I was the perfect wife and mother…until I got married and had kids!
If you read my original post, My Unexpected Journey, you’ll see that I had big plans about how life would go. I also had plans about my plans and back up plans for all these plans. Every eventuality was covered.
It must be understood that these plans hinged on the fact that my children would be perfect angels…because I would be the perfect mother. This I failed to have a back up plan for, since there was just no scenario I could dream up that would include normal kids.
Eight years into marriage and six and a half of those being a mother tell a different story. It must be understood that much of my current state of being is hinged on the fact that I’m tired!
By the time my first baby started sleeping through the night, I was one month away from baby number two so my nights were constantly being interrupted by third trimester pregnancy stuff. By the time he started sleeping through the night I was well on my way to baby number three. Baby number three has only recently started sleeping through the night – just in time for number two to have not infrequent interruptions to his sleep.
I’m not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me, just making excuses, stating a fact.
So here’s how my standards for perfection have taken an unexpected twist.
Fifteen Minutes per Week
That’s how long my house is clean to the standard that I’d allow my mom in with her white gloves. In a previous post, Meaningful Minimalism, I mentioned that I have one day set aside for full house cleaning. I find that on a good week I have roughly a 15 minute window to survey all I see and be impressed with myself.
The ever so important lesson I have learned in this is that for the other 10065 minutes that my house is, uh, less than stellar, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean that I like the way it looks most days – but that I have come to understand that a messy house doesn’t make me a bad person.
2. Quiet Time – It’s not just for babies anymore
I am an introvert. I need time by myself to recharge. This is not easily accomplished with a husband, 3 children and a part-time job. Did I mention that I home school? So said children are never “off at school”.
My older 2 children get some quiet time in the afternoon while the youngest naps. This is also my quiet time. I either read, watch a “mommy show” on Netflix or call/message friends – guilt free of any household task. I have learned that my oldest also benefits from this time on her own and it makes for a much smoother afternoon for all of us.
So many of my organizational ideas have come from Pinterest! Crafts or activities for the kids, home school ideas, recipes and “Life Hacks” that I use originate here as well.
4. Kids are washable
This is a lesson that my husband has had to teach me, and continues to remind me of. I don’t need to hover over the children constantly to keep them in pristine condition. The grime they get on themselves will come off. Although, my youngest is learning that the grease from daddy’s tractor often takes a harder scrubbing or an extra day or two!
5. I don’t reinvent the wheel
Many wives and mothers have gone before me and I love to glean from their knowledge and experience!
I adore mentorship and make a point to partake of these types of relationships whenever possible. I have had official mentors in my life – the kind where I ask her if she is willing to take on a project as complex as me, and I have had relationships with women who I just learn from.
I listen to their stories with intent of learning and applying wisdom to my own situation and admire them for being real with me.
As I struggled to potty train my son, I would think back to a story I was told roughly 15 years ago by a mother who had struggled in a similar way with one of her sons.
As I delve into year 2 of homeschooling, I seek out every homeschooling mother I know (or simply know of) to pepper with questions. The list could go on and on.
The mentoring relationship isn’t always advice based, however. There are women whom I trust that I learn all types of life lessons from. A dear friend and I were having coffee awhile ago and I took the opportunity to invite her to speak into my life. To offer loving correction when she sees me mess up and to tough love me when I may be feeling a little sorry for myself.
If you have never thought of being mentored, I urge you to consider it! Find someone who you respect, have similar values to and are able to spend time with on a somewhat regular basis. Then be really brave and tell this person that they are allowed to point you in the right direction when your compass may be a little off. I can promise you that you will be better for it! And perhaps someday you can be that person to someone else.
So offering myself grace has made a world of difference to my whole family. When mama’s relaxed, the whole family is relaxed! Of course there are times when things just need to get done and fun has to fall by the wayside, but my goal is to make those times the exception rather than the rule.
I have never been one of those people who thrive on pressure or do their best work on a deadline. If you are one of those people – I admire you, but I don’t understand you. Not even a little bit.
Sure, a deadline can cause me to get things done because they have to be, but I can assure you that it won’t be my best work. I can also assure you that you don’t want to be around me during, or for a while following a time crunch. I get snappy and grumpy and more than a little yelly (it’s a word in my mom vocabulary). Even I don’t want to be around me then.
Just over 3 years ago, my oldest daughter caused me to take a good hard look at myself under pressure and how I affected those around me.
