Archive for March, 2009

The Secret Life of Mothers

Carla: A friend of mine just had her first baby. Her pregnancy, labor, and delivery didn’t go at all the way she had hoped–plenty of sickness and a hard labor that ended with a c-section. Like so many women, she has found herself grieving the birth experience she didn’t get to have. And we could spend a whole post talking about that subject alone–the mythology around childbirth and the intense pressure to have some kind of perfect delivery, as if we have control over it.

But her experience has me thinking about all of the unspoken secrets of motherhood–from the hemorrhoids and mesh underwear of childbirth, to the probing home visits and painful adjustments of adoption, to the complete lack of privacy and the TMI conversations of infertility.

So let’s hear it friends. What are the secrets you wish someone had told you before you had children? What maternal mysteries have you uncovered? And how can we help each other deal with the disappointments, the surprises, and the sometimes-stunning realities of motherhood?

Caryn: Ah, the mesh underwear. I have you, Carla, to thank for alerting me to those. (One of the many conversations held in the hallowed halls of Christianity Today International, where some dared to suggest we weren’t actually working!) But I did NOT realize that the nurses would fill a newborn-size Pamper with ice and include that bit of numbing loveliness with the mesh underwear. Though to be fair this may be the sole domain of those of us who deliver giant babies who leave us needing a few stitches (as long as I’m TMI’ing here, I’ll quote my OB, “Geez It woulda been fewer stitches if she’d had a c-section.” Now my nurse: “If this would’ve been 100 years ago, sweetie, you’d have bled to death.”)

My other favorite secret-spoiler was my mom who told me not to feel bad if I didn’t feel the “rush” of instant love so many women talk about when they first hold their babies. I’m forever grateful to her for sparing me that bit of guilt. Because I didn’t feel that instant-rush love (see above paragraph if you want to know why).

And that’s just the beginning of the surprises–as you say. Who knew children could be so hard to wean? Or so hard to get to sleep? Or so difficult to keep in a time-out? Or be so strong when they flail about in the midst of a tantrum (something I just wondered five seconds ago with my youngest!).

But wow does it feel good when we realize we’re not crazy or alone. So back to Carla’s questions, Revolutionaries: “What are the secrets you wish someone had told you before you had children? What maternal mysteries have you uncovered? And how can we help each other deal with the disappointments, the surprises, and the sometimes-stunning realities of motherhood?”

Carla: I’m glad you didn’t bleed to death. And I’m glad I got to be the one to tell you about the mesh underwear. That might be my favorite mom secret of all. Okay friends, hit us with your best stuff!

Mean and Messy

Caryn: Okay. So in the event any of you doubt the necessity of the Mommy Revolution—or in case any of you think Carla and I make up the stuff that has spurred us to action here (though, come to think of it: have we talked much about our “stuff” here…?)—I wanted to share with you all a few choice comments recently posted at www.todayschristianwoman.com. Home of a lovely magazine that—above all else, really—knows how to pick mom columists (wouldn’t you agree, Carla?).

But anyway, the comments I read were on an article called “Domestically Challenged,” which is a roundtable discussion between four wonderful and beautiful and talented and loving, godly women who just so happen to be—as the title implies—maybe not so great at keeping a perfect home.

Two of those messy women also  just so happen to be me and Carla. Along with our new friend Tricia Goyer and our old friend Ginger Kolbaba we talk about meeting expectations, following God’s calling, wondering if a messy house equals a messy soul, and all sorts of good stuff.  Essentially, each of us comes clean about being messy. We each try to talk about this in as transparent, honest, humble, and vulnerable–not to mention funny–ways as we can.

So naturally—in the long, sad tradition of Christians everywhere—being that we were transparent, honest, humble, and vulnerable, we got roundly criticized and attacked by our brothers and sisters. Aaaah, the body of Christ.

I gotta say, it actually all started out amusing as I read comment after comment from women who found us whiney or from those who said they worked full-time and had no problem keeping their homes spic and span, yada, yada. Whatever.

