The Ups and Downs of a Young Marriage

young marriage

My marriage is in a rocky place. And I don't just mean "some days are harder than others" — that's marriage, kids, buckle up — but we're in a place where the pendulum swings are dramatic and quick. If you would have talked to me two days ago, I was sure my marriage would end. And not in that immediate "I'm so angry I need out" kind of a way, but in a heartbreaking realization that this simply can't last. That we're no longer good together. That we bring out the worst in each other, and even though I love him, it's time to move on. Because I have to love me too. I've been mourning my marriage for the better part of a year.

And then yesterday we had a bit of a breakthrough, as we tend to do. We connected again, and I remembered him. I remembered us.

The pain is deep, though. Our issues are things like "trust" and "respect" and "communication." You know, the little things. It's hard to marry a broken person — even worse, a person who didn't realize they were broken to begin with. That's a ludicrous thing to say, of course, because we're all broken. Especially in our twenties. I have issues of my own — my own holes to fill and dings to patch — and even though it seemed like our broken pieces fit together like a puzzle, they didn't. They don't. Now I see that some of those pieces were forced together, and the gaps are starting to show. Now I see that we each have missing pieces, and we're responsible for finding them on our own.

We're good together though. We have fun, we laugh, we love deeply and fiercely. We forgive each other for being human and flawed — I've touched the core of forgiveness and I know it's real — but still. The pain? That's real too. Maybe we've come to a place where the most loving thing to do for ourselves, for each other, for the family, is to take our space and part our ways before bitterness and anger consumes our hearts.

Maybe.

He hates when I say stuff like that — when I sit him down and ask if he really loves me in the way that I need to be loved, and to think about whether we have anything left to give. Love has so many definitions, right? It gets muddled with romance and attraction and appreciation and companionship, but what is LOVE? Strip away all of the rom-com definitions, and love is kindness. If it isn't kind, then it isn't love. If it hurts, it isn't love. How could love hurt?

We're doing the best we can. Some days are really hard. Of course the lines get blurry when there's a child involved — we want to be good examples, and we REALLY don't want to rip his dad away from him. In a lot of ways I'm grateful that we have a reason to keep working at our relationship and to keep holding each other to the promises we made (before we knew what those promises actually meant). Because I would have been out by now, for sure. And yet, as crazy as this sounds, I think I'm a better person because I stayed.

I've grown so much in this marriage. Even if we ultimately part ways — knowing that sometimes saying goodbye is the most loving thing to do, so we can move on to new experiences and new people that bring new lessons — that will never take away from what THIS marriage has meant.

And even if we do end up separating, I won't blame our young age. Because some things are human problems, not age problems. Jumping into the adult world so quickly has made me the person I am today, and the problems we have don't expire at a certain age.

That being said, we're here. We're standing. We're holding hands, even. Despite the ups and downs and lefts and rights, there IS love.

I've started to write about my marriage for YourTango.com, which feels like the scariest, most vulnerable thing I've done yet. But if I'm going to tell my story, I'm going to tell it honestly. I'm working on pieces about being a codependent wife, and about being married to someone suffering through an addiction. I felt very alone for a long time, and I know there are people who could use my story. So I'm going to tell it.

My first pieces were a bit lighter. If you're in a young marriage or even a young relationship, I'm sure you'll relate. Go on and read them below...

You can also read Gemma's version of why SHE loves her young marriage, which got me to thinking about my own reasons.

No matter what people will tell you — and whoooo-boy, they'll tell you — there's no "right" decision for a perfect and happy life. There is no such thing as a Happily Ever After. There are highs and lows, pros and cons. Welcome to life.

In the words of the great Monica Geller...

FRIENDS GIF

Sometimes it sucks, sure. But today? Today I'm going to love.

Your Voice Matters

Your story matters. Your challenges and experiences matter. The things you've learned, they matter.

They matter to all of the other younger mamas out there feeling alone, in need of inspiration. We all just want to be heard, to be validated. To know that someone else "gets" it and maybe, just maybe, things will be okay. Maybe, just maybe, things are already okay.

When Sarah shared her story about being pregnant in college, someone out there saw their own storyline on the screen and nodded along. It was "a breath of fresh air," as one commenter said.

