Our family experienced 3 very special occasions recently: the birth of a new cousin, assisting in another cousin’s preparations for her first military ball, and Book Worm’s birthday (which puts her solidly into teenage territory). All were emotional moments for me. Its been a while since we had a baby in the family – 4 years, in fact. So meeting this new little one reminded me of so many things from when my kids were born. On the other hand, seeing the maturity in my niece and daughter reminded me how short of a time I have left with my oldest child. Both of these situations led to a lot of reminiscing with my kids and husband. Hearing their questions and surprise brought home that, even though I’m a storyteller, I don’t often share the stories closest to my hear – our stories. Whereas my Mama tells family stories over and over until we know them by heart, I don’t relate so many parts of our family history that have made our family and us as individuals who we are. We rarely have that metaphorical “sit around the campfire swapping stories” time, though when we do, my kids love it. Which means we should do it more often. Shame on me! Looks like I have some new storytelling muscles to develop! And way more chewing the fat moments to savor in our busy lives. Takeaway: Whether you’re a writer of not, we all of us have stories that make us who we are. What’s your favorite family story? Dani
"How can you give your family the attention they need while working full time and writing so much?" When posed this question by another author at National Conference, I was halted in my tracks. Guilt is a problem for me. With 1 rude question, this author unknowingly hit me right in the gut. Though I'd love to be Wonder Woman (and hubby would totally dig that outfit!), I know I'm no super hero(ine). I do worry about short-changing my children or my writing, but I can't give up either. I've worked too hard for both. I can't quit my day job, as much as I'd like to, because my family needs me to work for a steady income. At least for the time being. That's simply life at this moment. And as much as I'd like to complain about it, I won't. My hubby has gone above and beyond to take care of the kids and family responsibilities so I have more time to write. I won't fuss about the demands on my time when he has just as many on his. So this is a dilemma I have struggled with since I went back to work full-time, particularly when I'm on a deadline or have to say "no" when my kids want something because there aren't enough minutes in the day. So when I heard Kristan Higgins speak at RWA Nationals, it truly struck a chord. Both lunch speeches were awesome (other was Cathy Maxwell), but 1 particular statement by Kristen pierced my heart. It wasn't the focus of the speech in actuality, probably something she ad-libbed. But it was something I desperately needed at this stage of my career and life. She talked about a time when her husband worked long hours. She was helping him study for firefighters testing and they had a small baby. In order to help their family out, she strapped the baby to her chest while she cleaned a few houses. "Women do what they need to," she said. "If you are doing what your family needs, be proud of that." What? I'm a mom. I'm not proud...I'm guilty of not being Super Woman! But she's right. I should be proud-- -of finding a fulltime job that pays decent without having recent experience. -of working every day and still chasing my dreams. -for teaching my children that dreams are worth sacrifice and hard work. -for focusing on my children in the time I have with them. -Making an effort to include fun activities or things they want to do when I can. -expressing my gratitude for and to those who help me, including my husband, kids, mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, and many others. That, I think, is something to be proud of! All of you hardworking moms and dads out there, what are you proud of today? Give yourself a shout out! You deserve it!!!! Dani
The majority of women who have ever given birth have felt it – that little niggle of low grade vibration in the back of your brain. The feeling appears every time you try to go somewhere alone, leave your child with a sitter, or wish for a few more minutes of sleep despite the crying noises on the monitor. Basically, any time you even think about putting your own wants or needs above your child’s. One would think this physical manifestation of guilt would disappear as children get old, but in certain areas it never goes away completely. My kids are now old enough to fold their own laundry, fix some basic meals, and clean the bathroom. Despite their growing self-sufficiency, I still feel guilty for leaving them to their own devices in the evenings so I can write. The hubby says they’ll be fine, but he has no clue how hard it is to turn off Mommy Guilt. There are a few (very few) techniques I’ve learned over the years to combat that niggling feeling. Maybe if I write them all down in one place, I’ll remember to use them during my upcoming writing push. 1. Cuddle First, Work Later Okay, so my kids are really too big now to cuddle, but it doesn’t stop them from trying…or from wanting attention. I find there are fewer interruptions if I give them some one-on-one time before I work, rather than after. Fill up the attention-deficit, and they’re usually good for a while. 2. Distraction I’ve heard all the childcare experts, but I’m still not above using the television, video games, computer, etc. to distract my kids while I work. I simply save it for when I know I’ll be busy, then turn them loose. 3. Firm Boundaries I’m lucky in that my kids still want to talk to me all the time. But that makes working at home hard. Now that my kids are old enough, I can employ the ole “don’t bother me unless there’s fire or blood” caveat. The fewer interruptions I have, the lesser my guilt, maybe because I feel less like I’m abandoning them. Giving them a firm boundary (and specific exceptions) helps minimize interruptions. Most of the time, I’ve also employed a visual boundary as a reminder. You see, my office has an open doorway between me and the rest of the house. Its really an extension of the laundry room. So hubby helped me hang a sheet across the expanse that I can either pull back (open) or let down (closed). This door reminds the kids that mommy is working. If they stand on the other side and talk, I tell them to leave or just ignore them (every kid, no matter their age, will test his or her boundaries). But in time they’ve learned to abide by them. These are my very slim options for managing my kids and my guilt, but I’d love to have more! How do you minimize the guilt when you know you need to take time away from being “Mommy”?
