Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Lesson in Kindness: Don't be an Asshole



The day after my mother passed away, I had to stop and get gas on my way to the funeral home to make arrangements. I pulled into the pump in a daze at a haphazard angle and was filling my tank. Suddenly a car pulled up next to me, the driver rolled down the window and he and his female passenger proceeded to flip me off and shout "FUCK YOU, IDIOT! LEARN HOW TO PARK!" and then angrily pull out of the parking lot, tires squealing. 

Did they know my mom just died in a hospital bed 12 hours before? No. Did they know I was barely functioning on caffeine, adrenaline, and emotions? No. They saw an idiot who didn't pull far enough forward to let another car pass, and let their anger spill hatefully onto me. Would they have been less likely to shout at me if they knew the situation? Maybe. I'll never know. I'm sure they sped away feeling better. Somehow superior that they had "given that girl the 'what for'" and felt vindicated and lighter after having spewed out some of their emotions. I however, was left stunned, holding a gas pump the victim of what I can only call a rage vomit, wondering what the hell is wrong with people.

When did we forget to be kind?

My son is three, and kindness is a big deal in his world. We're consistently talking about it, trying to emulate it, and praising him when he exhibits it. His teacher told me at preschool pick-up one day about how his friend was sad and he gave her a toy and a hug so she would feel better.  His little chest puffed out and he smiled and said, "Mama, I was kind!" 

We get older and the luster of kindness fades somehow. Our capacity for empathy lessens as we focus on what is best for us. We turn to countless books, blogs, coaches, and podcasts for tips to help us increase our social circle/raise our profile/garner goodwill/climb the career ladder. While many are excellent resources, I'm pretty sure I can distill them all down and find one common thread:

BE KIND. DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE.

Seriously. It's that simple. When faced with a situation you have a choice in how you will handle it. Will you take the high road? Give benefit of the doubt? Offer empathy and grace even if the other person may not? 

Now, before I go further a disclaimer: I'm not talking about engaging in toxic relationships, or giving kindness to an abusive person. This is more of your day-to-day social interactions with colleagues, acquaintances and strangers. And I can already hear you, "But why should I give the benefit of the doubt to someone who is probably just rude/inconsiderate/you insert the adjective?"

BECAUSE WHAT IF THEY'RE NOT?

When I was 25 I worked for a group of surgeons in Austin, TX. I helped run the front office and one of my duties was the lunch run. Every Thursday, I'd drive up the hill to Luby's (for those of you not in Texas it's a cafeteria and a little slice of heaven) and pick-up my called-in order. Every Thursday, I would see *Myrna a middle-aged and surly woman behind the counter. She would demand my name (even though I'm sure she knew it) bark out my total, snatch my payment, and shove the bag of takeout my way. EVERY. SINGLE. THURSDAY. 

Here's where you get a little insight into my 25-year-old personality...I was not going to let Myrna's grumpiness win. I was going to win her over. I was going to make her like me. So over the course of the next 6 months, I would cheerfully pick up my order, generously tip on the credit card receipt, and wish her a good day every Thursday. One week a few months into our dance, the cooks were backed up and we all had to wait for our food longer than usual. The other lunch-goers were pacing, impatiently huffing, and Myrna was extra surly as a result. When I finally picked up my food, I once again thanked her, tipped, and wished her a good day. This time she responded, "You too!"

Over the next few months we developed a rapport. I'd make small talk while I paid and I learned that this was Myrna's 2nd job. That she also cared for her ailing mother, and helped look after for her young grandchildren while her daughter was in school on her rare days off. Her exhausted surly attitude was well-earned, a fact I never would have learned if I had dismissed her like so many other patrons, or hadn't persisted in being kind. She began to slide extra condiments, napkins, and the occasional treat into my bag. Turns out, Myrna like a lot of people, had a solid gold heart inside of her gruff exterior. 

I realize that this is all a bit Pollyanna, but hang with me. What if we committed to being kind to one another even 50% of the time? Can you imagine the kindness revolution we'd start? If instead of honking angrily at someone at a stop sign, what if we waved them on? What if we shrugged off a rude salesperson instead of complaining to their manager? (I'm so guilty of this one! I may have a heart for kindness, but I have a quick trigger when I perceive an injustice or slight.) What if we left a solid 20% tip even when service was terrible instead of making a point by leaving spare change. What would the ripples of that kindness be? Here's the thing, you'll likely never know, it may feel at times like you're going around depositing kindness and your own account is empty, but I choose to believe as Aesop said "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." 

