Keeping Hearts Open to Love

Oh, but this world is such a hard place to live, by times. Such a difficult place to be and to dwell. Here, it is often dark and heavy. Overwhelmingly sad. Our hearts can hardly bear the loads we carry. And how often in the busy hustle and bustle of our days do we forget our lifelines? Do we forget to pray? Forget to love? Forget to focus on the positives? To see the world as it really is- not just as we think it might be?

How often do we forget to be grateful for the small joys we have been given?

In the morning rush- which happens to also be a late start to the day (due to me sleeping in past my alarm), I find the brief moments to catch the Island Morning News human interest story about an eleven year old girl from Summerside, PEI, along with a cohort of her friends, who did random acts of kindness for unsuspecting strangers in lieu of receiving birthday gifts. A beautiful story. One that I am glad I was within earshot to hear and consider. In the story, an elderly woman happened to be shopping in a grocery store in Summerside, P.E.I. when the group of children surrounded her, holding out a ticket-like card. She thought they were selling her something, but soon came to discover they were actually GIVING her something: a fifty dollar gift card. So inspiring. I can only imagine what possibilities lie ahead for children with hearts full of such love and joy as this.

A child shall lead the way.

Later this evening, I happen upon news coverage in the form of articles and blogs about the Ferguson trial and unfolding tensions, along with opinions from either side. This- a depressing, heart-breaking unfolding story of division, anger, racial tension and frustration. I can only imagine what is to come next if something is not done to address the rising pressure with regards to the results of the verdict.

And with these two extreme stories in mind, I am left wondering: what does the world need right now?

There is only one thing we cannot do without, only one emotion that encapsulates it all. And that word is LOVE. Love found through the purest source- that of a Father’s love for a broken world.

If what the world needs right now is love, then it goes without saying that we need more than mere random acts of kindness for strangers- some of whom are benign and neutral, and thus non-threatening to us, as wonderful as these acts might be. And I of all people would be the first to say: let children lead the way to greater understandings about love. But with that in mind, what we also gravely need is random acts of kindness aimed at and designated for our enemies. For those we naturally HATE.

Spreading love, one act at a time for people who do not threaten us or challenge our sense of character is kind and truly wonderful, but it requires little more than our time and a small monetary sacrifice. Showing kindness to those we naturally detest requires far more- it necessitates a shift in thinking. A 180 degree turn in direction. For those people whom we would rather choose to ignore, disregard, discount, snub, overlook, turn our backs on, loathe, dislike and otherwise abhor- they are the ones whom we really should be testing our love against. Loving our enemies is far harder than loving friendly strangers. What the worlds needs now is a huge flood of love to pour over us, washing us clean- replacing the anger with fresh perspective. Replacing the hatred with respectful care.

Recently, I read of two women who were on opposite sides of the Ferguson debate- both strongly identifying with one or the other groups that are visibly representing this story. Both of whom were feeling anger at each other for the strong feelings induced by the combatative banter between them on social media. After a short time had passed, one woman said to the other woman, “If you agree to pray for the person/peoples I identify with- whom you strongly feel are in the wrong, I will agree to pray for the person/peoples you identify with.” And both agreed to exchange talk for prayer.

Here is what one of the women wrote about that experience from a note she calls a ‘love note to the world’– and I think it sums everything up:

As a result (of this)– my heart has opened to all. My heart is a wide, wide door this morning. My entry point is all of us. That is the point of prayer maybe- not only to change the world but to change our hearts so we have new eyes with which to see the world. We can’t just TALK and DO. We have to be still first and stay open and listen so we know what to say and do.
I think that choosing the “side” you identify with the least, and making them the focus of your prayers is as close to God as we can get.
Don’t just pray for the ones you love easily- pray for the ones you want to love. It works. It works.– Glennon Doyle Melton

Yes indeed. We must pray for the ones we want to love- along with praying for the ones we do. And give to the ones we want to care about as well as give to the ones we do. Doing what doesn’t come naturally. For it’s the only way for change to really happen, a change that begins with transforming our hearts. And that change will allow LOVE to grow and flourish within our hearts- the very place that matters more than anything.

What is required of us is to keep our hearts open.

Let love fall like rain.

