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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

you the MOM! - gaining a dose of mommy confidence

It's clear that moms need to cut out the attitudes sometimes, right? 
If you've ever been part of a mommy and kiddo play date, playground group, library story hour, swim or soccer lesson, or even just part of an online Facebook type discussion board, you have observed the catty remarks from some so-called know-it-all mamas. Unfortunately, right?

I am sure you can think off the top of your head of at least 5 times another mother has made you feel inferior, stupid, insecure, or question your parenting techniques. I'm sure you have read something and wondered, "Oh no, she didn't! Did she mean this the way I think she did?!" I'm sure you have also re-read something you were about to post a few times just to be sure it could not possibly be taken the wrong way. I'm sure other times you've held your tongue out of fear of someone misinterpreting you.

Judgment. It's out there. 
It's a big part of our world, especially as mothers. I've seen it only a handful of times on our the Mommy Stories Facebook group. I've seen a few people leave the discussion group because they felt offended or disrespected by something another mother stated in response to something they shared. It has not been a huge part of our group, thankfully.

Still, I feel I need to address this concern I have. My concern is not as much with those who are doing the judging or disrespecting. I think anyone who disrespects others knows she has done wrong later and hopefully will try harder to be nicer next time. Since I don't see that as much as I see my main worry... which is insecurity, lack of confidence and mommy esteem.

We will always have opinions and thoughts about things. We moms are wired to give advice, offer solutions and ideas. It's in our girl-talking helping nature. The very point of a discussion board or momma group in person or virtually is to talk, brainstorm, throw out ideas, gain insight. If we had all the answers ourselves, we would not be part of such a thing in the first place.

We think we're right!
We base our statements, thoughts, opinions on our own experience. It's all we know. Or if we haven't gone through it ourselves, we base what we say on what others have told us it's like. We don't offer our advice out of spite or harm. We offer it thinking we are right. We have to believe what we think about parenting is right, otherwise what we did for our kids would be wrong ... and we moms can't handle being told we're wrong in the kiddo department, because that would make us our worst nightmare - bad mothers.

For example, when I say that babies don't need pacifiers after 6 months old it's because somebody told me that or I read it online or a pediatrician told me it was the best practice. And because I had my kids both give theirs up at 6 months old without permanent damage, I know it can be done. Because I've seen so many toddlers not speaking well with pacifiers in their mouths and then screaming because they misplaced one, my advice to someone asking about this topic would be to stop use of them at 6 months, end of story. I think I'm right because this is what I experienced. Does that mean when I see someone's toddler with a pacifier that she is a bad mother? NO! Honestly, no. It's just not my thing, not what I've experienced or preferred. That's the big difference. The other mom needs to have more confidence in her choices to not feel threatened or upset by my saying no paci after 6 months old. And I need to not come off like I am a snob with my opinions.

A mom whose baby nursed totally easily, no issues, no blistery boobs, no latch issues, no screaming, etc. is going to look at the world through these eyes. She is going to wonder why all moms don't just breastfeed since it's so super simple. She can't help but wonder this, it's normal based on her experience. I have had two babies. One never latched a single day, left me bleeding, him screaming, and a horrible experience. The other nursed within 10 minutes of birth, not a single blister or anything on my breasts, and did so for a year extremely easily, no problems. I get it. We only know what we know. And it has to be true, or else what we did or experienced is somehow wrong. And we won't accept that.

When someone posts something or talks of doing something in a different way than we did with our own kids, it challenges our assumptions about the world we raised our kids in. It challenges us as mothers, our skills, our knowledge. If a mom thinks thumb-sucking is terrible and I have a kid who sucks his thumb since birth... I'm going to stop and worry that I'm doing it wrong, even if that other mom didn't even say anything remotely like me being wrong. It's already in us to feel worried a lot because we are mothers. And being women, we worry what others think of us WAY too much. It's a given. But it doesn't have to be forever.