I have a bit of a side business during the Christmas Season where I bake and sell goodies. At this point I had not yet learned how to schedule orders properly and often committed to more orders per day than I should have.
This particular day I was extra snappy, grumpy and yelly and my then 3 year old just wanted my attention. I snapped at her far too harshly. She turned on her heels and headed straight for our bathroom. What I heard out of her mouth next was not only adorable, but wonderfully humbling.
“Jesus,” she began, “I’m getting really frustrated with mom. I need some help here!”
She walked directly toward me with a confidence and purpose that I was unaware a 3 year old could possess.
“Mom, we need to pray. Now!”
And we did. And I repented to my Saviour and then to my daughter. Both forgave me instantly and I knew that something needed to change.
I would love to tell you that I woke up the next morning a new woman and from that moment on my life was chaos free…nope. It has been slow. It has backslidden more than once. It is still a work in progress, but progress none the less. One step at a time. No quick fixes or one size fits all solutions.
Here is how it started for me:
Trimming the Excess
The summer following the above mentioned episode my husband and I sat down and took a good hard look at our finances and realized how we were being nickeled and dimed into living paycheque to paycheque. We looked at all the subscriptions we had and how little we really read any of them.
It was fun to get the latest issue of a magazine in the mail or the newspaper delivered daily, but we weren’t getting our money’s worth out of them. We would mindlessly flip through and read less than 10% of the actual publication. We cut out all but one and that one has become one of my husband’s birthday gifts since the renewal time coincides with his birthday.
My husband quit smoking. I don’t need to explain ALL the benefits of that one! I had quit previously when we decided to start a family.
We also took a look at how much he was spending almost daily at the local convenience store. $2 this day and $5 the next was adding up to $300/month! He started taking water with him to work in a giant thermos and cutting back on the other impulse items.
We cut down our cell packages. Huge savings there and we still had all the minutes that we needed.
The most difficult cut for us was our satellite TV. We had so many excuses but eventually came to the conclusion that BECAUSE it was so hard for us to give up was precisely why we needed to. TV had far too tight a grip on us.
We signed up for Netflix and after a bit of an adjustment period, I can honestly say we don’t miss having the dish. We certainly don’t miss commercials!
With this step done, we were saving hundreds of dollars each month. The benefit was not only monetary, but this relieved a great financial strain which relieved an emotional strain between us.
Guarding Our Schedule
A few years ago I had a couple of girlfriends over for coffee and they looked at the calendar on my fridge and commented how nice it must be to have so much free time. It is not by accident or laziness that our calendar stays clearer than most people’s with young children. We work hard to keep it that way.
There are so many reasons to guard your time, and your reasons will not mirror mine. My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in Christian homes and it is of utmost importance for our children to have the same blessing. God comes first in our house!
That doesn’t mean that we spend every waking minute in bible study and prayer and live perfectly wholesome lives. Not even close. However, Sunday morning worship service is ALWAYS part of our schedule. We only miss church if we are out of town or very, very sick. Going to church doesn’t make us Super Christians, but it recharges us, teaches us, connects us to God and to others. My heart always grieves when I hear of families who have decided to trade church time for family time.
“Sunday morning is our only time to just relax and be together” is a common phrase.
I’ll tell you something – those two things are meant to go hand in hand! Relax together in God’s presence.
We also don’t over schedule our children.
Our oldest 2 attend BG Club twice yearly for 10 weeks at a time and we as parents love it and our children love it. If it conflicts with other activities, the other activities lose. Our oldest also does soccer in the spring. Our son tried it last year and did not have a good experience so he opted out this year.
I know my big girl would love dance, but it is more of a financial and time commitment than my husband and I are willing to give and she is just fine with that. We don’t feel like our children will lose out on their childhood if they don’t have EVERY experience available to them. Our belief is that they will gain more by having parents who are present and happy than they would by being rushed to and fro and having parents who are financially and emotionally drained.
I also have one day a week that I do my house cleaning. Of course I clean every day, but the dusting, floor washing, nooks and crannies cleaning happens every Thursday. My close friends know that if they show up unannounced they will see me in my cleaning dungarees with hair poorly pulled back and my kids probably still in pyjamas. They have been warned.
Again, I don’t like chaos and this ritual helps me conquer that.
A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place…Even Papers
Oh vile paperwork. My nemesis!
