Tuesday, September 13, 2016

To The Mom Who Apologized For Being A Mess


I saw a mom, much younger in her years than me, in a store the other day.  She had three little ones with her, oldest maybe four, youngest maybe 6 months (of pure lovely irresistible baby chub, I had to do the leg squeeze).  We met each other briefly before (so leg squeeze wasn't super inappropriate?). She was juggling a cart with two kids in it-a late morning run to get something essential I am sure.

And the baby was starting to whine, and the toddler was asking again and again for something (those darn candy aisles!) and trying to crawl out and she was a little frazzled and she apologized.  And I told her how cute the kids were and off she went to start her day.

But I wish I would have told her that she didn't owe me an apology.  In fact, I think she is awesome. I think she is EXACTLY what motherhood in that stage should look like.

Because she is doing the work.  She is doing hard selfless 24/7 work.  And sometimes I find that rare today.  She isn't decked out for an expensive exercise class sans kids, she didn't spend the time it takes to do her hair all up and apply makeup, she isn't dressed up, ready to start her day, the children tucked away elsewhere conveniently.  She is WITH her children.  She is probably pinching pennies and wearing what is in her closet, because she is making the sacrifice to find a way to be present. She looks nothing like the latest celebrity mom, and I bet she has to search hard for the "comrades in arms", the friends that give her support because they are doing the same.

And she is tired.  She has circles under eyes. She was up at night with the little one, who wasn't left crying in his crib, and then up again with the older ones at the crack of dawn I am sure.  She threw her clothes on (maybe the ones on the floor from the day before) and started her day, knowing where her priorities lie. Yes, she is disheveled because she put little people first before herself and there is NOTHING wrong with that, it's admirable, despite what she will be told today, it is darn admirable. It is the way it should be.

But she doesn't know it.  She doesn't know it yet, but she will some day.  She probably feels like she is doing it wrong, she doesn't "have her act" together.  Maybe she has feels she baby weight to lose, she should snap back, take care of herself, put herself first.  She shouldn't let her career slip, or her fashion sense take a back seat.  Maybe she wonders what "the secret" is, when it seems everyone else has seems all put together.  She must be doing something wrong? She is told she should ask for help, lots of it, raising kids is hard work and requires "a village".

I wonder if she feels lonely today, I hope she doesn't, I hope she knows deep in her heart the difference she is making in those children, her incredible importance in being there all those days, every day, putting herself aside and finding joy in those little ones even just a glimpse in those hard days.  I hope she knows how much her children are learning being with her, their mother, at the store, or wherever she goes and how much she is strengthening that bond of trust. I hope she knows how fast this stage will be over, and how plentiful the rewards will be knowing that she gave it her all and saw every stage and sweet moment.  I hope she knows she will look back on the tight budget with nostalgic fondness, wondering how she did it and feel pride that her and her husband made it work.  I know she will not regret one thing that she couldn't purchase or had to put off till later-she traded that for moments that can't be bought.

I know she will figure out "the secret"-that we learn as we go and we learn as we do the work, and the more we are there, present for our children, the easier it gets.  The more we embrace the "mess" and stop looking for the answer outside ourselves (where we will certainly get every answer but the right one) and do the work at hand-dive into the work at hand, surrender to it all and heck squeeze those baby thighs, she will hit a stride and come up for air-and maybe go under for the next one, yes, but she is smart and she will learn to trust herself.  She will figure out that the more we embrace the need for unselfishness and sacrifice, the more we stop wanting something "else" that we are told we must have to be happy and whole as mothers, be it a career, or a sofa, or a body shape, we will finally mother with joy instead of resentment, instead of being inconvenienced by our children.

What a beautiful thing to embrace-our children's childhood-fleeting, precious, and never to be seen again-there won't be second chances to live it all over again .What a beautiful thing to find joy in. The truth is, that "secret"? "The mess", the work, is what gives the greatest reward, no other accomplishment or life experience will compare, and it needs no apology.

41 comments :

  1. Thank you. I so appreciate these reminder posts. Mothering is our best opportunity to become better. Your words over the years have bolstered and clarified the feelings of my heart. I count your wisdom and sharing as a gift from God.

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  2. Amen. It goes by so fast and you don't get a re-do. My girls are 26 and 23, both just awesome people, following the Lord, kind, such hard workers, and they are mostly what I have to show for 21 years of my life. I did also work hard for our elderly parents and neighbors, but I was at home with my girls and I am so, so glad I was. No one else could have done what I did with them, and it was worth all the sacrifices we made so I could stay home with them.

