I want to be confident

I’ve had those days where everything goes wrong. You know, the days where you drop the entire dozen eggs on the floor. And then the 2 year old colors all over the kitchen walls with a blue crayon, and the baby is cutting teeth and wants to be held constantly. You are down to your last pair of clean underwear and have cereal for dinner because you forgot to plug in the crock-pot. And then during bath-time your “potty trained” 3 year old poops in the tub and after you drain, clean and re-fill the tub, she poops again in the new bath water!

Yes. I’ve had days like that. But at least after a terrible day, you can go to bed, get up the next day and start over again. That is not the case when you are on vacation. You don’t have your own bed, you have to sleep on the pull out couch, or the old lumpy mattress that’s been banished to the guest room. You can’t even have some comfort food and watch your favorite movie as a pick-me-up before bed, because one of your dear relatives is watching something strange on their TV, and the only food you can find in the pantry is uncooked noodles and dry granola bars.

Vacation is exhausting.

My sister’s wedding a few weeks ago marks the first time we’ve ever attempted an all day public activity with all 3 babies. My hubby was officiating the wedding, and anyone who could have babysat was attending, so I was trying to wrangle all 3 of my kids alone. Let me tell you, attending a wedding alone with 3 kids under the age of 4 is no picnic.

For starters, I had the period from hell. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve bled and cramped that much since my after-birth pains. Thank God for Ibuprofen (and for random people at weddings who actually remember to carry Ibuprofen in their purse and are willing to share it with desperate people like me).

We made it about 2 minutes into the ceremony before people started turning in their seats to look at us. I gave up and lugged all of my exhausted, mommy-time-deprived, missed-their-nap children into the cry room. Between the 3 of them, they had polished off the last of the snacks I had brought along for the trip (including an entire jar of strawberry Gerber puffs that were supposed to be for the baby) so they were hungry too. I realize now that I could have planned the whole thing better, but like I said, I had never tried to do an all day activity, away from home turf, by myself, with all 3 kids in tow, and it had been a long week.

I pushed Ms Drama in the stroller around and around the cry room, Baby girl hung onto my legs and cried because she wanted to nap. Ms. Action pressed her nose against the window and pointed at the bride shouting “Omygosh! Look mom! A princess!” I hoped that the room really was sound proof. And when I opened up my wedding program and realized that the entire center of it had been eaten by my youngest, I wondered for the first time (honestly) why the heck we had ever had children.

After the ceremony, Hubby and I beat a hasty retreat. Hoping that maybe the kids would sleep in the car and we would come out at the reception a whole new family. We stopped to get frappacinos, and things were looking a little bit better. 2 out of the 3 kids napped. I could have used a nap myself, but I was stuck trying to entertain the wired Ms. Drama to keep her from being loud and waking up her sisters.

When we arrived at the reception, starving, hot, and crabby, it felt like we were back to square one. The baby was happy again, but 45 minutes of sleep was not enough for Ms Action, who insisted on being carried, and when Ms Drama saw her sister being carried, she wanted to be carried too. When you see a tired mom sweating through her layered-linen skirt in the 95 degree heat lugging a heavy toddler around on either hip, don’t ask why the kids are crabby.

The reception was lovely after we sprayed ourselves and our kids with bug spray and rolled up the tent wall to get a breeze at our table. I watched the kids while hubby went up to get a big plate of food to share, and then later I went up while he watched the kids. The kids ate some cheese, and spilled their juice on their dresses, but after I changed them into the extra outfits I’d brought things were looking up. I managed to eat, while the girls danced fairly quietly on the corner of the dance floor.

But just when I was getting emotional, watching my sister dance the father-daughter dance that I had never had because of the religious excess in my family at the time, someone gave my kids bubbles. And I’m not talking about the tiny little bottles they give out at weddings, I mean full-size bottles of bubbles. One minute I was wiping away tears watching the speeches and dancing, and then next minute Ms Action was stripping off her soaking wet clothes. I managed to get to her before she went commando, but you get the picture. Both toddlers were stickily covered in bubbles, completely soaking the only extra outfits I had brought along in my overstuffed diaper bag.

