My Key for Calm (holiday season or not).

What I Learned and What I'm Into September 3

For me and my kids, music is in our bones. We can feel it in ways that are unexplainable. 

“Music is all around us, all you have to do is listen.”

August Rush. The storyline isn’t that great, even though it is very sweet and sentimental. I had to agree with the critics on this one. But the value for me in the film was in appreciating and feeling the music. The scene when the boy is talking with “Wizard” (Robin Williams) and they look up at the night sky, “Wizard” talks about how the whole universe is filled with music. It’s always around us, all we have to do is listen. Watch this little clip to see what I mean. 

For some of us, music is innate. It’s a power, a mood, an atmosphere. It reaches inside to grasp the spirit and has the ability to change the course of feelings and actions.

Knowing this to be true, I’m careful about the music I play in my home because music affects me so deeply. I almost hold it at bay not wanting to feel or get carried away by it; I don’t want to be driven by an outside force.

Also, I’m a highly-sensitive-person and the stimulation from a house full of kids plus music loud enough for everyone to hear equals one overwhelmed and frustrated me.

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 3

But I turned on Eric Clapton during our chore time the other day. I had a high standard for my kids with regards to wiping down walls and cupboards. One child noted that he really liked the music, and I think we all did. It helped to boost our moods and busy our hands. The guitar and drums helped our minds to zone out as we stuck to the physical tasks, and it also shut our mouths because no one wanted to talk over the music.

Sometimes words fail me. They fail my feelings, my desires, my commands. They fail me in battles, in chores, and in bonds. So I’m learning to use music. It’s something that is a science and an art.

Figuring out the balance between the style, rhythm, instruments, energy level, and lyrics is difficult and I have definitely made wrong selections. I wish I had a guide for home school life with kids and music because when I make a bad selection, I end up feeling worse than if I had just kept the house silent.

Toddler Jamming on a Uke

I want to keep trying to figure out the role of music in our home. If I would have given up on using music, then I would have missed out on the magic of changing all our moods and the course of the entire day.

Music is my key for a calm home. For a calm heart. I must be willing to engage in the balance and willing to get some notes wrong because for my kids music holds a magical ability to guide their actions in ways that words cannot.

When I use music and what kind of music it is:

Chores: I pick music I like that is upbeat. This is not a time for silly kid music or chores will derail into a bigger disaster of brooms, wrestling, and rags – someone usually gets hurt. My current favorites are: Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits, Lindsey Sterling, JJ Heller’s Loved, or anything else that sounds good to me in the moment. The key to using music for chores is to use music that the kids won’t be able to sing along to or music that has a driving beat that will get their little hands busy instinctively.

Quiet time: Instrumental or lullabies. I’m really picky when it comes to quiet time music. Not all lullabies or instrumental music are created equal. I can’t tell you how many times I tried a new lullaby CD from the library that had a weird song on it or a random upbeat song that threw the whole mood and atmosphere of “quiet” out the window. There’s nothing more disappointing for a mom (me) than a quiet time ruined by a kid who is over stimulated and jumping and/or shouting from their bed. My current favorites are: Hillsong Kids Jr. Piano Lullabies Vol. 1 This collection is the most beautiful and calming CD I think I have ever found. I simply cannot listen to it enough. When my toddler is in quiet time, I turn up the monitor so that I can enjoy the CD too. Other lullabies that I’ve loved are the Hidden in My Heart CDs. These are scripture based songs (some word for word scripture) that are sung in soft, calm tones. The music is straight truth for little hearts and soft like a blanket to listen to.

Get-the-wiggles-out: Music made for kids. My current favorites are all the Slugs and Bugs.  Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame have tapped in to the child-like spirit of fun and silly and have created songs that appeal to all ages. The melodies and lyrics get stuck in my brain and make me smile. Their music proves that you don’t have to write annoying lyrics or play bad music for it to be “fun” for kids. The Laurie Berkner Band has a great CD for getting wiggles out too. But one of my absolute favorites for getting the wiggles out, while at the same time getting classical music in their brains is: Say Hello to Classical Music. This CD came with our kindergarten curriculum package from My Father’s World – and it is by far the best part of the whole kit for us.

