The Hard Truth About Mothering in the Early Years

The Hard Truth About Mothering in the Early Years | Motherhood in the Trenches

Our mind has a funny way of forgetting hard moments and over sentimentalizing the good ones. It’s the reason why moms have multiple children. We forget the pain, the struggle, the emotional rollercoaster, because in the end that pain gave us something, our children, whome we love with far more intensity than the pain we endured. Just because the really good times are really good, doesn’t mean that the past pains never happened, it just means that the really good has overshadowed the pain.

The same can be said of childrearing. These early years are hard, like SO hard. The other day we were at Trader Joes, my two older girls were trying to decide which nuts they wanted for their snacks. Next to us was an older lady, she looked at me and then my three girls and smiled, those smiling, sentimental eyes that I have become so familiar with. They are the smiling eyes of women who miss these “precious years.” As my girls were ”discussing” (arguing over) which nuts to get, the lady was looking over the nut section, obviously listening to the girls discuss why one nut was better than another. The lady quietly chuckled. When she was done and we were STILL there, she walked passed me, looked at me again and gave me another big smile. As my eyes met hers I smiled back knowing that she’s wanting to tell me to cherish every moment, to soak it up, knowing that her heart aches to have these days back.

I know in 40 years I’ll be that same lady, looking at the young mom in Trader Joes, wishing for my girls to be that little again, wishing that I had enjoyed it all more, wishing I had done things differently, recognizing that some of the things I prioritized maybe weren’t so important. The truth is, that’s not where I’m at today and as much as I literally fear looking back on these times with regret, this time is HARD and I do not soak in every moment. As much as I don’t want to, there are days that I just want to be over. Many nights I collapse on the couch and I have a heavy burden pressing on me because I’m not sure that I really enjoyed a single second of the day and I fear that I’m going to look back in 10 years and cry with great regret because I should have enjoyed this day that I have these tiny, precious, amazing kids.

Many times at night, I make the mistake of going on social media where I find other moms posting things about hanging with their “bestie” who happens to be their toddler or moms who talk about how much they enjoyed their lunch time with their kids and I wish that I felt like those other moms. I guilt myself into thinking that I am less of a mom because my kids are not my “besties” and much less of a mom because sometimes I feel like I want to crawl under the sheets and hide for 24 hours. I so want to enjoy my lunch with my kids, and I know some day I will but right now it’s not enjoyable. Lunch is the baby throwing her food on the floor while yelling “All done!” over and over and over again until I get her washed up and out of her highchair, it’s the three year old spilling her water all over the counter and needing more water, with ICE!!!! and the six year old, bless her heart, amidst all of this chaos, wants to know if I want to hear about her dream last night, which translates to “Mom, do you want to hear me talk for 10 minutes about something that doesn’t make any sense at all.” Oh, I don’t wish these days away, because I know how precious they are. I wake up every morning and pray for patience and to value each day and each child and to accomplish what God has for me that day. I try to live each day so that in 40 years, when these hard times do fade away, and I’m no longer feeling like I’m literally drowning, that there will be some really sweet memories left to be sentimental about but for now….it’s really hard and there are many moments that I do not enjoy and I think that as moms we can own that.

We don’t have to pretend that we got this. We don’t have to fool ourselves or others into thinking that this is great. We are doing every struggling mom a disservice when we act like we are okay when we’re not. We don’t have to act like we enjoy every moment, or even most moments together with our kids. We can acknowledge that we feel like we’re drowning sometimes, okay all of the time. We can acknowledge that sometimes the weight of the oh so heavy responsibility of raising children is more than we can bear. We can stand up and recognize that there are some really precious moments, some really joyful times, but those times are mixed in with the really hard and we don’t enjoy the really hard times and THAT’S OKAY.