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  3. I feel as a society we are moving further & further away from the traditional role of mothers in the home full-time & I think they've got it all wrong. I am home full-time and I am in the minority. I know people who look on me as lazy for it, or that maybe I don't have much of a brain because I choose to stay home. My children are 12,11 & 8 and I am so sick of people asking me when I intend going back to work!! My husband & I are in agreement, we will continue to penny pinch, drive old cars & go on staycations because thankfully we both recognise the value of me being at home full-time. I feel like I am a dying breed & it's sad.

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  4. I am that mom. I'm going to tell myself you wrote this personally for me :) I've had 4 kids in 4 years and I feel like a mess most of the time and do get lonely. With this 4th baby I feel like I'm being pulled in so many ways and that I don't give my kids enough individual attention. I'm grumpy and sleep deprived while wanting to be a fun, happy mom. I feel like this pep talk was just what I needed to hear! Thank you for all your wise words over the years.

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  5. This is beautiful - love it and will share~

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  6. Aw, thank you for you sweet words! Exactly what I needed to read today as just this week I was wondering why I don't have it all together like all the other women I see. In fact I do, because I am being what I was born to be....a mother to my children. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  7. This made me cry, thank you Sarah!

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  8. I just love this. My oldest (of 5) of 12 and my youngest is 3. I'm sad that I'm out of the baby phase (although we are working on potty training today so I'm not totally our of the phase yet :) But you are so right to just enjoy them and work hard to be the best mom's we can. These little kids deserve it.

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  9. Sarah, thank you for putting this into words. I am in the middle of this beautiful mess. And sometimes-most times I don't feel I can put into words how beautiful this time is especially when some of the days aren't so beautiful. I am so grateful that God has given me many children because they have taught me so much. You have helped also with your sweet, wise, loving approach to motherhood. That is not what was being taught when we had just one. (Let them cry themselves to sleep...put them down you'll "spoil" them...) but by the Grace of God we parent differently now. We snuggle those babies to sleep, we homeschool, we love being with our kids and know that it is fleeting. Our oldest is 19, and our 9th sweet baby is due in December. And we know that all too soon our house will be "too" quiet. This post reminds me to encourage those mamas to follow their heart just as you have encouraged me.
    Thank you for sharing your family with us!
    Holly

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  10. I am doing the ugly cry right now. I needed this post today. If you only knew how much I needed this today.

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  11. Wow, just wow. Couldn't love this more xoxo

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  12. I cried.
    This is true, so true. But I only know it deep deep down inside. Not in daily stay-at-home-mum life. I am that mother. None of my friends are home. It gets lonely, but mostly because no one understands why I do this. It's not the norm. And that makes me doubt it. Thankfully you're always there with the right words at the right time. Thank you.

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  13. Thank you so very much for these words. I needed them so much, right now, this evening .. thank you.
    Today I apologized for being a mess. This exact scenario, exactly as you described, happened to me. Thank you for your kind words, your understanding, your wisdom and experience. What you say is true. I needed this reminder. Thank you.

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  14. Thank you for this. THIS is what today's mothers need to hear over & over & over again. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words that are straight from your heart. You are a gift to our world!

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  15. I always love your common sense reminders of what's important. I must say that putting on clean clothes and maybe some makeup makes me feel great and ready to work. But the other day, I was feeling frumpy, doing the loathe dishes, asking my toddler to be patient (she just wanted to play), and I just wanted to get out of THAT messy moment and INTO a clean, free moment. Then, I realized how often I'm wanting to get out of the messy moments, yet I foresee many of those messy moments (I hope!) in my future. It was a wake-up moment for me about what is beautiful and what my life is made of (work) not just the carefree breaks in between.

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  16. After a really hard day with a certain 4 year old, I reeeeeally needed this. It's like you KNEW. Honestly, this reminder will help me to wake up READY to do it again tomorrow. Thank you.

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  17. Thank you for the reminder that my priorities are in the right place. I needed to read this.

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  18. Sarah, thank you for this lovely post. You hit the nail on the head. Mine are no longer little, but I try to cherish and treasure all of the time I have left with them.

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  19. Oh wow, thank you Sarah for sharing the exact words that I need to hear right now. Everything you wrote -- these are my thoughts everyday. Am I losing myself? Will there be something for me down the road when I'm not at home with my littles? Will I still remember how to do my make-up and my hair after not doing them for years? I never imagined my life like this, truly living every moment for three little people and really putting so much of myself on the back burner. But there's really no other way. We're far away from all family and my husband is in a very intense program. So it's just me with my kids all day (they are the same ages as the kids in your story), and every single moment is filled with helping them. I never imagined that three people would demand so much of myself. And there are times that I think I have nothing left to give. But I always find more. And at the end of the day I collapse, and try to get a bit of rest before my baby needs to eat, and try to refuel to do it all again. Thank you for your encouragement. Sometimes I feel so completely lost in it all. But at the same time, I have never felt so found as I do in motherhood. Thank you Sarah.

