It’s a beautiful sunny day. It’s autumn. The leaves are at their peak in bright colors. The weather is cool and sunny. And here come the perfect moms walking out of school.
I pass them as I’m walking in. They’ve dropped their kids off already. On time, of course. They are laughing and smiling and talking on their way out. They are younger than me and beautiful. Shiny long hair, no gray yet. Wearing hip, casual clothes effortlessly. They could be in a magazine, with a caption, “How to be the Perfect Stay at Home Mom!” These ladies are killin’ it!
First-time-mom-me would hate them. She’d be jealous of these perfect moms because they are beautiful, they are fit, they are wearing expensive clothes, they seem like they have it all together. They’ve formed a bond with each other where I always felt a little out of step. And first-time-mom-me, well, I didn’t feel like I had it all together. And I felt like I should. Like it was obtainable. Like those women were the models for it and I had to achieve that before I could enter into the perfect mom club.
Well, current me knows different.
Current me knows this: Shiny long blond hair mommy, she just found out she needs a hysterectomy and her heart is aching at thought of not being able to carry another child. Designer jeans lady, her father is at home on hospice care. Yesterday the nurses told her it was going to be very soon. Cute work-out clothes mom, well, the teacher thinks something is “going on” with her son and she recommends taking him to a behavioral therapist for his “strange” behavior. And that mommy holding the perfect looking 2 year old, her husband had an affair. She wants to get as far away from him as possible, but when she looks at her kids, she’s not so sure she can.
Of course I don’t actually know these women. But I do know that there are no perfect moms. I have met some amazing women in my 9 year career in mothering and not one of these moms didn’t have some battle going on in their lives. I know the perfect mom is a myth.
So even though I don’t know these moms, I know these moms. I know that they are taking care of their aging parents, that their child hasn’t slept through the night – ever, that they are recovering alcoholics, that they are late on their mortgage, that they haven’t spoken to their sister in three years, that they had several miscarriages, that their son has a developmental delay, that their daughter has cerebral palsy, that they fight with their husband every day, that they are dealing with depression.
There is so much behind the looks, the designer clothes, the manicure, the salon hair, the handsome husband, the pretty house.
As current me walks past these women, I am happy for their smiling, happy for their laughing. I know there’s pain behind it. I’m glad they have each other. I smile at them, wave to the 2 year old, and walk my kids into school.
I always wanted to be a mom, I loved being around children, and I babysat a ton when I was in high school. So, when I had my first child I thought I was well prepared and the transition would be smooth. To put it simply, it was not. It was hard; it still is hard. But you know what got me through those first clueless and sleepless months and continues to carry me? You guessed it, an amazing group of friends, my mom tribe.
Ladies, we need other mommies who get us, women who we can commiserate with, get advice from, share a laugh with. I am fortunate to have a great tribe of moms in my life. If you are still looking for yours, here are my three tips for finding your crew.
I remember very clearly the day a friend confided in me that she struggled with anxiety, something that I also struggle with. I was blown away that this seemingly perfect mom was dealing with something so difficult and something that I knew about first hand. It deepened our friendship and helped me let go of what felt like a giant secret that I needed to keep. This experience taught me that to truly take my relationships to the next level, beyond surface friendships, I needed to be honest and authentic.
Be yourself. If your house is always a mess, don’t pretend like it’s usually clean. If you always run late, don’t act like this is the only time you’ve shown up ½ hour after playdate started. If you feed your kids processed food, don’t pretend that those fruit snacks are organic. If you don’t feel like you have your act together, don’t act like you do. Because here’s the thing, none of us do. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, there are no perfect moms. We all struggle, none of us have our act together even if we look like we do. Share your imperfections, your struggles, your suffering-that’s what makes you who you are.
Put Yourself Out There
If you wanna find your mom tribe, you gotta put yourself out there. I won’t lie here, this is hard for me and I’ve failed at this over the years. I tried to join a playgroup when my triplets were about 2 and I was told there was no room in the group. I was devastated because the group was made up of a bunch of moms I thought I could really get along with. Luckily for me, these moms started inviting me to things and we did get to be friends. This taught me that I can’t passively sit back and wait for cool moms to show up in my life.
