Enter to Win an Erin Condren Gift Set!

We are growing our subscriber list and that means a chance to win this awesome planner set for you! 

If you are not yet familiar with the woman founded and owned Erin Condren, do yourself a favor and check them out! From custom planners and notebooks to home decor and reusable bags, everything made by Erin Condren leaves us feeling inspired and happy!

When you join Pondering Jen’s newsletter before 12/15/2019 you will be entered to win this fabulous set including:

  • Planner Stickies
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
  • Oh What a Week Desk Planner
  • Compliment Cards
  • Lined Journal
  • Inspirational and Pretty Pencils

All valued at over sixty dollars!

Subscribe here for a chance to win:



 

Want a second chance to win? Join our Podcast mailing list! We are giving away two sets- one for each mailing list. Click here to enter on Real Women’s Work Podcast.

The best part? Once you are subscribed you will be entered in all giveaways held through our newsletter. In addition, you will receive our newsletter filled with positivity, mental health and self-care tips, and perspectives that will help us design our lives. Now that’s a happy thing!

As always, thank you so much for being part of the Pondering Jen community. We are so glad you are here! 

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

Fuck This Shit: For Women Who Want to Move Forward

This “fuck this shit” bracelet arrived yesterday. Knowing the hands that made it makes me feel even more empowered and powerful when I wear it. It is a work of art. It is a reminder to bat away the bullshit that tries to keep me down; expectations, roles, people pleasing, self-worth crises, overthinking, fear of failure, fear of success, gossips, mistakes, poor choices, believing my past determines my future, thinking I’m meant for less and that I have to conform.

Here’s to batting all that noise away with three little words “Fuck this Shit.” “You’re not good enough. You don’t know what you’re doing. That’s meant for other, better people.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit”.

“Women aren’t capable. Breasts make you dumb. People with vaginas have one purpose.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Be appealing. Every man should desire you sexually. It is your role to ensure these things are true. It is your purpose in life.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Cover up so men can stay focused on important things. It is your role. Take up less space. Be quiet. Be invisible. Find the perfect spot between silent and helpful so that you can contribute appropriately and as directed.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Allow purity culture and male-forward ideology to remind you of your place, your capabilities, your time to speak.” Bat, bat, “Fuck this shit.”

bracelet reads "fuck this shit" with same title

See, it won’t look like some big shift. It won’t spark a televised movement. It won’t rally investors and supporters to jump into the next trendy thing. What it will do is create tiny little empowered moments in me, and maybe in you. The small choices that allow us to move forward toward the life and activities I want.

The reminder of “fuck this shit” will be a quick little personal rally cry that might allow us to shake it off in the moment. A literal shaking back and forth of the head to bat away the shit that keeps stopping us from being who we are meant to be.

Maybe this is the power of middle-aged. Maybe peri-menopause serves a fantastic purpose. Maybe it is this burning, raging fire created by so many sisters who have said “ENOUGH. I am more than this. I am capable. I am strong. I have worth. I hold value. FUCK. THIS. SHIT.” And have gone on to live extraordinary ordinary lives doing exactly the things they love.

These aren’t angry words. These three little words help me to bat all those thoughts out of my path so I can keep moving forward. I love them. And this was made by the talented, capable, creative, skilled hands of the wonderful Joanna Taylor and that just makes wearing this feel even more powerful. (Joanna is a friend and I was in no way compensated for sharing her work. You can click on her name to connect with her).

Do you have a few words you keep in mind to bat away the stuff that keeps you back? Will you share them?

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

I Cannot Live in the Rabbit Hole: It’s Happier Outside

Poisoned food. Fracking. Climate change.  Vaccines.

I have gone far, far down one Rabbit Hole- no, two. I know there is truth to a lot of the things we dismiss as conspiracy theories.

Here is the thing though; I cannot live there. I cannot live in the place where the government may be out to make me sick with our food or by shooting poison into my children. I cannot live in the place where I believe there is a possibility that I cannot escape the poison- that my children cannot escape the poison- that permeates our existence.

I know that upsets people. “Ignorance is bliss” they say. “I sure wish I could just leave it for somebody else to deal with, too” others say. “Must be nice to just ignore all the things that are killing you and your kids.” “Don’t you worry about your grandchildren?”

Do I worry? Yes. I worry about everything all day, all the time. I do not get a break from the worry, in fact. So why would I choose to live in an environment that feeds my panic? Why would I surround myself with sights and sounds and voices that that prove how murderous the world is?

