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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Your Mommy Shaming Debate is Invalid

 I just orchestrated the picking up of my children from a good friend after church from hundreds of miles away on a business trip.  Because I am a mom.  I am a mom no matter what I am doing or where I am  at.  Always, always since the double line appeared at the age of nineteen - I have been constantly considering at least one other human being alongside whatever else it is I am doing.   The bottom line is:  That is how I want it.

I cried a little tiny bit in the shower tonight.  Not the big, huge sobbing shower cries you sometimes hear of.  Just a little pity-party, few tears, overwhelmed with life sort of cry that slips out unnoticed along with the shower spray.  This week I am away from home for work and despite what it may sometimes look like on a social media post, it is not always easy.  Do not get me wrong!  I love to travel, and I definitely see getting to travel for work as an awesome perk in my career.  However, there seems to somehow be some misconception out there that as a mother when you go to work for the day or when you go away for work, you somehow quit being a mom and you are just kind of "off the hook" as far as all your motherly duties are concerned. I want to clear that up by giving you a quick laundry list of the things I've still been responsible for since I've been away:

On the trip up here I paid our car insurance bill.  I meant to check my son's school lunch account balance, but I forgot until just now.  So, on top of feeling guilty that I somehow did not have his lunches pre-packed for the week (even though I presented a training all day last Saturday and spent Sunday at church and then at an out of town soccer game and also had to make sure there was some sort of laundry clean for the week and my own clothes packed...) I now feel bad that I did not do that and am making a mental note to do that as soon as I finish this!  I texted my husband to make sure he knew how much money was in the account attached to the debit card he has in case he needs me to transfer money over since he has no idea how any of that works. Before I left I scheduled parent-teacher conference for my husband to attend without me on Monday night with my youngest (add more to the guilt-o-meter), and made sure to get the whole run down about how it went.  I ordered my nephew's birthday gift from Amazon and called today to make sure the package was brought in the house and not left outside until I got home!  Thank goodness for technology!! Tuesday evening I received a text from my son about his horrible headache so I orchestrated the administration of ibuprofen via my oldest daughter (mind you, still from hundreds of miles away). I also made reservations for mine and my husband's tenth anniversary celebration this weekend (again, feeling guilty because I've already been away from the kids all week!)  Tonight I was trying to manage the pick-up situation of my two youngest and I just ended up so incredibly frustrated at the fact that so many things were still on my shoulders even though I'm not even home!  I mean let's be honest, my husband is going to be up for a medal of honor when I get back just for doing PART of what I do on a daily basis, meanwhile I'm administering medication virtually, by proxy.  I started trying to imagine the kids texting HIM about a headache if he was out of town.  It would never happen!  And, then it hit me.  I want that text.  I want to know about the headache.  I want to still be the mom even when I'm gone.

I know there are those people who look at my situation and wonder why I work.  Well, I found myself in a situation as a young single mom who had no choice.  I had to work. (And, before you judge, take a minute. There but for the grace of God went I instead of most of you, right?)  If I had been given a choice back then, I would have stayed home with my babies in a heartbeat.  Those early adulthood experiences are part of what have driven me to be so passionate about the early childhood field I'm in, and now this career is so much a part of my being it is not even a choice anymore.  It is my passion.  Very much like my actual children, this career of mine was painstakingly birthed from me.  I've nurtured it, sacrificed for it, and watched it grow.  Part of why I do this is for my children; it actually began completely for them.  Now, I'm driven by a passion to help better the situations of children who started out much like my own did!

Most moms are doing what they do for their children.  Moms who work are partially doing it for reasons I stated above - they have a career they birthed and nurtured and please don't make them choose between their two loves!  Their career makes up part of who they are.  Also, most moms are working, in part, to create a better life for their children.  I have devoted my whole professional life to creating safe, loving, nurturing, stimulating atmospheres for little ones to be in during the day.  I believe in quality early childhood programs.  My children are products of them.  Children who are cared for outside of the home are not doomed to some kind of underachieving, germ infested social group.  

Likewise, moms who stay at home are doing it for their children!  Some moms have chosen to sacrifice a career they loved to be at home with their children and give all of themselves day in and day out to these little humans.  Good for them!  At one point in time I would have wholeheartedly chosen that path; God had a different plan for me.  These kids are not going to automatically end up socially awkward, crunchy, granola kids who automatically know their multiplication tables upon entering Kindergarten.

Being a mom is hard.  If you are doing it right, it takes all of you.  If we are being honest, we are all going to feel like a failure at points along the way - maybe some of us more than others!  Being a mom is 24/7 - you do not get breaks from it.  I don't care if you work at home or in an office, when the assistant principal calls you it feels the same.  The difference is if that call leaves you in tears and you are in your office, you have to explain it to your co-workers.  When your kid is sick and needs you, it does not matter if you are a state away or you are in the next room, your momma heart kicks in to gear.  An overwhelmed mom on a business trip who lets a few tears slip in the shower is not much different than an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom who does the same! 