Hubby asked me what I wanted to do, and as I stood there sweating, holding Baby girl who was attempting to nurse through my shirt, watching Ms Drama happily pour another bottle of bubbles over her head, trying to think of a coherent explanation to convince Ms Action to leave her wet clothes on, I realized that I had not had a chance to go to the bathroom in over 7 hours.

So when my hubby realized that I was far beyond the point where anything I said was going to make sense, he suggested we leave, and I practically cried from relief. All I wanted was to pee, take a shower and change out of my sweat soaked clothes.

Yes, I felt guilty for leaving early, especially when my Mom was upset that we were packing up. But it was time for us to go. On the drive back to where we would sleep for the night, all I could think about was how I had let everyone down.

 It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you have small children. But many times I add my own pressure by worrying what everyone else will think. This is the hardest for me when we visit family.

This trip in particular made me realize just how much my perspective on life has changed since we moved away from home 18 months ago. I am no longer a Protestant at heart, I think of my children as fellow humans and I’ve changed the way I discipline. My old understanding of gender roles and stereotypes has been thrown out the window. But no matter how confident I think I am, no matter how sure I am of my perspectives, it all crumbles when I go back home again.

When Ms Action and the child of a family member get into trouble together and the other child gets spanked, why do I feel ashamed of my parenting? When an overtired Ms Drama throws a fit, why do I feel as though everyone is looking on thinking that if I only spanked my kids they would be better behaved. Sometimes I wish I had never told them that I no longer spank. My kids aren’t any worse behaved then they ever were, but my relatives act as though they are. Why do I want their approval so badly?

We attend Mass with my bereaved Catholic Grandma on Sunday and then have to hear everyone’s concern about our faith walk. We cannot talk about leaving ministry without major spiritual manipulation from his family. My husband finally got up enough courage to share some of his ideas for a career after ministry and the response was disappointment that his ideas have nothing to do with his degree, and long discussions laden with “concern” about our spiritual life and guilt trips that he won’t be able to make enough money to “support” us.

I dream of living near my family again someday, it’s like this grand ideal in my head. I want my children to know their grandparents, I want to be able to be a part of my younger siblings lives. I want to be together for the holidays and birthday parties, I miss the free babysitting, and I want to live close enough that we can go back to our own home at the end of the day, instead of having to stay over night. But after vacation, I always have mixed feelings. I want so badly, to be confident.

Would it be worth it to live with all that negativity and pressure? Would I be able to be my own person if I lived nearby? Would I learn how to keep my confidence in my religious and parenting decisions, even when family will not agree with them? Why do I doubt myself so much? Why do their words and disapproval have so much power over me?

Bigger Picture Moments is a place where we step back and take in life. This week it’s being hosted by Madeline Bea. Hop over to her blog to read more about the Bigger Picture, and maybe share your own moment.

Bigger Picture Moment

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15064636500827230911 cristina

    oh, I can relate to the looks we get when our children misbehave. I find it it's often older people that look at me like I'm a complete idiot because I'm not smacking my kids. Now I won't lie that there hasn't been a few times that my oldest has gotten slapped in the hand.. but honestly it doesn't work. they are people and deserve respect just like adults do.
    Parenting can be so tough, it's not black and white.. and it's what works for you and your family.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14586469381231517883 This Heavenly Life

    I'm the only one in my family who doesn't spank, and practices gentle parenting. Respectful parenting, I call it :) But it IS hard to be surrounded by people you just KNOW think your kids would be better if you spanked. The truth is that kids are kids and will do the same sorts of behavior (mostly) whether or not they're spanked. But my family doesn't really see that.

    Anyway, my point is that I've somehow learned to be the…rock around which their spank-happy waves are crashing :) I hope you gain that confidence, too (I actually think it's easier being surrounded by family — I feel sort of defiant, and that bolsters my resolve)…but even if you're uncomfortable, at least your kids are being parented in ways that respect their personhood. You're doing just fine :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13240230832660127316 Michelle

    Probably the longer you go, the stronger you get. At least that has been my experience. We do things differently than other members of our families. we're constantly getting poked fun of by my husband's family for "not knowing when to quit" (having kids)… Hang in there. YOu know what's best for your family.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06692372175623299858 Melissa

    Oh family. My family surrounds me with negativity. It breaks my heart that my children do not have the relationship with their grandparents that I had with mine but I also know in my heart that a lot of it is their own fault. I can't surround myself and my children with negative people and people who are constantly acting in ways that go against our beliefs and how we want to raise our children. It's hard, I struggled for years with guilt and I have finally accepted that I am doing what's best for my family and that's all I can do.

