Other Mothers: Our Own Worst Enemy

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
Like the bodies that make the babies, motherhood itself comes in all shapes and sizes. And it really doesn’t matter what kind of mom you are; you’ll end up facing criticism. If you work while parenting, you aren’t there for your kids. If you stay at home, you don’t understand how to balance work and family. If you’re a single mom, you’re depriving your child of a father. If you’re a married mom, you have no idea how hard it is to do it alone. Don’t breastfeed? Don’t tell anyone – you obviously don’t love your child as much as nursing moms. Only have one kid? You can’t possibly call yourself a real parent.

Wanna know what’s worse?

It’s not dads or society doing the finger pointing, blaming, and labeling. It’s other mothers.

Perhaps it’s deeply seated in our own insecurities, but many of the harshest critics of the way we all mother is other mothers. Us. We look at another mom and don’t understand her choices, lifestyle, or parenting methods. And rather than extending her any understanding or even an open mind, we judge, quickly and harshly. Many of the issues over which mothers disagree have no clear cut answers. Every mother does the best she can with the experience and unique understanding of her own child that she has.

I’m guilty of this judging.

As a mother of five, I’ve often joked that you’re not a “real” mom if you only have one child…even though many of the most lovely women and mothers I know and are friends with do only have one child. Honestly, it’s more a reflection of my own jealousy or frustration, because with five kids, we couldn’t afford every event and dance lesson our kids wanted that my friend with only one child always could. Or I was frustrated at one more sibling argument that my friends with only one child would not experience.  Suffer with me! That’s what I wanted.

As a stepmom, I was also quick to pass judgement on other stepmoms who complained more about their situation or blamed their husband for the troubles they had. It took a lot of time talking to other stepmoms (and a little growing up) to realize that my situation was the one that fell outside of the norm, with far less baggage and frustration from bio mom than most had dealth with. And now that I regularly work with stepmoms and talk to them about their experiences, I have been humbled by how many struggles they’ve had to endure but still keep loving with all their heart and soul.

Mothers have a hard job, whether they have one kid or many, work outside the home or in it, breastfeed or don’t, have a partner or don’t. It’s time for all of us (me) to be more understanding and supportive of every mother and how she chooses to raise her kids.

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Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Baseball and gloveA strong relationship is built upon trust, which is so hard to maintain yet so easy to lose. Even your child’s trust isn’t guaranteed, although it may be more steadfast than other relationships. But after a string of empty promises, a child of any age will notice if you aren’t reliable. Once a child feels they cannot trust you, it can be very difficult to go back.

It’s important that you are honest with your child. If you aren’t going to be able to make the baseball game then don’t even say there’s a chance. And don’t keep saying “next time” to your child about a special day together. It will break their heart every time that you don’t appear and soon they won’t believe a word you say. It’s difficult to disappoint your child, but disappointing them with honesty rather than the emptiness of false promises helps your kids know you care.

To avoid such sad feelings on both ends, don’t assume you’ll be able to do something. Know for sure before you make any plans — and then stick to them. Your child will forgive one or two cancellations when you are there for them most of the time. The time you spend with your child is so precious and they will remember those moments forever. And if something changes for the better and you can make that baseball game, the surprise of you showing up unexpectedly will bring your child more joy than you can imagine.

 

Special Needs vs. Exceptional

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

IMG_0191There is a lot of fuss concerning the politically correct terms for individuals with disabilities. Not so long ago the term “mentally retarded” was appropriate, which was exchanged for “intellectually disabled”, which is now transforming into “exceptional.” The goal is to banish the stigma towards people like our son Kyle, who has Down syndrome. It is a pleasant aspiration, but what is it truly accomplishing?

“Exceptional” certainly has a positive connotation, while the previous terms have been received rather negatively. The thing is, I would consider all of my children – and yours – to be exceptional. Could this mean that they also each have special needs? Of course. When there is really no such thing as normal, it is impossible to define what is not normal, and that is all these terms are reaching for.

Kyle is indeed exceptional, but not because of his disability. He is exceptional because he loves unconditionally, and he is the happiest individual that our family will ever know. He is exceptional because he is kind, and he is exceptional because he considers the world to be a wonderful place. Some may think this is ignorance, but to others it is a gift.

We all have things we need help with and accommodations that we want made in our lives. There is such a struggle to find the right term for people who are different, without attaching stigma. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we just referred to each other for what we are? People. All exceptional in our own way.

Love Yourself More to Love Your Children Better

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

mother and childMotherhood is a full-time job, and the toughest job you’ll ever have — and it  doesn’t even offer the typical benefits of other full-time work. You don’t get paid vacation time, and there isn’t someone higher up to blame for any mishap. You do the best you can and you love your children unconditionally. But as much as you care for your children, it is important that you remember to care for yourself.

Your children will pick up on your moods, and if you aren’t quite feeling up to that 100th episode of Dora it will show. Your enthusiasm will wane as well as your patience, which can negatively affect the relationship between you and your child. Even if it’s just for a few minutes each day, you need to take some “me time.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean running off to find a babysitter. It could simply be a bubble bath if there is someone around to take over for a few minutes. Or you could indulge in reading a chapter of a novel while that 101st episode runs in the background with your child happily engaged. A few minutes to yourself will make you a happier and more engaged mother, and it will likely to recharge you for hours of engaged time with your kids.

Want to be a better mom? You just have to remember to love yourself.

