A Mother’s Job Description

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I have two sweet boys, ages 2 and 9 months, who are (almost) my whole world. I love them like nothing else and being a mom is the most crazy-awesome job I’ve ever had. And by crazy-awesome, I mean that it’s both crazy and awesome. Motherhood is the best “job” I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend I thought I would put out a little job description here for any of you who may be interested in taking on this role yourself.

Title:
Mother (also known as “Mom”, “Mama”, “Mommy”)

Term Of Contract:
Until you die.

Salary:
None. Unless you count heavenly rewards, in which case they are infinite and eternal.

Working Hours:
Depends on how much your children like to sleep. On average, you can expect your day to start at about 6:30 AM and conclude by 8:30 PM. However, you will continue to be on-call throughout the night and if you have a child under the age of 1 you can expect at least two periods of active duty between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Work is required 7 days per week, 365 days per year. There is no vacation time or sick leave built in to your role, so please just don’t get sick. Ever.

Desired Qualities and Skills:
Seeking a loving, nurturing, compassionate individual.  Must be able to tolerate sounds up to 500 decibels (approximately the same loudness of a train whistle) for prolonged periods of time. Applicants should have a strong familiarity with all children’s programming on PBS and Nickelodeon (if you can sing the theme songs to “Blue’s Clues”, “Sesame Street”, “Dora The Explorer”, and “Bob The Builder” then you’re on the right track). Ability to speak and understand a foreign language (i.e. “Baby Sign” or “Toddler-ese”) is highly desired. You must be able to operate at full-capacity on 5 hours of sleep per night, and you should be able act cheery when your darlings wake you up at 4:30 AM. Applicants should be high-energy and ready to conquer the world. Applicants should possess an immense amount of patience (this will come in handy for cases of your childrens’ whining, complaining, crying for no reason, and tattle-taleing. It will also be helpful when you are cleaning up spilled milk and Cheerios for the 100th time in a day.). Backgrounds and training in the following are strongly desired: Teaching, Cooking, Laundry Services (especially stain removal), Taxi Driving, Juggling/Balancing Acts, Pastoral and Counseling Services,  Crowd Management, CPR, first aid/first-responder, EMT, Brain Surgery, Rocket Science.

Job Description and Duties To Perform:
There is a 9-month training period in which you will receive little- to no-preparation for the job you are actually beginning. Your hands-on duties will begin at about week 40 of the training regimen. Your duties will initially include feeding, bathing, changing diapers, dressing, snuggling and spying on your adorable child while he’s sleeping. As your child grows, you will be required to attend to additional responsibilities. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to: teaching, guiding, disciplining, encouraging, helping, supporting coaching, respecting, protecting, scheduling, talking with and listening to, hugging, laughing, and loving your child.

Benefits:
Butterfly kisses, a full heart, a happy disposition and a rewarding life. And love. Lots and lots of love.

Guest Post: Making It Through Cancer and New Motherhood

Today I am excited to welcome my first guest writer to my blog! Heather has an incredible story of strength, survival, and the power of a mother’s love. When her daughter, Lily, was only 3 1/2 months old Heather was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Mesothelioma. This type of cancer is deadly–it has only a 5% survival rate–but, sadly, it is 100% preventable. Now, 7 years later, Heather has beaten the asbestos disease and is a poster child for hope after Mesothelioma. If you would like to learn more about Heather, you can read her blog here. And, with no further ado, here is Heather’s story:

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Not too many adults can believe it when my daughter proudly exclaims that she saved me from cancer over seven years ago. She says it in such a matter-of-fact way that you can’t help but to question how that’s possible. However, it’s the truth. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Some people don’t understand what kind of effect a child can truly have on someone going through cancer, but for me, Lily was my saving grace.

