The tension of feminism, work & family in the “have it all” generation

the tension of work
There’s a lot I didn’t feel prepared for when it came to transitioning into my roles as a wife and mother. I’m sure every parent feels this to some degree. No matter how many books you read, or how many friends and relatives you query for tips and advice, there’s just nothing like doing it.

In the 8 years since I had my first child, I’ve come to realize that the thing I was least prepared for wasn’t the stuff all the parenting books are about, or the things you can desperately Google at 2:00 AM (sleep training, benefits/drawbacks to co-sleeping, fixing an inefficient latch, etc.).

The thing I was shockingly unprepared for was the issue of paid, outside-the-home work, and how my relationship with it—and my identity that was rooted in it—would change.

Dr. Sears hasn’t written a manual about that one.

You can’t plug it into Google at 2:00 AM and get a tidy answer.

Nothing and no one prepared me for how fraught the issue of “work” would become. As women in 2018, we’re exploring uncharted territory. Never before in history have women had the “sky’s-the-limit” kind of opportunity we have today, nor the pits and snares and traps that come along with it.

This is part of my story, and I hope it helps you anticipate, avoid, and overcome the unexpected struggles of work as a woman raised in the “you can have it all” generation.

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I’m a highly motivated, ambitious person with an insatiable work ethic, born in a generation who was raised to believe that we can—and should—have “it all.” (For context, I’m 34 years old, born in 1983, making me an elder within the millennial generation. The #1 songs around the time I was born were “Every Breath You Take,” by The Police, and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” by Eurythmics. Linked for your listening pleasure, youngsters. Enjoy.)

As a young woman in my early 20s, I ran hard and fast toward my career-oriented dreams, and I reveled in everything that came with that—the travel, the promotions, the wardrobe, even the 60+ hour work weeks. I was making our foremothers proud, and wasn’t slowing down for anything, or anybody.

Somewhere along the way I made room for wifedom, and motherhood, and by the time my firstborn turned 3, the fabric of my identity—and my marriage—were coming apart at the seams. After pouring so much of myself—my time, my energy, my sense of self-worth—into my career success, it felt impossible to reconsider the “balance” of my life. I had unintentionally opted in to a lifestyle that was unsustainable, and I couldn’t see an exit route.

I felt trapped, but I wouldn’t dare talk openly about it, because from an outsider’s perspective, I truly did have “it all.” I felt disillusioned at best, and lied to at worst. Why didn’t the women who fought so hard for me to have a legitimate place in the workforce so much as mention how excruciating it would be to maintain that position once I started a family?

I suffered in silence, wondering what it was about me that couldn’t make this lifestyle work. I clenched my fists tighter around everything I had worked to achieve, telling myself over and over again that my issues were “first world problems,” and that my pain was part of the deal. I felt so much shame about my perceived inadequacy, and how I was letting women (or maybe just feminism) down.

My feelings of shame and inadaquacy were fertile ground for the ugliest, most unkind parts of me to thrive. I felt resentment and contempt toward my husband for not seeing the problem and taking some kind of action about it. I became one of those women who silently judged others who found a sense of balance in their own lives, bemoaning their lack of committment in the workforce, and sneering about the “privilege” of having a rhythm and divison of labor that seemed to bring them legitimate contentment, even joy.

I’m not sure what it was exactly that brought things into focus for me, but thankfully, one day I experienced a radical shift in perspective that laid the groundwork for me (and my family) to get on a path to thriving.

Two difficult questions came to me:

  • Is your family getting to enjoy you at your best, or are they getting the dregs after too many hours spent pouring out your best for your coworkers and associates?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your marriage and your daughter’s childhood because you supposedly “need the money?’ Because you “worked so hard to get here?”
As you might imagine, these questions stung like salt on an open wound. And as painful as those two questions were, when I allowed myself to get really honest, the answers became a catalyst for change.

Instead of beating myself up for not being able to make the “work + family” equation work for us the way I expected it would, I started down another line of questioning. “What’s possible?” As in: “is it possible to give the best of yourself to your family, and still contribute to your family’s income?” And “is it possible to make some adjustments so that you can step back and determine a more healthy path forward?”

Asking “what’s possible” questions began to release some of the tension I was carrying, and gave me a vision and hope for possible alternatives. I began to realize that I was allowing the expectations of others, and my own pride, to hold me prisoner in a lifestyle that was slowly squeezing the love for life right out of me, destroying my marriage, and causing me to miss out on my daughter’s one and only childhood.

Since then, I’ve carefully examined the feminist “truths” that led me down that isolating and joyless path, and have really enjoyed the process of discovering for myself an enduring identity that is not tethered to my earnings, or my title, or anything that another person or organization can anoint me with.

***

If you find yourself feeling similar tension around the area of work (how/when/where you’ll work, whether or not you’ll start a side-hustle, or if your work is the care and keeping of the ones you love), I hope you won’t suffer in silence the way that I did.

We can feel so much shame for struggling through what appears to others as charmed circumstances, and if I were standing in front of you right now, I would grab you by the shoulders and tell you “that shame is a trap.” Don’t fall for it. It is designed to isolate you from the people who have your best interest at heart, in order to prevent them from speaking life and hope into your circumstance.

