Why Sometimes It’s Okay to Not Like Your Kids

Whoahh okay, before you all jump down my throat about the title let me be clear about something: I DO NOT hate my children. Far from it! I LOVE them more than I could describe in words. Any mom would agree with me that the love for our children is unmatched. BUT, sometimes those precious little humans we birthed can be little you-know-whats, (starts with an “s” to clue you in a little). Also, every mom on the planet can agree with me on that one!

The thing is, kids have no filter whatsoever, and can be so cruel without even trying. So, most of the time when they want to say something it just comes out with little to no thought behind it. Like my four-year-old son who, no matter where we are, will declare for whoever is within earshot that he’s farted. Or my eight-year-old daughter who when she saw my newly chopped hair immediately said “I HATE it Mom.” Sure makes a girl feel good about herself am I right?

When I was a new mom I remember holding my son and trying to imagine ever putting him in time-out or actually yelling at him. Oh boy was I naive! Of course when they’re tiny and can’t really talk yet it’s impossible to see what little monsters they can become as a toddler. Yes, the terrible 2’s are real my friend. As are the terrible 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, and so on. Every age has begun a new phase of parenting, and they’ve all had positives and negatives to them.

No matter what stage of parenthood you’re in though, it’s all just plain hard. Being a parent is THE hardest job in the world, but on the flip side also the most rewarding. When my husband Jess and I decided we were ready to start a family we had no clue how hard it really would be, I mean no one does, but we knew we were ready to try our best and to do it together.

Today was just a hard day for me as a mom. It happens to everyone. It got so spectacularly emotional for me that I needed to leave the house tonight by myself and just have some alone time. I went and sat by my mom’s graveside and had myself a good ugly cry. My husband gracefully finished dinner with the kids, cleaned up, and they all were ready with hugs and “sorry’s” when I came back. What happened you ask?

Well, first off, I was exhausted from a terrible night of sleep. The aforementioned flatulent four-year-old has a terrible habit of coming into our bed at night that we just cannot break. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he HAS to be on top of me, usually on my face. I have nicknamed him the “face hugger” which is a nod to the movie ‘Alien’ for those of you who don’t get the reference. So, starting off my Monday tired was not good.

We also are currently packing for our move to Nashville which has been no small feat. I am already stressed up to my eyeballs about that, and our house looks like a literal bomb went off because of it. Clutter and disorder in my living space really throws me off mentally too, so add that to the list. Also, my husband is leaving for Nashville this Friday with our first moving truck. He will be gone for several weeks and when he’s gone I tend to be extra emotional and vulnerable.

Then, when the big kids got home from school the mom-shaming began. And no, it’s not the same as mom-to-mom shaming. This is straight from the mouths of the babes you gave birth to telling you how crappy of a job you’re doing. Oh, they’re so sweet when they can’t talk yet, but once they can form sentences they also form little opinions, grudges, picket lines, committees, and okay I’m exaggerating juuuuust a bit. Once they can, your kids will judge you for everything! Your clothes, hair, makeup, how you drive, what you watch, your music, your cooking, how you talk, I mean this list is endless. Basically nothing is safe from them, and you are forced to take a good, hard look at yourself from the perspective of a ruthless child.

So, I actually got dressed today! Woo! What’s the big deal, right? Well, on a normal day I usually am never in anything but workout clothes or comfy T-shirt’s and sweats at home. But today, despite being tired I actually got up and went to the gym in the morning! I usually do go, but never until the afternoon because I’m too tired and unmotivated. So, since I was done early I went home and showered and got dressed in a decent shirt and jeans. My oldest son, when he saw me said:

“Where are you going?”

To which I replied:

“Nowhere, why?”

To which he replied:

“Oh, you are just usually never dressed up.”

Dressed up?! You’re joking, right? This ain’t dressed up honey, but this momma is allowed to actually put some effort into herself even if she isn’t going to go anywhere!

Granted, my son didn’t mean for his words to shame me, but I really was offended by it! So silly right? But it’s not! We as moms should not feel like just because we may spend a majority of our time at home, that we have to dress accordingly. There really is no “mom uniform”! Yes, most days gym clothes are what’s best for me, and that is GREAT. But today I felt like putting on makeup and doing my hair on a weekday and that’s okay too!

From there, it all just went downhill.The two oldest could not agree on anything it seemed. A game they were playing ended in tears because one wasn’t “playing fair”. Then building of forts turned into a battle of who was getting the most blankets which also ended in tears.

I was making spaghetti for dinner which should be easy right? WRONG. One kid doesn’t like spaghetti but she loves sauce, another one loves the noodles but no sauce, and the third? Well, he ate everything without complaint (bless him!). But the two who were complaining just wouldn’t let it go. So as I’m making a meal all I’m hearing is whining whining and more whining. THEN the same two children started fighting in the other room as I’m cooking. I listened for a few moments hoping they would work it out, but is soon escalated to hitting and crying so I intervened. I sent them both to their respective rooms and maybe raised my voice a little more than was necessary. My oldest son on his way out stopped, looked me in the eyes and said:

“I always knew you hated me.”

Whoah. Okay first of all, not even a little true! But no, you know what, it’s a little true right now. I love you so much son, but right now I don’t really like you and how you’re choosing to act…… is what I SHOULD have said to him. Instead, I stayed silent and kept making dinner, praying for bedtime to come quickly.

Dinner was no better with the bad behavior. By the end of it, I slammed my plates in the sink, grabbed my car keys and purse and headed for the garage. My husband knew what was happening and told me he would handle it.

My kids love me, but sometimes they have a crappy way of showing it! Kids tend to not realize how hurtful they are, until it’s too late. But that’s what we need to make sure to teach them so they are aware of what’s okay and not okay to say and do.