But then it just kept getting worse: meaner, harsher, more ridiculous and offensive.  To tell you the truth, I still don’t know whether I want to hug these misguided women and quietly read them the story of Mary and Martha and my Jesus, maybe gently look at the Proverbs 31 Woman together, lovingly discuss the notions of Freedom in Christ, of Grace and Truth. OR, if I want to grab these women, shake them, and yell the stories of Mary, Martha, and my Jesus and scream-read poem-y proverb into their faces (though this is rarely an effective technique, I realize).

I don’t know whether to be sad or angry or both. Maybe you can help. Here are a few samples:

This article was pretty disappointing for a group of christian women. What happened to our priorities as outlined in the bible? It sounded like such a bunch of griping. Stop doing so many other activities and take care of you homes. It does not have to be spotless 24/7, and there will be seasons of life when it is messier than you would like (caring for several small children or an aging parent), however, those are the exception, not the rule. I am doing a study of the Proverbs 31 women this year and was so excited when the magazine arrived, but amazed these were christian women who had given up on the 1st mission field, their homes.
–Chris

Two adults in a house should be able to maintain some level of organization and cleanliness. And paying for someone else to clean your house? Seriously, you are out making money so you can pay someone else to look after your own nest. I fail to see the advantage or where the household is getting ahead. The only thing they are getting more of is stress. Raising our own children is a Biblical commandment, even if cleanliness isn’t.
–MADeland

It is my God-given duty to care for my family and my home, and I want to fulfill my job to the best of my ability. … How could I effectively homeschool if my house is trashed? How am I showing that I am caring and responsible to my family? … These women in the article need to look at the duties of their families first and stop the excuses!!
–T.J.

I was surprised at the rate of excuses coming from these women you picked regarding this topic. Not one of them is a FULL-TIME, stay-at-home Mom. What type of example are we setting for the next generation of Mothers and Fathers? We have an example to set and that is the ONLY thing that carries on from one generation to the next. If domestically challenged is the issue from women you interviewed that have competion coming from numerous directions, then of course they are challenged. I am a DAUGHTER of God FIRST, a WIFE SECOND, a MOTHER THIRD…….everything else can wait for the next season in life. The family organization is dependent on the Mother. It is TIME FOR THE MOTHER TO STEP BACK INTO THE JOB GOD ENTITLED HER TO BECOME and be the foundation of the family. I do believe that if your home is a mess….you are too. Going in too many directions is unhealthy for everyone. Superwoman mentality is rampant in this Country and our children are suffering for it.
–Kristina

I can’t believe this article! Did not God say in His word that we should be “keepers at home”? Please stop making excuses and keep your houses clean! If you have to do it or pay someone else to do it, just do it! It is horrible to go to a Christian person’s house and and see a mess. We have to be good examples in every area of our lives.
–Kaydia

Okay. So, rereading these has made me need to do my deep breathing again. And I’m trying to smile at the suggestions that “not one”‘ of us is a “full time mom,” since actually the only one of us who isn’t doesn’t have children. I’m trying to be amused that these commenters imagine that someone else is raising our children. I’m trying to be gracious even when our commitment to God and family is questioned.

I have to tell you: this fires me up. Not that these commenters have such ill-informed and ridiculous impressions of our lives—not even because they make harsh (not to mention unbiblical) judgements, but that this thinking still lives so readily on. That they perpetuate the heresy that to follow God as a woman means to live (or pretend to) the Better Homes and Gardens (another lovely magazine—though they could use some good mom columnists!), pretty perfect little American life.

But more than fires me up, this breaks my heart. I think it probably breaks God’s heart too. So what sort of example are we setting for future generations, Miss Carla? That actually does make me smile…..

Carla: What’s amusing to me about these comments is that several of them seem to think we all live in garbage houses, as though there are only two extremes–the Pottery Barn showcase and those sad news articles about the women with 138 cats who live in filth.

But I’m with you–we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried. I just want to write back to every one of those women and ask them if they talk to/about their friends like this? It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to be vulnerable with each other when this is what we are bumping into.

At the same time, I think about the reactions to one of my favorite books, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. The author said that the people who the strongest negative reactions to what he wrote were older women. He came to see that they pushed back vehemently because to agree with him was to admit that they had arranged their lives around these lies and they couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with the emotional fallout that would come with that admission. The only other option was to dig in and fight him.

