Busy Moms Still NEED to Focus on Recovery

I am sitting at my laptop, it’s almost midnight. I have my Anatomy and Physiology text books to my left, my homeschooling planner for my 3 kids to my right, and I just swallowed a handful of chocolate like medicine. My 3 daughters are sleeping (for now), and baby brother is finally asleep after I nursed him and left the bed like a ninja.

I just finished planning the rest of this week; with all the kid’s activities (dance, cheer, music..), my schedule for college, and my husband’s schedule for college and work. I have half finished crochet and sewing projects that I don’t touch for weeks. But despite all of this—I am STILL in recovery and that means I have to make time for recovery.

Motherhood is very self-sacrificial. Of course it is worth it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require a lot from us. I give from myself every day; my body through breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding, playing, my mind through planning, hoping, thinking, worrying, and my emotions through love and dedication. I do it because I want to invest in this little tribe of mine, but I also need to invest in ME.

Why? If I don’t invest in myself, my children lose me. If I forget about my recovery needs, my children lose me.

I read an article recently about the lives of men and women who are in active addiction, mostly with heroin. They had pictures of people at their worst. I recognized that look. I looked like that at one time in my life, before my babies were born. That bone-tired, devastated, hurt-beyond-words look. That junkie life that sucks the spirit from the people it possesses. The streets are hard living, and I remember it well.

It is good for me to remember. This addiction kills people. There is no way for me to exaggerate or employ hyperbole in this discussion. It is a war against addiction, and there are many, many causalities. In fact, the heroin epidemic has only gotten substantially worse since I was a user a decade ago. I have buried friends too.

I was at deaths door when I put down the needle and the stem. Emaciated. In such a depression that I was nearly comatose. Sore all over my body from the constant picking. And my heart and soul were in much worse shape. I was broken so badly, hurt by so many. It is NOT life I ever want to go back to.

So, I fight. Thankfully, most days don’t feel like a war anymore. When I first got clean, I hide myself from the world because I knew I was too weak to refuse drugs if it was offered. I had cravings so bad, my body would shake and I would vomit. I had intense physical reactions to my psychological addiction to crack cocaine. It was absolutely horrendous. But I survived.

And, my first baby was born not too long after. She was a beautiful light from God. She changed me. Motherhood changed me. From the moment she entered this world, I knew I would never be the same. I am a better person, a thousand times better, because of her and my other children.

So, please, if you a mother in recovery—focus on it. You know what you need to stay clean! Everyone’s recovery is different. It could be meetings, or church, or meditation, or prayer, or community, or exercise or all of the above. Just do what you know you need to do. Even if it means you have to ask for help with babysitting, or work a

little less, or go to school part-time. It is needs to be your priority.

If you don’t have your recovery, you don’t have your life.

If I don’t have recovery, I don’t have my life.

I do it for myself. I do it for my children.

Shalom.

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Baby Boy with his RECOVERING Momma
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I Have FOUR Children, and I Know What Causes it!

“Do you know what causes that?”

“Wow, your hands are full!”

“Are they all yours?”

Lately, I have noticed more of these kinds of comments when I’m out with my four little darlings. Maybe it’s because school is in and we homeschool so our family stands out even more during morning trips. Maybe it’s because my youngest is getting close to 1 year old, and causing mayhem. Maybe it’s the line of three little girls behind me like ducklings!

In any case, I hear it often now. People are genuinely surprised to see four children together with their mother. The fact is, most of the women my age who I grew up with do not have any children yet or at most 1 or 2. I have a veritable gaggle of kids compared to most 2 kid families these days. There isn’t anything wrong with a small family. but my little team raises eyebrows!

We went to the YMCA this week (just me and the kids) and we went swimming. After we swam, and I herded all the kids into the dressing room, an older woman stopped me my exclaiming “ALL YOURS?” My oldest at 6 years old piped up “Yep! All of us!”

The woman then offered to hold baby brother so I could more easily assist the girls in getting out of their wet suits and into dry pjs (easy for bedtime!). She was very kind, and helpful. She didn’t hide her amazement but it wasn’t meant in a negative way. Not all people who express their shock over our family are negative about it!