***

My hope, as we raise up the next generation of young women and men, is that we’ll preach a less relentless and demanding version of “you can have it all.” I hope we’ll teach our children about the seasonal nature of life, and rather than raging against it, that we equip them to bend and flex as the seasons require. I hope we’ll demonstrate love by encouraging them to give voice to their pain, and feel no shame in inviting others into the tender places of their hearts so they can receive the life and hope that will sustain them throughout all of their days.

And more than anything, I hope we’ll point the way to the discovery of an enduring identity—one that honors and values their whole person, and not just their worth as an earner or producer.

Further reading:

***

I believe that each of us was created on purpose by a loving, creative Father in Heaven, and that we’re valuable because he made us in his image. I believe that all of our work (paid, or not; splashy, or done in secret) is done to celebrate, honor, and bring glory to him, and that if we endeavor to do just that, then we have “it all.” All of what matters, anyway.

Peace to you!
mj

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Thrive in Summertime (Even) as an Introverted Mom

As an introvert, and a mother of two children under 8 years old, summertime used to stress me out, which in turn would trigger major mom-guilt. What kind of mom doesn’t love summer!? I would scold myself. (Note: practice kinder self-talk.)

Summer is supposed to be this joyful time of togetherness, memory-making and squealing children dancing in the sprinklers, but the idea of being constantly surrounded by people (even my own people), and frenetic summertime energy – honestly, it used to make me anxious.

If you’re in the same boat, or maybe this sounds like someone in your family, take comfort in knowing a couple of things:

  • You’re not alone. Somewhere between 30-50% of people identify as introverts. That means there are a whole lot of parents (and kids!) who need a less frenetic summer to feel rested and recharged.
  • It’s OK! We can honor and respect our natural disposition by creating space for our souls to thrive, even (and especially) when the season can become chaotic. (See also: Christmas time.)

Over the years, rather than scolding myself for my introverted nature, I’ve begun looking at the different facets of myself: body, mind and soul and asking a few guiding questions to help me determine what I need to thrive and feel nourished over the summer, and avoid social burnout and anxiety. Then, I take the answers to those questions, and make a plan that will protect the time and space I need to deliver on them to myself. (Hint: It helps to have your significant other on-board with the plan from the start. And it can be a really enriching exercise to go through this process together!)

Now, I want to make sure I’m being completely real here. Most of us can’t clock-out on some blissful, introvert summertime fantasy vacation (but if you can – Go get it, Girl!). But with some self-awareness, this summer can be one that nurtures your natural disposition, without dampening that of the extroverts in your family.

I hope these questions help guide you in creating the space you need to thrive, so that on the other side of this summer you feel like a nourished, renewed version of yourself. I included my answers to help articulate some possible responses.

  • What can I look forward to this summer that will give me a sense of ease and enjoyment in my physical body? Is there something unique about the summer that my body enjoys?
    Sunshine! I love laying on a beach towel in the sun, usually with a good book, or sometimes just to nap. I can do this a few times a week while the baby naps.
  • What can I look forward to that will nurture my mind? Is there an issue or idea that I’ve wanted to explore? What books or podcasts come to mind?
    I can’t wait to read more about the 9 Enneagram types, and how they interact in relationships. Book: “The Path Between Us,” by Suzanne Stabile, Podcast: Ian Cron’s “Typology.” I can listen to these while I’m doing housework, or while I’m laying out in the sunshine.
  • What can I look forward to that will nourish my soul? Who are the people who leave me feeling refreshed, or with whom I feel a sense of sisterhood?
    Spending time with people who leave me feeling refreshed and a sense of sisterhood. I’m planning to see more of Kelly (who I met at MOPS!) and Krista. Since Kelly and Krista have littles, we can do play dates during the day, and since Krista is artsy-fartsy like me, we can make it a point to go to at least one “Art-After-Dark” event in my town.

If you’re like most moms, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time planning various camps and classes and trips for your children over the summer. How could this summer be different for you, if you approached your summertime with similar intentionality? Consider making the time to ponder these guiding questions, and jot down some notes on whatever is close at hand: on the back of a receipt or the notes app on your phone. It doesn’t have to look perfect, or be on just the right paper – just get the thoughts down. Then make a plan.

No, this practice won’t magically transport you to the perfect introvert-paradise, but the simple knowledge that you have something to look forward to that nurtures your natural disposition can be enough to propel you through the next high-energy summer activity, and give you the sense of peace you need to enjoy it.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog

Dare to go Freerange this Summer!

By now we’re all aware of the dangers of over-scheduling yourselves and your children—take this summer as an opportunity to try doing…nothing at all.

And when you do facilitate entertainment, it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive! Go old school and play in the hose on the lawn, or make cheapo popsicles. Your children won’t remember how fancy things are, but they WILL remember having a lot of fun with you.

The idiosyncrasies of pregnancy

So, recently I shared that we’re expecting another child (woop!), and how awful I am about sharing big news with people. (See, like how I shared it just now. Plumb awful.) Now I thought I’d take a minute to jot down some of the idiosyncrasies of this pregnancy.

