Friday, June 19, 2015

I Don't Feel Mom Guilt. #SorryNotSorry

I hear a lot of moms saying they feel "mom guilt" all the time. I am certain I've experienced it in certain instances, and I probably will countless times in the future, but I have to say, most of the time, not so much. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had a boy. Who knows. I consider myself the most important female influence in Lilah's life. I want to model self-love, self-care, the ability to communicate my feelings, and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. I want to model a strong marriage, strong + loyal family ties, strong female friendships, and a strong work ethic.


I work part-time as a Registered Nurse in an operating room. I think it's important for Lilah to know my worth both in and out of the home. I think I'm modeling work ethic and dependability. Being her mom is my favorite role but it's not my only one, and I want her to not just hear that, but know that.


I am going to California in July for a self-awareness workshop, where the entire purpose is bettering myself and learning more about myself. I'm going by myself for FIVE FULL DAYS.


If on a rare occasion I get off work early, and Lilah is with the nanny, I'll stop in at Anthro on my way home, or spend time at home in my journal, or with my Tarot cards, or just with my feet in the grass in our backyard, not rushing to pick up my kid. 


I have A LOT of help. LG is the first grandchild on both the Van Meter and Tinker sides of the family. Lilah spends a TON of time with her grandmothers, especially. I absolutely love watching the individual relationships she has formed with our family members, and absolutely love my time to myself! My lack of guilt here is not to be misunderstood as a lack of GRATITUDE. I'm super grateful for my tribe, my village, so I don't feel alone in raising Lilah.


I scheduled an entire day to binge on Orange is the New Black the Saturday after it came out.


And finally, as I write this blogpost, my husband is being the sexiest dad alive, making Lilah giggle in the bath, brushing her teeth, getting her to go potty, putting on her pjs, reading her a book, rocking her, and putting her in the crib. Only to be followed, I'm certain, by crying and insisting that she needs to potty again, or needs water, which then means she'll need to potty again, or she wants to "rocky" again.


Sharing the load in parenthood is my best non-kept secret. While this style of motherhood might seem selfish to some, I guarantee, I'm one of the most patient + loving mothers you'll ever encounter. That's because I'm not spread too thin. When I'm with Lilah, it counts. I'm present. I want to be there. 95% of the time. 

And when I'm getting to the point with my precious 2 year old where my patience is wearing thin and I know I'm not being the best mom I can be, I reach out for help. My husband has received many-a-call of "WHEN WILL YOU BE HOME and CAN YOU TAKE OVER?" and then I go for a walk with LG and wait for my "5 o'clock hero" to come through the front door. Sometimes I'll plug in my headphones while we walk and I'll listen to a podcast, or a guided meditation, or some rap. Whatever mood strikes. Many times, I have reached out to my mom or mother-in-law, "Can you get Lilah?" And as a result of my gracious + loving + supportive family, I have kept my sanity for 2+ years in this parenthood adventure.

Feeling grateful.
Without an ounce of the guilt.


Friday, June 12, 2015

((Lack of)) Religion and Child-Rearing

What is religion?
According to Wikipedia, "A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence."

Living in Texas and consciously avoiding church is still really frowned upon. So before I plunge into this post, I feel the need to make a couple of disclaimers.

A lack of religion does not mean a lack of faith.
Nor does a lack of religion mean a lack of values.

When I think about the most important text in regard to raising Lilah Grace, I don't think about the Bible, or the Lord's Prayer. I think of some lines from Desiderata.

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul."