Morning Time: Worship Music. There are simply too many favorites to list here. Sometimes we listen to the radio, sometimes we listen to older CDs or Pandora. We love music that points to the glory of God; it starts our day with an upward focus and I notice that this helps everyone’s mood as well. It’s simply right to remember why we are here and to be thankful for a new day to be alive. The perspective of worship music helps us in the morning or all throughout the day. For an even more powerful worship focus, I love Michael W. Smith’s DVD New Hallelujah.

Kid-ucation Emmett

And The Piano Guys gets their own category of ANYTIME music. We all enjoy their music so much. Watch this video to see what I mean. The way they wove Amazing Grace into this Fight Song is brilliant.

For more information on highly sensitive people check out Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child. This post may be helpful in determining what music should and shouldn’t be in your home.

Also consider reading more:

What helps keep your home calm? Do you use music to balance the ups and downs in your day too? I’d love to hear recommendations in the comments!

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Thanks for reading! Affiliate links used in this post - read more about those here.

The question that masks a deeper more confronting question.

The question that masks a deeper more confronting question. 1

I’ve already told you that I’m prone to panic. I had to learn through so much failure and struggle that the first few years of home education proved to be more for educating me on self-control and discipline than about what curricula is best suited for my children and their learning styles.

Even after 4 years of studying home education, I still ask other home educating friends on a regular basis, “how do you do this?

The truth is that while things do become more routine the longer you do them, there isn’t a magical answer to “how” they should be done.

I have spent so much time trying to answer this question before actually putting any action into home schooling. Reading books, blogs, studying development and researching the best tools for the right ages. Figuring out the “how” is difficult and no doubt daunting when I admit that the whole of the child in my care is resting on how well I do this.

While searching for answers to how, a fear rises and begins to tell me that I will never have enough information, tools, or understanding to do a good enough job for my child. And in response to this fear I put in even more effort, endlessly asking myself, how do I do this? The fear that maybe I can’t do this as well as I should begins to turn the question of how into an illusive thing. As I learn more about the best how, I lose sight of how to begin, how to be faithful in today, how to be content. I believe the lie that if I can’t match someone else’s “how” then mine isn’t good enough and I shouldn’t even try.

That was until this thinking was confronted.

You see, it doesn’t matter the subject of the “this” in the question how do I do this? If I’m not careful, this question masks a deeper more confronting question. One that has changed the very nature of how I view everything that is difficult in my life.

On May 10, 2015, I was sitting in church listening to a sermon on spreading the gospel. The series was titled Ignite, and the message was titled Spreading the Fire. As a church, we were studying what it means to be disciple-making-disciples.

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The subject of evangelism has always been a difficult one for me because I don’t come to the command with a personality that can quickly embrace the implications of spreading the name and fame of Jesus easily. For me, talking about the gospel and bringing the name of Jesus into every conversation is a challenge because I’d rather not have to talk to anyone at all. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not commanded to do so just as much as one who enjoys conversation and can readily share the gospel with others.

So when I was listening to this important message on the imperative command, I was suddenly confronted to my core when my pastor said:

Asking “how do I do this?” is really asking if there is an easier way to do it.

I knew that this was true for me in wanting to learn more about how to share the gospel. How do I start a conversation? How do I know what to say? How do I follow up with people outside my normal context? All of these additional questions are legitimate but they serve to distance me from obedience because I begin to believe that if I don’t have the answer to the “how” questions then I don’t have to start obeying. If I don’t know how, then I’m not accountable to the what.

Thinking this way is wrong. The conviction that I’ve been distancing myself from obedience has had a ripple effect in every category of my life.

In my heart, I knew that wanting things to be easy was my secret desire. For all my learning about faith, marriage, home education, and building friendships I came to the conclusion that anything worth doing requires sacrifice. And in order to begin and commit to following through I consistently came to the place where I stopped moving forward when things became costly all because I fooled myself by wanting to know “how.”

In my foolishness, I thought my wanting to know how was wise when really it was a cover up for wanting obedience to be easy.