One thing God has been reminding me of this week is that His power works best in weakness. When I stop trying to hold it all together, and I recognize AND admit my weaknesses, it is then that God can come in with His grace and His power and turn my world, my family, my attitude, my pain, my struggles, upside down for HIS kingdom.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take [my thorn in the flesh] away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Mamas, whether you are finding this season in your life hard or sweet, I pray that you are able to find God’s power in your weaknesses.

Tutus, Kisses and Boys Who Love You

You know that moment in parenting where you think, “Hey, I think I got the hang of this!” and then days, hours, maybe even minutes later you’re like, “Yeeeeaaaaah…. no I don’t.” You’d think after six years I’d realize that when it comes to parenting there’s no such thing as “getting the hang of it.”

Suddenly overnight Big Sis has become a big kid. She talks like a big kid, acts like a big kid, and looks like a BIG kid. I slowly feel her pulling away from us, just a bit, establishing her independence. She’s always been very opinionated and independent but this is different. It’s almost like she’s starting the journey of coming into her own, figuring out things without us. I know it’s just the very beginning of a long journey of discovering who she is and what God has for her in this world but it’s very crazy to see it starting.

Motherhood in the Trenches

On one part she’s still a little girl, asking for tutus and frilly dresses for school, sizing them up by their twirlability. When we came home from school shopping she tried on her dresses and tutus for Little E, twirling in circles, Little E clapping and saying “Twirl again, twirl again!” Sometimes I think I’m living in “Little Women” and I LOVE it!!!

Motherhood in the Trenches

And then there’s this…

Last week we were at the park. Big Sis and Little E were attempting to climb a tree, I was sitting on the blanket with Belle watching from afar. I looked up and realized that Big Sis wasn’t near the tree anymore. I looked around and out of nowhere she quickly jumps on the blanket, looking a little frantic. I look at her puzzled.

“What’s going on? Where were you?”

She looks at me with a weird look I hadn’t seen before and she says, “I can’t believe I’m about to say this…but that boy in the green shirt just told me that the boy in the red shirt loves me.”

This was my first, “Oh crap, what am I supposed to say” moment.

I’m pretty good at writing, not so good at speaking eloquently on demand.

I fumbled around my words, mumbling a lot of “ohs” and “ums” and then, trying to buy myself some more thinking time I just say “ohhhhhhh, they were just playing around.”

She looks at me with her sassy, doubting look and says, “Really? Cuz I AM NOT ready for this. Not ready for this at all.”

Inside I was dying of laughter and also thinking, “Neither am I kid. Neither. AM. I.”

I wish I could tell you some great thing I ended up saying to her but I don’t think I said much worth anything. There was something about not loving somebody you’ve only seen and something else about true love is when you love who a person is not just seeing them across the park. I don’t know, whatever it was, it was not helpful.

Finally Dirk comes walking over and I think, “Oh good, he’s so good with words, he’ll totally have something great to say.”

He notices Big Sis’ flustered face right away and says, “What’s up?” She tells him the whole thing and he just lets out a big laugh and says, “What?!” and then laughs some more.

Clearly we are not ready for this part of parenting.

As she grows I know that  more and more of these moments will come up. When I drop her off at school she still wants a kiss goodbye. When she spies me from across the room, waiting to pick her up from Awanas, she waves and blows me kisses until it’s her turn to come up.

I think I’ve taken that for granted for 6 years but I see that those days will soon come to an end and so I mentally grab every kiss and put it in my pocket because I know I’m going to miss them so.

Motherhood in the Trenches

Parenting littles is so hard sometimes and sometimes I can’t help but wish that things were easier and the kids were bigger because I’m barely keeping my head above water. But as Big Sis’ littleness fades away, I cling even more to all three of my girls “little” stuff because I see how fleeting it is and how much I’m going to miss it so very very much.

Books for Bird Study

We are wrapping up what has been my favorite study to date…BIRDS! I had no idea how much there is to know about birds. I’m constantly staring out the windows to see what the birds are up to. I’m so intrigued by their behaviors and sounds. Dirk now lovingly calls me a bird nerd. I just can’t stop.