    Thank you for linking up with us!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02711137394143200105 michelle

    i can relate to forgetting to plug in the crock pot. to poop in the tub. and for seeking approval from family. even when i know i don't really need it. i still want it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14273400358140089839 Kimberly

    Families are powerful entities that help to shape who/what we become, and as such their opinions tend to often have a stronghold on us.

    In the first few weeks following my daughter's birth, I drove myself crazy trying to "live up" to the ideals that my mother and MIL had created about breastfeeding, sleeping, etc. Finally, sitting in my bedroom floor, with a breast pump and sobbing out of control — my husband said ENOUGH!

    He reminded me that God had trusted us with this new life – not my mother, not his mother, but us, and as such we needed to trust the brains that God had given us and use those to make our decisions as parents.

    I still struggle with wanting to always please the family with my parenting decisions. But then my daughter smiles at me – that content, happy smile that says she knows she is loved and I remember that I should trust my own instincts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    I think I was most dissapointed in myself at the end of the day, because I realized that I was so caught up in what everyone else thought, that I missed enjoying the moment.

    cristina- Exactly, it didn't work for me either! But most people aren't interested in your story, they just want to supply the solution.

    Sarah- Haha! It makes you feel defiant, I like that! I just need to revel in being defiant. :)

    Michelle- Thanks, it helps me as a newer mom to know that it does get easier.

    Melissa- It is hard, because I want to have a close relationship, but if I have to choose the health of our family over being bombarded with judgement, I would do it too.

    michelle- Lol! I think we all have days like that. And I know what you mean, even when you know you don't need their approval, its still hard to deal with their disapproval.

    Kimberly- It has been so freeing for me to move away from home and discover just that.

    Thanks everyone!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01659200420621854710 Maggie

    There are so many times I would love to move closer to my husband's parents but I know once we bring a child into the mix and the way we are dedicated to our Catholic faith that would bring up A LOT of pressure. (Even though they are all 'Catholic' too.)

    Sorry I don't have a lot of advice… I have a feeling I will have to deal with crap from family soon enough!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04448595911801738792 Erin

    Oh Young Mum{{}}
    I learn so much from you, you give me a deeper understanding of fundy thinking. I was so sad to hear you didn't get a father/daughter dance.

    As you become 'older' in your parenting you will become more confident, your family will have less of an ability to hurt. Always remember Our Heavenly Father entrusted you and your husband with your precious little ones, He believes in you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17871256362646081536 Amber

    Oh my. I understand. Because of my husband's job, he works every other Sunday which leaves me wrangling my two for the full 3 hours of church. As much as I often want to give up, I remember how important it is for me to have my spiritual cup filled.

    On another note, I, too, am breaking new ground with my parenting. I will admit that there are days when I feel tempted to spank, but I will not give in, like I won't with other temptations. Parenting is such an individual choice and I've never quite understood why people, especially family, feel so inclined to share their opinion on why you are doing it all wrong. I think, though, it might come down to guilt. Those family members who are giving you a hard time might be comparing themselves to you and feel like you are flaunting how good you are, which you AREN'T!

    I think that you are becoming confident. Reading this post tells me that you, despite the many setbacks you have encountered, are pushing forward. Whether or not you feel confident, other people see confidence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13092965958240199796 Kristina Joy

    I was the first one in my extended family to have children and the only one to have three in a row. (My mom had Sara and I(twins), then twelve years later had another two, so she doesn't count!)I felt judged and misunderstood a lot of the time. Mostly by my sisters, and other family, but never my mom. It is so much easier now that my cousin and sister have kids. Now I am the experienced one!

