Monday, October 31, 2011

The Happiest Mom Challenge: Take the Easy Way Out

"Being a happy mom is all about being yourself, not what anyone else thinks you should be, and relaxing enough to enjoy your kids and the rest of your life without too much second-guessing...move past the 'shoulds' and guilt, and be the kind of mother you want to be." (Francis 23)
I mentioned in my last post that I planned to blog my way through my "The Happiest Mom" challenge.  My plan is to pick one of the secrets to happy motherhood in Meagan Francis's book and find ways to implement it each month.  I won't necessarily go in order, but for the first month I thought I would start with her first secret--take the easy way out.

Now, you're hopefully better at this than me, but when I'm in a group of people (especially women, and above all, other moms), I start to compare myself to them.  Suzie makes all of her noodles from scratch, Shari hasn't had sugar in 12 years, Betsy hand makes all of her children's clothes, and Molly never, ever seems to be frazzled.  Meanwhile, I sit in my corner thinking about how it has never even occurred to me to make my own noodles, I think I would die without at least a little bit of sugar in my life, I stare at my kiddo's second-hand "made in China" T-shirt, and I'm not sure I showered this morning, and I definitely don't have any make-up on.

Anyone else ever feel like that?  Here's hoping so and hoping not at the same time.  In any case, I definitely find myself comparing, feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes even  a bit lonely in my apparent "loser Mom" status.

But then I step back and realize that 1) I can't do everything and 2) I don't even want to do all of those things.  I just want to know that I'm a good mom.  You would think by now I would just accept the fact that I'm not that bad and move on.  But, you know, I get feeling a bit insecure from time to time.

For example, the last couple of weeks due to teething, vacation, and heaven knows what else, I have had one very nightwaking baby.  I don't think there has ever been a time in his life when he has woken up this much.  Normally our co-sleeping situation works just fine and everyone is able to get a good night's sleep, but not these past few weeks.  And it's really taken a toll on me emotionally.

In a moment of frustration and fatigue, I shared this experience with a few ladies from church.  A couple of them were remarkably sympathetic and gave me a few tips for things that worked for them.  Others were a little more forceful in their comments and I just walked away feeling like a terrible mother.  I know they meant well but I just didn't feel comfortable with their suggestions and most of all, I just felt like a terrible mom.  When I came home, I was near tears as I  recounted the details of my conversation to Brennan.  For some reason, even though I feel that we've made well-informed and thoughtful decisions regarding our family's sleep situation, I started doubting myself.  Not because I thought we had done something wrong, but because I began to worry that we took "the easy way out"--like that was a bad thing--and now I was paying for it.

As we talked through some of our options Brennan turned to me and he said, "you know, one of the signs that you're a good mom is that you've really thought about this and you really care about it."  After some thought (and a nap!) I realized that here was the thing that was most important: everyone got the sleep they needed.  It didn't really matter what that looked like and it didn't matter if it was conventional.  It didn't matter if I took a nap instead of scrubbing the cupboards.  It didn't matter if Hyrum took a nap in my arms while I read a book instead of in his crib.  It didn't matter if I went to bed earlier rather than watching (yet another) episode of Arrested Development.

And so here I am, taking the easy way out.  And that's okay.  Nobody asked me to be Superwoman, they just asked me to be Mom.  I can be Mom with my store-bought noodles or with homemade ones.  I can be Mom if my kiddo sleeps all night in the next room or right beside me.  I can be Mom with my not-so-designer clothes and half-done make-up.

Now, as I write this, I don't think the answer is to take "the easy way out" on everything--just put some thought into the things you do that 1) don't make you happy and 2) don't really seem to be benefiting you, your family, or your children.  Even though disposables might be easier than cloth, using cloth diapers makes me happy and it helps my family financially.  I really like cooking dinner at home every night and it's generally healthier (and much cheaper) than eating out.  But I'm fine buying canned beans rather than soaking dried ones, and I'm fine using disposable wipes rather than cloth ones (though I tried that bandwagon...just wasn't for me).  I think we just need to find where to draw the line so that life as a mom (and in general) is, well, happy!