I am not ignoring these things, though. I am just choosing not to live in the Rabbit Hole.

Because in the Rabbit Hole, life is dark and glum. There are boogymen around every corner and pits of lava and trees whose branches will reach out and rob me of my breath.

In the Rabbit Hole, a cloud should be feared, not admired. The sun will kill my children and doctors do only harm.

In the Rabbit Hole, nobody can be trusted. Everyone is the enemy. There is no safe space or place to enjoy life, or the world; flowers are not beauty realized, but are poison carriers and representations of our dying bees.

I understand there is truth to some of these things, and for a while, I did live in the Rabbit Hole. Life is unhappy, and scary, and dark in the Rabbit Hole. Happiness cannot exist there.

child in rabbit costume looking out over valley. Text reads "I cannot live in the rabbit hole"I can put sunscreen on my kids and still basque in the warmth of the sun. I can research the agents in the bottle that the doctor wants to shoot into my child’s arm and still appreciate their ability to heal. I can buy organic when that feels important to me and mix Kraft Mac and Cheese when it does not.

I have chosen not to live in the Rabbit Hole. I have chosen to let some things go. I can both educate myself and opt out of being responsible for the solution. With age has come the wisdom that I am not responsible for changing everything. With greater age has come greater wisdom that it is immature of me to think I can.

Most importantly though, I have come to learn that I can acknowledge the things that need to get better and still choose happiness. I now know that I need not feel guilty when weeks or months go by and I have not even peeked into the Rabbit Hole. Instead, I can celebrate. I can feel good that I have made a healthy choice to see the colors of the leaves as they are and to smile big at the way the sun’s rays light up the beautiful clouds.

For me, only peeking into the Rabbit Hole on occasion allows me to be more of a change agent than if I lived there. By seeing beauty and making small changes when I am able, I have found a balance that allows me to enjoy my time on this Earth instead of fear it.

 

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

Life Learning and Homeschooling Might Not Be What You Think

Life Learning and Homeschooling Might Not Be What you Think

Sometimes people think homeschoolers casually and nonchalantly decide not to send their kids to school. Sometimes people think we don’t understand the education system, academics, or how it all works. Sometimes people think we are a simple-folk-a-livin’ in a bubble.

That very well may be true for some. I’m thinking of religious homeschoolers especially.

As for me and mine (tee-hee), I chose not to send my kids to school because I understand the education system. I’m well versed. I spent time both as student and faculty learning it. Living it. I was formally trained in how to “educate” children.

Life Learning is Highly Intentional

Little boy in cape with title of piece in text life learning and homeschooling might not be what you thinkSince the decision not to send my kids to school I’ve spent my life learning about and observing how children learn, thrive, and engage. It’s literally my life’s work. All-day. Every day. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. It’s what I do on an intense and constant basis.

While our lives are relaxed, my decisions, actions, and interactions are not casual. While it might look like all we do is play (which is accurate) I observe and foster learning, connections, and meaningful understanding all day every day.

I feel like it’s worth putting out there so that people have a better understanding of many homeschooling families and how much we understand what’s happening- how thoughtful, educated, and intentional this decision is. It’s worth knowing because too often we are seen as outliers not just in numbers but in understanding.

We are outliers in both, I suppose, but not in the way many assume. Many of us have a deep understanding and value of not only learning but other things too. Things like critical thinking, emotional-intelligence, self-worth, self-compassion, self-love and living a peaceful and happy existence. I do not mean a new-agey etherial existence but one that allows us to operate from a calm and contented place- one where learning is able to happen all day every day. We understand the relationship between these things,  learning and meaningfully contributing to society. We know the value this holds in making the world a better and more loving place.

Life Learning

Every day we see how much people learn just from living, some refer to this as life learning. We see the results of creating an environment where curiosity and creativity are supported. This often means removing blocks like access to resources, enforcing arbitrary sleep requirements, and switching focus from exploring the rabbit hole to food or chores.

Many of us choose to homeschool not nonchalantly or because we are stuck in some ideology. For many of us, religion and the subjects being taught in schools has no bearing at all on why our kids do not attend.

For a large number of us, we choose not to send our kids to school because we understand that the very act of living is learning- life learning. We see that when curiosity is supported on a whole-life basis, instead of hindered by arbitrary requirements, kids not only learn everything they are “supposed to” but a million things more. We watch as these things stick, are easily recalled and contextually and appropriately applied in an innovative way.