    Know that your family's criticism and fundamentalism (I've had some experience with fundies and struggled through aspects of it myself)is based in fear. Fear that God's grace will not be enough and requires something from us. Try to see that with compassion, even though it hurts. To believe in grace takes faith, to believe in works is a self-made security system. But the only thing he wants from us is our hearts. "When you seek Him, you will find Him, when you seek him with all your heart." :) Praying for you as you sort through man-made religious tradition and truth. :)

  • http://www.laanykids.blogspot.com Charity

    At first I was smiling at your post because I SOOOO remember those days lugging little ones around, poop leaking out the diapers, nursing in a crowded room, finally giving my 4 year old her paci not caring what anyone thought! Mine are older now, and those kinds of events, traveling, sleeping away from home, do get easier. But I felt so bad when I read further in your post, about not having family support. If you and your husband are on the same page, and you know you are doing the best you can for your kids, keep it up – and your confidence will grow. Even within my fairly close-knit family, we do parenting things differently, but that's okay. You obviously love your kids and give of yourself, so keep on holding your head high!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04738076740941616678 Rebecca

    We moved closer to our family, and for many reasons it is good, but for many it is not. The pressure is immense, as is living by the values that we set forth that may be different from those of our parents.

    Prayers for you, I cannot imagine how stressful a day it was for you.

  • http://nowealthbutlife.com Rae

    I suspect that being away for a while is a really, really good thing. From what you say here it seems like a few more years away will be good, even though tough. After all, who wants free babysitting if you're going to be made to feel guilty about the way that you parent (or your children spanked in your absence- if that sort of thing happens in your family).

    I could be over-reading your posts, but it looks to me as if you *are* gaining confidence. Give yourself time! And take time to thank God for all that you have gained so far. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07604810312185816792 Corinne

    First of all…. I always forget to turn the crock pot on.
    Second… oh honey. I feel for you. It's so hard to know what's best for our own children without the influence of others. But add in that influence, and it all gets crazy. We questions ourselves enough without the help of others.
    I'm glad that right now you have space. I think while it's hard to live without family near, it's what you guys need in order to parent the way your family needs you to.
    Hugs to you :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14441368513494466628 Emily

    oh, I feel for you. We moved from my family and found it freeing. It's so hard to be the "black or white sheep" of the family. It's so hard when you know in the long run your parenting decisions are so right for your family and feel you have to prove it each time you are around those that doubt your choices. Especially when those adorable little babies are, well, toddlers and preschoolers and babies!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13424915556001899905 Maegan Beishline

    I can relate to so much of this! From the miserable never ending weddings to the constant seeking of approval that is most likely never coming. My oldest {of three as well} will be six next month. With every year and every child, I've grown just a little bit in my confidence and in my ability to hold my head strong even in the most testing situations. I'm still growing…it's still hard…but life as a whole is much easier when we stop sacrificing ourselves for others and when we stop apologizing for it. I loved this post. I groaned big time as Ms. Drama dumped the second bottle of bubbles over her head. I could relate to every last bit of it! Good luck on your journey! Have faith in your heart!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09971244496160164955 Muttering Mother

    Oh my. This reminds me of taking a 3 and 4 year old from the UK to Spain for a week where they were flower girls at the blessing of their Aunt & Uncle's wedding – I had 'only' 2 children and my husband & other family members were around to assist, but I still look at the photos now and wonder how on earth we did it, and remember how stressed I was. I hope you will look back at the day some time, somehow, and smile, and not mind how much discrepancy there is between how you thought it should be and how it was. That is what family moments are made of – not judgements, or the kids' 'bad' behaviour, but how we remember the times we went through together, how we supported each other and how we made changes in the way we did things to suit our own family unit. You and your husband are the future of your extended family and while you may not feel confident about it, you certainly have the courage to go where God is leading you and make those changes in faith, while dealing with the criticism (actual or potential) you are used to from family members. God bless you, and may He give you the confidence you seek in bucketloads to take your family unit onwards and upwards :-)

  • Anonymous

    That sounds horrible. I applaud you for lasting as long as you did. And I know the feelings that come from feeling like you missed out because someone elses standards have changed (father/daughter dance).

    I feel like we are living parallel lives in the way our lives are going. Except, we do live by my family. It is so hard for me to be myself. I cannot share my true feelings or thoughts because I know disappointment and concern would be rained down upon me. I cannot take the barrage of questions and lectures about what is "biblical" and "godly". One of the biggest concerns that my mom has voiced is that we don't have the same endtimes views as they do. But that's only because they don't know about our baptism views. The thing is, when I am around them, I turn into a little girl again and I cannot say "no" or state my opinion. I am literally physically unable to do this. I think it is from being raised with the belief that children never differ from their parents in their opinions or think differently from the status quo. And that's the kind of parenting that I don't want to use with my children even though I find myself slipping into it.