Bills that have been paid, but need to be filed. An expense claim sent in to our insurance provider, awaiting payment. Home school marking/corrections.
Papers are so thin, but can create such an overwhelming presence in my home. It was so easy to just close the door.
A few months ago, I saw this thing on Pinterest. I tweaked it slightly but I now have a small hanging file box with folders for each day of the month and each month of the year. If the water bill needs to be paid on the 10th, it goes into the file dated the 10th. If I’m waiting for my expense cheque to come back I will file a note for the expected day to follow up if I haven’t received it yet.
Our mortgage renewal comes due in August so I have a note in the August folder to deal with that.
I go through the folder of the appropriate day and deal only with what is in there. When a new month starts I open that month’s folder and file everything according to the day it requires attention and start all over.
I also use this for my daughter’s lessons. She is in Kindergarten right now so it works. I know I will need something more complex as the years go on, but that’s a job for Future Wendy!
This is working and takes up minimal space!
I don’t mind cooking, but I have great difficulty coming up with ideas of what to make each day (I call my mother often and apologize for groaning at whatever she made for supper). This usually leads to procrastination which leads to either convenience foods or a quick trip to the grocery store. Impromptu trips to the store also usually lead to unplanned and unnecessary spending. Ugh.
I have admired the meal planners out there for a while now but was intimidated by the idea of it. I had tried before and failed, often because when I looked at what I had planned for the day I didn’t feel like making that. So I wouldn’t.
Four weeks ago I finally committed to not only planning our meals, but also STICKING WITH THE PLAN!
Guess what? I am loving it.
I do NOT post on a fancy chalkboard or other Pinterest inspired piece of art what the meal plan is. That only invites “helpful” suggestions from my family which leads to frustration (see: grumpy, yelly). Nope, she who cooks, plans.
I also do NOT let my feelings take me off course. If meatloaf is on the list, meatloaf shall be on the table even if I’m in the mood for chicken.
One weekend I didn’t get around to planning and for three days I was back into frustration and lack of ideas. I sat down and planned out the remainder of the week and the pressure just melted away.
Another beautiful benefit is that, because I plan with great intentions and before the weariness of the week gets to me, I plan healthier meals. Because I stick to the plan, we eat healthier meals.
Wants vs. Needs
Marketers are just so talented and blurring those lines for us, aren’t they? And I find so many of their lines easy to swallow.
Just recently I was flipping through the Home Hardware flyer and saw a remarkable machine that combines and 12 cup coffee maker with a single cup brewing system that uses K cups.
Gasp. Where has this been my whole life? I. Need. This.
Why do I need this? Because it would take up 2 less inches on my counter than my existing 12 cup coffee maker and Keurig….that I already own. Hmmmm. I want to pay $80 for a machine that replaces 2 machines that I already own. Both of which are in perfect working condition.
But I could sell the other 2 machines for probably $30 so then the new one would really only cost me $50. Well, realistically I’d probably be better off to just put the other 2 in the camper….
Seriously. These thoughts went through my head. More than once!
This mindset shift is a tough one for me. I could come up with so many excuses why my want is justified, or why the purchase is really a need. The truth of the matter is that I just need to think things through more, and take more things to God in prayer. You may think that praying about buying a coffee maker is silly, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. Shopping included.
Saying yes to this purchase would have meant a no to something else either now or further down the line. That something else could be anything from extra grocery money, to clothes for the kids, curriculum or even just extra padding in the savings account.
That is the question I ask myself now before purchases (most times). If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to later?
It’s taken me 3 years to implement these changes and none of them happened simultaneously. Each was a step at a time with enough time between to get used to the changes and let them become our new normal. There are more changes coming, but not until we’re ready for them.
How do you keep life simple? I’d love to hear what has worked for you!
Remember when you were in grade 12 and everyone was giving you advice on what to do with the rest of your life? What school to go to, what career to pursue and so on?
Or when you were dating and people who cared about you tried to advise you on who to go out with and who not to? How to behave on your first date or when you meet his or her parents?
Then you eventually settled down, got engaged and started planning the wedding. “Oh, not those flowers! Great Aunt Ida is allergic and even though she probably won’t attend she might and we’d hate to give her an attack!”
“In my day, we didn’t register for such extravagant gifts.”
“You’re choosing that song to walk down the aisle to? Are you too good
for The Wedding March?”