My husband Cameron and I waited about seven years before deciding that we ready for kids. It was the first time that we really gave it a lot of thought. I knew that it was the right moment to start. Once we made the decision, I was pregnant and in the midst of craving heaven. There were a lot of emotions that ran through me as a newly pregnant mother, but what I really wondered was what kind of mother I was going to be. I didn’t know how I was going to treat all kinds of situations that may come up during my kid’s life, but I just knew that as long as I was a good mom, then I could handle whatever came our way. I had so many dreams as all moms do about their kids and what kinds of things that life would bring. I never expected it to go the way that it did after Lily was born.

My pregnancy was smooth besides the delivery. On that day, the doctor told me that I had a breech baby and needed an emergency C-section. That moment was terrifying, but soon after, Lily was in my arms, just as beautiful as ever. I knew that I would do anything to protect this wonderful bundle of joy. It was the happiest moment of my life, and that must be why the news hit so hard a few months later when I realized that my body was not as healthy as I thought.

After my pregnancy, things started to get really strange for my body. I was tired all the time. I was losing a lot of weight every week. I went in for testing to figure out what was wrong. Three days before Thanksgiving, I went to the doctor’s office with Cameron. He has such an amazing heart and strength. This was a moment that really tested me as a human being and wife. The doctor told me that I had mesothelioma, and that I only had 15 months to live without treatment. I sat there in total shock, going over everything in my mind as he continued to talk about treatment. Cameron looked to me for help but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what treatment to pick. Cameron knew that there was only one option to save my life. We had to see a mesothelioma specialist in Boston who had a high success rate.

I knew that the road was going to be long and hard to recovery. In those first few months, I spent doting on Lily as much as I could, preparing for major surgery and what would come after: chemotherapy and radiation. During those months, I wasn’t going to be able to see Lily at all. I went in for major surgery to remove my lung and parts of my chest, diaphragm and heart. I was in the hospital for 18 days. It was such a difficult time in my life. The dreams that I had of being this healthy mom running and playing with my daughter looked so far off and away that it was hard to think of what was coming. However, I kept my strength and I held hope that the clouds were going to break.

Two months after being out of the hospital, I started chemotherapy and radiation. It was a rigorous and terrible process. I knew that it was trying to save my life, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was dying anyway. It was a very dark time. The only thing that kept me alive I truly feel was the thought of Lily. I wasn’t done yet. I had so many things to do in her life, and if I could just hold on, I knew that I could beat mesothelioma and the treatment that came with it.

Well, I did. I beat a cancer that takes 95 percent of the people that it infects. I’m here seven years later because of Lily. We did pick an amazing time to have a baby, just in time, in fact. Without Lily, I don’t know what the treatment process would have been like. Of course, my husband and family were there for me, but it was those feelings of being a mother and holding Lily in my arms that I knew I was going to make it.

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had My First Baby

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I have a lot of friends who have either recently had their first baby or are pregnant right now.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every pregnancy and newborn book I could get my hands on. I wanted to know what this whole baby thing would be like when it actually happened.  Now, 2 babies later, I am still learning about motherhood. Every. Single. Day. Only now it’s not from a book: it’s from the trenches.

Despite my best intentions to learn all that I could before I had my babies, there’s just so much more that I’ve learned from my on-the-job training than I ever could have gotten out of a book or a manual (if there were such a thing). I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way–tricks of the trade, if you will. Here are a few things I wish I would have known about before I had my first baby.

1. Let go of your plans/hopes/desires/dreams for your baby’s birth.

Birth and Coming Home 070This photo is from my first son’s birth. You may notice that I’m lying on an operating table. That was so not the plan. I went into both of my births planning on having natural childbirth experiences with no drugs and minimal interventions. For our first child, I planned an out-of-hospital birth with midwives–I didn’t even want a doctor in the room! Long story short, I’ve had two emergency C-Sections. I’m 0-for-2 in the “having birth go your way” department. But here’s the thing: it’s OK. I had a really hard time dealing with my first C-Section–I felt like my body had failed me in this most basic function. Then I realized that my baby’s birth was not in my control. I did everything I could to get him out safely and, in the end, that meant we had to cut him out at a moment’s notice. And he was perfect and healthy and wonderful. Even though things didn’t go how I would have liked them to go, they went how they needed to go. With our second birth I let go of a lot of my expectations and, even though the outcome ended up being the same (BUMMER!) I was fine with it. Even though the birth itself wasn’t all that different, my attitude about it was–and that made a world of difference! When it comes to babies being born, expect the unexpected. Hold your plans in an open hand, not a closed fist, and be willing to go with the flow.

