Parenting with Anxiety: Part 1 “Parenting Fears”

If you have read many of my other posts, then you know that I have anxiety. This is part one of a mini series that I’m writing about parenting with anxiety. I hope you enjoy!

I have anxiety. I think I’ve always dealt with anxiety, but it was diagnosed in 2015, and I have lived with a better understanding of it since then.

I’d like to get a few misconceptions out of the way before I start talking about anxiety and parenting. Maybe it will serve to get us all on the same page. Anxiety is a big deal. Anxiety does not indicate low character. Anxiety does not indicate weakness. Anxiety is common. Anxiety doesn’t go away when ignored (in fact, ignoring it increases ones risk for depression). It is helpful for me to talk with people about my anxiety, and I’ve heard the same from other people who deal with it. I could talk about each of these things for hours, so if you’d like more of my input on any of them, let me know.

We were so excited when we found out that we were pregnant with big brother! It took us a little longer to get pregnant that we thought it would. Looking back now, I can see what role anxiety played while we were trying to get pregnant. At the time, though, I just thought that my fears and concerns were normal. They seemed to mimic everyone else’s fears and concerns, but I couldn’t turn mine off (this is the piece that I didn’t realize was different! I thought that every mom prospect was continuously worrying about why her body wasn’t conceiving. I thought we all had constantly pounding heartbeats and shortness of breath.)

I remember feeling so relieved when we found out that we were pregnant. My thoughts of worry and fear about never being able to conceive went away, but the lump in my throat, pounding heartbeats, and relentlessly interruptive thought processes didn’t. They just changed a little. I went from worrying about not getting pregnant, to worrying about not being able to stay pregnant, to worrying about health issues for baby, then it seemed to land on worrying about being a horrible mom. This is where it has sat for a while. though there are definitely other worries that often distract me from this one, when I’m not caring for myself well, this is the huge worry that consumes me (well, this and social anxiety, but that’s a different topic for another day.)

I’m going to use the words “worry” and “fear” interchangeably today, though I know that there are some subtle differences between the two. I’m sorry if my doing so annoys you. It’s how my brain is working today!

All of my worries about parenting aren’t indicators of anxiety on their own. The way that my mind decides to process them (or not process them, really) is the issue. Now, when I’m able to see that my mind is stuck in an unproductive pattern of worry, I’m better able to break the cycle. Sometimes this is by doing something like getting back on track with eating right and exercising. Sometimes it takes more focused work on my thoughts, like writing or talking with a friend or counselor. It even sometimes requires me to talk to my doctor about getting back on a low dose of medication (or trying a different medication if I’m currently taking one). I’d like to also note that though prayer and faith have been invaluable tools for handling my anxiety, they haven’t taken it away (I think that Christians sometimes feel like having anxiety means that they’re doing something wrong. I don’t think that this is the case at all!)

So, here are some of my parenting fears, and what I am choosing to do to keep them from taking over…

I fear hurting my kids. I love my kids deeply, and the thought of them being hurt (emotionally, physically, or mentally) by anything makes my stomach flip. But the thought of being the cause of their pain (now or later in life) sometimes keeps me up at night. My boys are only two and three right now, but I am extremely aware of the fact that they’re always learning about themselves, and I’m a big part of that. I’m sometimes terrified that they’ll learn inaccurate things about themselves, things that I don’t believe about them, based on my actions and words. I replay conversations with them over and over, picking through my phrasing and tone. This is what my anxiety looks like.

The truth of the matter is that parents do have a lot of power to hurt their children. My desire to keep them safe from harm is okay. It’s good for me to check myself and make sure that I’m motivated by the right things (them and their well-being, not my own selfish desires). It’s okay for me to replay these conversations and take mental notes on what to do differently next time. What’s not good is getting stuck! My boys need me to be able to act quickly. They need me to intervene, and if I make a mistake when putting out a fire I can and should learn from it and try not to do it again. These mistakes have been wonderful opportunities to apologize to my boys. “Momma is sorry that she raised her voice. I know that that scared you. I love you very much.” I still yell, but I’m working on it, and this let’s them know that I know it’s not okay. It makes me more accountable when I do it in the future.

My fears of hurting them and who they become as adults are just as pervasive as my fears of hurting them day-to-day. I don’t want to be at the tail end of their first 18 years and realize that I haven’t raised self-respecting, resilient, productive, loving, kind people. I have huge fears that I may somehow be the one to stunt them in any of these areas. When my anxiety gets the best of me, I do my best to remember that the little descisions that I’m making to be aware of the effect that my behaviors have on them are preventing these huge concerns. Baby steps!!

I was planning to share more fears today, but I think that I need to finish digesting all of this before I continue.

If you are an anxious parent please remember this: there are resources everywhere to help you! There’s help for anxiety, help for depression, help with parenting, help in the form of friends and family, childcare help…you’re not alone!! Talk to your doctor and the people around you. Make others aware of your anxiety, so that when you’re stuck they can point you to help! Anxiety is miserable when you are doing it alone, but it’s manageable with help!

Thanks for reading. Sorry for the abrupt ending. Feel free to like,share, and comment. I’d love to know how you deal with your parenting fears!!

Things Moms Aren’t Allowed to Say: Part 4

This is part 4 of my series on things moms aren’t allowed to say.

I “fake it till I make it” a lot. It’s a survival technique that has served me well in motherhood. My boys get the love, patience, attention, care, and laughter that they need, and I get extra time to get there. And that’s ok.

The first thing that I faked as a momma was that swoon-worthy feeling that some moms say they have the moment they first meet their little one.

I did not fall in love with big brother right away. In fact, I’d even say that I didn’t fall in love with him for a while. It took weeks for me to really feel attached to him.

Big brother was an ‘easy baby’. He ate well and slept through the night, but I was still exhausted.

We’d had a tough nine months leading up to big brother’s arrival, and the effects of that weighed on me long after he was born. I had post partum anxiety that I was unaware of. Babies are a ton of work. I didn’t know what loving my baby was supposed to feel like. My body was healing from a c section, and I was in pain when I held my baby. I didn’t feel the way I thought new moms felt about their babies, but I faked it really hard. No one can know that I’m not a natural mother! Ever!

Not loving your newborn is not an option. Actively loving them is physically caring for them, and a newborn must be cared for. I didn’t feel the love, but I did it, and eventually (after a while and meds and counseling) the feeling followed.

I realize now that tons of mother’s don’t feel massively affectionate toward their newborns. Tons of moms have to take time to bond with their tiny strangers. Love is a choice. The feeling is irrelevant, though it makes the choice a LOT easier.

Other things that I have faked as a momma (get ready for this…):

I don’t clean my house that often. If it was clean when you visited it’s because I anxiety cleaned right before you got here.

I sleep as late as I can! That makeup that you saw me wearing was a three times a month thing that happened in the parking lot.

Homemade food only happens for people other than my family. I only pull out my recipe box for the five or six functions that I have to cook for every year. I know you think I’m a fantastic cook and my family is ‘so lucky’, but they eat ready rice, smoked sausage, and frozen veggies when I cook for them.

My kids don’t get bathed everyday. Their fingernails aren’t dirty because we played outside really hard before coming to church. It’s leftover from last night. That fresh smell in their hair isn’t shampoo, it’s baby wipe residue…because what’s the point of bathing a three year old boy every day? He has eczema, it dries out his skin. And he’s just going to get super dirty again today.

I am not patient. My kids drive me bonkers sometimes. Sometimes I raise my voice. You don’t see that though, because I fake it when you’re around. I fake it a lot at home too! I walk away and be impatient with them somewhere else. That way they don’t see my freak out, and I get to pretend like I deserve a patience award.

I fake a lot as a momma. I consider myself an open book. I’m fairly honest about my faking it, but I don’t walk around openly being the mess that I am.

I don’t think I’m the only mom who does this! Actually, I know I’m not!

New moms, a lot of it is a mirage. Your perception of other moms is a mixture of what they’re allowing you to see and what you’re choosing to see. It’s likely very inaccurate! I’d encourage you to really get to know some other mommas. You’ll see that we’re all doing the best that we can to get through each day with happy, cared for children. It’s not always fun, and it’s rarely easy!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below. I’d love to know if you’ve ever faked it too.

Things Moms Aren’t Allowed to Say: Part 3

This is part three of my series on things moms aren’t allowed to say.

I know I’m not alone when I say that being a mom is not enough to fulfill me, but I still feel like the world’s worst human when I say it. Being a mom (specifically a stay at home mom) has its fulfilling moments, but it’s not always enough. I want more.

It is in my nature to be a caregiver. I love loving people, and I’m good at it! Before we had kids I focused a lot of my caregiving energy on cancer patients and their loved ones as a cancer information specialist at the American Cancer society. Before that I was a residential coach at a boarding school for autistic teenagers.

So, when it came time to decide whether or not I wanted to be a sahm, it felt like a somewhat natural transition. It felt like my communication and relational skills would be used in the most important way. I was wrong.

I love being with my kids! I love that I’m blessed to be able to teach them myself, and watch them grow. I love that they get to be together all day, and build a bond that is unbreakable. I love play groups and mom groups. I love building relationships with other sahms. I really do like being a sahm, but I sometimes feel like I’m wasting some really useful parts of myself.

I think it’s okay to not be completely fulfilled by my current ‘job’. I think it’s ok to want more.

Kids are exhausting! Jobs that are focused on kids have really high turnover rates. Daycare workers and camp counselors have an out. They can give two weeks notice and move on to the next job. Moms can’t quit when burn out sets in. We have to push through, and eventually we do, but it’s hard!

Some days I just want to leave our house without my kids and go do something else. Some days I want to feel like a productive part of the outside world.

I often want more. Have I said it enough to soothe the shock factor, or are you still gasping each time you read it?

I want more. Being home with my kids is not enough to fulfill the parts of me that like interacting with people who aren’t in the same stage of life as I am. It’s not enough to fulfill my desire to contribute to things that aren’t my family or home. IM NOT A BAD MOM FOR ADMITTING IT!

For a while I made and sold jewelry. Now I write. Both of these things have utilized parts of me that Momming doesn’t utilize. My adult brain gets extra stimulation, and I have a creative outlet.

I sometimes feel like it’s wrong to get more joy out of writing a blog post than I do from changing a diaper or playing with mega blocks, but then I realize that it’s ok to be who I am. It’s not wrong for me to seek out fulfilling activities that allow me to both be a mom and be myself. If anything, it makes me a better mom.

When I was working, all I wanted to do was stay at home with my son. Now that I’m home, I so often want to go to work. I don’t think that finding a job would be a solution. I think that I am doing what I’m supposed to do! I want to be a stay at home mom. I think that it is an important job.

I think that the solution, for me anyway, has been admitting that I’m not completely fulfilled. I am no longer ashamed of saying, “This isn’t enough for me. I want more.”, and finding the more that’s right for me.

I know a ton of moms who stay home and do things like direct sales. I know a ton of moms who work full time. I know a ton of moms who have creative pursuits like this blog.

If you’re beating yourself up about not being completely fulfilled by motherhood, STOP IT RIGHT NOW!! I don’t know a single momma who is just a momma (and if that’s the phrase that you use when asked what you do for a living, stop that too!)

Stay at home moms, what you do is important and useful to your family and your community. You’re growing productive members of society!

Working moms, what you do is important and useful to your family and your community. You’re bringing in a paycheck and growing productive members of society!

I don’t have the credentials to say this, but I’m saying it anyway. Motherhood isn’t supposed to fulfill you. That’s not why we have kids. Motherhood is supposed to challenge you! Motherhood is mostly about them, not you. Motherhood is keeping people alive. Motherhood is choosing to do things that wouldn’t have been on your radar otherwise. Motherhood is hard, and beautiful, and exhausting, and joy-filled.

You’re not only the parts of you that love being a momma, and that’s okay!

I don’t know if any of this will be helpful to anyone else, but writing it has been good for me. Thanks for reading!

Things Moms Aren’t Allowed to Say: Part 2

This is part two of my series on things moms arent allowed to say.

About a week after Big Brother was born I got a congratulatory call from a college friend. She’d gotten married about the time that we found out that we were expecting big brother. It was exciting to be experiencing big joy alongside her.

She called in the afternoon. I was still in the hospital dealing with postpartum yuck (this is when I learned that im allergic to every pain med that hey give you after major surgery) and lingering neurological issues. Hers was the first phone call that I actually answered after Big Brother was born.

We talked for a while about how Big Brother and I were doing. I told her how perfect he was and what a great daddy my husband was turning out to be. She rejoiced with me.

She asked how I was feeling about being a mom, and she wanted to know if having a baby had changed everything yet. She had a ton of questions about our decision to have a baby. I felt like maybe she was doing research.

Toward the end of our conversation I asked her if she and her husband were thinking about kids in the future. This seemed like the natural direction of the conversation. I felt like she wanted me to ask.

“I don’t know, LJ. I always thought I wanted a big family, but my friends kids really annoy me…yours won’t, of course, but I think mine would! Can’t you just picture little mes running around?! It’s terrifying!”

How could she say that?! Maybe she shouldn’t be a mom! Kids aren’t annoying, they’re perfect! Look at my perfect little angel baby. He’s just perfect. He will never annoy me! I’m his mother!

I laughed with her and said something about how they’re not annoying until they’re old enough to talk, and we were far from that stage. We ended the conversation, and I picked up Big Brother from the bassinet and inhaled his perfection. Annoying? My baby? Never!

Fast forward three and a half years.

My kid annoys me! Both of my kids annoy me! Sometimes.

We’re still in the toddler/little kid stage, so I can speak for all ages, but these dudes can be nuts! They’re gross, they are irrational, they are loud, they’re needy, they grow attached to tiny things that they then loose and throw gigantic fits, and they’re whiney.

Toddlers are the worst sometimes, and it took a few years for me to admit it.

I think they’re annoying and I still love them. I even like them most of the time. Why aren’t moms allowed to say that they’re annoyed by their kids? Do we have to love everything about them all of the time because we made the choice to become moms? Is it our responsibility to stay tight lipped about how terrible they can be because it makes us look bad to tell the truth? I don’t know what it is, but it’s ok to let it out every now and then.

I’m in a mom group at my church. The first time I ever heard a young mom say that her son was annoying I almost spit out my drink. It felt so harsh!

Little Brother had just been born, and big brother was almost two. Little Brother was attached to my boob all day and Big Brother was always climbing on me- vying for my attention. My kids annoyed me too, but I didn’t dare say it.

“Guys, this kid is driving me nuts. Can I give him away? Like just for a week or so! He’s always scratching me- on purpose! He just walks up to me, puts his nail in my arm, and slides his hand down to my wrist. It doesn’t matter how short I cut his nails! He does it everyday. Nothing works. I’ve taken things from him, we’ve spanked… And don’t get me started on how gross he is! Y’all, he LIKES his poop! Who likes their poop? He doesn’t want me to ‘throw it away’ at diaper changes. Every time I open the diaper genie he has a huge fit! He’s so annoying!”

She vented for a few more minutes and all of the other moms nodded in understanding. They said supportive things and swapped stories about how annoying their kids are too. I was flabbergasted. Then it was my turn. They looked at me expectantly.

I was holding my little bundle of perfection. He was gnawing on my boob because he’d eaten fifteen minutes prior and there was no milk to be found. It was the only thing that calmed him, and I couldn’t have my three month old screaming at the top of his lungs in front of all of these moms who were getting a break.

“Let me hold him for you. It’s easier to complain about them when you’re not holding them.” A sweet momma at my table held her arms out for little brother.

“No, it’s ok…” I hesitated a little. “I guess I have been more annoyed than usual lately. I mean, he’s always attached to me. I just wish he’d stop being so needy.”

My instant feelings of shame we’re met with karate kicks to the groin.

“Don’t you dare feel bad about it, momma. We all feel that way at some point! They keep getting more annoying for a while, so you should practice getting it out now.” All of the moms laughed a little, then they went around the table bragging about the same kids that they’d just complained about.

Each mom had a tale of how wonderful their little terrors had been that week. Their joy and pride more than accounted for how annoying their kids had been.

Looking back at that specific group makes me wish I’d had toddlers then. My stories could have competed nicely with theirs. It would have been nice to take advantage of an open opportunity to use the ‘a-word’.

I don’t often desire to shout, ‘they’re annoying the boogers out of me’, but when I do, I say it. It’s usually to my husband or a close friend (because shame and guilt). Sometimes I even go I to my room, close the door, and say it out loud to myself. It’s super cathartic!

My toddlers annoy me, and I love them. I’m proud of them. I love watching them grow. I know that most of the annoying things that they do are just their ways of learning about the world. I don’t expect them to be charming and decent all of the time, and you shouldn’t expect that of them either.

Moms, don’t be ashamed of how you feel. If you think your toddler is the worst sometimes, you’re definitely not alone. And it’s not your fault! Toddlers act without thinking, they feel without guilt and shame. They are impulsively imperfect.

When I stopped trying to hide the fact that my boys can drive me nuts I became more patient and understanding with myself and them. And I developed better relationships with other moms (who wants to hang out with the perfect mom and her perfect kids? Not me.)

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear stories of how your little bundles of perfection annoy you. I’ve had a ton of belly laughs as a result of my boys’ annoying behaviors. Please comment below if you’d like to share your experiences!

Things Moms Aren’t Allowed to Say: Part 1

I’m going to be writing a short series on “Things moms aren’t allowed to say”. I interact with other young moms a lot, and there seem to be certain important things that are only spoken about in hushed tones. I’m going to use my tiny platform to open a few of these up for discussion. I’ll share my experiences, and I sincerely want to hear about yours! Please email me at mrsmeljb@gmail.com, or comment below! Your stories can be kept secret if you just need to vent, or I will happily feature them in the next day’s post.

Becoming a momma has been the biggest joy of my life. Each of our children is a gigantic miracle that I do not take for granted! I am constantly overwhelmed by the fact that my body is able to get pregnant and stay pregnant for nine months. I know that I am incredibly blessed to be able to take part in this process of bringing life into the world. Pregnancy can be the worst, though!

I am not someone who likes being pregnant. I know that there are some women who genuinely feel good during pregnancy, but I am not one of them.

I’m 34 weeks pregnant right now, and not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me how I’m feeling. I always tread lightly and try to say something like, “I’m okay”, or “we’re getting close to the due date, so I’m getting really excited!”. Occasionally though, when a good friend has asked, I’ll be 100% honest. I’ll say, “I’m so ready to be at 39 weeks! I feel like I’m bursting at the seams. She kicks me non-stop. I haven’t slept in weeks. I’m always peeing. My head feels like it’s going to pop off. I keep crying at my husband for no reason. And right now this bilateral sciatica is hurting so badly that I can’t sit, stand, or lay down without wincing. And I’m super excited to meet her soon!”

Pregnancy can be rough. Why is it taboo to say something like “I don’t like being pregnant”, or “pregnancy is the worst”?

I remember the first time that I said “I just really don’t love being pregnant.” I was picking big brother up from daycare and my little brother bump had just become visible. It was the week after I’d submitted my two weeks notice at work, so big brothers daycare knew that he would be leaving for good soon. The daycare director had just gotten back from maternity leave and I stopped to chat with her on my way to big brother’s classroom.

We talked for a few minutes about how motherhood was treating her. She was so in love with her daughter, and she was excited to be able to have her at work with her. We talked about how her husband was dealing with all of the changes in their home, and she told me how cute my little brother bump was.

Then she asked the dreaded question, “How are you feeling?” I was four months pregnant at the time, so I was over the hump of the first trimester. I was no longer puking every ten minutes, and I wasn’t as tired as I had been, but I still didn’t feel great. I had tons of tummy trouble, my anxiety was out the roof, and I was sore a lot of the time.

I must have had a strange look on my face because she put her hand on my arm and asked again. “You ok?”

“I just really don’t love being pregnant!” The words flew out of my mouth (along with a few misplaced tears). I instantly felt both guilty and relieved. I couldn’t believe that I’d said it out loud!

“I know exactly what you mean!” By this point she had moved her hand down and was holding onto my wrist. “Pregnancy is the worst!”. She shook my arm a little with each word, as if to emphasize her point.

Of course we both immediately spouted off how thankful and blessed we were to be able to become and stay pregnant, but then we shared stories about the awful things that our bodies and minds can go through during pregnancy.

I remember hooking big brother into his car seat in the parking lot and feeling so incredibly relieved that it wasn’t just me! She had hated being pregnant too, and she wasn’t a monster.

Now, whenever I’m talking to a pregnant friend, I make sure to give her permission to speak freely about how she’s really feeling. I’ll ask leading questions like, “how has it been so far? Are you feeling uncomfortable?” If she’s having a great pregnancy, I rejoice with her, but if she even hesitates for a second I’ll let her know that my pregnancies have been super uncomfortable. Y’all, I’ve had a few friends burst into tears when given the permission and freedom to speak openly about how they’re feeling.

I totally understand the responsibility to respect the process and the blessing that pregnancy is. I understand the desire to not be offensive or hurtful to families who haven’t had successful pregnancies. I get that pregnancy is not something to laugh about or take lightly. But I also understand how important it is for pregnant women to take care of themselves, and a HUGE part of that is being free to talk about how hard it is!

So, don’t judge mommas who don’t like being pregnant- for whatever reason it is! Not enjoying the process of bringing life into the world doesn’t make them bad moms. My pregnancies have been the worst, but my kids are the best things ever. I love them so much more than I ever thought my heart could love.

If you’re pregnant right now, and it’s the absolute worst, don’t be ashamed to confide in someone. You are not the only one who “just really doesn’t love being pregnant”.

Mommas, please share your experiences below! Perhaps what you went through will help another momma feel less alone!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to like and share!

My email address is mrsmeljb@gmail.com, and I’m always up for connecting with other momma’s!

What is Love?

I’ve rewritten this post twice today already. I’m sure that this won’t be the final draft either. Let’s see how this goes…

Love is complex. There are so many different types of love, and each type can be broken down into subtypes. Each subtype is unique yet somehow still intertwines with other subtypes.

The ancient Greeks seemed to have had a better hold on love than we do today, but even their definitions of the different types of love seem mottled to me.

About a week ago big brother asked me what love is. It was in the midst of an ‘I love you more’ debate. He and I had been going back and fourth for about thirty seconds when little brother chimed in with “I love cookies!” I exclaimed that I love cookies too, and big brother’s wheels started visibly turning.

His little face creased in several places. He turned his headsideways and said, “Momma, what is love?”

I’m sure my face started to crease at that point. How was I supposed to explain that little brother’s love of cookies and my love for big brother are nothing alike?

I said, “Thats a really great and important question. Can momma take some time to figure it out and get back to you?”

He was fine with putting this question on hold, and honestly, I hope he’s fine with waiting a little longer, because I still feel unprepared to explain love.

So far I’ve just attempted to explain what his daddy and I mean when we tell him that we love him. I think that’s the most important piece of the puzzle to him for now anyway, so it sufficed.

It’s not simple though. Some people spend their whole lives longing for love, wondering if they’ve ever had it or felt it. How do we know if we’ve ever been in the presence of love? What does it feel like? What does it look like?

Because the answers to these questions are so complex, I’m choosing to do something that I don’t usually do. Istead of sharing what I’ve learned from a bunch of sources all mushed into one fluid conclusion, I’m going to just talk about one source and my personal experiences. I’m going to limit my definition of love to just the types of love that I have for my husband and my children (which have kind of merged into one type of love over the last year. I’ll explain.) And I’m going to use 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to do so.

I’m using 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 for a few reasons. One, it is the definition of love that I hold as truth (I am a Christian and it’s the definition that I’ve heard the most throughout my life). Two, it is familiar to so many people. It’s a beautiful piece of literature, and I think that many people who know nothing else of the Bible could say that they’ve heard this passage either in a movie or another form of art at some point. Three, it encompasses the type of love that I want to try to define, AgapĂ©, or sacrificial love.

The type of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is said to be Christ’s love for the church. It’s the sacrificial love that the Bible says we are to have toward our spouse, and I believe that it should also serve as a model for how we should treat our children.

I Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends…”

When my husband (then boyfriend) and I first said “I love you” it didn’t look like the love that we have for each other now. It was a feeling, and it was genuine, but it wasn’t sacrificial at that point. We’ve learned that the feelings associated with our first few month of dating aren’t permanent. Our marriage isn’t void of butterflies and flirting, but they aren’t the things that define our love. I’d say that our love now looks much more like Christ’s love described in the passage above.

My husband and I are very different people. I think there’s a lot of truth to the idea that opposites attract. Like many couples, we have extremely different hobbies and interests. When we met my husband was fairly introverted and I was very extroverted. (I think that living with each other has brought us both closer to the ‘outgoing introvert’ personality type. It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it?) He likes the physical sciences, and is a physics genius. I like the soft sciences, and could talk your ears off about social problems and mental health. He likes fantasy games, and I like charades. We’re very different people.

I am christian and my husband is atheist. I still think that the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 4 is a good standard for how I love him. I’d even argue that my husband is better at sacrificially loving than I am. I tend to struggle when it comes to not insisting on my own way, and not being irritable or resentful. He struggles to love me sometimes too, but he keeps it to himself better than I do.

We’re still learning how to love each other! I hope that our love continues to grow, and that we always continue to get better at loving each other. Having kids has taught us so much about love, specifically this sacrificial love. It’s hard to love sacrificially, but it’s a necessity when it comes to kiddos. They need us to make sacrifices to care for them. Parenting has stretched us in ways that nothing else could.

This is where loving my kids and loving my husband meet. There are definitely aspects of my love for my husband that don’t apply to the way that I love our kids, but I think that the sacrificial, or giving piece is the same. Feelings definitely accompany my love for all of the people in my home, but ‘love’ is the action, not just the feelings.

I think that the distinction is that I choose to love my husband sacrificially, and my sacrificial love for my children is the result of their need to be cared for and taught. It’s a good thing that they need me, because some days I’d like to go in my room and take a break from sacrificing. Don’t get me wrong- I love loving my children, but it’s exhausting. When I get tired of actively loving my husband, I just take a break (there are definitely consequences, but no one will die if I ignore him for a bit.) I can’t really take a break from the sacrifices that parenting requires, and when I do, the consequences are far worse.

Paul hits the nail on the head in his definition of love in 1 Corinthians. So much of his definition describes what love isn’t. I think that was a wise decision on his part. Love is so complicated and so broad that it’s almost smarter to define it by saying what it isn’t. So lets explore the ‘is nots’ before we explore the ‘ises’.

Love does not/ is not

  • Love does not envy- I’ve also seen “love is not jealous”. Love is trusting!
  • Love does not boast- or brag. it is humble
  • Love is not arrogant- or proud, or puffed up, it is humble. I like that Paul says this in two different ways. He’s being clear. Love is humble.
  • Love is not rude- or offensive. It is nice, gentle. It is modest.
  • Love does not insist on its own way- it’s not self-seeking. It is selfless.
  • Love is not irritable- or short-tempered. It is calm.
  • Love is not resentful- or bitter. It is pleasant and kind.
  • Love does not rejoice at wrongdoings, or doesn’t delight in evil. It holds accountable and finds joy in doing good.

Love is/ does

  • Love is patient- it is able to accept delays or changes without becoming aggravated.
  • Love is kind- it is benevolent, nice.
  • Love rejoices with the truth- it delights in what is accurate and present.
  • Love bears all things- it takes or carries all things. It doesn’t dodge the hard or unpleasant stuff.
  • Love believes all things- It is trusting. It doesn’t abandon.
  • Love hopes all things- It confidently anticipates good things. It does not doubt.
  • Love endures all things- It withstands, or holds up in the face of difficulty. It does not crumble.

Love never fails! I think that this quality of love could be on either list, so I’m setting it apart a little. Love never fails, or falls apart. It never disintegrates or backslides. It never flounders or slips. Love never goes away.

Remember that this is a description of Christ’s perfect love, not a gauge to measure all of your first dates with. I believe that Paul is educating the Corinthians as much as he is admonishing them. They were working toward godliness, but they were lacking love. I think Paul is giving them the description of Christ’s love as an act of generosity. I think he probably felt like they wanted to know how to love. His description is a beautiful guideline.

It seems like the Corinthians, like me so often, may have been putting love and relationships on the back burner. They may have been forgetting that they are (I am) nothing without love.

I am so often dumbfounded when relationships fail, especially my own. I think about the rocky parts of my relationship with my husband before we were married. The times when I doubted our relationship because of all the ways that we are so different. I remember wishing that he was more _______ or less ________. I remember thinking “This marriage is doomed to fail because he’s not ________. ” If marriage was about two people being perfect for each other, then no one would ever have a successful marriage, and I think that’s kinda what happens a lot these days. We tend to see the holes where we don’t match up, and we run instead of filling those gaping holes with love.

Again, I am not Biblical scholar, and I’m definitely not an expert on love, but I’ve learned that Paul’s description of love- his guidelines for love that lasts, holds up. When I actively try to love people in this way, they feel loved. When I put my self aside and truly devote my attention to actively trying to love others in this way, I reap the benefits of love in my life.

When my boys are having a rough day and it feels like all we’ve done is butt heads, I often realize that I haven’t been trying to love them like this. I’m not being kind. I’m not being patient. When my husband and I have had a rough week (or month) and I feel far from him, I often realize that I haven’t been trying to love him like this. I am often being arrogant or irritable. I’m not believing and hoping. I’m doubting.

I think that this kind of love transforms. It is powerful. I’ve seen evidence of this in myself. When I work hard at loving people sacrificially, when it’s less about me and more about them, I’m generally more joyful and more full of peace. I’m more confident in my relationships and I’m less anxious. (Hear me loud and clear, please. loving someone in this way does not cure abuse or neglect! If that is the situation that you find yourself in, seek outside help. You cannot fix an abusive relationship! Distance yourself physically and emotionally, and find help. There is always someone at this number who can provide you with resources 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You cannot love your way into a healthy relationship with an abuser, and it’s NOT your fault.)

I want to love everyone like this, but for now I’m mainly focusing these efforts on my husband and my boys. I’m finding that it spreads and kinda becomes part of who I am though. The more I try to love my husband and boys selflessly, the more selfless I am in other relationships too. Also- notice how often I wrote “trying to love…”. Y’all, it’s hard! Being selfless and sacrificial is HARD, and none of us is perfect. I fail constantly. You will fail. You’re not Christ. I think that the reward, or love that never fails, is the result of working toward perfect love, not being perfect at loving.

I still don’t have a plan for talking to big brother about love. I’m hoping that my simple answer about what his parents mean when they say they love him will do for now. If any of you have helpful advice on talking with a kid about love, please share! He’s been using the word love a ton since he asked what it means, and each time I can tell that he’s a little unsure of whether or not he’s using it correctly.

thanks for reading! what are your thoughts on love?

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Learning Contentmemt

Contentment isn’t easy. At least it isn’t for me.

Contentment has a couple different definitions. The Bible defines contentment as freedom from care due to satisfaction with what one already has. Secular literature tends to equate contentment to satisfaction or happiness.

Until very recently I thought that contentment was something to be found. I’m learning that there’s no place where contentment dwells. It can’t be found; it has to be learned.

I have read A LOT about contentment in the past twelve months. I’ve studied the contentment that Paul refers to in Philippians 4. I’ve read about contentment from the perspective of eastern philosophy. I’ve read accounts of contentment in war torn Europe during the second world war. I’ve read mom blogs about being content in modern day, white collar America…the list could go on for a while. If I saw ‘content’ in the title or passage, I read it!

It’s overwhelming to read accounts of contentment in all of these situations and still not be able to attain it. I eventually began to see that none of the people I was reading about found or attained contentment, they chose it. It was an attitude.

How did they choose an attitude of contentment? It’s not as easy as waking up one day and thinking today I am choosing to be content, at least not initially.

After lots of thought I’ve come to the fluid conclusion that an attitude of contentment is more of a disposition than a feeling. It’s a habit. It’s something you wear. It doesn’t waver as situations change. That’s the beauty of an attitude of contentment, it becomes a part of who one is.

If this is the case, does it imply that contentment is inherent? Am I doomed to a life of discontentment because contentment is not woven into the fabric of my personality? I don’t think so! I think that contentment can be learned and integrated into the fabric of one’s being.

Let me tell you a little bit about my personality. Contentment is NOT an inherent part of my makeup (and if it is, it has been suppressed for so long that it had to be relearned.) I am a fixer. I am critical. I tend to live in the past, and often miss out on how good things are until they’ve passed. I wouldn’t consider myself negative, though. I have always worn a smile, and optimism has never been too hard for me. I’m just not easily satisfied. I always see how things could be better, and I’m not super comfortable unless I’m working torward improving them.

I don’t think that everything I’ve just shared with you is bad, but apart from contentment, most of these things have not been beneficial to my heart.

I think that I faked contentment for so long that when I was truly discontent for the first time I didn’t know how to choose an attitude of contentment. It’s easy to seem content when things are easy, or when the not easy things are taken care of for you. I thought I had it figured out until I got married and inherited full responsibility for my own contentment.

I know how lame this is, but I didn’t really feel like a responsible adult until my husband and I got married. Up until that point I always had my parents to fall back on. I ran most of my big decisions by them, and I knew that they would be there to help if everything went haywire.

When I got married I decided that my husband and I were responsible for ourselves. We’d chosen to become a team. He and I were going it alone. I started to feel more responsible for myself. My actions were heavier. I was all of the sudden in control of my own destiny. I (we) could choose whatever I (we) wanted! It was a good and scary feeling.

We moved to Austin, TX two days after we got married in North Carolina. It was a mutual decision that we made after spending some time in Austin for my husband’s job interview. We loved the city, and it fostered my new complete independence. We were so excited to move to Austin, and everything was fun for the first month or so.

Eventually though, I was miserable. I missed the blue ridge mountains. I missed my friends. I missed the cooler weather. I missed everything. Everything in Austin was worse than it’s counterpart in the southeast. I wanted to move back to the southeast, and I made my desires very clear.

What was my sweet husband to do? He had just moved himself and his new wife to Texas to persue a career that would help him pay off his massive student loans. He consulted her about every decision that he made. He loved Austin! He was making new friends. He loved their life in Austin, and he thought she would too, if she just tried to be content.

The first time he asked me why I couldn’t be content here I lost it! “I am content!” How dare he? The Bible tells me to be content, so I am! As if it was a meaningless label.

It took me five more years of being discontent here to finally realize that I am not content, and it has nothing to do with being in Austin! I didn’t know how to be truly content. I knew how to be happy. I could make myself happy with things in Austin, but when it came to being truly satisfied with my life, I wasn’t.

We’re on year six of being in Austin. Our location hasn’t changed much, but my attitude is changing (slowly but surely). I pray that contentment becomes my disposition (or the thing that people see when they interact with me), but for now I think it’s still something that I’m actively choosing. It is hard work, but it is paying off in so may areas of my life.

Here is a list of a handful of the things that I did to learn contentment. I still try to do these things as often as I remember to, and it turns out that true contentment kinda gives birth to these disciplines throughout my day. The more I do these things the more content I find myself. These things have been the things that have shown me what an attitude of contentment really looks and feels like.

– Practice gratitude. Say “thank you”. Look for things to be thankful for. There is always something to be thankful for!

– Find the silver lining, and admit that I’ve found it. Look for the good in your pain. Look for the lessons waiting to be learned. Try to find purpose in your struggle.

– Use my strengths and gifts. Living a life of purpose is a huge part of contentment!

– Smile. Smiling just makes me feel better. People are more receptive to people who look happy. My kids are happier when I’m smiling. I definitely don’t do it all the time, but when I’m feeling ok, I try to smile. The more often I did it, the more natural it became. I found myself being more content as a result of smiling.

– Use less negative language. The critical part of me had become very good at complaining- even if I never voiced it. I was choosing to criticize everything! When I started to actively refute my negative thoughts about everything I became more content.

I wouldn’t say that I’m content all of the time. I want to be though! I’m still learning contentment, but it has definitely become more of an instinct than it was. Right now I’m still somewhere between choosing contentment and being a content person. Contentment isnt automatic for me yet, and it may never be, but it has become much easier for me to choose an attitude of contentment!

Thanks for reading!