Being Childless in a Mommy Filled World

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Some days are easier than others.

The days where I don’t sit in the teachers’ lounge, the days I don’t go to church, the days I don’t talk to my friends. Sounds odd doesn’t it? Shouldn’t those be my encouraging encounters?

Most days I am bombarded with social media reminding me of all the happy parents: the mamas and the papas. I giggle at the photos, share them with my husband, even repost some of them.

Let’s roll back the clock before I get ahead of myself.

I am the second of three kids that eventually became four. My youngest brother joined our family when I was 12 years old. He easily fit right in seeing that he had the eyes to match his sisters and the red hair like his brother. There was no denying he was our flesh and blood. I immediately took to him.

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My dad was a carpenter and he constantly remodeled any home we moved into. With the addition to the family, we obviously needed to up-size our home. It was a simple choice – hold tools for dad or entertain the baby. Hmmm. He quickly became my best friend, my companion, my baby brother. I knew his first words, witnessed his first steps, and shared his adventures as he discovered this new world.

When he turned 7 the world stopped on a dime… I felt my chest cave in when I heard my parents explain what Type-1 diabetes meant (the kind that never goes away, the kind you can’t prevent, the kind that requires shots, counting, shots, blood tests, shots, finger pricks, shots, counting carbs, and shots). I was 19 and I was grieving just as much as my parents. That’s when I realized I had assumed the role of another parent to my brother. He was more my child than my sibling.

Rachel – it means “motherly”, it means “gentle like a little lamb”. These were the encouraging statements my parents would tell me growing up as they watched me interact with him. Statements that were meant to build me up, I’m sure.

May 18th, 2014 – My 26th birthday. The age my mother was when she had her first child. The age that pushes me closer to thirty. An even number that craves balance and stability.

July 4th, 2014 – Our 5 year wedding anniversary. My favorite number. Halfway to a decade of marriage.

582,212 – The number of times I’ve been asked if I have kids, the number of times I’ve been asked WHEN I’ll have kids (as if I could control it), the number of times people assume I have kids because I am married, own a house, or teach middle schoolers.

Zero – The number of people that think before they ask.

What if I had ovarian cancer? …How would you expect me to respond?

What if my husband and I were getting a divorce? …What would you say then?

What if he couldn’t father children? …Would you be embarrassed?

What if I was sexually abused? …Would you change the subject?

What if I had a miscarriage? …Would you try to comfort me?

What if we wanted to adopt? …Would you try to mask your surprise?

What if we didn’t want children at all…?

 As I sit in the staff lounge, mingle in church, interact at family gatherings, or browse social media, I am bombarded with the BORING details of “motherhood”. The pregnancy selfies, the creatively unique announcements, the baby showers, the nursery inaugurations, the hospital bed pictures, the breast feeding debates, the diaper sizes, the sleep patterns, the developmental stages…

Honestly? Will those things matter in 5 years? Is this why children are born? So women can role play? If this is motherhood, then I don’t want to be a mother.

I am the outcast. I know nothing of being in labor, giving birth, losing sleep, or tending to the needs of an infant. I just got to watch my brother for a few hours. What do I know about children? Does this discredit me from contributing to these conversations?

I am the outsider. I don’t have cute baby things to buy or post online. I’ve bought enough baby shower gifts to create two nurseries of my own. When I go to baby showers I want to crawl under the chairs and play with the toddlers to escape the “mommy mob”.

I am the outlaw. I don’t want to be a mom. I want to raise children. I want to see them run and jump and reach and grow and imagine and create and pretend and learn and try and fail and laugh and play and love. I want to pour my heart and soul into a little miniature mixture of me and my husband and watch it flourish in the Son. In 1 Samuel, Hannah prayed for a son so she could “give him back to God”.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

I was born to love and be loved. I was born to become a daughter, a sister, a student, a teacher, a follower, a leader, a wife, and – one day – a mother. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am. My heart aches for my students. I’ve taught kids in school who don’t have a mother or a father. My soul cries when I see kids and teens in orphanages or foster care. They have learned to believe they are unwanted. My body craves to be a mother. I long for the days to come where I hear midnight giggles down the hall, I see tiny tops of heads peek over my bedside, I receive surprise tickle attacks.

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. - Psalms 139:13

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Through our interactions at church and work, my husband and I are constantly told how we’d “make great parents”. As if we decided against it and should change our minds. Since we were engaged at 19, we have crafted a list of boy names and girl names, names that are clever or carry a legacy. One by one they have been stolen by others around us. We have created house rules that we enforce on our puppy as if he could fill this void. We watch parents and swear we will never be like that. He is my soul mate, my best friend, my favorite. I know he will become a great father and I will become a great mother. These things don’t happen the second a child is born, they are roles we learn about , train for, and practice.