2. Having a baby doesn’t have to break the bank.
It’s true: having a baby is expensive. Really expensive. But there is hope! There are lots of great ways to save money on baby expenses.

  • The first thing I would suggest all moms do is sign up for Amazon Mom. It’s a great program run through Amazon.com that gives you free 2-day shipping on everything you buy on Amazon, plus it gives you discounts on baby essentials. It’s free to sign up and it saves you trips to the store (which, for a new mom, is as good as money in her pocket!).
  • You can also try your hand at couponing to save money on diapers and wipes. I was pretty diligent about couponing with my first baby and we saved about 50% on diapers that way. If you want to learn the ropes, there are some great tutorials online that can show you how to get the most bang for your buck (or clip?).
  • Take advantage of free/cheap resources and activities in your community–library story times, parks, community play areas (I love the Shoreline “indoor playground”  for all of you Seattleites), beaches, hikes, farms, public swimming pools, and outdoor concerts to name a few.
  • Make your own baby food (see my post for making your own baby rice cereal here).
  • Only buy what you need. You could spend a LOT of money on baby gear, but you really don’t need all of it. See my list of the essentials and my favorite products for more details.

3. “You can do anything, but you shouldn’t do everything”.
I saw this quote recently, and it rang really true with me. Choose what you want to focus on, and go for it–but don’t expect that you’ll be able to do everything that you want to do. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to do everything that you need to do once your baby arrives! Don’t try to be Super-Mom who does everything has it all together all the time–even moms who look like they have it all together really don’t. And that’s fine. That’s called being a mom. If you have piles of dirty laundry, a dish full of sinks, and a child crying at your feet as you’re making dinner, that’s normal. Do the best you can with each day, and call it good.

Along with this, know that it’s OK (no, necessary) to have help sometimes. Allow your friends, family, and community to help with meals, cleaning, babysitting–whatever you need that will free you up to focus on adjusting to life with your new baby. Once you have a baby, you’ll know where that phrase “it takes a village…” came from!

4. It’s OK to put a crying baby down.

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Whenever my first baby would cry, I did whatever I could to make him happy–right away. I had this weird feeling of abandonment  if I heard him crying and wasn’t instantly there to soothe him. But then, one day, I couldn’t get to him right away–and he was fine! In fact, he calmed down on his own, went back to sleep, and didn’t seem bothered in the least. Then I realized, it’s OK to let baby be on his own a bit. Now, with 2 little ones, I’ve learned that it’s actually necessary to put down a crying baby sometimes–and he’s always just fine. An added perk: baby will learn how to calm down and entertain himself if you aren’t doting on him every moment of every day–a valuable life lesson, indeed!  If you need to put down your baby so you can go to the bathroom or even take a quick shower, he’ll survive the 5 minute interlude. You both might even enjoy it!

5. Choose the advice you’ll take 
It never ceases to amaze me how every living, breathing person has advice on child-rearing. People with babies, people without babies, old people, young people, you name it–they all seem to know the only right way to do things with a baby. And they’ll tell you. Especially if you’re doing it wrong. I have found that the best response is usually just to smile, say “Thank you”, and then keep doing what you were doing.
As this baby’s parent, you know them better than anyone else. You know what they like, what drives them crazy, how they respond to different situations, even what bodily functions they’ve performed in the last 24 hours. You are your own baby’s expert. So, even when you get good advice from someone else, check it against what you–your baby’s expert–knows about your baby. What’s worked for someone else and their baby may not work for you.