Keeping an Open Heart

13a But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened…

― Hebrews 3:13New International Version (NIV)

“If we learn to open our hearts- anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
Pema Chödrön

“I used to be very suspicious of other women. I felt it was my duty to prove myself to other women. To defend my imaginary superiority. To hide my imaginary inferiority. I felt like I could never let my guard down, never relax. This was before I found my perspectacles. Now, mostly, instead of perceiving other women as competition, I put on my glasses and I see each woman God places on my path as a gift, an invitation, a resource, sent to teach me something I don’t yet know. Sent to help me heal in a specific way that only she can. Even when it becomes clear that the relationship is not going to work out, that we will have to part ways, she is still a gift because I am learning how to part ways with another child of God lovingly and gracefully. And so I get to practice taking care of myself and others. And I am able to relax. To stop grabbing and hiding. To understand that God sends exactly who we need, 100 percent of the time.”

―Glennon Melton

I was sitting at my desk sifting through emails and other life-related stuff- trying to balance my work and life and everything in it, when that feeling surfaced. That itchy-soul feeling. The kind of feeling you get when you know life and seemingly everything in it is driving you stark, raving mad.  Making you feel crazy.

It starts small- a slip of the tongue or a minor offense that can easily be apologized for and then swiped under the table, brushed off as an anomaly. But then it comes again. That itchiness- worsening when something else in your life goes horribly awry. You have ‘one of those days’ which leads to another of the same. To another and another. Someone hurts you, you hurt someone else. And the offenses grow and develop into something ugly. So the cycle continues, the itchiness growing into discontentment. Frustration. Anger and resentment.

Patterns become cycles which grow into lifestyles if we are not careful.

And those days which begin as just small inconveniences can lead to a quantifiable measure of difficult days before we know it, causing us to believe and harmfully develop a mindset that says ‘life is just plain, downright horrible’. And that it’s sometimes just not worth the effort.

Not worth the effort to understand and listen from the heart, that is. For that is the moment we realize: we must examine the heart to see if the issue was stemming from there in the first place.

Sometimes we need to have an open-heart surgery. A figurative open-heart surgery, that is.

Today I had to perform one on myself. A procedure to open my heart rather than close it off to the circumstances and concerns I was facing. And instead of feeling hard and angry toward the issue I was presented with- which might have been my normal bent, I was able to, little by little, see the issue at hand through some dandy perspectacles. Able to claim love over frustration.  Embrace joy over resentment. Anne Lamott says sometimes experiencing glimpses of heaven is just wearing a new pair of glasses, and I concur. Seeing our troubles and concerns- our frustrations and grievances- through fresh eyes, as how it might look like from another vantage point is sometimes all we need so as to open our hearts to one another.

Because sometimes those perspectacles put everything we thought was horrible into crystal, clear focus. Causing us to see that things weren’t as bad as we thought they might have been. Not as insurmountable as we first envisioned.

And all because our perspectacles enabled us to keep both an open mind and an open heart.

Interrupting the Flow

I teach kindergarten. Which is to say I teach precious, innocent, lively four and five year olds. And you would not believe how much these children at this tender age KNEW about the horrific tragedy of the past few days in Moncton, N.B. They knew so much: the killer’s name, how many R.C.M.P. officers died, how many were wounded, where the killer had been, what he said when he’d been caught.

They also had a few facts that sounded a little strange as well; since our power was off at home this morning (and never came on prior to school), I was unable to verify whether these “other” stories were fact or fiction. But overall, I was actually blown away with what they knew. And with this new knowledge they’d acquired, there was definitely a feeling of heightened tension in the air: tension visible in spite of the fact that things are now considered safe for us all in light of the capture of the killer. Safe for us now in spite of our physical and emotional distant proximity from the actual scene of the horror.

Since the chatter started as soon as they came in the classroom, I began asking the children to save their questions until we could all be together on our communal gathering spot, our worn, blue rug. The less informal chitchat, the better in these situations. When we did finally broach the topic, there were equal expressions of relief and sadness for the fallout. These expressions came out when we talked about how we were feeling, something we always do at the start of a brand new school day, today’s routine being no different than any other morning. And as we talked, several children expressed deep grief for the fallen heroes, the three men who died in action two evenings ago.

I was so touched by their sensitivity.