So, can someone tell me why on earth we have this debate about which is harder?  Being a stay at-home-mom or a work outside the home mom?  Can we please, for the love, just agree that being a mom is hard? And, that wearing all the hats we wear can be so completely overwhelming?  And, that ultimately we would not trade it for anything?  That no matter what, deep down we will always want to be the one to know about the  headaches, and admittedly maybe it is a little easier to get yucky phone calls if you are at work and your co-workers are awesome and supportive - which leads me to this:  Couldn't we shut down the debate, put away the judgments, and learn to support each other and build each other up?

Tonight my dear friend who is a "work-at-home" mom (which I have done before and may possibly actually be the toughest job!!) got my kids from school, fed them dinner, took them to church, and passed absolutely no judgment when my husband and I crossed wires about when/where he was picking the kids up from her after.  Tonight she stood in the gap for me while I was gone, made sure homework was finished, loved on my babies, and even gave them ice cream.  And, I have tears again as I write this because it means so much to me to know I have other women I "do life" with who will just be there in the trenches with me and help me fill in the blanks.  (Goodness knows there are blanks!)  The debate is invalid - with me at least.  We are all just moms, trying to make it and trying not to mess it up too bad.  Let's quit trying to decide who has it harder and just help each other fill in those blanks!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dear local business owner:

Dear local business owner, I want to take a minute to express to you just what you're teaching my children by supporting their livestock projects.

The times I've tried to explain the workings of livestock showing to someone who isn't "in it!" I give a long explanation, then they usually kind of nod and smile and I know they still don't really understand. I think some of the biggest confusion stems around what we call our "premium sale" or "sale of champions" at our County and Regional shows. It's always our big goal to "make sale" at these shows. What happens, beyond just celebrating and showcasing their animal, is each exhibitor goes in the arena and their animal is "auctioned" to the highest bidder. However, these bidders aren't bidding to actually buy the animal, they're competing to donate money towards the exhibitor.

Are you asking why on earth anyone would do that? Well, that's what I want to explain. Of course, it's good P.R. Beyond that, though, it is really an investment in the future of our communities. You know, sports are an awesome tool to teach kids about teamwork, hard work, discipline, etc. I grew up playing ball and was in a sports family. Two of my children play sports and I fully support that environment and all it teaches kids. However, I'm here to tell you I've yet to find anything that even remotely compares to the way livestock showing is preparing kids to enter real life and the business world! Here is what you're teaching my child with the money you donate to them:

You are teaching them about investing. The money you donate goes in a savings account and my children use it to reinvest in their project for next year. It goes towards buying another animal, feed, supplies, etc. This money is not spent on video games, designer jeans, or accessories. My children are learning to designate certain money for certain things and so far they've learned as they work hard and are diligent, their endeavors pay off more each year. But, they also are learning investing has risks. You may buy 3 pigs, but only one turns out. So, you make the tough decision to focus your energy and time on the one endeavor that is going to be most lucrative even if it wasn't what you thought in the beginning. Tough choices and dealing with disappointments - just like the real business world.

You are teaching my child to keep business records. My kids have to keep track of their income and expenses with their projects. We collect receipts and they keep record books. Sound like real life? They see the real income versus expenditures of this project and know the money you donate to them is precious and has to be dealt with wisely!

You are teaching my children to network. When you "buy" their animal we are instructing our children to go to you with their thank you basket and express their gratitude. They have to find buyers before the sale and are learning to use connections in the community. We pay attention to who supports our kids and that is where we do business. They already understand the importance of being connected to their communities.

You are teaching my children about the importance of how they conduct and present themselves. You'll find these kids in the ring with official dress on - jeans pressed, button up shirts (tucked in!), Official jackets, etc. They are learning that, while it's not everything, appearances matter in the business world. 

You are teaching my children to give back. They are being raised in an environment where so many people have helped them and supported them. They know the importance of giving back and they know first hand the profound difference it can make. It is my sincere hope they follow in your example someday when they're in the position to do so!

The biggest thing you are teaching my children, in particular, is hard work pays off. My children are not perfect, but their work ethic makes me proud. They spend every single day on these projects. They get up earlier than most kids do to feed an animal that is totally dependent on them. My son chooses to go to a camp every summer consisting of 4 days of grueling hard work with cattle so he can get better at what he does. My daughter who is barely 8 and not even able to show at our big shows this year wanted a hog and got up early every single morning to feed it. She cleaned pens, walked, and washed. My 16 year old voluntarily spends so many weekends a year at livestock shows versus out with friends like most kids her age.

The day of the sale, they are worn out!! It's right after a long week of showing but they get up and arrive at the barn by 8:30 am to help set up because they understand responsibility and that they need to be involved in the work that goes in to this event they are directly benefiting from. The arena needs to look a certain way and they know you have to get up and take care of business sometimes even when you're exhausted!

The bottom line here is my kids are not unique in these ag barns. This is the norm. And by investing in these children, you're really investing in the future. These are the kids you are going to want sitting across from you one day in a job interview. They leave high school with such an unrivaled sense of what it means to be able to succeed in the business world. If you think about it, many of them have basically been running their own versions of small businesses since they were in middle school!

Thank you for supporting these amazing kids and thank you for helping us teach them these life skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Thank you for investing in the future of our community and our state!