"My biggest recommendation for young women who are pregnant in college, whether through choice or whether they are devastated at those little lines, is find your community, your tribe, your people who will be your safe place. For me, it was my church and those few professors who were willing to ask me how I was doing that week. It might be your girlfriends or your family or your husband's or boyfriend's family, but those people who support you are worth more than any financial aid."  — Sarah

When Krishann shared her story about finishing her degree as a single mom in college, and how she eventually met a new man and complete her family, someone out there said, "That could be me. If she can do it, I can do it."

"When my daughter was two she would go to her Nana (my mom) and say that her father (biological) didn’t like her and ask her why. She didn’t understand why her friends’ daddies would come to the class events and pick them up. She felt like something was wrong with her and would talk as if it was her fault. My heart hurt so badly for my child and I struggled with how to help her understand that it wasn’t about her. I felt like her little heart was concerned about things that it never should have been concerned about. I would beat myself up because I felt like it was my fault. I felt like she was suffering because of the choices I made. She didn’t pick her father; I did. I was the one who kept trying to fix a relationship that couldn’t be fixed.

Leaving her father was difficult, only because I was afraid that she would grow up without a father and I didn’t want that for her. I had to learn that being with someone doesn’t guarantee that they will be there for their child, and that taking care of myself and my happiness was one of the best things that I could have ever done for her."  — Krishann

When Gemma opened up about her miscarriage (as did Amber), someone out there read her words and cried, feeling the pain in her own heart.

"I was stunned and heartbroken by the number of women who reached out to me privately to let me know they too had known this grief. Many of them were young. Some weren’t mothers yet, only for that brief and fleeting time they held new life inside of them. It does happen to the girl who gets pregnant without even trying. It happens to all kinds of women.

I soon found out, through this private outreach of love and support, why young mothers or young would-have-been mothers don’t speak out about their miscarriages. Because when you are young and unexpectedly pregnant and the unthinkable happens, you aren’t always met with gasps of horror, you’re met with sighs of relief."   — Gemma

And how about when Darlene told us about studying abroad with her toddler? Young moms sat behind their screen and thought, "DUDE. HOW COOL. Can I do that?! I just might do that!" Or when Jessica told us the story about knowing her frat-living boyfriend for only 6 months before getting pregnant, and they're now married and growing a family.

YOUR STORIES MATTER.

So go ahead and tell us yours with this new feature: Add your voice.

Someone out there needs to hear it.


Shhh! 20 Secrets of Motherhood

20 Secrets of Motherhood

You may be under the impression that every "real" mom has their shit together. Everything comes naturally to them — they're grown up, smart, "ready" in ways you simply aren't. You don't look like the moms in the glossy magazine ads. You have no idea what you're doing (but you're pretty sure you're doing it all wrong).

The truth is, there's not much difference between being a young mom or a not-so-young mom — not in our hearts, at least. Rather than separate yourself from the pack, assuming that you're less than, I'm going to let you in on the universal secrets of motherhood.

Between you and me...

We all feel like we're failing, at times.

And other times, when our children are polite and inquisitive and lovely, we feel like we're doing a pretty solid job. It's a roller coaster, but those moments of internal failure still hit us like a brick to the heart. You're not the only one who feels them.

We might be mothers, but we still have unhealthy patterns and hardwired conditioning that gets in the way.

We're still humans — struggling with stuff from our childhood and other personal issues that get in the way of us being fully healthy and mature. Tiny people look up to us like we know what we're doing — and mothers PRETEND to be all-knowing, all-perfect beings — but we're not. We're just flawed people, like anyone else.

We don't enjoy every minute.

And we don't have to.

We have a universal heaviness in our hearts.

A mixture of sadness, fear, gratitude, and bursting love. Get used to that extra weight; it isn't going anywhere.

We're permanently insane

We shoot up from a dead sleep to listen to a baby’s rising chest — just to make sure. We think we hear a tiny voice calling us from the other room, but the house is empty. We irrationally mull over the worst possible scenarios that could happen to our kids before falling asleep. The insanity in me recognizes the insanity in you. Namaste.



Your Happily Ever After Doesn't Exist

your happily ever after doesn't exist

I didn't think about our vows much before reciting the script at City Hall. I said the words I was told to say — "in sickness and in health" — obediently on cue, but did I understand what they meant? To live with more sickness than health? More poor times than rich? More worse times than better?

At the time, I was making a choice. A choice to be a family — to stay a family — for our unborn son. To make whatever sacrifices I needed to make for our unit to be strong and solid. (That, and I love this man tremendously.)