This month I'm going to look for ways that I can move past the guilt, the 'shoulds,' and take the easy way out.  Anyone want to join me in this challenge?  Are there things that you do "the easy way" that help to make you happy?  I'd love to hear!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: The Happiest Mom

I've been following The Happiest Mom blog for a few months now.  Meagan Francis has 5 children, and while many moms with a large number of children may find themselves lost in the hustle and bustle of taxi driving and soccer games, Francis seems to have found herself.  While she is not a member of my faith, I feel that she is the epitome of someone who has found nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.  When I found out that she published a book with Parenting Magazine under the same name as her blog, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Other than Dr. Sears's The Baby Book, I wish I had read this, and only this, book before becoming a mom.  Here's why: So many baby books out there prescribe a set of rules and formulas, but Francis shares practical advice that will help to fill your confidence in yourself rather than questioning.  Here's the premise: Happy moms have happy children.  If you want the best for your kids, learn to be kind to yourself.

The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood is chalked full of practical advice and stories from a mom who has been there, done that.  Her off-the-cuff humor had me chuckling, both in recognition and in anticipation for the great stories of motherhood to come.  While her book is definitely aimed at mothers, her tips for enjoying motherhood are really tips for enjoying life--whether you're a mother or not.

Whether you're looking for ways to deal with busy-body moms in your playgroup, a messy kitchen that is getting under your skin, or feeling overwhelmed by all of your to-do list items, Francis has some pointers that will help just about any one.  Best part?  You'll feel good about yourself with every page.  This ain't no "you're not doing good enough" book because, well, the message is about being happy, and guilt and happiness do not mix.  Also, the book itself is beautiful.  Colorful, doodle-full, and side-bar-full, you'll enjoy more than the words on the page. You'll enjoy just looking at it.  If you're already a happy mom, The Happiest Mom will provide that pick-me-up on the hard days or at least lend a laugh in the meantime.

I actually liked this book so much that I've decided I would focus on implementing one of her secrets each month.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blog title

So, I changed my blog title...again.  I started out calling it "Posting about Parenting" because that's what I was doing--posting my thoughts about my adventure in parenting.  And then I figured that put a little too much pressure on me.  I'm no expert, I'm just me and this is my adventure.  Then I changed the title to "One Happy Mommy" because I wanted to make it clear that this way my adventure and I'm just one happy mommy.  Again, too much pressure.  I felt like people just assumed that I was saying this was the one way to be a happy mommy.  And so I've changed the title again.  I hope I haven't caused too much confusion in the world....yeah, not like many people read this thing anyway.  Go back to your lives that are more important than my blog title.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New mommy sleep updates

The number one way to spot a new mommy is to read her Facebook statuses because they'll inevitably say something about sleep.  _________ slept ____hours last night!  seems to permeate my Facebook feed every time one of my friends has a new baby.  I know I definitely had such updates and I would guess that roughly 95% of my new mommy friends on Facebook have done the same.  Each time I read one of these updates I tend to get a little frustrated--not because of the excitement or because I think that sleep is unimportant, but because I think it says something about how we judge the worth of a parent.  

New moms want to feel validated.  Those first couple months after the birth of a baby are a very vulnerable time for new parents.  Just about everyone--stranger, friend, or foe--has a piece of advice for you.  When a lot of it conflicts, especially with your own personal beliefs, it may cause frustration, feelings of inadequacy and even depression.  Even though my baby is well beyond the newborn stage I still have random strangers ask me how my baby sleeps.  Why does it matter that much to everyone?  Why do I never seem to get questions like, "How are you enjoying your time as a mother?", "How is your bond with your baby?", or even "do you feel well-rested?"

I'm not saying that the issue of sleep should never be discussed, I just wish it didn't seem to be the only thing that was discussed in new mommy circles, mostly because I don't think it's a question that leaves most new moms feeling any better.  Here are the facts: Babies are terrible sleepers and unless sleep is forced upon them, most will continue waking at least 1-2 times a night throughout the first year.

Maybe it's silly that I feel passionate about this, but after sitting in my La Leche League meeting last week I found there were too many mothers who felt terrible about themselves because their baby wasn't sleeping through the night.  These feelings weren't borne from fatigue or exhaustion--they were borne of feelings of inadequacy.  Personally, I just don't think that's fair.  Instead of berating and belittling the mother who responds time and time again to her child's needs, why don't we celebrate that?  Why do we not celebrate self-sacrifice, when that sacrifice is willingly made?  I know that for me, my questions will change.  I think there needs to be a little more rallying, some more offers to help, and many more encouraging words.  Goodness knows, a new mom needs kind words even more than she needs 8 straight hours of sleep.