    And I won't even start on the spanking bit. We were babysitting someone elses kid tonight and they brought spankers for us in case their kid needed it. I was floored. We aren't even close friends. What a mind set.
    Leigh Ann

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Maggie- The family pressure can be exhausting, and I can say that the distance has helped so much!

    Erin- Thank you!

    Amber- Its crazy trying to wrangle them all alone isn't it?! And thank you for saying that I am already showing confidence, you have no idea how encouraging that is to me!

    Kristina Joy- We are the oldest on both sides of the family too, so far there is only one other grandkid.

    Charity and Rebecca- It's hard because I think I want the family relationship to be different than what it is. I need to learn how to relate to them for who they are, while still sticking with my own convictions.

    Rae- Yes, I think that we definetly need more time to become more solid in our boundaries. I wonder about how my children would be treated during babysitting too.

    Corrine- Thanks! :)

    Emily- It is tough! We've been "The white sheep" for the first several years of marriage, and now we are turning into "The black sheep" They keep trying to come up with explanations for why "we have changed".

    Maegen- Thanks for the encouragement that it does continue to get easier!

    Muttering Mother- Thanks! And I've had those "what were we thinking moments" already!

    Leigh Ann- Its frustrating to see the stuff that has changed in my family. On the one hand I'm happy for my siblings, on the other hand it bothers me that my parents refuse to acknowlege that they hurt me. And yes, the lectures about what is biblical or "real" christianity gets so exhausting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09697215030563741501 Sisterlisa

    They have power over you because you let them. Be strong and be you. ((hugs)) I know how it is. Been there done that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14659411240699818388 rachel

    Oh my goodness. I just went through a wedding that DH was in with three kids under 15 months and I just applaud you. It is INSANE.


    It sounds like we have very similar parenting techniques and that we also have very similar concerns! it's so tough to do something other than what your families expect and not have support there. It makes me all the more determined to support my children no matter what.

    I also saw in your comment the "white sheep to black sheep" thing. I so hear you.

    Can we be friends?

  • http://www.aspergersmom.wordpress.com Rachel@aspergersmom.com

    I loved reading this post. It made me laugh, because I have been there! It resonated with me because I also grew up in a strict fundamentalist family. I didn't have a father/daughter dance either.

    Sisterlisa is right that they have power over you because you let them have that power.

    However, it is hard not to when it is your family. For me, I wanted my family to see the intent of my heart rather than judging me by their assessment of my beliefs and brief interactions with me. I wanted them to see me earnestly seeking to what I believe God requires.

    I too mourned the loss of my ideal family. I realized that the ideal wasn't ever going to be reality but I still mourned loosing that dream.

    For me, the voice of judgment in my head (usually my mother's voice) blur with the expressed judgments.

    You do have confidence. You have confidence to live by your convictions even in the very painful face of family disapproval. You have the confidence in day to day life, where it really matters.

    Remember, by this will all men know that you are [Christ's] disciples, that you love one another. Not because you always have the right answer or the clean clothes. Not because your actions are always perfect or you can pull off a well-polished attendance to an event.

    As an outsider, I thought you were amazing. You showed love to your sister and family by showing up and supporting her at her wedding. Even in the middle of the heat. Even with 3 small children. You gave an amazing gift of love. Your sister may or may not realize that, but I hope as time goes by and your sister is trying to pull it off with children of her own, she will remember the reality of the situation and how much you loved her.

    Change your story! You are amazing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Lisa- Thank you!

    Rachel- 3 under 15 months? Wow! Your my new hero! :) I'd love to be friends.

    Aspergersmom- I think this last trip was when I first truly realized that I was letting them have power over me. Thank you for what you said about my having the confidence to live my convictions, and yet still showed my love through my effort at the wedding. :)

  • Martha

    The best advice I ever got was, rather than to be upset/concerned/worried about what relatives thought, to think instead, 'What does God think?' Because, obviously, at the end of the day, His opinion is the only one that matters. And amazingly, it's usually a super-easy question to answer!!!

    Blessings on your journey!