While I understand that it's normal for us to feel insecure, to question our mothering techniques and sometimes to blame the fact that we're questioning on other moms out there ... my hunch is we need to stop blaming those who appear disrespectful or crass and instead look at ourselves, building ourselves up to be stronger. Lifting one another up and living in no judgment zones is ideal, of course, but on most days I think the best we can strive for is to feel confident in who we are as mothers and to stand by what we do, while keeping an open ear to learn new things from other mothers.

Here are a few ideas for feeling like you are the MOM (you da' man, get it?!): 

1. Don't take it so personally. Many, many comments other mothers make are not at all meant to upset you. Most mothers are talking in phrases like this, even if they don't spell it out... "in my opinion," "in my personal experience," "what worked for me was..." "what I was taught/told/learning about is ..." Before you react even internally, ask yourself, was that comment that mother said meant to harm me personally? 99% of the time you'll come up with the answer of no, she probably wasn't even talking to you, so let it go.

2. Opposites attract. Stop yourself before you wonder why someone did something or said something. Remind yourself all the kiddos are different. All moms have only their kids to compare to, so they are of course going to respond differently than you would. What works for me as a full-time working out of the house mother who commutes an hour a day and has two kids, is very different than what will work for the stay at home mother who has three kids and a partner who doesn't help out a lot at home. Remind yourself that if someone co-sleeps with their child but you'd never do it, that's OK. You can be different. Different is good. Same is boring!

3. Pause. What did she really mean? Stop reading into what people say or write on mommy boards. Before responding, ask yourself what she really meant by her comment either online or in person. Did she mean to offer advice? If you don't like her advice, simply ignore it or say thanks but no thanks that won't work for me. Was she trying to share her experience of what worked for her, in an attempt to inspire or help you out a bit? If so, thank her, there is nothing else to say but thanks for the gesture. Before you react, think about what she meant. 99% of the time I doubt she is meaning to offend you.

4. Choose your friends wisely. If someone makes you question your mothering techniques, puts down your kid or says things in a sarcastic way about your parenting skills, it's time to find new friends, end of story. You should surround yourself - online and in person - with mothers who are similar to you with your values, experiences and ideas about raising kids. And yet, you can still be best friends with mothers who do things totally different than you do, yet respect how you do things and don't judge you for it. Surround yourself with women who uplift you, make you feel good about yourself, and constantly say how great your kids are.

5. You da MOM! Enough of the pity parties. Aren't you tired of not feeling good enough? Not being perfect enough? Sick of comparing yourself to the other moms who seem to get it right the first time? Then stop. Nobody else is making you feel this way. You own your feelings. You may not be able to control your feelings, but you DO own them as yours to do what you will with them. You can allow someone else to get in your head or under your skin and make you react like a crazy mama, OR you can be yourself. Always. True and real. Isn't that what you are trying to teach your children to be anyway? Real and honest? Then walk the talk and straighten up and walk tall and stay focused on being the best mom YOU can be, not the best mom out there. Tell yourself every single day one thing you did well. Better yet, write it down every single night. Pick one thing you did well today and be proud of it. Even if all you did well was find matching socks for your kids to wear to school. Good for you! We all know the quote, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent," so listen to it. It's your choice whether you allow your insecurities to get the best of you or whether you pump yourself up and look yourself in the mirror and think, "damn that's a GREAT mom right there!"

6. Give yourself a break. You aren't always going to get it right. That's just how it is. You can't do it all. You can't raise your kids like that other mom raises her kids because you aren't her and your kids aren't her kids. Difference is what makes things interesting. So embrace the difference. Be OK with chaos and changes and ups and downs. Because it's one hell of a roller coaster ride, this parenting thing. It's a lot more fun of a ride though if you are more accepting and less critical of your mommy ways. Let it go. Whatever fault you are carrying around like a loaded up suitcase full of criticism and guilt, let it go. It's too heavy a burden to carry and it's not worth it. Be OK with mistakes and pitfalls. Those mothers you admire? Well, they make mistakes, too.