In Conclusion

There are lots of different reasons people homeschool. Even within homeschooling circles, there are vast philosophical differences. More and more though parents are deciding to partner with their kids to learn through living. Because this is unfamiliar to the majority of us I think it’s worth noting how thoughtful, researched, involved, and committed living this way is.

Assumptions about homeschoolers are plentiful. Some, sadly, are accurate. For so many of us though we are contributing great things to this world by choosing to live this way with our children.

I hope these thoughts are helpful for others. Maybe you have a loved one who is homeschooling this way and you wonder how it works. Maybe you have a loved one who doesn’t value the way you are choosing to live. Maybe you live in a small conservative community of religious homeschoolers and find yourself subconsciously swayed toward school-at-home.

Whatever the reason, I hope these words offer some clarity and helpfulness in figuring out what works best for your family. I also hope they offer those who hold inaccurate assumptions about homeschoolers to reconsider. For many of us, this is our life-long, large, and meaningful way to contribute to positively changing the world.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

My Story

A couple of years ago I was in the darkest, scariest place I’ve ever been. I was diagnosed and treated for Generalized Anxiety Disorder before my kids were born. I got better.

Then we went through a bunch of life and just as things started to point up and get happy and exciting, bam! I had an intense and long-lasting mental breakdown.  Looking back I think it probably came then because my mind knew it was the safest time to not be able to hold on.

There came a day when I knew I was in a dangerous place. I was sitting on our porch waiting for my kids to wake up, in a state of something near prolonged paranoia. My mind had crafted the most horrible non-reality and I was living in it.

Hopeless. Terrified. Thinking that at 42 my life was ending- not by suicide but by the number of years I’d lived. It was not depression. I still found moments of joy with my children, but those moments were quickly sent to the depths of a dark and all-consuming abyss.

When I look back at that woman I feel so much compassion for her. I want to comfort her. I want to sit with her, hold her hand when she wants it, make her delicious food, buy her the most comfortable clothes, and find her the resources and tools she needs to move out of that space.

In retrospect, I did do that for myself. It’s exactly what I did. Sitting on my porch that day I knew that if I could not find a way to turn things around starting right then- there might be no turning around.

I got on medication. I started taking a particular B-12 and Magnesium. I reached out to a friend who had made herself visible about a similar struggle. I asked her for resources. She gave them to me and I used every one. I did a lot of work. Hard work. Work I really did not want to do but I also knew where I’d end up if I did not.

To be crystal clear: some people with mental illness cannot change their outcome no matter how much work they do or what kind of medication they take. Literally every day of my life now I pause and offer love to those people. It’s a tragedy and I have so much compassion for people who have to live in that space all of their lives. 

As I sat there trying to think of a simple, basic, actionable step that I could actually take, I evaluated what, if anything, made me feel better and what made me feel worse. Again, I was very lucky to be able to do this even though I was in such a horrid place.

Food and Clothing- Interesting, Huh?

The first couple of things that came up for me were food and clothing. I had been on a near lifetime of enmeshment in diet culture- constantly berating myself for what I did or did not eat, obsessing about food (either what I’d eaten, wanted to eat, or what I “could not” eat). It was, literally, all-consuming, and decreased my self-confidence, self-love, and self-worth.

Though I was a full-fledged member, I did not yet know about diet culture. All I knew at that time was that I did not have the mental space, energy, or resources to think about food for one more second of my life. So I stopped. I was in crisis and what I weighed, or if my cholesterol got high (I had not learned about diet culture yet remember) it did not matter. If I didn’t take my obsession with the restriction of food off the table to move toward feeling better, I wouldn’t have survived long enough to have my cholesterol matter.

The truth is, poor mental health is fatal for many. Just like Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. I needed to do whatever necessary to increase my chances of survival. So I stopped thinking about food and ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I had no idea at the time that this would become one of my core self-care tenants. You can read about it by clicking here.

The next easy actionable step I could take was to wear clothes that made me comfortable. I had long given up shapewear and heels, but I was still wearing clothes for the main purpose of trying to cover up my fat. I spent hours and hours in dressing rooms looking for the best option. Comfort did not matter. The style did not matter. All that mattered is if it helped cover up the worst parts of me (oof. It’s so hard to know those words were true for me for so long).

I started wearing leggings from LulaRoe (I’m not going down the rabbit hole with you. I don’t sell them. I wear them. I love them.). I wore clothing from J. Jill because it had an elastic waist, a great cut, and incredibly comfortable materials. I found t-shirts that were comfortable and fit well and wore them with shorts.