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  20. Sarah, this is beautiful. I remember being that mama - and surprisingly, I'm that mama again with kids at 11 and 13. I'm running and running and feel like I can't keep up, but I'm there. I'm present, and it's hard, but so worth it. Thank you!

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  21. I wonder how many mothers you lifted up today? You really are the best.

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  22. Thank you. As you said, I am learning, slowly, that seeing and receiving the blessings of this role come with the 'lean in' to just being here and doing the work and looking nowhere else. There, Sheryl Sandberg-- I stole your line for us stay at home moms!

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  23. Amen and Amen!! I have kids that are past the little's stage...and I miss it terribly. I knew back then I would miss it!! I wanted all my life to be a mommy..so I did cherish those days. And yes, it is hard when you are tired and none of your people are at that stage of life with you... I was a younger mom...my friends didn't even get married until our mid 20s and I was pregnant with #2 by then...and loving it!!! But, yes, this world does feed you a load of bunk~so for all the mommies out there who are being the mom God made them to be, BE PROUD of what you do... and be present!! As you always say ~ it goes so quickly!! Thanks for this post... I think there are not enough of us out there promoting mommyhood in all it's wonder and glory!!

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  25. To build one mother up, do you have to shoot other mothers down? "She isn't decked out for an expensive exercise class sans kids, she didn't spend the time it takes to do her hair all up and apply makeup, she isn't dressed up, ready to start her day, the children tucked away elsewhere conveniently. She is WITH her children." I would LOVE to be WITH my children. Frankly, I wish I could make it work to be home with my kids, but financially, that just isn't a viable option for where our family is at this time. So yes - I am dressed up, starting my day, with my children "tucked away elsewhere conveniently." I admire SAHMs and wish I could be them. I build up my friends who are able to do so. We laugh at our struggles together, because we are all moms just trying to do the best we can raising our children who we love and adore, and if we didn't laugh - we just might go crazy.

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  26. Do you have to knock one type of mom (working) while you try to build up another (SAHM)? Stay at home moms aren't any better moms than working moms. We are all moms who love our children and want to be with them, but unfortunately have different circumstances (that not even pinching pennies will alleviate) that require us to work. There is no one way to be a perfect mom. As moms we should be building each other up and supporting one another regardless of our circumstances. A stay at home mom's struggles aren't any more important or real than that of a working mom, and vice versa.

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  27. I have a 20 year old son and an 18 year old daughter. Speaking for myself, i can tell you that i am so grateful and feel so blessed that i was able to stay home with my kids. When they were a little older, i did take a part time job that still allowed me to get them off to school as well as pick them up after school. I would not trade anything for the time i spent with my kids…nothing. Its funny when you said "takes a village" i remembered so many people saying that to me and i never could agree. My husband and i raised our children. It was very rare they they actually even had a sitter. I didn't care if it was a weekend night….there was no one i would have rather been with than my husband and kids. The time goes way to fast and time with my kids was/is priceless to me.
    These are just my views and i understand and assume that we all do the best we can and the best for our children and families.

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  28. Thank you for this beautiful heart felt reminder. Exactly what I needed to hear!

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  29. Sarah, I have read your blog for several years and enjoy your family-oriented point of view and following your family's stories. I think your writing is beautiful. As a long time reader, I know that in previous posts you have acknowledged that sometimes mothers have no choice but to work. However, from the way that things were phrased in this post alone, I can understand why some of the commenters above might feel that you are being harsh towards working parents.

    I have to work due to my husband's job not being as stable as mine, which sometimes results in me serving as the major breadwinner. When I'm not working, I am with my kids almost all the time. Every so often they go to their grandparents' house and that is when I do any of the things I do for me, like get a haircut or go shopping (rarely). As an introverted person, that time away from them does me some good so that when they come back I am recharged and ready to be even more involved with them.

    We are very lucky that our kids attend a wonderful school or a wonderful daycare that they love. I am also fortunate that my job gives me some flexibility to attend their events and I get paid sick and vacation days. (Once when my daughter was little she got upset out of the blue and said she just needed to be with me that day. I was able to use a vacation day to stay home and do pretty much whatever she wanted.) Unfortunately, there are many working parents who love their kids just as much and would love to be with them more but aren't in a situation to make even these types of arrangements. I know you have mentioned how grateful you are that your husband is such a good provider; sadly there are many hard-working dads who just aren't able to earn enough to cover all of the basics (and here I mean housing, food, basic clothing, and medical care, not extras like cable or cellphones). I have seen statistics that men were impacted more than women by job losses during the Great Recession, and there are many families that have not completely bounced back from that. I understand that in your post today, you were trying to bolster stay-at-home parents who are having a rough time, but I can also see how some of your comments might induce a lot of guilt in working parents who are doing the absolute best that they can to both provide and be there for their kids.