Even though our vows were mercilessly tested during the past six years, I never regretted my decision to get married. Because maybe the only way to truly understand those vows is to live through them.

***

I don't know anyone who has a perfect marriage or relationship. We all have our stuff. On the outside, everything can look shiny and smiley, but open up to a married friend. Peek behind her closed doors, past the strategically disguised skeletons, and you'll see some STUFF. Different, but all challenging.

And so I started thinking about that grand fallacy we were fed as kids: Happily Ever After. As if one day something will happen — we'll meet The One, we'll reach a goal, we'll put on a white dress and walk down an aisle — and then BLAM. Happily ever after. A stagnant stream of bliss and contentment. THE END.

It doesn't take long into adulthood for us to see the absurdity in this, and the patronizing way we peddle it to kids. Why set ourselves up for such disappointment? Such illogical ideals? THAT'S NOT HOW LIFE WORKS, KIDS.

And thank goodness it doesn't. An endless, monotonous Happily Ever After sounds terribly boring.

your happily ever after doesn't exist.

We don't read the book for the ending, do we? The part of the movie where they ride off into the sunset, white veil trailing behind, isn't the most compelling. The story is about the struggle, the conflict, the unexpected plot twists. That's when the characters grow and the readers learn. That's why we read the damn book to begin with.

No matter what the fairy tales told us...

You are not entitled to a perfect marriage, or an easy marriage. It doesn't exist. Cohabiting and coexisting with another human is universally hard, but it teaches us important things — things like sacrifice, interconnectedness, and forgiveness of our basic human failings. Marriage is a learning experience, not an ending.

You are not entitled to a perfectly planned life. Eventually your life will get rocked off its course, and it'll probably be the best thing that ever happened to you (even when it doesn't feel that way).

happily ever after

You are not entitled to a Happily Ever After. But you are entitled to an interesting story.

15 Young Moms to Follow On Instagram

youngmomsinstagram

We're all guilty of scrolling through our feeds and timelines, unintentionally comparing our lives to the 20-something friends posting vacation selfies and wild parties ("Is that how I'm supposed to be living?"), or to the glossy-mag moms who look, dress, and act nothing like you do ("Am I a real mom?").

Sometimes it helps to find other women living a similar lifestyle — to feel normal. To feel less alone.

So I started a #followfriday feature on the @earlymama Instagram, to help fill your feed with moms who are more like you — inspiring, cool, stylish, happy. Women who balance school/work/motherhood/relationships/new adulthood before the age of 30.  Moms who make young motherhood look good.

Here's are 15 must-follow young moms on Instagram:

 

Katie Michelle @katie_did_what

katiedidwhat
katie did what

Katie — a 26-year-old new mom in California — is our most recent #followfriday, and I started following her during her pregnancy. Since then she's posted the most AH-DORABLE photos of her young family, and she also has a separate Instagram account for anyone looking for some fitness motivation after baby (@katiedidwhat_tiu).

Instagram: @katie_did_what

Blog: Katie Did What

Follow her for: Baby photos, cool "young mom" fashion/beauty, and fitness motivation.

 

Lacy Stroessner @lacystroess

lacy stroessner
youngmom

Over the past few years, Lacy has become one of my most favorite "early mama" blogging buddies (in addition to her own blog, she writes for Disney Baby and mom.me). With three gorgeous little girls and a picturesque farm-life feed, she brings the 20-something rural stay-at-home mom gig to life.

Instagram: @lacystroess

Blog: Living On Love

Follow her for: SAHM camaraderie, AMAZING recipes + craft ideas, and the cutest sisterly love.

(Also check out her essay on Early Mama: Wanting and Choosing Young Motherhood)

 

Victoria Hemeyer @victoriahemeyer

A popular young mama on Instagram, her mountain-living life is candid and genuine and bursting with love. She's posted about balancing coursework and finals with motherhood, but her feed is mostly adoration for her little boy. She just might make you feel more hopeful and valid as a young mom.

Instagram: @victoriahemeyer

Etsy shop: ShopMountainMade

Follow her for: "Early Mama" mountain living, mom-and-son love, and fitness inspiration.