As it turns out, wearing comfortable clothes was another core tenant of self-care for me. Each night when I picked out my outfit for the next day it was a gift. It was a way of saying to myself: “tomorrow you will be comfortable all day. When things are bad and you do not know what to do, the comfort of your clothes and body will not make you feel worse. They will not be a distraction from getting better.”

Other Things

Gratitude, self-talk, listening to music, self-compassion, changing the voices that I allowed in my head (which is how my Podcast started  Click here to read more), sleep, play… all of these were other practices I would adopt in the name of survival. What I did not know then was that all of it was helping to raise my self-worth. Low self-worth had led to low self-love for me. Couple that with poor mental health and it is no wonder now that I was near death.

If you met me now and I did not tell you, you would have no idea of where I’ve been. I’m stable. I’m productive. I’m happy. I’m optimistic. I’m authentic.  I’m engaged (in life. I’ve been (mostly) happily married for 16 years). I’m friendly. I’m conversational. I’m excited. My passion is back. Though I am not at all new-agey, I really am stepping into my power and it is awesome.

But I was there. And now I am here.

Learning what real self-care is combined with medication is what saved my life. If I had been practicing these sooner, I never would have lived in the depths of despair.

You don’t have to have poor mental health or be at rock bottom to start using real self-care practices. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom who loves her life or a corporate executive who travels 50 percent of the year doing work she adores, we are all being fed a list of “must-dos” when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Too often, I believe, these come from people who have not practiced it themselves and their self-care directives are superficial.

I think it’s so important that we all start to learn what taking care of ourselves really looks like. Personally, I don’t know of a better or more beautiful way than sharing our stories.

Pondering Jen is a place where I will share my story in hopes that it will help other women. I look forward to learning more about your story, too, if and when you are comfortable sharing.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter over there on the right and follow us on our social media channels. Click these links to follow us: Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. 

Welcome. I am so glad you are here.

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World As An Action Not a Quote

Last week I published a post about weight loss and how it makes us fat. (Click to read). I was impassioned and shared the post around anywhere I could. I desperately wanted women to know the truth about diet culture. The more I thought about how many women, like me, have spent so much of their life wasting so much time, energy, thought, and resources on losing weight -when it actually makes you gain weight- the more confident I grew sharing the piece.

It was shared on a page about diet culture where it ended up getting attacked. “Fatphobic” and “cringe-y” were just two of the insults quickly thrown. They got mean and more descriptive.

Imagine My Embarrassment

I cannot exactly remember what I first felt when I read the words that described my writing. I think it was a sick to my stomach feeling with the realization that I had hurt people’s feelings. (This is not a people-pleaser behavior, of which I am recovering from. Rather, it stemmed from me being ignorant and not fully understanding the weight of what I was saying). What I said was offensive -even to myself. I just did not know it until it was pointed out.

As the comments came in I realized that some who were throwing the critiques likely had not read the piece. When this used to happen to me I would completely dismiss the person’s comment and call them out in a not very kind way about how ridiculous it is to comment on a post you have not read.

Maybe the title of my piece was offensive but the content of the piece was anything but (I thought). If these people would just take 5 freaking minutes and read it they would not be making any of these comments! I guess I was annoyed.

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years though. I’ve grown so much. After my mental breakdown the world became different. I had to learn what real self-care looked like. For me that is engaging in causes that feel unjust to me in a way that won’t send me back to the depths of despair and disconnection.

Be the Change

So, in this case, I paused for a moment. I took a look at what these commenters were saying. I stepped back for a moment and considered my words from their perspective. When I really looked, it did not matter whether they had read the article. The very title of my piece was hurtful, offensive, and perpetuated the very myth and damaging stereotype they have spent so much of their lives trying to debunk. It did not matter what my words after that said. Whether or not they read the post, my words would have been tainted anyway. I was wrong.

Instead of being defensive or justifying what I had written, I engaged. Instead of looking for a winner and a loser, I had a conversation.

See, November 2016 changed a lot for a lot of people. Many of us were left in disbelief. The impossible happened and it was incredulous. We couldn’t imagine it getting this bad but it has. When I woke up the morning after the election the first thing I said was “this is what happens when we don’t listen to each other”. I believe those words still and that single morning changed the way I look at everything. I knew I needed to be the change I wanted to see and I had to be it hard.