Tell it to me straight. 
I know this post was pretty straight forward. I would never write so honestly if I didn't think it could help someone to think differently about how they are as a mother. The point: Think of yourself as awesome. Trust your own instincts. Trust that you ARE a great mother, not just good enough but fantastic for your child. Try not to let sensitivity get the best of you. Gain some confidence and I swear you'll be getting along better with moms around you, and feel happier, too.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

happy 2nd birthday to the Mommy Stories!

May 26th, it's the official SECOND birthday of the Mommy Stories! 

I started this blog back in 2011 as a gift for my dear friends Heather and Jess, who were both pregnant at the time. I wanted to share some things I'd learned, ideas, advice, a way of supporting them through an exciting but adventurous time in their lives.

A few cool things happened in the blog's group this year:

Mom in the Picture - I forget who it was but somebody in the Facebook group forwarded an article about how we needed to have more pictures of ourselves with our kids in the photo, not just pics of the kiddos. So once a month at least we post pictures - especially those without makeup on, messy bed head hair and silliness. I hope to continue this.

Mom of the Month - Starting December 2012 I have featured a Mom of the Month with pictures and a blog post dedicated to her and all her greatness. People seem to love these! I am always seeking nominations, so please message me or email to nominate someone you know.

Pinterest! - I started a Mommy Stories Pinterest board with all kinds of things just for you moms and kiddos.  Check it out!

Series Posts - I had two pretty popular series this past year on the blog - M.O.M. - Moms On a Mission to get organized and posts about having a second child. Hope these posts have been helpful to you.

Events - We had our first events last summer - Moms' Night Out and Mommy Stories Playground Date!

Facelift - The blog page got a makeover last summer with new picture, layout and backgrounds! 

What Mommies Are Saying... - Many of you write the nicest comments in the group about the blog or discussions, so I started saving them as a way to remind myself that on the bad days, there is good in the world! THANK YOU.

I never imagined other people reading this blog or it turning into a Facebook group with almost 700 mothers in it! I couldn't be happier to share these pages and experiences with you mommas.

So celebrate with me! Share something that you've gained or learned or has made you smile either in this blog or the Facebook group. Share your favorite blog post if you have one. Why do you enjoy being part of the FB group? I love hearing from you.

Thanks again for joining me along this fun ride. I don't write as much as I wish I could if I had more time, but that's OK. I reason with myself that I'm leading by example of how to be OK with what you can do instead of upset with what you can't when it comes to being a super busy mother.

Some upcoming cool things you will see on the blog and group this year:

- MOMMY SPEAK - this or that - I've tried these a few times recently and moms seem to respond. Just for fun and to see our similarities and differences, I'll post things for you to respond to of your preferences.

-New Mom Mentors - If there is interest, I'd like to offer new moms in our Facebook group an experienced mentor mom to ask advice, keep in touch with, and overall be encouraged by. If you're a new mom (to your first, second, third... they're all new experiences!) or an experienced mom who wants to help out a fellow mother during the first month of the baby's arrival please message me or email

-New series about confidence,  encouraging moms to feel all that and let go of guilt, judgment, and grief over how things didn't go as planned. Along with this, I hope to ask moms to post their Mommy Pride - something they are excited about, proud of for doing or handling the right way, a good moment that made them smile, etc. We focus too much on the things we wish we'd done or regrets, we need to remind ouselves OFTEN of how great we are.

-Kids Party Swap - Stemming from discussions in the Mommy Stories group, we now have this new Facebook group to swap/share/trade/sell/buy party supplies for all those Pinterest-inspired birthday parties you are planning!

-Recipe Sharing- We've ddone this from time to time already but this next year I think it'd be fun once a month to really encourage you all to share recipes. It seems to be something that comes up in discussion a lot in teh group, wanting ideas for cheap, easy, quick and healthy meals for your family. 

Hope you continue to enjoy the blog and discussions 
as much as I have. 

Now, go eat a chocolate ice cream or cupcakes just to celebrate the Mommy Stories' birthday! :) 

Monday, May 13, 2013

happy, happy momma

It's Mother's Day (Week)! 
A day to celebrate all the good that we mommas do in our everyday lives, in our roles and in this big job we work every day for our children. It's a day for us to take off, rest, leave the chores aside... and yet, if you ask any mother, she'll undoubtedly report having done at least a load of laundry or dishes, changed too many diapers, wiped some noses and dressed some kiddos. A mom's job is never done or even postponed just because it's a holiday.

