Feeling anxious about hitting publish on this one. 
It's not really tied up with a neat bow, which I hate, 
so taking a cue from C.Jane's book, we'll call this my "First Draft".

There are days when I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.  I feel like my years of parenting and my parenting confidence have an inverse relationship.  The longer I do this parenting thing, the less confident I feel about how I'm doing it.

In the course of a day I will question: my discipline methods, homeschooling the boys, how much I use social media, what toys we own, how much television we watch, what screen time should look like, the meals I prepare (how nutritious they are), and how to simplify while still making sure the boys' lives are enriched... The list goes on.

And those are my daily concerns.  My long term concerns are far bigger.  Are they kind? Do they empathize? Can they express their feelings properly?  Are they helpful?  Can they complete tasks independently? 

And perhaps most importantly, are they loved?

Do they know it?  Do they feel it?  When they're at their lowest, do they know way deep down that no matter what I love them?


 I remember my wedding day very clearly.  I look back at that girl the way you look at your favorite Hollywood starlet.  I gaze unabashedly at her body, taking in all the tight skin, the flat belly under her pure white dress and the million watt smile that knew nothing of the life that was to come.  I want to take her by the shoulders and shake the sparkle from her smile, and tell her to "get real" or "get ready" for all that life is going to throw at her.

I could never have imagined that in five years time we'd be expecting twins.  Or that three years after that, we'd both be college educated, jobless & expecting our third child.  I miss the naïveté of that beautiful girl.  The way she was so sure life was going to be good to her, and that she could, undoubtedly, handle any challenge that came her way.

Since that day twelve years ago, I've been beat up a bit.  But what bothers me the most aren't the bruises or the way my story has been woven (its made me who I am, so I can't help but love it despite it's darker parts).  No... what bothers me is the sunshiny optimism that was swept away with the storms.


As we prepared this summer for Josh to leave for Alaska for the school year, I had none of the confidence I should have had about my ability to handle the hard times that were surely coming.  I wondered at my ability to take care of our three boys and grow our fourth.  I wondered how I would manage being both mom and homeschooler.  I wondered how I would balance life in the city with the simplicity I fell in love with while living in rural Alaska.

As the weeks have passed with him gone, instead of feeling more confident about how I'm doing with the responsibility currently on my shoulders, I feel the opposite.  More unsteady, more unsure, more unhinged with every day that passes.

I've been having lower back pain for about two months now.  I imagine it's from picking Wyatt up (I can't help myself. He's still my baby!) and my center of gravity changing with the pregnancy as it's progressed.  This pain lead me to the doctor and then a massage therapist.  When I saw the massage therapist she told me that my ribs are out, in addition to a million other things wrong with my body, and that that happens when your body is curling inward, toward a fetal position. 

Since then I've worked really hard on opening my chest, standing taller and sitting up straighter.  I find that it's really uncomfortable (not physically, but emotionally) for me to do these things.  It's like I don't think I deserve to take up space in this world.  What a terrible, terrible realization.

I wonder, if the table were turned, what that girl in her beaded gown would think as she looked at me a decade into the future.  Would she recognize me?  Would she pity me?  Would she shake her head and ask, "How could it be?"

Maybe, just maybe, she'd hug me and lend me some of her confidence. 
Heaven knows I could use it.


W Bryant said...

As I write this there are no other comments yet on this particular post (but there might be by the time I'm done) and I feel weird being what could be the first comment because I don't know you personally and I have nothing special or inspirational to share.
But I just wanted to say that it's evident to me, one of your readers from far away, that you ARE strong and you ARE a good mother to all of your children and of course a good wife to Josh too. Just the simple fact that you ARE DOING IT (the parenting, the homeschooling, day-to-day routine, etc) shows how wonderful and strong you are. And I hope you will be able to see that too and find your confidence.
I think the doubt you're feeling is normal, though. You're in a situation that would be stressful to anyone - your husband/best friend/parenting partner is in a different state and you miss him, and your kids miss their daddy. Add pregnancy on top of all that (with everything it does to your body, emotions, hormones, etc) and anyone would have a hard time.
But remember this situation will NOT last, it IS temporary and your expanding family WILL be reunited. Your sacrifice now will reap a great reward soon.
Also remember that you and your family are being prayed for daily by people all over the place.
~ Faith, Hope, Love, & Be Well! :)

Rox said...