I Am Sleepy, Puffy-Eyed Frankenstein Mom

Getting Real With Jana Jeffery

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror for the first time in the day, at 3pm, and realized that you didn’t just forget to put makeup on one eye, which happens more often than is comfortable to admit in mixed company, you forgot to put it on … all together? Hello sleepy, puffy-eyed Frankenstein mom!

I don’t usually wear a lot of makeup. A small amount of eye shadow and eyeliner is as far as it usually goes, time permitting. My eyelids are generally in a perpetual state of red and puffy. Plus, I have almond shaped eyes that shrink to slits when I smile. So if I forget to put on this minimal amount of makeup, like I have the past two days, all I hear is, “you look so tired” and “are you coming down with something?” Of course I respond in the most subtly indignant tone that I can muster: “no, no I’m not, this is me au naturel…”

Muwahahaha.

The truth is, I’ve been waking up late in the morning. Which is most likely because I’ve been staying up a little too late and taking Nyquil – “the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest [and sleep through your alarm] medicine.”

Jana and her youngest daughter, Hannah

I take half the recommended dose for my evening stuffiness; violently crush the crowing rooster alarm ringtone when it goes off at 6am; and fall blissfully back to sleep. Did I mention that I have two school-age kids and that I’m married? Well, I am, and my husband will let me sleep through it all. Then, he’ll send one of them in to wake me up. Oh how they love to wake up mommy. It’s more like, make fun of mommy for doing the thing they get so much hell for: getting up to their alarm. Being taunted awake by your children is so much fun, and such a great way to start the day (insert sarcasm.)

Honestly, I barely have time to feed the dogs, get dressed, pack our lunch, finish getting the last kid ready, and then brush my teeth and hair before we’re racing out the door by 720ish. Taking a few minutes to put on a dash of makeup is simply time that I don’t have.

Fast-forward 7.5 hrs and there I am, standing in the ladies room at the office, taking stock of my appearance. Ticking off the checklist of things I forgot to do that morning… tweeze my eyebrows, put on makeup (or at least cover up), put in the other earring (yep, that happened), wear matching shoes… sadly the list goes on. I’ll spare you. But, I resolve to the fact that it’s 3 o’clock; I’ve already seen almost everybody I’m going to see today. Screw it, better luck tomorrow.

Then, tomorrow comes: rinse, repeat.

Why don’t I stop taking the Nyquil you ask? Well, I would, but I’m pretty sure sleepy, puffy-eyed Frankenstein is better than the drooling zombie walker.

Maybe.

Gotta Love That Smile!

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

My 9-month-old son had not only been sick with a high fever but had thrown up so many times we no longer could keep up with the laundry, so he was wearing (swimming in) one of daddy’s white t-shirts.  New Year’s Eve was normally a time for celebrating, but that last day of the year 2000 was a particularly memorable celebration…our baby went from five days of misery and lethargy to suddenly feeling better, just in time to ring in his first New Year.

There really is nothing like that smile – the smile that makes you know in your heart that your baby is better.

Even though my “babies” are now 13 and 10, there is still nothing more reassuring than the first smile after a cold or flu. It’s like a ray of sunshine after a long storm. I mean, just look at these smiles!

my kids' smiles

 

When your kids give you that “I’m feeling better smile” doesn’t it just bring joy to your heart?

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Kids have smiles that make every day better. Share your favorite photo of your kids’ smiles on SmilingItForward.com and using the hashtag #SmilingItForward. Not only does it help us remember how precious those moments are, but each photo you share may help children across the country get access to the healthcare they need.

The scoop: between September 17, 2013 and January 31, 2014, the makers of TYLENOL® will make a $1 donation to Children’s Health Fund for every photo shared on SmilingItForward.com.

Read Alyson Hannigan’s go-to tricks that help bring back those sweet little grins.

Please take a few minutes and visit Smilingitforward.com and upload a picture.

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It’s because of understanding that feeling of relief that I am so excited to participate in the SMILING IT FORWARD™ Campaign. I have received information and products from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks. 

Motherhood Doesn’t Follow a Script

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

My mom used to tell me (especially in moments of stress when things were going as wrong as possible between us) that she was doing the best she could – that parenting didn’t come with an instruction manual. She would then wish upon me a child just like me so that I would understand. How mean was that?! Of course, now that I’ve seen three of my kids into their 20s (one just like me) and have two more entering their teen years (both just like me), I understand so much better what she meant. Motherhood doesn’t follow a script, come with a manual, or follow a predicted course.

training manualMy mom didn’t have the Internet to turn to, so when something scary happened (like me having a seizure when I was 3, or my sister dislocating her elbow) she couldn’t pop online and discover that she wasn’t the only mom to go through it or find a list of tips to help her through it. While we now have online resources to connect us, giving us the ability to share stories and advice, and letting all of us as moms know that we’re not alone, there’s still the fact that motherhood doesn’t follow a script.

And the truth is, I don’t want it to!

Even with our ability to connect instantaneously with other moms, our own experiences are still unique. I don’t want to lose that uniqueness in motherhood. My experience as a mom is entirely different than anyone else’s, and so is yours. We simply need to celebrate the unique wonder that is each mom’s experience while still finding ways to support each other through the tear-your-hair-out moments. The best advice I can give to new moms is to enjoy every moment. Don’t compare your experience to other moms’ – simply relish in the joy of being a mom and having support a click away when you need it.