But How? Have You Even Been on the Internet?!

So I listend. I engaged. I asked questions. I considered. I detached myself from the emotion and embarrassment I felt so that I could change my piece to make it inclusive.

image of woman in front of computer with text "be the change you wish to see is an action not a quote"I have to tell you, this experience was beautiful. It was humbling in a way I have not experienced before. Admitting how little I know is not something I have ever had a hard time with. I have a hard time though when it seems like people are just trying to be trouble makers. I’ve assumed the latter far too often.

The conversation that followed the initial attack was so helpful- for me, and for my piece. My piece will now benefit more women. More women will be able to read it and receive it’s message. And you know what? All I had to change was the title.

Hopeful and Empowered are Good Results

A lot of times I have felt hopeless about how to affect change. It’s easy for me to get lost thinking one person is not enough to make a difference and get overwhelmed with the possibility of it all. The conversation this group and I have had over the last week affected change on a global level. It did. I have no doubt. What a powerful and empowering realization.

Some of the folks on that thread were absolutely just looking for trouble, or maybe they were just angry. Maybe they are fat and have faced discrimination and hurt their whole lives and were reacting to the awful title I had written. No matter which parts of this are true we modeled something different that day- we modeled understanding, vulnerability, kindness, compassion, humanity, growth, and making the world better for women. Worst case this thread was shut down to the ridiculousness of trouble makers with intelligence, honesty, and a willingness to listen to each other. Best case we unintentionally modeled discourse for the greater good in front of a whole bunch of people.

So What?

Lest anyone think I am trying to pat myself on the back (well, I mean, I am. I am really, really proud of myself for how far I’ve come, but that’s not why I’m writing this). I used to be the angry one. The one who lashed out quickly, shut the conversation down, and shut people up- and don’t get me wrong- sometimes it was absolutely justified and necessary. It became my default though and I carried the weight of the hurts I’d caused for a long time. For me though, now, being the change I wish to see involves more listening. It requires me to replace winning or losing with a conversation.

Instead of being filled with shame this last week for behaving like an asshole and getting in an internet war I have become less ignorant, had more connection, and feel steady and confident moving forward in social justice issues because now I know I can trust myself to be the change I wish to see in the world.

I don’t know about you, but for so long I thought this nice quote was for big important people- people with lots of reach and influence. This week I learned that’s not true at all. It’s for all of us who have the mental space and capabilities to practice it in our every day lives, even when it’s hard.

 

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

Weight Loss Makes you Gain Weight, Did you Know?

A few weeks ago I pondered losing weight to make running easier on my knees. (Click here to read). Since then, I have learned a term that encompasses all I have been learning about personally over the last couple of years; diet culture. I will do a separate post with resources because it is a an important topic.

I had learned some time ago that diets don’t work- as in, this fact is scientifically backed. They may work for a few people in initially losing weight (though most do not) but research shows that such a small number of people keep the weight off after a few years  that they may be statistically insignificant. Most people, like me, gain back far more weight than they lost. This makes me understand yo-yo dieting in a different way. Quite literally, and factually, dieting makes us fat, or fatter.

image of woman on mountain text reads "Weight loss makes you gain weight did you know?"If that’s true, which it is, why would I choose to diet again if my desire is to have less for my knees to carry, not more? This is what I’ve been pondering over these last few weeks.

My decision? I will not actively try to lose weight. I’ve been on that vicious cycle for the last 10 years. Every time I lose a few pounds I gain double back. I try to lose the newfound pounds and it happens again. And again. And again.

There’s a part of this decision that lands like a thud in my chest. Does that mean I will never be thinner? Does it mean I will always be this size? Maybe. Logically, I should be glad about this. If I stay this size it will be the second year in a dozen that I have not gained weight. But giving up that thought of losing weight leaves a piece of me grieving. I’d always believed I’d be back to a cute pair of jeans and black t-shirt.

What’s that? Why can’t I wear that now? A-ha. Good question.

My body may stay this size and shape and I will keep working on being okay with that. It may mean I have to give up running soon, or sooner than I would if there were less weight on my knees. That’s sad for me. It’s who I am now, though, and I have to adjust accordingly and learn to love her.

Weight Loss and Diet Culture Really Are to Blame

I’m not one to shirk responsibility anymore but diet culture got me here. Misinformation. Untruths. Profit driven lies. Myths fed to the medical community and projected onto patients.

