Archive for January, 2009

Listen to Us!

The Revolution is taking to the airwaves today at noon (cst)! Caryn and I will be the guests on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection with Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt. We’ll be on for the full hour, so listen in–and call in–if you can. We’d love to talk to you!

The Mom-Center of the Universe

Other half-a-portrait

Other half-a-portrait

Big Blue Caryn
Half-a-Portrait

Caryn: I’m loving the feedback we’re getting on the Manifesto. And some people have raised some points that I can’t shake. One is the whole tension between not thinking we moms are the center of the universe and the reality that our kids need us to be—and that often we do want to be—of theirs.

Case-in-point: Before Christmas break this year, I stood in the hallway admiring the family portraits the preschoolers had done. While there, I overheard one of the teachers telling another mom that it’s normal for the mom (or primary caregiver) to be huge in the family portrait as she (or he) is usually foremost in the child’s brain.

So, what does competitive Caryn do upon hearing this—especially since my daughter worships her father and spends easily as much time with him as she does with me (because we both work from home and relentlessly try to integrate parenting with everything as much as is crazily possible)? I race over to my daughter’s picture to study everyone’s size.

And much to my endless delight, there I was: a HUGE, smiling, blue-bodied, purple-haired wonder, holding our pet bunny, no less. In the picture, I am easily twice the size of everyone else.

I love it. I hung it on my office wall because it makes me so happy. I’m looking at it right now and smiling.  But I’m not sure it makes me happy for the right reasons. I’m not happy to be forefront because it means I’m the main shaper and modeler of values and beliefs, but because it was more like a “reward” for being an at-home, hands-on mom. For all the late nights, for all the snuggles when I had so much else to do, for all the folding and washing and feeding. For the writing while she sits on my lap and runs a measuring tape across the screen (yes, it’s happening right now). For loving them all so much it’s made me crazy.

So does this make me a hyporcrite: That I don’t believe we should think mothers or motherhood are the centers (can there be more than one center?) of the universe, every now and again I like being the center of my kids’.

Carla: I always say that when a mom walks into the room where her children are, it’s like the sun and moon have come out at the same time. At this moment I am writing with a preschooler snuggled up to my left elbow and she wants nothing more than to be near me. Well, she also wants me to throw her blue rubber snake through the “basketball hoop” she’s made with her hands, but mostly she just wants my attention. She loves her dad, she loves her brother and sister, but I am her Queen. I am the center of her universe. And that’s how it should be.

But I have two other children in the house, one of whom has just returned home from a sleepover with the girls who are becoming the center of her universe. They are good girls and I am grateful that she has friends I trust because their presence and influence in her life are increasingly important to her. She is in the process of creating her own universe, and while I’m in it and still have a lot of say so about who else is in it I am slowly moving out of the center. And that is how it should be, too.

Manifestos are not good places for subtlety, but our statement that we are not the center of the universe might be more true than we want it to be. When our children are young, their lives do center on the adults who care for them. But as Keri said in the manifesto comments, our job is to work ourselves out of a job. As good as it feels to be the sun and the moon in someone’s life, as good as it feels to be needed, do any of us really want to have 30-year-old children who still bring us their laundry and can’t make a decision without us? Sometimes I miss the little girl my daughter used to be, the one who gazed at me with pure affection when I poured cereal into her bowl each morning. But I love the big girl who sits in her place, the one who starts talking about her friends and the day ahead the moment she wakes up. I don’t want my 12-year-old to gaze at me. I want her to gaze outward as we slowly launch her out of our orbit and into the one she will create for herself.

So yes, for a short time in our children’s lives, we are the center of the universe. But it’s not good for them–or for us–for things to stay that way.

Caryn: Well articulated, oh-you-who-have-older-kids-than-I. Which is not to say I haven’t already seen and even enjoyed this slow drift away from center in my kids’ lives.  It’s first steps look like smiles and waves to friends when the bus comes in the morning or when I drop off at preschool. And that is–as you say–as it should be. It is to be celebrated, even.

Of course, today I’m a tad under the weather (okay, really pukey with some sort of bug, if you must know) and am typing this in bed. And my oldest just came into see if I needed another Coke or some tea. So, I’m enjoying being his center for a bit longer too. Sweet, dear boy.

The Revolutionary Manifesto

For the three of you who read our pre-Christmas post I will be repeating myself here, but for the rest of you who apparently found celebrating with family, eagerly anticipating the birth of Christ to be more important than The Mommy Revolution, this’ll be some fun news.

This Tuesday (Jan. 13), Carla and I will be on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection at noon (CST). The Revolution has made it to Moody, people. This is big. You need to listen. You need to call in. And then you’ll need to report back to us.

But anyway, we thought in honor of our big, national Revolutionary radio debut, we really ought to officially publish the core values that the Mommy Revolution holds near and dear.

Up until this point, we’ve sort of alluded to them, but never really outlined them. Well, we outlined them many months ago at La Spiaza coffee shop in Wheaton, Illinois, while simultaneously irritating patrons because we kept switching tables as ones with better access to outlets became available. But, we’ve never made them public.