And to the couple at the gas pump. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you were having a shitty day too.

*name changed because privacy and kindness :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Learning to Mother (v.) without a Mother (n.)


You haven't heard from me for a while. Almost a year. So much has happened over the last 10 months, but the biggest shift has been the loss of my mother. 

We lost mom on October 12th. She had been battling health issues for some time, but the loss was still sudden. Until the day or two before she passed, most of us thought she would rebound with time and treatment. I'm still fresh in my grief, and now, four months into "life after", I am starting to see that the most difficult part of losing her is learning to mother (v.) without a mother (n.). 

When people tell you that motherhood is hard they aren't kidding. It is challenging, important, stressful, joyous, and often monotonous (pack lunch, wipe nose, wipe bottom, brush teeth, tie shoes, find the lost toy, lather, rinse, repeat...). It is also doubt-inducing. Even the most confident woman will doubt herself once becoming a mother. Am I feeding him enough? Too much? Am I too strict? Too lenient? Does he feel secure/loved? Am I teaching him the right values? SO. MUCH. No wonder we're exhausted. But in all of that headspace, I had my mom as my sounding board. My advice-giver (even when I didn't take it). Who can understand and empathize with the highs and lows of motherhood like YOUR MOTHER?! Plus, who else on God's green Earth, other than a paid licensed therapist, would be willing to listen to it all? 

A few days after she passed, I had loaded up the family car to drive me and my son back home to stay with my dad and make preparations for the memorial service. It's a 5-hour drive with lots of open West Texas country roads so I let my mind wander, and it occurred to me that my son is the same age that my younger brother was when our grandfather passed away. I immediately thought, "I should ask Mom how she talked to Matt about death at a young age." Let that sink in. My first thought/instinct/urge was to ask my deceased mother how to teach my son about death. 

Life has been full of these moments over the last few months. Reaching for the cell phone to tell her about a new milestone with Arlo (She swore vehemently that he was "advanced" from 3 days old and never stopped, just ask the ladies in her Sunday School class). Craving her support and delight when I was offered a fantastic new job. Wanting to lay out all the Pre-K options and get her feedback. It doesn't stop, I don't think it ever will. 

My mom also called me on my bullshit. She would have watched me dive headfirst into work after her death and told me to slow down. She would have seen through the smiles and "I've got my shit together" facade and told me that I needed to process things instead of avoiding my feelings. She would have told me to get over myself with my self-prescribed guilt trip and focus on now. She would tell me to wash my face every night, put on lotion to moisturize, and dab some Carmex on my lips because I needed to take care of myself.   

Tonight as I was tucking Arlo into bed and reading his bedtime story, I looked down and surveyed my boy. Tousled hair, long dark eyelashes, arm clutched protectively around his prized stuffed hippopotamus, and was so filled with love and pride for this child. It hit me hard knowing that my mom adored me in the same ways. That even at almost 38 years old she still looked at me with that same awe and pride. That may be the toughest loss of all because no matter how old we are, deep down we still want the love and approval of our mommas.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

4 Tips to Keep Your Sitter



When I finally broke down and realized momma can't do it all, all of the time, I waved the white surrender flag and started looking for a babysitter. We have been fortunate to find some amazing young women who not only give us breaks for work, date nights, and general mental health, but also really love our boy.  I often hear other moms talk about how they have a hard time finding and keeping a long-term babysitter and I can tell you that it's not all just luck. Once you find a great sitter, you need to go about keeping that sitter. He or she is your greatest resource!

These tips have come through trial and error and most of them came at the insistence of my husband. I love that I married a man who is thoughtful. I don't know that we would have kept our awesome sitters as long as we have if it weren't for him. 