And as I watched the concern wash across their faces, I was reminded yet again how important it is to create positive connections with those in authority beginning even at this very young age.  Especially at this critical point in their lives- the beginning of their formal education. The opinions we form of those in uniform who work for our benefit begin when we are young matter.  And they can be far-reaching. These days are both impressionable and significant. And as such, I use every opportunity I can find to make local police officers and firefighters visible to my young students. Thankfully, this has been made easier with the fact that for the last number of years, students in my class have had a parent who is a Member. Or at the very least, a close connection to one. The visibility of those in uniform to my students has been pivotal in making permanent positive associations with police officers and the like.

Like many young children their age, my students think R.C.M.P. are like superheroes.  Capable of preforming amazing feats that defy ordinary human capabilities.  I guess you could say they are not too far off the mark with that one.  The R.C.M.P. officers I know are pretty amazing people.  And the events of the past few days only confirm this fact for me.

But in spite of my students awe and wonder, it’s still hard to know what to say to young children when scary things happen so close to home. My students had family members and friends in the cordoned off area where the search had been conducted. I wanted to say something to counter the fear and paranoia. So that the lasting impression wasn’t “what if this ever happened again” but rather “how then, shall we now live?”.

In the split second in which I was trying to form my words, thinking on the spot with wondering little faces turned towards me , I remembered a blog article I had read recently by Glennon Melton at Momastery in which she talked about how we can counter the negativity and evil we come in contact with in our daily lives. This is what she said:

I’ve learned that we cannot change the fact that fear will be released into the world again and again- but we DO have the power to convert that fear into love. As it flows into us, we must CHANGE it before we allow it to flow back out to others. We must interrupt the flow. We have that power. And that’s my favorite kind of conversion – Fear to Love.

Isn’t that powerful?

We can reverse the flow.

And it can begin right now, even in the shadow of the past nights horrors. Even in the light of the coming sadness for families who will grieve their losses. Even in spite of the fact that innocence has been lost. In spite of great tragedy. We can reverse the flow.

So here’s what I said. I told the children we were no longer going to focus on the details of the event that would weigh us down. We were going to turn our sadness into appreciation. Into gratitude. We were going to reverse the flow of fear into an outpouring of love. And we would do this by first making sure that if we saw a police officer or R.C.M.P. member this weekend out and about, we would take the time to thank them. And tell them how much we appreciate their service.

Just a very simple, basic way to start the process of interrupting and reversing the flow.

Everywhere- from one tip of Canada to the other, I am hearing stories of people interrupting the flow. People who are reaching out to officers and thanking them in restaurants and other public places. People leaving flowers and chocolates and baked goods at police stations the Maritimes over. People covering social media and news print with thank-you ads and words of appreciation. One little guy somewhere apparently even drew a picture for an officer and handed it to him, bringing a wave of emotion to that officer who then shared it with staff members back at the station.

All this done in a concerted effort to interrupt the flow and set it on a new directional course, thus bringing good from evil. Making joy out of great sorrow. Incredible stuff.  So profound, yet so very simple and natural when it comes to actually doing it.

Although interruptions don’t always return us to where we began, they do ensure that someone SOMEWHERE will be changed because of them. Kindness has that power to influence perspectives. And if even one of the young children I learn alongside is positively affected towards greater appreciation and a lifetime of respect towards our men and women in uniform, then that one life was worth the work of initiating the INTERRUPTION process.

That one life, that one little soul: they were worth the time and effort it took to positively influence them. It’s the power of one. It starts small, but the ripple effect is tremendous and far-reaching.

May we never forget that we have the ability to interrupt the flow.

Living Five Minutes at a Time: My Messy Beautiful

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It matters how you treat people.

It matters how you live your life, how you do your job, treat your friends, speak to your kids, care for your animals.  It matters. And it matters that you infuse love into what you do, through each and every seemingly small moment of the day.  Even if those moments are organized into minuscule, five minute increments.  As small and insignificant as that portion of time might seem.

And yet.  Five minutes can be long enough to make a mess of things.

I know.

Lately, I have been living my life either five minutes ahead or five minutes behind where I ought to be.  It’s like I am either rushing too fast or moving too slow.  In all, I am not thinking/living in the moment like I feel I should be. That is, if I was to be ‘living up to’ my best, ideal vision of myself.  That ideal I hold so dear.  And when I sat down to really contemplate this thought, I came up with eight random things I wished I had known about, five minutes before/after they happened.

