confessions graphic FINALapples

Dear Devi,

Hey, you over there, can you hear me? Yes, I heard the lady in the church crèche, too. Her son was talking at 10 months, and I saw your heart filling slowly with fear. You wondered about Little Boy – nine months at the time – and why he didn’t have words yet. You’re feeling afraid, afraid that you haven’t read enough, talked enough, spent enough time together, and you’re wondering about development, intelligence, autism.

How is comparison working out for you today? Here’s my opinion – not very well.

You thought you were great at not comparing him to other babies, but that’s only because when you compared him at the beginning, he was doing fine. There was no reason to worry and lots of reasons to feel like you were doing a great job.

Because that’s what comparison was about, wasn’t it? You needed all the evidence you could find that you were an adequate mother, that you were figuring out this baby thing, that you were doing a good job. In the absence of a progress report, salary or job performance evaluation, what you had instead was a baby, and there had to be a way to find out how he was doing you were doing.

Was he rolling over in time? Yes. Was he sleeping well at night? At the beginning, yes. Was he napping? Like a star. Did he cry for long periods of time? Never.

You desperately needed to know you were doing a good job, and he made it so easy for you to do that in the beginning. Comparison seemed like the only way you could know for sure that you were enough. You were enough because he was doing well. You knew he was doing well because he was winning a game. 

Here’s the thing, Devi. Children aren’t trophies, they are your treasures, your relationships, your gifts, but they are not trophies. They are not evidence of parenting successes or failures. Please don’t set yourself and your son up for a co-dependent future. He can own his successes, and he can own his failures. Your successes and failures are yours to own.

The more you feed the comparison monster, the more it will grow. Put yourself around comparison-oriented people, and the monster will thrive.

You don’t want this way of life for yourself, and you don’t want it for your children. You long to be the mother that only you can be because you are unique, with a unique past, moving toward a unique future. And you want your children to live free without the fear that they can’t meet a certain standard set by other people or even set by you. Little Boy, he wants to know that he can live, grow, thrive in a way that is his alone, not the way the sons in other families live. No other family in the world is like yours, every family has it’s special purpose, so don’t lock yourself into the box that comparison will build for you. 

So relax a little. You’re free to be a good mother, you’re free to be the mother you are supposed to be, the one who cooks with her boys, the one who doesn’t have lots of rules, who sings and dances daily, the one who reads a lot, who doesn’t give baths, the one likes to sit and think and think and think and so many other quirks and oddities and specialities and normalities. This is you. No need to be anyone else or try to meet someone else’s standard.

When you compare yourself, when you compare your children, this is what you are doing – making someone else’s life and standard the best thing and measuring your worth and your life to that standard. Whether you succeed or fail in the comparison game isn’t the point, as long as your way of measuring success is comparison, you will just keep having to do it. This is why it is so destructive – it keeps you coming back for more.

And one day it will wear you out. You will get tired of succeeding in your comparisons because it means you won’t get close to people. You will get tired of failing in your comparisons because it will make you feel worthless. But before it does that, it will wear out your kids and give them lots of reasons not to trust you. Every child gets to the point when they realize a parent is measuring their worth against someone else, and it immediately leads to feelings of inferiority, guilt and resentment. 

No comparison, Devi. Never. Ever. No one has a perfect family, and your family relationships are not your achievements. When you understand who you and Husband are, how you parent, who your kids are and what makes them tick and build the family only you are supposed to be, you give yourself, your husband, and your boys the gift of freedom.

Set your family free from the burden of comparison and watch them thrive in the light of grace and truth. 

Love,

Devi

If you’re interested in more thoughts about comparison, I wrote about it for 31 Days in October 2012.

This post is Day 23 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

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Little Boy came out, and there was one thing on my mind from the first hours on, When will he get on a schedule? I don’t know how many times a day Husband heard me saying, What time is it??????? (Neither of us wear watches.)

I smile at that woman now because I can hear the contents of her heart. I see her fears more clearly now.

I thought the way to “do” the newborn months was to have a schedule. It was the only way. It was how my more-experienced friends had done it. And I’m a planner and like having an organized life. I told myself that I wanted Little Boy on a schedule because it was orderly and could guarantee time for myself, and remember, I was going to be a good wife. A schedule Gives Time For Your Marriage.

I was wiser about babies. Obviously. Those babies. They need their schedules.

My schedule wasn’t about the baby or my family. The schedule gave me certainty and control in a time that was inherently uncertain and out of control. What I really wanted was to get the hang of this thing, to feel on top of it, to master it, so I could move on and keep living my life.