So here are some practical suggestions if you find yourself burdened under the question of how:

  • Accept that hard work is hard. If someone else makes home education or life in general just look easy – it’s a fact that they work hard, and have worked hard for so long that doing so has become natural. Nothing in life was meant to be free from work. Own your work and commit to getting started today by just doing what you already know to do.
  • Stop comparing your how to someone else’s how. There is fear in learning something new like how to home educate. I fell into the trap quickly of wanting my day with my little people to look like the ideal – I wanted all the boxes checked, all the books read, and all the clutter cleared. I didn’t want to have to give space for learning curves and growing pains. But when I began to value my life simply because it is mine, that’s when I could actually own my how and let go of someone else’s.
  • Start in layers. Just do one thing and commit to doing it well. Discipline is grown best over time and with patience. I was tangled up in the “how can I do it all” mess when I first started home education. I wanted to give my children the best of me 24 hours a day which led me to a point of utter exhaustion. Exhaustion led me to resentment, and resentment led me to the point of missing my own life. I had to start all over and just choose 1-thing to commit to be disciplined in, to be patient to watch that one thing grow, and to be content with the time I was spending to guard and be faithful to this process.
  • Ask yourself what is easy for you. Be honest about the things you are good at and don’t miss out on the joy to life these easy things bring. These easy things are different for each person, so enjoy seeing where they can balance out the things that are difficult.
  • Talk it out. Whether in your own self-talk or with a friend, spell out the areas of home life and home education that are too hard to even begin. Discuss with your spouse whether certain ideals are even worth pursuing in the season of life you are in right now. Write out the balance of responsibilities and weigh out the easy and difficult things. It is okay to take non-essentials off the list for a season.
  • Be resolved to not measure yourself by an impossible standard. Own the gifts you’ve been given and commit to do your best. End the struggle between being a good mom and a bad mom because the best answer to “how” cannot guarantee you won’t make any more mistakes.

As I wrestle with the hard things in my life, now I am confronted whenever I start asking myself the wrong question: how can I do this? I now know that I am really asking: isn’t there an easier way to do this? And if the answer is no, there isn’t an easy way, I’m learning to own the work and just get started. I don’t want to waste my life waiting for an easier way. The how do I do this question is answered easily: start.

Underwhelmed.

I’m reading Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman and I’m still mulling over the significance of Ordinary Time.

underwhelmed 2

I’m seeing it everywhere, and I’m confronted by my own behavior toward it. The perspective that is tilted in my mind to prefer the feeling of significance that comes from busy and hustle.

Even though I don’t like it when hear myself say “I’m overwhelmed,” I like the feeling of importance that being busy brings.

I’m learning to see my days, seasons, and calendar as a means of creating a new perspective on balance.

Busy doesn’t equal important.

In Ordinary Time, I battle against feeling underwhelmed, and I’m beginning to see that this is the most important battle of my life.

Yesterday was not my birthday. It was a normal Monday with the usual activities: no pressing deadlines, holidays, or appointments on the calendar. And I wasn’t feeling my best. Somehow on a day like this, the simple act of sweeping under the table feels like I’m going to have to move a mountain to find the strength, energy, and motivation to get it done.

This is the battle against the underwhelm. 

And it’s the worst feeling.

I think I complain far too quickly about being overwhelmed when I have appointments, play dates, errands, and other things to do on my plate in the same day because when all of that is wiped away – and it’s just me and my 3 little people looking at each other all day long – I wonder, what’s the point trying to get anything done? It will all be undone, and the work to get the little things (laundry, dishes, sweeping Cheerios) done again mocks me.

Why even set goals, ideals, standards?

It can feel like I’m in a holding pattern of little, unimportant tasks. I begin to feel from the inside out that I may never get to set my hands to the soul-work that I long for in myself and with others.

I’m underwhelmed.

I’m too quick to surrender to the lie of the underwhelming – there’s really no reason to try, this day has no meaning anyway. Or the lie that all the busyness is meaningless too. Or the lie that comes in physical form which I can’t put into words – it’s that underlying feeling of empty that begs to be filled with the 3 “CH’s” – chips, chocolate, and champagne – which never fills anyway, it’s just another lie.

This battling or some days – the lack thereof – leaves me with an ache. A pain that has no apparent beginning nor end.

This pain will slow me down. But I’m old enough now to know that the pain doesn’t define me nor does it last forever. And just because hustle feels invigorating, slow doesn’t have to feel discouraging.

I need to practice gentleness with my inner person and in my self-talk. Encouragement is a wonderful thing, right? Why not learn how to clearly encourage the right thoughts, actions, and feelings on days like this.

Learn to honor the slow days.

It seems to me that when I give in to this low state and wait, life always seems to pick up speed again, projects pile onto the To-Do list, the calendar moves on and fills up, and I’m back to the other end of being overwhelmed.