1. That bag of dirty laundry that I left behind at my lovely friend’s house in N.J. (while traveling during Spring Break)- wish I had known it was sitting there in her man cave five minutes before we left (instead of ten hours later). #nicepartinggift

2. That curb that I sideswiped while backing out of my sister-in-law’s driveway (causing Husband to curl up into the fetal position)- wish I had thought about it five minutes before getting behind the wheel. #soyouthinkyoucandrive

3. Those three fish tacos I ate recently at the Ground Round- wish I had purused the menu five minutes longer before deciding what I was going to eat that particular night. #intestinalgrief

4. That one hour trampoline privilege (Sky High, N.C.) that I paid a left leg for- wish I could have traded it in for Twinkies five minutes after I started jumping (like my life depended on it).

5. And while on that thought… regarding the one hour trampoline privilege that I recently paid a left leg for- wish I had a catheter inserted because five minutes after I started jumping (like an Olympic gymnast on steroids), I was making like a crazed woman for the lady’s room.

6. That email that I was recently trying to save- and all those pictures and other important stuff that seemed so NECESSARY at the time- wish I had remembered that PURGE means GONE FOREVER about five minutes before cleaning up my email queue.

7. But then too. Those beautiful children that I mama-bear growl at, for various reasons or another, and whom I rush along and nag– sometimes I wish I could just remember- five minutes before those words and frustrations pour out of my mouth- that these are just moments in an otherwise beautiful life.  They are not worth getting in a blathering dither over.

8. And this one.  Ouch. This one hurts my ego a little. That conversation I had with my mom recently- that one during which I proceeded to unload all my petty little troubles- wish I had been able to go back five minutes in time to the moment before she proceeded to tell me about a very tragic loss that had occurred in her life when I was away on my trip.  While I was going on and on and on about my bladder troubles and other petty little worries.

Sometimes five minutes is all we need to put life into perspective. 

Five minutes is enough to show me how beautiful my life can truly be. How beautiful it truly is.  If only I am willing to stop and take the time to see the beauty in the moment.

Want to hear five of the best minutes of a day in my life recently? It was without a doubt, when I went to a small grocery store in the town of Cornwall, P.E.I., Canada. Not an event I would usually connect with morphing into daily high points, but that day it was. The cashier: she was friendly, pleasant, affable. I could hear in her voice, as she talked, that she just genuinely liked people. Liked her job. She called me ‘hun’ three times. And while that normally wouldn’t rub me the right way, that day those words seemed almost soothing.

“Anything else I can get you hun?” she said smiling.  Then later…
“Are you paying for that with debit or credit, hun?”
“Thanks, hun. Have a nice day!”

And maybe it was her smile. Maybe it was the respectful way she talked to the meat manager as he brought up a box of seafood to be priced. Quite possibly it could have even been the combined effect of both she and her colleague in the cash right next to her, a woman whom the older gentleman in line after me greeted her warmly with, “Ah Lyndsay! This makes my day just to see you here!”

And with all that love, it isn’t too far-fetched to surmise that this little grocery store is a good place to work. A good place to BE.  It exudes an atmosphere in which love is valued.  In which small moments are valued. For you can feel love palpably. People in this store genuinely seem to like being here, and perhaps the reason is because they just feel like they’re with friends.

It’s that kind of store.

And I couldn’t help but think of that well-touted line, ‘whatever you’ve been given to do, do it well’, in reference to these two women and their ethic of care towards their customers. Because they weren’t just delivering a service that day: they were offering love. Five minutes at a time, and in the process, the whole ordeal had the effect of moving me in a very profound, emotional way. I really felt touched by the kindness I observed and experienced.  And I can only hope to live up to that high ideal as I also go about my life’s work, inside my own home, workplace and classroom, living with and teaching the little and big people I’ve been called to learn alongside.

What a great inspiration it is to watch people doing what they love to do and seeing them doing it well.

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Because really, when it comes down to it: we’re just people living our lives, five minutes at a time.