My schedule helped me feel like life was no different when the reality was that there was no way it could bear any resemblance to my previous life.

I see this impulse all the time in your tired eyes, New Mum. You want to know what’s going on with your baby, you want to be able to meet her needs, take care of him in the best way possible. You want to know when the next feeding will be, when (and for how long) the next nap will be. There’s nothing wrong with that, and lots of babies respond well to it from the beginning, so please hear me – I am not anti-schedule. 

But I want to take your hand, look you in the eyes and say with kindness – It’s ok to not know what will happen next. You don’t have to have a game plan for the day, for the week. The world will keep turning. You will be ok. Just love your baby, spend time with your baby, look into her eyes, give him lots of smiles. Talk to her. Talk to him. Keep feeding them.

The right schedule, the best routine – it will come at the right time. You don’t need to control your baby. You can let go. 

notestoanewmum

This post is Day 9 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

confessions graphic FINAL

So the other night I was feeding Baby, and he seemed a bit unhappy. I was thinking maybe I didn’t have enough milk.

(This is my second time around with a newborn, and truly I think about almost nothing. I hardly ever change his diaper, he’s had one bath since August 10. Serious. My firstborn fared a bit better in the bath department although just barely. And now I have zero routine or schedule to speak of. I haven’t even – gasp! – written down when he eats or for how long or on which side.)

(Also, the part about President Barack Obama comes at the end in case anyone is wondering.)

Back to Baby, I mentioned that I don’t think about anything anymore, so I don’t know why I even noticed that he was having trouble eating or why I was concerned about my milk supply, but here’s what happened.

He started crying, I got out of bed, checked my phone, it was just after 2am. I picked him up, started feeding, and then possibly fell asleep. Maybe. I couldn’t remember. Then I was awake, I didn’t feel like I had much milk, I couldn’t remember if I had fed him on the other side, and I was thinking, which was likely my first mistake because no one should be thinking at 2am, but think I did and it sounded like this:

It feels like I’m running out of milk. I wonder why. I should be eating or drinking more. Maybe I’m drying up. Maybe I’m pregnant. Could I be pregnant? What would I do if I was pregnant? The baby would be due right when Daniel is a year old. Three kids under three. Is that even possible? What if it was twins? I know two people whose third pregnancy was twins. Could I stay sane with four children under three? Would I get post partum depression? 

Then I spent a few more minutes thinking about PPD. No one should be thinking these things, but especially not at two in the morning. At this point I decided to check the time again. It was 3am. Problem solved. I had fallen asleep, he was a the one side for one hour. Of course I felt empty.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Vanity Fair published a lengthy profile about President Obama. It is a great read whatever your political persuasions may be. But the point that caught my eye was a comment he made about how he chooses his clothes.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

I read this quotation and the article during the 2012 presidential campaign, and it was a light bulb moment for me.

I finally understood why I was so exhausted those first months after our oldest was born. The lack of sleep will always be the obvious culprit when we wonder why it is that we don’t feel the way we used to feel. But the hidden factor is the sheer number of decisions – however big or small – that we make every few minutes.

Is he hungry? Should I be putting her to sleep? Swaddled or not? Too cold? Too warm? Should I wake him up? Is it the right time to cut fingernails? What is that on her scalp? Tummy time? Too much tummy time? What size will he be in a few months? Should we go out? For how long? When will he next need to eat?

The first months are the get-to-know-you months, the time when you’re understand this new person, and that process involves hundreds of tiny decisions, decisions that exhaust you and make it difficult to make other decisions.

This idea will stay with me forever. I’m a thinker anyway, and even without kids, my brain is usually running around with lots of questions. It has to be quieted, decisions need to be pared down for me to experience an internal peace and silence.

How can I minimize the number of decisions I make every day? And in the event that I can’t, I try to be as easy on my self as possible in those moments when my brain can’t handle another decision or another question.

This post is Day 8 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

notestoanewmum

The angry, angsty crying comes on the monitor just over an hour after I put him down for a nap, totally uncharacteristic of Little Boy who at over two usually takes a three hour nap daily. I need this nap, my introverted heart recharges in the shadow of books and Facebook. Every now and then clutter is cleared.

We have both been sick with evil colds and coughs for the past two days, and he sounds terrible. I go to him, flushed face, big tears rolling down his cheeks. I know he doesn’t want to wake up, but he must have felt so awful he couldn’t go back to sleep. We end up in the rocking chair, with his arms around my neck, head against my chest, neither of us are talking.

