My husband and I had an interesting experience on Saturday. We live in the middle of nowhere, so when we have to go to town for whatever reason we try to make a day of it. We had errands to run so we took the kids to the park and out to lunch. Nothing fancy, just a delectable feast at Taco Time. I dare anyone to try and pretend like they don't like cinnamon crustos. If you don't like them, it's because you've never tried them . . . or maybe you had a cold when you did and the flavor was off. Whatever your excuse, there is no room for it here, so please just keep THAT opinion to yourself (if you've allowed that type of meanness to exist in your heart).
Anyway, we're used to people staring at us. We have four kids, so we tend to get a few looks. This is especially true when one of our children causes a scene, obviously. However, nothing really prepared us for this experience. We were completely thrown off.
My kids were well-behaved the entire time. Don't gasp, it happens on occasion. No one yelled out that they needed to poop. There were no shoves or kicks or screams inspired by the invasion of personal space. Nobody spilled their soda or knocked the tray off the table. Everyone was polite and conversational and politely ate their food. The worst thing that happened was my 11-month old dropped a few pieces of her quesadilla and tater tots on the floor. No biggie . . . we picked it up like we always do.
And this is what we couldn't figure out. We were getting looks of disgust and fielding the kind of staring where even when you make eye contact they don't look away. My husband began to feel a little bit self-conscious first (probably because he's not used to getting stared at 24/7 like I am . . . one of the mom perks). Then I started to get uncomfortable. I started to wonder if one of my kids was picking their nose or something when I wasn't looking. It didn't stop. This carried on until we left. At least 30 minutes of being gawked at and glared at by multiple people.
We talked about it once we were in the car. Let's be honest, our initial reaction was a big "What the heck!?" We weren't even putting on a side show. Going off of what one of the biggest offenders loudly exclaimed to no one in particular, we figured it was number shock.
She was there with a baby of her own but announced that she had "one more kid, but he's like seven years older than this one."
Ummm, okay, so the problem here is not only that we have four children, but that all of them are under the age of eight? I started wondering how our family planning was anyone's business. Okay, and I also snickered because I have seven siblings and the thought that the existence of four young children in one family was shocking to anyone was a little bit amusing.
I've given this a lot of thought since then. I thought about my post about women and how we should be supporting other mothers no matter what they choose or do or don't do. I've realized there is a flip-side to this.
Not only should we be nonjudgmental towards others, but we should be treating ourselves just as kindly. We shouldn't be feeling uncomfortable about the fact that we chose to have four children and the baby of the family dropped a few pieces of food on the floor. Face it, we are not in a position to control the thoughts and opinions of other people. We can't insist that others around us extend to us the same amount of respect and decency that we show towards them.
So, what I'm suggesting is that we own our choices. Embrace them and wear them like a badge of honor. There is no room for self-consciousness in parenting. None.
I know exactly how much time I spend on my knees conversing with a loving Heavenly Father for help and guidance as I raise my sweet babies. I know how much thought I put into our methods of discipline and our activities. I know exactly how much I worry about their choices, their schooling, their health, and their development. And I know exactly how much God cares about our success in our home.
I realize many of you don't share my faith and that's okay. Your methods and the way that you go about making decisions regarding your children and families are not my business. But that's my point. It's not anyone else's business either. You know. You put in the time. Nobody needs, or is even deserving, of an explanation from you. You don't need to feel belittled or shamed or made to question what you've chosen to do.
The only solution to this is a good, healthy embrace of all that we personally are and all that we've chosen. Think about the word 'embrace' for a minute. There are several implications, one being an outward expression of love and another being an adoption or acceptance of an idea or situation. The irony here is that regardless of which sense of the word you choose, it works. Think about hugging and loving on your children and your decisions as a mother. Or think about an overall acceptance of your current situation and your ideas. Either way you're envisioning what I mean. Embrace your womanhood and your motherhood. Embrace your life!
All I can share with you is what this means for me. I can't jump into your shoes and tell you all that you should do to make yourself feel better. I can only tell you what I'm going to do. Because the truth is, I love my life and I love the family I've chosen. I deserve to feel that satisfaction instead of questioning and self-doubt. And I'm going to make sure that I do feel it. Every single day.
So, what's the first thing I'm going to do, you say? Embrace the bald. I have lost about two-thirds of my hair during the process of bearing and nursing my four children. It's kind of a fluke deal and sometimes I question whether or not there's something else going on there. Yes, I know I should go to the doctor and get checked out. Just like I know I should use the treadmill that I stare at every time I'm doing the dishes. I just haven't done it. So I've resolved to do it. But whether or not anything is found to be "fixable," I'm embracing this situation.
The whole thing bothers me probably more than I even realize. Not to the extent that I've become a recluse or anything, but I wear a baseball cap almost every day. I just found it to be easier than trying to strategically place the thinning hair on top of my head to cover up my bald spots. Plus, for whatever reason, I constantly felt the need to explain it to other people . . . especially if I saw that they noticed I was thin on top. I don't need to explain myself. Okay, a ton of my hair has fallen out. Whatever. At least I still have hair. And that hair fell out because of my sweet babies, so . . . I'd say it was a trade-off I would make again if I had the opportunity to choose. I just need to embrace it. Forget the baseball caps. Do my best to look presentable and then confidently deal with whatever staring, whether real or imagined. I'm going to own this battle scar. I'm going to own all of my battle scars. Yep, the jeans don't fit like they used to. Yep, I have stretch marks to rival anyone. Oh well.
Secondly, I'm going to embrace all of my decisions . . . whether quirky or stupid or unhealthy. I don't know why, as women, we feel the collective need to worry about what everyone else thinks of what we're doing. Yep, guess what, I am the mom who sprinkles sugar on her grapefruit. I like it that way. Look on the bright side . . . at least I'm eating grapefruit. It could have been a doughnut. Sometimes I also let my kids eat a cookie after breakfast before getting on the school bus. Who cares. They have to be on that bus for at least 40 minutes . . . I'm sure the sugar will wear off by the time they get to school. I'm the parent who will NOT buy any video game console for my children. No, I don't think there's anything wrong with you because you did, it just doesn't work for us. I don't owe you an explanation any more than you owe me one.
My point is, I'm owning every single little decision that I make. I'm going to quit explaining myself. I'm going to quit dancing around the issue when somebody asks me about it because it makes me feel "uncomfortable." I'm embracing who I am as a mother and who we are as a family. We like ourselves. We like how things go in this house. We're going to start acting like it. All the time.
Lastly . . . and this one's tricky . . . I'm going to embrace that I am a mother. Let me explain. I love that I'm a mother. I'm completely happy with that decision. I'm satisfied with my choice to be a stay-at-home-mom as well. Where I get hung up on occasion is with the fact that other people aren't satisfied with that decision. It's kind of silly when I say it out loud. Okay, so the world is telling me that being a mom isn't enough. It's a waste of my talents, I could have had a successful career, and blah, blah, blah. I don't care. Deep down I really don't. So why do I let it bother me. Why I do let someone else's ignorance define my role?
You see where I'm going with this, right? As much as we need to respect the valiant efforts of other women, we need to respect our own as well. I know my effort is valiant. I know I give my all. I am happy with what I chose and what I do. I'm completely content with where and how my talents are being used. Today I'm choosing to be happy with my imperfections and my mistakes and with what other people see as my imperfections and mistakes.
I am owning my life. I am embracing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. All of it exists and all of it's worthwhile to pass through. So the next time another's lack of decency and respect leaves you feeling like you should be hiding in a corner, just remember to own it. Give your life a hug. Beam with pride. They don't sit where you sit and they can't see what you see. You can. Embrace it.