So, without further ado, here they are. What the Mommy Revolution is all about and what we believe—at least about motherhood. We want to know what you believe, too–about what it means to be a mom, about what you wish could be different, about your visions of motherhood. So please throw in some of your revolutionary ideas as well.

We believe that:

  • Both mothers and children should thrive in the parent/child relationship.
  • A women doesn’t stop having dreams when she starts raising children.
  • Women need emotional support from other women.
  • Mothers can do anything we want to, but we don’t have to do everything well.
  • There is something good to be found even in the most difficult parenting stages.
  • Motherhood is not as all-important as we think it is. We are one of the many factors that shape our children. We need to be the best moms we can be while recognizing that we are not the centers of the universe.
  • Parenting is collaborative, not competitive. None of us can—or should—do it alone.
  • Life is not all about you, but it’s not all about your kids, either.
  • Only mothers get to define what our motherhood looks like.
  • Motherhood changes who we are, but it doesn’t define who we are.
  • There is more than one way to parent well.
  • Motherhood is just part of a whole and integrated life.
  • A good mom provides food, shelter, clothing, love, support, encouragement, and all the honesty, wisdom, and kindness she can. Everything else—rides the to mall, attendance at soccer games, participation in endless rounds of Pretty Pretty Princess—is gravy.

We want to create a culture of motherhood in which:

  • Women make decisions that feel right for us and our families.
  • Good fathers are part of the parenting equation. That means they get credit for the work they do and the unique presence they have in the lives of our children. It means we stop believing they can’t parent as well as we can. Being revolutionary moms means making room for revolutionary dads. 
  • Women support each other instead of critique each other.
  • The fact that we have children doesn’t lead to assumptions about who we are or what we do.
  • Our decisions are driven by the emotional and physical well-being of every member of the family–not just the kids and not just the parents.
  • Our children are one of the many gifts we give to the world.
  • It’s okay to miss the way we lived before we had children.
  • Women are encouraged to figure out what we are passionate about and supported by our families and friends as we live out those passions.

Whatcha think? Agree? Disagree? Worried for our very souls? Please discuss.

Revolutionized Medicine

Caryn: No offense to the many great nurses and doctors I’ve visited and known throughout my life, but today—at the Walgreen’s Take Care Clinic—I met my most favorite medical professional ever. “Met” may actually be strong because I don’t think I caught this nurse practitioner’s name, but still, loved her. Loved her. Loved her.

And not just because she called me a “trooper” for being so “chipper” with a throat that looked as bad and “streppy” as mine did. I loved her because when I started to explain why, in fact, it had been “‘uhhh…at least 2 years and 9 months ago” since I’d had my LMP (this little abbrev is to spare our male fans details that could keep them from ever coming back)—and that reason being that I was still nursing my nearly 2-year-old son and things just work that way for me—she said, “You’re a great mom!”

And then she proceeded to tell me that she nursed her kids for 2 or 3 years each and that her family thought she was a “freak” and said, “Don’t you just feel so judged sometimes? I mean, people look at you like you’re a child molester!” 

So I shared with her my fear that my kids were budding addicts or at least bound to have total OCD because they were so hard to wean. She then assured me that her kids were long grown and seemed to be pretty normal.

Okay, so I loved her for that reassurance. But then she did my favorite thing: After the swab revealed indeed I had strep, she started to tell me about the penicillin, about my need for more fluids, and about my need for rest. She started laughing halfway through the word “rest.”

And said my favorite medical thing ever: “Don’t you hate it when people tell you to get more rest? Whatever.” Then we both laughed.

I really don’t know exactly what the point of this rambling is, but I was just SO excited to be in a setting—with a stranger, with an educated medical professional—where I felt totally understood, where someone GOT my life a bit. It was like a glimmer of what life would be like once the revolution reaches the rest of the world. Where people stop giving stock, stupid answers or advice to things we cannot do (or don’t want to do) and start treating us as individuals.

Man, I may have a med school lecture in here somewhere…..

Carla: I love her too! Do you think if I went to see her she could tell me that it’s no wonder I don’t get any exercise what with my schedule and I should stop worrying about it, and that I need to sleep a lot more–preferably in a hotel room by myself?

It does feel so good when we meet other moms who are honest, and who understand the fears that plague us. When they are people to whom we have bestowed “authority” it feels even better. That’s why it’s so frustrating when the parenting “authorities” give us advice that is so out of touch with our actual experiences. The very people we need to pull us through the doubts and fears are the ones creating those doubts and fears.

We have said–at least to each other–that the Mommy Revolution is about wresting conversations about motherhood from the hands of 70-year-old men and putting them back in the hands of real women. We want motherhood to be defined by mothers, for mothers. And we want those definitions to be as varied as the women who create them. 

Oh, and I’m sorry you have strep. There is nothing worse than being a sick mom. Nothing changes, nothing stops. It sucks. I hope you can find a way to get some rest and get better.