I think four is the magic “big family” number. It tips the scales in our society. Going out for pizza becomes too expensive with four. Your minivan gets full with four carseats/boosters. Four kids make you want to cry at your grocery bill. Four is..four! A lot.

Yet, it doesn’t always feel like a lot to me. I am an only child, and I always loved how it felt to be in a big family home. I loved how there was always something going on and people around. It felt safe and comfortable. The girls are very good with baby brother, and are already asking for another boy.  I told them that I can’t pick a boy or a girl, much to their disappointment!

Maybe I should start to coach the kids on hilarious comebacks to the “hands are full” and “are they all yours” comments. All in good fun, of course!

In the end, I love our family size and can’t imagine it any other way; weird stares and all!

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Homeschooling While Going to College

This week marks the start of the homeschooling year and, I am back in college to earn my A.A in nursing. I’m going part time but the classes are difficult! After this semester, I have 2 more classes before I officially enter nursing school (that is when life will get even crazier).

On the home front, we have a 1st grader, kindergartner, preschooler and baby brother who tags along babbling at his big sisters and eating crayons!

We do traditional workbooks, but given their age and our lifestyle we are still pretty relaxed about homeschooling. I want our children to have the freedom to play and be creative for most of the day. I have seen our oldest, who was struggling with reading, really learn a lot from a class I put her in over the summer. It was the right move, because she gained the confidence she needed to start this school year off right!

As far as how I will be getting MY schoolwork done, that isn’t as easy. It comes down to the super powers mothers have to “just find a way”. You know you have it too! Whatever it takes, it gets done. My dream of becoming a nurse is still 3 years away, but if I can survive my addiction and thrive despite my mental illness, I can do anything.

The four little faces starting back at me give me all the motivation I need!

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Can Moms of Small Children Still Follow Their Dreams?

Can moms of small children still follow their dreams?

I often hear from fellow mothers of small children that they are overwhelmed and stressed out. I nod my head in agreement, I feel ya. We are doing a lot, every day, and without much time to ourselves. Many days, we are lucky to be able to pee alone. So, it would be outrageous to suggest that we can follow our dreams, right? Right? Wrong!

We do not have to put our passions on the back-burner. We do not have to sacrifice our time with our small children either. Finding that balance is key, and it IS possible!

I am 29 years old, and I have been slowly taking college classes for a decade. I didn’t begin college in earnest until two years ago, but it has been a long journey. I have four children, ages 6 years old thru 10 months. I also choose to homeschool them, so I do not have a break during school hours. I am following my dreams of becoming a nurse, midwife, and doula professional.

If I were younger and childless, I would have gone to college full time years ago. I would have been done much faster. Instead, I have taken only two classes each semester and I took one semester off because of the birth of my fourth child. I could have gone back to school, but I wanted to spend time with him and help our family adjust to the newest member. I will enter nursing school in exactly 17 months. I’ll take night classes, so I can homeschool during the day. My husband will work during the day and watch the kids at night.

Will it be easy? No. Will I ever sleep? Unlikely. Are my dreams worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely!

I have had to evaluate for myself, what is most important to me? For me, being home often with my children and homeschooling is not negotiable. It is extremely important to me. In the past, I focused solely on being a stay at home mom, and my career and passions took a backseat. Now, I am learning how to navigate both. It is important to me that I further my education, pursue my passions for women’s health and birth, and have my own career and business. It matters to me as a woman to do all those things.

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I have learned to have my heart at home and follow my heart for my own dreams. It can be done. I also have another dream; that mothers would come together in encouragement and support for one another. It truly does take a village.

Yes, we are exhausted. Yes, it is at times daunting and difficult. But yes, we can follow our dreams while nurturing our small children. I look forward to the incredible things we will do for the world, through work and through raising our children.

What is your dream?

