A brief introduction–
“Man plans. God laughs,” someone, somewhere coined that phrase. It’s epic. I live it fully. I just spent two weeks in June in our district’s Readers/Writers Workshop with Secondary English. It’s a beautiful experience promoting innovation and collaboration in the classroom to inspire choice in our students (which ultimately builds their confidence) by teachers taking the seat as students. In that, I struggled as a writer. I wrote four variations of the same message. I leaned on my peers who listened, shared, and struggled, too. You see, we end the two weeks with a sharing circle reading aloud our writing (with like 30-something-people staring at you and listening to the words you sculpt). I did not feel confident in my writing those two weeks. I was feeling my notorious stage-fright experience my body endures EVERY-single-time before I sing or speak to an audience. To find comfort, I went to my cheerleaders- my family.
Being a blending family, not everyone is home in the summer. So, I literally had my husband and oldest sit down the night before our public sharing with post-it notes and flare pens with the request to read my four scraps with intentional bless-press-address feedbacks. While they read, I took a break from the writings and knocked out some of my grad school assignments due that night and week. As my oldest was reading, she was moved to responding out-loud (goosebumps moment) and only got through one writing before she had to get to her Krav Maga class. She walked over to me and said, “I have to go. I can’t read them all. But, this is my favorite. You’re like powerful. Preach sis! I don’t need to read the others. I love what you’re saying about being a Mom.” My husband took his task more seriously. Over the course of over an hour he read each one, shifted to inserting comments into my word docs versus the post-it and flare pen process, and even gave verbal suggestions. In the end, he preferred the less vulnerable writing about being a Momma. So… I stumbled over their feedback, built a fifth document combining the two, and about one-in-the-morning… I threw in the towel and decided I would grab an article from my blog.
I went to bed not knowing which article. I woke earlier that Friday morning than I had the two weeks of the workshop. I scrounged through my blog to find a piece that was not too long nor too vulnerable. It was close to impossible. I decided on the “Baking Through the Holidays” piece; my second article posted to my blog New Year’s Day 2018. It is what I emailed to our Curriculum Coordinator meeting the deadline one minute early (haha). And, it is what I read aloud.
As the group shared aloud, I lost my fight to not cry as they shared. It was the selections on the authentic anguish and joy being a Momma (& Daddy) secures. Boo-hooing on those.
I felt like a coward. Why was I too afraid (or shameful) to share?
As the share circle came to a close, I rode the emotional tide to the shore and attached the below selection to an email of a selected few. It was my truth I felt they each deserved. A glimpse into my Momma heart, and the choices I make for my daughters.
At least I have found a theme in my writing: VULNERABILITY. I have always been told I say too much… well, I am 41… it’s who I am.
My Journey to Becoming a Momma You Will Be Proud of
To my strong daughters, when you are a bit older & need to hear these words…
You are my daughters. Born from me or from my heart, you are equally mine. One of my greatest life treasures has been being your momma & bonusmom and sharing you with the world.
I have chosen to be as vulnerably honest with you when it was appropriate and limiting details as necessary about the life we share as well as who I am. I have chosen to live a life to inspire you to be better each day you wake than the day before. I live this vehemently because I want you to feel how important you are to me. You drive me. Everyday. To grow.
As we all know, the reality of life is just as much heart wrenching as it is incandescently happy. We cannot (and should not be expected to) handle each facet of this life with pure grace and pristine propriety.
As if it has become my life’s purpose to find what exactly I want in life – me – I feel as though I am steadily shitting on everyone. It is not my intention. It is just me trying to make sense of this life I am living. A great part of it was not a life I chose; I was born into it… for better or for worse, I am my parents’ child.
My life seems to be bathed in conflict. I try to nurture my pride with the great words of Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Over the years, I have matured the phrase to be franker, “if I am not pissing someone off, who am I being true to?”
What I realize now is I am solving all my life’s problems, one by one, by fighting for everyone else and what I feel they deserve. How am I living for me then, you may ask… well, I only fight for my people- my husband, our kids, and those closest to us, so it is my fight in the end. Plus, there were plenty of times people should have fought for me (or others), and they were too apathetic, selfish, lazy, or tribal to give in to the idea.
It also means, a portion of my life comes second because I never, NEVER, want my girls to feel as though they are not enough.
Part 1 – Becoming a Teacher to be a Better Momma
Fourth in the Nation. Fourth. I wanted first. Was even announced at the National Sales Convention in Nashville, Tennessee as the one the President of the company envisioned taking the spot by years end. The prestige alone did not dissuade my desire to be more available to my two daughters though. The guilt was compounding.
