What Every Mother Needs to Know and Hear~I Struggle Too.

I didn’t live in the land of Facebook or e-mail when my kids were little. We didn’t even have a computer or internet for many of those early years. Motherhood was a solitary journey and I lived for the days a friend would call me up to ask how I was doing.

I also thrived on Mom’s Morning out at church or when one of us had an energetic boost and could invite the others over for playtime and coffee. These were the sanity breaks that my mind and soul craved. Not because I was so lonely(maybe I was a little) but more so for the comradeship of knowing that I was not alone in my struggles.   I loved walking into my friend’s house and seeing the crumbs on her floor , the laundry piled high, bedroom doors closed so the mess behind them wasn’t initially visible.  I wanted to see that her fridge was a mess and her beds weren’t made. I needed to know that I wasn’t the only one.  It gave me a chance to catch my breath and say, “Hey, it’s okay~you’re not the only one.”

For many years having people over was a painful process. I felt like everything needed to be in it’s place and perfectly clean. I would wash mirrors, toilets, windows, floors, clean out the fridge, rearrange the furniture, hide away mounds of laundry under blankets and in closets and pretend to look pulled together. It was exhausting. And rarely did that happen without some yelling and crying. Mostly from me. The pressure to have it all together is immense. Especially from the generation before us.  Let’s face it, our mothers and fathers came from a time when “cleanliness is next to Godliness”( which incidentally is NOT in the Bible).  Any sign that you are a messy person was the equivalent of being spiritually undisciplined and unacceptable.  I succumbed to this pressure for many years and tortured my family in the process.

That was then.

I have learned after 21 years of marriage that the people with the perfectly clean houses fall into a couple of categories:

– either both parents work all week and the kids are at school/daycare all week so no one is there to LIVE IN the house.

-At least one parent is completely anal about cleanliness and is a perfectionist beyond my realm of knowledge

or – they don’t have half the junk we do and they live in a house where everything has a home so it’s very easy to keep clean.

 

I am none of these. We have moved a lot, we have rented in places where closets and cupboards were minimal at best.  I am not a disciplined housekeeper and perhaps that’s due to my overall physical strength and well-being most of the time.  And we tend to have the cheaper variety of department store furniture, shelving, storage which is barely sufficient to corral and organize everyone’s stuff.

It doesn’t really matter why, it just matters that it is.  I’m not the crazy, clean housewife. I would rather sit down with my husband after supper than do dishes.  I would rather sleep in on Saturday occasionally than jump on the laundry.  I would rather go visit a friend than wash floors.  There’s always something else I’d rather be doing.

But it is still a struggle and I do wish that I was THAT woman over there who always has the perfectly clean house,  with the perfectly organized kitchen and the perfectly perfect kids.   Scratch that.  I don’t want that.  I don’t want to be squeaky clean. I want to be real.

We’re not all cut out to be perfectly perfect housewives with high heels on , a pressed apron on our hips and dinner on the table at 5:35 pm exactly.  Some of us are the ones with no apron on, flour on our hips, splatters on our shirt, and cookies in the oven at 5:45 pm just starting to think about what we can scrounge together for supper.

Yesterday I tackled a mountain of laundry. Laundry is the bane of my existence. It always has been. When the kids were little my mom would come to visit and do laundry for 4 days straight. She rocks the laundry room. I just can’t. I get overwhelmed on load 3.  Yes my kids do their own laundry but there’s always seasonal, household and SOCKS that fall through the cracks and accumulate. Yesterday’s pile had a ridiculous amount of mismatched socks of every size and colour. There was also mitts and scarves in abundance from our all-too-long winter. And then blankets and sheets from sleepovers and towels from 3 bathrooms and 6 people. We just suck at getting it done all the time.  And so, here I was , faced with a room where the floor had not been seen in several months. It was brutal.   But I did it. I started in the morning, sorted, folded, moved out, sorted, washed, dried, folded, sorted….it’s a lot of work when kids are growing out of stuff faster than you can wash a load.

I’m terrible at laundry. And if I lied to you and told you that my kids are all well trained and have this craft down to a science you might think I’m a great teacher. But I’m not.  Half of them are really good and half of them are like me. 🙂  It’s okay, you know.  It’s okay that we’re not perfect.  Because I suspect that someone reading this right now struggles with laundry too. Or maybe dishes. Or maybe your floors get washed once a season or once a year. Or maybe you only vacuum when company comes.  It’s totally okay. I’m kind of over the shame and guilt that some throw on us because we’re not all Susie-Homemaker baking bread, cleaning out dust bunnies and polishing floors on a daily basis.  Shame and guilt have no place in conversations with other moms.  I only have solidarity and support.  If I can tackle 15 loads of laundry in one day, anyone can.  But if you can only do one load, sister, I am SO there with you.

The more we admit that we struggle, the more comfortable we make it for someone else to admit they’re not perfect either.  The lady who gets all her laundry done every day might be terrible at baking. Her poor , poor children never get a home made cookie~ Ever.  See?  No one is perfect at it all.