  1. I simultaneously have the skin of an a) 14 year old girl, and b) 45 year old woman. No one should have to use anti-blemish treatments and anti-aging treatments concurrently. What a joke.
  2. Ummm, I forget this one because I now have the short-term memory of a goldfish.
  3. I’m waddling like I’m due tomorrow, except I’m actually only 13 weeks along. My body is ready already.
  4. I’m craving every single Mexican candy I grew up eating as a kid. Lucas (but not the sweet kind; no, I want the kind that was eventually banned from the USA because it contained too much lead), Pulparindo, Rebanaditas, Saladitos and oh my goodness CAMOTE.
  5. My body’s response to everything is nausea. Standing up for too long? Feeling really happy? Feeling really sad? Too cold? Too hot? It’s like a terrible choose-your-own-adventure book: IT ALL LEADS TO NAUSEA. You lose, sorry.
  6. I haven’t worn a bra for two weeks because heaven help me if I feel the slightest bit squeezed in any way. (See #5) Same applies to anything with a waistband. If I’m wearing pants at all, they’re riding Christina Aguilera-low. (I honestly don’t know a more contemporary pop culture reference. Sorry y’all.)
  7. I can’t stand the taste of coffee anymore. This is the craziest one of all, because HELLO. I freaking love coffee. LOVE. Well, I did. Now I drink a cup of black tea (with a teensy amount of sugar and cream) in the morning, and even that can be too strong sometimes.
  8. I’m exhausted. This goes without saying, except that I didn’t expect being pregnant at 32 to be so much harder than being pregnant at 26. It doesn’t get easier, I’ll just say that.

Here are some things that are deeelightful about this pregnancy.

  1. Sharing it with Ellie! This is so much more fun when you have a little one to share it with. Ellie is 5 now, and totally seems to understand the changes that are happening. She’s been to every prenatal appointment, and loves suggesting silly names for the new baby. She’s going to be an attentive and loving older sister, I can tell.
  2. Sharing it with friends. I was so anxious last time around that I really couldn’t enjoy it as much. This time, for whatever reason, I’m much more relaxed, and have really enjoyed sharing the news with folks (even though I’m abysmal at it—as previously mentioned in my last post).
  3. I am way more comfortable in my own skin nowadays than I was last time around. (This feels like it’s loosely related to the whole not-wearing-a-bra-for-the-past-two-weeks thing.) It’s not that I don’t care what I look like, it’s just that I don’t care what other people think about what I look like. I almost never wear makeup anymore, and it’s awesome.

Anyhoo, I don’t intend on my blog becoming like all-pregnancy all-the-time, but I want to do a better job of jotting this stuff down while I’m thinking of it, before it all gets lost in the fog of a newborn baby.

For those of you who’ve experienced pregnancy: was it anything like you expected? What was your strangest symptom? And for those of you who’ve been around the block more than once: were your pregnancies at all alike? The more I chat with women, the more it sounds like each pregnancy is totally different.

When You’re Mothering From Scratch (Coping With Absentee Mothers)

I popped into Sally Loo’s this morning (espresso con panna + molasses spice cookie = happy mama), before I headed into the iFixit office, and the place was crawling with babies and toddlers. Makes me wish I had Ellie with me, so she could meet some kiddos, and I could have an easy transition to talk to other coffee-loving parents, but I digress.

There was a woman in front of me, presumably about my age, with a little girl on her hip who looked to be about 12 months. Judging by the still-matted patch of hair on the back of the little one’s head, and her lack of desire to be put down, I’d guess she’s not a proficient walker, so maybe she was younger than 12 months. Regardless, the little girl was adorable. Bright blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and tiny little fingers that unconsciously swirled themselves in her mama’s hair. As she rested her chin on her mama’s shoulder, we had a staring contest. She won, on account that I smiled first. (Couldn’t help it.)

After a minute or two of us making eyes at each other, the little girl’s nana walked up, and gave her rapid-fire smootchies on her big soft cheeks, and the little girl giggled. It was too cute. Shifting the little girl to her other hip, the mama looked over at the nana, and asked “ya want a cappuccino? I know how you love ’em.” Nana nods her head, but never loses the little girl’s gaze, now playing tickle on her tiny palms. “Ooooohhh, I just wanna eat you up,” coos Nana, again with the rapid-fire smootchies.

It’s a perfectly normal, perfectly natural interaction, and I’m sure I’ve seen many like it in recent weeks, but for some reason this particular exchange stung me. My throat got tight, and my eyes began to well up, and I ditched my spot in line in favor of the privacy of the restroom.

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It’s harder, some days than others, coping with the absence of my mother. Most days I recognize her absence the way one recognizes a blank wall in their home, knowing that there should be a photograph, or a piece of art in that spot, but not having a vision for what it might look like exactly. But other days–days like today–I see a completeness, and a love that I know I don’t have, and I feel envious.

I’m not kidding myself into thinking that if my mother were in my life, that our relationship would be as warm, or as familiar, as the two that I saw in the coffee shop today. I’m not idealizing the relationship. But I want the chance to know what our relationship would look like, if it were healthy. I’m 29 years old, and to this day, I do not know what that feels like. I suppose it’s okay to respect those feelings, even if they hurt, in order to grieve properly, so long as I’m not wallowing. I have very little patience for wallowing.

