Category: Motherhood (page 1 of 5)

Facing Insecurity: When You Hate The Way You Look

“Mommy can you buy this?”

I looked up from the conveyer belt where I’d been stacking groceries, expecting to see a candy bar or small toy in my 5 year old’s hand. Instead, she holds a copy of “Cosmopolitan”, beaming up at me.

“You don’t need that,” I replied “It’s like junk food for your brain. It’s not good for you,” I replied.

She looked at me with confusion, then studied the cover before looking at me once more. “How?”

“What?”

“How is it not good for me?”

I sighed, unsure how to respond. “Well,” I answered slowly. “Everything in there is fake. It’s just a bunch of junk designed to make you feel bad so you spend more money on stuff you don’t really need.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment and put it back on the rack. “Can I have some candy?”

I laughed and said yes, smiling as I carried on with the checkout process. I was proud of my answer and even more proud of myself for not giving in to my impulse to just toss it in the cart. If there’s one parenting goal I hold sacred, it’s making sure my daughters never experience the kind of loathing towards their bodies that I’ve battled my whole life. The kind, incidentally, that I’ve felt creeping in as I enter the final trimester of my pregnancy.

There was I time I would have bought the damn magazine. I would have poured over the pages, relentlessly assaulting myself with negative judgements as I compared my body to the beautiful women inside. I would have made notes about diets to try, make-up to buy, the latest lotions and potions to fix this problem and that problem. I would have read articles like “5 Tips To Have The Best Sex Ever” and decided that there was something wrong with my sex life…even if I had been thoroughly enjoying it up until that moment.

To be honest, those sly suggestions that I’m not good enough as is still sneak through on a regular basis and it still takes a ton of work to not let them affect me. In fact, as I watch my body morph into something unrecognizable, I’ve found it harder and harder to not tear myself down or worry about how I’ll “get my body back” after I have this child. I worry so much, in fact, that I’ve recently stepped up my self-care routine to combat these thoughts and stop myself from heading down a path I was determined to never walk again.

On my first blog, I had written a post about my body image issues and how they had come to be. I had toyed with the idea of re-posting it here, but this experience at the grocery store made me want to share something different. The why has been covered time and again in many different formats. But what we don’t look at as often is the reality of living with these unrealistic standards in our heads.

This is my reality.

I might not have thought so deeply about the exchange in the checkout aisle had body image not already been on my mind. That morning, I had found myself sobbing as I looked in the mirror, wishing I could love my pregnant body instead of feeling like a whale. After a few minutes of allowing the emotions to run their course, I decided to go through my computer and create a file full of pictures of myself that made me feel beautiful. I needed something to look at when I felt down and give me a little ego boost when the insecurities threatened to overtake me again. As I sorted through the photos–some taken well over 10 years ago–I was struck by how different I looked to my eyes now as compared to what I had seen when the snapshots had been taken.  I was even more shocked that there was such a huge disparity between my perception and reality with photos that had only been taken a few months prior.

This is what I want to share with you today.

 

body dysmorphia, body image issues, body positivity

 

This photo was taken about 8 years ago. I remember the day well. I was 22 and I had read an article about taking photos of clothes before you get rid of them, so you have a memory to hold onto instead of an extra shirt in your closet that will never get worn. In the pictures taken directly before this one, I can be seen crying. I’d been waiting for years to wear this top, but had never once worn it out of the house. I didn’t want to let it go, but I decided I must. You see, I was crying in the previous photos because I “knew” I’d never be thin enough to wear such an outfit. Of course, my boyfriend (now husband) disagreed, persuaded me to fix my make-up, and got me to take another picture. I hated it. The top went to Goodwill that afternoon.

When I looked at the picture then, I saw what I saw in the mirror. I was too fat. I desperately needed a boob job and a butt lift. My arms were flabby, my thighs were too thick, my face was too masculine.

Um….hello?

Are we looking at the same picture?