Sometimes I feel so beat up as a mom like I’m some sort of mommy punching bag. That’s where I was last night. When these times come and I feel myself spiraling down it’s okay to step back and take a few moments for myself. We mom’s are doing the hardest job in the world: raising little humans to be loving and good adults! It’s not an easy business and sometimes I just DO NOT like my clients, and you know what, it’s okay!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Golden Girl

Colours are the smiles of nature – James Henry Leigh Hunt

One of the things I love most about the change from Summer to Fall is the changing of the leaves. Here in Utah, the changes start up on the mountains around late August. By the end of September, the mountains and surrounding canyons are an explosion of red, yellow, and orange.

The vivid colors never cease to not impress me, and I always find myself saying “Oooh!” And “WOW!” like a cliche tourist. But I’m not ashamed to say that these beautiful colors ignite my soul, because they do. We all ought to enjoy the beauty of nature and her canvas of color in Fall.

Mellow Yellow

A popular drive this time of year in Utah is called the Alpine Loop. It’s a 20 mile loop from Sundance to the American Fork Canyon that takes you through gorgeous Aspen trees, views of the Wasatch mountains, and Mt. Timpanogos. I had the opportunity to drive up there three times this past weekend and enjoyed every minute of it!

One of my favorite things in the loop is the groves of Aspen trees. The impressive white trees are just as dreamy in real life as they are in photos. They were definitely my favorites this weekend, and their leaves right now are a gorgeous yellow.

I felt myself very drawn to the yellow leaves more than the red and orange ones. I found it interesting that yellow would be so prominent with me this weekend when it is not a favorite color of mine. I have talked before about colors and their meanings in reference to chakras. The Solar Plexus Chakra is located in your diaphragm and is associated with the color yellow. The meanings associated with this chakra are:

  • Will power
  • Taking Control
  • Independence
  • Identity
  • Making Decisions
  • Confidence

What’s interesting to me about this is that lately I have been making some huge decisions with what I want to do with my life. I have been setting goals and making dreams and taking certain steps recently that will hopefully make them become a reality. It was scary to take these steps, because when isn’t it scary to venture out of your little comfort bubble? But I have felt more free and confident in myself than I have in a long time now that these things have been set into motion. Even though things are a bit chaotic and unknown at this point, I feel settled and peaceful with where life is headed.

That Sunny Warm Feeling

My mom has been visiting me in my dreams every night for almost three weeks now. I go through periods where she doesn’t appear to me at all, and then like now, she will come to me every night. I revel in my time with her in dreams, and I have found myself waking up feeling comforted and given a little boost. I know she has been visiting me because I have been making these big decisions that have been hard to do.

On top of that, being a mom lately has been very hard. Some incidents have come up with my children and I have felt lately that my hold on the reigns of mothering my children has not been the firmest. Specific things have happened that I was in no way prepared for so it threw me off, and have caused a lot of heartache and crying myself to sleep. There have been so many times lately I have ached for my mom, and she knows it, so coming to me in dreams is the only way she can.

Also, the yellow leaves. Yellow was her favorite color, and will always remind me of her. She painted two kitchens in two of her different homes yellow. At her funeral we ordered her casket spray in a beautiful yellow display which was absolutely stunning in the middle of bleak February.

As my husband and our kids hiked around yesterday amongst the aspens with their yellow leaves, my heart felt very full, and my mind was drawn suddenly to my mom. I knew she was communicating to me that she was there and loved me.

Hiking in the crisp mountain air, hearing my children laughing while hand in hand with Jess I felt a sense of calm. Being in nature in general always settles the anxiety storms inside of me, but this weekend I felt like the difficult life choices and work I have put in lately are not for nothing.

Also, this unmistakable warm feeling came over me and helped me to see that I am not failing quite as bad at this mom stuff as I think I am.

Going into this next week, I will try not to doubt myself like I have been. I need to give myself a little more credit than I do. We tend to be our own worst critics am I right? So here’s a word of advice to all of you:

Cut yourself some slack!

I need to take my own advice here too. We are all doing the best we can with the best we have been given in this life. That’s not to say we cannot improve ourselves, of COURSE we can. But when you’re giving it your absolute best, there really is no shame in the outcome.

So, go out there this week and lift your head a little higher. You have so much to offer, and are valuable and can contribute so much. Use that Solar Plexus chakra and think happy, positive thoughts.

Better yet, make them sunny yellow ones.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Photo by Jeremy Robert Photo

Fists of Fury

“5 Activities to Help You Be A Good Mom”

That was the caption under a pin on Pinterest I scrolled across a few days ago. No sooner had I read those words, an intense rage boiled up inside of me. Not just normal rage- “Momma Bear” rage. My husband likes to joke that I am sweet until someone brings out the “Philly Fire” in me and then people better watch out! And nothing stokes that Philly Fire more than my momma bear instincts. Why was this stupid Pinterest pin making me so angry? I wanted to punch the fake smiling mom in the photo in her face. Okay, that’s a tad violent, but who is she to tell me I’m not a good mom? And why would her activities ensure I was a good one? She doesn’t know me or my life!

I truly believe this is why so many women feel like they aren’t good enough. There’s this constant flow of ads on tv, magazines, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram making us feel like we are falling short. Social media in general can make one feel extremely bad about themselves if they are not careful.

Mantras For Mommas

Repeat after me ladies: I am NOT a bad mom!

Whew! Doesn’t that feel good to say out loud? Take it from my own experience: I hear at least once a day from one (or all) of my darling children that I’m “stupid” or that “I’m ruining their life” or that I am the “worst”, etc. etc. – you get the point. Normally these just bounce off of me because I know they don’t mean those words, but on those occasional bad days when their words do cut me down, actually saying I am NOT a bad mom out loud to myself helps! I’m serious! Next time you are feeling pretty low about your ability to parent, just repeat those words to yourself (or any personal variation) and you will feel better.