This week, my Book Worm will take a trip for a band competition and be gone to a major theme part for 5 days -- without me. *knees go weak* You see, as a creative person, my imagination isn't always used for good. As a matter of fact, we authors often look for the best way to screw up our characters' lives, because it makes the emotional payoff that much higher in the end. So when imagining everything that could happen to her while she's gone, my brain goes to Worst Case Scenario first. From the Extreme: What if she's kidnapped from the park? What if her belt isn't tight enough on the rides? Then there's the milder "mommy" worries: What if she gets lost in the park and gets scared? What if she gets sick and is afraid to ask for help? What if she spends all her money and doesn't have enough left for meals? This imagination can so work against me here. Even though I'm friends with the Mom in charge of her walking group, the fears still run rampant. This is a big trust challenge for her too. Because I do know that Mom, I'll really know how she acts that far away from me. Since middle school this has been a bit of a challenge. So, that's a slight fear too. Which only feeds the worry Monster. What's the way to alleviate this? Well, I don't have a lot of answers here. I can't make it go away altogether. But I'm trying to at least lower the worry quotient by: 1. Redirecting my thoughts. Distraction is my friend during these times, as well as Facebook. :) 2. Talk to her. Instead of bombarding her all at once, I've been dropping little tidbits like, "Pay attention and don't wander from your group for any reason" when I can slip it naturally into the conversation. It helps that she's so excited that she wants to talk about the trip ALL THE TIME. 3. Pray. Being a Mom has strengthened my need for faith. I can't be with her always, but God can. I believe He hears every fervent prayer, and won't allow anything to happen that we can't handle with His help. 4. Remember, we've been teaching her for years. She can't prove herself trustworthy without the opportunity. And mistakes are the best learning experiences -- even if, as a mother, I'd rather not see her have to experience anything bad. So I'm open to advice about surviving this new milestone (especially since I'm sure I'll face many more of these moments during the teen years). Dani P.S. Check in tomorrow! It's Release Day for Finding Her Rhythm!!!!
It’s eventually the lament of all mothers – my baby is growing up. Mothers feel it at every stage – first tooth, first steps, first day of school, braces and so on. So many milestones in our children’s lives that prompt us to immerse ourselves in memories even while we celebrate every new stage. This week, I’ll once more reminisce about my baby girl, and step with fear and trembling (and pride too) into the unknown territory of the teenage years. In the last year, she’s grown taller than me, started experimenting with make-up, and learned to tame her mass of curly hair. She’s managing middle school and even walked dogs for money over the summer. I can’t believe how grown she acts sometimes, but we still glimpse enough of the kid in her to smile at occasionally. I, myself, am not ready for what I’m sure is coming, and I think that’s the source of my fear. Will I know how to assist and guide her through school troubles, boy troubles, and myriad new situations? Will she still talk to me? Will she listen, even a little bit? Either way, I’ll wake her with a Happy Birthday and watch as she fixes her hair and puts on make-up, going off to school looking like the cool teenager she is now. Because time keeps moving forward, even when I long for the simpler days of her childhood. If y’all have any advice for me, I’d love to hear it! Or tell me a favorite memory of time with your parents during your teenage years.
One Child At A Time... I’ve never held to the philosophy that kids should be kids and never have chores or responsibilities. To me, 4 people live in our house and mess it up. So 4 people should clean it (in some proportion or another) Part of this attitude might stem from my upbringing. By the time I turned 18 and my little brother was born, my mom was able to go to the hospital and have confidence my sis and I could take care of ourselves, the house, and our farm full of animals without burning anything down (we had a wood stove for a heater). So mine have had “chores” since they were little. We didn’t always call them that. But now they have things they do as part of the family (1 per day), and special things they do to earn allowance. Or money for something in particular: my son empties the bathroom trashes once a week to earn the weekly dues for his Cub Scout meetings. 1-3 years: Picking up their toys. I would gather everything on the floor into 1 big pile and get them to put the pile away. It seemed to be easier because they didn’t have the “find” instinct yet. I also got them to put their plates/cups in the sink. Make this into a clean-up game and it becomes much easier. 3-5 years: Again, picking up toys. At this point, I graduated to cleaning their rooms (with some help from me). Putting away school stuff when they get home (same place every day). Throwing away trash. Feeding animals. Putting their dinner dishes in dishwasher (I’ve heard. I still haven’t been able to accomplish this with mine). 5-7 years: Here’s where the real work begins. They start to have tons of things they’d rather do than help, so we introduced the concept of “chores”. On top of things they have already been doing, they started helping with laundry. First matching socks together. Putting away socks and underwear. Then graduating to folding pants and towels. Only when my son was 8 did we start shirts, and I still have to watch him with those. About 7 years old, we started unloading the dishwasher. Silverware, then cups, plates, bowls. 8-12 years: This is the big years, where they can learn bunches of stuff! My daughter started doing her own laundry, start to finish, when she was 11. She also cleans her bathroom sink and mirrors. We’re currently learning to vacuum. My son cleans the toilet in their bathroom, our glass doors, and dusting with a swiffer. I imagine after this we’ll be able to move onto washing dishes (thank goodness!) and my daughter has shown an interest in cooking. Yay! We still argue about chores occasionally, but for the most part, everyone pitches in and a lot gets done. Leaving plenty of time for play! How do you handle chores at your house?