6. Laugh at yourself
You will have days as a parent that just make you want to cry. Or scream. Or throw a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. And, sometimes, that’s OK. We all need to cry and scream and throw a fit every now and then. But you can also choose to just laugh at the situation and say “oh well, these crazy kids have done it again!”.

For instance: The other day I was trying to cook dinner and my boys both decided this would be a great time to test Mom. With a pot boiling over on the stove, the baby started screaming. When I picked him up, I noticed that he had poop squishing all the way up his back and out the neck of his onesie. I ran upstairs to change him and when I came back downstairs, my 2 year old had flung half of the contents of his rice box (a sensory activity) across the floor. I could have cried or yelled or run away to a nice quiet closet, but I just had to laugh at myself and the “situation” that is my life. This is my lot now, and it’s actually kinda funny. Three years ago, I never would have imagined that this is how a typical Thursday afternoon would look for me. But it is, and I embrace it! If I don’t laugh at myself every so often I could end up resenting the way things are, and I never want that to happen. So bring on the messy, the loud, the annoying, the embarrassing: I will just laugh at you!

7. Sleep. And don’t expect to feel rested for the next 20 years.

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You’ve heard it before: sleep when the baby sleeps. That worked for the first few weeks for me, but then I realized that “when the baby sleeps” happened to be the only time I could take a shower or eat a meal or pay the bills. Rest is still really important, though. I’m not good at taking naps during the day, but I can usually fall asleep pretty quickly at night time. As a result, I have to be pretty diligent about setting a bedtime for myself each night and sticking to it–even if I really want to stay up late doing important things like watching TV or checking my friends’ status updates on Facebook. But the sad reality is that even if you do go to bed on time and try to take naps when the baby’s sleeping, you’ll probably never really feel rested as long as there are people who call you “Mom” or “Dad” living under your roof. Kids are exhausting and you’ll probably never get enough rest to make up for the energy output they require. Oh well, can’t blame a girl for trying!

8. Document important information and events.
When your baby rolls over for the first time, or gets her first tooth, or says his first word, it feels like the most earth-shattering event. You know that you’ll remember it forever! But you won’t. My oldest son is only 2 1/2, and I already can’t remember a single stat or milestone from his babyhood. Maybe I just have a terrible memory, or maybe my brain is just a pile of mush after chasing two little boys around every day, but the fact remains that I just don’t remember those all-important details.
Do whatever works for you to record your child’s life. Some people like hanging a calendar by baby’s changing table so they can write interesting little facts about baby for each day of their first year. You could buy a baby memory book from the store, jot notes down in a notebook, or even pull out your smart phone (yes, there’s an app for that).

9. Avoid burn out: take time for yourself.

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It’s easy for a mom to get sucked in to the 24/7 nature of parenting. But if you don’t take a little break every now and then, you might just break! Exercise. Get Grandma and Grandpa to come over and watch the baby so you can go out on a date with your husband. Grab some girlfriends and get a pedicure on the weekend while Daddy is playing with Baby. Hire a babysitter and go to a coffee shop so you can lose yourself in a good book for an hour. Maybe even train for a half-marathon on the weekends (see photo above. Bonus: you get an extra member of the cheering section when baby comes to watch your race!). If you need to, schedule these “breaks” into your schedule (and make sure your husband has them in his calendar, too!). I have found that when I take good care of myself, I’m able to take better care of everyone else.

10. Be present and enjoy the ride.
Parenting can be very challenging, demanding, draining. It’s tempting to check out with a smartphone or your laptop while the kids run around at your feet. But blink, and you’ll wonder where the time has gone. Trust me, you won’t want to miss those moments–no matter how mundane or trying they seem in the moment.

Most days I go to bed and think, “What did I do today?”. When I see the list of things that didn’t get done and the piles of things that need to be dealt with it can be a bit disheartening. But the reality is, I did a lot today. I snuggled my babies, I kissed a boo-boo, I cleaned up poo-poo (I cleaned up lots of poo-poo). I read some stories, I played make-believe, I disciplined, I prayed, I disciplined some more. I ran through a park, I bathed tiny bodies, I sang lullabies, I said “I love you!”. I did a lot today–and I want to savor every moment of it.