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In so many ways, I feel as if I’m doing this mothering-thing from scratch. Seeing three generations of women all together really pushes that button for me, I guess.

I wonder, does having an active and involved mother of one’s own give one more confidence as a mother? Does having that support, and that wealth of knowledge and experience equip women better for their marriages, and for raising their children? Does everyone else have resources, and support, and knowledge that I don’t have? (That’s my insecurity speaking.)

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but it’s rare that I spontaneously cry in public, so I figure maybe I needed to get that off my chest. And hey, silver lining: I’m not wearing makeup today, so no scary mascara tears!

Some of you have shared having similar relationships with your mother. Do you experience “flare-ups” the way I did today? What triggers them? How do you cope?

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“Cherish These Years”

Ahhhh, so peaceful up here.

I spent part of the morning re-reading a book I like, and enjoying a cup of coffee up on the deck. It’s nice up there there for a lot of reasons, but a good one is that’s where the garden’s at, and Ellie can entertain herself with plucking cherry tomatoes off the vine and eating them until she’s full. So I don’t have to prepare a snack, which satisfies my lazy efficient disposition.

Whenever I’m reading a book (or doing anything that requires an amount of focus), Ellie becomes an urgent snuggler. Like, a “put-down-whatever’s-in-your-hand-and-hold-me-this-instant” kind of snuggler. (Also, a gaze-into-my-eyes-otherwise-you’re-not-paying-100%-attention-to-me kind of snuggler.) And, to tell you the truth, most days I get a little annoyed by this. (“Where’s all this snuggle-love when I want it?” I ask myself.) But today was different. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s 70 degrees in late October, or the fact that the tomatoes are perfectly ripe and delicious, or the fact that the breeze is just breezy enough, but today I didn’t get annoyed.

Today, each time Elle interrupted my reading–26 times in 16 pages, but who’s counting?–I was patient. She’d wiggle underneath my book, while saying “pick you up, please” (she doesn’t get the difference between the words “me” and “you” yet), and I happily scooped her up 26 out of 26 times. Then she’d put both of her hands on my cheeks, turn my head towards hers, and hold my face about an inch away from hers, and just smile. The picture that kept appearing in my mind’s eye was of an Ellie in her mid-20s, and how bizarre it would be if she held my face so close to hers at that age, and how it’ll never even occur to her to want to sit in my lap. So, take it while you can get it. That’s what I say. Grimy tomato-hands and all.

A rare snuggle, caught with my iPhone

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I keep forgetting, and then re-remembering, that all of this is so temporary. Ellie’s time of blissful, self-unawareness is only going to last so long, and then it will be all “could you drop me off a couple of blocks away from school, mom?”

Sometimes I lose sight of the preciousness of these few years, and I find myself feeling envious of my friends with older, less dependent children. The way they have time to go to cross-fit, work on their forthcoming books, and go pee by themselves. But then, on days like today, I remember. My perspective has shifted back into place, and I remember that every parent I’ve ever met has told me to “cherish these years.” And I aim to say I did just that, even if it means never reading more than 16 pages at a time, and having dirty tomato gunk smushed all over my face.

How about you guys? Do any of you have older children? Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

“Smush bananas in mommy’s haaaaair!” says Ellie.

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Let’s be friends!

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“Balance” as a Process, Not a Destination

So here is a really basic thing I learned recently:

My idea of what “work/life balance” is, is wrong. I’ve always thought of “balance” as a destination, as a sort of nirvana to be achieved if I would only get more sleep, drink more water, and follow all of the rules set out for me in well-meaning blogs by women who “have it all together.” And if I could just do those things, I could “have it all.” I thought that it was my failure to follow those rules that was holding me back from achieving “balance.”

But it’s not like that, is it? This whole time I’ve been stressing myself out, trying to achieve balance, without realizing that balance isn’t a singular achievement, so much as how you walk out your days. Individually. Curveballs and all. Balance is not a destination that I can reach, and from thenceforth live in perfect tranquility. Balance is more like making the best choices I can, as they come, and trying not to let things get too out of hand.

I’ve been driving myself crazy, chasing down this mirage of “balance,” which would suddenly disappear once I reached it, only to reappear way over there, in the gluten-free aisle of the health food store, and again, over there in the books about Attachment Parenting, and again, over there on a Pinterest board full of crock-pot recipes/seasonal wreaths/crap made out of mason jars. And chasing down the ever-elusive mirage of “balance” was freaking exhausting.

Adjusting My Expectations

So lately, I’ve had this image of a tight-rope walker in my head. As she’s walking the tightrope, she expects to be wobbly, and she knows that the feat isn’t simply making it to the other side of the rope, but taking each step as well as she can. She does not expect perfection. She does not expect to “figure out” balance halfway through, and walk, perfectly balanced down the remainder of the length of the tight-rope.  And I think she has this balance thing a bit more figured out than I do.

