Today I will count my blessings

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks with the girls starting play school and our move and the new house, and often I’ve felt completely out of control, overwhelmed and just plain exhausted. Change is hard, and it often comes with a price. But it also comes with so many rewards, and in the moments of crazy I’ve been trying to see the good.

But sometimes staying calm during the storms of life is easier said than done.

Alongside all the challenges of the move, have been the general challenges of being parents. Although things are starting to settle, it’s been pretty hard on all of us, especially the girls.

Being a parent is possibly the most challenging thing a person can do. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual – oh man, how I wish it did! countingblessingsI will admit something that I’m sure many other parents may relate to. I’ve had moments where I have begrudged my children – annoyed for the lack of sleep, my lack of a social life, my messy home. Don’t get me wrong, I love them with all my heart, but there are moments when it’s tough, tough, tough being a parent. I wouldn’t change being a parent for a moment, I’m so grateful for these little humans, but sometimes I really need to be reminded that they are truly a blessing.

Last night as I was reading a novel, which is largely centred on a paediatric oncology unit in a hospital, I had a little wake up call. I started thinking of our girls’ first few weeks of life. They were born prematurely at 32 weeks and spent the first three and a half weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. It was a very difficult time for us, seeing these tiny little beings fight for their life. I was reminded last night of a little baby, Belle, in particular, who was in the incubator next to us, and who sadly passed away on our second night of being there. It was devastating and traumatic and I can’t imagine what her parents must have been going through. The tragedy of losing a child must be the worst pain imaginable. And reading my book, I remembered Belle and her parents, and how I imagine they would love to have a messy house and be constantly exhausted from lack of sleep, because that would mean that their precious little Belle was still alive. That would mean they would have their little girl to look upon, to love, to laugh with. And in that moment, I realised how truly fortunate I am to have my two little girls. How truly blessed I am that God chose me to be their mommy.

It’s so easy to take our children for granted; these precious little miracles. It’s so easy to get irritated and often we feel like we’re losing the battle in all areas of being parents. It is honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.  It is a 24/7, unpaid job; there is no break from it, and often no thanks.

If I’m honest, I can look back now and admit that I don’t think I took naturally to motherhood; it took me a long time to bond with my babies, a long time to adjust to the massive changes that being a parent brought to my life. But I think a large part of this was the fact that they were born a full eight weeks before we expected them, and of course there were two of them at the same time, so those first few weeks and months was a whirlwind of feeding, nappy changes, getting babies to sleep and then expressing in between. It was a whirlwind of emotions and craziness. There was no time to truly bond with them – I often look at photos of my friends with their little newborns and they share these precious moments of just holding their babies or having them fall asleep in their arms at a party, showing them off to friends and family. I never had the opportunity to really do this – I missed many precious moments that other moms had to enjoy.

But now, as I look at my little two and a half year olds, I can truly say I have the most fantastic bond with them and, despite the hectic start, all the trials and tribulations have been worth it as I look at these precious gifts that God has given us.

At the end of a tough week, I’ve often felt like I’ve failed in many respects as a mom. But I need to remind myself that it’s all okay, I’m human, I make mistakes and at the end of the day, my kids are happy and healthy, they’re alive! When they put their little arms around me, I know they love me, and I know they forgive me.

Today I will count my blessings, not begrudge them!

We survived the first week of play school

pawpatrolIt’s been an exciting, but also a rather traumatic week in our house as the twins started play school. This is the first time that they have ever been away from home and not had any access to me or IP, so as you can imagine it’s been a very emotional roller coaster for all of us.

I can honestly say that this has been the hardest thing that I have had to do as a mother – drop my little ones at school and say good bye to two screaming and crying little girls has nearly broken my heart in two. Some days the teachers have had to literally pull them off me. And every morning as I get back in my car I burst into tears myself.

I at least take comfort in the fact that they are at an excellent school, the teachers are lovely and I know they are well cared for in the day. When I fetch them I’m told that they don’t cry for long and they have a fun day, with lots of laughter and running around, so I know they’re going to be okay. In fact, when I fetch them, AG doesn’t want to come home. Yesterday, I had to pull her off the bike and carry her out. HJ, on the other hand, just jumps into my arms and says “I wanna go home”.

Despite the emotional roller coaster that school has brought, we know we made the right decision to enrol them in school. They needed this: getting more stimulation in an organised and structured environment, making new friends, and having more space to run around and just have fun. I know they are going to thrive there. And at least they have each other. It is really sweet as the teachers tell me that when HJ cries, AG pats her back and says “It’s all right….it’s all right”. That just brings another tear to my eye, but also brings a smile to my face.

My babies are growing up so fast. In fact they’re not babies any more. They are sweet, intelligent, caring, funny, amazing little girls!

We are super excited for 2017 and all the changes it will bring. A new town, a new school and new adventures for us as a family. Bring it on, we are ready!

 

Don’t judge a parent until you become a parent

It’s funny how we have all these ideas in our head about how we’re going to parent before we actually become a parent. We look at other parents and how they raise their children and how they act once they become a parent and totally judge them, vowing to not do many of the things we see them doing…only to actually end up doing the exact things when we become a parent ourselves.

judgepicIt’s so easy to look at someone else’s life and judge their actions and words, without really understanding what they’re going through at the time, without truly knowing what they are feeling in that moment, what challenges they are facing or what they may have experienced to get to that particular point. I know I’m guilty of being judgemental quite often, and IP is quick to call me up on it. But we have also been subjected to these judgements along the way.