For whatever reasons, the things we are saying are threatening to some women. It’s fine with me if others disagree with me–Caryn does it ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME. But it takes a deeper motivation to write up a harsh comment like these. It takes anger or fear or sense that something sacred has been violated.

My hope is that we can create a better way of disagreeing with each other, one that isn’t based in fear or anger, but in a genuine desire to learn from and understand each other.

Caryn: Thank you, Carla, for coming to this from a such a healthy perspective. As opposed to me—all rage and wrath….. Maybe it’s because my house was (and still is) actually QUITE TIDY as I read these. At least for me.

Please do check out the article, Revolutionaries—after you comment here. There’s also a fun video you can watch of us non-garbage-house-dwellers. Carla hogs the spotlight though. Surprise, surprise…..


And The Winners Are…..

Alrighty—so in a super secret (yet totally random) selection process involving numbers and my 7-year-old son, we have choosen three winners of my new book, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.: How to Reveal the Real You Behind All That Mom!

The winners are: Chad Hall, Kristi (#17), and Karin (#28). If you see this, please email me at mommyrev@gmail.com with your address and I’ll shoot you out a copy.  If I don’t hear from you, I’ll stop being so lazy and simply look up your email on the comments page….. Congrats! I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks to everyone for their interest in the book. I do wish I could give all of you free copies, but alas, my children do need to eat. But if you all go out and buy a copy and make me rich (ha!ha!) I can afford to be more generous next time. You can get it via Amazon. Or, if you wanted a personalized copy, visit www.carynrivadeneira.com and click on Buy The Book.

While I’m thanking people, I also want to thank Julie Clawson for this nice review of my book.

Thanks, Revolutionaries!

Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.–Unleashed!

My book

My book

Caryn: So, yeah, um, today’s the day my book, my beloved, long-labored-over, God-only-knows-how-I-pulled-it-off book, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.: How to Reveal the Real You Behind All That Mom, officially drops, “hits the shelves,” and is available “at bookstores everywhere,” as they say. 

So of course, this is a huge day for me. Full of parties, celebrations, and just general non-stop lavinshing of attention on me, honoring me on this great day.

Okay so many the “party” and celebration is more me making crispy chicken for my sick daughter who’s been screaming at me that she needs “food with medicine” in it (any idea what she means here?). And the lavishing of attention is more of that same screaming, the constant “Mama! Mama!” from my two-year-old, and that my dad offered to grab some milk for me when he’s out at Costco (that’s nice, huh?).

And the honoring? Okay, so it’s that after asking my son and daughter if they could PLEASE be quiet for just a minute so I could come back here and type this, they did. That looks like honor to me.

All this to say: In case any one has any illusions that my Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. comes from the heart, mind, and soul of anyone other than a real, down and dirty, worn and wooly mom, think again, my friends.

But still, it’s a huge day because I’m totally excited about this book. Since I’m a believer in the writing advice that says “write what you want to read,” with this book, I wrote what I wanted to read. What I needed to read, actually. The whole thing was born out of my crazy messed up identity and trying to figure out who I was or was “supposed to be” once I became a mom. A mom who loved her kids like nuts but who wasn’t so naturally good at a lot of the “supposed to” mom stuff.

So, like all the rest of us who go through this, I wrestled with guilt for not feeling “happy” with only having a slapped on mom identity and I felt downright lonely because I didn’t think who I really was fit in anywhere. Turns out, most of us actually feel this way, but who knew?

So, anyway, that’s a bit about my book. I really hope you all read it. And let me know what you think!

Carla, anything nice you’d like to say about my book? (Please remember how many NICE THINGS I said about your book, The Myth of the Perfect Mother, within the very pages of my book…..)

Oh, and then we’ll be giving away a copy or two of this baby to some of our Revolutionaries. Some commenters we choose at random.

Carla: I am very happy for you Caryn, and if I could buy you a Shamrock Shake today or hang out with your kids while you went out to buy one for yourself, I would.

Caryn’s book hits on one of the core beliefs of the Mommy Revolution–that being moms is not the sum total of who we are or who we are meant to be. As we’ve said before, that belief doesn’t diminish the goodness that is motherhood, but rather to gives us permission to be who God made us to be–inside and outside of the context of family life.