Putting yourself out there means physically going out, or inviting people over. So log off of the interweb and get out there. (Wait, finish reading this first and then you’ll probably want to share it or pin it of course, then you can get off the interweb!) Join a local moms club, start chatting with the other moms at work, or join a mommy and me class. If you are digging any of those moms, ask them out on a playdate! This is super difficult and can be awkward, but it’s a necessary step to finding your mom tribe.
When You Find Your Mom Tribe – Keep It Going
This part can be difficult especially as kids get older. When my littles were tiny and not in school, I set the schedule, chose where we went, and who we hung out with. Mostly, we hit the park with my amazing friends and their adorable littles. Now that my kids are older, their school and extracurricular activities set the schedule, determine where we go, and who we hang out with. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the moms in the karate, dance, and gymnastics waiting rooms because I do. But I will say it takes time out of my life, making it more difficult to get together with the original crew.
It can be very easy to let this new life with new people take over, but once you find your mom tribe, the ones that you really get you, the ones that you can really be yourself around, you need to hold on to them. Invest time in those relationships. Because when you need a shoulder to cry on, it might be a little awkward if the shoulder you choose is some random stranger sitting on a bench outside of dance class.
So what about you? Have you found your tribe yet? Or, are you still looking?
I have a big family and I came from a big family. It’s not quiet in my home. It wasn’t quiet in my home growing up. When I was a kid the TV would be on in one room, maybe a radio on in another, a wrestling match that almost always ended with a broken lamp, and maybe a fight or two – all going on at the same time. And I loved it!
Second Generation Chaos
There’s a little less wrestling and a lot less TV in my house, but the noise and chaos remain. We have a school age son learning to play the violin. We have triplets worn out by their first year in kindergarten who occasionally melt down in tears. We have a mom who whistles and sings and dad who shares his loud music collection. There’s fighting, yelling, and more than one conversation happening at once. Our nearly dead clothes dryer squeaks so loud you start looking for the earplugs and sometimes there’s food burning on the stove, setting off the smoke detector.
And it’s not just noise -it’s a little bit lack of organization and schedule. I don’t know if it’s me or being raised by hippie parents, but my body does not want to be on a schedule – I feel a physical aversion to it. I’m like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed on time, even though she needs the sleep. My brain throws itself down on the floor in a complete tantrum, “I don’t wanna do the same thing at the same time every day!”
My Calm Friends Have Peaceful Homes
I’ve had the privilege of visiting my calmer friends’ homes, where there is less yelling and more patience. The space is cleaner, neater, more organized. A load of whites is done every Wednesday. The vacuum is run every day. There’s no faint scent of “litter that should have been emptied yesterday.” It’s so nice to walk into a space like that. And not just the neat part, but the calm part. Some of my friends just exude peace and to be near them is like stepping a sweet scent. I feel calmer when I’m near them, just being around them helps keep my crazy at bay. Now, I’m not saying these women are perfect. I know there are no perfect moms.
I used to think this was my goal – the calm, neat home. To curb my temper. To clean up the house. To run a load of whites every Wednesday. To get my act together. But now I know better. My calmer counterparts are not my goal. They are not me. It’s in their nature to be calmer and more peaceful. That is one of the reasons I love them and love to be around them. But, calm and peaceful is not my default setting.
My New Goal: Embrace the Chaos
So instead of trying to be something that I’m not, I’m going to start embracing who I am, to appreciate my nature.
What that means is yes, our house is filled with noise and chaos, but that’s not a bad thing. The noise comes from dance parties, sock skating, tickle fights, and attack hugs. The chaos that begins with a burned dinner ends in a pizza party. Embracing the chaos means throwing out the schedule to play my violin along with my son, staying up late on a school night to let the kids watch the Princess Bride, and throwing a birthday party for our guinea pig. These are great times for our family: loud, joyful times. And they’ll be great memories for my children.