Looking at it now, I am disgusted by the knowledge that I truly felt that way about my body. What I wouldn’t give to look like that now! Clearly, my perceptions of myself were way, way off. But at the time, they were very real to me. Any time someone would say something to negate those thoughts, I brushed it off as them trying to make me feel better. I just knew, deep down in my soul, that they were lying to spare my feelings. I mean, I saw it plain as day, surely they did, too.

Those sort of deep-seated body image issues are about more than looks. When you are filled with hatred at the image in the mirror, in affects every other aspect of your life. You believe you aren’t worthy of love, or success, of happiness. You believe you are just as ugly on the inside as you see yourself on the outside, even if neither of these things are true.

There are plenty of other photos like this, most notably a few from high school when I had plenty of “evidence” that I was ugly. I didn’t get asked out on dates like the other girls did. I got bullied about my looks often. I didn’t look identical to the girls in magazines or on TV. The world saw this…

 

 

While I saw something hideous and shameful.

Looking at it from where I am now, and without sounding conceited, I’m pretty sure those boys stayed away because they were too scared to ask out a hottie, and I’m pretty sure those girls were mean because they were jealous. But you never would have convinced me of that at the time.

My body image improved a little at the age of 25 when I became pregnant with my first child. Suddenly, I was this life-giving goddess and I didn’t have to feel bad about having some extra weight on my body. This isn’t to say there weren’t moments when I feared what it would look like afterwards, or that I never had days when I felt disgusting and decidedly un-goddesslike, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I slowly began to feel more comfortable in my own skin and celebrate my beauty.

 

brandyn blaze pregnant, body positivity, body image issues, self-esteem

 

And then, it all came back.

After my daughter was born I was determined to fix whatever it was that caused to me see such an incredibly distorted view of myself. I made a lot of progress, but I’d still have my slip-ups. At these times, body image took up every bit of space in my mind. It became my only focus and robbed me of moments that would have otherwise been full of joy.

Two years ago, in the midst of one of these slips, I took this as a “before” photo as I prepared to undertake a new exercise routine and accompanying diet.

 

 

Don’t let the smile fool you, I hated taking that photo. All I could see was a body that had been destroyed by motherhood. I was once again researching a variety of cosmetic surgeries and telling myself how terrible I looked.

As I look at that photo now, I can’t see why. And as I look at photos from shortly before I got pregnant this time around, I’m amazed at how much my body still looked like it did in that picture. The feeling that I can’t trust my own eyes is mind-blowing. It hurts. It hurts a lot. What hurts just as bad is knowing that I could be unwittingly passing this distorted view to my daughter.

With a second daughter on the way, it has become obvious that I have to change the way I talk about my body and the bodies of other women. I have to find a way to learn to love the skin I’m in 100%. I have to provide a buffer between not only my self-esteem and the unrealistic standards we are bombarded with, but between those standards and my girls’ self-perception.

So where does it start? How do we begin to heal from something like this?

It starts with watching our thoughts, our words, and our actions; with providing our daughters with a positive model of how to treat their bodies. It starts with focusing on health instead of beauty, on what our bodies can do instead of how it can look. It starts with focusing on all the other strengths we possess that will outlive physical beauty. It starts with putting more emphasis on who we are inside and allowing our confidence to shine from within. With believing your family, your friends, your partner, when they say you’re beautiful.

It starts, with challenging our perceptions about what beauty is and simply being the best version of ourselves, from the inside out.

It starts with saying no to that magazine.

I know I still have a long way to go, but I know I’m light years away from where I was and that I’m still growing.

And I know, you can too.

An Open Letter To My Toddler

For those of you who have been around for awhile, you know that I like to go through posts from my old site from time to time and share them here. Although there are certainly parts of the mommy blogging game I don’t miss, I do miss sharing my thoughts about motherhood on a regular basis.
As I was scrolling through my old posts recently, I came across this on and smiled. This is the post that changed the game for me as a mommy blogger and helped me find a modicum of success in that niche.
So much of this post is still true as I watch my 5 year-old attempt to gain control of the household, that I found myself rolling with laughter and knew I had to put it in the spotlight again.
For those of you who are currently in the trenches of toddlerhood, I promise you it does get better…slowly.
So, without further ado, here’s an open letter to my toddler as it first appeared on “Life, Motherhood, and The Pursuit of Happiness” on February 19, 2015.
***

Dear Toddler,

I get it. You’re two, You’ve figured out that you are your own person with the ability to make choices. You know what you like, you know what you don’t like. Namely, you don’t like being told what to do. Frankly, I don’t like that either. I feel your pain.