Five minutes: it’s all we need to put everything else in our messy, beautiful lives into perspective.  Because that’s what this is all about- the messy in our lives is really the beautiful.  And if I was really being honest, it’s not about five minutes before or five minutes later- it’s really about living out both the frustrating five and the pleasurable five in life- at one and the same time.  Does this mean we cannot talk about the small stuff- the random things we wish we could do-over?  Of course not. In talking about them, in VENTING at times, we realize that they are just small moments that comprise a bigger life.  In validating our small moments- and learning to laugh at them, we come to appreciate the bigger picture that much more.

And in the process, we realize- life is full of moments that we live.

Five at a time.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

 

 

 

 

On Being Good…

If you are wondering, you probably don’t have to worry.  You are doing just fine.  In fact, you are doing better than fine.  You’re rocking this gig. Trust your instincts.  Believe in yourself.  You’re a great Mama.

I get impatient with people who make comments about parents saying things like, “I think they are a good mother, good father, good parent” and then qualify it with what they do or say. Really?  Because if we are making comments about anyone with kids who is even trying (we’re not going to even open the can of worms that discusses what they are doing and that crazy comparison game)… then in my books- they are doing enough to be a good parent.  Not too many parents that I know wake up in the morning contemplating being bad parents for the day.  Not too many do their best to make life miserable for their kids.  The overwhelming majority make the effort to feed, clothe and clean their kids.  Good parents make the effort.

And that’s more than enough to get you through the day.

I overheard some mothers recently, talking about not being the world’s best mother because they hadn’t done one thing or the other that they thought, I guess, the World’s Best Mother might do.  Whatever that might be.  And I couldn’t help but think that when we start making it hard for ourselves, we start finding the ginormous responsibility that is our parenting job HARD.  And that much harder to live up to.  We need to stop holding ourselves to these too high standards.  Cut ourselves some slack, people!  Being a parent is already tough enough than also adding to the mix the further commitment of being the BEST.  Being the best is not all it’s cracked up to be.  You can’t take a break. You can’t let your guard down.  You can NEVER slack off.  So here is my response to parents that feel they have to be the World’s Best Parent:

There will always be somebody better than you at this.  So stop trying so hard.  Release the burden of being the best.  And just settle for being good.

Good is more than enough.

Think of it.  Think of all the things we say are good.  Martha Stewart has devoted an entire section in her semi-successful magazine to things she deems to be “good”.  If it’s good enough for Martha, it’s good enough for me (please dismiss the fact that she ended up in jail.  I never said she was perfect.  I just said she endorsed being “good”- as in “good enough”.)

I have said this before but this little bit of advice that came to me from a very dear friend of mine, and it has stuck with me over the years- and here it is: “If you have taken the time to even thoughtfully consider your parenting in any way- to reflect on it, to care about it, to make time for it in your already jam-packed, crazy-busy day: chances are, you are a good mama (dad).

And if that’s enough for my dear friend and the multitude of other parents out there who follow suit, then it’s more than good enough for me.

And in the words of another good-enough mama, Glennon Melton: carry on, warriors! ‘Cause it’s a battle out there…

Arms Outstretched and Hands Raised

Last night was kind of the crowning glory for me.  A moment in time when I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.  And to be sure.  I have had my fair share of awkward moments.  Moments when my truly funny life has imitated fiction.  Watch me in action for about five minutes and you could probably catch me doing something just a little left of center.   We fools are probably why they formed channels like TLC.   We’re just a little bit on the special side.

Adorable, but special nonetheless.

So I guess it could be said- there have been one too many times in my insanely crazy real life when real life has imitated art.  As long as you understand that the art I am talking about is a very entertaining (albeit low-budget) television reality show.  (Shout out to the Duggars… love you guys!!)

But physically mistaking my friend’s husband for my own has got to be a low point of the week thus far.  Even for me.   I made contact with the poor guy’s shoulder…!  Yes, it could’ve been worse.  Thank the Lord for that.  And yet.  This embarrassing faux pas has got even me wondering: what next?  How am I going to top that one?  If only…I hadn’t been rubbing his shoulder…if only I had caught myself before making contact.  If only Brian and half of West Price had not witnessed the event….   If only.  So much embarrassment could have been saved.  But nevertheless.  The ‘if only’ is not what happened.  Obviously.  And here I am to tell the tale.