 

Chaunie Brusie @cmbrusie

youngmomblog
chauniebrusie

Chaunie is another personal "blogging buddy" of mine, and a fellow young-mom supporter through her blogs, book, and speaking engagements. After thinking her life just might be over from an unplanned pregnancy in college, she's gone on to prove that young motherhood was the very best thing to happen for her life and career.

Instagram: @cmbrusie

Blog: Tiny Blue Lines

Follow her for: Big family inspiration (she has four kids in her 20s!), the squishiest baby photos, and young mom support.

Also read:

 

Melissa Schartz @Kourtney_Shotz

lovelikejohnnyandjune

I started reading Melissa's blog back when she was just a "young wife," and I've loved watching her embrace young motherhood as well. I especially love that she keeps it real on her Instagram feed, like this recent caption:

Motherhood today was: the hot mess express. The emotional roller coaster. The epic postpartum hair regrowth debacle. The two doctor visits in one day kind of day. It was a ROUGH one. BUT we made it, well technically we’re still trying, but we’re hopeful and we’re still grateful. After all, can a day full of snuggles really be that bad of a day?? #theanswerisno #poorbaby #sickbaby #henryharper #henrygram
— @kourtney_shotz

Instagram: @kourtney_shotz

Blog: Love Like Johnny and June

Follow her for: "Young mom" fashion and baby products, fitness progress, and the sa-weetest little toddler boy.

 

Becka Lorene @beckalorene

beckalorene

Another gorgeous 20-something mom I stumbled on, Becka will inspire you to grab some lipstick and put yourself together for crying out loud. No frumpy mom here.

Instagram: @beckalorene

Follow her for: Proof that young motherhood can look stylish and fun. (Also? That boy! Edible!)

 

Sydney Poulton @sydneyliann

sydneyliann
sydneypoulton

Sydney is a wildly popular fashion blogger, and following her Instagram feed will make you understand why. She recently had her second baby, which calls for even more achingly adorable shots.

Instagram: @sydneyliann

Blog: The Daybook

Follow her for: The sweetest photos of a young family, probably ever. And her young-mom pregnancy/mom style is off the charts.

 

Victoria Garcia @victoriagarcia77

youngmomblog
collegemom

I recently featured Victoria's advice to student moms on Early Mama, and her Instagram is worth a "follow" too.

Instagram: @victoriagarcia77

Follow her for: A relatable Colorado-based, post-grad young mom starting her career and enjoying her small family.

 

Krishann Briscoe @hismrshermr

I just adore Krishann. I've gotten to know her well over the last few years, and she's a complete inspiration — especially for single young moms who wonder if they'll ever find a companion. (Krishann did.) She's embraced her "early mama" life with grace and love, and her Instagram feed is a representation of that.

Instagram: @hismrshermr

Blog: His Mrs. Her Mr.

Follow her for: A down-to-earth look at a real "early mama" life.

(Also read my Q+A with Krishann: Formerly Single Mom Finds Happiness)

 

Christina Childress @christinalikesbirds

You might remember Christina as the young mom who had (surprise!) triplets right out of college. In addition to being a Texas-based MOM OF TRIPLETS, she's also a graphic designer and an incredible photographer (see her Web site below). She actually designed the logo/graphics here on Early Mama!

Instagram: @christinalikesbirds

Web site: Christina Childress Photography

Follow her for: Incredible photos and a peek inside a young family with the CUTEST triplets.

 

Kristel Acevedo @kristelace

This Miami-based 20-something mama is making a name for herself as a blogger, and you can find her writing/'gramming about her two kids, her "early" marriage, and her faith.

Instagram: @kristelace

Blog: Glowing Light

Follow her for: Beautiful family photos and Christian connection.

 

Heather Scot Nelson @QuirkyFeather

Another Instagram find, Heather is certainly quirky...and fun and happy and absolutely gorgeous. (Seriously, THAT HAIR.) Ever since I started following her, my feed has been a little sunnier.

Instagram: @QuirkyFeather

Blog: Quirky Feather

Follow her for: Smiles, giggles, and serious fashion/beauty coveting.

 

@RadandRebellious

radandrebellious
radclothes

If this single 20-something mama doesn't embody everything "rad," then no one does. Look at her! She's young and hot and just WAIT until you see how stylish her little man always looks.

The second photo is actually a photo from her clothing line, Rad and Rebellious Apparel, because clearly this mama has a duty to make the rest of our kids as rad as hers.