But, here’s the thing. Mommy is tired. Very, very tired. And to put it bluntly, I’m fairly certain you are to blame for at least a portion of this exhaustion.

I’d like to think that I’m an accommodating mother. I dutifully get up in the wee hours of the morning to bring you a sippy cup full of milk at your first request. I change your pull-up and let you pick out your clothes. I even let you put them on by yourself, as you make it very clear that my help is unwanted. I let you pick out which asinine children’s show you want to watch, even though I’d rather watch “Bar Rescue” or “Hoarders.” I drop what I’m doing to read you books or play with blocks as soon as you ask. I try to ensure that your meals are both nutritious and suited to your discerning palette. I don’t even flinch when you insist on pouring your own bubbles into the bath and use up half a bottle in one sitting.

 

open letter to my toddler, you don't need so many bubbles, too many bubbles, parenting is hard

This would be an acceptable amount of bubbles. Not the bubblicious nightmare you create.

 

At night, I let you choose which one of your 12 toothbrushes you would like to use. I let you pick out your pajamas and then hold back a sigh as you shuck them a few minutes later, as you prefer to sleep in your pull-up. This, too, I understand, as I much prefer to sleep au naturale. Fine by me.

I give you all the cuddles you can handle as we prepare for sleep. We read your favorite books, sing your favorite songs. I answer your thousand silly questions before finally turning out the lights. I endure hours of struggle as you fight sleep with every ounce of energy you can muster.

I do all this without asking for anything in return, because I love you more than life itself.

However, there are some things you could do that would make my life–and by extension yours–a lot easier.

 

open letter to my toddler, funny parenting, kids are a pain

 

1. If you could refrain from running to me with handfuls of poop, that would be amazing. In fact, if you could keep your pull-up on until I have secured a new one and a package of wipes, that would be even better. If you could let me know that you need to poop and allow me to take you to the potty, I would be forever grateful. You see, I’m all about options. Any of these would be preferable to trying to clean fecal matter off of you, the carpets, and anything else you may have seen fit to touch after picking up a handful.

2. I would very much like it if you could remember that food belongs either on your plate or in your mouth. I spend a lot of time preparing your food and, let’s get real here, feeding our family costs money. Money that we don’t have an unlimited supply of. If you don’t like something, leave it on your plate. I will throw it away after we have all filled our tummies. Additionally, there is the matter of clean-up. I know it’s hard for you to imagine, but Mommy doesn’t like touching cold noodles or any other bits of food.

3. Again, this one may shock you, but Mom and Dad have the final say on anything that happens in this house. I know you’re only 2, but you totally understand what phrases like “go get a towel” mean. In fact, I have witnesses who can attest that you’ve followed directions like this in the past. When we ask you to do something DO IT. Likewise, if we tell you not to do something STOP DOING THAT THING. We don’t like to be the bad guys. We don’t like to yell, we don’t like to give time-outs, and we certainly don’t like it when we have to resort to swatting your little bottom. Help us out here.

4. Please keep in mind that hand-holding in public is not an option. You hold hands or you get carried/put in the cart. For the love of all that is holy, stop fighting this.

 

open letter to my toddler, funny parenting story, why won't my kid hold my hand

See, this child understands the importance of hand-holding.

5. Again with the rules. If we say no more TV or anything of that sort, please find something else to do without a tantrum. We’ll even help you find another activity. Think back for a minute: has yelling “No!”, hitting, or any other tantrum-like activity ever changed our minds? It’s unlikely to ever work. I believe the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You don’t want to be crazy now, do you?