Some other popular mantras I like to repeat to myself are:

It’s Almost Bedtime

Mommy Is Not A Maid

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Mommys Need Time-outs Too

They’re All Alive So I’m Calling It A Win

I mean, this list is pretty much endless, and yes most of these are supposed to be funny! I would not get through most days without a little humor (and caffeine!)

If you’re day is going south fast, just take a few minutes to yourself. Take a breather, take your caffeine source of choice, sneak one of those treats you hide from the kiddos, repeat a good mantra to yourself and head back in there! It will all be okay.

The Year of No

By May of this past year I was feeling extremely burnt out. Between my kids sporting events, art classes, my sporting events, our church callings, Scouts, traveling, Jess needing to leave for Boise in April until September, my work with the American Cancer Society and with the Rape Recovery Center I was feeling at the end of my rope. We were just TOO busy! I felt like we weren’t spending enough time as a family unit, and it was starting to show. Not in any huge obvious way, but as a momma I could tell my kids were struggling with it.

In June after the Hope and Healing Gala I helped with for the Rape Recovery Center, and my epic trip to Rwanda with my Grandpa, the kids and I made our way to Boise to spend the rest of the summer with Jess while we worked. After the first week of pure summer fun and no plans whatsoever I felt so recharged, happy, and steady. I decided I needed more of that in my life; this coming school year, we would start saying NO!

This means that other than the things we have to do, we will not add more to our load. If we don’t need to commit our precious time we could be spending together, then we won’t. Our kids actually WANT to be with us, and who knows how much longer we can enjoy that? I really felt like we as a family needed some time without extra responsibilities and stress. We are going to focus this time on spending it together and strengthening our family unit while the kids are still little. I stepped down from helping with this year’s event for the American Cancer Society because frankly I was feeling so burnt out, and I needed to spend that quality time with Jess in Boise. Coming home only after a week or two would have not been a good decision.

Without any prompting, our kids have started saying no as well. Calvin after much debate decided he didn’t want to play football. I was proud of him for making that decision on his own, because I knew it was hard for him. Jess and I did not put any pressure on him to play or not, and he felt like it was not something he wanted to pursue this year. He has many years ahead of him left for sports, so I am not worried at all about him “falling behind” or any of that mumbo jumbo. Him not playing  has been a huge change for us from last fall in a positive way. He had practices every day and games every Saturday and by the end of the season he, and us were exhausted! It was fun, but a lot of time commitment. It was also a time commitment that Memphis and Shay had no say in.

So far this school year has been easy peasy. Our days aren’t as hectic and full as they were last fall, and it’s just what we needed right now.  I’m sure next year we will pick right back up and be busy with activities, but I am glad I listened to my gut and decided to start saying no.

Put Up Your Dukes!

As a mom it’s extremely easy to get offended and defensive when it comes to our kids and our ability to raise them. A prime example is me and that pin that made me so angry. I mean really, I have no reason to get so riled up by 9 words, I already know I am an amazing mom to my kids. The word that sticks out in that sentence is MY. These children are mine, and I am the only one who knows them intimately, and know how to cater to their individual needs. No one else would be able to do that! Each child is different, and each family is different.

All I know is, that I love my children fiercely, and I try my darndest to do my very best to raise them right. I make sure they go to bed every single night with kisses and knowing that they are loved. My husband and I parent together with what we feel is right for our family, and what’s right for us isn’t right for the next family- and that’s okay! Every family has unique challenges and beliefs and that’s what makes this world so diverse and beautiful. Our differences and acceptance of those differences is what makes a community better.

So keep doing you moms of the world, cuz you’re doing great!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Are You My Mother?

It’s Mother’s Day again, and I find myself relating so much to that little bird who is searching for his mom in the classic children’s book  Are You My Mother? There are still so many times I find myself needing and aching for her and waking up on this day really regurgitates a lot of emotions for me; none of them good. Mother’s day was always such a lovely day to celebrate the woman who raised and loved me, but now I wake up and instantly feel unsettled because I know she’s no longer here. With an ache in my heart I am bombarded all day by thoughts of her that are so bittersweet.

Oh dear, I’m being a total buzzkill aren’t I? Well the good news, (yes there’s good news I promise), is that I am incredibly blessed to have many other mothers in my life. So, obviously on this day I will always honor my own mother who raised me, but today I will be celebrating the many other mothers who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today.

A Mighty Woman

When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1996, all of our worlds were rocked. Even though this tragic thing was sprung on our family, life still needed to proceed as “normal”. What I mean by that is that Aly and I still needed to go to school, we still had music lessons, activities to attend, meals to eat, and not to mention the house work and laundry that still needed to be done. My dad was still working a full time job and traveling a lot, and my older brother Rob was serving a religious mission in France for two years. This left Aly and I on our own a lot. This is where Judi came in.

In my opinion, everyone needs a Judi Quinn in their life. She was my mom’s best friend, and growing up it became tradition that our two families would celebrate holidays together since neither of our families had family super close by. I consider them family, and know to them the feeling is mutual.

There were other guardian angels too, who helped us during this time, many in fact. I have such a strong testimony of the love we can have for one another in times of tragedy because of the great kindness neighbors and friends showed us. Judi, however, is the most prominent to me. Our fridge and freezer were always full of meals, and if we ever needed a ride we would be taken care of. Even though life was incredibly chaotic, I always felt comforted knowing that she would be there for us in heartbeat.

Even when my parents moved away from Philadephia in 2004 my mom and Judi were in constant touch. Distance doesn’t end real friendships. They saw each other as often as possible, but talked on the phone all the time. Judi flew out to Utah and spoke and my mom’s funeral, and did a lovely job, but I did not expect any less. She still to this day is always a text or call away should I need her.