Then you weren’t even out of the reception before everyone starting telling you how to be successful in marriage and when babies should come.
And then the babies start coming…and the advice flows freely once again.
“Don’t eat that when you’re pregnant.”
“Just rub a little whiskey on baby’s gums to soothe the teething pain. Helps baby sleep too”
I’ve heard it all, and so have you. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve probably even dished out some of this one of a kind, well-meaning advice. If I’ve ever been this “generous” with you, I’m sorry! To my nephew who graduates this year, I’m extra sorry because I know that while telling him to ignore everyone and figure out what he wants for himself, I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown some of my own wisdom (and I use the term loosely) into our conversations.
Most of the time, these “pearls” are annoying. In certain moments they can be downright maddening. However, I truly believe that in most instances, they are given with the very best of intentions.
My first baby was a petite little thing. After 5 days of struggling, both she and I got the whole nursing thing figured out. She continued to grow and develop, but not fast enough for some people’s liking. I was told often to put her on formula because she was starving to death. She had regular checkups with the Doctor and Public Health Nurse, both of whom assured me that she was right on track. I continued with what I thought was best and she is a thriving 6 year old.
My second baby took to nursing immediately, but wasn’t gaining weight. At 6 weeks he was below birthweight so the Doctor and I both thought it best to put him on formula. He began to grow and thrive and I felt confident with my decision.
Would you believe that the very same people who told me that my daughter was starving and should be on the bottle told me that my son was being cheated out of the benefits of breastmilk and if I was any kind of mother I would be nursing him?!
I’ve always been a heavy girl. I’ve had more “helpful” advice on that subject alone than one blog can handle! “Do you really need that?” can be one of the most destructive phrases to utter to someone who already struggles in this. You want to know how I feel when someone says that to me? It does NOT make me want to put down the piece of cake and hop on the treadmill; it makes me want to eat all the remaining pieces of cake…with ice cream.
When people first heard that I had met this guy online, I was cautioned continuously that he was probably a serial killer. I assured everyone that I was being smart about it and wasn’t meeting him in the middle of the night at an abandoned warehouse.
Not everybody agrees with the way my husband and I live our life. Certain people have made that very clear!
One family member has suggested more than once that my husband work up north for weeks at a time to make more money. We have discussed this and decided that our time together as a family is more valuable to us than a bigger paycheque. I have friends whose husbands work away for stretches and that works for them. They have made the best choice for their family.
Then we told a few people that we were trying for baby #3. “You’re crazy! Three is the hardest number of kids to handle.”
“You already have a boy and a girl, why mess with the perfect family?”
“You’re going to homeschool???? Aren’t you worried about socialization?”
“Homeschooling will make your kids resent you! I could never do it.”
“Maybe if you were a little harder on your kids….”
“Maybe if you weren’t so hard on your kids…”
You’ve heard all the lines, you’ve probably even uttered one of two of them. You’re just trying to help. I know that and that’s why I can usually just force a smile, say thank you, and pay my kids to cry make an excuse to leave quickly.
I mentioned in a previous post, that we started seeing the signs of Autism in our son from the beginning. Others saw it too and tried to point them out to us. This is where the “help” can be especially hurtful.
Coming to terms with the fact that your child may not be “typical” is one of the hardest things a parent can do. It has nothing to do with loving your child less, or being ashamed of them. It has everything to do with knowing how difficult life will be for someone so innocent and fragile. It has everything to do with your fear that you are not going to be enough as a parent to give this child everything he or she needs to have the best life possible.
Can I offer some well-meaning advice to you (the irony is delicious)?
If you know someone in this situation, please don’t point out the “obvious signs”. We see them, we know. We are kept awake at night worrying about our child’s future. What we need to hear is that our child is cute, and perfect (because every person is a miracle!) and that you love them.
When that diagnosis comes, an “I told you so” or “I always wondered” can be downright harmful.
“Okay. He’s so lucky to have you guys as parents.”
“How is everybody doing with this information?”
“I love you all.”
Those are the things we need to hear.
We’ve already read every study. We’ve already looked into the latest miracle treatment. Yes, we’d love for you to babysit once in a while so we can get a break. No, you don’t need to try to “fix” him while you babysit.