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My New Year’s Resolution

Our last sunrise of 2012

Our last sunrise of 2012

It’s been a CRAZY month. Jon’s company has a major project they are shipping this week, so he’s been putting in a lot of time at work getting everything ready. Jon spent the first part of December traveling for work in Ireland and Turkey. While he was away I went down to visit with my extended family (and get some much-needed help with the boys). He got back the weekend before Christmas jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. He got Christmas day off, which was wonderful. We spent the day with family opening presents, eating, and truly enjoying each others’ company. Then, the very next morning, he was back to working like a mad man trying to get this project out the door. Cypress had him working around the clock (quite literally. On Saturday he went into work at 8 AM, then got to come home for a 3 hour nap from 3:30-6:30 AM Sunday, then he was back in the office by 7). I am happy to say, though, that after nearly a month of not seeing each other the end is in sight!

Jon’s reward for the manic work schedule this month was a surprise week (mostly) off work this week. My reward was a run. Since Jon was home this morning, I decided to seize the opportunity and go out for a run. All. By. Myself. I’d nearly forgotten how much I enjoy running when I’m not pushing an 80 pound stroller full of two screaming children.

One of my favorite parts about running is that I’m truly all alone. In my life that is constantly interrupted by the needs of others, I relish the times that I experience solitude. I purposefully leave my iPod at home when I run because it’s just about the only time I have to be alone with my thoughts. I usually find my thoughts wandering over to prayers, and that’s exactly what happened today.

As I was running, I was just reflecting on this year and all that it has brought. We’ve had so many wonderful things happen and, yet, I still find myself complaining. Complaining about how things are or how I wish they would be. And, so, as I was running along my favorite trail (the one with the bumps and the stairs that I can’t bring the stroller on) I had a great conversation with God. I just gave him all of my complaints, and he showed me the praise in each of them. It went something like this:

Complaint: We still don’t know when we’re moving to Ireland. Or even IF we’re moving to Ireland. Cypress is really dragging their feet on this one. Can we get some answers here already? I need to plan my LIFE! I mean, should I buy the Costco pack of toilet paper or just get a 4-pack?
Praise: I am not the one in charge of my future. No matter what happens, I just need to live today for today and know that God is in charge of all of my tomorrows. He always has the best plans, and I just need to be patient in waiting for them to unfold. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Complaint: I never get time to be alone. Someone always wants my time, my attention, my physical body (a familiar scenario finds me simultaneously rolling out play-doh and nursing a baby while dinner cooks on the stove).
Praise: I have an incredible husband and two amazing children. I get to care for them, teach them, help them, and love them every single day. God has given me the opportunity to be home full-time raising my children and serving my husband. There truly is nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing right now.

Complaint: I’m lonely
Praise: I know it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to say that I never get to be alone and yet I’m lonely, but there is something very isolating about being the only adult present for hours on end each day. However, I have great friends who are also moms. We can relate and we get together regularly to let our kids play while we confirm with each other that it’s normal to not feel normal as a mother. Another benefit to my loneliness? Since I have nobody else to talk to, I gab at the kids all day. I talk to them incessantly. You’d think they’d be annoyed, but I think they actually enjoy it. And David is becoming quite the chatterbox himself now! He will have the vocabulary of an Oxford theologian by the time he enters kindergarten.

Complaint: My house is always dirty, there’s too much laundry, the yard needs to be mowed, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Praise: My dirty house and never-ending piles of laundry mean that little people are living in my house, exploring their surroundings, and learning the life-skill of cleaning up after yourself. And I have a house.  7 years after buying our house “for 2 years so we could sell it tax-free”, we have a home that still meets our needs and provides a safe place to raise our family.

..and on and on and on. So, here is my resolution on this eve of 2013. To find the praise in every complaint. When I am tempted to fall into worry, doubt, or distress to turn it around and find the good in every situation.

May your glass always be half-full. Happy New Year!