  • Pay fairly and well. We had a sitter who told us her fee was $2/hour less than all the local competition. That was music to my ears as a budget conscious momma! But my husband insisted that we pay her the going rate. His point was that if she had multiple requests for a Friday night sitting job, we would obviously rise to the top because we pay her more. She went on to be a long-term sitter for us and frequently made herself available to us when we had a last minute need.
  • Keep your word. If you request a sitter in advance, he or she has cleared their schedule to be there for you. They may have turned down other work, or social engagements to care for your child. Things come up, I get that, but if you need to cancel, give as much advance notice as possible. Our policy has always been that if we have to cancel within 24 hours, we still pay our sitter. Don't simply think, "Oh they're just kids, this is fun money for them, it's no big deal." Our sitters use their income from childcare to pay their car note, insurance and cell phone bills. Similarly, if you decide to call your date night early and come home an hour before you planned, go ahead and pay your sitter for the full-time.
  • Schedule in advance when you can. Going back to my previous point, you need to value your sitter's time. Don't be disappointed if your sitter can't drop everything to be at your house with just a few hours notice. Line up your important events in advance. Better yet, schedule a regular monthly date with your sitter so you're always on their calendar. If advance notice is the norm, they are more likely to juggle things when you have a last minute need
  • Be considerate. If your sitter is going to be at your home all evening, have something there for them to eat and drink. I like to ask my sitters if they have a favorite food or drink or if they have any food allergies. Better yet, leave some cash and takeout menus! 
Bottom line, treat your sitter like the valuable resource that they are and they will keep coming back to give you the break you need.

Monday, March 14, 2016

#MotherhoodMonday - Motherhood Motivations


Motherhood and Motivation...those two words haven't always clicked for me. Growing up I was always motivated to do well in school because I loved the positive feedback I would receive. A big fat gold star on my report, a "Book-It" button full of stickers so I could go eat at Pizza Hut, a certificate at the end of the school year for citizenship, and that National Honor Society collar at graduation. As I finished college and entered the work force I was motivated to do good work for the "attagirl"s and end of the year bonuses. I flourish under positive feedback and appreciation, and am motivated to exceed expectations because I definitely do not want to be on the receiving end of a bad performance review.

And then there was motherhood...

I don't know if y'all know this, but newborns don't rain down praise when you soothe them and cure their diaper rash with coconut oil. Toddlers don't high five you when you sneak organic veggies into their diet and manage to teach them their colors in a fun and playful manner. There is no performance review. There is no bonus structure. There is no climbing the ladder, and guess what, there is no absolute right way to do your job. (I shudder)

For a while this frustrated me and scared me. How will I know I am measuring up? What if I fail?! The short answer is, I have no effing clue. Motherhood is the single most amazing and terrifying role to embark upon and carries an incredible responsibility. You mean, I'm charged with shaping the heart and mind of this tiny malleable human? I'm the one who needs to  model empathy, patience, and goodwill towards others? 

So I had a paradigm shift. I began to see the small, day-to-day rewards of motherhood and let those motivate me through sleepless nights and long weary days. I became motivated by:
  • Gummy grins (even if they were only because of passing gas)
  • Contented sighs
  • A heavy tired toddler in my arms
  • Messy hands that have been exploring the world
  • The first words strung together (Mama, I HUN-GEE! - aka hungry)
  • Belly laughs when I make silly faces
These are the gold stars of early motherhood. Recently I've been looking to the future, something I rarely did before becoming a mother. My long-term motivations are raising a brave, confident child who respects others (even if they have different opinions), has empathy for the feelings of those around him, and loves with abandon. It's a tall order, and I hope I'm up to the task. Someone just tell me that I can get a ribbon or gold star when he's a successful, self-sufficient adult, okay?

On a lighter note, here's a list of some of my other Motherhood Motivations:
  • Nothing motivates me to work like looking at the clock and realizing I have 30 minutes before Mother's Day Out pick-up.
  • Nothing motivates me to move like some French Roast first thing in the morning.
  • Nothing motivates me to exercise (y'all, never in my life have I ever wanted to exercise) like the thought of 30 minutes to watch Netflix on the treadmill while my son plays in the gym childcare. Also, I'm motivated to still be moving and shaking by the time he graduates college .(I'll be 56!)
  • Nothing motivates me to get through the bedtime routine like knowing my comfy chair, sweats, Hulu, and contraband cookies are waiting for me.
So mommas, tell me, what motivates you?