But oh how often I have regretted wasting time during seasons of underwhelm because I couldn’t see clearly through my feelings and the lies.

underwhelmed 1

I’ve decided to balance the underwhelmed feeling by working ahead.

Procrastination may fill me with speed, but it drains me of purpose.

So when the lies creep in that I don’t have significance today because there isn’t anything on my calendar, I can look to my long term goals and baby steps. I need to take break down the projects that aren’t due yet and almost seem silly to work ahead on and start them anyway.

I have to stop hiding when I feel underwhelmed.

Today is the perfect day to set my mind on doing just the next logical thing.

Today is my birthday, I’m thinking ahead to the field trip this Friday, and beginning to plan for a speaking engagement in December.

And the idea of taking a few burdens off my future shoulders is nice too. I’m cutting myself a break, doing a little extra work, sitting to sip an extra chai, and thinking positively about my life.

Right now, in the middle of Ordinary Time, in the face of underwhelming circumstances, I can live balanced, purposeful, and gently.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 28: First Things and A Recipe for Rest #B2S #31Days

Photo credit, words added

Photo credit, words added

My family attended our “Meet the Teachers” night last night at the private school where my daughter and son will attend the homeschool program.

The simple surge of excitement to see friends, find desks and lockers, try out the recess equipment, and check off a list to earn a popsicle was enough to rattle me. I’m not ready for this, I said.

I like to take things slowly. This is why I’ve been preparing for almost a whole month to go Back to School, tackling items on my list that seemed more intimating this year than ever before.

Learning how to break tasks down into bite sized chunks has totally changed my life.

And it has changed my attitude too.

When I feel rattled in more than one area of my life, I lose my place of rest – and I don’t always know how to get it back.

I’ve lived entire years rattled. Constantly over stimulated by my surroundings and unable to steady my feet on solid ground.

So this little rattling, while uncomfortable for me last night, carried with it a renewed passion to stand firm on the things that I know must come first. I’ve banked my life on these first things. These are the things that are far to valuable to let go of just because the energy of a bunch of people together threatens to make me feel undone.

My first things:

Inner spiritual strength: raising my children and committing to the path of home education is admittedly hard. Sometimes when meeting someone new, they will comment, “Oh, I could never do that.” And I say, I can’t either. It isn’t in me to patiently train my children day-in-and-day-out. If left to myself, I would’ve thrown my hands up years ago and said “I can’t do this.” But He equips the called, and He strengthens the weary.

Home comes first: I’ve finally accepted that I cannot be a Yes Woman. My first few years of home education were compromised by saying yes to every good thing. If there was something at church, Yes! If a friend wanted to meet for coffee, Yes! If a child needed babysitting, Yes! Being home on purpose for the priority of education, training, and doing life together was not prized – and so being home came in second. Like knowing I should buy organic produce – it was always what I knew I should do, but couldn’t because of all the other good things I thought we needed.

Personal discipline: nothing replaces the hard work of personal discipline. I have not found a single thing on earth that can replace or mask a lack of it. When I lacked personal discipline – I felt thin, transparent, and guilty all the time. Like for all my worth, talent, gifts, and value (from just being, not from doing) wasn’t truly enough. I constantly felt like I was trying to fool everyone into thinking I was a respectable person. Instead of focusing on being a respectable person and then not caring if others thought so or not. Hard work, integrity, strength, and healthy thoughts have guarded my mind from even caring what people think of me – this is the worth of personal discipline. So when I feel tempted to slack or compare, I quickly correct my sights to my current goals and priorities remembering that my first things are what matter most to me – not whether my first things are like your first things.

It’s a real battle for me to overcome the temptation to seek after fitting in or the easy life, and a real test of faith in the Way of Jesus and the upside down logic that the way up is down.

I’ve learned that when I feel like fighting against the rattling of my soul, it’s really time to rest. True rest helps me not only prioritize my first things, but it also enables me to recognize my rattled feelings for what they are and stand firm from a position of peace.

A Recipe for Rest

Recipe for Rest for the Home School Mom:

For every activity, decide in advance when you’ll stop. This may seem a little overkill on the planning side, but it helps me budget my time well. {Here’s more on how I use a time budget.}

Know your limits. I get overwhelmed easily, and if I start to feel overspent on an activity then I want to give up. But when I know how long a task will take me, or I know how much energy it will cost me – I can plan for how to better accomplish the task. And if I need to I can choose to break the task up into smaller parts.

