I don’t know about you but I tend to get a little ahead of myself. I get caught up in the excitement of whatever is happening in my life that I go a little overboard. And then I overwhelm myself and none of it becomes exciting. And that’s just sad.
Let’s take, for example, my life right now. I homeschool four children (from the ages of 8 to 13) and have a 2 year old toddler as well. I am a certified birth doula and am currently in more doula training to add to my knowledge. I am an ever-aspiring yogini who is hoping to begin yoga certification this Spring. I also serve in my church in the women’s organization. I love learning about and using essential oils and creating my own beauty products. I also am an avid reader and have found that I really love this whole blogging thing. But what all these interests add up to is TIME. They all take time. Good, precious, wonderful time. They are all worthy endeavors of my time, but that doesn’t mean I can create time out of nowhere. I still have to budget and balance and schedule and prioritize my dreams and goals.
So recently when the opportunity to pursue blogging through another website came up, I jumped at it. I asked for more info. I got excited. I thought of all the things I could do with this opportunity. And then the dread started settling in. How can I possibly find time to write more often than I do now? Can I make such a commitment?
And the rational answer hit me: no, I can’t do that now. I need to stop trying to run before I can walk. I need to stop wanting to do it all now and, instead, enjoy the things in my life I do have now. So here are six ways we can all do this:
We all have the same amount of time every day to get things done; it’s what we do with it that counts. I may not be able to reasonably spread myself as thin as I wish I could but if I stay positive and enjoy the opportunities I am currently involved in, then my life will feel substantially more meaningful and full. I'll be able to enjoy the season of life I'm in now.
I talk to my children all the time about adolescence and the perception of being different from their peers as being bad. It didn’t dawn on me until I started reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, that the same happens to parents as well.
Just the other day, my daughter who is almost 14, told me about girls in her class who were talking about what they got for Christmas. Most of them said clothes. She said she wanted to say that she got Shopkins but was afraid they would think she was immature. This fear of standing out, of being different, affects us all.
During adolescence, we all struggle to find out who we are as individuals but in our pursuit, a dichotomy forms of the good and the bad. What I like is good, what I don’t like is bad; what is familiar is good, what is different is bad. However, the problem with this way of thinking is that just because something is different, doesn’t make it bad. Just because my daughter likes Shopkins, shouldn’t make that a bad thing in the eyes of others who do not like Shopkins. However, because the other girls in my daughter’s class were happy about different gifts than my daughter had received, she internalized that as a direct criticism of her gifts. She felt she was different and, therefore, bad.
But different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
Now let’s equate this to parenting. Look on any library or bookstore shelf in the parenting section and I guarantee you will find a whole slew of books claiming to have the right approach to parenting. For years, I couldn’t even look at those books because if they suggested different parenting techniques than I used or was comfortable using, I thought that meant I was a bad parent (different = bad). Brene Brown says:
“Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit ‘how-to-parent’ strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say ‘dangerous’ because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That’s why parents are so critical of one another--we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting.”
Seriously, my mind was blown when I read this. This is exactly what I had faced and confronted for years as an insecure mother, and sometimes I still face it. When others are confident in their parenting and proclaim (overtly or not) their way to be THE way, what does that say about me and my parenting if it’s different? That I must be doing something wrong? Absolutely not.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
It took me years to realize this though. Every one of us was blessed with different upbringings, experiences, and personalities. And each of our children will have their own set as well. Each situation and relationship is different and we need to respect and praise those differences instead of fearing, rebuking, or self-criticizing.
What we need is a spirit of love, compassion, understanding, and non-judgment when sharing with others our parenting experiences. Is it good to give tips that have been helpful to you to new moms? Probably. Is it good to chastise the mom who lets her kids sleep in her bed because that’s something you would never do? Definitely not. Her choices may be different than yours but that doesn’t make them bad, just different.
Just as I want my daughter to embrace every beautiful unique quality she has and recognize how good she is, I want all kids and adults to recognize this as well. Brene Brown said, “the question isn’t so much ‘Are you parenting the right way?’ as it is: ‘Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?’” When we as adults can set the example of loving and accepting our differences, our kids will learn and grow from that as well.
As I sat down on my computer this evening, I saw several witty posts by a friend and a familiar stab of jealousy hit me: “Why can’t I be witty like that?”
It’s taken me all of my 37 years of life to (almost) master that ugly, envious side of me. Now when it rears its ugly face, I can usually remind myself, “Their success is not my failure.”
I love that phrase. For so long, I thought others’ accomplishments implied something was wrong with me for not achieving the same. No joke, I couldn’t even look at the Family Circle magazine without seeing a picture of a mom who had an organized file system for game activities to do with her kids without feeling like I was the worst mom ever. Why didn’t I have a file system? When Pinterest came out, oh man, that was rough. I refused to even look at it. I didn’t want to feel inferior to all the moms who somehow got their kids fed, dressed, and ready for school while also color coordinating their spice rack. I just couldn’t do it.
