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Parenting Tip of the Month
By Heather Totten

The Not So Joys of Motherhood

This month I'm going to focus less on our children and more on us - mothers.

Have you ever read one of those books in which the author so sweetly coin's the phrase, "I was a better mother before I had kids." It can be really true. Before kids, you have all these visions of how your kids will act, and what they will do. You'll condemn those women who resort to yelling. And think that picking a pacifier up off the floor, wiping it on your shirt, and giving it back to the screaming child is just awful. And then you tell yourself, "I will never do that."

Before Alex, I think I had the 'rosy colored' glasses view about parenthood. It seemed easy. No one ever told me it was too hard, and the mothers I knew seemed to really have it together. Then Alex came and I did not realize how much I would be able to love. How one whimper or cry could send me into a crying fit because I could not ease his pain. How going to the store was an entirely new thing. You could not just walk out the door. The store meant having a diaper bag, extra clothes, an extra pacifier, planning a 'good' time around nap time, and all the other things that go with taking a baby to the store.

BUT, I never knew it would be hard. I figured my life would be pretty much the same, but with him in it. I never knew I could be a short order cook. I never knew that goldfish crackers would fill me up in a pinch. I did not know that showering every day was a luxury and something I would never take for granted again. I never knew how much I loved sleep.

I have received many emails from wonderful women such as you admiring my parenting styles and things I do with my kids. They are all so inspiring and wonderful to hear. In fact it is little words of encouragement and praise that pick me up when I feel 10 loads of laundry behind, I don't have a dish that is even clean, and I can no longer see what color the floor is due to the toys. So, I'm here to tell those of you who do have daily struggles that I do too. Motherhood is hard to me. And it is hard to those other mothers I know. In fact I don't know who thinks it is easy. Not even one whose children are married and out of the house. Motherhood is not a career in which we can take time off guilt free, clock out - so to speak, have a sick day, decide not to show up, get promoted out of, or get fired from. It is from here on out, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. And the hardest part is our heart is truly in it and we will not see the true fruits of our labor until our children are much older. Until our kids do their best in school, say no to drugs, look both ways before crossing the street, manage money wisely, don't talk to strangers, be kind, considerate, loving, and strong all the same time. It is those little seeds we plant while they are young that we pray will take root and they will remember.

So, my tip (did you ever think I would get to it) is instead of being frustrated about your shortfalls and stumbles along the way, which we all have, I challenge you to accept them. If your heart is in the game (the game of raising children), you are doing just fine. Don't measure yourself up to that mother that you feel is the 'perfect' mother because you don't see her struggles when she is alone late at night crying wondering whether or not she made the right choice to put her son in time out or should she spanking him in order to get her point across.

We all have things that are difficult. We all have our 'kryptonite.' But, we all love our kids, we are trying our best, and our heart is in the right place. Connect with another mom that you can talk to and express your fears and frustrations to. Get a connection so you can let down those impermeable walls that you throw up to show the world you are a great mom. Because trust me, you ARE a great mom. You were given the true gift of a child. You know what to do and you are not alone. Thinking it is hard, does not mean failure. It means you care. But, don't let those bad feelings affect everything you do. Pick up and keep going.

If it makes any of you feel any better, this week has been a harder one on me. I've felt a little less together and am getting tired. I feel a sinus cold coming on, but yet I can't sleep it off or baby it so it will go away. My journal is late. I am truly about 10 loads of laundry behind. I honestly don't have a clean plate and I have to run the dish washer. The kids are walking around with a box of granola instead of eating breakfast at the table. The TV is on so I can write my journal because I did not have enough energy after they went to bed last night. I had to dig into the dirty clothes to find a pair of maternity pants that would 'do' for now until I get more clothes clean. My super organized toy closet is not so super and not so organized. I just went through it and bagged all the toys that I could in order to get the door closed. The bag is sitting in the dining room waiting on me to go through it and put the toys back where they belong.

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There are days we have it all together with 3 square meals and 2 snacks. We do outside play, sit down and read to the kids for hours, we keep the TV off, we do art projects, and we remember to wash our hands before we eat. There are days when we don't. I have forgotten to read. My kids have eaten dinner without washing up. I've sent the kids to play outside just so I could get a break, instead of playing with them. My son has even slept in his clothes from the day and I was too tired to go upstairs and tell him to change. It is okay. Hang in there. This is my 'pat on the back' to you. If you are struggling right now, know you are truly not alone. Find a way to release that guilt, find a friend to talk to, write a journal, or just take a walk and reflect. You'll get it back together and it does not need to be perfect. Motherhood is a long journey. There were tough days before kids; we just did not feel as guilty about them.

Remember motherhood is a blessing and we just have to remember that when things just don't seem to be going the way we planned . . . before we had kids.

Heather Totten is a stay-at-home mom with four children and a busy husband. She is incredibly organized, and shares her sense of family, parenting, and organization with us in her monthly parenting tips column. Read what's new with her family in Heather's Parenting Journal.

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