12-hour days I worked. First to daycare and last to be picked up they were. Working out of town. Networking events during the week. All-the-while attending night school in a never-ending attempt to grasp that bachelor’s degree. Being a top-ranking Account Rep also had me on the seat of the National Sales Training Team. We met at corporate in Florida to rewrite the sales manual. We trained new reps in our multi-state regions. We went in and saved seasoned, complacent reps (yeah- the ones who actually trained me when I arrived). We covered areas without sales reps. We were gossiped to have slept our way to the top as though our ability to kick ass was unfathomable.
I knew, in my heart of hearts, I enjoyed one aspect of my career the most: The training and writing. Destined to become one of two National Sales Trainers, traveling the nation teaching and reteaching the sales team. Flashy salary. Commission upon Commission. All without a degree. All because I had the fire.
Yet… I chose my daughters.
I returned to school in 2009 and dove into finally finishing my bachelor’s degree. Back to English. Where I knew I belonged. Where I actually daydreamed being when I corrected the grammar of the sales manual, streamlined the purpose of cover letters, and typed up proposals to multi-million-dollar companies as I met with CEO’s, CFO’s, and the like.
Taking 15 to 18 hours a semester (even in the summer), I graduated Magna Cum Laude December 2011 with the sweet inductions into Kappa Delta Pi and Sigma Tau Delta, International Honors Societies for Education and English, respectively. I mention this because my teenaged self literally looked at my teachers – when they asked if I was applying for scholarships and to colleges – and said, “people like me don’t go to college.” I was growing up in two homes. One not struggling, and the other, well, the church brought us food. I almost – as a senior class officer, slated to lead our graduating class singing the school song, supposed to sit on the stage at graduation – did not get to walk at graduation because my mom and bonusdad owed the school over two thousand dollars for my extracurricular activity involvement.
I… I had to write a letter of forbearance explaining why the bill could not be paid and why I deserved an exception to not only the bills, but to be able to walk at graduation. Listing out all my extra curricula involvement and accolades secured, none of which had any connection to academia at all (I lived to perform in high school, singing and dancing), I prayed my lack of academic commitment and success in choir and drill team would be enough married with the saga in my homes.
You see, my mom had been dealing with progressive Lupus (and denying the depression she was fighting as well). My bonusdad was the sole provider. My dad was literally enjoying his last days with my bonusmom who was diagnosed with Melanoma after a malignant brain tumor the Spring semester of my senior year. We were in our last few months with her.
Why on earth would I burden my dad with the financial instability of my mom when he was going to be burying the love of his life and was financially burdened himself with medical bills and an inevitable funeral? He was still having to work. My older brother received a humanitarian discharge from the Marines six months early to care for her. I had to face this letter alone.
I did it well though. I sat on the stage with my fellow class officers. I led our senior class in our school song while the band played along. I walked on my graduation day. My entire family sitting together in the stands. My bonusmom donning her wig.
I share this all because I never want my girls to feel as though “people like them don’t go to college” because their momma did (and it is their American right). I never want my girls to feel as though “they have to go at this alone” because I will always be there to help write that letter (although I do not offer them financial instability). I never want them to feel the sting of other’s words “they have slept their way to the top” because I want them to laugh at other people’s audacity and insecurity (and just be excited about their accomplishments).
And… knowing their momma never stopped trying to get that degree, to teach, and ultimately to be a better woman, I hope they see how special they are because it is them that drives me (and the scared girl I am leaving behind).
Part 2 – Being a Momma & Bonus Mom Makes Me a Better Teacher
When I stated above- it also means, a portion of my life comes second because I never, NEVER, want you girls to feel as though you are not enough- This means, I turn my back on my career to heal my mental health when I know I am about to break due to the aftermath of almost dying while giving birth to my youngest as well as my body almost strangling her to death in the process. My pride would not allow me to admit just that though. I veiled it to be a pursuit of entrepreneurship and writing (which is true, we pursued both and still are fervently), but I knew I was too damn vulnerable, and too damn prideful to admit it to anyone. Even to myself at the time. Perhaps I would have been resilient enough to handle that traumatic experience, but the thing is, we were literally drowning in so much shit in such a short amount of time: my cancer scare, my children’s unknown painstaking choices, child custody battles, and not knowing what was going to become of my left breast despite the benign result of the midpregancy test. I was exhausted. Exhausted. My greatest, most potent joy in my life at the time was my children (still is, actually).
I found myself sitting at home with a newborn choosing to not return to my classroom. As pride would have it, I set challenging goals to offset the guilt not financially providing to my family would bring (not to mention letting down others, but this is not for them).