I Want to be Gentle, but I Get Angry

She’s 4 years old and she doesn’t want to listen. Or, maybe she can’t listen? The second of four children, always striving to be heard. You were always the angry one, temper flaring. At 6 months old you furrowed your brow and your face turned red when I upset you.

You’re also the one who needs me at night. Monsters can’t reach you when your legs are against me, and your arms are around me. As if I have some super mommy power to keep you safe and secure.

I feel like a big liar, because half the time I’m the monster.

You don’t like to listen. Or, maybe you struggle to listen? I don’t know. But I do know my anger swells inside of me like a tsunami after I. Told. You. TEN. TIMES. ALREADY!

Then, your eyes spring with tears and you rush to me. You cling to me “momma!” You need to know that I love you when I’m mad.

Just moments before, you are so defiant. Like a teeny, tiny tree with the strongest roots. Your feet are planted and your will is unmovable.

That is when I break. I threaten. I insist. I yell. My face changes from loving mommy with the super powers to…what? The monster?

I keep my hands from hitting you, but my words smack against you with force.

And then, you’re no longer that defiant and firmly planted little tree. You’re a branch being broken off and swept away on the wind. You reach out for me, desperate to hold on.

Sometimes, I reach out my hand right away. Sometimes, I break inside and I curse myself for losing my patience with you. Then, I take your body into my lap and stroke your hair.

I am sorry. I am so sorry.

Other times, I force my body to comfort you but my heart is still engulfed in the fire of my rage. It takes time. As I stroke your hair, as I stroke the soft skin of your arms, my heart begins to cool down. I love her so much, I think to myself. So much.
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Then, why is it so hard? Why is it so damn hard?

How can such a tiny person, whom I love more than all the stars and moons and planets and skies and seas, get me so angry? Why must I twist my face and point my finger in anger?

I seek a break when I need one. I’ve read all the books on being gentle, and I believe them. I have come far from where I once was, but still I can’t kill this angry thing I become.

A child’s heart is a fragile thing. It needs tenderness, love, and patience. When it breaks, it makes the saddest sound the earth has ever known, that pained “momma?”

I’m willing to learn. I will try every trick in the book. I will move mountains, I will dive deep. Just tell me. Tell me how to kill that nasty anger. Tell me how to handle my strong-willed, beautiful child’s heart with care.

Because I love her, and she deserves my best. All my children do.

My Mother Thinks Homeschooling Will Ruin My Kids

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Anatomy is fun!

It is February and we are more than half way through our first homeschooling year. My oldest child will be 6 years old next month, kindergarten age. My second child is 4 years old but she is using kindergarten curriculum. Then, I have my 2.5-year-old and my 4 month old baby. It has been a learning experience for us all. Home based learning is an adventure; difficult, wonderful, and filled with messy fun.

I sometimes place pressure on myself, especially since my kindergartner is struggling to read (and frankly, not very interested). Sometimes I push her when my instinct says to let it go, allow her space to lead. I am aware of the eyes on me, watching and waiting for me to mess it all up. I take a breath. I stand tall. I remember that I am her mother, and I know what my child needs.

It is hard to remember that because of my own mother. My mother is highly involved in our lives, in a good way. She is a young and active grandparent “Nana”. My girls adore her! She adores them! It is beautiful. Yet, my mother is also opinionated and stubborn. She believes that homeschooling is the worst thing I could ever do to my children, and I am not exaggerating.

She has told me bluntly that I am setting my children up to be failures. According to her they will be uneducated, socially awkward, and have barely a fighting chance in the world. These are her words. The words of my own mother. They cut so deeply—hurt so badly.

How can she say that to me? Does she think I am so incredibly incompetent? Am I so stupid that I would not realize my children aren’t doing well? Am I so oblivious, or do I care so little? How can she believe these terrible things?

Why must my children sit in a brick and mortar school with 25 other kids in order to learn anything?

Why must they have recess and lunch in order to socialize?

I can’t wrap my mind around her utter disdain and absolute disapproval. I could understand if she preferred public school. I could understand her having some worries. But to insist that my children will suffer and not learn anything, that I cannot comprehend.