    It has been very rare that our kids have ever asked why we have to work. On those occasions, we had an honest conversation with them. Both of our jobs involve service, so we explained that not only are we working to provide all the things that our family needs, we are also working to make the world a better place for them. I think that you are doing that as well by serving your family and by providing encouragement through your blog, so I hope you don't take my comments here as being critical of you or your choices. I just wanted to point out that sometimes our sacrifices for our families take different forms.

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    1. I am going to just lump this is one reply (to you and Aleksandra and Erin (I hope they see this.) First, I apologize if you felt I was "knocking down" others-in no way was that my intention at all, and it is my fault if I didn't convey my feelings and the purpose of this post if I made anyone feel that way. Whether it be poor choice of words, or my passion in my support for this mother coming through a little too wholeheartedly, I apologize as that was never my intention.
      I do of course know that all mothers love their children, and that all mothers have challenges and struggles no matter what their circumstances in life. Absolutely. I do feel (quite passionately) that being a mom who is with her children all the hours requires an extreme amount of self-donation; meaning completely unselfish, sacrificial constant care that is completely UNIQUE to other situations. That is what makes it unique-the constant giving of one's self to another's needs, one who can't meet their needs themselves and who you passionately love-most especially when there are more than "one" other involved-that is the challenge. Doing that constantly requires so much of a mother. It is SO admirable especially today when there is not the support or encouragement that I think existed in other generations, and that was what I was trying to convey in this post-that if it is possible to give that care than heck, it IS worth it. I want this mother to know that there are others out there (maybe old like me :), that KNOW what that work entails, and KNOWS why she might feel like a mess compared to others, but only feels like that because of the constant selfless work she is doing and that she IS and WILL BE rewarded for it.
      Again, I apologize if I made anyone feel defensive. I do know that many many couples are trying to come together to figure out how to make it work. We found a way to do that too when I had my first three, and it required some extremely creative coordination (me working weekends etc) and unique opportunities that I am grateful for, to come into play. Things are darn expensive today-the cost of our health insurance alone makes me so frustrated. My heart goes out to those who want desperately to be at home and can not make it work no matter what. I honestly think that has to feel like a bit of heart-break every day, and I think that would be more difficult than any other situation.

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  30. There is seriously something up with my computer. As much as I understand and appreciate the perspective, I agree that my feelings were hurt by this post. I applaud Sarah for responding to explain her position. After reading for this blog for the past three or four years I knew you meant no harm, that's why i deleted my post yesterday. I just know that sometimes the pro SAHM posts make us working moms feel pretty crappy about ourselves. I too applaud that mother in the supermarket, but you know what, I applaud all moms. I work hard as well at work and raising my kids. I do laundry at 11 pm and sometimes am up with the baby all night and then have to get up at 5:30 am to get the older one to school and then go to work and be in meetings and manage jobs all day. Everyone is working hard and we are all struggling and doing our best. Just one thing to note, I think taking time to workout and giving yourself the gift of selfcare is commendable. I don't think we all have to kill ourselves and give everything we have to our children to be good mothers. A well rested, healthy, happy mother is what kids needs. If that means taking an hour to workout, or getting your nails done, or going for a walk alone then I say do it. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself sane and continue to give to your children like you know you need to. A completely frazzled and overworked mother is a gift to no one, including herself.

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    1. Jillian I agree with most of what you wrote but not all-there are stages in motherhood where frazzled and overworked is just going to be the case-I picture myself with 3 little ones and a colicky baby who never settled for months and only my husband to back me up. If you would have suggested to me that I need to find time for a manicure or a workout I would have bitten my tongue till it bled or would have walked away feeling like maybe that mom I wrote about felt-I needed to be more or do more, what was wrong with me. Mothers to many know that sometimes there are weeks months and years the minimum of self care is met-think shower, clean clothes, hair in pony tail. Well rested, happy, healthy? Thats not always going to happen (I have gone years and years without being well rested!:) and that's ok, we are doing intense work. There will be more time in the future-slowly but surely. I think she is still a gift to her children.
      Yes all mothers need encouragement but I DO think it's ok as a mom at home for two decades to be able to throw out some specific strong loving encouragement to a group of moms who don't get much of that today.

