Marriage IS Work

In SNL’s season finale, host Ben Affleck talked about hosting for his fifth time, and also poked fun at his acceptance speech at the Oscar with her wife, Jennifer Garner. She joined him on stage to discuss the famous comment from his speech that “marriage is work”.

While he worked to explain himself and what he meant by his comment to the audience and his wife, the unspoken message came through loud and clear—anyone who is honest about marriage will agree with what he said: marriage is work. Any relationship worth holding onto takes work. Think of the work we put into connecting with our parents, our children, our friends and each other. In some relationships the work seems effortless, in others it can be exhausting.

When I met my husband, I instantly liked him. We shared a lot in common. It was easy to make a connection with him because he was easy to relate to. After being married for several years, we learned that while we could relate to one another, we weren’t connecting as deeply as we wanted to, or stated more accurately, how I wanted to.

We have worked on connecting more deeply in recent years. Making ourselves more vulnerable to each other, and freeing ourselves to speak more honestly. While uncomfortable at first, it has become easier for both of us with time. Being accepted as I am, truly as I am, is really freeing. I am able to love my husband more deeply and we are able to enjoy each other more fully. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally hit a bump in the road. We know that’s not possible, we may have disagreements, and we just work through them.

Marriage is work, in the best sense. Parenting is work. Life is work. Sometimes the work seems effortless, sometimes it can seem exhausting, but it always feels worth it.

All We Have to Fear

I’ve never gotten used to the fear I experience as a parent. I go to that worst-case scenario all too often when possible danger may exist.

To give you an idea, when my oldest was first born and go to sleep:

My first thoughts would be how precious, what a beautiful creature, I can’t believe I’m a mom. That’s right, I’m a new mom, I’m not an experienced mom, I have to keep my child alive and what if they stop breathing during the night? How would I know they stopped breathing? I’ve got the monitor on, but what if it doesn’t work for some reason or I don’t hear him? Should I not sleep and just watch them all night?

I experienced this when both my children were newborns. After no sleep for several days, my husband and I agreed sleeping in shifts would be one way to make sure we both got sleep and I didn’t worry incessantly that my child would pass away at any given moment. My extreme thinking wasn’t healthy, and didn’t allow me to fully experience the joy of being with my child. I was consumed with something bad happening at any moment.

Several months ago our family went to see The Wizard of Oz at our local children’s theatre. I was a little concerned that my children might not be old enough for the story. My husband and I were prepared to be asked questions about tornadoes, flying monkeys and wicked witches afterwards, and while they were curious about the monkeys and the wicked witch, they were particularly concerned about tornadoes. We talked about the tornadoes on the way home, and the boys wanted to know “do tornadoes really happen?” and “do they happen here?” You could hear the fear in their voice. We assured the kids that in the northwest tornadoes are very uncommon, and we have weatherman/woman who can warn us if one may happen.

We can’t protect our children from everything, and I pray we will never experience the wrath a tornado brings. I do want them to enjoy life and not be constantly worrying that something bad will happen. I don’t want them to go the worst-case scenario like I do. I want to teach them to lean into the joy they are experiencing, not fear that something bad is going to happen to them.  We plan to go camping again this year. You may recall we encountered thunder and lightning on our last camping trip. It was scary for my youngest son and me.  As we have talked about the upcoming trip, my youngest son has started to ask if a tornado could occur at the camp site. I can hear the slightest fear in his voice as he asks. I reassure him that there is little chance it will occur and if it does, mom and dad will do everything we can to keep everyone safe. I don’t want my son to fear the possibility of tornadoes, and take away from his enjoyment of our camping experience. Yes, bad things can happen, I remind myself, but mostly its out of our control, and much like fretting over a newborn as they sleep. All we can do is take precautions to make sure everyone is safe. It sounds so logical, reasonable and easy when I tell myself this. And so much harder to practice in reality.

There will always be some part of me that will worry about my boys, and likely always will, but I believe I’ve tempered my fears and am working to enjoy my time with them, and not consume my thoughts with the worst-case scenario. I can’t control what happens next, but can be there to participate and enjoy each moment as it happens now.

How do you handle your children’s fears? How do you handle yours?

On Mother’s Day

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day today? With flowers? A card? Or a nice meal out?

On Mother’s Day I’ll look forward to sleeping in, having breakfast in bed, and seeing my children smile as they hand me their handmade gifts. While eating my breakfast, once my children have left the room to continue with their play, I’ll think about how grateful I am to have the opportunity to raise them. I’ll think about what I’m most proud of teaching them so far, and wisdom I still want to impart. I’ll think about the journey I am on, and  all the support I have from my husband, other moms—old and new, family and friends. I’ll think about the energy I need to be the mom that I want to be, and remind myself to continue to seek ways to get the recharge I need. I’ll think about my children’s smiling faces and the joy they bring me every day. I’ll think about how quickly they are growing and allow myself a moment to think I’ll still have many more Mother’s Days like this, when I know these will be very limited.  Even though my boys are seven and five, I’m still amazed I gave birth to these wonderful creatures and that I’m a mom, their mom.

Mother’s Day may have started to honor mothers everywhere, but I see it as a day for me to rest and reflect on how blessed I am. No one has to honor me, the honor of being their mother is all mine.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Let the Sun Shine In

Sun and warmer weather has finally reached the Pacific Northwest. I can see the change in myself, I’m smiling more, I’m happier. I can see the change in others as well. People also seem to be happier, smiling more, are friendlier, and most are making comments along the same lines. Isn’t it beautiful outside? Aren’t you so happy about the sun?

I grew up in the southeast, where sun, warm weather, thunderstorms in the summer and bugs year-round was pretty much guaranteed. I took it for granted when I relocated to the northwest. I wanted to experience all four seasons, meet new people, see new places and do new things. I’ve fallen in love with the northwest, but miss the southeast during long stretches of gray skies, rain, and cooler weather.

I think about my children growing up here and wonder where they will want to live when they are older. Will they want to stay in the northwest or go to a place with a similar climate? Or will they want a change and go somewhere where sun is plentiful?

I’m grateful my boys are several years away from leaving home, and want to make the most of the weather we are experiencing by sharing it with them. Blooming flowers, beautiful colors all around, clear skies, majestic mountains and people, lots of people, with smiles on their faces.  I’m often caught off guard by all the beauty going on around me at once. I continue to think I’ll never get used to this. It feels a little like seeing what’s possible for humankind—beauty for all of us to share in and enjoy together.

The reality is this stretch of beautiful weather will likely be short lived. It will last a week or so if we are lucky. Temperatures will cool and the gray skies will return. Our beautiful weather doesn’t seem to start and stay until around July 4th each year. I’m okay with that though. Stretches like this give me energy and remind me of what’s important, and life’s possibilities.

Let the sun shine in!