Friday, August 28

My Truth About Being a Mom

I'm a part of a mom group on Facebook. A few, actually. They are fun and useful, especially when I have a question about something my child is experiencing or if I just need advice on mothering techniques. I was prompted to write this post after reading many a negative or depressing comment on a couple of these motherhood forums about various subjects that I do not want to get into individually in this post, but which made me feel sad for the negative depiction of motherhood that many women choose to communicate.

Being a mom is often a roller coaster ride. There are so many fun and thrilling parts, but, as with anything in life there are also jolts, sharp turns, and usually uncomfortable portions. (That "as with anything in life" part is important--I'll come back to it).

I have my fair share of challenging days in mommy-hood. Unless excessive screaming, crying, gigantic messes, bodily fluids, and not being listened to leave you feeling calm, patient, or invigorated, hard days for the normal person are inevitable. Unfortunately, each of those things get to me, especially in large doses.

It's okay to have a bad day or two. It really is. It's okay to have a bad week even.

But when the complaining to others (and by others I'm mainly referring to other moms) becomes excessive, it just becomes annoying. It really does, and it puts an unfortunate and negative lens on motherhood that isn't entirely accurate. And then, when you--a complaining mother--stimulate that image, society believes you. Because society as a whole is not as intelligent as they may seem (or may not seem--you choose).

Why is motherhood so challenging? Is it because we as moms want to do it so well that there is pressure and stress to be the best we can be at it, and then there's the added pressure of comparing ourselves to the image of perfect motherhood we see portrayed around us? I think it is stressful because it is sacred. There is a weight of responsibility behind the act of creating a child. We know in our hearts the tremendous burden and sacrifice that it is to make and care for and raise a child. Then we let our doubts in our abilities as parents creep in and tell us we are doing a poor job. We aren't patient enough, fun enough, loving enough, happy enough, good enough. Those feelings are not of God. They are Satan's attack on mothers--shaming, degrading, demeaning us.

When I was pregnant with baby #1, there were so much advice being offered from several directions and I became frightened and felt overwhelmed by the confusing and often conflicting advice I was receiving. Do this; don't do this. If you do that your baby will become this; if you don't do this your baby will never whatever. It's okay to do this; under no circumstances should you do this. Plus, there were many, many things I had absolutely no idea about in relation to pregnancy, labor, delivery, motherhood, and I felt quite dumbfounded at the prospect of what was to come. Why would anyone want to become a mother if those things were true? I wondered.

But it's been about three years since the time I found out I was pregnant with Tenley. I have grown in more ways than one, especially in my understanding of my divine role as mother. The prospect seemed daunting to me at first (particularly the delivery part, which I feared most of all) but in the couple years that I've been a mother to two precious children, I have learned a few things. The biggest, maybe most important one of all is to TRUST YOURSELF.

That sounds silly but it's so important. You have maternal instincts. You must strive to be in tune with them and listen to them and trust them. YOU will know better than anyone else what your baby needs and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I start with this nugget of wisdom, because my next suggestion is DO NOT TRUST EVERYTHING YOU HEAR FROM OTHER MOTHERS (myself included, though I am doing my best to be as honest and open with you as possible).

Mothers, no--women in general are funny. We think we know everything there is to know about a thing when we've had only a little taste of it. I, myself am guilty of this on many occasions. I have only been a mother to one daughter and one son, for two years and less. I may feel like an expert on what children of these ages are like, but I'm not. Many parents will do things quite differently with their own children and they will be just fine. But I hope (and pray and wish) that I am doing what's best for my own children. Sharing stories and advice is useful because it provides other mothers or moms-to-be with ideas or tactics, if you will, that they may not otherwise have thought of or been aware of. All good mothers are trying to choose the best for their children, and it's helpful to gain more knowledge about how we can do that for them.