I got to thinking this weekend, while spending so much time with my babies, what is this motherhood thing all about? If I were to describe it to a new mother, how would I explain it? Of course moms have asked me certain questions like recently when my co-worker who is trying to have a baby asked me detailed questions in total awe of how I pack my kids' lunches for the week on Sunday evenings. But I'm not sure I've ever had to really explain what motherhood is all about. 

So here is a little bit about what this weekend's motherload had in store for me. 

Being a mom means taking pictures that nobody else would think to take or care to keep forever. Like ones of tiny feet that now look bigger because they are in shoes. Or of sleeping babies ... creeping in, tiptoeing, swearing under your breath when the flash makes the silent baby jerk in motion, crossing fingers that she doesn't awaken. Yet going through this because the sleeping picture is so necessary for  reflecting on later when that baby is walking and sleeping in a toddler bed and not so little someday.

Being a mom is to know what it's like to watch something grow in the fastest amount of time you've ever known. To look at something little and see it get bigger and develop and learn new things in the blink of an eye. It's not something that can be explained. You hold that newborn and then she starts crawling, as if overnight. And you have no idea where the time went.

You write down details in a baby book month to month, and even a month later when reflecting back you smile and laugh thinking, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." You try to memorize moments, like when your son learns what those yellow flowers are called ... dandy-liars, of course, and you hold on so tightly to those silly moments during the tough toddler tantrums when you're not sure who this little maniac is on certain days.

To be a mom is to just enjoy what is instead of wondering what could be. 
It's to accept the limitations and challenges that occur every day as just normalcy, nothing to fret over. It's to realize that yes, you are good the way you are, good enough, even better really. You are exactly what your family needs, your babies need, right now, forever.

It's to laugh, boy do we laugh! Being a mom is about knowing you created this amazing thing with your partner, this family, this forever love. It's knowing that no matter what, you'll always have that, this legacy to leave behind.

Being a mom is knowing that you can't screw them up. You just can't. 
Even if you tried, you can't. 
Because even if you yelled today or forgot to say sorry or didn't spend enough time on the floor playing trucks, he will forgive you tomorrow, he really will. He'll wake up the same way he wakes up every day, with a huge smile and a "What are we doing today, Mama? I missed you last night while I was sleeping!" It's knowing that despite the insecurities and the judgment you fear others cast on things you do or don't do, you ARE OK. You are a good mother. We have to have moments in our everyday lives where we realize this, right? Being a mom is knowing you are so strong you could handle anything. You went through pregnancy and labor.  Everything else is easy after that!

Being a mom is about picking a booger out of a nose just because you would rather feel the grossness on your fingers instead of your baby girl eating it herself. It's staying up all night with a toddler who has his first ear infection and is screaming in pain and only quiet when lying against your chest, sitting straight up, for hours. It's allowing a baby to vomit all over you, crying, while you shush him and say it's OK, holding back your own vomit. It's finding the silver lining in those awful sick moments, finding some type of joy and gratitude in being able to hold your active toddler still in your chest like you did when he was an infant.

Being a mom is being a trooper, team player, go getter, 
and leader.

It's smiling. A lot. More than you knew was possible. At the littlest things.

Motherhood is about finding joy in the most mundane, boring, even ridiculous of tasks ... like grocery shopping. It's about capturing those big grins of pure innocent joy because you have never seen such happiness before, not even from your own wedding day. It's finding a different kind of love ... and loving it so much. I was going to write "loving every minute of it," but motherhood is about reality and learning to accept it's not all flowers and butterflies. It's being OK with not loving every second, with realizing some of it's just hard and that it's normal to want a break sometimes. Being a mom is learning to leg things go, forgive our own shortcomings, and realizing nobody is perfect. Ever. Period.

It's getting down low on your child's level to see the world through their eyes. 
It's remembering the little things like how your son first learned to pedal on his bike and was super proud of putting his shoes on (the wrong feet) all by himself.

