagination of yours to dream up new scenarios for your few cars that weren't boxed up.  Here you are, spinning the cars around on the spice rack.  You told me it was their new garage.

I keep circling back to your tender heart because it is just the best.  We have a tradition of reading stories before nap time.  We always snuggle up together after you and Janie each pick out a story.  You like to get as close as you can without sitting on my lap, and you always grab my hand.  Here you are with your sweet little fingers locked in mine as we look through one of your favorite books before nap time.  These are some of my favorite moments from the day.  Before you go to sleep, you like to take my face in your hands, push on my cheeks, and say, "I love you, Mama."  You're my kryptonite, buddy.    

Lucky you!  Mimi picked up a LIGHTNING MCQUEEN chocolate chip cookie cake for you on your birthday!  Look at how precious you are in this picture, giggling with excitement about your awesome cake.

Oh, the cuteness!  You had a little trouble blowing out your candles above the box that the cake was in.

So, Uncle Connor generously gave you a boost to get the job done!  All day long, you would say, "KA-CHOW!" just like Lightning whenever the mood struck.  I think you even said, "KA-CHOW!" when you finally blew out the last candle!  

Usually, you say whatever is on your mind as it pops into your brain.  Being around you means I get to hear your every thought.   Lately, you're on an "I love _____" kick.  "I love our new house.  I love my new room.  I love the purple front door.  I love my cars.  I love Janie.  I love you, Daddy."  You're simply adorable.

Look at you through the years!  On your birthday in the hospital, as an engineer on your first birthday, stomping puddles at the zoo on your 2nd birthday, and rosy-cheeked after a visit to the park before your 3rd birthday.   

Daddy and I are so proud of you, Walt.  We pray that God will continue to show you His Love through every member our domestic church.  May He continue to bless you with an abundance of grace on your journey as a saint in the making.  

When we ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you say, "I want to be a Father Daddy."  I think that's your way of copping out and saying you want to be a priest AND a dad.  Who knows...maybe you'll get to be a spiritual father to countless souls as a priest, or maybe you will be blessed with your own children in marriage.  Whatever vocation God has in store for you, I know you will live it well with your quiet confidence, awe of creation, and tender heart.  Until you discern all of that, Daddy and I are so very thankful that God entrusted you to our family.  We love you, precious boy!  May the Lord bless and keep you, Walter Eugene!      

Friday, May 23, 2014

Jane's Last Day of Preschool

Little Miss Jane had a great first year of preschool.  Last summer, alllllllllll that she talked about was getting to wear her new uniform, making new friends, meeting her teacher, and everything else related to preschool.  She couldn't wait for the first day!

Posing with brand new baby brother, Harry

The girl doesn't take a non-silly picture

What a goof!

As it turned out, Jane's class had the last day of preschool the Tuesday after we moved to Lincoln (an hour away from our new home).  I thought, "Well, shoot.  That's a big bummer, but at least she won't care too much."  I casually mentioned it to Philip on the phone a few weeks ago, and he said, "She has to go to her last day of preschool!  She would be so sad if she missed it!  We'll make it work."  Isn't he adorable?  

Philip had taken a few days off from work to help with the move and unpacking.  He came up with the idea that he would take Jane back to Omaha for her last morning of preschool.  While she was at school, he'd go back to our old house to finish up the cleaning and run a few errands.  I love what a softy he is when it comes to the kiddos!

We took a few obligatory last day of school shots.  Per usual, Jane wasn't interested in doing a normal smile!

Check out the first and last days of school pictures side by side.  I love how you can see her growth by how much smaller the uniform looks on her in the second picture! 

After Philip picked Jane up at preschool, they swung by Costco to pick up a few things and grab lunch.  I'm thinking the Costco hotdogs were the real reason for the Omaha trip!

Jane gives everything 100%.

If Jane had it her way, she would have gone to school all day everyday.  She's looking forward to 3-day preschool at her new school next year, and little brother Walt can't wait for 2-day preschool!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

An Organized Move

Sorry for the blog silence for nearly a month!  Things have been just a TAD busy lately.  We've had all kinds of excitement that I want to catch you up on.  For now, I'm limiting myself to writing about our big move!

Last Saturday, we moved out of our very first home in Omaha.  Poor Monty was (and still is) so confused!  

Philip's parents generously took the kiddos for us so that we could focus on the actual moving.  One of the movers took this pic of me, Philip, and Monty before we hopped in our cars to Lincoln.  We couldn't have asked for better weather on moving day--70's and sunny!  Ahhhhhhh!  

The movers were AWESOME!  They were fast but took such great care of our things.  They kinda made me feel like a hoarder, though, when I saw how FULL the truck was!  It's a good thing God gave these guys the ability to pack things with Tetris-like precision because that's a talent I don't have.

However, the movers were glad to see that there was a method to the madness inside of the truck when it came to unloading. 

When we started packing months ago, I searched Pinterest and the web for an organization method to this move.  Per usual, I stole what I loved and made up my own combination of what I found.  My organization system required:

  • A huge stack of construction paper with multiple colors (from Costco)
  • Shipping labels
  • Black Sharpie markers
After we knew the layout of our new home, we designated a color for each room, and I made several keys.  I separated the key by levels of the house (upstairs, main level, and basement).

As we packed each box, we slapped a sheet of construction paper on the side of the box that corresponded to the room it was going in.  (Red = kitchen, Pink paper = Girl room, Orange = garage, etc.)  Then, we put the white label in the middle of the box with its contents.  We were as specific as possible on the contents to make unpacking less of a treasure hunt!

On moving day, I taped the laminated keys on the truck, garage, front door, and entryway.

Then, I taped laminated signs on each room with the corresponding color.  That way, as the movers unloaded the boxes, all they had to do was find the color on the box and find the corresponding color room, using the key and signs as their guides.  Here, you can see the pink sign on the door with the boxes stacked inside with their matching pink labels.  

Make sense?  

It helped this crazy lady, and the movers kept saying that it was the easiest move they had ever done.  Yay!  

When the movers packed the truck in Omaha, I asked them to load the red boxes (kitchen) last so that when we got to Lincoln I could focus on lining those shelves and getting the kitchen ready first.  The organization paid off because I was able to work nearly uninterrupted while the well-oiled organization system did its thing.  Also, we had a professional cleaning company come that morning so that we could focus on unpacking instead of cleaning.  Lesson learned: professional movers and cleaners are worth every single penny!  

Obligatory selfie in front of the house on moving day.  

Nearly a week later, we're feeling settled and are loving our new home. 

Cheers to our new chapter!  (Courtesy of the previous owners.  Aren't they the sweetest?!)