He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Psalm 113: 9

When? Is that really any of your business?

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Rachel grew up a pk (pastor’s kid), rebelled for a few years, then fell in love with Christ. She married her high school crush from 7th grade and will be celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary on July 4th. She works as a middle school English teacher who has 134 “kids” of her own. You can often find her running 5k’s, reading trendy young adult novels, or wrestling with her dudley lab, Bogart.

The Most Awkward Easter Photo Ever and A Giveaway!

First, I would like to show you a photo from our first Easter as a family. I had big ideas about getting cute family photos, but what actually happened was this. I grabbed my friend, told her take a photo of us with her camera (because I forgot mine, naturally), and awkwardly held Jonah because I was proud of his outfit and wanted to show him off. Not what I was envisioning, exactly. We ended up getting a somewhat nice family photo, but this is the one that keeps me laughing to this day. Holy moly. So many words I could say.

A history of easters

And then the next year, I had just given up on doing Easter things at all because it SNOWED. But on the way home from church, I was like, “crap. We should do something.” So we picked up some eggs, I tossed them in the yard and Jonah, my sister, and I went outside for a literal 5 minute egg hunt. And then I realized his shirt was buttoned wrong the whole time and it annoys me to this day.

a history of easters

A history of easters

The next year, which was last year, we had just moved to Knoxville, I was exhausted, emotionally drained, 20 weeks pregnant and living in a small bedroom in my parents house. Oh and it SNOWED that week. I moved to Tennessee to escape the snow and it followed me here. Story of my life. We did another after thought egg hunt, but Jonah had so much fun and we had egg hunts every day for about two weeks. It turned into the game that never ends until the eggs disappear. And I made sure they disappeared. {insert evil laugh here}

A History of Easters

I haven’t even given a second thought to what we’re going to do this year. Probably something random and chaotic, and if it snows….. I’m going to hurt somebody. I really am.

Looking back on photos from my first two Easters as a mom has me thinking and feeling so many things. I wanted so badly for Jonah to catch up to all the other kids. I wanted him to be older, bigger, more alert, more mobile, more everything that he wasn’t. He was such a little thing for so long (preemies have that way about them) and I just didn’t take advantage of it. I wish I had given up all of my efforts at rushing his development and just enjoyed those sweet, precious, and quiet baby days. But I didn’t because all of my friend’s babies were developing faster and they were older and I didn’t want Jonah to be left out. At 3 months old. Nice, Kristen.

I wasted so much time not enjoying his baby days and just wishing he was older. I’m a totally different mom to Emery than I was to Jonah. Is that bad? You live and learn, I guess. If I could go back and smack myself in the face and change just ONE thing about how I did the mom thing back then, I would get a baby carrier and carry Jonah around everywhere. He was so little and I didn’t know much about baby wearing and I gave up on the Moby because I just couldn’t figure out the wrapping thing. I really, really, wish I would’ve worn him a lot more. I mean seriously, that first photo. He’s sleeping, you fool! Wrap him up, hold him tight, smell that new baby smell and relax

If you have a new baby, or are currently cooking one, please just trust me when I say, don’t rush things. Just let your baby be a baby and enjoy the stage. You’ll blink and they’ll be three years old and telling you that you stink like poop. Invest in a good carrier and wear your baby all the time. But before you go on the hunt for the perfect carrier, how about taking your chances at winning one?? I’ve teamed up with Nesting Days to bring you an AMAZING giveaway!! This is the best giveaway I’ve ever hosted and I’m so SOOOO excited about it. If you have a baby on the way, you need one of these. You really, really, do. Enjoy the newborn stage. Don’t rush it. Wear your baby. Smell their heads. They smell really good. Now let’s get to winning some stuff, shall we?

Tell a friend and get those entries in, ya’ll. Let’s do this thing! {Read my review of the carrier & see it in action right here!}

So many well wishes and good lucks to you all!!

Newborn Carrier Giveaway at When at Home

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Wordless Wednesday

I’ve said enough things this week. Here’s my adorable baby tax :

oh my 559

Stop Skinny Shaming.

Skinny People Are People Too

I have always been thin. Other than the few months as a baby when I was immobile and covered in rolls. I’ve just always been on the skinnier side of the scale. I don’t have a single curve, or big boobs, or long legs. I’m just thin. I’m a short and skinny girl that has been insecure almost my entire life.