It's seeing the look of wonder and excitement on your child's face and realizing you helped put that happiness there for him. It's pride. It's learning to look at the world in a different light because it now is a place of anxiety and yet intrigue for your little one to explore on his own someday.

It's playing a whole lot more than you ever recall doing even as a kid yourself. Being a mom is thinking up new, creative ways to be that fun version of yourself. It's the opportunity to be a kid again and do it differently ... like if as a girl you only wore dresses and never got dirty, now with your son you are jumping in mud puddles every chance you get! (true story!)

Being a mom is knowing there will be obstacles, yet also accepting it's normal to fall sometimes and 
you will always get back up. 

Being a mom is about knowing our kids will face difficult things that we cannot prevent nor control. It's doing our best to teach them and guide them while they're little and growing and before they leave our nest to do the right thing, be kind and helpful toward others. It's realizing what a huge responsibility this mom role is really, that we have the power to shape a life, a human being. It's not taking this for granted one single moment.

It's realizing that not all women get to experience being a mother. It's knowing that we should offer support toward our friends who are trying but can't seem to find that pink plus sign on a pregnancy test. It's again, being so incredibly thankful for what motherhood has brought to our lives. It's remembering pregnancy, with its ups and downs, with gratitude not dismay.

Being a mom is bigger than we can even imagine. 
It's scary some days. It's frustrating on other days. 
Yet it's hopeful, full of wishes, and dreams come true. 

Being a mom makes you feel on top of the world, like you are Super Woman, because just today you folded 5 loads of laundry, built the coolest fort in the living room, read 10 stories, clapped to songs on the radio, and wiped some bottoms a few times. 

Being a mom means finding the extra in an ordinary day. 
It's making time for what matters. Smiles above chores.

Motherhood is a juggling act.
It's a 24/7 job you can't call out sick from.
It's the best thing in the world, really. Pure and simple.
We are so lucky to experience it. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mom of the Month - April Rogness!

April is such an inspiring momma! This was definitely one of my favorite Mom of the Months! She was nominated by at least a couple of people for this, so congrats, April! All moms are strong, but those who do it alone are SUPER STARS in my book. Your beautiful daughter is a testament to all the love you give to her. Hope reading this makes you smile, moms.
1. Describe your child in 3-5 words.
Independent, stubborn, brilliant, hilarious, brave

(All photos are from April Rogness)

(seriously, could there be a cuter baby girl?!)

2. When was your child born and where?
Ava Brielle was born at 9:13 p.m. on November 1, 2011 at Trinity Hospital in Minot, ND.

3. How would you describe your pregnancy?
Surreal. Still can’t believe I actually grew and delivered a human. I had a rough pregnancy from day 1. I was high-risk for the entire 41 (yes, 41) weeks. I had placenta privea and was told I could miscarry up until I was 21 weeks. That was the most stressful 21 weeks of my life.

My daughter was born via C-section, and the recovery from that was a nightmare. Not only did I have a C-section, but a month later they had to remove my gall bladder (it was 3 times its normal size), and I had a hematoma removed as well. I spent the first few months of Ava’s life in and out of the hospital. Despite all of that I feel that my daughter is a miracle. 

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words.
Unconventional, doting, strict, goofy, forever changed

5. What type of mom do you hope your child thinks you were someday when she's old enough to tell you?
I want Ava to be proud of me and see me as a strong woman. To know that I loved her and did my best to give her the best life possible. I want her to see it is possible to find a balance in life. I am now a single mom, so it is so important to me she understands that I would sacrifice everything for her happiness. That I was supportive of whatever she chooses to do in life, and that my love for her is truly unconditional.

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?
Well, this is tough for me because every day I feel like I could do something better. I know I’m really hard on myself because I’m a single mom and I want to “get it right.” I’ve figured out that this is completely irrational! I’m really proud when people tell me how great Ava is, especially when it comes to how she behaves. I am doing my best to juggle working and being a single mom. Learning as I go.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
Being a single mom. Lol. All the worry and stress is doubled. However, with that being said, I get to give out double the love and that definitely comes easy for me with my daughter. I definitely worry if she’ll grow up any different being in a single parent household. I want the best for my kid, so I often feel like I over compensate. Finding a balance is a challenge.