Already I’m more content at home, now that I have given up trying to be something that I’m not and trying to make our family like someone else’s. Now we have the freedom to be our amazing, loud, crazy big family.
Summer is here! That means it’s reading for fun season! During the school year I’m usually reading a parenting book, but in the summer I toss the informational books and switch them out for novels! This summer I’m thrilled to be partnering with my friend Meredith of Mom of the Year a
nd lots of other amazing bloggers to bring you a list of 20 great books to read this summer plus a crazy amazing giveaway!
The giveaway is for a $250 Amazon gift card and 8 free books! To enter the giveaway make sure to click on the Rafflecopter at the end for your chance to score big. And there’s a bonus giveaway, we are giving away 100 copies of Mom of the Year’s all time book club favorite book!
20 Best Summer Books:
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Femme Frugality: “Psychology, philosophy and theology have a way of blending together. In this book, psychologist Viktor Frankl relates his experiences as a prisoner in Hitler’s concentration camps, using it as a way to underpin his philosophy that man can get through anything if he assigns meaning to life. Great for anyone going through a difficult time, or anyone who has detached from organized religion but is still seeking the meaning of life.”
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Lindsay of See Mom Click: “If you’ve ever felt like the days are slipping by and you’re just trudging along, The Happiness Project is a must-read. Rubin’s writing really speaks to me, the perfect balance of hard facts and science combined with practical wisdom about proactively making yourself happier and living in the now.”
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Wendy of ABCs and Garden Peas: “An inspiring, food-filled story of the Kingsolver family’s adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and begin living their lives in a way that works with the local food chain. This year’s 10th Anniversary Edition also gives readers a glimpse into how their family has carried their inspiring “real food” journey with them throughout the next decade.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline.
Mikaela Fleisher of Iris and Honey
: “Christina Baker Kline brings an artist and his muse to life in this novel that blends fact and fiction. Based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World
, Kline gives readers a truly beautiful glimpse into the life of the woman behind the painting.
- Red Water by Kristen Mae. Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense: “An Amazon best seller, Red Water will slither under your skin and stick there. Erotic, raw, and disturbing, and with deeply flawed but relatable characters, Mae’s sophomore novel is a dark, unflinching examination of the psychology of self-loathing and the secret, unspeakable lust for depravity that lies dormant within us all.”
- My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits by Jen Mann. Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: “My Lame Life is a great summer read for teens and adults because it’s a funny and endearing book that is entirely relatable!”
- Famished by Meghan O’Flynn. Meghan O’Flynn: “Famished is a bestselling psychological thriller that explores the darkest parts of the human psyche. Hailed as “Thrilling, emotional and depraved,” this novel is one you won’t want to put down.”
- Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion: “This one is part cookbook with fabulous, EASY recipes and part narrative by Jenny, fellow frazzled Mama juggling personal and professional responsibilities. When she realizes a family meal is the best shot at quality time with her husband and kids, so begins her journey to make it happen. Witty, relate-able, and educational (I learned how to cook things, you guys!) I went through Jenny-withdrawal when I finished the book!”
- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Shari of Adore Them pick: “Jon Ronson is an incredible author who combines objective observations with his own take on these experiences. For this book he spent years meeting people who had been subject to public shaming. It is fascinating (& horrible) to see how one tweet could ruin someone’s life.”
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.
Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying
: “The story is told in alternating voices of three best friends as they begin their senior year: one knowing she is OUTTA THERE, one being OK with staying exactly where he is because he has his stories to escape into, and one not feeling like he can or is deserving of going anywhere but right where his father’s crimes put him. I felt so many things while I read this, but mostly that I will now read literally anything this author writes from now on.”
- The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia. Suzanne of Toulouse & Tonic: “I devoured this book about Prince by his ex-wife Mayte Garcia. At first I was afraid it would be exploitive but after reading reviews carefully, I gave it a try. It was so worth it. A great portion of the book is the story of HER life. It’s interesting and insightful. The parts of her life she shared with Prince are handled in a respectful but honest way. I feel like I actually know something about this enigmatic man now. I still miss him but 4 me, it brought a little peace.”