Take notes so that you can pick up where you left off. This goes hand and glove with #2. When I need to take a break from writing, but I’ve just gotten to the good part – I jot the idea down quickly. Or when accomplishing the “to-do” list that is my life, I’ll write down progress on a task that’s started but not yet finished. (Using my Bullet Journal for this has been very helpful to keep everything in one place and in context.)

Develop self-control. No one can do it all. No one can be in two places at once (and yelling down the stairs to answer a child’s question doesn’t count). Everyday we make thousands of choices with our time. The “no’s” are just as powerful as the “yes’s.”

Identity. No one else can rest for you. Know your needs and commitments. Untangle what you do from who you are and make peace with rest.

Keep your heart and mind focused on the truth. Rest is commanded for the believer, and we find our rest in Christ. True rest must originate from a relationship not simply relaxation. Meditating on scripture has allowed me to rest even in the middle of chaotic circumstances. I have known the deepest rest when my trust has been in the Right Person and not in myself or my circumstances.

Set goals for the future wisely. One sure fire way to burn out is to fail to factor rest into your routine. So make sure to have anchors in place that allow for consistency without having to reinvent the wheel each week.

Rest is a sacred and wonderful blessing to be enjoyed, but as a busy mom I’ve missed out on it for the sake of “getting more done.”

It wasn’t until I listened to a message on rest and work that my heart began to change. I realized I wasn’t honoring God with all my “gotta work harders” and my “no rest for the wearies.” I couldn’t find rest in my own strength (I was believing these  7 lies that keep me from rest) and I wasn’t enjoying my work to the fullest either because my efforts were out of balance.

If you’re feeling out of balance, may I recommend Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings course? You may be delightfully surprised to find out that the first area she makes over is rest. It’s so important to living a purposeful life, and it comes before setting goals and getting the To-Dos done.

Read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

This is Day 28 (only 2 more posts!) in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 25: Anchors and Hot Air Balloons

B2S Day 25 Learning Balance Hot Air Balloons and Anchors 1

If you’ve known me since 2007 or before, then you’ll know that I haven’t always been a good planner. (I was reminded of this, and wrote about it in a Facebook status today actually.) I wasn’t a natural at motherhood either. After my oldest child was born, I was the type that was completely rocked by the amount of work from just one child. I never had a clean house, I struggled to make dinner every-single-night, and I hesitated to make any plans because I was terrified of the amount of work it required to make it out of the house.

Fast forward 8 years, and I feel like a different person. I sympathize with the woman I was, but I don’t in anyway want to go back to that place of disorderly chaos – inner and outer mess.

I haven’t achieved perfection in planning, nor have I simply copied and pasted someone else’s plans. I’ve worked long and hard at understanding how I function – and how my children function too – and this work has led me to learn balance through Anchors and Hot Air Balloons.

What are Anchors?

Anchors have 2 definitions in my life. #1 an anchor is the one thing a day of the week is known for – it’s the main quality of that day that gives it purpose and holds it to the week.

For example:

  • Monday: Prepare for piano and BSF
  • Tuesday: Library day
  • Wednesday: (HC)2 day
  • Thursday: Stay home day
  • Friday: Errand day

#2 an anchor is a full-stop and transition from one activity to the next within each day. There may be many of this type of anchor during any given day. So, from the morning free play to the morning lessons, there will be the anchor of snack time.

Anchor = full-stop, transition.

Something everyone needs (and wants) that is a neutral authoritative stopping point, like snacks times, meal times, bathroom breaks, outdoor time, quiet time, etc.

This type of anchor is flexible, and it is important to discern the use of a full-stop to change activities based on the personalities and number of people in the home. Some kids like them, and some don’t.

For instance, my daughter loves her freedom to learn and move through the different activities of the day – she doesn’t look forward to an external full-stop-transition that an anchor commands, but for my son he craves the distinct starts and stops that an external force puts into his activities. He doesn’t like the idea of having indefinite time to play with his Legos. He will nag me with words, begging for me to give him a time for a full-stop to do something else.

Instead of always giving him an anchor to look forward to like saying, “in an hour we will have a snack and then you can work on your Zolocolor” I will say something to encourage him to stay in the moment and simply enjoy what he is putting his mind and hands to. So, if he is playing with Legos I will create challenges for him to wrap his mind around in his building and designing, or I’ll praise him for taking the time to notice how the pieces fit together or the uniqueness of his creation. I don’t want to bring him down too soon.