What next?  Can there be any lower levels to reach?    I am already lying face down at the bottom of the barrel.

So it wouldn’t be surprising to any of you, now would it, that I was again late for work this morning.  I should just shoot myself and call it a draw.  This is becoming a habitual rite of passage for me, transitioning from my home self to my professional self.  I feel like one of those old time coal engines that take their good ole’ time warming up.  And when they reach full steam, look out.  They cannot be stopped.

This morning was the usual busy morning.  Rushing, meltdowns, fights over clothing.

Yadda, yadda.  The works.

But what was different this morning was I had actually convinced myself that I would be on time today.  (Stop laughing, fellow co-workers.)  I felt like I really had a fighting chance of arriving at work before the expected check-in preliminaries, for a lovely change.  Everything was seemingly lined up in my favor.  I had an extra hour today to play with, an extra hour within which to arrive.  So it should naturally follow, if ‘one’ had so much extra time on their hands that ‘one’ would thus arrive at work at the very least, before their first meeting of the day.

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.  And it should be noted: I am ‘one’ gal who has always been the exception to the rule.

So.  Since I did not arrive on time… but instead arrived late (5-7 minutes late, to be exact…but who’s counting), and since I missed the introductory staff meeting, as well as my first grade level meeting (very small short meeting)… I was extremely disappointed in myself.  Frustrated would be another choice word.  And so it was.   That I spent the majority of the morning berating myself and beating myself up for my ineptitude and uselessness.  Telling myself I was incompetent and a total let-down to my profession.  What.a.jerk.    (And this is just my day job.  Don’t get me started on the other slack areas of my life….)

About half-way through the morning, I made a trek up to the office.  Sheepishly looking around to see who was watching, all the while wondering if I would ever be able to arrive ANYWHERE, ever again…on time.   And so, I decided to unload all my feelings and frustrations on the very capable and caring shoulders of our amazing secretary.  And as I proceeded to tell her the very many ways in which I felt I was unable to live up to my expectations of myself (not to mention the expectations everyone else probably had of me), the conversation took a turn.  It swerved away from me apologizing over and over again for all the failures in my life and instead started heading in a direction I like to call ‘forgiveness’.  Grace.  Acceptance.  Toward a place where a body can say to themselves,

“You know what?  You’re not perfect, girlfriend, and you never will be.  So why don’t you start forgiving yourself your failures and start concentrating on what you’re doing right.  And while you’re at it, start learning to say NO.  YOU ARE TIRED, girlfriend!  You need to cut yourself some slack!  If you drop a few of the balls you have in the air, nobody is going to be the worse for the wear.  Stop trying to live up to everyone’s expectations and start setting some limits for yourself.  And while you’re at it, do something nice for yourself this weekend.  Get a coffee just for the fun of it.  Buy something pretty.  Read a book.  Go for a drive.  Call up some friends.  Laugh.  Love.  Live.  YOU DESERVE IT!!!”

And I don’t know about you, but I kinda like the view from that place- from GRACE.  From Forgiveness.  From self-acceptance.  Because it is so freeing when you tell yourself that you’re okay.  Just the way you are.

And I tell you all this because?

I don’t want to hide my life behind a facade pretending to be something I am not.  I am exactly what you read: a bumbling fool most of the time, but for the other twenty-five percent of the time, I am a girl who is learning to love herself.  Flaws and all.  And I think that when we take down the walls that hide our true selves from public view, we come to discover…we are all essentially alike.  We have insecurities, flaws, un-met expectations of ourselves.  We do embarrassing things.  We mess up.  We live crazy lives.  We are a work in progress.  And if we can share with each other a small portion of ourselves, it might encourage us all to live life as if we had no secrets.

And life stripped of all that baggage- those feelings of inadequacy and failure and incompetence and disappointment, is SO MUCH BETTER than hiding behind a false barrier.

We need to live life in view.  Maybe not as in full view as I do (I have pretty much no pride left- my dirty laundry is hanging out for all the world to see baby.  And those hip-hugging puppies are not pretty, let me tell you.)  But let’s be serious: we are so very much the same and we can learn so much from one another when we come out from our hiding places.  When we live our lives with arms outstretched and hands lifted.  And we stop hiding who we truly are.