So in our study of birds we’ve used quite a few different resources but, as always, books have offered us such a rich study. There are some great non-fiction books out there but I really prefer fiction books. While non-fiction books provide a lot of facts, I have found that when the facts are applied to a story we remember them so much better and it’s so much more fun! We found some really great books, both fiction and non-fiction, and I thought I’d share our favorites with you.

Books for Bird Study | Motherhood in the Trenches

First up we like the DK First Animal Encyclopedia. This is a newly released edition. It has some really great facts and has fun seek and find pictures at the beginning of each chapter. Both of my girls love it.

Now lets talk about two chapter books that we loved.


The Burgess Bird Book for Children is so fun and FULL of facts, in fact so many facts that you’ll never remember them all in just one reading. If you are an Epic! member you can read the full book on the app as well, if you aren’t a member of Epic you totally should be! Check out my blog post about it here, we LOVE it and use it almost every day. I read this book to Big Sis a bit but she mostly enjoyed listening to the audio on Librivox. If after reading a chapter, she was especially intrigued by a specific bird we would look up more info about the bird and maybe even make a nature journal page to go with it. It’s times like these that I think, “How did people homeschool without the internet?!” I mean seriously, we can let our curiosities lead us wherever we want and learn more than we could ever remember about a single bird. It seriously blows my mind.

Another read aloud that we have SO enjoyed is The Trumpet of the Swan. I just love E. B. White. This is a sweet story of Louis the trumpeter swan who is born without the ability to make a sound. With the help of a boy named Sam he figures out several clever ways to communicate. The vocabulary in this is perfect for a real aloud for young kiddos. Big Sis and I are absolutely loving it.

Edward the Emu was my girls’ favorite fiction bird book.

This is a fun light-hearted story about an emu who tries to take on the role of several different animals in the zoo in effort of trying to be the best animal at the zoo. Of course, Edward ends up learning that Emus are great and he should just be himself. The illustrations are fun and while there aren’t many bird facts it’s just an overall fun book.

My favorite story that we read was Albert.

I wasn’t expecting much from this book but it really was a sweet story and a great reminder that we should be getting out there even when it’s not easy. Basically Albert is a man who looks out his window each day and finds a reason not to go outside, it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, etc. But then a family of cardinals builds their nest in his hand and he is stuck there for months holding this nest. This would be an especially good book for kids who struggle with anxiety. One of our girls does and it was a great springboard for talking about all he was missing out on by making excuses not to go outside.

Hello My Name is Ruby is another fun book that will introduce your kids to whimsical images of different birds but the story is just a fun light-hearted story.



Feathers for Lunch is a fun, short little story, probably best for the youngest readers but Big Sis still liked to look at the various birds and feathers, which are labeled on each page. E really enjoyed the story though.

Pale Male was interesting true story of a hawk who takes up residence in New York City. The book is pretty long but Big Sis was interested in the story and wanted me to read it all in one sitting.

Mama Built a Little Nest is a cute story about different types of nests that birds build. There are also facts about each birds’ nest throughout the book.

An Egg is Quiet is about all different types of eggs, not just bird eggs. The illustrations are beautiful. There’s also a book, which we didn’t read, called A Nest is Noisy which is about different type of animal nests.

Feathers: Not Just for Flying is another beautifully illustrated book that talks about the various uses of feathers.

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? was Big Sis’ favorite book. There are various birds’ calls within the book and Big Sis and E loved repeating after me.

There are also some really great bird books on Epic! that we enjoyed reading.

Adopted By An Owl on Epic! Books

Adopted by an Owl: The True Story of Jackson the Owl is a really cool story about a man who helps rehabilitate an owl and after releasing the owl, the owl decides to stay on the family farm for his whole life. It’s a really sweet story and a great way to open up the conversation about respecting nature.