Don't forget to visit all the other remarkable mommas participating in this week's topic:

Lisa W. http://www.themotherblog.com
Alexis http://www.mrsmombie.com/ 
Farrah http://www.newandnaturalmom.com/ 
Tiffany http://www.stellarmama.com/ 
Natasha http://www.natashabyrd.com/blog 
Heather http://www.frugalsouthernliving.com/

Katie http://www.alwayskatie.com




Monday, February 1, 2016

#Motherhood Monday - Motherhood Miracles



Looking back on motherhood thus far, I can recall plenty of times where I said, "It will be a miracle if..."

  • "It will be a miracle if he ever sleeps": Thankfully he now sleeps through the night, even if that "night" ends at 5:30 am.
  • "It will be a miracle if I can get him to sleep without rocking or wearing him": He now nestles down in his big boy bed and falls asleep on his own!
  • "It will be a miracle if I ever get my bed back": At 20 months, he transitioned smoothly into a twin bed in his own room!
  • "It will be a miracle if he ever gives up the bottle": We've now been bottle free for 3 months!
In the midst of the day to day grind of motherhood (wake, coffee, adult, repeat) these milestones can feel so far, so insurmountable that they seem almost miraculous when they happen. But what I really want to talk about today is the miracle of becoming a mother.

I find conception to be pretty damn miraculous.

Did you know that even in your twenties you only have a 20% chance of conceiving each month? If you have healthy eggs, regular ovulation, a partner with good swimmers, a clear path in your fallopian tubes, and you happen to get busy at the precise time of the month that all these align, you still only have a 20% chance of getting pregnant that month. By the time you are 30, that drops to 15% and to 10% at 35. So, to my ladies who got pregnant their first time out of the gate after a few glasses of wine, YOU have a miracle on your hands. 

For me, pregnancy did not come quite so easy. My eggs were the culprit. At 29 years old I was diagnosed with severely diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) basically this meant that at not even 30 years old, I had the eggs (quantity and quality) of a woman in her mid-forties. For the next 7 years we tried a variety of treatments before hauling out the big guns and undergoing Donor Egg IVF. When I say that my son is our miracle baby, I truly mean it. It was a miracle that my faith, marriage, and bank account could withstand infertility (it's a beast. This pic is just the meds I took in preparation for IVF. It does not include the 12 weeks of progesterone shots I took once I was pregnant). 



It was a miracle that we found a donor who although we never met, gave us such a remarkable gift. It was a miracle that this teeny, tiny embryo decided to implant in my womb. 


It was a miracle that he stayed safe and cozy for 41 weeks. And boy was it ever a miracle when he finally found his way into my arms.



Now my miracle is almost TWO and is delighting (and challenging) us daily. It's a miracle I don't smother him in kisses.  I mean, get a load of this cuteness!




So mommas, how are you celebrating the miracles of motherhood today?

As always with #MotherhoodMonday, read the Motherhood Miracles blog posts written by these wonderful women:






Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How I Stopped Bedtime Drama



For months, I did the bedtime routine I'm sure that many of you are familiar with:
  1. Soothing Bathtime
  2. Brush teeth
  3. PJs
  4. Read books
  5. Prayers
  6. Hugs & kisses
  7. Sleepy time
Only ours never went this smoothly. It was more like this:
  1. Exuberant Bathtime...splash all the water out of the tub soaking mommy in the process.
  2. Bargain with toddler to brush his teeth and end up doing it for him.
  3. Wrestle toddler into pajamas while he jumps on the bed.
  4. Pick out a minimum of 5 books. Read each book a minimum of 3 times.
  5. Say prayers. Thank God for Daniel Tiger, Goldfish crackers and the park, you know, the important stuff.
  6. Give hugs and kisses. Just one more, and another.
  7. Toddler asks for water.
  8. Toddler asks for a snack.
  9. Toddler asks for a back rub.
  10. Toddler finally drifts off after having his back rubbed for 20 minutes. 
  11. Mommy leaves the room.
  12. Toddler is awake and upset that his back is no longer being rubbed.
  13. Repeat steps 4 - 10 as necessary.
This exhausting routine went on night after night because I believed that this song and dance would lull my son into peaceful slumber and give me good mom bonus points because I was doing all the things "good" moms do. One night I decided I was done. After getting my son dressed for bed, I tucked him in, kissed his forehead, told him I loved him and that I'd see him in the morning. I turned around and left the room. BOOM. Mic Drop. Mom's out. No stories, no prayers, no requests for water and snacks. Just no. I waited in the other room for him to run out of his room raising all kinds of holy hell that mommy didn't follow the bedtime schtick. But here's the thing...he didn't. He FREAKING WENT TO SLEEP!