This encouragement is what I think of as a Hot Air Balloon.

I help him stay in the height of an activity longer before coming down for a change.

Hot Air Balloon activities are the joyful extras in any day. I like to think of them as the surprise rewards of taking an extra 15 minutes to finish the chapter I’m reading in my current favorite book, or the spontaneous trip to the park, Dollar Tree, or grandma’s house just because we can.

For me, I tend to be like my son – I like to stay close to the full-stops. I don’t like to crash from the height of an activity so I limit my enjoyment of what I’m doing out of fear.

So as I plan for our quarter, I’m adding in the Hot Air Balloon idea to my weeks in order to stretch myself to grow in the areas that I’m weak.

3 practical things that will help me to more fully enjoy Hot Air Balloon moments are:

  1. Planning dinner the night before so that I’m not frustrated or pressured for time to come up with something at 3 in the afternoon when my kids are usually the happiest and most energetic. I want to be free to join in the dance party or run outside to take a deep breath with them – to be in the moment.
  2. Sticking with the major anchors of the week and not flexing on the essentials. I know that when I have wiggled around with our routine, I inevitably feel like a failure. Boundaries are meant to keep me safe. When I acknowledge and live within my boundaries (being sure not to create too many of them) I enjoy the safety and freedom of being well within.
  3. Writing out the schedule of what needs to be done for the next day every evening. Seeing the essentials on paper either limits or frees me depending on how much there is to do. If I don’t write things out ahead of time, I struggle with the fear of forgetting something, doing things in the wrong order, or beating myself up for some sort of false guilt. (When I don’t have clear boundaries – again – I tend to try to do all the things or be all the things to everyone. And then I need to go back to ending the struggle between good mom and bad mom.)

Anchors and Hot Air Balloons are my symbols (you can use them too) for balance.

For staying close to the ground and flying high in the sky. Balancing humanity and spirituality. Stewarding work and rest. Honoring highs and lows. Creating rhythm.

The challenge for this day in the #Back2School in #31Days series is to write out the Anchors for the week, begin to write out the Anchors in a single day (also known as our block schedule – post explaining this, coming soon), and record Hot Air Balloon moments.

This is Day 25 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Don’t miss out!

TODAY IS THE ONE-DAY-SALE of Crystal Paine’s #MakeOverYourMornings course.

Check it out today, buy it for yourself and a friend, and go through it together! The sale is so good, you won’t want to miss out. If you’re still not sure, read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

A Mother’s Day Confession (AKA My Mom Identity Crisis)

My sweet, one-of-a-kind family.

Mother’s day is a tricky holiday to celebrate. There are joys and sorrows, successes and failures, gains and losses. At the core, I don’t think it’s meant to be a measuring stick day – but that’s what it has felt like to me in the past.

Come on and line up against the wall and we’ll mark the growth in your mothering – I hope this year you compare better to that mom… 

I feel like I wake up every Mother’s Day into a dream – like the ghosts of Mother’s Day past – reviewing my year as a mom. Silently praying my kids will still love me when they wake up.

I turn Mother’s Day into a pseudo “January 1st.” Making mental lists of resolutions. Behaviors I need to change, feelings I need to address, new habits I need to form.

Before I’ve even braved into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I’m already weighed down and feeling defeated.

Enter my sweet children with their handmade cards, flowers, candies, treasures they picked out for me themselves at the dollar store, and smiles – laughter and delight floods the room as they jump and hug (at the same time) – wanting desperately to excite me with their love.

A Mother's Day Confession My Family

My problem with engaging in the celebration of me was that no amount of new gifts could help me get rid of that old measuring stick.

This past year, I addressed my Mom-Identity-Crisis. I asked myself: as a mother – do I define myself by what I do or who I am? And I discovered that it is both, which proved to be not a cut and dry, easy answer to work through.

It was like finding my pulse. Activity raises it sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Doing and being live in balance. I found myself stopping often to check the pulse of my heart and mind – what am I feeling right now? What am I thinking about this activity?

This constant checking was useful in discovering what I actually enjoy doing – I could put a check by it and say I feel most like myself when I do this. I know that sounds a little silly but when I would measure myself against the measuring stick (I made from comparing myself to other moms) I never felt good enough.