Instagram: @RadandRebellious, @RadandRebellious_ and @radandrebelliousapparel

Blog: Rad and Rebellious

Store: Rad and Rebellious

Follow her for: Undeniable proof that you don't have to lose your style or personality just because you're now a mom.

 

Lauren Hartmann @thelittlethingswedo

laurenhartmann

Lauren — blogger and stylist — married her college sweetheart and started a family in her mid 20s over in the Pacific Northwest. As if her feed wasn't adorable enough with little fashion maven Fern, she's recently welcomed baby Clive to the mix. Her feed and blog is, without a doubt, one of my faves, and I know you'll love her too. She's real, honest, and completely lovely.

Instagram: @thelittlethingswedo

Blog: The Little Things We Do

Follow her for: Toddler and baby style, mama style, and an enviable Oregon backdrop.

 

Brandy @heartandhabit

Brandy — a Toronto-based mom of two — started a family in her mid-20s, launched a successful blog, and is now an apparel designer with the sweetest clothing collaborations. Besides her two stylish and loving kids, she posts photos about her yoga practice and her totally-in-love marriage.

Instagram: @heartandhabit

Blog: Heart and Habit

Follow her for: Heart-melting sibling affection, yoga inspiration, and gorgeous photos around Toronto. And fashion! Accessible, effortless, adorable fashion.

(Also read my Q+A with Brandy for more.)


I know there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of inspiring early mamas out there. Comment below with your faves, and be sure to include your own Instagram link so we can follow each other!

Follow @earlymama for more #followfriday picks, and don't forget to search/tag with #earlymama.

Loving Our Kids As They Are

momquote.jpg

You know how I feel about the "shoulds" of life. We get it from our friends and our teachers and our movies and our Internets — but it starts much sooner than that.

It starts in our homes. It starts before we're out of diapers. It starts in the minds and words of our parents.

I wrote a post for Babble.com called "I'm Done Focusing on How My Son 'Should' Be" about just this.

"Today I will accept you for who you are. I will do my best to step away from the image of who I want you to be, or who I think you might be, and see you.

Today I will pay attention to the things that bring you joy and the things that bring you pain, without judging whether they’re good or wrong.

Today I won’t absorb your feelings, outbursts, or mistakes as my personal failures. I’ll acknowledge your thoughts and feelings as being REAL, without trying to fix, change, or condemn.

Today I will tell you that you are okay, just the way you are. It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling, as long as you don’t act in a way that hurts yourself or someone else.

Today I won’t attempt to control your personality, label your feelings, or resist reality with “can’ts” and “shoulds” and “if onlys”.

Today I won’t compare you to a standard, or a person, or a timetable. I will meet you wherever you are.

Today I’ll notice your strengths over your shortcomings. I’ll encourage, not criticize.

Today and every day, I will be the one person who unconditionally accepts and loves you. The one person who sees you, even when the surrounding “shoulds” make it hard for you to see yourself."

 

15 Simple Things All Young Moms Should Know

youngmom.jpg

1. You don't owe anyone an explanation for your lifestyle choices, past mistakes, living arrangements, religious beliefs, career decisions, or priorities. You might think that you do, but this is YOUR life.

2. You don't have to know what's going to happen next. (No one really does, and some of the best things come from the unplanned and unexpected. Roll with it.)

3. You don't have to have your life figured out. You don't have to know your exact career path, or your life's purpose, or what on earth you should major in. Still, it's stressful. Read these "7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose" by Mark Manson when you're feeling stuck.

4. Your life isn't over, she screamed from the rooftop.

 

5. You're not alone. No matter what you're thinking or feeling or experiencing, I guarantee you someone else has, too.

6. Being a mom (wife, adult) is hard, no matter what age we get started. In MANY ways, it's a level playing field. Every life choice has perks and challenges. Embrace yours.

7. You don't have to enjoy every minute of motherhood.

8. It's okay to be sad, or angry, or scared, or whatever you're feeling.

9. Here's the truth about big life changes: Some people won't come with you. And that's okay.

10. Not all of the things you think about yourself are true.

11. It's only for now. Everything is temporary. You are okay.

12. You are more than a statistic.

13. The best thing you can do for your child is to be your healthiest self. Whatever that means for you.

14. You can do hard things.

Victoria's Advice to Student Moms

"Early Mama" Victoria graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver this past Spring with a degree in Broadcasting. It took her six years (three of which were spent balancing being a mom and employee, as well), but she did it. She walked across that stage as her little boy looked up to her and cheered. She accepted her diploma with more pride and accomplishment than most of the other graduates could comprehend.