But what about health? Surely being thin is healthier.  I am still learning about this, however, what I know for sure after the self-educating I have done is this; if people were really concerned about the health of overweight people they would stop talking about weight loss. They would stop shaming. They would stop talking about how many pounds they’ve lost and how they did it. They would stop promoting food restriction, elimination, and calorie counting. This wouldn’t be for the sake of feelings, it would be for the sake of health.

The research is in- diet culture makes people fatter. If you believe fatter is unhealthier and you care about people’s heath, you should stop talking about weight. Otherwise, it’s not health you care about, it’s something else.

Maybe it’s the morality of thinking someone who is thin or has lost a lot of weight is better than someone who is or has not. Maybe it’s a way to make you feel better about a different shortcoming you have. Whatever it is, it can no longer be called health. Diet culture makes people fat. If you believe fatter is unhealthier, and you say you care about health, you can no longer talk about weight loss. Yes, I said that twice.

Reconciling All These Years of Attempted Weight Loss

I don’t feel resentment or anger in looking back at what caused me to gain all of this weight. The initial circumstances were beyond my control but the years that followed were too. (I was ready to type were under my control and changed it. Yay for paradigm shifts!). If I were encouraged to eat what felt good and stop obsessing about food my weight gain probably would have stopped, or reversed itself all together, 20 or 30 pounds ago.

Maybe anger and resentment will come later. Right now though, I am grateful to understand more deeply why I will never restrict myself from food again. I will never eliminate another food. I stopped fearing gluten a long time ago, right along with sugar, chocolate, carbs, and French fries. I started to eat because I enjoy it and stopped obsessing about food.

Once I went through an initial binge period I stopped thinking about food, and thought more about whatever I was doing. Interestingly, my clothes started to feel bigger. As soon as I thought about losing weight a few weeks ago I started binging again without realizing it- getting ready for the deprivation I would provide myself in the interest of being able to run more. It’s so fucked up, isn’t it?!

You can hear more about that on my podcast episode here:

The Decision

So, my intentional choice is not to try to lose weight. Wow. We don’t hear that very often, do we? I will get back to eating what feels good to stop the obsession with food and the food items I “can’t/shouldn’t” have. I’ll keep eating lots of fruits and veggies, which I love. I’ll enjoy cooking again because so many limitations will be removed and I’ll release those limitations from my thoughts.

I have also set a boundary- I will no longer be part of conversations around weight loss, size, clean eating, keto, or anything else that perpetuates diet culture. (Full disclosure- I am full on Vegan, which may seem hypocritical but it’t not. For me, animals, or anything they produce, are absolutely not food. This does not stop with particular animals like cats and dogs but includes all animals. If this information causes to you to reconsider everything I have shared  please reach out and I will explain it. I will do this happily, patiently, gently, and kindly. For some people being vegan is absolutely part of diet culture. I am not one of those people).

When conversations about weight loss, diets, or eating plans come up, what will I do? I’m not sure. If it’s a group I don’t know well maybe I will excuse myself to the bathroom. If it’s people I am comfortable with and who understand boundaries I will kindly ask them if we could talk about something else in order to support my mental health. People who have boundaries will not be put off by this. They will understand and respect it.

So. Big decision. It’s pretty awesome though, isn’t it? Imagine knowing you will never diet again? Imagine knowing you can just enjoy your pasta and dessert and macchiato? Imagine no guilt, shame or berating and just being able to focus on the conversation instead? Wow! It’s very exciting! In theory anyway. In reality there’s lots of work to do to get there but I know it’s worth it. How about you?

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

The Motherhood Groove

I was blindsided by motherhood. I had no idea how much it would change my life.

Before my oldest child was born, I was committed to keeping my life as it was whether children were a part of it or not. I held fast to my commitment to read, work, keep up with the house, maintain my relationships with friends, and my husband.

Then Owen was born. And I was not prepared.

For the connection I would feel for him, the way that life was only right when he was peaceful and touching me, the fact that with the birth of my first child, my eyes would be replaced with new ones.

Motherhood GrooveEvery desire that I had before children became distant in my mind, seldom receiving any consideration.  All that mattered to me was that Owen was comfortable and content.

I am not embarrassed by this. I do not feel ashamed that my priority suddenly became my children. I feel grateful. Now.

But for the first months, and years, I tried to maintain it all. I tried to work, and stay connected with my “self” (the definition of which was my pre-child self) and not let life change.

Of course, life had already changed and I was just pretending.