I know you mean well. I know that you have never intended for your words to wound. I know that I would be heartbroken to find out that my “help” was hurtful to someone I care about. So, I resolve to watch my words. Better yet, to have significantly less words in most circumstances. I promise to do my best to ask you what you need instead of telling you.
I’m not going to be perfect at this, but please forgive me. You know that I mean well!
I’d love to hear some of your favourite pieces of advice; either given or received! Please leave a comment, and remember to keep it respectful.
As far as my husband is concerned, this phrase ranks right up there with, “We need to talk.” or “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”!
Most husbands would just roll their eyes, maybe groan a little wondering what food they’ll be eating out of a mason jar for the next week. My husband, however, would LOVE IT if that was his biggest inconvenience.
Unfortunately for him, he knows that my latest idea will be HIS newest project. I have some talents; baking, writing, quoting movie/TV lines to fit anywhere in a conversation, and I tell some of the driest and lamest jokes around (yes, I am proud of that one)! Working with my hands? Other than the baking and writing… “not so much” Mad About You (see what I did there?).
So because God didn’t gift me with a talent for building or crafts or any of that stuff, He gifted me with my husband. I can SEE the project in my head. I can carefully plan out the steps. I can get all the supplies together and watch tutorial after tutorial…but my hands just can’t do it! Hubby, on the other hand, not only has the talent to build whatever I want, but to translate the vaguest and most poorly thought out concept from my head into an actual THING that looks like the thing it’s supposed to be!
He amazes me time and time again. Not only that he can MAKE what I kinda sorta think I want, but that he can make it better than I even conceptualized it! Not to mention that he actually has the patience to do the harebrained projects that I come up with in the first place!
Two years ago, I asked for some shelving in the basement storage area. I got a full U-Shaped storage area with shelves built specific to the storage containers I have so that nothing has to be stacked on top of anything else, right up to the ceiling. It also included a bar to hang out of season coats for the next time we need them so if winter hit sooner than expected, I wouldn’t have to tear apart the basement hurriedly looking for jackets and ski pants for the kids.
Shortly after that, I asked for a basic stand to put my front load washer and dryer on (I’m way too cheap to pay retail prices for those!) so that the kids would quit pressing the buttons and washing or drying nothing. I got fantastic, strong, steel frames that custom fit my set, had rubber feet so as not to damage my floor, and space to store my laundry baskets on those rare occasions that all the laundry got put away.
Now, there are some Pinterest ideas that I have successfully completed. My life/bills/home school filing system, marshmallow and Fruit Loops rainbow snacks for playschool, many of our suppers originated with a Pinterest search. Those things I can do, but I still wouldn’t
have had the ideas on my own.
I also have friends who are crazy talented, including the one who made my family this amazing growth chart this summer. It is admired (and often coveted) by everyone who comes into this house. It not only charts the growth of my children, but
distracts guests from the, uh, lived-in look that is my house most days.
I have a sister who can create the most beautiful art with the photographs she takes. She also has the ability to host amazing events and make her guests all feel special and unique and loved.
My other sister is able to really peer into peoples’ circumstances and see their needs. Then she is the type to “do the work” to meet those needs for people with no thought of the cost to herself. Need a driveway shoveled but feeling under the weather? She has it done before you even think to ask. She also has the gift of being able to talk me down in my more anxious moments, or cheer my up in my depressed moments. No easy task!
My mom bakes and knits amazing things; my dad is the baby whisperer (he has soothed more fussy babies than I can count, including my own).
My oldest daughter can take ANYTHING from around the house and create some type of craft or instrument out of it. I could go on and on and on about the talented people that I know, and I’m sure that you could too. I just love the variety that God has placed in us!
Just like God enabled my husband to be talented where I am not, and vice versa, He brings others into our lives to walk along side of us and help us do what we can’t do on our own. Sometimes that means that our friend creates something beautiful for our home. Maybe a family member helps us develop a talent so that we can not only do things on our own, but also bless others with our talents. We are not created to go through life relying only on ourselves.
Neither are we created to rely solely on others. God wants us to depend on Him! Other people can fill some of our needs some of the time, but only God can “complete” us. People will let us down, whether intentionally or not, but God won’t. He can’t. It’s not who He is.
Our talents and abilities come from God. We are to use them for His glory. To help or encourage those whom he has placed in our lives. To help others see and develop the talents He has placed within them.