I used to rock him in this same, blue, uncomfortable chair two years ago. I was obstinate about napping – he would nap according to my plans, I would make him. So if he woke up too early according to my schedule or if he was having difficulty sleeping, I just sat there and rocked, sang, held his tiny frame close. Felt him relax, let go into sleep.

It’s costly, these moments. I had Things To Do this afternoon, and I am never ready for nap time to be over after an hour. Never. These are the daily little losses I faced when Little Boy was born and every day since, and each one came at a cost.

Our stories are unique, and in no way do I think mine is representative of most women. But whatever way a child arrives in our lives, no matter how desired, planned or hoped for a pregnancy or adoption may be, huge losses come with it.  Children are costly, and I’m not referring to money. Time, energy, fun, freedom, relationships and so many other things that disappear or change.

This is the point where many of you are reading this and wondering, Yes of course there are losses, but don’t you gain something as well? So many older women have said this to me as I have lamented the losses in my own life these past two years, and of course I have gained many things – and will be writing about that in the days to come – but before you gain something, before something is added to your life, there has to be space for it, and this is one of the gifts of loss, it creates spaces.

Counting the cost has become a necessary practice for me as I mother, it is the way I honour my losses. It is my way of saying, This was important to you, it’s not part of your life anymore, that’s hard and it’s ok that it is hard. Counting the cost requires continued honesty with myself, a process of acknowledgement and release.

What does counting the cost look like? For me it is considering what is to come – I spend a lot of time thinking, and I leave space in my days for thinking time (hence my devotion to nap time), I journal and write a gratitude list, easily the best tool in helping me let go.

The costlier something is, the more value it has, and our closest relationships in some ways are the most costly; in paying the cost, we affirm its value. Every night I lose sleep, every snotty nose wiped, every outing I turn down because it will mess up bed time, are all losses, each one says, I value you, son, more than what I am losing right now. 

As I sit in the blue chair with Little Boy slowly coming to terms with the fact that my afternoon as I planned it was over, I hold him, pray for him silently, rub his back, and I can feel the swell of compassion, empathy, gentleness and kindness coming over me, and it is good, this moment with my son as I pay my cost one by one.

What are your relationships costing you today? How are you counting the costs? 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

notestoanewmum

In October 2013 I wrote daily as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge. I called it “Notes to a New Mum,” but after I finished writing, each note sounded more like a confession, stories about love, loss, breaking, gaining, and a whole host of different things along the way. So I’ve re-named the series Confessions of a New Mum, and in 2014 I started writing more confessions.  You can find the index of the posts after the introduction.
Welcome, friend. You have been on my heart for weeks now. I don’t know how old your first child is, if you have children, want them, are pregnant or if you’re holding a newborn in your arms. We are all birthing something, we are all holding something new in our hands.

I’m holding another newborn in my arms these days and nights, and remembering my first season with a baby. These words are for her and for you. Re-visiting the woman I was and talking to my past self is a necessary part of growing, healing, living and it also frees me to move forward.

For the 31 days of October 2014, I’ll be writing these confessions of a new mum. I’m not a parenting expert. My toddler throws tantrums, our babies don’t sleep through the night early, veggies aren’t eaten, schedules are kept and disregarded, I leave piles of soiled nappies on the changing table. Please trust me, I’m not trying to pass on any great secrets or wisdom about the actual day-to-day of having small kids or babies. But there will be lots of stories, lots and lots of stories from my motherhood journey so far.

The only specific advice will be related to how much chocolate should be in your pantry at all times (lots), there will definitely be nothing on how to get your baby to sleep. There will be some letters, some lessons, some book reviews and a few guest posts from friends.

I hope the next 31 days are encouraging for you and for me.  Hopefully my own reflections will bring growth, health, life and freedom to your soul in whatever season of life you may be in right now.

Day 1         Landscapes

Day 2         Counting
Day 3          Love
Day 4          Lunch
Day 5          Review: Grace Based Parenting
Day 6          Inspiration
Day 7          Parenting
Day 8         Obama
Day 9          Schedules
Day 10       Time
Day 11       Outside
Day 12       Book Review: Simplicity Parenting
Day 13        Inspiration
Day 14        Faith
Day 15        Sara Groves
Day 16
Day 17        Accusation
Day 18        Slow
Day 19        Review: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
Day 20        Inspiration
Day 21        Guest Post: Amy
Day 22        Husbands
Day 23        Comparison
Day 24        Zone
Day 25        Guest Post: Hannah
Day 26
Day 27        Inspiration
Day 28        Guest Post: Myra
Day 29        Review + Giveaway: Desperate – Hope for the mom who needs to breathe
Day 30        Resources
Day 31        Born Again: A Birth Story