What I love about Caryn’s take on this issue is that she never tells us to expand ourselves so that we can better serve our families. You know how a lot of “mom” advice tells us to take time for ourselves or to find hobbies or explore our interests outside the home? Well so often, that advice is couched in “do it so you can be a better mom” language. It’s as though the only reason to do anything that takes us away from our kids is to gain something we can then bring back to our kids. That’s a fine fringe benefit of expanding ourselves, but really, that kind of thinking just contribute to the mythology that mothering is the only valid venue for practicing our gifts and living out our passions. It totally dismisses the idea that God can and does have lots and lots of ways for us to use the lives we’ve been given and that God is big enough to equip us for all of them.

So tell us Revolutionaries, what are some pieces of you that have gotten buried by motherhood, the ones you miss and wonder if they are still there? How have you taken steps to either reclaim them or say goodbye and move on?

Caryn: And don’t forget: We’ve got freebie books for some lucky Commenting Revolutionaries….

My Kid Can Beat Up Your Kid

Carla: Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a little, but really the competition between moms can bring out the worst in all of us. We asked our wise friend Cindy, who many of you will recognize from her insightful comments on various posts here at the MR, to blog for us this week. So ladies (and Dude), here she is, the fabulous Cindy:

Cindy: A couple of weeks ago I was at a suburban high school to watch my 16-year-old daughter (the cutest one out there, not to mention the best) compete for her high school at the Illinois state gymnastics meet. She was the only one from her team to qualify for state, and she qualified on beam, vault, and the all-around.

All her teammates took the day off from school to attend the event and several other parents joined them. When we arrived, I settled in next to one of the other moms and we began to scope out the competition. As one girl after another had a bad vault, or fell on floor, or missed her release move on bars, my friend and I would say, “Oh, that’s too bad,” then do a little fist-bump. What on earth kind of mother fist-bumps  after some poor girl misses her big trick at the state meet? A gym mom.

Am I ashamed? You bet. Can I change? I’m trying. Is it easy? Nope.  But I am willing to admit it because I am probably not the only one that reads The Mommy Revolution to have this dark secret. I compete against other people’s children. Angie, my daughter, is genuinely glad when others do well. She’s obviously not my biological child. But as I think about it, I realize my competitive streak didn’t start with my kids entering club sports nine years ago.

When I got Tim, my oldest, he was seven weeks old and kind of small for his age. He was born in August and I had a good friend whose son was born in May and had never missed a meal—he was burly to say the least. She started the weekly comparison of weight and height and milestones. I immediately felt inadequate. It was a competition I would never win! And, oh, how I hated it. I delighted (inside, of course) when her son was in cranky and Tim was sweet. Point for me. And I despaired when Tim still had his binky and her baby didn’t. Point for her. Then we got to elementary school. Tim had serious learning disabilities and I lost the grade-race with the other moms I knew.

That’s when we turned to other activities. Gymnastics, track, karate, football, music–I wanted my kids to be the best at something. I wanted to be best at something. I’d never been the best at anything and somehow I thought that if they were great athletes or musicians it would mean I was a great mom.

Do you like the way I’ve put this all in past tense? I’m over it now, right? I wasn’t two weeks ago at the gymnastics meet and probably will never be. This is something I struggle with all the time. I probably lack spiritual maturity and suffer from poor self-esteem. Angie asks me why I’m so competitive. I don’t know. I just am. I’m trying to be better and not put pressure on her with my evil ways. Is there any help for me? Am I alone?

Caryn: WONDERFUL post, Cindy. And oh, so totally not alone. Although I have to admit I’ve never been a competitive person at all (bear with me). I think this totally explains why I suck at all sports (that plus my total lack of any athletic ability). But seriously, in most things, I could care less if I win. Whatever. (So long as a certain former and shared boss likes me better than Carla, everything’s fine.)

And to be honest, I feel pretty secure with the awesomeness and weaknesses of my own kids that I don’t care that some kids may be smarter, cuter, better behaved, or whatever (though, to be honest, very few are). That is, until I sense someone getting competitive with ME about my kids or my mom chops. Then, my hackles go up and I want to take them DOWN.