A year after starting homeschool, a friend convinced me to check out Pinterest for school ideas. I grumbled and moaned and finally conceded. And you know what? It was awesome! For the first time ever I didn’t feel inferior. I wasn’t jealous. I was relieved! Here were all these creative activities and crafts that other way-more-creative moms had put time and thought and effort into creating and sharing with the world. And I could use them. I could just hit the print button on the directions, accumulate the supplies, and let my kids go at it. It was brilliant. It was life-changing. And it saved me because for the first time I realized that I didn’t have to be as creative as those moms. That there was nothing wrong with me for not thinking of those crafts myself. In fact, it was okay that I didn’t even really like crafts. Why was I so jealous of their abilities that I didn’t really even care to acquire? Why did I put so much pressure on myself to be able to do everything, even things I didn’t really want to do?
And that’s when it all started to hit me: I am good at the things I care about. I may not be able to sew but I can crochet. I may not sing but I can enjoy listening to music. I may not create a Harry Potter themed birthday party but I can admire those who do. Their successes are not my failures. When I see the crafty-cutesy things my friends do with their kids, that doesn’t mean I am a bad mom. It means I do different things with my kids. I have different strengths. And that’s okay. Not only okay, but that’s great. I can appreciate those strengths about myself. I realize that the world is a better place because we all have different talents, interests, hobbies, and success stories. Because we are all successful in our own way.
I've been thinking a lot about kindness today. Such a simple thing yet so many of us fail at it sometimes. Why is that?
Last week, I was at Six Flags with my friends. We went to the wave pool, amazingly found 2 of the only open lounge seats, and set up shop. My 19 month old had fallen asleep in the stroller so I decided to park the stroller behind our seats in the shade so she wouldn't get hot. What I didn't fully realize was that I parked right in front of another lady.
A few minutes after I sat down, her friend told me to move the stroller because I was blocking their view of their kids in the pool. I immediately hopped up, apologized, and started backing my stroller up. But this woman wouldn't let it go and was so angry and nasty to me. I stayed calm and sweet the entire time, apologizing for blocking her view yet it didn't do anything to help appease her.
I sat back down so flustered. Why was she so rude to me? Even after I tried to be kind? And why did it bother me so much?
The answer is that I like to make people happy. I genuinely do. I like positive energy surrounding me. That's part of why I love yoga so much. It's a time to get out of our egos and be a part of a community with fellow, like-minded, positive people.
One of my favorite words is ahimsa. It's a Hindi word meaning "not to injure" and "compassion." It's a Buddhist doctrine that teaches that all life is sacred and urges non-violence. And it doesn't just refer to physical violence, but one's words, deeds, and thoughts as well. A broader definition is showing love and respect for others. With the concept of ahimsa is the belief that we all have a spark of the divine in us so to hurt another being, is to hurt ourselves; and vice versa, when we show love for others, we show love for ourselves as well. It's a beautiful word and a beautiful way to live.
But why do some people choose not to show love and respect? I'm sure there are a lot of reasons but I think they boil down to one cause: pride.
Pride is different than being proud of something. When I'm proud of a job well done, it means I'm taking a moment to be grateful that I completed a task successfully. I also acknowledge God for giving me the gifts and talents to see the task through. However, pride puts oneself above the Divine. Pride says I achieved my goals because I am better than God and others. Pride shuns humility and vulnerability. Pride doesn't allow for acknowledgement of failure rather blames others for any challenges. Pride claims one's needs are greater than others. Pride assumes others intentionally try to hurt them. Pride doesn't allow for forgiveness. Pride doesn't ask for help. Pride kills ahimsa because how can people love and appreciate the divine in others if they are too busy thinking they are better than the divine in themselves?
Pride allows a woman to be angry at another for parking her stroller in front of her. Pride justifies her rude tone assuming the insult was done purposefully. Pride massages her ego as she cuts down the other's.
Pride could have easily taken over on my side as well. I could have lashed back with a few choice words but I didn't. I chose kindness. I chose to acknowledge that her needs felt greater to her than mine did, that I could correct the situation, and walk away. I love the stories one of my yoga teachers, Ateeka Contee, tells of cars cutting her off in traffic and her saying "Namaste" to them instead of choosing to respond angrily. I think about that when I'm in the car now too.
As a doula, pride has no place in labor. It is not about me whatsoever. I may have differing opinions on how I would do things but that doesn't matter. I put my clients wants above my own. I show them ahimsa by loving and respecting who they are as people and parents-to-be, and acknowledging that they know what's best for them. And by showing this kindness, I hope to make them happy. I hope no matter what transpires in that delivery room, the parents will walk away feeling loved, nurtured, cared for, and above all, truly happy. That is ahimsa. That is my goal.
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)