It got so bad at one point, that I just stopped eating and at my lowest weight, I was 85 pounds. I won’t call it an eating disorder, because it didn’t last that long and it was really just an attempt to get my crappy idiot boyfriend to pay attention to me. It didn’t work, by the way, and although the effects of that temporary lapse of intelligence lasted well past my break up, I “recovered” relatively quickly.

My eating (or lack thereof) issues were out of control, and in the height of my struggle someone made a comment that I’ve never fully healed from. I was living in Paraguay and was at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. Something happened to the clothes I was wearing (can’t remember what exactly) and I needed to borrow some pants from my younger cousin. I was 19 at the time, she was around 13. She brought me a pair of pants and I put them on not thinking anything about it. One of my aunt’s friends (who happened to be on the chubbier side) was over and when I came out of the bathroom, she said, “Are those Laura’s pants??” To which I said, “Yes..” She huffed , rolled her eyes, and said, “That is so nasty that you can fit into those.” and walked out of the room.

Nasty? I was nasty?? Nobody said anything in retort or defense of me, so in my insecure brain, I took that to mean that everyone thought the same thing. That I looked nasty. Did that inspire me to go eat a hamburger? HA. No. No it did not. In fact, it made things worse and it’s a miracle I ever ate again. Every time I looked in the mirror, I thought, “You’re nasty. You look so nasty. You have the body of a 13 year old.”

I couldn’t talk about my insecurity with anyone because any time I voiced any kind of unhappiness about my body, I would get a lot of, “Oh yea, you’re so fat. Look at you with your 2 centimeters of extra skin.” Tons of snickers, eye rolls, and passing me off as just trying to get attention. I started eating again with the help of my sister in law and a close friend and gained weight and felt amazing. Until I got pregnant with Jonah and gained 60 pounds. Then I felt really really ugly. When you go from being 115 pounds to 170 pounds seemingly overnight, you develop some self esteem issues. You can’t blame a girl. You really can’t. I hated looking in the mirror. Hated it. “You’re so nasty. Now you look like a fat 13 year old.”

Skinny Shaming
(All of different weight stages. From left to right : 90 pounds, 130 pounds, 117 pounds)

I’ve been made fun of for being thin my entire life and I’ve yet to open up to someone who has allowed me my skinny insecurities. People just assume that if you’re thin, you have no reason to be insecure because you have the ideal body shape. Um, ideal for who?? Because the internet tells me all day every day that real women have curves and men don’t want to cuddle with a skeleton, they want more junk in the trunk and cushion for the … you know what. Women who weigh more than me have rolled their eyes at me at the gym and scoffed at my desire to eat healthy and organic and low carb and sugar free because why would I need to do those things?

So. This is me, all 113 pounds of me, demanding (politely) that you back off skinny girls. I kicked my baby weight’s butt, I eat healthy, I go to yoga twice a week, I have a 20 something pound neanderthal on my back, chest, or hip at all hours of the day, I don’t eat a lot of carbs and I try to (mostly) stay away from sugar. I’m awesome and I look good, but I still get insecure and want to change things about myself. Allow me that. Allow the skinny girls an insecure moment or two. I don’t think I’m better than anyone because of my weight, so please don’t think you’re better than me because of yours.

That is all.

(And just to prove that skinny people can be the most insecure and awkward people ever…)

Why Are You Inspecting This Enough To See The Title

I can’t believe I’m sharing these photos with the world.

The Difficulty of Discipline.

So Jonah’s usually a really good kid. He doesn’t test his limits too much, he asks permission before he takes things or eats things,  he doesn’t scream or yell or demand things. He’s definitely not the perfect kid (does such a thing exist?), but he’s not a brat. But lately he’s been hanging around other kids a lot more, which is a good thing, but he’s picked up a few new tricks. He lied to me the first time last week. I could tell he was just testing it out, to see how it would go, and he immediately told me the truth once he saw the look on my face, but I felt like we lost something. We had a little talk about honesty afterwords, but I’m really sad that he’s learned the thing that every child learns : how to lie to get out of trouble.

And then one day he was being especially whiny and he’d been really sick, so I was trying to be patient and understanding. I got down in front of him, eye to eye, and told him that he needed to stop what he was doing to come in and eat with us, but he didn’t want to. So he screamed this throat scratching scream and said, “STOP TALKING!!!!” and threw his fist back to hit me, changed his mind halfway through the swing, but it was too late and his knuckles still made contact with my cheek. I’m sorry. I don’t care HOW sick a kid is, they don’t get to hit mom. Ever. No tolerance. Let’s duke this out, Mike Tyson. So we did. Hard core. 