Is-This-Panama

I really loved Is This Panama?: A Migration Story. It’s a super cute story of Sammy, a Wilson’s warbler, who is going to make his first migration from the Arctic Circle to Panama. He makes various friends along his way and finally makes it to Panama although he took the long way. At the end of the book you can see the normal path a Wilson warbler takes and the path that Sammy took.

We read a few other books as well but these were our favorites. Do you have a favorite bird book we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to check it out!

 

Clean Living

One night I was brushing my teeth before bed and glanced at my lipgloss container on the counter (my makeup is pretty much always spread out on our bathroom counter, sorry Dirk). I started to read the ingredients in my lipgloss and I was baffled but then I was baffled that I was baffled. I am so careful about what my family eats, reading every label of every food that we eat, I’m also careful about what products I use on my kids and yet here on my counter sits a product that I use every day, full of potentially harmful chemicals. Here are just a few of the products that we use that are filled with harmful chemicals.

Motherhood in the Trenches | Non-Toxic Living

I immediately looked at the other bottles on my counter. I had no idea what most of the ingredients were but I needed to know what ingredients I was lathering on my face and body every day. I immediately started to research my bathroom products. There are so many carcinogens in our every day products. It was so overwhelming when I began my research because it seems that everything is loaded with carcinogens.

I know there are a lot of skeptics out there, I was one of them but here’s the thing, people are getting sick like crazy. I have so many friends whose young bodies are failing them, literally attacking themselves. Autoimmune diseases are prevalent in my family. In college, when I was stressed to the max, planning my wedding, working, taking 21 units and eating horribly, my body started to fail me. My blood work was coming back as positive for an autoimmune disease but I was never diagnosed with a specific autoimmune disease. I started taking better care of myself and as of right now I don’t have any issues but I feel like a ticking time bomb that could explode at any time. Our bodies are falling apart and while I know that food is a GIANT factor, I also know that the thousands of chemicals we are exposed to can’t be helping our bodies.

I am still researching chemicals and products daily but here’s what I’ve found helpful so far…

First of all, I asked Dirk to watch a documentary with me called “Stink!” He’s always skeptical of my “hippy choices”, as he calls them, and I knew that he would be a voice of reason in any area where I was ready to jump on the bandwagon. There were some pretty alarming statistics in this documentary. Unfortunately the website for the documentary doesn’t have a list of studies or facts but I did do some research myself. Some of the studies aren’t very extensive but regardless, I think this guy was on to something. After watching the documentary Dirk was surprisingly alarmed and was telling me to start researching the facts and to find new products to replace our current products.

So what did I find in my research for products? There’s so much to sift through but there are a few resources that have been most helpful. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics site has a page that lists “Chemicals of Concern” which has been really helpful for making my own decisions and not just relying on faulty studies. I also downloaded the Think Dirty app and the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living app. These two apps are a good resource for scanning products both in your home as well as at the store, to see what ingredients are in them and what the concern is about that given ingredient. I do wish that there were more products listed and that the products were updated more frequently but it’s a good place to start. I really like that I can determine what I think of each ingredient and make an educated decision, not just trust what a bottle says. If you really want to know what’s in your products and it’s not listed on either app, you can also go onto the EWG website and type in each ingredient and get information for that ingredient, it does take a few minutes but it’s totally worth it.

As with anything, I know I can only focus on one product at a time. It takes a lot of research and trial and error to figure out what to use and what works for my family. As I go on this journey to find cleaner, safer products for our home, I thought I’d share my findings and choices. I’d also love to hear of any products you guys are using and why you love them.

In this quest for healthier products, I have a list of criteria that the products have to meet:

1) It has to work. I cannot accept clean and natural if it doesn’t work. The new product has to meet or exceed the effectiveness of the product that I was previously using. I know that natural cleaning products  often take some extra elbow grease and that’s okay, I’m willing to put in a bit more work but the end result has to be just as good.