Redemption Road by John Hart.
Lydia of Cluttered Genius
: “Redemption Road
caught me from page one and had me guessing the entire way through. I don’t generally choose murder mysteries or thrillers, but Hart’s novel has me wanting to find the rest of his books to read more!”
- Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. Natalie of a Turtle’s Life for Me: “Everyone is Beautiful is a heartwarming and humorous look at one woman’s journey through marriage and motherhood as she tries to find small moments of personal fulfillment. The epiphanies and insights she gains along the way are told in a light-hearted manner, but resonate deeply in a way that will have you thinking about it months later. I read this with my book club and we found we were bringing it up again even a year later, because it struck such a deep chord with us.”
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
Dani of Meraki Lane
: “I loved this book. It explores so many emotionally sensitive topics – infertility, adoption, motherhood, and interracial marriage – and the author did such an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the United States and India. She described each with such vivid detail, and the story truly encapsulated the meaning of the word ‘family.’ It was an easy, yet complex read, and the ending brought me to tears. I highly recommend this one!”
The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti.
Jana of Jana Says
: “I LOVED this book. Dark and twisted and violent and a thriller complimented with a father/daughter/coming of age story told between alternating POV and bouncing back and forth in time until it all catches up to itself. It’s so well done and well written and I cannot recommend it enough.”
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
Kimberly of Red Shutters
: “It’s the story of a family, torn apart by slavery. One branch of the family aids in the slave trade in Ghana, later becoming involved in conflict with the British, and finally finding their way to America. The other side of the family is sold into slavery and generations later experience an America of incarceration, poverty, and drug abuse. Despite its challenging subject matter, Homegoing
is captivating, an extraordinary story about hope, connection, and loss. I couldn’t put it down, and when it did end, I was disappointed–I wanted more. That’s the sign of an extraordinary book!”
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles.
Janine of Confessions of a Mommyaholic
: “This is the beginning of a supernatural, romance YA series that struck all the right notes for me. Honestly, think it could be in the leagues of Twilight or even Harry Potter as the writing was superb. Plus, the storyline was unique, fast moving and heart tugging, as well. Therefore, recommend as the perfect summer vacation read.”
- The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Rabia of The Lieber Family: “Lianna’s mom has disappeared. The most plausible explanation is that her frequent sleepwalking took her over a bridge to her death. But on closer inspection, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And the good looking detective assigned to the case is trying to help, isn’t he? So what really happened? I can’t wait to find out!”
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Anne of Once Upon a Mom: “I haven’t read this one yet but it looks amazing! It’s a story about a quirky kid with an even quirkier grandma who, after her death, leaves a a series of letters apologizing to people. I’m looking forward to finding out about all of Grandmother’s secrets!”
- City Mouse by Stacey Lender. Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year: “This defines a beach read for me! So relatable to our own lives as it is all about mom trying to find out exactly where she fits in the in the scheme of suburbia–all that goes along with it. Plus, when a book is described as ‘The Stepford Wives meets Bad Moms’, how can you go wrong?”
There it is! Our list of the 20 Best Summer Books! So let’s start reading for fun again! As promised, the giveaway for a $250 AMAZON GIFT CARD and copies of some of the titles on this list (Red Water, Famished, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits, The Sleepwalker, Man’s Search for Meaning, Homegoing and Redemption Road) is below!
As long as you are 18 or older, live in the continental United States, and enter before June 16, 2017 at 5:30am EST, you are eligible to win!
Also as promised, we are tickled to be giving away 100 COPIES of the favorite title our book club has ever read, This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel! Read Meredith’s post HERE to find out why it is such an exceptional book, and then hop over quickly to enter the giveaway! Thanks to the generosity of Flatiron Books, copies will be sent to the first 100 people who enter the giveaway* (The grand prize winner included! The same giveaway deadline and rules as above apply.) We could go on and on about This Is How It Always Is, but to put it simply: it is important, life-changing, and beautiful. This isn’t just a book you want to read, it’s a book you need to read.