  • I wasn’t elegant enough.
  • I wasn’t creative enough.
  • I wasn’t organized enough.
  • I wasn’t social enough.

When I based my identity on the measuring stick – my pulse was all over the place, racing then dropping. Busy then down and defeated. I beat myself up for all my “not enough” doing, not realizing that I was setting a being standard.

Elegance, creativity, organization, and socialization all flow from the spirit of a person. When my spirit was ignored for the sake of image, I lived out of balance. Full of the weights and burdens of becoming someone else.

Slowly I was able to change how I looked at myself. I determined not to read, watch, or listen to anything online if I was going to just compare or criticize. Who am I do judge myself by their standards or them by mine? Putting off the standard of doing allowed me the strength to gain inspiration from others. To put on the thoughts that build me into the woman I want to be. The woman my husband and children know and love.

This woman doesn’t cringe or hide from the Mother’s Day measuring stick. She knows she is different from other moms and is okay with that. She has a growing, healthy sense of self, and she checks her doing pulse often.

Balance is only possible when I accept who I am, and then base my doing on a foundation of strength and growth. Balance is also accepting who I am not, and crossing off the list of things to do anything that would be better left for someone else to accomplish.

This Mother’s Day, I look forward to my kids expressions of their love for me – just me, the mom they see every day and love anyway.

A Mother's Day Confession My Kids

For more parenting with purpose inspiration – check out my post “How to Make  Parenting Decisions with More Efficiency and Less Guilt.” I’ve included a free downloadable guide.

Alone and Afraid :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 4

Joe Butterfly

I’m not going to pick on introverts. I have a special love for them.

I am them.

But even though I’m in a special, happy place when I’m alone – I don’t like who I become when I’ve been alone too much.

The same is true for my daughter. It has been difficult, balancing her alone time. She has a brother who is an extrovert and enjoys talking with someone all-the-time. And so on the rare occasions when she can be outside his vocal range, she has done things that were destructive and compulsive and she doesn’t know why.

She would not say that she was lonely or that she wanted to be with someone, just that something didn’t feel right.

She would say something I remember saying when I was her age: “Just leave me alone.”

Oh, how those words hurt me. Saying them and hearing them.

At over thirty, I’ve grown out of this some. Or maybe I can just see it whereas before I was blind.

Before kids I worked outside the home and I liked the accountability. But my “off time” was “free time,” and alone time wasn’t always good for me. I was unsupported, my companions weren’t always there for me, and I was lonely. Instead of reaching out, I retreated in. I wasn’t confident in my identity and I wasn’t a safe place for myself.

The more lonely I became, the more I wanted alone time. And the more alone I was, the more fearful I was of social engagements. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from a chemical imbalance of some sort, but I can only see that in hindsight.*

And that’s when fear became an untamable beast in my world. Every social engagement became an exercise in controldo-not-panic I would preach to myself. I shied away from more and more places. I didn’t want to engage in small talk anywhere. I was afraid to run into people I knew in the store. I would hide.

(If you ever saw me turn, run, and hide – I apologize. It’s not you, it was me.)

My husband would say, “but you don’t look scared of being around them – you’re smiling!” And I could smile. That was all a part of the grasp on control. I knew I shouldn’t feel so fearful of others, somewhere inside I knew that what I truly needed was more people not less.

Then add in small children.

I knew I needed to get out of the house with them. We would go to the park, the store, the library. Those places only pacified our need for relationship by putting us around people. We weren’t with any of them. We didn’t belong to them. We weren’t supported by them.

It wasn’t until my oldest was nearly 6-years-old that I realized that I had to change our social habits or she would never gain the companionship she needs.

Joe Butterfly with friends

And me? I’m amazed at how much different I feel toward people since embracing how I’m wired. I was designed to share, encourage, and support. Fear taught me that people don’t need that from me. I believed they wanted wit, humor, and surface. But love has taught me that I’m free from the expectations I thought others had of me.

Now I still don’t jump at every chance to be in a group, and neither does my daughter, but I strive for a better balance in our overall routine. I pursue investing in others on purpose because loneliness will never be cured by spending more time alone.

*One thing I must encourage strongly is the need for healthy companionship. If you feel like you can relate deeply to the feelings I explained here, please open up to someone trustworthy.

This is Part 4 in the series, to catch up on the other posts click here for the Index.