6. If you have to stand on a chair, laundry basket, ride on toy, etc to reach something, that’s probably a good indicator that it is something you shouldn’t have. Nine times out of ten, if you put it out of reach it’s because it has the potential to hurt you. Please trust that we are only denying you those shiny scissors because we love you.

7. “I want grandma” never solved anything. Please, stop saying it, as it makes me feel inadequate. It’s not that I don’t get it. I’m 28 years old and even though my grandmother has passed, I still feel like she’s the answer to everything. Grandma’s have a special way of taking care of any problem. They just know things that the rest of us don’t. However, I can tell you from experience that as a child, if you tell your mom “I’ll just ask grandma” and your mother actually has you call your grandma, they will side with your mom. They may do it in a nice way that makes you think that it was your decision to follow the rules, but they will do it nonetheless.

8. I know the phone is fascinating. It allows you to talk to people who aren’t in the same room as you like some kind of magic pocket-box. However, trying to grab it from my hands when I’m on the phone to the gas company or yelling in my ear as I am talking to the doctor is not going to help you figure it out. Nor is it particularly helpful. If you see the phone pressed against my ear, please, find something to do in your room.

 

open letter to my toddler, funny parenting story

See, this magical device? Does it fill you with wonder? Back off. It’s just for Mom.

 

9. Speaking of your room…it’s a disaster. Now, I don’t expect you to clean it up all on your own at this point, but I do expect you to leave your clothes in the drawers unless we are getting dressed and to refrain from pulling your bookshelves down. I’m not sure if we’ve explained this to you thoroughly, but it is entirely possible to take one toy out of the toy box without dumping the entire thing on the floor. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Try it sometime. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

10. Give us more snuggles! I know you’re busy. You’ve got cabinets to empty, make-up to smush into carpets, and crayons to snap in half. You have a good chunk of time blocked off for climbing furniture and jumping on beds. If you don’t run laps through the house while shrieking hysterically for at least a few minutes a day, you may lose your mind. This is totally understandable, we’ve all got important work to do in our day-to-day lives. It would be nice, though, if you could pencil me and daddy in for some hugs and kisses throughout the day. Both of us love you so much that it defies all logic, it would be super-awesome if you could spare some time for us to bask in that love.

If you take the time to consider these proposals, I think you will find them to be extremely fair. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy more time together when Mommy isn’t pulling her hair out and acting like an all-around maniac? Can you imagine?

Please, take some time to think this over. As always, I am open to some negotiation. After all, I do want your childhood to be as pleasant as possible. Following these guidelines should help facilitate that.

Love always,

Mom

 

Where Do You Start When You Have Too Many Goals?

If you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she invariable answers, “I’m going to be a ninja cop firefighter.”

Sometimes she adds to the core three and it becomes a ninja-cop-firefighter who is doctor, or a teacher, or a mommy.  She’s a girl on a mission to be strong and do good, and I have no doubt that she will. She’s fearless, compassionate, stubborn as hell, and a bit of an adrenaline junkie…perfect qualities for a ninja-cop-firefighter.

Every time I hear her say this, my heart fills with pride. I have succeeded in teaching her the importance of helping others. I’ve created this wonderfully confident little human who wants to take on the world. I’m doing alright! It’s a great feeling, for sure, but that’s not what strikes me the most about her dream and my reaction to it.

What strikes me the most, is that I also find myself full of awe. At 5 years old, nothing seems to be outside the realm of possibility for her. She wants to do a bunch of different things, so she’ll create a position that calls for all of those skills. Why not?

This is something I have been pondering a lot lately. Why do we have this idea that we have to be one thing? From the time we enter high school we are pressured to think about what one thing we want to do, with the expectation that we will then spend four or more years in college studying that thing, and then go on to do it for the rest of our lives. That’s a lot of pressure, and it certainly doesn’t allow for a whole lot of personal growth or development. Instead, it paints you into a corner that becomes increasingly harder to get out of the longer you spend stuck there.