I was raised in the Methodist church, probably the most lax of all the denominations in the south. I never had a bad experience in the church. I've blogged countless times about religion, because I think about it all the time. To read more musings, you can check out the bar to the right, under "Soul: Musings on Spirituality", or a few of these links to specific posts:

Stages of Religious Development
Thoughts on Christianity
Freedom and Security...A Spectrum
The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand

In the Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand post,  I wrote about my views on Heaven and Hell:

"Hell is not some fiery pit with a fictional cartoon character complete with horns and a pitchfork, dancing in fire...I would have to really try to believe something like that, and even if I really tried, I just couldn't. That seems so juvenile, so silly. We can see with our eyes pain and despair, and separation from God, right here, right Now. And seeing that, and not helping, but rather, coming from a place of self-righteousness, does more harm than good. Believing in a Hell doesn't make it real, and it doesn't save anybody. Donating money to natural disasters, donating time and service...that makes a difference. Showing people love, and opening people's eyes to the beauty all around them...that is the most effective way to "save somebody" from Hell. We don't have to wonder if Hell exists, or if Heaven is real. We can see it, and experience it. And we can make a difference."

So why am I blogging about this again? Because we were pre-school shopping for our little toddler.

The first program I checked out was the program I attended as a toddler. And the truth is, I think it's a great program. I've heard rave reviews, the staff seems great, the facility is nice. And it's in a church.

The second program I checked out also had great reviews, but was even more affordable. I loved the lady I was in correspondence with, and the woman who gave us the tour was very pleasant. The classrooms looked fun, and again, nothing negative to report. It was also in a church.

The third program was an academy. Like, a non-religious school. It's almost twice the cost of pre-school in churches. But I had to wonder, why? Probably because they don't have the help from a church congregation who tithes to offset the cost. I am not sure if private schools are tax-exempt, but I know churches are, so also knowing those pre-school programs at churches don't have to pay tax could explain the price difference ((maybe, not sure)). Most importantly, the smaller class sizes had so much order to them. The students were so engaged. They were really learning. The teachers were far from militant ((I didn't see that anywhere, at any program)), yet they had the students' attention. It seemed as though the previous programs were daycare programs, and this was an actual classroom. Of course, the classes seemed developmentally appropriate and fun, but with learning as the goal.

My mom and good friend teach at an elementary school and told me the students from the academy always stood out as being the best students. So, naturally, I wanted to send LG there. The only thing holding us back was the money. Fortunately, both sets of our parents chipped in to offset the cost, so we were able to make the decision that was best for us.

((Again, where would we be without our tribe?? I am eternally grateful for the support we have in raising LG with a total village mentality.))

I'm thrilled to say LG is enrolled and starts school in September at our first choice program.

This was the first time when we really confronted the "church" issue as parents. I have to be clear, it's not that we sleep in on Sundays and are "lazy Christians." We consciously are choosing to raise Lilah with faith and love for humanity and the Universe, but not with dogma.

I've felt Spirit, I've been moved to tears, and moved to my knees in prayer. I am far from "atheist". I think more than anything, people like me feel misunderstood. I long to belong to a community, but I know I do not belong in a church community. To me, the Bible ((I've read a lot more of that book than most Christians)) is a great historical collection of writings from men. But I do not believe it is Holy, nor do I believe God wrote it. I believe men were inspired by who THEY BELIEVE GOD TO BE, and wrote it. That does not necessarily mean I'm inspired in the same way, and that is okay.

I recently asked Lilah Grace, "Lilah, who is God?"
Long pause. Then, she answered,
"My friend."

I smiled, and thought, "Me too."

When it comes to education, we made the conscious choice not to implement Bible or Chapel time. We thought it out, and it feels best for us.

My hope through all of this parenting journey is that Lilah Grace knows we have her spirit, mind, and ultimately her life, at the forefront of all of our decisions, and will make our decisions mindfully.

If she decides to pursue religion on her own, I'll be happy to drive her to and from church/temple/mosque, and ask her questions while showing interest in her musings. If I feel she is endangered, I'll intervene, but otherwise, I'll encourage her to explore her options, rather than telling her from the beginning that there is only one way.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Mallory.

Once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea
April: Allison + Annie 
May: Jen

This month, I'm excited to share some ridiculously enriching responses from Mallory.