The Quinn’s family motto has always been “The Mighty Quinns”, and it honestly could not suit them more, especially Judi. It takes one mighty woman to not only care for her own children, but her best friends children when they were in need. My love for Judi can also be described as mighty.

An Education

When I was to get married in 2005, I was nervous because Jess is the baby of his family and I know how protective moms can be of their youngest children. From the beginning, I always felt loved and welcomed by Kathryn, my mother-in-law. I feel extremely blessed to say that I genuinely love her, because I have many friends who do not feel the same way towards theirs. She is a sweet, kind, and loving woman who herself has been through years of health struggles. She raised five rambunctious boys, (seriously some of the stories I’ve heard are unreal), and lived to tell the tale. I admire her for her strength and enduring faith through her trials of health, and truly love having her as another motherly figure in my life. Over the years she has been there to watch my children when I needed help, to give me advice on many subjects, and to be a tremendous support to me when I lost my own mom.

Not only am I blessed with my mother-in-law, but my sister-in-laws are pretty spectacular as well. Not just from my husband’s family, but my brother’s wife as well. I am surrounded by some incredible women who are there should I need them. When I found out I was (surprise!) pregnant in the summer of 2015, the first person I called was my sister-in-law Jacie. I wasn’t planning on the pregnancy to begin with, and still had my IUD in so I was feeling extremely panicked. Jacie is a nurse, and just all-around knowledgeable, and she was the person I was compelled to call. She was there for me in my full panic mode and I was extremely grateful. I feel so blessed to have these amazing women who are now my family that have taught me so much about motherhood. Becoming a mother has been so much easier because of their influence on me.

My dad remarried after my mom passed away. It was difficult to hear at first when he told me over the phone that he was engaged, but when they flew out to Denver and I met Christy for the first time, I could see what he saw in her. She is a very kind, sweet woman, and she has taken such great care of my dad. Seeing him so happy again has been so good to see. She also loves not only my children but my brother’s kids as well, and has done her best to make sure they each know it. Christmas of 2017 as we were packing up the kids in the car to head back to our house after having a dinner at my dad and Christy’s home, I felt strongly that I needed to run back inside where she was washing dishes. I tearfully told her that I needed to tell her that I loved her and appreciate her and we both hugged and cried. I do love her, and she is a part of our family now, and another great motherly figure for me to turn to.

The Branches of My Tree

In August of 2013 I finally came face to face with Sherri, my birth mother. We had been in contact since 2007, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I knew I was ready to meet her. Since that wonderful day, my family tree has expanded immensely. Not only did it expand, but it strengthened the roots, because I now have some incredibly strong and amazing women who are examples to me of motherhood. Suddenly I had three half sisters, a step-dad, grandparents again, (both sets of my grandparents passed away before I was in high school), aunts and uncles, and so many new cousins! I met pretty much all of them in one weekend, and you would think it would be overwhelming but it never was. To be honest, I felt like I had always belonged, and instantly felt welcomed and loved by everyone.

I have always felt connected to Sherri even before I knew who she was. Even still, figuring out our similarities cracks me up, and have connected the dots on so many things in my life. and why I am the way that I am. She had such an influence on the woman that I have become even before we met each other. But now that she is in my life, she’s someone I turn to constantly for help and advice.

The night that my mom passed away as I left the hospital to head home Sherri was the person I needed to call. I’m sure she could barely understand what I was saying because I was hysterical, but in that moment of absolute heartbreak I needed to hear her voice.

Her presence in my life means so much to me, and in these three years since my mom passed away I have had the opportunity to not only continue to strengthen our relationship, but to have another mother figure in my life. I’m extremely blessed to have two mothers in this crazy, beautiful life.

Twinning

Obviously, my twin sister Aly is without a doubt a huge part of my life, so why wouldn’t she be just as big a part of my children’s lives? My oldest son Calvin when he went into kindergarten told his teacher that he had two mommies, and she looked quite surprised when at the first parent-teacher conference I showed up with my husband Jess. I thought it was so sweet that Calvin considered Aly his other mommy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All three of my kids as newborns would happily transfer to my sister. A lot of people would ask me if I thought the babies could tell the difference. Clearly, a baby knows its mother’s smell, but I honestly believe my babies instantly loved their Aunt Aly from day one and imprinted on her because she is my twin sister. They all love her very much too.

Even though she did not give birth to those three babies, she is a mom to them. She teaches me about motherhood without even knowing it. I complain and vent to her all the time about things that frustrate me with being a mom, and she always has answers I hadn’t even considered or helps me to look at things in a different way.

I have zero doubts that when she is a mom one day, that she will be an amazing one. She has helped me raise my three kiddos in more ways than she will ever know.

A Storybook Ending

Sadly, I won’t be like the little bird finding it’s mother at the end of the book. I know my mom is gone from this earthly life, and even though it makes my heart ache and me feel all the feels today it’s going to be alright. Just thinking of just how many other mothers I have in my life makes this bitter pill a little easier to swallow. To be honest this has been an extremely emotional post to write, and I have cried (a lot) typing out my feelings.

Life isn’t like a storybook at all, in fact not even a little bit. But the way that story of my life has played out is that when a tragic chapter comes up, an amazingly beautiful chapter immediately follows it. Losing my mom was definitely a long, painful chapter, but the beautiful chapters that came right after it have been life-altering for me. Sometimes we need to experience a huge loss in order to grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers who enrich my life. I love you all very much and treasure your presence in my life.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

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Photo by Mckenzie Mcdonald Photography

 

 

 

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A Mother’s Identity Crisis

On November 20, 2008 at 4:42 AM I became a mom when my son Calvin was born. I was 23, and had been married for almost four years. We had been trying to have a baby for almost six months before we got pregnant, and were so excited to be having a boy first. When he finally made his debut at 8 lbs 12 ounces, Jess and I were overcome with emotion. That was one of the most beautiful days of my life holding my son in my arms. It was also the day that I lost my identity.  I’m sure this happens to pretty much every new mom, but I wasn’t even cognizant what had happened to me for years.