Thoughts on mothering…and why there is no single way it should be done

A while back, I had a chat with a mother friend of mine who is a bit older and wiser than I am.  She shared with me that when her kids were growing up, she always had felt she was a bad mother.  She had a daughter that she would constantly butt heads with and she continually dealt with this child’s behavior and attitude.  When she went to her daughter’s first Grade 1 Parent-Teacher Interview, she told the teacher how inadequate she felt as a mother and that she felt she was failing her daughter as a mom.  The teacher said this, “The fact that you are even thinking you’re a bad mom means you are not one.”  In other words, to think about and reflect on your relationships with your children is proof that you care.  You showed up and that is the first step in being a great mom.

Something I have noticed as I search the Internet for blogs written by other women is the dichotomy of perspective that presently exists between mothers who write on-line.  There appears to be two main camps out there right now that hold to two different philosophies of mothering.  I am being very general in describing the following perspectives, and keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rules.

In the first camp are mothers who are looking for something different, more attainable when it comes to the way they mother and raise their children.  These moms are tired of the traditional mindset that moms are saints set here on earth with the sole purpose of design being to wipe dishes and tears as easily as they wipe dirty bottoms.  I first heard about the Momastery blog back in January when Glennon Melton’s “Don’t Carpe Diem” essay went viral.  Mothers everywhere went crazy over her message that we don’t need to be enjoying every minute of every day…if we can get in about fifteen minutes of Kairos moments each day, we are doing well.  I read more of her writing in the days and months that followed and I could soon see that Melton was different, and out of the box, in her approach to parenting.  Her main message is to not take yourself so seriously and to not set the bar so high that your goals are unattainable.  Melton has other beliefs and truths she holds to, but the one I am focused on in this essay and that I find most interesting is this: she believes that being a mother is just part of a woman’s person.  Mothers need not check their personality, goals, dreams and aspirations at the hospital door when they go to deliver.  And for one to suggest that you might have days where you’d rather not be around your children, and actually admit so out loud, is okay.  It’s actually smiled upon.   Most  importantly, moms don’t always have to like the job of being a mother.

Perfect mothers need not ascribe to this philosophy of mothering.

Another camp of perspective that seems to exist is one that holds to the more traditional view of what a mother should be in the home.  Although many of these mothers work both inside the home as well as out in the workforce, what seems to be the point of separation from the first camp is that these mothers have a more cautious mindset, as well as differing beliefs about priorities, goals, focus and time-management.  There is also an unwavering belief in this camp that to negatively challenge a mother’s level of enjoyment and desire for being a mommy is almost like a sacrilege.  Or to irreverently suggest that you might not love being a mother most of the time is to not appreciate the role God has blessed you with.  Furthermore, there is a view in this camp that to confront age-old beliefs about what it really means to be a mother, and thus shake things up, is risky and unwise.

I realize that there are moms that fall in between both camps.  Moms are hard to pin down.  However, I know that if you are looking for literature to support either of these two philosophies of mothering, you can find them out there in the blogosphere.

Interestingly, moms from both camps that I have defined hold to some traditional and even biblical views of mothering in the way that they both understand their responsibility to parent their children.  How they go about that parenting is different, but the commitment behind the motives remains the same.  Of course there are certainly differing convictions and standards set for what is right and wrong between the two camps, but as it pertains to mothering, women in both camps are still striving to be good mothers and raise great kids.

Great moms show up in different ways.  They show up for all those things we traditionally think moms should show up for (soccer games, piano recitals, Christmas concerts, family get-togethers) but they also show up for discussion and reflection on their identity as a mom.  And they do so as well on all these websites that I have observed, whether they hold to beliefs and views from the first or the second camp of thought as previously mentioned.

Good moms can be burned-out moms.  Good moms can be at their wits end.  Good moms can suffer depression.  Good moms can feel isolated, alone and scared.  Good moms can also be women who have the vigour of the Energizer Bunny and the qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman as laid out in the Bible (she is hard to live up to, but a great example to us all!).  Good mothering does not follow a definition:  it follows the heart.

And those kinds of mothers who follow their hearts, as well as their convictions, are found on both the websites that challenge traditional views as well as those that don’t.  I believe this because I believe that good moms show up.  That alone says a lot about who you are as a mother.   May we never forget that there are more things that unite us than those which divide us.