Mallory joined me and the Denton Women's Collective ((our 501(c)3 organization devoted to helping women in our community...you can read more here)) recently when we brought the Finding Kind anti-bullying campaign to my alma mater. Any interaction I've had with her has always been a treat. Her vibe is totally chill, but you know there's a lot going on in that brilliant mind of hers. I knew her background was way different than mine, but we have a lot in common today, and so naturally, I was stoked when she said she would be willing to share her musings with me. Enjoy!!


What's your definition of a "feminist"?
Yikes. The F word. I don’t know, man. What can I say that isn’t an obvious answer? A person who advocates for the equality of genders.

A person maybe? Just a person. A person who identifies as a human rather than as a gender. A person who goes exactly where their heart and soul routes them because it is their divine right. I think there a lot of women who do not identify as feminists but actually are. Women who roll up their sleeves and take out the damn trash or mow the lawn or become engineers or attorneys because they can. I think a lot of woman would love the opportunity to remove their beauty routines and skip the unequal pay bullshit, but they may not recognize this as something that could actually happen.
In too many places, people are not allowed their divine rights, and that’s where, I believe, “feminists” really get to take on their armor as advocates. 

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do.  There are two types of feminism. One considers the difference between male and female to be psychological and culturally constructed; and the other considers the difference to be biologically innate. I fall somewhere in between. I recognize the biological difference in men and women. I know I’m more tender, sensitive and nurturing than my husband, but that I also know that I can do anything he can. (Besides pee standing up. He’s got me there.)

Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since a having a "feminist awakening"? Further from? Ambivalent? Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another?
I don’t know about “higher power,” but I do believe feminism and spirituality are related. When you become connected to your inner being by respecting and claiming your divine rights (feminism) you can experience a spiritual awakening. When a person looks inside to declare things for themselves, they have to look deep. They will essentially discover a myriad of values about themselves and the world and the universe (ultimately, spirituality).

I also think spirituality brings you closer to others and creates this resounding need to help anybody who needs it. And feminism is all about it.

What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work? 

I am a senior litigation paralegal.

I initially wanted to be an English, ESL or Spanish teacher. I have my BA of English Lit and Spanish. I never finished my certification for teaching because I got pregnant the semester before I would’ve started student teaching. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage. After the procedure to remove the baby, I became enveloped in depression with the loss, but also felt embarrassed that I missed and loved somebody who I never got to meet or hold. (That’s ridiculous. I know that now.) I didn’t have the motivation to do the student teaching anymore and decided to finish my BA without the certification.

I’ve always been a worker bee and when we became pregnant with my oldest, Van, I knew I wanted a career that was flexible with mommyhood, but still provided a decent income for our family. A very good friend of mine had mentioned that I’d be great in the legal field and actually spoke with her firm about a position for me. I now work for two ol’ cowboys at a small, family run firm. They both have children and put their family first. I learned quickly I don’t have a passion for the paralegal work, but I do for the people I work for. When you love your job, it’s hard to leave.

That being said, I don’t know if I would ever be a paralegal for another firm. I have come to love my boss and their families, but I don’t think this is the field I am most passionate for. When my boys are a little older, I’ll probably spring for the certification and go back to teaching. I have a deep passion for kids with learning disabilities (my husband was diagnosed with a few when he was a child) and I think I’ll probably end up somewhere in education.

What spiritual practices//habits//routines do you incorporate into your life? How do you bring spirituality to your family life? 

I have been into meditation for a while now, although I don’t practice it anymore. My high school gifted/talented teacher would have us practice a relaxation method, and I think that was the first time I meditated successfully. I have a really hard time meditating now, but I don’t mind that. Moms’ heads are often filled with schedules, routines, chores, kids’ desires, husband’s desires, kids’ goals and health and so on and so on. I think sometimes the cloud is too thick for me to clear.  I think the important thing is that I learned from those times that I did meditate. I like the enlightened version of myself. It has expanded and opened my mind.

Unfortunately, I am terrible about not “being present.” And one of the things my husband brings to the table is the ability to be present wherever he is. He pushes me to enjoy every moment, really take it in, and stay there. I’d say the spiritual practice I’m most committed to is learning and trying to stay present in every moment. Whether it’s soaking up the sun or breathing in the air around me or touching my baby’s hand while he is nursing, I am just trying to remember and love and be in those sacred moments. 

Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child? 

Hail no. I still have security issues and paranoia from being brainwashed a little too much as a child.  I can’t watch movies the same way that others can. I get scared of demons even though I don’t believe in them. I have had many say, “You don’t believe in that stuff so why are you afraid?” Habit. Foundations. When you grow up with people scraping off your layer of disbelief in the unreal, it’s very difficult to grow it back. I have a few close friends who have also left our United Pentecostal “cult” and they suffer from similar scars.

Although I grew up with people shoving religion down my throat, often drowning my own security in their fire and brimstone sermons, I also saw the good things that religion could do. My dad quit smoking after 20+ years of being a nicotine addict. My youth group volunteered on multiple occasions to help with the homeless or clean up the community. My mother pushed my siblings and I to become better people because she believed in it.

Some religious people are helping the homeless, being the shoulder for the weak, and giving so much to anyone in need. They’re not all picketing at Gay Pride parades. I like to think that’s because they are essentially GOOD people. But maybe the religion has a lot to do with it, too. I don’t know. I just think when you sprinkle the religion over their kind hearts and good deeds; it dilutes the good with intolerance and hatred. We’ve all heard the debates and I won’t go into the details. Because I can see the inconsistencies with religion, (with the bible and other holy books), it’s frightening to comprehend that others don’t.

I think the most important thing I can give my two boys is the lack of that experience. They might make the decision to be a part of a religion someday, but that’s their choice. Not mine. At least I know I didn’t have any part in scaring them into a belief, or shaking them out of their own security. What I can give them is the love and respect for the universe and the people around us. I think that’s more important.

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
I believe Chopra said it best, “Religion is the belief in someone else’s experience and spirituality is having your own experience.” 

What do you think happens when we die?
I fear I’m going to disappoint you with my response, but, honestly, I do not know. I am an optimist and a part of me deeply believes that we are reincarnated into a new being or a new lifeform (and maybe not just on Earth). I believe in souls, and I believe that souls live on even if in a cosmic sort of afterlife, like floating around in some other verse.

I believe if you are a good person, your soul is strong with deep rooted powers. Those good people can live on through their family, friends, or others with those powers. Maybe the bad have a harder time because their powers aren’t as strong. And maybe not. I can’t say for sure. That’s why it’s so important to have your own spiritual enlightenment. You get to choose what you believe in and that will ultimately decide what kind of person you’ll be in this life and the next. 

Conversely, the other part of me just thinks life is one little flame and when it goes out, your body becomes fertilizer, and the memory of your life through others is the only thing that lives on.

How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?
You know, I’m not big on putting a lot of my beliefs in my kids’ heads. When I give answers to questions, I make sure to always tell Van that they are my beliefs and that everyone has their own. I reiterate that he is a being and those big questions are his to answer, not mine. My parents are very religious and I don’t discourage him from being around them because of that. I just let him know that he doesn’t have to do what they do. And he doesn’t have to think what they say is truth, but that doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to their belief.

I fear that my open-mindedness will leave them feeling deprived someday. I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and when she discovered her mother was dying, she felt angry that her mother didn’t brand her with a religion or a God for her to sanction to. I think in the hard times, you want to feel that brand of religion, to give you a safety net. But for the most part, it’s liberating and motivating to be the maker of all your insecurities and accomplishments. It’s like being a mom-sometimes you HAVE TO. Life is about HAVING TO. And when there is no cloud of cotton candy for you to fall into when life is rough, it is then you stand firm on your own foundations. The world around you can provide you with its own safety net. The beautiful earth can give you comfort. The people can give you strength. Education and knowledge can give you a beautiful afterlife. And love can give you freedom. It is okay to not have it figured out. You eventually will figure everything out because you HAD TO.

The big questions are important to me. But they’re important for everyone to answer on their own. While I can guide my little starlings to be good people, I mostly want them to make that journey for themselves.