We recently went to a braai with some old friends and it was so wonderful to catch up with them. It was our old church small group and it was so funny to see how the group dynamics had changed over the past three years from young childless couples and singles to so many children all running around. One of the guys, who had recently become a father, commented to IP and I that him and his wife always used to wonder why we stopped coming to small group and church when the kids were born. He said they just couldn’t understand it, but then they had their own little baby, and finally they understood…and on top of that, after having one baby, they couldn’t imagine how we survived it all with TWO babies at the same time.

It really got me thinking about my own judgements of other people. I too used to think such things of my parent friends and judge them for doing, or not doing, things. But that all changed when I became a parent myself. I don’t think one can ever really be prepared for the life altering adventure of becoming a parent. From your social life to your sex life, your sleep and your sanity – it will never be the same again.

I never really comprehended what becoming a parent was all about. I was so focused on just getting pregnant and having a baby that I didn’t even think about what it meant once the baby was born. I had no idea that being a parent was such hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom now, and the rewards of seeing these two little humans grow and develop, have them call me mommy and have them throw their arms around me, far outweigh all the challenges. But, it has been a hectic two years, for which nothing could have prepared us.

But we would not have it any other way. I’m glad we went through all these struggles, I’m grateful we survived all the challenges. We are stronger people for it, our marriage is stronger for it, and our lives are more enriched for it.

If there is one thing I am slowly realising, and trying desperately not to do, it’s to judge another until I have at least a small understanding of what they are going through.

It’s so important to open the channels of communication with our parent friends (and all friends in general), speak to them, ask them how they are doing.  How they are really doing. When we greet someone we always ask how they are, but it’s normally so superficial – let’s try getting to the deeper stuff, especially with our fellow parent friends; let’s not be afraid to be real with each other. Let’s share our thoughts and feelings together on this parenting journey. We will soon realise that there is so much more beyond the surface and everyone is facing their own battles, if we take the time to care, take the time to step out of our own trenches and walk a mile in someone else’s.

In becoming a mom have I forgotten who I am as a woman and a wife?

My mother taught me to always look my best when I left the house – something about never knowing who you might bump into and all that…but what about also looking your best when you’re at home? Looking your best for your spouse? And even looking your best for your children? Looking your best for yourself?

But since having kids, I know my appearance has taken a back seat to all the other stuff that comes with being a mommy. I always vowed that when I had children, as with many other things I made false promises about, that I’d never let myself go the way I saw other moms go – you know, the mom bun, the sweat pants, no make up. Well, a bit of humble pie is in order as I look at myself in the mirror this morning. Who is this scruffy woman with the terrible dark roots, scraggly pony tail, blotchy skin and glasses on? I didn’t recognise her.

I never used to leave the house without make up on – although that’s still a regularly enforced rule for me, I wear a lot less these days, and sometimes have even gone without. My hair was always perfectly blow waved and coloured, and although I’ve never been the most fashionable, I kept up with what was in the shops and tried to look my best in what suited my figure. I realised yesterday that my standards have dropped, when getting out my car I looked down to see a juice-stained top and half painted toenails. And in that moment I realised it didn’t actually bother me that much, I didn’t really care about what people thought – I’m a mom after all – I don’t need to look good, I’ve got other priorities.

Or do I? Am I fooling myself by hiding behind the mess? Have I let myself go to the point that I don’t even recognise the person I’ve become?

What am I teaching my girls? Looking your best is not about vanity at the end of the day, it’s just plainly about making an effort, and not necessarily for anyone else, but making an effort for yourself. Surely I should be teaching my daughters to care about themselves and their bodies? To at least brush their hair? To wear clean clothes?

And what about my husband? I certainly don’t look anything like the woman he married six years ago. The woman he married cared about what she looked like and she wanted to look attractive for her husband. The woman he married was attractive to him, made an effort for him (and herself).

I had another wake up call yesterday when my mother reminded me of this. It’s something I will always remember about growing up – my mom would always go brush her hair and freshen up her make up when she knew my dad was on his way home. I used to think it was so sweet that she wanted to look good for her husband, even after all these years. It was something I thought I’d also do one day. And I thought shame on me for not doing the same thing today.

Just because we become a mom, and become surrounded by the chaos and mess of having kids, we don’t stop being a woman, don’t stop being a wife. We don’t stop being that person our spouses fell in love with, the person they married. Yes, we change and we grow, we mature, but surely we shouldn’t have to compromise on making an effort, even in some small way.

Don’t forget about yourselves ladies. Don’t forget to brush your hair, put some lip gloss on, put a pretty top on. If not for anyone else, but yourself! When you feel good about yourself, your whole outlook on life can change. After all, how can you love others, how can you care for others if you don’t love and care for yourself?

As a mother, we always try putting everyone else’s needs before our own. Well today ladies, I encourage you to put yourself first – look after yourself, care for yourself, love yourself. I know there is much more to being a woman and a wife than looking good and maintaining your personal appearance, but it’s a small step to helping you to not forget about yourself. Don’t let yourself go for the sake of motherhood. Your kids might not notice now, but one day they may look back and respect you more for it. Be the example for them. Make yourself beautiful. Embrace your new body and make yourself feel good again.