As poetic justice would have it… I chose aspects of motherhood I had yet to explore. I nursed my baby her entire first year of life to include pumping more often than I cared to. I made her baby food at home from organic products. I prepared meals for my family, everyday, to include making my children’s lunches. I took care of the home myself with no outside assist. I became a room-mom for the child I feel has never truly gotten a decent piece of me. And, I attempted to bring my sales guru self to my husband’s inventions as we sought out a company willing to take on our patent pending product. We learned the ins and outs of LLCing ourselves. Capsule became our database of sales pursuits. Seeking out guidance we dove into contracting InventRight to mentor and guide us through the process from start to finish with our other inventions. We published sales sheets through Canva and pushed them out to companies successful in the market of our niche. Fiverr was a refuge when we needed an animator for a sales video embedded in a salesheet. We LinkedIn with more individuals than I have in almost a decade since I stepped away from sales.
And, I wrote… I sketched… I built a blog for blending families. I learned to whip through Canva to suggest to the world to love all their children and accept their ex-spouses and their children’s bonus parents and siblings. I began my Children’s Series. I began my novel. I began a lot… and a lot is still yet finished.
Maybe we were motivated by the child custody battle for our oldest, Harvey’s destruction, cashing out our retirements post-Harvey, borrowing funds, and leaning on the wisdom of trusted family to help us survive the crushing reality of our situation. Regardless… we learned a lot.
And… I listened. I listened to my kids talk about their days at school more intently than I did when I was teaching. My teacher bias was removed. I was simply a mom. I often felt, “why would anyone say something like that to a room full of children?” Followed by, “wait… pretty sure I was strict and firm like that when I taught.” Ouch. Reflective. Accountability. Intentionally I made a promise to myself, “if I ever teach again, I will handle that situation differently.”
I also guided my children in a different manner… they no longer were students of my peers within a district… I no longer cared about that. I only cared about my girls. I became their advocate. A quiet advocate. Not a helicopter mom. Not a lawnmower mom. Just a mom that insisted on my children paving their own way and hovering over their own to-do’s. I allowed them to fumble. I allowed them to struggle learning how to pick themselves back up. I also allowed them to choose what made them hungry for more.
This is their life.
As fate would have it… Just as we were getting into the swing of our new lives and roles… tragedy would strike us again; in the wake of recovering from Harvey. We experienced a miscarriage. At 7 ½ weeks. I will just say it was the most heartwrenching experience of my life (and I have lived trauma). The loss consumed every fiber of my being. I tried to wear grace everyday, and everyday, the loss would strangle me. I began to feel foolish and selfish. Afterall, we have four daughters. What was my big deal, right? (People actually asked me that.) Not sure how I ever picked myself up off the floor from that one. Pretty sure a fraction of my being is gone forever.
I looked into the eyes of my girls and ironically realized, I needed to get back in the classroom to be a better mom. The solitude of our home and all my self-inflicting tasks were suffocating me.
Godwinked upon my life as a big blue Dodge came barreling into the Barnes and Nobles parking lot. My former boss-if-you-will bellowed my name followed by a bear hug as I was arms deep in a poop diaper change. He met all my children. He asked after what I am up to and if I was still contemplating his tweet from a month prior I had messaged him about. We laughed at the image my girls and I were, and he was off to pick up the mountains of books he had ordered. I felt a pang. A pang in my heart to be arms deep in books with kids… not just poop. I felt guilty. Hadn’t I longed to be consumed in my own children?
As though the whisper was a scream… what about your other children? It was clear. Students.
A few days later, I received a call from the driver of the blue Dodge truck asking if I want to return the maternity leave favor to the district. I simply asked, “who is it for?” Her name tickled my ears, and I said yes so excitedly I felt I cheated on my family. But, she is pretty damn iconic. I prayed the Lord would allow my intuitions to guide me into giving her what I feel every mother needs while on maternity leave to give her comfort in returning to work as she would undoubtedly be overwhelmed with the guilt of leaving her precious, infant child.
God just took over in more arenas than I ever could have imagined myself. After completing the maternity leave long-term-sub position, I have returned as faculty to my beloved district at the campus my daughter attends.
I felt worthy. I felt forgiven. I felt needed. I felt I could make a difference.
Afterall, isn’t that what we are looking for?
Part 3: How Teaching and Momming Will Make Me a Better Counselor
Through this teacher journey and the experiences of my life, I am embarking on grad school to become a school counselor with the ultimate goal to open a practice with my daughters. One wants to be a PTSD Psychiatrist and the other wants to be a Child Psychologist. I will be a Marriage Family Therapist by the time my hair is grey and braided. And, I will get to be with my children, often, helping others.
I hope through it all, my girls see parents who chase their passions, abide by their familial priorities, and encourage their children to do the same.
In the end, both aspects of my life will collide. And, it will be beautiful.
Parents & Bonus Parents: It’s never too late to be better.
My girls: Always believe in you. I love you. xoxo
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