Hello! My Name is Mom

When we brought Calvin home from the hospital, my mom stayed with us for the first weekend and she was so much help. She was great at helping me adjust to the non stop feedings, clothes washing, and diaper changes. After she left, reality set in because for the first time in my life I was a mom, and I was doing it solo. Things got hard, really hard. I mean, no one really warned me just how awful the recovery process is after having a baby is to begin with.For those of you who don’t know, you have ice diapers and mesh underwear for the first few days down “there”. Plus, you bleed for weeks after, and your body is just healing in general from this watermelon you just pushed out. Let’s just talk about for a second, just how painful it is when your milk finally comes in. I mean, I thought my breasts got larger when I was pregnant, but when the milk dropped, I was like Dolly Parton! I tore “down there”, so I also had stitches that I needed to have heal, my tailbone was cracked, and I needed a blood transfusion for nearly bleeding out when I hemorrhaged all over the delivery table. Let’s just say my first experience in childbirth was a wild ride. So you’re drugged up, in pain, exhausted and yet you’re still supposed to care for a newborn. It’s like you ran a marathon, then had a boxing match, then rode the dizziest ride at the amusement park and someone hands you this little newborn and says “good luck!”.

I sort of fell into this rhythm 24 hours a day of only worrying about the baby. Because I was now “mom” and not “Heather”, I didn’t matter. It was all baby all the time. My days revolved around feedings, naps, diaper changes, and laundry. I was frumpy, tired, not losing the baby weight, and did I mention tired? A week after he was born was Thanksgiving, and someone snapped a picture of Jess and I both asleep on the couch. Tired was really an understatement.

I can vividly remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror one afternoon and was horrified at the woman looking back at me. I honestly didn’t recognize this tired, spit-up covered, haggard woman looking back at me!

Somebody That I Used to Know

In the weeks after having Calvin, I had a really hard time accepting the fact that I wasn’t the girl I used to be, not just figuratively speaking, but physically. My body had changed big time. I have a small frame and large babies, so my stomach stretched very far out, which resulted in very stretched out saggy skin. Not just that, but my hips were wider, my hair was falling out, I was constantly sweating from the hormones raging inside my body, and constantly in pain from the over abundance of breast milk that I was producing. Engorged breasts hurt!

For someone who had never had an issue with my weight, I was suddenly carrying around 30 extra pounds, and it really affected me. It also ended up affecting my marriage negatively.  Trying to fill the new role of being a mom and be a wife at the same time was definitely a hard road to navigate. I was trying to juggle the baby and the long list that he entailed, PLUS all the other house wifely duties I still needed to accomplish. Then, on top of ALL of that, I was still supposed to do my wifely duties including the ones in the bedroom. The honest truth is that sex was the last thing I wanted to even think about. I felt disgusting and completely not sexy. My body hurt, and by the end of the day all my energy was gone because all of it was given to this little person. Plus the scant amount of energy left was used up making sure the mountains of laundry were done and the house was still cleaned and meals cooked,  so the thought of being touched was just not appealing. Plus I could always smell spit up, even if I couldn’t find it. Who feels sexy when covered in spit up? Not me. All I wanted at night was to sleep, because sleep becomes precious once you are living with an infant. So not only was I suffering, but he was too.

It wasn’t until I broke down and finally explained to my husband everything I was going through that he understood. My problem for a long time in my marriage was that I assumed Jess was a mind reader and knew what I was feeling.

Spoiler alert: men are not mind readers!

The problem was not the emotional roller coaster I was going through, but that I was not communicating to anyone about it. Communication is key! Suffering in silence does nothing but hurt.

The New Girl

Let’s just get one thing clear in all of this: I love my kids and I love being a mom. But I hid how much I was struggling because I felt like such a failure feeling that way. I thought I just needed to soldier on because this is life and it’s tough. How could I be feeling so crappy when instead I should be like the perfect moms on Pinterest and in all the magazines? I’ll tell you why: it’s normal. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by being a new mom, and not just with your first baby. I honestly got a little overwhelmed with my second and third babies too, but once I figured things out, and we got into our new normal I was able to accept that it didn’t make me a failure.

I also had better support when I was feeling like I was drowning because I felt more comfortable opening up to my family and friends that I needed help. If I need to stress anything in all of this, it’s that if you need help ASK FOR IT! I hope you can hear me yelling those three words- I put them in caps to further press how important it is. Asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a capable mom, in fact in my opinion it makes you more of one. If you’re not taking care of yourself, then who’s taking care of your kids? Self care is a vital thing to do when you’re a mom. I always take time for myself now, whether it’s as simple as going to Target by myself, getting my nails done, or going to the gym. Honestly even just driving in the car by myself and blasting music is great!

I’m still mom, and will always be. I am proud and grateful for that role I have been blessed with, but I’m also still Heather, even if it’s a new and different Heather than before I had kids. Frankly, I am still trying to figure out just who I am, but it’s good to know that I can identify as more than just a mom and that I don’t have to feel ashamed to do so. I can find fulfillment in being the mom and also being Heather too.

CDA0D6F6-05F0-40D9-A69E-0B6B72285886Photo by Meg Oldroyd

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Mediocre Momness

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Back to school! It’s such a joyous time for Moms and Dads across the country. I remember when I was little Staples came out with a commercial that was forever my Mom’s favorite. It had the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing and the Mom was riding on top of the shopping cart sailing down the aisles just celebrating whilst filling said cart with back to school supplies. Her children were walking slowly behind her looking very unhappy. I totally get now why that was one of my Mom’s favorite commercials. Don’t get me wrong I love summer. However, once August rolls around, I am ready for structure and schedules again because the kids are getting restless and unruly. I also love the time I have to get things done while the kids are at school. This year, Memphis is the only one home with me since Shay is in first grade and it’s her first year going to all day school. I am loving the one-on-one time I am getting with him.