8. What is your favorite baby product(s) that makes your mom job easier?
Ava loves being outside so her wagon and Little Tikes car have been life savers! She plays in them for hours! She also loves her Baby Einstein books.

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother?
Chill out and take time to enjoy your children! I openly admit I am really rigid about a lot of things, especially when it comes to having a plan or a schedule. I’m slowly learning to relax and go with the flow. I will also say that you can never hug or kiss your children enough. I have a very limited amount of hours with Ava at night, so I smother her as much as possible. Life is way too short and I really don’t care if she likes it or not!

10. What is a typical day like for you?
Wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, take a shower, get ready for work, wake Ava up, give her breakfast, get her dressed, off to daycare, me to work, get off work, pick Ava up from daycare, get home, make dinner, feed us both, nightly bath, play, read books, back to bed for Ava, get  everything ready for the next day, me off to bed!

Because she's a single mother, I asked April a few extra questions this month, thinking so many could learn from her experience.

What helps you get by as a single mom?
Many things! A solid routine, a budget, strong spiritual faith, a positive attitude, time management, and the support of friends and family. I have leaned on my family A LOT, and a few close friends to help get me through some really rough times. Since I work full-time, I HAVE to have a solid routine during the week. This keeps my daughter and I balanced. I also made a vow to myself that once I month I would get a babysitter and do something for myself. Either go out with friends, take a painting class, yoga, etc. I also got back into my favorite activity: running. It helps me mellow out and relieves stress.

I also love our Mommy Stories mom’s group. I have learned a lot from different postings and responses. Frankly, knowing that my daughter is growing up and looking at me as a role model encourages and inspires me to keep going. 

2. What has being a single mom taught you about how strong you are?
It has taught me to be resilient. On those days I don’t think I can, I’ve learned I actually CAN. I’ve been through a lot in my life, especially having deployed twice to the Middle East when I was in the military. That was tough and taught me to live with the basics. However, being a mom is definitely the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had. It has tested me in every way possible. Giving up is not an option. I can’t (not) get up in the morning. I can’t (not) go to work. I can’t (not) take care of my daughter. I just accept my situation for what it is. I will do anything to give my daughter the best life possible, and will sacrifice what I need to sacrifice to do so. 

3. What advice would you give to a newly single mother about managing on her own?
If support is offered, TAKE IT! For a while I feel like I wanted to prove I could do it all on my own. I really think keeping positive and having a routine (like I mentioned above) is really important. When I moved to MA from North Dakota, I felt lonely and out of place.  
I think it’s easy to judge our situation, but the reality is, many of us are not single parents by choice. I did not foresee raising my daughter on my own. Once I got over people judging me, I felt a huge relief. 
There are many positives to being a single parent. My daughter knows what I say goes. She doesn’t live in a household where conflict exists. She receives double the love and attention. I feel like her and I have this really cool and special bond because we are a team, and it’s just the two of us. She’s all I really have at the end of the day and I cherish it.

The biggest thing is to stay positive and don’t feel like you have to be supermom. Accept your situation for what it is and do the best you can. It is important to get involved in play groups, church groups, or just try new activities. I enrolled my daughter in gymnastics, and we always find fun things to do together on the weekends. Usually it is just her and I hanging out since I still don’t have a lot of mom friends in the area, but just getting out of the house helps tremendously!

4. What can mom friends do or say to support or encourage single moms like you?
Being nominated for Mom of the Month is incredibly flattering! The friends I do have do not judge my situation and lift me up when I’m feeling down. Every day isn’t sunshine and butterflies, and most of the time I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. My mom friends (and family) have given me great advice and tips when I run into a situation with my daughter I’m not sure how to handle. Sometimes it is encouraging to hear them say they are going through the same things I am, even if they have a significant other. Good to know I’m not alone.