We have repeated the simplified bedtime every night for the last month. And sweet fancy Moses, it has been a game changer. I don't dread bedtime each night. I've recouped an hour of my day to spend alone with my husband, and amazingly our son is sleeping better. 

That's not to say that he doesn't peek his head out of his bedroom down the hallway at me after I've put him to bed. What has changed is that I do not engage. I no longer fly down the hallway to tuck him back in and start the routine anew. I tell him (from my comfy chair) "Hey Bubba, it's time to rest your body. Get back into bed." and that's that. He scampers up into his bed and typically when I check on him a few minutes later he's fast asleep clutching a truck, or frisbee, or whatever item has become precious to him that day.

For our boy, a simple bedtime is best. And once I let go of the ridiculous notion of mom guilt over not creating a magical bedtime experience for my two year old, I was happier too! Bottom line, we make life special for our kids in a variety of ways everyday. Not everything has to be sparkly and full of fairy-dust, and re-pinable for Pinterest. Maybe bedtime can just be bedtime.

(I am fully aware that by publishing this post, my son will likely decide to rage against this cruel new bedtime regime and develop some sort of 2 year sleep regression because #jinxing)

Monday, January 11, 2016

#MotherhoodMonday - Motherhood Misconceptions




Before I became a mother, I thought that the biggest change that motherhood would bring to me as a person, would be the title of "mom". I knew that motherhood would change my lifestyle, my schedule, my body, and my sleep, but I believed that the same "Lindsey" would still be there underneath all the diapers and bottles and stretchy pants. I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, there are still vestiges of pre-mom Lindsey: my sense of humor, love of chocolate, half-hearted crafting, empathetic crying, and love of losing myself in a good book; but there has been a deep and irrevocable change that has taken place. 

I look at life through a different lens now. I no longer think of just myself and my spouse when making decisions. I also think WAY more long term than I ever have in my previous 35 years. I've always been a bit of a Pollyanna, and while a desire to see the best in people still exists in me, it has been tempered with a more analytical and scrutinous side. 

Becoming a mother also intensified my radar. You know what I mean, that gut-check instinct that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck if something doesn't feel quite right. Motherhood hasn't made me fearful, but it has taught me to trust my instincts and not feel silly if I need to walk away from someplace or someone. 

Motherhood expanded my emotions in ways I didn't know possible. If you've found yourself dealing with a toddler lately you know that you can go from immense pride to frustration to a soul crushing love in a matter of an hour and that is just a Monday. 

I wondered how these changes could be so huge, so encompassing, so drastic. For years it has been chalked up to being a mother's love, but now science has some incredible and exciting things to explain these changes. Hang with me, I'm about to go science nerd on you:


  • Your baby is imbedded (literally) in you.  We spend 10 months with our babies in utero; feeding them and literally forming them into existence. That alone would make for a powerful connection and bond, but now scientists have found an even more fascinating link. Cells from your child can travel from the placenta into other parts of your body, taking up residence in your organs. So a little piece of your child(ren) still lives inside you. Scientific American explains it so much better than I do, so check out this article.
  • After childbirth, your brain grows. In a 2010 study, researchers looked at brain-scan images of 19 women before an after they gave birth and found that the size of mothers' brains increased shortly after childbirth. I'm guessing we need the increase of gray matter to deal with the intense sleep-deprivation and still function. 
  • Becoming a parent looks a lot like falling in love. Moms experience a surge of oxytocin when looking at/feeding/nurturing their babies and this triggers similar responses in the amygdala as those falling in love. It helps explain that crazy wave of love you feel when you hold your newborn (and can't stop sniffing their head). 
So to say that my pre-conceived notion of retaining myself unchanged after motherhood was a misconception would be an understatement. This little man has altered me in all the best ways possible and I wouldn't go back if I could!

Photo Courtesy of Laura Beck Photography


Want to join the fun for next week's #MotherhoodMonday? Email themomwhoblogs@gmail.com for more info!

Follow along with these other awesome moms who joined today's link-up:

Lisa
Alexis
Amber Marie
Farrah
Christy
Racheal
Rebekah
Amber Joy