But I feel that very rarely is excessive negativity conducive to teaching another mother. Isn't that what we want to do with other mothers, teach or instruct them? Guide them? Encourage them? I don't know how being told I'm never going to sleep well again gives me any boost of confidence or hope in the future. Especially when, surprise, surprise, SO MANY of the things I heard were wrong. They were plain wrong, and some inaccurate, but most just did not apply to me. To name a few:

  • For one thing, my children are mostly (and surprisingly) great sleepers. I feel very blessed in that regard. I actually sleep pretty well unless I stay up late or screw up my kids' schedules. 
  • Breastfeeding was a pain at first with BOTH babies (I thought by two I'd be an expert), but it was great when I got the hang of it and now I love and cherish it very much. 
  • We co-sleep with our babies and I love it! I don't have to get up at night, breastfeeding is convenient because they're right there by me, and most importantly, our babies are happy and I love snuggling and kissing them through the night. They are only little for a short time and I cherish that peaceful time together. 
  • Despite believing my child wouldn't dare try to get away with misbehaving (read: running screaming down the aisles of the grocery store or through the maze that is IKEA) with me for her mother, I was introduced to harsh reality (kind of like getting a cold bucket of water in the face) when I found out, Wow, children don't do exactly what their parents want them to when they want them to...even if you raise them "right." Fancy that. 
  • Feeding toddlers can be, and in my case has been very stressful. Tenley seems to like every food--but it depends on the situation and the day. She'll love one thing one day and have zero interest in it the next. On the other hand, she'll refuse to try something and then eat a plate of it when she sees another kid eating it. I'm constantly worrying about her getting the nutrients she needs and I would tentatively say I have a choosy eater. 
  • Potty training--don't get me started. It's not a race, okay? The only part of it that is a race is racing to get your child out of diapers so you don't have to deal with that anymore. 

There are a lot of things (like these) that ended up being so different than what I was told they'd be like and I'm quite certain your children and experiences will be different than mine. (Hopefully, for your sake, your children sleep well, nurse easily, and your babies never throw a tantrum in public.)

I share these things with you, because it is important to me that future mothers understand that they don't have to be afraid. There will always be moments of fear in your life, whether you become a mother or not. And if you do become a mother, frightening, upsetting things will happen. Your heart will drop in anguish at your child's cries of fear or pain. Life is full of hardships and disappointments, regardless of what path you choose. One thing you can be sure of, life rarely goes according to plan. BUT (and this is a big but), I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who has planned for all of these things to work out for our good if we choose to use them to make us better. Like the joyful and positive LDS prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley stated when he was alive: "I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight."

No matter our life choices or circumstances, we can choose to seek out the negative or look toward the positive. Would there be no hard days for the mother who chose a career? Or for the woman who chooses not to become a mother? Absolutely not. Trials will come regardless of our decisions. We must decide how we will manage them, whether with a heart of positivity or the alternative. I choose to seek out the good and try my best to bring hope to women who are scared of what is to come in the journey of motherhood.

Finally, when you look at the conflicts in the world, motherhood is the least of our problems and probably one of the last things we should be complaining about. There are women whose hearts are aching to become mothers but have no opportunity, whether because they have remained single, cannot afford adoption or other means of having children, or because they are physically unable to. As touched on before, every one of us has bad days--difficult parenting days are unique to no one. But I think it is an unfortunate thing that society is satisfied to dwell so much on the negative when the joys are much sweeter. The task of motherhood will seem daunting to those who are venturing in, but I have confidence that you can do it.

I'm writing to tell you that motherhood is a wonderful thing. It is special and tender, messy and stressful, tiring and emotional, but above all, it is wonderful and important. Do not be afraid, young women, ladies, moms-to-be. You, like trillions of women before you, can do it. Have faith in yourself and be excited for what is to come. The immense joy you will experience will outweigh the fear and frustrations, I am sure of it!

Love from your mommy friend,

If you have questions, or want to share anything you felt while reading my thoughts, I'd absolutely love to hear from you:)

Thursday, August 27

Life as a Postgrad

Life is so great. I still feel weird, like I must have homework that I'm forgetting or something. I'm glad I walked for convocation or I wouldn't feel done at all.

Today was a nice day as I finally have begun to embrace the great amount of "free time" that I now possess. It is so nice to be able to take my time doing things and truly enjoy my time with my children. In other words, I'm trying very hard not to let time restraints stress me out because--aside from appointments--I don't really have any. I'm working hard to avoid stress in general now that I actually can.

So we take our time...getting ready in the mornings, eating breakfast, playing outside, eating lunch, reading books, going on long walks in the rain, making spontaneous trips to the Creamery and Bean Museum, talking about the temple, making dinner, taking naps (not me--I wish), watching The Middle and then Harry Potter as it plays on ABC Family for the millionth time, visiting my cousin and her husband's new apartment after dinner, cleaning up the living room, getting ready for bed, reading a few verses of The Book of Mormon together, saying a family prayer, calling daddy at work to say goodnight, snuggling in the toddler bed, and singing primary songs after using the potty many times. You could say it was a good day. I was patient with the kids and we had fun together even though we missed Dalin a lot.