There is one thing that without fail always happens though once school rolls around again. I call it the back to school blues. It has absolutely nothing to do with my kids, and everything to do with me.

Forever Trying

One thing I will never be is the perfect mom, but I am no quitter. I try my hardest to make my kids lives fun and structured and healthy, but like I said, I’m not perfect. Despite me trying so hard to not worry about being perfect, there are moms everywhere who constantly make me feel guilty about it. It’s basically impossible to not compare myself to other moms. They seem to be everywhere – the Pinterest moms. I call them that because they seem like those picture perfect moms that are all over Pinterest. They cook extravagant meals, look like a movie star at 7 am with full make up on and dressed to the nines, they never yell at their kids, they are always doing fun activities, and their houses are always spotless. They’re basically like stepford wives.

Then there’s me. I always hit snooze on my alarm in the morning. I’m constantly in a state of tiredness. I should go to bed earlier, but I revel in my alone time at night once the kids are in bed that I end up staying up WAY too late binge watching on Netflix and Hulu. I’m also perpetually late to everything school related. It’s a skill. No matter how far in advance I plan, I almost never get a seat in the auditorium and am forced to stand while my toddler throws a fit and I’m so sweaty by the end of the concert or assembly that it seems like so much work to have even made the effort. Which speaking of sweaty, I’m usually in my workout clothes and unshowered. I mean, if I’m given the choice of working out or showering I pick the workout out every time. Cleanliness is overrated right? That’s what I keep telling myself. I almost never get a chance to shower. So yes, I may show up to the school functions smelling like B.O. with four days worth of  unshowered hair that’s 95% dry shampoo, and three-day old makeup making me look like a sick raccoon. But at least I made the effort to go right?

Now I am in no way saying that these Pinterest perfect moms are bad. I actually WISH I could be more like them! But try as I might I just keep falling very very short. It’s actually quite exhausting trying to keep up with them.

A Not so Subtle Revelation

Last night (Sunday), it was time for bed. As per usual, my kids rioted. It’s like they think that school was only for one week, and then that was it. So the fact that they had to go to bed early on a Sunday night was appalling. The usual way my oldest son acts out now is to say terrible things to me. He kept telling me over and over last night as we got ready for bed that I was a “bad” mom. I was also called “unfair”, “not cool”, “the meanest”, and “the dumbest” during his rant. I’m used to it now, so it didn’t faze me and yes, he still went to bed. There’s one thing this mom doesn’t cave on, and it’s bedtime. It’s a sacred time for me when the kids are all in their beds and I can just sit down and relax.

Once the kids were finally all in their beds I flopped down on my couch to queue up Netflix. I felt a little deflated from the battle that just went on upstairs, and I reflected on the things my son had said to me just moments before. The old me would have been really sad that he had said those things to me; I might have cried and had my feelings hurt by it. But not this time.

“I’m not a bad mom, I’m not even a terrible mom,” I said to myself, “I’m a GREAT mom!”

I felt rejuvenated. This realization gave me a new sense of self. I AM a great mom. My kids have great lives. They have a home, food, clothes, and toys. Most of all they are LOVED and KNOW it. I mean, I do some pretty cool stuff too like take my kids on fun adventures, read books to them in different voices, randomly break into song, have dance parties, and can tell every fart or poop joke in the book. But there is no denying I am a screw-up. But I am also a pretty awesome mom because I am such a loveable screw-up. I mean, my kids should be thanking me for being so relatable and down to earth.

Sorry Not Sorry

I quickly realized once my oldest son was in kindergarten, that I would not be able to make it to every event at the school. He was upset I couldn’t volunteer in his class, or come to all their class parties. It killed me, but having two other small kids at home and a husband with crazy hours meant I was not going to be able to. I stressed out about it for a few days, and was wondering if I was going to “break” my child by seeming to be unsupportive, but I soon realized that was ridiculous.

So, here is a list I’ve compiled for all you other moms out there who struggle like me feeling like such an imperfect mom. This particular list is things that do NOT make you a bad mom:

  • Not attending all events at school. (yes, they’re cute, but do we REALLY need a celebratory concert for America in the middle of February?!)
  • Not getting up and making a gourmet breakfast. Sorry kids, mommy is not and never will be a morning person. Sometimes I sleep right through my alarm. Eggo waffles are perfectly acceptable on such mornings.
  • Showing up to school looking like the conductor of the hot mess express. Yep, I have done this too many times to count! Just last week on the first day of school I slept through my alarm and ended up driving Calvin and Shay while wearing NO shoes and a grubby t-shirt and sweats I threw on. I fully embrace the hot mess that I am 80% of the time, but I do clean up pretty nicely too!
  • Not making healthy gourmet dinners every night. So to start off, I have picky eaters, and it’s hard! Even if i made the effort to cook a super healthy meal, no one would eat it. So yes, sometimes I do cook them and force them to eat it and they all usually cry. But most of the time, I give in and let them choose one thing they want to eat, (like mac n cheese), as long as they will eat one vegetable or a salad with it. My kids also take vitamins everyday, and are very active. So, I feel like as long as we can find a happy medium that they will be okay.
  • Not being their friend. Sometimes, this is such a hard one. But kids need to be loved and part of it is discipline. I refuse to let my kids grow up to be terrible adults, so discipline is necessary so they know what they can and cannot do.
  • Not having a clean house. Yeah, this one I am guilty of hardcore. Currently the laundry pile in my bedroom that needs to be put away is as tall as my bed, and I keep expecting it to grow legs and walk away. The table I am currently working at on my laptop in my kitchen is covered in crumbs and various toys that have accumulated over the weekend that I still haven’t cleaned off. But the toilets are clean! That in my book is a win.