Adjusting my expectation and understanding of balance has given me a much needed shift in perspective. It’s going to take some repeating for me to completely unlearn my unhealthy understanding of balance, but the more I reflect on my image of the tightrope walker, the less anxiety I feel about not getting things just right all of the time. Wobbles are totally okay. And I know that’s not a revelation to most of you, but it is one to me, and I am so grateful to be continually discovering that I don’t have everything all figured out.

Young and Foolish

When I was younger, I thought I knew everything. There’s something in the combination of book-knowledge and untested theories and ideologies that affords young adults a powerful sense of intellectual superiority. Learning that I do not, in fact, know everything, has been simultaneously one of the great joys/disturbing truths of growing up. It’s such an adventure, constantly re-exploring my beliefs and opinions, and understanding of the world, but at the same time, it’s somewhat frightening. I feel as if my character is in a constant state of revision, and that sensation, of never really knowing who, exactly, you are (and who you are becoming) is ultimately humbling.

How about you guys? Do you ever find yourself struggling to live up to an unhealthy expectation? What’s been your most recent “revelation?” You guys are so wise, I usually learn a lot from what you’ve got to say. 🙂

xoxo,

mj
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  • Balance, uncertainity, and blessings  via visibleandreal.wordpress.com (I found this post literally moments after I write the post above, and when I went through the pages in her site, I definitely became internet-infatuated with Stephanie. And if you check out her resources page, I can vouch for basically all of the titles listed. (She has great taste.) I’m looking forward to reading more of her work, and maybe even signing up for one of her classes!)

Lessons From My 20s: Motherhood is Not Necessarily a Lifetime Commitment

via

I celebrated my 29th birthday on Saturday (the 1st), and because I’m the introspective type, I’ve been thinking a lot about my 20s.

I kind of can’t wait to put some more distance between today-me, and 20 year old me. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that the first half of my 20s was turbulent, and dramatic, and full of questionable decisions and behavior (whose wasn’t?), and the more distance that I have from that season of my life, the more my perspective has improved. And the more I can cut young-me some slack. (She was a hot-mess, for sure.)

The second half of my 20s has been absolutely amazing. It’s been a season of growth, and discovery, and renewal. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in who I am, and who I’m becoming. Not that it has been easy. I’ve been working harder in the past 4 years than I ever have, and it never lets up. Only now I’m working for me, and I’m investing my time in things that bring me ultimate gratification, namely my family.

On Family

Speaking of family, I’ve learned some lessons about family, too. In early 2011, my mom quit speaking to me. (It’s a longish story as to why, but she has her reasons.) Dealing with the loss of my mother was (and continues to be) really difficult. I’ve experienced loss as a result of death before, but loss of a person that is alive and well is a totally different thing. Grieving the loss of a relationship with someone who is still alive, but chooses to be out of your life, comes with its own set of issues. Especially when that person is your mother. But here’s what that’s taught me about family, specifically mothers and daughters: my mother does not owe me anything. Just because I have an idea in my head of the kind of relationship I’d like to have with my mother, doesn’t mean that my actual mother is the person who is going to fill that need for me. Just because she is my biological mother, doesn’t mean she will mother me, if that makes sense. Just like many fathers don’t actually father their children, mothers can be the same way, and it’s selfish of me to expect that from my mother, just because I was born to her. Motherhood, evidently, is not necessarily a lifetime commitment.

In the same way, it’s conceivable that one day, Ellie (my daughter) might not want a relationship with me. I hate to imagine that, but it’s certainly a possibility. Knowing that she isn’t bound to me for life, I cherish our time together even more. Don’t get me wrong: I hope and pray that we’ll grow closer and closer as we both age, and I want to be active in her life until the day I die, but I know now that she doesn’t owe me a relationship, just because she was born to me. I’d be obliterated if she cut herself off from me one day, but recognizing her agency as an individual has helped me appreciate her as a person with her own identity. I cannot control what kind of person she will become, or what kind of life she will choose for herself, but I can ensure that she will always feel loved and cherished by her mother.

Going Forward

So as I kick-off year 29, I’m reflecting a bit on how I can best communicate to Ellie and Mike that they are ultimately loved, and that they will always have me, both as a mother, and as a wife. No, there’s no law in place saying I have to continue loving and mothering my daughter, or loving my husband, but those are two things that I commit to doing for the rest of my life, not just because it comes naturally, but because it’s my choice. It’s the great joy of my life to love my family, and I’m so blessed to go into my 29th year with the two of them by my side.

On a parting note, did any of you church-folks ever sing that song “His Banner Over Me is Love”? I didn’t grow up in church, so the first time I heard it was in a Sunday School class I was leading. Our speakers weren’t working, so we didn’t have any music for worship. One of the other leaders taught the song to the kids, and I learned it right along with them. I kind of want to paint something for our living room, inspired by that scripture. (Song of Solomon, 2:4: “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.”) If I come up with something I’m not too embarrassed by, I’ll share it with you guys when I’m finished. 🙂

I’ll be back Wednesday to announce a giveaway for a thing that I LOVE so much. I can’t wait!

xoxo, mj

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Let’s be friends!