And don’t think for one second that you only get one set of abilities and that’s it. Ask anyone who’s known my for the last 15ish years and they have heard me say that teaching is absolutely the worst possible thing I could be asked to do. I loathed it, I was terrible at it and the students suffered. Whether it was Sunday School or anything – it was not a good idea to put me in that job.
Three years ago my daughter started BG Club and I signed on as a helper in her class – crowd control for preschoolers, I can handle that! In the third or fourth week, the teacher had to step down because of a change in her work schedule and I was thrust into the position. I begrudgingly (oh so begrudgingly) endured it for the next three sessions. I took one session off because I had a newborn and thought that was it. I was free!
“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in” (you knew that was coming!). But something happened. God changed my heart and gave me a love for these kids and this club and suddenly I was able to teach and teach well.
If He can make me love and be good at something I had detested most of my life, he can develop talents in anybody!
Now I continue to teach BG Club and home school my daughter.
What are your talents? What talents do you want God to develop in you? Who has he placed in your life with abilities to complement yours? More importantly, whose life has he placed you in? And how can you be a blessing to them?
It was a typical school assignment for a typical class. It went something like this:
Dear future me,
Hi, how are you? I know you’re good because you have it all figured out. You’ll be 26 years old when you get this. You’ll be married and have 2 or 3 kids by now. You’ll be a stay-at-home mom, but have your accounting degree. Your husband will be awesome. Probably athletic.
It went on like this for probably a good full page or 2. I don’t remember exactly because the teacher who vowed to send us our letters in 10 years never did. My 20th high school reunion is coming up this year…I’m not holding my breath.
This was the life I expected. The life I planned. I saw absolutely NO reason this wouldn’t come to pass.
Where did all MY plans get me? Well, for the record, I aced all of my high school accounting courses! I enrolled in a local-ish college Business Administration program with a major in Accounting. After year 1, the major switched to Marketing (I loved and excelled in these classes). I always was a creative type and although the basic bookkeeping end of accounting was fun, I needed to let my creative juices flow freely.
Fast forward through a few years selling insurance, then being an office manager/bookkeeper (see, I did get to use some of my education) for 4 years. Still no sporty husband, still no 2 or 3 kids.
The year I was 25, I had it all (less the hubby and kids). I really did enjoy my job, and I was good at it. I had a great group of friends, owned my own place (roommate free!) and lived in the same town as all my immediate family. I was happy.
Then, God starting doing something in me. It was time to move on. Now I have never been afraid of change – if anything, I crave it – but why would I want to give up a perfectly comfortable life?
Over the next year, the feeling got stronger and stronger but God just kept telling me, “Not yet”. Then, in September of 2004, within a 2 week span I had a new job, trained my replacement at the old job, sold my home and secured an apartment in a new town.
Three years went by there. Career wise, things were good. Promotions, travel for work, a dear friend nearby. Still no husband or kids. The memory of that letter haunted me from time to time. Most of my friends were married, and had or were having kids. I had nieces and nephews that I loved dearly but I longed for my own family.
Late 2006 I did that thing I was never going to do; I set up an EHarmony profile. It took some time, but eventually I connected with this farm boy (who would rather play with a tractor than a hockey stick) from a tiny Prairie town. We talked, we met, we dated and in 2008 we married. I was 30 years old by now. Things were a little behind schedule, but coming along nicely.
Two years later we welcomed our first child. A sweet baby girl who filled me with so much love at times, and so much frustration at others. She was borderline colicky and my husband worked at a job that only allowed him to be home on weekends. At this point I was 1500KM away from my family and didn’t really know anyone well enough to reach out to here.
My Princess grew and learned…and talked and talked and talked. By 11 months she was saying short sentences and being an all around genius (at least in my eyes).
Sixteen months after becoming a mommy for the first time, we did it again. A boy this time. Other than some feeding issues early on, he was one of the most laid back little kids I’d ever seen. The exception was hunger. I’m good, I’m good, I’m hungry NOW!!!
My little champ couldn’t really care less about playing peek-a-boo, or reading countless stories like his sister. Just keep him fed and dry, let him watch the front load washer do a load or two and life was good. He was a much earlier walker than his sister, but not so much with the talking.
We thought we were done. We sold most of the baby gear and I tried to convince my heart that I was okay with these two dears. Hubby got a job with a much, MUCH better schedule, benefits and better pay. No more being sent out. No more being the married single mom anymore.