Twenty six months later my daughter was born and as she began needing attention I became a maniac. I tried desperately to meet the needs of both of my children all of the time.

I was constantly stressed. Even if both kids were sleeping, I was beating myself up over the way I had handled a situation or I was prepping the house for when they woke up.

I was either making lunch, putting away toys, or planning an activity. Anything to free up my energy and time so that it could all be devoted to them when they woke.

Somewhere during this time I stopped working. Entirely. I tried to take my children on outings planned around nap times and snacks and enroll them in music class.

My inability to accept that life had changed created both an inner struggle and tension between my children and I.  My life had no rhythm, and though I tried, I could not find a groove.

Then, without planning or realizing it,  Sydney’s napping became more predictable and Owen spent more time playing on his own. The house began to stay organized more easily as Owen began to consistently pick up after himself, and Sydney.  I became calmer. And several months ago, I realized that things were getting easier.

Owen and Sydney started playing together- frequently and for close to an hour at times. I often just sat and watched them. Amazed.  Mornings could be spent reading books together, watching a movie with popcorn or doing laundry.

Owen and Sydney joined in to help me prepare lunch.

As blocks were turned into structures, I sat on the couch in front of my children.  I read my book, or caught up with friends on Facebook. Music played quietly in the background.

Instead of cries of frustration and prayers of desperation, giggles and conversation became regular. Suddenly, it seemed that not only did I love my children, but I loved Motherhood.

As I reflect now on life since Owen was born, I realize there was nothing magical about this transformation. I gave up lots of preconceived notions about how things “should be”, and started doing what felt right to me, and made my children happy.  Expectations were altered or eliminated all together.  This removed unnecessary resistance and chaos from our lives and changed our dynamic.

We were no longer trying to force an outcome, we were going with what was in front of us. This is not who I am at my core.  Or, not who I was.  I am learning.

Every day is not perfect and neither am I.  I cop to my weaknesses and shortcomings regularly. But mostly now, I enjoy each day. Grateful for this amazing life-for spending most of my moments with my children. By choice.

And when Sydney turned two just a few weeks ago, instead of being filled with a feeling of bittersweet that she was getting older, I was filled only with joy, that my baby is so happy.

Because now I know that I am not fighting motherhood, that I am comfortable, gratefully sinking into it. That I appreciate nearly every moment and am giving my children the best part of myself.

The regret that I so frequently felt when Owen was two is now replaced with confidence. An assurance that comes from knowing  my children are more calmly loved and appreciated.

Instead of ending each day thinking of how I will do better tomorrow, I end it smiling with the knowledge that I have finally found my Motherhood Groove.

 

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

Adjusting to Two Children: I Cried

It was 7:00 on Friday and both kids were asleep.  I came downstairs, sat down and I cried.  I cried like my high school boyfriend had just dumped me.  I knew that it was going to happen.  As soon as I felt my son drift off to sleep, emotion overtook me.

My husband had been away all week.  He left on Monday to return late Friday night.  Kris travels regularly, so I’m used to it.  But, this was a long week.  The weather was unlikely in July and unheard of in September.

The rain and humidity were intense, and at my request the air conditioners had been taken out the weekend before.  Given that we bed share and nurse, the heat made it too uncomfortable for either of my two children or me to sleep.  The morning after Kris left I got a cold that quickly turned into a sinus infection.

All in all I had done relatively well while being the only parent at home, particularly with these additional challenges.  However, my “relative” is not one that I like to use for comparison.

adjusting to life with two children I criedJust after Sydney was born the adjustment to having two children was difficult for me.  There was a slight return of my postpartum depression, but mostly the hard transition was due to my total lack of ability and unpreparedness to nurture two children.

My precious, wonderful, beautiful first born whom I had given everything to before Sydney came, must have been heart broken during these months. I know with certainty that the guilt from how I handled that time will never subside.  My patience had evaporated, and my praise and adoration must have felt like a distant dream for Owen.

For the first time in his life he had been yelled at, ignored, and repeatedly ordered to be quiet.  My precious, innocent, vulnerable, trusting little boy who gave nothing but love, and trusted me fully and completely with his life, emotional health and general well-being.

I was Owen’s world and his world was ruined.

My behavior this week with Kris away reminded me of what my first baby had to go through after his sister was born.  I’ve heard that every child has difficulty adjusting to family expansion.  For my family, my child adjusted just fine, it was me who couldn’t adjust, and it was my beloved first born, who suffered the consequences.