 

This is after I cleaned out the 10 loads that needed to be folded~not even kidding.
This is after I cleaned out the 10 loads that needed to be folded~not even kidding.
A portion of the pile before me to fold. *sigh*
A portion of the pile before me to fold. *sigh*

 

 

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Progress!

 

Oh and one more tip: if your mother, or mother-in-law or friend, or aunt, or nosy neighbour, or stranger on the sidewalk offers to come and do your laundry for you…..TAKE THE DEAL!!! 🙂

We Don’t Live in Walnut Grove Anymore {The Social Media Generation}

If I talk to you about social media, what do you instantly think of? Facebook? Twitter?

I’m guessing most of you think of Facebook exclusively when it comes to your kids. But you would be wrong. In fact, a lot of kids are leaving Facebook and checking out SnapChat and in rapidly increasing numbers, Instagram.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I would like you to read this article from Hollee Actman Becker. She has absolutely nailed it when it comes to Instagram and our kids- especially tweens and teens.  Do You Think You’re Smarter than Your Fifth Grader? 

 

Did you read it?? Go. Now. Read it. The rest of this isn’t going to make sense unless you read it and I’m not dictating it for you. Go. 

 

Okay, so, now that you’re panic-stricken and mortified, let’s talk about this.

 

Unless you plan on moving to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee or the back woods of the Boreal Forest in Northern Saskatchewan, social media is not going away and it’s now a part of your life, like it or not.  Sure, you can ban your kids from ever touching a computer or cell phone. You can take away their iTouch and their iPads.  You can turn off the wi-fi in your house at 8 pm  and you can hold their hand through life.  OR you could talk to them and teach them about the proper use of social media.

Last week I got an iPhone after much prodding and peer pressure from my 18 year old son. Oh , he’s quite the salesman I tell ya. What got me convinced is the inter-connectivity between my two oldest who have iPhones, my husband and his iPad(he has since upgraded to an iPhone too) and my two younger daughters who each have an iTouch. If you’re not familiar, an iTouch is a glorified iPod which you might think is just for listening to music and watching videos but it actually has all the capabilities of an iPhone without being a phone. So anywhere there is a wifi connection, the holder of an iTouch is able to be on the internet, add apps like any iPhone user would and it also has a camera/video camera.  Very cool but for kids, definitely needs monitoring.   Now, I know my girls have been using Instagram for the past few months. Many of my friends also share  their instagram photos on Facebook and Twitter and I have to admit, I was a little sad when I learned that you have to have an Apple product to use that particular app. I have looked at my girls’ photos and I realized a couple of months ago that there is a lot more going on on Instagram than what I had previously thought. I too, thought it was simply a photo sharing application but with the ability to follow and comment, I realized it really is just another social media outlet.

Our rules on Facebook are as follows:

  • If you’re going to be on Facebook, you must have your parents as friends or you can’t have an account. (They have all figured out that they can customize statuses and posts to exclude us because we were “so annoying” commenting on things.)
  • At any time I can look at their friend list and suggest/demand deletion. We have had to do this a few times particularly with some “friends” who they don’t know well or who have potty-mouths and regularly post offensive comments, statuses or links.
  • At any time I can go into their inbox to see who they’re chatting with and what they’re chatting about.  I did this a lot in the early days and the threat of it now has kept everyone behaving(I think).  I do believe our teens need a certain level of anonymity and privacy. I had diaries and there were some things I wanted to vent about that I would never want my mom to hear or read. Growing up is a working through of emotions and thoughts and it’s okay for our kids to have someplace to do that. But I caution my girls that everything they type can be cut, pasted, shared, taken out of context for all the world to see so tread carefully.
  • Absolutely no bashing friends, acquaintances, family or teachers on Facebook or any other social media. I will not put up with cyber-bullying  or openly slandering another person.
  • Facebook is a privilege, not a right. At any moment it can be gone. And we have suspended accounts for several months at a time. Parents, be parents. Consequences for inappropriate behaviour must be followed through.
  • Anyone who you “friend” on Facebook must be someone you know personally, have an in-person relationship with and who is someone that you would not hesitate to have over in our home for dinner or sitting in our living room with the whole family.  If any one of these criteria does not line up then you cannot be friends on Facebook.  Facebook is an extension of our home and your life. It is a virtual living room. Therefore, we regularly check friend lists and purge as necessary. If someone is a FB stalker(they’re on but you never hear from them) then they’re gone.  If someone takes things you post and shares them with others not on your friend list or not on FB, they’re gone.  If someone makes any one of your friends feel uncomfortable or is chatting privately with you about what someone else said or posted, they’re gone.

This is not an exclusive rule list and it’s always changing. Social media has changed a ton in the six years that I have been on. An open dialogue is essential with your kids. Use it as a teaching tool. Someday your kids will be on their own and they need to have a good foundation for what is acceptable on the internet and what is not.  If you don’t teach them, they’ll learn on their own or from someone else. This is why, for the life of me, I cannot understand some parents who are NOT on Facebook but allow their children to be. You cannot monitor that which you do not see. And you cannot see that which you do not understand or where you are not present. Be present in your child’s life~everywhere.