Through the early years, we had our issues. Big issues. With God’s help and a handful of close, trusted and Godly friends, we overcame these issues and in January of 2013 decided we wanted just one more baby. This time it didn’t happen as easily as the first two. While trying no to worry about not concieving, I was also trying to deny the signs I was seeing in my son. He was two years old and still not overly concerned with talking or interacting. He’s just a little behind. He just has his own interests. Who cares if all he wants to do is recite the alphabet and line up his toys over and over.
Around the same time that we started seeing a local Speech Pathologist, I found out I was finally pregnant! The emotions that accompanied me during my pregnancy were heightened as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that it was more than a little delay with my son. We were referred to a center that deals with special needs children in a nearby city and we have put on many miles going back and forth to appointments. Each and every one worthwhile.
Our third child, another girl, was born a little before our son turned 3. The “A” word was getting brought up more and more to me. I pleaded with God on more than one occasion for that not to be his future. Please don’t punish our sweet, innocent boy for things that aren’t his fault.
The birth of our daughter was a blessing, but for me brought a level of postpartum depression and anxiety I was not prepared for. I sought professional counselling, I tried every trick in the book. I called out to God more times than I could count to take this crippling anxiety from me so that I could be the wife and mother my family needed me to be. I fought and fought and that winter was the hardest of my life. My kids were constantly sick. I could barely function and if one more person offered well-meaning but unsolicited advice I was going to snap. At 10 months old, my daughter was still being nursed. Then she got sick…again. I was done. I weaned her and went on anti-anxiety meds. I knew I needed medication but was holding off because I hoped to nurse for a full year. To be clear, this was what I felt was right for me. Other moms who wean sooner or use nursing friendly meds – I applaud you for doing what was right for you!
I started to feel human again, but depression and anxiety weren’t supposed to be part of my journey. I did NOT write those things in The Letter!
Our son was getting older and the “delays” were becoming more and more obvious and six months ago it became official. He is on the Autism Spectrum. My boy is Autistic. My boy is going to have to fight for every little victory in his life. Things that my girls take for granted, having a conversation, telling me that they don’t feel good, or what they want to play (or don’t want to), these are things my little champ is going to have to work at. And work hard! And he does! He’s still my happy little laid back buddy. He’s a mama’s boy which is fine because my husband has two daddies girls!
More about the diagnoses process another time.
Along with the diagnoses came another BIG decision. One that I have wrestled with since my first pregnancy – schooling. I had felt called to home school for a long time, but it’s intimidating, it’s unpopular in most circles. It’s time-consuming. It’s the right thing to do for my family. My boy is smart! Crazy smart. Like most autistic kids, my son possesses certain skills way beyond his peer group and our local school, I feel, does not have a program that will benefit him. I refuse to let my boy fall through cracks! So right around the time Autism became part of our family identity, so did Home schooling. Another detail that was not in The Letter!
And did I mention that I also work part-time. At one point this winter it was four simultaneous part-time jobs. That also wasn’t in The Letter. There was nothing in there about being a family on a budget.
So Future Me and Real Me don’t quite have our stories straight. Remember “You’ll be married and have 2 or 3 kids by now. You’ll be a stay-at-home mom, but have your accounting degree. Your husband will be awesome. Probably athletic.”? Yeah, real life reads more like:
You have 3 kids, one of them is Autistic and will require a level of parenting you never knew you were capable of. Your husband is great, but he’s an imperfect creation just like you (gasp!). Your girls are strong-willed and will challenge you in new ways in everyday. You will not be one of those moms who has coffee with her friends while the kids are in school because you’ll be in school with them. You’ll be working too. Even though good moms don’t do that (I was an idiot back then).
But here’s where God’s plans prove SO much better than mine. His letter to me would read something like this:
You will learn patience because what you want you’ll have to wait for, with no guarantee that you’ll ever get it. What you think you want won’t take you where I want you to be. That husband who isn’t quite who you expected him to be, he’s the best match for you because you two will compliment each other. That son that some people call “disabled”, I gave him abilities that other people could only dream of. And he’s going to give you the ability to become the mom that I made you to be. He’s going to make you patient and compassionate and fierce. Those girls with the determination and stubbornness, those girls who are just. like. you? Teach them to use their determination well. Teach them to use those traits for My glory and not for their own devices. So here’s the part of your Unexpected Journey that I have revealed to you this far. Just wait to see what’s next!