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    2. I get that. Maybe it's generational? I wouldn't consider myself well rested either, but a good run or a manicure every 3 months is beneficial to my psyche. But that's must me. I still applaud you for responding to us working mom's who were feeling a bit sensitive about the post. It's your page, your opinion and I get your perspective and appreciate it.

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  31. Sarah- I wrote above, but I want to say THANK YOU again. Some of the critical comments are really hurting me and I just want to say thank you for being a voice in a society that oftentimes doesn't value mothers who stay home. I come at motherhood/career from both sides. I worked for years in a service profession, went to graduate school after working to pay for it, then when I had my first child I decided to stay home. People ask me nearly on a daily basis what I'm doing at home with my children, how dare I waste my education being at home with my children, etc. It HURTS; it makes me realize that not many people see value in what I'm doing and then it causes me to question my decision. Deep down I know I'm making the right decision for my family, but we have to sacrifice A LOT since my husband is a full-time student. (We have one car that is twenty years old that my husband takes to school everyday, so I'm homebound six days a week; I can count on one hand how many dates we've been on since becoming parents 4.5 years ago, and that's only because our parents occasionally visit; we go without snack foods and convenience foods; we have old cell phones with no data plan; my 4.5 year old has no idea what an ipad is; I have not bought myself new clothes since before I had my first child, I grow out my hair until I have enough to donate and then I get it cut for free, etc.). In no way do I think I'm making better decisions than other people who don't live like this, but this way of life is oftentimes criticized. I oftentimes feel embarrassed and hide how I live in order to be with my children. Your writing is a rare refuge in a time that doesn't really value this way of living.

    In no way did I see this piece as cutting down moms who work. In fact, you never even mention working mothers. Rather, I saw your writing as telling moms who do stay home that they do not need to be ashamed of themselves and the sacrifices they make to be at home. Even if they are actively deciding to live this way so they can be with their children, you are giving reassurance that even though it's hard to sacrifice in the present, they will never regret doing so. You are calming their second-guessing. And for that I thank you. I so often wonder if I'm making a giant mistake, and your words are a balm to my soul. And I'm so thankful that you choose to encourage women even if some people criticize you for doing so. I honestly believe that you inspire so many and I hope that you continue to do so. :)

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  32. I love this post so much. Motherhood is hard- and accepting that is the way to move forward and to find the joy in it. I'm a young mother of three and I get confused by the entitlement of mothers today. I feel like an old-lady at heart, like I was born in the wrong generation:) I have friends who send the kids to preschool half the day, have hired nannies, housekeepers, etc..and somehow still just complain about the kids and the house being an inconvenience to their days? Thank you for raising your voice to remind mothers what matters most. There is such beautiful growth and purpose in this God-given role that stretches us each day! I love your blog, Sarah! Thank you

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  33. Thanks for always being honest and encouraging. Even when we know that things will someday be easier, when you're in the thick of it, it can be hard. I wouldn't have it any other way, but with four kids under 8, I am exhausted and tired. I've showered once this week and haven't slept through the night in about two and a half years. I've nursed a child for the past 8 years with only about a six month stretch where I wasn't nursing or pregnant. Giving constantly in some capacity is exhausting. Doesn't mean we don't appreciate it. But sometimes you just need to be "seen". And that's how I interpreted your post. Not knocking any other mom. But acknowledging the one you saw. We need that from experienced moms. I do it for those who are earlier in this season of motherhood, and come to your blog each day because I need it from you. Perspective and encouragement are so powerful.

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  34. As a mother I don't think days like this will never end. I'll be 45 next week, my youngest is six, and my older is 21 with a tween, and a teen in between. I love it though! Motherhood rocks no matter how we look! Thanks for the reminder as to why we do, look, feel the way we do. All in the name of mothering our children! Take care Sarah!

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  35. Thank you. I think what I love most is that you defended even the frazzled moms. I am still amazed that after ten years of mothering I get the nicest comments if I am out with my six and have makeup on, and clothing that is somewhat put together...but if I just head out in public looking ordinary...look tired or frazzled in any way...boy howdy do the negative comments roll in. Some of us so need to hear that it is okay to feel frazzled and still be what our kids need. Some of us need to hear that it is okay not to have new clothing, or to wear the same two outfits that fit the year after a baby, that it is okay to be tired, okay that we choose to sleep in instead of getting up to run when we have a house full of tiny ones...at least I do. I keep telling myself when I am frazzled that I am at least going to have kids who are prepared for the real world...the cranky...stressed...whatever boss won't throw them for a loop. :)

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