Oh Shelly, we're all winging it! I think some people just hide it better, haha! Remember when I cried at the park about Ferris going to Kindergarten? I was having all of those questions. It's okay to check in with yourself, sometimes an evaluation is necessary, "Is this working?" But most of the time we dont know the answer until after we make the decision and try it out.

I have to remember social media is a highlight reel, like a yearbook. Dirty laundry is pushed out of the frame (literally and figuratively). No one lives that Pinterest-perfect life.

I learned recently that just seeing negative words actually makes us feel bad. So, there's science behind, "Fake it 'til you make it." Also, your formula for happiness might not be the same as someone else's. (Watch Happy on Netflix!)

Find your sunshine! I love you!

Marilynn Raatz said...

I love the comment from W Bryant! And I agree!! I remember with each of my kids thinking i just get a handle on one thing and new stuff happens. And it is still happening. That is life.
Spend your thoughts on what you're doing right. There is no perfection in parenting. Find the joy!
Notice the good. Negative self talk, worry, it does no good. Gratitude, laughter, those are the best.
I loved the poem "Children Learn What They Live". It made me feel good about what you kids were learning. Read it and you will feel good. You are a gift. To them and to me.

Angela Gariano said...

Every thought you wrote down is something I think about all the time. There is not one word that I don't understand,its comforting knowing I am not alone. But I wish there was something I could do to help us all. Thanks for writing Shelly.

Debi said...

Hi, Shelly. I don't know you but I sometimes feel like I do. I really appreciate how you infuse your writing with honesty, including the messy and confusing parts alongside the picture-perfect ones.

I too married my high school sweetheart; we've been married for 15 years and have 2 kids, 12 and 9. When the kids were 3 and newborn, we moved to Germany for 7 months and I blogged about the experience. Not the same as rural Alaska and certainly for a shorter duration, but I can relate to many of your reflections, particularly when you were first getting acclimated to Alaska.

Anyway, we've been back in the U.S. for many years now. Other than a brief 18-month stint as a SAHM after my second was born, I work full-time (happily) and I've never aspired to homeschool.

In general, I'm happy with the life my husband and I have created (are creating), and I think my kids are pretty happy and well adjusted. But not a week goes by that I don't wonder and worry about some of the parenting choices we are making. I think that's okay - healthy, even, to some extent. I like what you said about the inverse relationship between parenting tenure and confidence. I find this to be true in many arenas - the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have to learn. It's both a blessing and a burden, but it's normal.

Hang in there. And thanks again for voicing what I think a lot of parents feel.

Petersons said...

I love the quote at the end! I appreciate that you "take up space in the world" because you are a good example and even if you think you aren't good for anything else your boys think you are the most important person in the world.
Now that my kids are teenagers and pretty good kids I sometimes still agonize over how I did things when they were young. I wish I relaxed more with them and didn't stress out about being "perfect". So far they have turned out just fine. I tried to homeschool and found it was too stressful for me and when we quit I felt so horrible like I was failing them. But they are great kids and I think it was better for our relationship anyway! I'm not saying this is what you should do. This is just an example of something I feel I did right when they were young so I could be a better mom to them.
From what I have observed you are not a quitter of trying to be a good mom and I think that is one of the most important things you can give your kids.

Debbie Garvin said...

First, OMG do you look like your mom when she was in high school (in the picture with the knitted cap). Secondly, I appreciate your honest writing. You are brave enough to say what all us moms feel and are probably too prideful to admit.

My girls are are 25 and 37, happily on their own and I STILL second guess my parenting. There is no manual for this toughest and most important job in the world. Just do the best you can, sprinkle lots of love around and I'm pretty sure those beautiful children of yours will be just fine.