In an effort to make a change, many people find themselves changing careers, sometimes multiple times, as they try to find something that fits. Sometimes this is met with success, sometimes it’s not. Some people just find ways to separate their work selves from their “real” selves and go through the motions each day, accepting that they aren’t going to be fulfilled by their job and filling that space in other ways. A few of them find healthy ways to fill that void, many more do not. What seems to be constant for all of these people is that they all have a pretty strong vision of what their life would look like if circumstances were different. They all know what they would do if they won the lottery. They all dream of where they could be if they’d made different choices.

The problem is, they also have 50 billion reasons why that vision is unattainable.

However, most of those reasons are in no way valid. They are simply a product of thinking that just because you’ve never seen something done, it can never be. They are looking at minor obstacles to overcome as insurmountable challenges. They are also the result of a narrow view of what success in those areas looks like.

We have the capability to create the lives we want. We have the capacity for creative thought and the ability to solve problems in new, innovative ways. And yet, we choose to just follow the beaten path.

 

the power of the mind goals quote

 

This is something I have always found perplexing, even though I have fallen into the same traps. We all know that where there is a will, there’s a way, but somehow we continually undermine our will. We convince ourselves that we’re fine where we are and try to find ways to make ourselves fine if we’re not. We’ll try anything…except going after what we really want.

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean think about it, every success story begins with somebody dreaming about doing something nobody thought was possible. They know what they want, and they go after it without letting the doubts of others sink in. They find creative solutions to overcome the obstacle thrown at them along the way.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I have no doubt that my daughter can become a ninja-cop-firefighter that’s sometimes a doctor, so it makes no sense to doubt my own dreams.

Aside from being an awesome mom who grows and preserves her own food and creates an amazing family atmosphere, I want to be a writer and a teacher who spends her free time creating works of art and making music. Put in my daughter’s framework, I want to be a writer-teacher-artist-farmer who’s also a mom.

When I think about it that way, it’s fairly simple. In fact, I’m already doing most of those things. I don’t have a farm yet, and I’m not making a solid living off of my creativity, but those things will come. I’m not a “teacher” by the common definition, but I’m constantly teaching my daughter things and I strive to teach and inspire through my work. I also have plans in place to take that further. I know the life I want to create, and from there I’ve set goals to bring it closer and closer to reality.

 

goals quote create your reality too many goals power of the mind

 

I want you to try something. Grab a sheet of paper and work through the following:

  1. What do you want to be? What is your “ninja-cop-firefighter” line-up? Break it down into the simplest of terms. Can you find a common thread that ties them together?
  2. Does it still seem as intimidating? Are you closer or further away from that reality than you thought?
  3. If something seems impossible, can you find a way to reframe it? For example, I want to make music but I know I’ll never be a rockstar. However, I can still play for fun at home, put a small bar band together, or jam with friends. I can write and record songs just for the fun of it. Is there another way you can be successful with the part of the equation that seems out of reach? Be creative!
  4. What skills, experience, credentials, or materials do you already have that can move you closer to your dream?
  5. What skills, experiences, etc do you need to acquire in order to move closer to your dreams? What steps can you take to get those skills or items?
  6. How are you going to get there? Start with the small steps. Take the answers from number 5 and create a set of goals.  Rank them from easiest to most difficult, Then, take those difficult steps and break them down into smaller tasks. Now, you should have a list of things that you would need to do to achieve our goal in roughly the order they would need to be carried out.
  7. Look over your list and give yourself some realistic deadlines. How long would each step take? Write the amount of time next to each item. Now, imagine you could start tomorrow and take a look at your time line. When would you be finished?  Whatever your answer is, 2 months, 1 year, 5 years, put that time frame into context. Think backwards: what have you done in that time span in the past?
  8. How can you cram these steps into your current life? Maybe you work on these steps during your lunch breaks. Maybe you give up some TV time. If you are determined enough, you’ll find places to make it fit.

Are you fired up yet?

If so, get after it! Work towards those goals!

If not, go back and reframe those goals. Break them down further or find new ways of coming at them until you hit on something that lights a fire.