That's because she did what so many say is impossible. She completed all of the assignments and projects and testing, while also tending to fevers and boo-boos and toddlerhood, while also making money for her grown-up family. She had Big Girl responsibilities, and she rose to the challenge.

In fact, she credits her son for inspiring and motivating her to finish her degree.

Her cap reads: "My son inspired me, mom & hubby supported me, TOGETHER we all made this dream a reality!"

For the other student mamas out there, here's some advice from Victoria:

"I’m not going to sugar-coat it, going to college when you’re a mom is quite possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do. However, it can be done! And I am living proof of that.
I will make this short and sweet. Please, please for the love of granola bars find yourself a support team. A reliable one. A consistent one. A team that will be there with you ‘till you walk across that stage. It can be done without a team, but that would pretty much be equivalent to torture. Um, no thanks.

For me, my team was my mother and my husband. They made a commitment to help me with my son so I could go to school full time and focus on graduating. After getting pregnant, it only took three years for me to get my degree. They were by far the most challenging and brutal three years of my life, but I came out a completely changed woman. I am stronger and much more confident in my ability to deal with adversity, but I do recognize that there is no way in hell I would have been able to do this alone. Find yourself a team to cheer you on along with way, a team who will be there for you when you’re  emotionally, physically and mentally checked out. Find yourself a team who will never let you quit. I thought of quitting a billion times, and that’s where my mother and husband would step in. And today, thanks to all of us, I have a degree hanging on my wall."
— Victoria Garcia

If you have advice or a story to share about being a student mama, please email me or show us a photo of you in your cap + gown on our Facebook page. Because WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

Looking for more tips on balancing college and motherhood?

On Pain and Growth: Bloom Where You're Planted

"Does it hurt the flower to bloom?" my son asked, looking at an orchid bud in our living room.

This was the plant's second life cycle with us, so he knew what to expect. That small green bud would soon unfold and open, as if suddenly waking up. And it would be beautiful and delicate and temporary.

His question struck me, though. Does it hurt the flower to bloom?

I guess I could have given him a scientific answer, something about the nervous system and plant life, but...honestly...what do I know? If a plant's life is anything like our life....

***

I've had a hell of a few years, man. There's been bright spots, of course, but a lot of pain. A lot of sadness and acceptance and sacrifice. I've grown...I'm still continuing to grow...but so much of that growth has been a direct result of hard, painful moments.

I'm still learning to pay attention to the pain, accept the pain, and learn from it. I always assumed pain was BAD (avoid, avoid, avoid), not realizing how necessary it can be.

Sometimes pain teaches us lessons we need to learn. It raises red flags to issues that we need to address, or calls out a signal for help in a certain area of our lives.

Pain can put life into perspective. It can make us say, "Okay, this shit feels terrible. What do I need to do, to get rid of, to change about my life in order to feel better? What do I need to accept? To let go of? How can I stop this pain?

But we have to pay attention to the pain.

If we're constantly masking, avoiding, denying, then we can't listen to what it's trying to tell us. Pain is natural and, at times, necessary.

That being said, sometimes pain is something to simply live through, to experience. Pain can test and strengthen us. (I never understood why labor — something so natural and primal — could possibly be so painful. Wouldn't we have evolved in a way to avoid the pain, I wondered at 22 years old. Now, at 28, I understand and accept its place.) 

Growth can inherently be painful, or at least have painful aspects...

Being vulnerable and introspective is painful.

Making hard choices and drastically changing our lives is painful.

Carrying built-up emotions and unhealthy habits is painful (and heavy).

Letting go of past identities, letting go of people, letting go of worn-out dreams that don't fit into our lives anymore — painful.

Accepting life as it is — in all of its uncontrollable life turns and uncontrollable situations, without resistance or denial — is PAINFUL. 

Sometimes we just have to say, "This is hard. But I'll choose to live through it and pay attention until it passes." 

Pain is part of the process. For all of us.

And we can handle it.

Bloom where you're planted.

Accept your soil, find the right lighting, nourish yourself as best you can.