Fun fact: Miss Tenley wears underwear all day now. She has pretty consistently had about one accident per day now the last week and it's almost always when she has played outside for an extended period or when I have forgotten to ask her for a long time inside. But she does great out in public! She's used the potty at Target, Seven Peaks, TJMaxx, Macey's, the Bean Museum, and BYU campus to name a few places...I just hold her sideways over the potty and tell her not to touch the toilet seat (or ANYTHING) with her hands and she is pretty good about it! I know though, that because I am publicly complimenting her success we'll most likely have an accident in public pretty soon, but so far so good! She basically wears panties all day except naps (if we remember) and bedtime. And she puts her undies and pull-ups on pretty much by herself (except sometimes she takes forever to put them on...she's a dawdler...) which means I basically change one baby's diapers a day (though wiping butts kind of feels like the same sort of business...)! Anyway, I am so happy and proud of my smart, little two-year old.

Well, I really should have gone to bed two hours ago when I put the kids down but it has been so nice to have a little time to myself. I gotta enjoy it when I can;)

I wish I had pictures for you, but look me up on Instagram and you'll get the gist. We're @lilgunnellfam

Good night!

Wednesday, August 19


Friends, sound the fanfare--I've finished!

I attended commencement and convocation last week for my bachelor's degree in English!

It was a crazy week all around with my 24th birthday on the 9th, my last final, Tenley's birthday on the 12th, and graduation stuff at the end of the week. Now I am left feeling undecided about how to spend my extra time now that homework is not a concern!

My diploma holder and white Humanities' tassel are just patiently a-waiting the arrival of my diploma and my white orchid lei from graduation is still sitting inside the fridge door and I'm not quite sure what to do with it. It doesn't seem like the type of thing that will dry that nicely, but who knows. It's hanging on our family portrait in our living room and every time I see it I pretend it's from our imaginary trip to Hawaii.

Anyway, my mom leaves Friday morning and we have been doing a whole lot of organizing and purging while she's been here. It's nice to finally enjoy being at my apartment!

Now I've got to figure out what to do with my time (besides being a mommy of course;)! Maybe the reading and painting I've wanted to do for two years!

We did, however, celebrate our FOURTH anniversary yesterday (even though it is actually today, the 19th:) because Dalin has to work this evening. It's okay though. We had an AWESOME time in Salt Lake and the sirloins/filets were just incredible. I wanted to do that little "perfection" hands emoji from Instagram just then but, alas, I can't.
We had a $150 giftcard and my mom was around to babysit on our anniversary. No brainer, and it was so much fun!
Tenley dressed herself today. Can you say divaaaa.
This was mid-fake laugh at the splash pad today.
I was so happy Tenley enjoyed it eventually. It was boring until other kids showed up. 
Anyway, this is just a tiny little update so you know what's going on in my life. I am alive though. Just enjoying my post-grad life. I'll try to post more (though possibly brief) posts more often!

Enjoy the last of your summer!

Saturday, August 1

How is it August?!

I'm so excited for graduation--I can almost TASTE it. Just two weeks (but only 6 days of class + a final) until I complete my bachelor's in English! Yippee!

Note: Just because I'm an English major doesn't mean I know every little grammar rule (I feel like a lot of people assume I'll know all that stuff, but I seriously don't! I enjoy editing, but I've never taken an editing class so...buyer beware!). Those people are the English language or Linguistics majors...don't get me confused with those guys. As much as I enjoy proper grammar, I've learned more and more (particularly from my current ELANG class) that there is very little you can do that is "wrong" in the English language. Most speech patterns are regional, cultural, etc. and so when you think a person is "wrong" for using some word that sounds strange, it is probably just a cultural thing.

Anyway, long side note.

I just have to make it through two presentations, a paper, an essay, (some tedious reading...), and a final exam. By this time next week, all but one of those things will be done which is pretty fantastic.

My mom flies in on August 6! Three days after her birthday and three days before mine (then 3 days after mine is Tenley's)! Woohoo! I'm feeling pretty good about 24 right now. We'll see how I feel next weekend;)

As for the rest of my life--it's been good. Crazy with school, but great.