Nothing is out of our reach unless we consciously put it there. Pull those dreams off the shelf and allow yourself to go after them. After all, we only have one life, and it’s much too short to spend being miserable.

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Children’s Parties

I used to laugh at my mother for getting misty-eyed over the milestones of my brothers and I. To us, the changes we were going through were no big deal, but to her they were special. After the birth of my daughter, I understood. Watching your child grow up comes with a mixed bag of emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Yesterday, my daughter turned five. For weeks leading up to her birthday, I struggled to wrap my head around it. In fact, I still haven’t quite comes to terms with it. What happened to that adorable squishy baby I brought home from the hospital? Who replaced her with this big girl?

 

turning 5 years old, then and now, baby vs. big kid, kids birthday parties, lessons

 

It’s a strange feeling, mourning the loss of the precious baby and toddler stages while welcoming the new challenges that lie ahead.

With so many things to look forward to, I can safely say that planning more birthday parties is not one of them. They’re expensive. They’re time consuming. And they come with way too many people.

However, it’s a necessary evil that I will endure year after year to ensure my daughter has happy memories. While  her birthday party isn’t until this weekend, I have learned a few things about kids’ birthday parties over the years.

1.  For the first few years, the theme is really for us. 

Seriously, when they are little they really don’t care about the decorations. They don’t notice the honey pots you made for their Winnie The Pooh birthday, or the color coordination of the table cloth and napkins. The perfect icing on the cake is ignored in favor of the promise of a tasty treat, and honestly, it’s going to be cut soon anyway.

I’m not saying to avoid doing a theme altogether or anything like that. However, I think it’s important to keep these things in mind so that we don’t stress ourselves out over nothing. Of course we all want to do our best and make the day special, just remember an anxious mother fretting over streamer placement doesn’t exactly add to the magic.

2.  Facebook is the best thing ever.

People rarely call to RSVP, but they will usually check off the little box on Facebook, which makes it easy to get a fairly accurate headcount. It’s so easy to set up your event and make sure that everyone is on the same page, I don’t know why paper invites are even a thing anymore!

3. Someone needs to be in charge.

Admittedly, this is usually my mother. I am terrible at directing droves of small people, and I’m not a fan of speaking in front of people in general. I usually make my mom be the one to keep things moving and make announcements, such as when it’s time for games, cake, and presents. If only she could be the one reading the cards and saying thank you to everyone as each gift is open!

4.  Managing the influx of gifts is much easier if you start with a clean bedroom.

The first few years, I simply had the party, carted the gifts back home, and began stressing over where to put everything. As the amount of toys and clothes in my daughter’s room grew, I found myself stressing more and more over how to keep it all organized. By the time she turned three, I realized why my mother had us go through our toys before birthdays and Christmas.

Now, I make sure I thoroughly clean and declutter her room before the party to make room for all her new things. It’s so much easier than letting it pile up! Once the party is over and everything has been cleaned up, all the new toys can be added to the menagerie with little hassle.

Speaking of gifts…

5. Kids don’t need as much stuff as we think they do!

Seriously, they just wrack up the clutter as time goes on. With multiple people buying gifts, one or two gifts from mom and dad is perfect. Most of the stuff won’t be played with in a matter of days anyway.

What I’ve found, is that asking for a few things she needs as well as things she wants is a great way of keeping the clutter in check. Since my daughter’s birthday is in the fall, one of her gifts is usually her winter coat and boots, plus some clothes. I also make a point to ask for books and art supplies, since we can always use those! Of course, I still want her to get fun stuff, but it’s nice to find a good balance between things that will get used and things that will wind up in the bottom of the toy box.

 

black hole of doom, bottom of the toy box, kids birthday party

Or, as I refer to it, the black hole of doom.

 

In the end, we must find ways to make the festivities manageable and keep ourselves from getting stressed out. Keep the focus on the kids and your sanity and it will turn out great! Remember, we are celebrating another trip around the sun for our little ones, it should be about fun and love.

I hope you find these tips helpful! If you have any tips of your own, please, leave them in the comments below!

 

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