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Mamas and Wine

Back when Ellie was an infant, I remember wondering to myself (sometimes desperately), when and if I would ever feel like “myself” again. To be straight with you, I’m not even certain what I mean when I say “feel like myself,” but I think what I was looking for was to rediscover the me that exists once I’m outside of a position of responsibility and obligation. (And if you’ve had a child, you very well know what I’m talking about.)

Once I had a child, I found myself in a perpetual state of responsibility and obligation, which is quite a “culture” shock (if you can call it that) to a woman who was used to doing basically whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and never having to answer to another soul for anything. So yes, I can remember times when I was nursing Ellie at half past three in the morning, with tears streaming down my face, wondering “when will I get more than two hours of sleep in a row?” “I love this so much. Why is it so hard?” and “will I ever just be me again?”

No. No, I’ll never “just be me again.” Since Ellie was born, and until the day I die, I’ll be me+. That’s just the way it is. And I wouldn’t have it any other way (no matter how hard it was in the beginning).

***

Some of my mama crew, plus some friends!

Today, several of the other mamas in my moms’ group, and a couple of their friends and I got together and took an RV (Thanks B!) down to the Santa Maria Valley to go wine tasting, and we had such and excellent time. We left our kiddos with their papas, and actually got to hang out. I laughed way too loudly sometimes, and I got to hear SO many great stories. The lives these women have lived! It felt so good to just be, without feeling pulled in twelve different directions. To just talk and enjoy each other’s company. How refreshing!

That is what I was missing, back in the lonely nursing hours. And while I’ll never “just be me” again, I couldn’t be happier to be me+ alongside all these amazing women. Motherhood has been the greatest blessing of my life thus far; I thank God every day for my little Ellie Bean, and for the bonds that are being created between me and the rest of the mamas in my group. This is such a special and unique time of our lives, and I’m so grateful to have their love and support while we all begin to figure out what it means to go from “just being me” to being “me+.”

Best Books For Young Girls?

Is this a thing for little girls?

I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but growing up, I was never a girly-girl. I imagine that this has less to do with my inclination to “girly” things, as it does with the fact that I didn’t really have the means/relationships/security to develop that aspect of myself. I spent a great deal of time by myself, and my volatile family situation made it hard to make friends, or meet people outside of my immediate family. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I brushed this off as an inconsequential fact of my childhood. Would I really ever care that I didn’t get the “typical” girl experience? And wasn’t I better off for not having that whole gender-identity thing shoved down my throat? Yes…and no.

Here I am now, inching towards my twenty-ninth birthday (which is about a decade longer than I expected to live), married, and with a daughter of my very own. And it wasn’t until I was married and had a child that I started to get the feeling that I was missing something.

I remember several instances when we were planning our wedding that my husband (then fiancé) would ask me for my opinion (music, food, etc), and I didn’t have a preference one way or another. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it’s just that I had never put much thought into it, and in the end, we were going to be married regardless of which band played, or whether we had a wedding cake or wedding cupcakes. I’m not trying to say that being ambivalent with regards to one’s wedding preparations makes one “less of a woman,” but I am using that as an example of how little preparation or comprehension I had for what “normal” women are like. Most women (certainly not all), have, you know, some clue as to what they’d like their wedding to be like. What their dream house looks like. What they might name their children. Whether or not they’d even like to have children. Those sorts of things. And I had nothin’. (Which, in many ways, made my wedding totally awesome. Lowest maintenance bride ever, this one.)

But here’s the thing: growing up with so little attention paid to my gender, and yes, my gender identity (as much as people seem to hate the very idea of “gender identity”) and having so many negative examples of femininity ingrained in me from such a young age, made my young adulthood ridiculously difficult to navigate, and has left me totally unprepared for many aspects of my life as a wife, mother and maker of my home. Don’t get me wrong: I make up for it. I read a LOT. A LOT a lot. And I discuss. And I argue both sides of things to myself to discover how I actually feel about *breastfeeding/cloth diapering/vaccinations/preschools/etc. But none of this comes naturally, the way it seems to for women who were raised to be women (whatever that means). Sure, it’s not “easy” for anyone, really (life as a mostly stay-at-home-mom has been the toughest “job” of my life), but some women just seem so…natural, you know? I chalk it up to all those years they spent pushing their dolls around in strollers and playing house. OF COURSE their houses are beautifully decorated, they’ve been planning it since they were five years old! 🙂

I could go on and on about my perceived deficiencies, but that’s not the point here. The point (yes, there is one!) is that I don’t know what books to make my kid read. Can you believe it? Four paragraphs of background, just to solicit book recommendations? Before you yell at me, hear me out: My Friend Flippa? (Flicka?), American Girl? Something about a Prairie? Anne of Green Gables? Something about a black horse? These all sound vaguely like book titles to me, and if I reach for it, I feel like they’re typically associated with little girls. Am I right? I know there’s a whole sea of wholesome, little-girl books out there, but I have no clue–not a clue–where to start. I figure, if you all can give me some recommendations, I can begin reading through the list, and have them ready for Ellie when she’s five or so.