Declan is just a little over-achiever/very active baby and is already crawling (more like army crawling, but he gets on his knees and feet a lot in between) rather fast! It's so funny and weird to watch such a little guy scurry across the floor.

He turned 6 months 2 days ago and has eaten a jar of sweet potatoes, plenty of rice cereal, and some bananas so far. I waited on the solids as long as I could with him, unlike Tenley (though I'm fairly sure he was ready even before she was)...I'm not a fan of the stinky poop that comes with starting solids (breast milk poop doesn't smell really at all). He has two cute little bottom teeth that came out at four months, and his third tooth (top front) is just poking through as of the last couple days! He's gonna be a cute little chipmunk;)

Declan loves water, swimming, toys (just all toys...which is weird because Tenley couldn't have cared less about toys at his age), gnawing on stuff, napping twice a day (Ten didn't nap!), being worn in the k'tan by mama, nursing, smiling, watching Tenley, yelling like Tenley (he seriously learned her yell...), following Tenley across the floor, getting beaten up by Tenley (jk he doesn't love that), sleeping with mama;). I put him in his bed at 8pm and he sleeps until midnight then joins us in our bed, not that I mind one bit! I miss him terribly when he isn't with me...the one night I thought I'd try to leave him in his bed, I just couldn't do it. I sleep better (and less worried) when he's by me. He also loves people. He smiles at everyone. But he totally is a mama's boy right now...seeing him light up when I get home from school is the best. Or when he hears my voice and looks for me. He's my little buddy:)

Declan hates the car seat. He gets mad every time I put him in. Once we get moving he's usually okay...until those red lights, dang it. He also hates when Tenley wakes him up with her loud voice when he's napping (who doesn't...). So far, that's pretty much all he hates. He's a pretty good baby! (though Tenley was quite a bit easier still).

As for Tenley, she's almost TWO! How can I have a two-year old?? She's the sweetest girl and I love her with all my heart. She took a long nap in the rocking chair with Dalin today (like three hours!) and I ran to another quad within Wymount to buy something and I just missed her so badly as I was walking back alone. I just thought, I wish Tenley was with me so I could show her this and chase her and teach her. She's seriously my best little friend and I'm so happy she's mine!

What else about Tenley? We don't watch Frozen much (we're a Tangled family;) but she got an Elsa nightgown from Nana with a little sheer layer that she loves to twirl in. I ask her sometimes if she wants to be called Tenley or ReNae (her middle name), and she says "ReNae." Then I ask her if she wants to be called ReNae or Elsa and she says "Elsa" (well, half the time). She's the brightest little girl. I'm studying her speech patterns for a linguistics class and she has WELL over 200 words in her vocabulary and is quite advanced according to my textbook. She also says the funniest sentences now. She cracks me up every day with her new words.

Tenley's favorite friend is Javin, our cute little neighbor who is almost 4. She talks about him all the time ("where'd Javin go? I wanna go Javin's house"). He used to act kind of annoyed by her, but now they play outside together often and if Ten goes to do something else, Javin will follow her. We're going to his birthday party tomorrow evening:). Also, if I can't find Tenley when we're outside, the first place I check is Javin's house. She runs away there every other day, I kid you not. She is very comfortable there, too...she kicks off her flip flops as soon as she's in the door and runs into Javin's room to jump on the bed (which they did under supervision one time and now she thinks it's okay every time). Javin loves it. I always have to run in and get her though, which is a pain.

Tenley is very helpful most days. She changes Declan's diaper (with and without supervision, much to my dismay), cooks and pretends to cook, washes the dishes (she says, "I wanna do wash-it!"), sweeps the floor, picks up clothes and carries them to the dirty laundry, fetches things still, loads the washer and dryer for me when we walk to the laundry building, "folds" clothes, "vacuums," and picks up toys (but only if I help her...). She thinks she is just a little lady and is the sweetest little mommy to Declan and her baby doll (which she nurses and sits up with toys and puts on the potty) and to other children when they're crying.

She is so close to being fully potty-trained, we just need to figure out an easy way for her to put her panties on herself (it's quite confusing apparently). We even wore underwear and went potty at Target today (that was interesting, but it went fine). She will still need pull-ups for night-time though, I'm sure (she drinks a LOT).

So that's our life right now. It's crazy and going to get even crazier over the next two months, but I'm so excited for all the adventures to come (including a new nephew any time in the next couple weeks)!

Happy August! And you'll see a lot more of me once I graduate hopefully. For better or worse...;)