The Difficulty of Discipline

So now we’re in this stage where he sees another kid do something and then he tries it and I’m all like, “Oh hec no.” But it’s so hard to discipline him because we’re still trying to figure out what works. I feel like parenting a kid is this lifetime  of trying to figure out how to discipline the kids. Zach and I 100% believe that a parent’s job is to train their children. Not to be their best friend or adventure partner (although there are times for that). If we don’t do our job in training our children to be honest, respectful, and self controlled, then we limit what they can do and be in life. If my child doesn’t know how to behave in public or in other people’s homes, think of how much that will affect where he can go, who he’ll be friends with, what he will be able to do with his time. I don’t want to be one of those moms that everyone dreads coming to the playground because her kids are terrible. I know those moms. I feel for them, but not enough to want to be around their kids.

If you haven’t read the article, “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical”, go do it. Right now. It’s so good. Cause the thing is, whether you want to admit it or not, our generation, the Millennials, are an ego centric, self centered generation. We just are. We’ve made our lives public and enjoy sharing the highlights on facebook and we fish for likes and feel validated when we get them. We post photos of the things we do with our children because somewhere deep (or maybe not so deep) inside we want other people to see how awesome we are and feel inferior. We want to better than everyone else. This is definitely affecting our parenting and it will affect our kids in a terrible way.

Your job is not to do crafts and activities with your kid. Sure, you should and you will and it will be amazing. But filling up your days with activities and making fun memories does not make one a good parent. The best thing you can do for your kid is to teach them right from wrong. Do hard things. Discipline them. Take toys away, turn off the TV, ground them, make them so mad they cry. That’s parenting. If all we ever do as parents is make our kids happy and make their childhood magical and give them what they want because we don’t want them to be mad at us or hate us, then we’re not doing it right. That’s self centered parenting and if that’s how we’re all doing it, then we’re raising a rotten generation. Kids need to know that there are consequences for actions and those consequences (in our house) do not involve just getting talked to and lectured.

Last night, Jonah refused to go to sleep. It was fine for the first 45 minutes. He just lay there saying he wasn’t tired. He wasn’t yelling or screaming so we just waited patiently for him to go to sleep. We all sleep in the same room and Emery was sleeping so as long as Jonah wasn’t being loud and waking him up, no discipline was necessary. But then things got real. He got out of bed a couple times and the last time I put him back in bed, he freaked the hec out. Yelling, crying, screaming. I told him. I warned him. If you wake up the baby, things are gonna happen and you’re not going to like those things. Emery started screaming and I yelled at Jonah and took his toy that he wanted to sleep with away. Cue more screaming. Doesn’t matter, Emery’s already awake, scream as much as you want.

But I was MAD. Flipping my lid mad. Zach and I wanted to go grab some food after they went to sleep and at that point, it was 9:30 and all hopes of getting some time alone were shot. So. Mama got angry. I yelled. Probably more than I should have. I went upstairs with the baby and came back down and Zach was sitting outside our room laughing. I asked him what was so funny and he wouldn’t tell me at first, but then he told me that Jonah was laying in his bed saying, “Mommy broke my heart. Mommy broke my heart.”

Maybe a year ago that would’ve made me cry. Maybe on a different night, that would’ve made me cry. But last night….last night, my response was, “Well GOOD. He’s lucky that’s the only thing I broke!” I did go in there after a few minutes and cuddle up with him and kiss him and sang to him and made sure he knew I loved him and wasn’t mad at him (anymore) and today we’re going to have a talk about not waking up the baby. But I don’t care that he gets mad at me. I don’t care that I hurt his feelings sometimes. It sucks. It’s heart breaking and I hate hate hate hate doing it, but I have to. We have to. I won’t coddle my children into being brats. They can get mad, they can cry, they can say I’m the worst mom ever and threaten to run away, and I have to be OK with that because this parenting thing isn’t about me. I’m not going to protect my own feelings and parental validation and risk raising children that have no limits or self control and that don’t understand consequences.

Discipline SUCKKKSSSSS. But for every “Mom broke my heart”, I get about 100 “Mom you’re the best ever!”. Double that for kisses and hugs and play time and magical moments. Because those are the things that happen the most. The bratty, yell worthy moments are so few and far between in comparison to the wonderful ones. And that’s what makes me so confident that we’re doing something right. We have a no tolerance approach to bad behavior, so when it happens, and things get real, a certain young boy learns not to do that thing again. Which makes room for crafts and activities and giant slaying and bug catching. So don’t feel like you’re a terrible parent when you make tough decisions and do hard things to discipline your children. You’re the opposite of that.

Every time you choose to discipline, you’re choosing your children over yourself. You’re doing something that will make them a better person and that will make the world a better place. It’s not about how you discipline…just that you do it. Period. Raise awesome people. That is all.