I can’t even speak to her about it anymore. She seems so angry about it. I am so close to my mother besides this point, which makes it hurt even more.

I want to talk to her about the activities we are doing. I want to share the joy of watching my girls learn something new. I want to involve her in my girls’ education, just like she is involved in other areas. But I can’t, because she will explode with hurtful words like arrows into my heart.

I am not sure how to manage this with her, but I am sure that I will do what I know is right for my family.

The Big Needs of my Little People

It is winter time again. The ground is lightly covered with snow and ice traps my windows shut. It is beautiful but the first wave of winter sickness has entered our household.

I was the first to get sick, but I continued on with the many daily tasks; as well as organizing and cleaning after the holidays.

Today was the first day since Christmas where we had some intentional and structured homeschooling. The apartment was cleaner and more organized, and I had high hopes of folding my laundry and getting outside.

Those hopes were dashed when my adorable 4year old daughter Liora came walking into the kitchen looking a bit pale. She told me her tummy hurt, and before I could say a word she threw up all over the floor.

“Oh hunny! I’ll be right there. Your okay, your okay.”

I put my 2 month old son quickly down into his bouncy seat. He immediately started crying (my fussy boy).

I grabbed towels and wipes and new clothes for poor Liora, and helped her get cleaned up.

Baby screaming. “I know I know baby! I will be right there!”

Ok, Liora is cleaned up. I sit her on the couch with a light blanket.

Baby is still screaming.

I jog unto the kitchen to wash my hands and get poor crying baby boy but Zipporah my 2 year old wants me.

I can’t pick her up until I wash my hands, and the baby really needs me but none of that matters to a 2 year old who wants mommy NOW.

I drag myself over to the sink with Zipporah who is holding onto my leg wailing “UPPY! UPPY!”

I wash my hands, pick her up and give her a hug. “Mommy loves you Zipporah. I had to wash my hands so I don’t give you germs. I’m sorry. Your sister is sick.”

After I give her some quick  cuddles, I turn to my poor screaming baby and pick him up finally. I kiss his sweet face and nurse him. He settles in happily, finally getting what he needed.

Now I go to sit back at the table and realize that my tea and soup are luke warm. Sigh.

I give up on the soup which was already reheated twice that day and I bring my untouched tea to Liora because she needs to replenish her fluids.

My oldest daughter Noemi wants to play a game with me, she wants to take out her microscope and do some science with me. She wants me, her mother, to just sit and be with her.

When one child is sick, it can be so difficult to meet the needs of the other small children (and babies) who need you!

I was very close to my grandmother Rose, and talked to me right before her death about how she adored my babies and she thought I was a wonderful mom; but she warned me that it would be so hard to meet all their needs if I had more.

She wasn’t negative towards me having more, but she knew something I didn’t know yet. She told me that “you will miss some things” even when you don’t mean to. My grandmother raised 6 children, and so she knew this struggle.

She was right.

It is hard to strech yourself out enough to be present for each child, each day. The truth is that we have to go by who needs us the most at what time. I try to be fair, but I know I won’t always get it right.

That is why I am doing my best to forge a relationship based on strong communication with each of my children. It starts with babyhood, when I am in tune and receptive to their needs. And it changes as they age.

My 5 year old Noemi took me aside this evening and said to me “mommy, you were with Liora today…no time for me”

I felt sad that she didn’t feel like I was with her today, but I was so thankful that she was able to tell me! She trusts me to enough to tell me. She trusts me enough to know I will do something about it.

Fernando has off of work tomorrow, so Noemi and I will do something together just the two of us. Daddy will stay home with poor sick Liora, and watch the youngest two. Noemi and mommy will do something special together.

I will come home and I will have 3 more little ones with BIG needs. I will do my best to be there for each of them.

Mothering means that my laundry didn’t get folded today, and I didn’t shower until the afternoon.

Mothering means focusing on the little people in my life over things.

Mothering means being needed, a lot; and seeking to meet those needs while recharging for myself too.

Whew. Time for sleep.

(Until my 4 year old wakes up and gets sick on her bed)