Caryn: Thank you for giving my little ditty a point, Carla. I think you nailed why I loved this woman. An authority offering relatable, do-able, real-world wisdom—and offering it with mutual respect and understanding—rocks. And it’s something our mom world lacks. (Oh, I’m SURE she’d say to go ahead and do the hotel-room-rest thingy.)

Oh Sweet Spontaneous

Carla: Love and hugs to anyone who know the reference for the title of this post–no Googling allowed! Anyway, I was watching the Rose Parade yesterday as I am wont to do on New Years Day. And every year, my husband and I tell our kids about the year we slept on the streets of Pasadena to watch the parade go by.

We were attending Fuller Seminary at the time and we lived just a few blocks off the parade route. We were stuck in the city for the holidays and decided to make the best of it. We made a thermos of coffee for Jimmy, packed lots of Diet Coke for me, made tuna sandwiches, grabbed sleeping bags and sweatshirts, and headed for Colorado Boulevard at midnight. We “slept” on the street, our heads on the curb, with thousands of other people. By the time the parade rolled by, we had made lots of new friends, drank lots of Diet Coke and coffee, and eaten tuna for breakfast.

We tell this story every year, and every year I am kind of sad that I will probably never sleep on the street–well not by choice at least–again.

For me, the loss of spontenaity has been one of the biggest–and most difficult adjustments I’ve had to make as a parent. We have a lot of free-spirited, artsy, young friends. They pick up and go to Thailand or to Africa or to New York. They grab friends for last-minute road trips to concerts and festivals. They meet up with friends and talk late into the night. So often, I fight back little twinges of bitterness that their lives are so free, so open to possibility, while mine is as predictable as a frozen January in Minnesota.

I know this is something a lot of moms wrestle with. We try to be spontaneous-ish as a family, but seriously, it’s not the same when “spontaneous” involves three hours of planning, packing food for 5, trying to think through every possible crisis that could arise in the next three hours, and making sure nothing conflicts with the increasingly elaborate social life of a 12-year-old. As one of my single friends once said as she was watching us prep to leave the house, “Wow, all I do is grab my purse.”

Caryn: First off, I don’t get the title reference. Seems like it should be sung wearing character shoes, but I dunno.  Second off, I hate your free-spirited, artsy, off-to-Thailand friends—and that one who only needs to grab her purse, too. I spit on their lives.

But, just so they don’t feel bad, it’s the sort of hate born out of pure jealousy—like a bully. I will be able to like them someday—probably in 15 or so years when my kids are grownish and they are saddled with little ones of their own and find themselves making pad thai out of a box (as I did on Wednesday), tears rolling down their cheeks as they tenderly slice a block of tofu, longing for the days when they skirted off to Thailand on the wind. I will like your friends then. I will even tell them, “Oh, to have those days back when the kids are small. I miss that! Okay. Gotta go. I’m going to be late for my flight!!! But, remember, one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble” (Sorry: I had to insert my own little lyric).

So, yeah, I’m with you. The tied-down-ness is one of the most difficult of parenting. Which is weird, actually, for me, because I really am a planner-kind-of-person. I never would’ve just flown off anywhere on a moment’s notice before kids, but I would’ve on maybe a many-moments notice. But it’s not just with stuff like travel and events that I feel this. It’s with ideas and work stuff too.

I mean, as you and I have talked about, Carla, I think we need to get this Revolution on the Road! Those Mom Hall Meetings we’ve talked about—where a bunch of us moms from all over the country get together and chat and raise all sorts of new questions and fresh answers—needs to happens. But, alas, the children.

Speaking of whom, while I’ve been plunking away, hating on your friends for their freedom, two of my three lovie kids have been making presents for me on the floor of my office. My six-year-old just handed me a cut of a blue-Sharpie-colored house with a real working door. When you open the door, there’s some blue Sharpie people, a dog, a bunny, and the fish. That’d be my family.

[Pause while I hug and kiss my kid.]

Okay, so I miss my freedom too. I miss being able to grab my purse and run. I miss not having it take hours of planning—as you say—to go anywhere, even when it’s without the kids. But I do so love that house full of blue Sharpie people (the bunny? not so much).

Carla: First, stop being funnier than me. I hate that. Second, it’s so true that just when I am most caught up in those feelings of stuckness, those who have me stuck remind me of why I am so willing to give up all of that other stuff. They are absolutely worth it.

At the same time, the Revolution is about giving moms permission to have their own dreams and not just live through their children. So the challenge is for us to create dreams that work in the lives we have, not the lives we had. As a friend told me recently, there’d be something wrong with me if I had the same dreams now I had when I was 25. And I don’t. My dreams now are very much about my family, but the are also about other people’s families, about how I can use what I’m learning and discovering in the midst of motherhood to bring goodness and light to others.

Our dreams shape the lives we live, but our lives need to shape our dreams, too. I think it’s okay for us to grieve for our freedom now and then–it’s good and deserves to be missed. But we also need to keep looking ahead, figuring out what dreams are behind the blue Sharpie doors.