I could go on and on with this list. Just know that you do NOT need to be a perfect stepford wives mom to be a GOOD mom. If you are that way, then good for you! You’re a good mom too and we applaud you! But for the rest of moms out there like me who struggle daily, just remember that perfect isn’t possible.

No, I’m by no means a perfect mom. I am, however, the perfectly unperfect mom for my kids. I try my very best and I think that’s what any of us can do. So if that makes me a mediocre mom, and not the Pinterest mom, so be it. I am happy with my mediocre momness.

 

Xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Whoa, Easy Girl

Is it weird to associate our inner selves with animals? Well I do. A spirit animal, if you will. Or a patronus for any other Harry Potter friends out there. Mine has always undeniably been a horse. When I was a girl I used to draw horses obsessively. I have always been compelled to them; drawn in by their muscled frames, long beautiful manes, and large intelligent eyes. I read books about them, and Black Beauty was one of my most favorite movies as a girl. Now, the really sad part is that I have only actually ridden a horse maybe twice in my life. So the fact that I have always felt this deep love for horses, and have barely any experience riding them is a bit odd. That’s something I would like to change- who wants to help a girl out??

Partly, I think I have always felt this pull towards horses was because they are such wild spirits. Sure, horses can be tamed but it would still run free if it had the choice. Many times in my life I have come to crossroads wanting to follow the unpaved path, and have to reign myself in. I am more of a free spirit and have such a laid back attitude with life that I know drives my husband crazy sometimes. He is very disciplined and always has a plan. I never have a plan and often just wing it, or just want to completely do away with any plan and run away. It’s a struggle sometimes for me to balance it all out.

As a girl, I always wondered, and often fantasized about who my biological family was. Sometimes I would dream of setting off on an adventure to find them. I loved (and love) my adopted family but sometimes it was obvious that my sister and I were adopted. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but there are definitely traits that we inherited from our biological families that we had even without knowing those people. Now that I know my biological mother’s family, there have been so many “aha!” moments when we realize the similarities. I now know that so much of the free spirit in me is from my birth mom Sherri. She too, loves horses and even had one of her own when she was a young girl.

It’s crazy to think about how woven together we all have been- even though it took us almost 30 years to meet. Life is so funny.

Running Wild

I found my birth mom Sherri in 2007. My twin sister Aly and I had joined a reunion website (Adoption.com) on a whim once we had decided to start looking for her in 2005. After a while, we stopped checking it because we were pretty sure we would never be able to find her. We had no information – none. All we knew was the city and hospital we were born in. It was definitely frustrating. At one point we even thought about hiring a private investigator but even if we had paid one they would have had an extremely hard time as well with the limited information we had in a closed adoption.

By chance in April of 2007 Aly called me in a panic. She could barely speak over the phone and all the words were spilling out at such a fast pace I had to get her to calm down. She was finally able to inform me that we had a response to our profile on Adoption.com! I told her to not get excited yet- it may not be her. I didn’t want to get my hopes up even though my insides were all screaming and wanting to jump through my skin.

Miraculously, when we asked her to send some photos, she emailed pictures of us at birth that we had copies of too as well as some of us with her the day we were born. It was a very unreal experience. My brain was having a hard time handling the fact that we had indeed achieved the impossible and found her. When I got home from work that evening in Ellicott City, Maryland, my entire body was buzzing with this energy I could not make stop, so I put on my running clothes and I ran. I ran until my lungs hurt and  I threw up. Running seemed to be the only thing to keep my heart up to speed with my brain which was going a mile a minute. I flung myself in a grassy field near my apartment complex drenched in sweat until my head stopped spinning.

We had done the impossible. We had found her.

Putting on the Blinders

When I called Mom to tell her the incredible news, she tried her best to pretend that she was excited. She could not, however, hide the fact that she was very upset. She actually started to sob over the phone and it made me so confused and sad. When I asked her what was wrong she told me

“I am happy you two have found her, but I am afraid you will leave me and Dad behind.”

My excitement was quelled by this. Of course I would never do that to my family, the thought had never occurred to me at all. No one was being replaced or being left behind; this was such an incredible moment that I thought would bring people together not apart.  Looking back and understanding more than I did at 22, especially now that I too am a mom, I can see where my Mother’s fears were coming from. It’s very normal for any adoptive parent, (I know my Dad had similar fears), to feel this way about their child searching for their birth family. But in that moment I just felt pain. I was confused why she wasn’t more excited for me and Aly. I knew we had a right to do this and it didn’t feel wrong. But seeing how upset she was and because I loved my mom so much, I decided to stop telling her information about our birth mom. It was not an easy decision to make, but I have never been one who enjoys or tries to harm people, especially those I love, so I felt it was the right thing to do. I would continue my journey to discover my birth family alone.

In 2013, I finally met Sherri in person along with her husband Rick. It was such an extraordinary evening that is impossible to describe with words. Seeing her and actually putting my arms around her fulfilled this sense of purpose I had been searching for. I felt a missing piece of my heart that I never knew to be missing was now replaced. It all felt so right and was such a monumental, emotional event that I felt I could not share with my family. It broke my heart to not tell them, but because I loved them so deeply, I didn’t want to cause anyone harm. Over the next three years as my mother’s health declined, it only further solidified my choice to not tell. The last thing I wanted was for her to feel like she was being replaced as her life on Earth was quickly coming to an end. There were many times that I wanted to tell her, and even started to, but would quickly decide not to. My fears of hurting my already sick mother who had been through so much always stopped my lips from moving.