 

So, back to Instagram. We had an episode a month ago. Potentially a scary episode. My youngest(who will be 13 next week) was having problems and I knew that but she wasn’t sharing much. I will not give all the details but I received a phone call from her friend’s mom on a Saturday morning. She was worried about my daughter because she read an inbox message from her, to her daughter. The word suicide came up. I was alarmed but I was more curious. I took my daughter out on a shopping trip and lunch. We talked about school and friends and all kinds of things. She didn’t give me any indication of a problem and her marks have been good. I had to tell her about the call and she immediately burst into tears. Instagram. Instagram had made her feel awkward and uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even though she didn’t say those words, that’s what it was.  A boy at youth group had liked a photo of her on instagram and her friends had blown it up into a big deal. Why? Because when you “like” something on Instagram it pops up as a heart. So here was her picture with a heart and this boy’s name.  It’s one of those moments in grade 7 when you are SO EMBARRASSED you just want to die.  You know what I mean , moms? You want to die. And that’s what this innocent little  inbox message had said.

When I was in grade 7 and I liked a boy, I didn’t tell anyone. It was my secret with myself. I told my daughter that as much as she loves her friends and they love her, teasing will always happen to the extent where you want to crawl into a hole and never come out. That’s why diaries are great. And that’s why, when I was in grade 7, I could run home, close the bedroom door, cry into my pillow and stress for a day and a night and by the next morning the girls were teasing someone else at school and the boys were just being boys.

Here’s the thing parents, we don’t live in Walnut Grove anymore(did you have to Google that to figure out what I meant?).  Nelly is still on the playground, but she’s carrying an iPhone and she’s using everything your little Laura says and does against her. She’s video taping and photographing and texting.  Albert and Willie have phones now too.  And they don’t mean any harm but they get caught up in the moment.  So what are you going to tell your Laura, your Mary, your Carrie?  What do you do? Do you pack them up in the wagon? Do you tell Pa to get his shotgun and show those kids who’s boss?

Nellie Olson still exists ~she just has an iPhone now.

No.  We live in 2013 and computers and cell phones and social media are a part of our lives. We have to teach our kids to protect themselves. We have to show them how to be friends but how to still keep their private life private. We need to be their safe place and their fountain of knowledge. But we can’t do that if we don’t know what they’re talking about. We can’t help them if we don’t even understand what “tbh” and “lms” mean. It’s time to get with the program.  Be a parent and be there for our kids.

Needless to say, we ‘ve adjusted privacy settings on Instagram for the girls. And now that I’m on, I can see what’s being posted and what’s being said. 95% of it is innocent. But the conversation is an open and evolving one. I’m not going to be the mom who says, “I didn’t know” .

 

 

For the Frustrated Mother~from Darlene

Do you have a mother mentor?  I did, and she taught me a simple lesson about how valuable and precious my children were, and how you can never love them too much.

Ione was the pastor’s wife.  She came from California and was the most “out there” kind of pastor’s wife I’d ever met.  She had a big laugh, a big voice, big hair, big shoulder pads, sparkly dresses, bold and outrageous jewellery, and a pair of dressy shoes with high, Lucite heels that my 3 year old daughter coveted for her dress up box.  You could hear her the second you walked into the church foyer on Sunday morning.  She was the one with the enthusiastic, “Well hello there!  I’m so glad you could be here today!”  She knew all the moms by name and remembered our children’s names.  She would gather you in for a hug and say, “I’m so happy you’re here!”  She sat close to the front of the church when her husband preached, and announced her hearty “Amen” when he got to a point she agreed with.  She would regularly invite about 10 families over at a time and feed them spaghetti.  You sat in the kitchen, in the dining room, at a card table set up in the living room…she just set places anywhere, and was the most hospitable woman I’d ever met.  She understood that people needed to feel connected and valued.  She was an absolute fascination for our calm little Mennonite church.   No one could get away from her, but truthfully, you really didn’t want to.

I remember telling her one day how frustrated and tired I was with my children.  She flashed her award winning smile and said, “But did you tell them, ‘I’m so glad God sent you to our house?’  You should tell them that all the time, because they were chosen just for you.”  Well.  Wow.  It’s hard to remain frustrated when you look at it that way.

Ione reminded me that my children were little vessels that needed to be kept topped up every day with love and acceptance.  She was a true believer that you can’t love someone too much.  When my children misbehaved, she taught me that sometimes you have to stop what you’re doing and just say, “Do you need a cuddle?” or “Do you need to just be held a bit?”  It’s harder to scold someone when they’re safe in your arms, and it’s easier for a child who is being held to tell you what’s going on in their busy little minds.

I’m glad God sent my children to our house.  I hope I told them that as many times as they needed to hear it.

~from Darlene, our resident grandma on duty. (she’s still trying to figure out how to log in and post her own blogs. ;))