2) It can’t be too time consuming. I know that there are tons of recipes on how to make everything at home and some day I may do that but right now I’m not in a place where that is feasible. For most things I will be looking for products that I can buy off the shelf or online. I’m willing to put some effort in to making some items but it has to be quick and not make a big mess.

3) It has to be reasonably priced. I know that just like with clean eating, healthy products are going to cost more but they still need to be reasonable. We cannot afford to be doubling our toiletry or cleaning supply bill.

4) It has to be a healthy alternative. Now some people are hard core when it comes to natural products saying that they’ll only put on their skin what they would also eat. I cannot commit to that right now. I am using the EWG’s rating scale as well as the Think Dirty app. I’m looking for products that get a rating no higher than a 3 (maybe a 4 if necessary) and do not contain carcinogens or developmental and reproductive toxicity.

This is a lot to take on but with the above criteria in mind, I am going forward in this journey. Is anyone also headed in the same direction? I’d love to hear from you!

What I Want For Mother’s Day

There’s something about this third baby that has totally changed the way I see my life. I feel like there are so many times that I am taking “visual snapshots.” Slowing down is still something I struggle with, but I find myself lingering longer, studying my girls’ features, trying to mentally capture each tiny thing. Suddenly I know how fleeting these moments are.

There’s a Mother’s Day video going viral right now that really bums me out. I’m not sure when Mother’s Day became a day to get away from your kids or a day to wish your kids were different. I mean, that’s not exactly what the video says but moms everywhere are agreeing with this mom who says that she just wants one day off. I mean I could use a day off too, I’d love to get some sleep for once, or to watch a show that isn’t animated or to not be cleaning the kitchen at 9 pm. A break WOULD be nice but this mom’s Mother’s Day wish is that her kids call for their dad every time they want to call “mom” and she doesn’t want them to talk to her unless they are going to tell her how much they love her. Someone give this lady a break! Give us all a break! We need a break!!!! But is Mother’s Day really the day for that?

Motherhood in the Trenches

You see here’s the thing, I don’t love listening to my kids argue with each other, and sometimes I just want to yell, “Everyone find a corner and stay there until dinner!” even when it’s only 3pm. Sometimes listening to their tattles problems drives me insane. “Seriously, my dear children, just deal with it! Life is not all about YOU!” Sometimes I dread the sound of, “Moooom!” But here’s the thing, someday not too far in the future, my kids are going to want to have dinner at their friend’s house and there will be an empty seat at our dinner table. If I don’t listen to their problems now, one day they will stop telling me their problems and will find comfort in the ears of their peers. One day my girls will be completely self-dependent and won’t be calling, “Mooooom!” nearly enough.

I’m not trying to be sappy here, I’m being genuine. It’s taken me six years to realize this, these years are so fleeting. Not just these infant years but every single second. Big Sis isn’t always going to come skipping into my room to sit next to me on the bed. Little E isn’t always going to want to cuddle for 5 seconds before she runs off to the next adventure. Baby Girl is changing by the minute. I don’t want to wish these days away, not even on Mother’s Day. I KNOW it’s hard and there are times, every single day, that I think, “I need a break!” but this Mother’s Day I want to watch my girls run around. I want to hear their stories, as long and tedious as they may be. I want to look into their eyes and let them know that they are loved. It won’t be all rainbows and butterflies, I have a two year old after all. There will be meltdowns and ungrateful attitudes, there will most definitely be a lack of sleep and of course the stress of getting out of the house to make it to church on time, but I want to enjoy every moment and let my kids know that I am enjoying them too.

I could use a break, a spa day sounds amazing! It’s so easy for me to slip into a selfish mentality, and I have spent many a Mother’s Day expecting to be pampered but not this Mother’s Day. This Mother’s Day I’m going to be extra careful to pay attention to every aspect that makes me a mother, even the really hard moments, and thank the Lord that He has given me these people and this opportunity.