Those who had been through it before me could pseudo counsel me that my son was “just adjusting, he would get better, things would get better.”  He was my innocent, unsuspecting, undeserving scapegoat.  But this is what they had to tell me. What else was there to say?

And so, tonight I cried.  I cried because I couldn’t be the mother my son deserved and because I miss the uninterrupted bond that we used to have.  I cried because I would have life no other way than to have my daughter in it, and because I feel like I am missing so much of Owen’s development, as well as Sydney’s.

I cried because I can already see the love between my son and my daughter and it is the most beautiful thing I could never have imagined.  Mostly though, I cried because these gifts that I have been given, these wondrous lives that have been entrusted to me, deserve so much more than I can give them.  More patience, more nurturing, more explanation, more play time, more knowledge, more of everything wonderful, positive and beautiful in life.Things could be so easy if we had only had one child.  The bond between Owen and I would be so strong, and I can imagine the person he would be.  Still, I can’t imagine the person he would be without his sister.  And that is what allows me to eventually fall asleep at night.

After a long time, the crying subsided and I vowed that I would not let this emotion be lost.  I would store it away and draw from it the next time I was faced with the perfect storm of challenging behavior from my son, and my diminished patience.  I would remember that Owen only wanted my attention, my love, for our relationship to be what it was before.

Eventually, I did stop sobbing.  I thought about the wonderful moments of pure enjoyment Owen and I had shared earlier that day.  That while the babysitter was here I chose to take Owen with me instead of getting some desperately needed alone time and that our time was brilliant while we were together.

Somehow this dimmed the awfulness that my son endured from me over the week.  My tears, as they always do, ran out, and though my eyes remained red, I got myself together. I filed my feelings from the week away, a reserve of fuel during the next storm.

Then I opened the wine.

 

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on:

Deciding to Homeschool and a Marriage

This piece was originally published on a different blog by the same author in 2012.

Deciding to Homeschool and a Marriage

My husband and I have so much to work on in our relationship. Here though, is the commonality that keeps us moving forward:

Owen (almost 6) did a very short stint in preschool. On his second day he did not want me to leave him, and he cried. I’ll never forget the look of fear and confusion on my baby’s face. The teacher convinced me that he would be okay, and I left.

I was shaking and I was dizzy when I got to my car. I finally turned the key and drove around and around. I called my husband and he stepped out of his office. “This isn’t RIGHT” I said. “NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS RIGHT. Owen was CRYING and SCARED and you didn’t see the look on his face that acknowledged that for the first time in his memory I did not listen to him and left him distraught.”

Never once did my husband say that Owen would be okay. He did not utter a single word that “kids get used to this sort of thing all the time”. He did not tell me that “mothers always feel this way”, or that “it gets easier”. He did not tell me that it was what was “best for Owen”.

Deciding to Homeschool and a MarriageInstead, we debated whether I should go back right then or wait until school was over. We both agreed that if he did not want to go back he would not; that if he wanted to be with his mother, he should be.

When I went back to the school, Owen was playing outside with other children. At this point lots of people will tell a mother in my situation that it really was for the best and that her child had only cried for a few minutes, so it was “worth it”.

This was not true for us. Something changed for Owen and I that day. He was more guarded, distant. He didn’t throw his arms around me and tell me about what a wonderful day he’d had.

Though it was a good one, Owen never went back to that preschool.

The next year we made one more attempt at school- never with tears and it was always Owen’s choice whether or not he stayed. I never felt right leaving him, and he never reallywanted to go. We both thought it’s what “had” to happen.

A couple of months later and without a plan, Owen attended his last day of school.

As Owen enters “school aged” this fall, my husband and I are still figuring out what all of this means. As we have some heated discussions, I am brought back to that day three years ago, sitting in my minivan, shaking and crying.

I recall the words from my husband “you are right Jen. Nothing about this is okay. We have wronged our son and we will adjust. Go get him. See if he wants to come home with you, and if he does, take him. If he wants you to stay and play with him and the teacher won’t allow it, bring him to a playground. It’s okay if the teacher is upset with you, or thinks you are making a mistake, she is doing what she thinks is best and we have to do what we think is best. He is ourson and we do things differently.”

I have come to realize how rare and difficult it is to ignore what those around us say in order to meet the needs of our children. With all that needs work in our relationship, this is the one constant that needs no adjusting: my husband and I are both committed to meeting the needs of our children. In comparison to this, fixing all of the other stuff is easy.

Thank you for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on: