I've been pondering the quote on this page. For a while I focused on the word "judging". I've grappled with judging and judgment many times. And I've kind of come to the conclusion that "judging" is kind of part of the human experience. After all making a "judgment" means that you are forming an opinion about something. That is what I do as a parent and as a writer here. I share my opinion about what I think is right and wrong, about what makes life sweeter or more difficult.
So the above quote really caught my attention. Will I ever *truly* be awake if I can't stop "judging"? I think of awake as being conscious, deliberate, and thoughtful. I am confident that all of those adjectives describe me. So how could I evolve more along these lines?
Last week I had an experience that pushed me closer than ever to my awakening. A couple of popular bloggers (and by popular, I mean these writers have hundreds of thousands of readers and followers - it's humbling) wrote posts that really got under my skin. And I'm not going to lie, part of what smarts so much is that they *are* so popular and these views that don't jive with me AT. ALL. are embraced by their readers.
So I started to think about how I want to feel and what I can do to achieve these feelings. Lately I've been advising lots of people to stop watching the news or inundating their consciousness with every little detail of the world's happenings (they aren't often happy). But I wondered if maybe I could use a little of my own advice. What purpose does it serve for me to read these blogs if they are just upsetting me? I mean, yes I could comment in an attempt to make my views and opinions heard. But really, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that I'm going to make much headway in forums like those.
I also do think it's healthy to hear different opinions of things. But quite honestly, it was as much *how* these opinions were presented that bothered me, as the opinions themselves. One in particular just wasn't respectfully presented.
So I made a choice to stop subscribing to these two writers - even though they are talented and funny and I often enjoy their work. It just wasn't worth the mental turmoil it was causing me.
A refrain in one of those irritating (to me) blog entries was "I don't care." And actually it's not that I mind those words. Sometimes the words "I don't care" are empowering. But if they are said to dismiss others or to fool ourselves into believing that something we really *do* care about isn't worth our time, then these words can be dangerous.
Ironically, these three words also led me to feel closer to my awakening. I'm getting closer and closer to "not caring" what others think. Don't get me wrong, I still *do* care greatly about other people. But the more comfortable I am in my own skin and in my choices and thought processes, the less I worry about what others think of me. Also, I cannot worry about other people's paths. Everyone is on their own personal journey of growth and each one is unique. Some people are going to resonate with my message and "truth" and other people aren't. And the more I can let go of trying to control what others think, the more I am able to stay on my path. That's what it means to be awakened and to not judge others. Because we can't help those that don't want to be helped. We can't force a horse to drink even if we are holding its face in the water. It's not my job to try and get people to agree with me.
My job is to be me and love everyone the best I can.
This morning I read an article, "Jealousy, Judgment, and Motherhood," and I got all worked up about it, and even got permission from an old friend to write about her, and now here it is 11 pm and I'm having a hard time getting the flow going. I even started once and lost what I had written, which may be a blessing because I didn't really like it. So as I lay in bed helping kid #2 fall asleep, I thought about what I wanted to say, and how I could get my point across in the kindest and most interesting way. And I realized that I really just needed to tell my experience and what I've learned. I don't need to get preachy or philosophical because I believe the message will shine through the story.
My story begins in the 6th grade. Actually it may begin even earlier than that, but I have a really crappy memory, so we'll begin there. I have one very vivid memory from that year. I was in the girl's bathroom washing my hands and one of my teachers was beside me also washing her hands. And she said to me, "Susan, I just know that you are going to be something really wonderful someday, like a Doctor or a Lawyer." That's it. That's all I remember. I don't remember what I said back, but I'm sure I nodded or smiled because I've always been pretty agreeable and polite.
But even then something about it struck me wrong. And I remembered it for many years.
Fade out. Fade in to middle school study hall with my best friend since kindergarten. We're giggling and passing notes. The main topic of said notes are, "I want a boyfriend SO. BAD!"
Cut to my Senior year of college. I'm crying on my bed and my boyfriend (Mike!) is trying to comfort me. I'm so confused and anxious because even though I'm am closing in on graduating I still don't know what I want to "do". I cry to him, "I just want to get married and have kids!" He reassures me that it will be ok and things will work out, but I know he thinks I'm a little bit crazy. (haha)
In college I started out as a math major but quickly switched to Brain and Cognitive Science when I couldn't get all "A's" in my math courses. I was an intern for a researcher at the hospital one semester, and also in a couple of labs on campus. I considered research and going on the medical school. But none of that felt right.
I was so incredibly lucky my senior year to have an amazing Professor who encouraged me. I told him how "everyone" thought that since I was "smart" I should be a "doctor" or something like that. This wonderful man advised me to follow my heart and told me that we need "smart people in all professions". So after school I pursued my teaching degree. (I have to also give major props to my mom here. She has always supported me in whatever I decided to do. And deep down she really just wanted me to get married and have kids too. ha.)
Teaching was an incredible learning experience for me. But I'm forever indebted to my daughter for coming along and giving me a reason to leave - almost entirely guilt-free. I was good at teaching and my students and I had great relationships, but it was not "my (final) calling".
After Marisol was born, I just looked at her and thought, "All I have to do for a long time is take care of you!" I felt an incredible sense of freedom. I couldn't believe how lucky I was.
And so began the most life-changing, life-affirming journey of my life. It's still going, and I imagine it will until my time here is up.
But this is not the end of my story. Since Marisol was born a little over 6 1/2 years ago I have learned a lot. There has only been one stretch of time, from the time Gerry was born until he was about 9 months old, where I was not "working" in some form even though I would classify myself as a full-time stay-at-home-mom. When Marisol was just 6 weeks old I started babysitting a little girl. Why? Because Mike had big plans to go to business school, and I wanted to build up my reputation as a good caregiver so I could nanny while he was in school. I think I knew before Marisol was born that I was not going back to the classroom, but once she was here I was sure. I wanted to be with her for as long as possible.
And it worked! When we moved to Washington DC I found an amazing family whose little boy was almost exactly the same age as Marisol. And they lived about one mile from where we lived. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect work situation.
They quickly became like family to me as I adjusted to living in a new city and being away from my own family for the first time. The mom, Ida (pronounced: "Ee-da"), and I were (and are!) about as different as you can imagine. Ida is a Doctor and went back to work soon after the births of both her boys. What was amazing to me that year, as I helped take care of her son, was how well she handled working and being a mother. She never showed insecurity or jealousy about my relationship with Nils. She never agonized over whether she should be working or not. And when she came home she was joyful to see him and jumped right in to playing with him. I still remember them laughing together.
Ida and I talked a little bit about this modern "motherhood/work" phenomenon, and how so many women struggled with it. It seemed that we were in the minority of women who really embraced our choices. Even though Ida and I were very different in our parenting and lifestyle choices, we had a great relationship. I have always admired how she embraced her life and her choices instead of constantly second-guessing herself or letting feelings of doubt or guilt into her life.
And my own journey was still barely beginning. I continued to care for two other children through Mike's second year of school and while I was pregnant. After Gerry was born I was happy to "just" be home with the kids for a while.
In the spring of 2010 I tried tutoring for a company called "Tutored-by-a- Teacher" but never really got too into it. Then that summer I decided to look into becoming a childbirth educator and that is when Hypnobabies came into the picture. Since becoming certified and starting to teach I really feel like I've hit my stride. Not just as a "mom" or as a "teacher" but really as a human being.
That's my story, my history... So what do *I* think is the main take-away from all of this?
1) There is no such thing as "just" a "teacher," or "mother," or "housewife," or any other job, vocation, or calling.
2) Sometimes we know what we really want (as I clearly did from the time I was a young girl) but our inner voices are completely drowned out by the messages that we are receiving outside of us.
3) Women (and men!) need to get clear on what they want. And not just what they want, but how they want to feel.
Talking about wanting to "have it all" is just a catch phrase that we've adopted since having more choices available to us. But the truth is NO ONE can have it ALL. Luckily for us it isn't necessary to have it all to live happy, fulfilled lives.
We are fortunate to live in a time when many women have more choices than their grandmothers could even dream about. But more choice is also confusing and even paralyzing sometimes - heck, I can't even pick out what toothpaste I want at the grocery store these days. It's not surprising that figuring out what you want your life to look like, when the possibilities are even longer than aisle 15, and the choices much harder than baking soda or fluoride, has more than one woman awake at night worrying over whether they're making the right choices.
It's a wonderful time, but it's also a little chaotic and messy - like we are reorganizing our whole house in one day.
I am so grateful that I was able to process and clear my confusion up at relatively young ages. I hope more women are able to work through their own so they can stop feeling judged, judgmental, and jealous. Then they will be free to feel supported and supportive, loved and loving. In this way, maybe our daughters and granddaughters will have even more freedom and less confusion than we have today.
I do know that it has to begin with loving yourself. It sounds so cheesy, but I cannot begin to tell you how transformative this truth has been for me this year. Love yourself and be kind to yourself whatever it is you choose. When you do this you will be able to offer more to everyone else in your life. Stop telling yourself that your life is so hard. And if it feels that way, start taking steps to make it feel less so. Stop letting others decide for you what's important to do. Decide how you want to feel, identify things that make you feel that way, then start doing them.
Make your life awesome. You only get this one and you're the only one who can do it.
I hurt someone I love with one of my "out-there" ideas. It wasn't my own writing but an article titled, Your Child does NOT Thrive on Routine, that I posted on Facebook. The first time I read this article it resonated strongly with me on a personal level. But when one of my favorite people and best friends shared her sadness in reaction to the piece, it made take another look.
How did I miss that this article had the potential to offend? Recently I read an article titled, "Babies Are Needy—Does That Bug You? Maybe get a dog instead of a baby." This article is also very blunt in its presentation, yet its core message resonated with me. After reading a lot of the comments I saw how many people were hurt by it and decided not to share. (If you're really curious I can send you the link.) Presentation does matter. Mayim Bialik's new book, "Beyond the Sling" advocates similar parenting choices BUT with a totally different tone. Tone matters. Words have power.
Part of the reason I didn't think much of posting this article is that it seems to be about a somewhat benign topic: "Routine." Compared to other controversial parenting topics like breastfeeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping, spanking, and homeschooling, it seemed pretty safe. But "Routines" (aka schedules) are as accepted and entrenched in our culture as anything else, and in this case was code for school (or daycare for the younger child). Also the use of the the words "Your Child" make it very personal, giving it more power. This is why I try to be very careful with the words that I choose. For example I write here about MY TRUTH, and what works for me and my family. I wonder though, would the author's point have been as powerful without the strong language? Which style is more likely to actually make an impact and be heard: powerful but possibly offensive, or a more subtle, hopefully compassionate approach with less "oomph"? I'm finding that as I try to share my truth without hurting/offending/judging, it can be difficult to do since my reality is so different from most people I know.
But let me backtrack for a minute. Let me explain why I liked the article to begin with. I've recently been thinking about my kids and how we've for the most part never really had a "schedule". There have been times when we got into a certain flow that seemed to stick for a while, but routines or schedules have never really worked for us. I used to think that it was Marisol who broke me into this kind of a lifestyle. But lately I've been delving more into *me* and I've realized that *I* am the one who is just not very "routine". I just didn't really know it since I had always had routines and schedules my whole life - until my kids joined me. It was the classical case of mistaking correlation (the arrival of Marisol and my lack of schedule) for causation. Now, I'm not saying that Marisol is prone to an orderly day (or night!) either. I'm just noting that I am as much the cause as she is. I also agree with the author's assessment of children thriving on predictability and familiarity, that these two things lower stress, and that routines, schedules and school are not the best ways to achieve these things.
Let me go on a little "school tangent". I realize now that I've been "hiding" behind some words when I talk to people about homeschooling my kids. I say, "I loved school! It was great for me. I'm not homeschooling because I have something against school, I just see a better way for us." Now, these words are true. I'm not lying when I say them. But they are a buffer of sorts - it puts the people I'm talking to at ease. But another truth is that the more I inspect and reflect on my own experience as student AND teacher, the more I see wrong with school.
I will begin by critiquing myself. Because that's what I like to do (ok, well I'm trying to get away from that, but for now to make this point I will. And it's about my past self, not my present self). One very strong memory I have of school - and this was high-school - was of my teachers (and mom's friends - my mom was my math teacher in the 9th and 12th grade) ooohing and ahhhing over my report cards. Teachers LOVE those 99.99% GPAs. And my reaction? "Well, isn't that the GOAL?" To get 100%, I mean.
I am ashamed to admit that is what I thought. In my defense, it wasn't completely my fault - I mean that is what we are taught - to get the right answers and the high grades. But it ignores so many other factors - like different learning styles, and kids that are really smart (ALL OF THEM!) but don't care about grades (I have so much respect for those types now!), and people that just aren't interested in what x + y equals, or what day the Battle of Gettysburg took place. Not to mention not everyone can memorize hundreds of unrelated facts and regurgitate them on command. As for me, "school-smarts" and "know-it-alled-ness" run in my family - thankfully so to kindness and the ability to think critically (aka change our minds!)
So yes, school was good to me. Or I should say, school and I were a good fit. I was lucky. I excelled in many areas and had great friends. But now I see things quite differently. In particular the competition. Even back then, I never liked it. I hated when my classmates celebrated when they "beat me" on an exam. I was embarrassed by teachers who made sarcastic remarks about me in front of the whole class. I ignored my body to come to school when I was really sick so I wouldn't "let my team down" by missing a game (how well could I have played??) I both suffered from and participated in middle school cruelty. These are just a few of the experiences that immediately come to mind.
The truth is, the school environment is tough for many kids and there are negative aspects for everyone. School does NOT foster critical thinking, creativity, individuality, cooperation, flexibility, questioning, pursuing passions, or success for all. (There may be exceptions, but for most I believe this is true. I'm speaking as a teacher now too.) These are things that I value. All of this is part of the benign and what most think of as beneficial "routine" of being part of school. It may seem like I've made quite a leap here, but this is where my mind went yesterday.
Back to my friend. My reaction to my friend's sadness was very emotional. I felt sad too. The feelings manifested in my body - a hard ache in my heart, eyes stinging, a sick pit in my stomach. I wanted to be able to vomit all the words running through my mind into this post in one big purge. I want my friend to see my heart and know my intention.
Besides the emotions my thoughts ran wild. Everything rushed in and around my head and every idea was connected to that moment. Every idea I've ever had seemed to relate. It was close to impossible to untangle it all and make sense of it.
So, am I really ready to share my truth? I thought I was. Also, this is what I wanted right? To make people think and question?
I reminded myself of some things. First, I am really starting to accept deeply that we each own our emotions. No-one makes someone else mad, or angry, or sad. We are in control of ourselves.
Second, I reminded myself of the "Purple spots". I've heard this now from two different sources, Tara Wagner and Louise Hay. If someone came up to you on the street and told you that you had purple spots all over you and you had better get to the emergency room quickly, what would you do or say? How would you respond and react internally? (Assume you just left your house and gave yourself a once-over in the mirror - you *know* there are no purple spots!) Chances are good that you would not get angry or upset. You might even be more than a little concerned for the other person (Helloooo, someone's had some purple kool-aid!)
How does this apply to every day situations? Well, if you notice that you are bothered by something that someone has said to you, then that means on some level you believe what they are saying. I would only freak out about purple spots if I really thought they were there! An example: your husband tells you to get off your lazy butt to get something for one of your kids. You get really pissed off. Why are you mad? If it's not true, there is nothing to get upset about, and if it is true then you can simply make your decision accordingly (although that really wasn't a nice way for your husband to talk to you - you probably need to work on your communication!) Seriously, I've seen how this works for me. When I'm feeling good about myself and life I don't take things personally. When I do get upset, it is time to look internally.
How this applies to me personally is that many of the choices we've made in our family (nursing an almost 3 year old, homeschooling, co-sleeping, our use of media, to name a few) are judged very harshly. I know; I read the comments (even though I know I shouldn't!) But I cannot take them to heart or feel saddened by them because I know what they are saying about me (my choices) is not true. Usually there are very, VERY big misunderstandings at the heart of the hurtful comments.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that we should not be aware of how our words and actions affect others. What I am saying is that if something bothers you that is your cue to look inwards (this seems to be a recurring theme!)
I am not so naive to believe that it is possible for everyone to home-school or stay home with their small children. But I *do* believe that many more people could make different choices if they wanted to. Maybe not the BIG one - like quitting your job today. But smaller ones. And as smaller choices are made, different paths become easier and more attainable. Feeling like you have no choice is an illusion. I also am very aware that it was relatively easy for me to jump onto this unconventional path. The choices we made early in our "parenting path" and even leading up to having children made it easier for us than it is for many. I am so lucky to have an extremely supportive, intuitive partner. Somehow we are evolving together with seemingly little effort (also not typical!) For us finding our way has been a natural progression - for others who want to break away from our cultural routines, it may look more like an abrupt break.
I believe choices are best made with eyes wide open and with knowledge of alternatives. I believe this is where defensiveness often rises up in us. If we acknowledge there are options then we are left with the (often) uncomfortable truth that what we have been choosing may not be the only or best way. In the case of school - sure maybe school (routines) work for some children and families, but does it for most? And is it the best way? If parents can honestly answer, yes - their child/ren is/are thriving and happy and healthy, then the judgment that routines aren't good for them is irrelevant.
This is part of listening, really LISTENING to yourself and your loved ones, including your kids. When your kids complain about not wanting to go to school (or dance class!) how do you respond? "Oh, you love it - once you're there I can't get you to leave," or "All your friends are in school," or "Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to," or "Do you think I want to go to work everyday?"
Naomi Aldort once said something to the extent that children are capable of adjusting and even appearing happy in almost any circumstance. She asserts that indeed children are wise to make the best of whatever their situation is. Children are the Kings and Queens of "Being" - they only know how to live in the moment. This is why they may appear to "get over" what they told you they were unhappy about. They know they don't hold the power in their lives, so they let go. We could learn a lot from children.
Finally I want to address the "judgmentalness" of the original article. This also seems to be a topic I continually grapple with. Here is what I have decided:
I AM JUDGMENTAL.
Can I finally just own this? Or every time I notice it do I take note and then actively choose something else? Is it possible to make life-choices so mindfully and differently and NOT be judgmental? If it is, then it definitely is going to take a lot of practice for me.
Luckily, I don't believe I come off as judgmental because I am also loving, kind, and generous. And slowly I am learning to keep my mouth shut. I constantly remind myself of what I truly believe, "We are all doing the best we can with the tools and knowledge we have." I can also connect to the feelings of others, even when I do not agree with their methods. Frustration, stress, anger, impatience - these I can relate to and have compassion for. No one wants to feel that way.
I've seen a lot of examples this week of parents really losing it with their kids. Usually it is about behavior that just seems pretty normal. To me the parents look like the jerks, not the kids. But I feel bad for both of them. I admit I'm still not sure what to do in these situations and usually don't do much at all. I'm hoping to get better at offering loving support in scenarios like those.
For now I'm trying to be a living example of the ideals I hold dear. I see it in the little things - a friend who was uptight about her kids wearing their shoes in the park last summer has decided this year to let them roam free and barefoot (my kids and I are such bad influences!) And I'm reminded by the big things, namely death, that our daily choices do matter because they are what ultimately make up our life. I'm learning to bare it all here where it is relatively safe and non-confrontational and I still have my coping mechanisms for "real life" - Like, don't read the comments, don't look directly at people when I'm uncertain of their reactions, or saying, "I loved school!"
Someday when I'm really confident maybe I'll just look right in the eyes of another mama and smile.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am,
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.