For context (as if you need more context…), the first book I remember reading was an oooold Webster’s Dictionary. It was the biggest book we had in the house, and I feel in love with it. In the back it had charts of the solar system, and the periodic table of elements, and a field-guide to rocks and minerals (not sure who’s going to carry a dictionary with them out in the field, but okay) AND a section with old-timey slang. I went into kindergarten calling boys “fella” and my favorite game was “making a list of words that mean the same thing” (evidently I skipped the entry on the word “Synonym”). And as if you didn’t see this coming: I ended up marrying an AP English teacher whose favorite book is Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” and who sends me hand-made postcards from work quoting e e cummings. *SWOON*

So, if you’d like to help a sister out, please leave your favorite little-girl book recommendations below. I’m partial to stories about courageous women who make huge sacrifices for the betterment of others, and stories about girls who overcome adversity and make an impact those around them. I like stories about hard work, and struggle, and when the characters get excited about things like “going into town” or “playing in the crick,” but I’ll read whatever. 🙂 Thanks for your help! And I’ll let you know what I think as I read through them.

❤ mj

*Yes, as long as possible/Love the idea, will do it with the next one/Regular vaccination schedule/Montessori, I hope

Career vs Baby-Making

I filmed this super-casually (obvs), after I put Ellie to bed tonight. Mostly just because I hadn’t posted a video to my channel in about a month, and I figured some ladies could relate. Enjoy!

Trading Fashion for Wisdom: A Small Prayer Answered in A Big Way

Image from thecherryblossomgirl.com

A few weeks ago I made the decision to suspend my reading of my favorite fashion and style blogs. I never had much time for them anyway, five minutes here, ten minutes there, but after spending some time thinking about a thing some bloggers do called “What I Wore Wednesday,” (WIWW) I was inspired to make a change in my internet consumption. While WIWW is cute and fun and born out of the best intentions, to me, I can’t shake the way it seems to epitomize the me-centric culture of the Internet. (Maybe I’ll write more about that another day.) So I’m clear: I love the bloggers that participate in WIWW. I still read them on the daily. But WIWW just rubs me the wrong way, is all. (Bunkering-down in preparation for backlash.)

Before I go any further, you need to know that as much as quitting reading fashion blogs might not seem like a big deal, it’s actually somewhat of a sacrifice for me. I love the art of fashion (especially “high fashion”), and how subtle choices in personal style have the distinct power to communicate one’s personality and values. But my innocent penchant for blogs of the sartorial type was stirring a dissatisfaction in my heart. (I find “want” to be the root of most of any unhappiness I feel, so I’m very sensitive to snuffing out “want” when it rears its buttery cashmere or italian-leather head.) Thus, my decision to abstain from the world of fashion and street-style.

By quitting indulging my desire for fashion and style content, it was my intent to make room for something greater, but I didn’t really know what that greater thing was.

So I prayed. (Seems to me that that’s almost always the beginning of a life-changing story, no?)

I committed the time I gained by not reading fashion blogs to God, and told him that I trusted him to fill that void with something Him-focused. Something great. Something WOW. And guess what? He did!

A few days went by wherein I simply had a little more time in my day to use however I saw fit. Mostly I did housework. Sometimes I read scripture. But really, I wasn’t feeling God pointing me towards anything in my new-found “free-time.” And I really wanted to sit down and read thecherryblossomgirl.com. But instead, I kept praying, telling God that I’m happy to wait as long as he wants me to in order to discover more of His heart.

familylife.com family life today

Logo courtesy of familylife.com

One day, in the moments after I finished my morning housework and before Ellie woke up from her nap, I sat down at my computer, but instead of going to thecherryblossomgirl, I went to familylife.com (home of my favorite radio program, FamilyLife Today), and WOW! I’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today for over a year now, but I had no idea of the wealth of information available on their website. I struck gold in their “audio” section. Literally hundreds of hours of podcasts from years past on topics ranging from parenting, to feminism to guarding your safety on the Internet, all for free! I downloaded everything. We’re talking gigabytes of audio podcasts, and each of them is so good.

Through the archive at familylife.com, I’ve “met” Susan Hunt (who I wish would adopt me as her honorary granddaughter), Carolyn McCulley (author of Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, and an absolute treasure), Dr. Tim Kimmell (author of Grace-Based Parenting), Dannah Gresh (author of What Are You Waiting For?: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex) Nancy Leigh DeMoss…I could go on and on.

The wisdom shared in each episode is nearly overwhelming, and has provided so much food for thought and conversation with my husband. What an incredible answer to prayer! I’ve grown so much just in the past three weeks– it’s more than I could have ever thought to ask God for, and has spurned a whole new passion for my calling as a wife, mother, home-maker and woman. What a blessing! I love the way God knows my heart, and knows exactly what I need and just doesn’t hold back. I feel like a kid who asks for a serving of ice cream for desert, but instead her parents fill a kiddie-pool with it and say “go nuts, kid!” I never could have imagined God would respond this way.