Like when I mention some quirk about one of my kids and I get a wide-eyed bewildered response of “No. Lil’ Joe never does that!” Or when someone asks me what my son’s “score” in Accelerated Reading is. Honestly, I have no idea. I always forget to check. But when someone asks, I get annoyed enough to lie—to make up some outrageously high score. Say we’ve been invited to the White House because he’s the most Accelerated Reader in the land.

But I don’t—because I’m (as one therapist once told me) “hyper honest.” Which means, my competitive friend, Cindy, that my honesty is more hyper than yours. Game on.

Carla: Ladies, really. You should be ashamed of yourselves. If there’s one thing I know about parenting that you don’t (and I think we all know there is far more than one), it’s that good moms are never competitive.

And Caryn, honey, if you need to think he likes you better, that’s fine. He and I talk about this all the time and we think it’s really sweet how you keep trying to be like me. As we always say here at the MR, it’s good to have a dream.

Alright Revolutionaries, tell us: How do you deal with the competition between moms–the drive to have the “best” kids, the pressure to be the “best” mom? Where does this stuff come from and what can we do about it?


Expectations + Desires = Guilt?

Caryn: So, Carla, we haven’t written in a while. What’s your excuse? Here’s mine: Our basement flooded (had to tear up carpet), then we were out of town a night, came back (continued ripping up carpet/cleaning basement), my mom slipped on ice and broke her hip, my two-year-old has some icky bug.

AND, this is the weekend I head to Gifted for Leaderfship’s Synergy conference in Orlando (yay!) so I need to finish prepping for a couple of workshops I’m co-leading (double yay!).

Handily enough, however, one of my workshops is “The Leader and The Family,”‘ and one of the things I’m doing for it is starting off a conversation about “expectations, desires, and guilt.” I’ve got a couple minutes to give my overview and then kind of open up the talk. Thought I might as well practice here.

My general idea is this: That these three things represent what my first grader calls “a number model” (except with words, which makes it a “word problem,” I guess). Take expectations, add your desires, and more often than not—bam!—you get guilt.

Because so often the expectations for us (either from the world at larger or people much closer) don’t line up with our desires. AND, I believe that if you “delight yourself in the Lord” as the Psalmist writes, those desires are actually God-given. Note what I’m saying here: (The following came after a very mini lectio divina I did with this verse. No major verse study of the ancient Hebrew or anything!) After reading Psalm 27:4, which says, “”Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” and mini-meditating on it for a bit (this means, leaning back in my chair, looking at the ceiling and spacing out on it for a while), I wondered if it’s less about God giving you what your heart desires and more about God giving you the desire (meaning the longing) itself.

So if that’s the case (and it may not be), then those desires are God-given—if we’re delighting ourselves in the Lord. All the more reason NOT to feel guilty when they clash with expectations.

Whatcha think? Will I get laughed out of the room? Railroaded out of Orlando?

Carla: You might experience both, but not because of this. I think you’re on to something. I remember a woman once telling me that her constant prayer was “God, please give me the desires of my heart. If not, please change my heart so I am content with what you give me instead.” That stuck with me.

As usual, I am convinced you’re spying on me. My husband and I have been having a very similar conversation lately. I have been feeling particularly clueless as a mom. I feel like every decision I make has a cost. I can spend time with my 3-year-old, but it’s at the cost of spending time with my 8-year-old. I can listen to my 12-year-old tell me about her day, but at the cost of ignoring the 3-year-old who is begging me to read to her. I can go to Target by myself, but at the cost of losing work time. I can try to chill about the mess in the house at the cost of having more work to do later.

I know I sound all self-pitying here, but at the heart of all of this is not that I feel sorry for myself. It’s that I feel like I can’t be the mom I want to be or the woman I want to be. So, as you so nicely put it, my expectations and my desires are coming together to make a huge helping of guilt (and exhaustion and irritation and frustration and and and).

This is where I get confused. How do I figure out which expectations are too high and which one’s I need to really live up to? How do I know which desires are God-given and which one’s are me trying to be all things to all people?

Caryn: I hope no one asks those questions in the workshop because those are the same ones I have! Revolutionaries: help!