No matter where you were planted — in a crappy childhood home that programmed you with unhealthy mind-patterns...in disadvantaged situations with a heavy-handed dose of obstacles...in unideal settings and a chaotic environment.

No matter what people tell you about yourself, or what YOU tell you about yourself, or what society in general assumes...BLOOM.

Bloom through the pain and change.

Bloom exactly where you are.

"Does it hurt the flower to bloom?"

Maybe. But the flower will be okay. In fact, it will be beautiful. 

"Yes, it will."

Yes. It will.

Favorite Posts of September

Here's a little monthly recap of some of my essays and posts I've written for Babble.com and mom.me. Starting next month, I'll also be writing about relationships (including my own complicated story) for YourTango.com — filling out the "early marriage" perspective from Early Mama.

I hope you enjoy...

3 Inconvenient Truths of Parenting

“There are certain truths about life — about people, about parenting — that we all know to be true, and yet they’re hard to admit to ourselves. As a whole, we tend to indulge in magical thinking or various forms of denial, and we’re so quick to look for shortcuts and easy answers for impossible questions.

Sometimes we just have to wake up and face reality.

Like these three inconvenient truths of parenting, for instance:”


 

Teaching My Son About Boundaries Means Setting Some of My Own

Furthering the discussion of codependency...

“Having weak boundaries makes it hard to take care of ourselves in the way that every parent wants their child to take care of themselves. We don’t want our children’s lack of boundaries to contribute to (or cause) uncomfortable, chronic control issues and a heartbreaking lack of self-esteem. We want them to have healthy relationships and a strong sense of self, right? We want them to protect themselves when we aren’t around to do the protecting.

In order to do that, they need to have boundaries in place. In order to do that, they need to have boundaries in place.

But how can I help my child set boundaries when I’m just starting to practice setting my own?”


 

How a Glass of Water Helped My Child Understand His Emotions

Furthering the discussion of emotional awareness...

“I called my 5-year-old son to the kitchen table, where he saw a clear glass of water, a box of baking soda, and a spoon.

I could see the reluctance on his face, as if to say, ‘Is this some kind of sick game that ends in me choking down medicine?’

‘Don’t worry, you don’t have to drink anything,’ I said preemptively. ‘I just want to show you a little something about how our bodies work.’”


 

Millennial Moms Want “Me Time”…So What?

(They changed the headline to read, “Millennial Moms Reject ‘Good’ Parenting”…but I prefer the original.)

“I’m tired of the antiquated, unrealistic ideal that a mother’s ‘goodness’ relies on her selflessness. That we’re supposed to put our own needs and wants at the bottom of a to-do list in order to serve the needs and wants of our kids. That we should feel guilty — or at least apologize for — wanting to take time for ourselves and do whatever we need to feel happy and healthy.”


 

My Kid Has Older Friends, and It Scares Me

“I know first-hand how badly kids want to be around older, cooler kids. I know how this dynamic, if left unsupervised, can lead to things being learned too soon, too crudely, as the little one’s innocence slowly seeps like water from a sieve.

The oldest one in the neighborhood clan is in sixth grade, and no matter how nice and polite he might be, that’s a scary age gap. A lot happens between Kindergarten and middle school, and all of the mixed-age benefits can’t deny the very real coming-of-age crap along the way.”


 

10 Things Parents of Only Children Are Sick of Hearing

#9. ‘You’re not a real mother until you have two.’

I’ve heard this from at least a dozen people, including my own mother. As if motherhood is defined by stress and competing schedules and numbers of diapers changed.

I am a real mother, and I don’t have to prove that to anyone.”

(Early Mamas of onlies: I wrote another post last month that you might be interested in, too. I never expected to have an only child — as evidenced by this post and this post and this post — but it's something I've explored here for years. "I Was Barely Ready for One. Is It Responsible to Have Another?" I asked. I hemmed and hawed. I indulged in questionable reasons to get pregnant — wondering, "Is this a bad reason to bring a life into the world?" I've THOUGHT about it a lot...probably too much...but if you've read my posts you already know I tend to over-think things. All I know is that the time hasn't been right for us, and my timeline has no baring on yours. Maybe we'll have another, maybe we won't. For now I'll enjoy the heck out of the one I have.)


Thank you so much for reading and commenting and sharing my writing. Being able to write out my late-night musings and experiences, send them out into the world, and receive such positive feedback? It means everything to me.

So thank you for that.