One last thing. Get this: I look forward to washing dishes, steaming our floors and folding our laundry, not only because it blesses my family, but because during those times I get to listen to the wisdom and insight of so many leaders on FamilyLife Today, growing me up as a daughter in Christ. Anything that can get me excited to steam the floor has got to be a good thing! And I can share the fact that I downloaded, literally, gigabytes of their past episodes without shame because I made a donation in support of their ministry. If you happen to get into their podcasts and love them as much as I do, won’t you also consider contributing? I’d love for them to stay on the air for forever. 🙂

I’ll tell you what: trading Dior and Alexander Wang for dishsoap and some podcasts was totally and completely worth it! And I cannot wait to see what God has in store next.

The Bean’s First Birthday

I made this with my Cricut!

Happy Birthday to The Bean! Actually, it was on July 28th, but back then there was pink lemonade to be made, and banners to hang and baby cheeks to kiss. I’ve been busy.

I won’t be one of those that goes into the detail of every single DIY craft and too-much-time-on-my-hands flourish, but I will say that I’m quite pleased with how everything turned out. And it would not have turned out without the support of my husband, who not only cared for Ellie during all of the preparation, but also helped with the banner and a pretty wreath that is not pictured. Also, my younger brother and his girlfriend were clutch in helping me make all of the big pouffy pom-poms. It truly was a team effort.

We had a wonderful afternoon with family and friends and cake and playtime at the park, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Ellie even ate some cake! Here are a couple of pictures (click on any of them to enlarge them).

Lemon cake with lemon frosting. It was delicoius!

The family! Ellie was waving practically all day.

Ellie's favorite toy.

Pending permission, I have a few photos of friends and family that I’d like to post. Ack! Gotta run! The Little Bean has awoken from her slumber.

m ❤

I Am Not a Mom-A-Tron

Something that’s become particularly clear to me this past week, is how easy it is to fall into the maternal trap of trading one’s individuality– that is, the very qualities that make one unique– for the quest of becoming the very best mother one can be. I advised a friend via email recently to give no consequence to his feeling “too old” to attend certain concerts, because “some of us are, by circumstance, made too old to attend” I knew, even then, that I was projecting my sense of loss onto him. (But I still find mine to be sound advice.)

But then I considered: what good does it do Elliott to have a mother who divorces herself from herself? Or for Mike to watch me slowly shape-shift into a single-minded Mom-A-Tron? (He did, after all, marry me, not Mom-A-Tron. Although the more I say it, the more awesome Mom-A-Tron sounds. Like a badass mommy-robot.)

My realization isn’t anything novel or groundbreaking, I’m sure, but here it is: Elliott and I were matched together as mother and daughter (and to Mike as father and daughter), because we are the individuals that we are, and because of the unique inclinations of Elliott’s heart that neither Mike nor myself are even privy to yet. I have to believe that my likes and desires are shaping me uniquely as Elliott’s mother, and that the relationship that Elliott and I are cultivating will be enhanced by those details.

The Happiest Baby

Gratuitous photo of The Bean. Sigh. Feel that? That's your heart swelling full of happiness.

I want Elliott to love me as her mother, but I also want her to know me as an individual that exists in roles in addition to my primary role as her mother. And rather than knowing Elliott singularly as my daughter, I look forward to knowing her as a person, gaining insight into her character, and watching her grow into the many roles that she will play.

I guess that’s all to say that it will not irreparably tarnish my relationship with my daughter if she watches her mother go to a Metric concert with her friends, continues indulging her fascination with haute shades of nail polish, or falls further into the vintage rabbit-hole, sartorially.

And, as usual, I’m not really sure about any of what I just said. But it feels right. As Walter Sobchak asks, “Am I wrong?”

(Polish en ce moment: Essie’s Mint Candy Apple)

Essie's Mint Candy Apple

A Big Scary Week

This week is kind of huge. Not only am I returning to work for the first time in about four months, but I’m beginning a new job to boot. (I’ve always wanted to use “to boot” in a post. Don’t know why.) I’ve got all kinds of anxiety about being away from Elliott for an entire day, and a measurable amount of discomfort thinking about what pumping at work is going to be like, especially because I’ll be at a new workplace with new coworkers. I’m very comforted knowing that I’m leaving Elliott with me awesome mother-in-law, and I know I’m going to get along at my new job just fine, but they’re both such sudden changes that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

It’s difficult to explain my circumstance without sounding wishy-washy or confused. Am I going to miss Elliott? Terribly. But I love that she’ll be with her grandma, and I’m looking forward to reclaiming some autonomy and working in a field I’m very excited about. Am I sad to leave my old job? Oh man. I loved that place, but I’m thrilled to be going where I’m going and I cannot wait to see what awaits. If this all sounds conflicting and somewhat cliché, that’s because it is.

I’ll offer more details about where I’m going/what I’m doing as I feel comfortable, but for now I’ll leave it at this: My last job was the very best experience I’ve ever had in a workplace. I met some fascinating and talented individuals, made some of my closest friends, was led by one of the most inspiring women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing AND met my husband, and I wouldn’t have considered leaving if this next opportunity didn’t excite me as much as it does.

Thank you to those of you who made my previous endeavor so deeply rewarding.

As for the future? Look out internets. Here comes more mj than you know what to do with.

(Unrelated: My challenge to quit pants for a year officially began today. Check out the video for the deets.)

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