Two Worlds Coming Together

My in-laws lived in Dayton, Nevada for about five years. In November of 2007, Jess and I drove out there from Utah to celebrate Thanksgiving. The day after the holiday, we packed lunches, bundled up, and drove on four wheelers into the mountains to find some petroglyphs and enjoy the beautiful scenery. On the trip back down from exploring we saw a herd of wild mustangs from the top of a ridge we were on. I was able to snap a few photos of them, and was so excited to see some in the wild because it’s pretty rare to do so nowadays.

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I was feeling on top of the world after that! The little girl inside me was screaming because I had actually seen wild mustangs in person! A few more miles out we stopped for a few minutes for a break, and to our surprise, a different group of mustangs appeared out of nowhere not 10 feet from where we stood! I audibly gasped when a dark brown one came within 5 feet of us, ears up and forward, curiously looking us over, and then wandering back to the herd. He apparently had determined that we weren’t a threat, because they stayed right where they were, completely unbothered by our presence. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I quickly snapped a photo before we moved on, but even the photo does not do the beautiful moment justice. Wild mustangs are usually quite shy, so the fact that this family of mustangs came close to our family group was exciting. It was a beautiful moment where our two worlds came together.

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My mother did not live to see my birth mom like I had dreamed. She passed away in February of 2015 – finally succumbing to 18 years of hell that cancer wreaked on her body. A few months after she was gone, I decided to tell Dad about Sherri. I was nervous, but Aly and I decided he needed to know since we never got to tell Mom.  Understandably, he took a while to digest the information, but he handled it very well. I was so excited and so relieved. In January of 2017 a dinner was set up in which my dad and his new wife, my stepmom Christy would be meeting Sherri and Rick as well as my biological grandparents DeVon and Dianne. The night was wonderful; it was another beautiful moment of two families coming together. It made my heart so happy, despite the dull pain that my mother was not able to be there too.

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Left to Right: Devon, Dianne, Me, Rick, Sherri, Aly, Christy, and Dad (Doug)

 The Movie that Broke Me

When I finally watched the film “Lion” about two months ago, it wrecked me to such a spectacular degree that I felt physically sick. In fact, I had to quickly turn off the movie when the credits started to roll, and rush upstairs to my bedroom where I continued to cry. I did not want to disturb my basement renters whose bedroom is directly below our tv room. I had previously read the book the film is based on “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierly, which was emotional in itself to read, but something about seeing it playing out really hit home for me.

Although Saroo and I have very different stories, his much more tragic than my own, the root of what he was needing to do was the same as mine: a need to find where he came from. He needed to find his family in India whom he had gotten lost from by getting on a train that took him across the country. Saroo was never educated enough to know the different dialects so he could not tell anyone where he was from, and eventually got put into the system after living on the streets in Calcutta for months. A kind couple from Tasmania adopted him, and he was flown across the world to live and grow up. Once he was grown, he had all but forgotten where he came from, until in his late twenties, he was suddenly bombarded by memories, and was then determined to find his family.

When he starts to search, he decides to not tell his parents what he’s up to. He doesn’t want them to think he is ungrateful for his life and the love that they have given him. While we were watching the movie, Jess turned to me and said:

“This is how you felt, isn’t it?” and all I could do was nod my head. The lump in my throat was preventing me from speaking. That was EXACTLY how I felt. Exactly. Saroo’s feelings resonated so strongly in me, and I am sure with many adoptees who are searching for their biological families.

I hope not to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but he does eventually track down his family with the help of Google Earth. He then finally tells his mom and dad what he has been up to. His mom is overjoyed for him, and supports him as he leaves for India. Once there, he tracks down his old family home, and with the help of strangers is able to find his mother. Their meeting again was so emotional for me, because my meeting with Sherri was no different. There was lots of hugging and crying and catching up.

Saroo calls his mother that night back in Tasmania and leaves her a message that says he found his mother and that she understands that they are his parents now, and she is so thankful to them for raising him and giving him a good life. He also tells his mom and dad in the message that this changed nothing for him about them as his parents and that he loves them. Nicole Kidman, who plays Sue Brierly in the film, has two adopted children in real life, and has said that she made this movie for them. In an interview she said this:

‘The movie is a love letter to my children who are adopted and it’s not about anything other than, “I wanted you whatever your journey is, I’m here to love and support you.” That’s what I connected to. I wanted to make the film for them,’ she explains.

‘When you are an adoptive mother, of course you think about the birth mother  and the birth parents and what it all means and how our lives are intertwined in some way, whether the child choose to find the birth parents or not.’  – Source : Daily Mail

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At the very end of the film, they show real footage of Saroo bringing Sue to India and meeting his mother, Kamala. This was the part that really ripped me apart. Seeing these two mothers who were a part of each others lives even though they had never met, embracing and shedding tears of such happiness was a moment I suddenly wished that Mom and Sherri could have had. They should have had it. I felt responsible that this never happened for them. Choosing to not tell my parents about this journey I was on, inevitably lead to this point, where they were both denied the chance to meet and embrace and cry because Mom passed away before I could better navigate my new relationship with Sherri and introduce them to each other. I just felt sick after the movie was done, and that feeling lasted a few days. My inner horse was already spooked and  running far away, and I felt past the point of being able to reign myself in.
This feeling of guilt and sadness is something I will carry heavily in my heart probably for the rest of my life. After a few weeks, I finally brought the subject up to Sherri via email. When she responded, she said this to me and as per usual, she set my soul at ease:
“What was lost to me in not meeting your mother is restored to me every time you tell me a story about your mother. Those few hours in my car on your mother’s birthday when you told me stories of her and your childhood were so precious and beautiful. A gift to me on your mother’s birthday. It also reflects in the way you walk in this world. In the same way that we are often amazed at those genetic similarities, I am amazed at the differences that I attribute to your mother. And I remain grateful for the ways in which we are different just as much as the ways we are alike. You are gifted with a wholeness that comes from being part of two women.”
I will forever be grateful for the two women who I can call mother in this life.
XoXo,
Heather
The Raw Brunette