*Note: remember each person can gain multiple entries, so don’t assume that all 100 copies have been claimed when the entries total goes over 100! I will be updating on social media how many copies are left if you want to check in on this as the giveaway progresses!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks for joining us in this kick-off to summer reading celebration with this list of the 20 best summer books! Happy summer and happy reading, friends!
***Thank you to Flatiron Books, Jen Mann, Kristen Mae, Meghan O’Flynn, Macmillan Publishers, Anchor Books, Beacon Press and Vintage Books for providing copies of the books for the giveaway. All opinions are entirely our own.***
Book photo in second graphic: depositphotos.com, Image ID:9056658, Copyright:belchonock
Last image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:13362963, Copyright:coolfonk
As soon as I heard about this challenge, I knew I wanted to participate! The main reason I blog and write about parenting is to lift other mommies up! To let them know that it’s hard, but we are all feeling the struggle. Not one of us is perfect! Let’s celebrate our strengths and stop focusing on what we don’t do well or what we feel like we should be doing better.
Thanks you so much to Kayla O’Neill at Parenting Expert Mom for tagging me in this challenge.
I’m tagging Kaity Stuckert at Beeautiful Blessings, Catherine Murton at Kid & Kin, Rebecca Lyn Miller at Mommy Takes 5, and Madelyn Harrah at Happy Hippy Homemaker.
Show us what you’ve got ladies!
1. I KNOW THAT PERFECTION IS A MYTH: I used to think that being the perfect mom was attainable. Now I know it’s a myth. Once I got to know the moms in community, the ones that seemed perfect, the ones that seemed like they had it all together, I learned that they had the same struggles and insecurities that I did. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I no longer felt the need to try to be a certain way and I stopped caring what other people thought of my abilities as a mom.
2. I’M LOUD AND CRAZY: My house is never quiet! We are a big, loud family! We sing and dance and sock-ice skate in the kitchen. We make up our own songs and belt the words out. We chase each other around the house and smack talk when we play UNO and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope my children remember our house as loud and fun!
3. I APOLOGIZE: I make a lot of mistakes. I holler at my kids. I forget to wash their karate suit. I get them to school late. But I always apologize. I know I’m not a perfect mom and I want my kids to know that too. I want them to learn that sometimes we mess up: we forget things, we’re mean, we hurt people’s feelings. I want them to be gentle with themselves when they make a mistake and to see the importance of apologizing when you do.
4. I VALUE KINDNESS OVER INTELLIGENCE: Now that my kids are in school, it’s obvious that some have an easier time with schoolwork. While we celebrate all achievements in our home, I am more impressed when my children act kind and generous and loving to one another than when they bring home an A.
5. I GIVE MY CHILDREN ONE ON ONE TIME: With four siblings, I’m sure my kids sometimes feel a little lost in the shuffle, so we go on dates to the arcade or to play mini golf. It’s sometimes hard to fit into our busy schedule but it’s worth it to reconnect with each child and to show them how much I love them!
6. I PUT MY HUSBAND FIRST: Hard as it may be with 4 little kids, I try to make my husband and our marriage a priority. Someday these kids will be grown and gone and it will just be me and hubby left. I don’t want him and our relationship to get lost in the chaos. I also want to teach my children what a good relationship showing them.
7. I MAKE THEM DO CHORES: My school age kids have daily chores and Saturday chores. When the kids sweep and wipe the table, it’s not as clean as when I do it (not even close-sometimes it even looks worse!) I’m not trying to teach them how to be expert cleaners, I’m trying to teach them that this is what we do in a family – we take care of our things and we help each other out.
8. I DON’T LET THEM QUIT: When my kids want to join sport or play and instrument I don’t let them quit. If they sign up a season of soccer and decide they don’t like it after two practices, we still go to soccer until the end of the season. I hope this is teaching them to be faithful to their obligations and to be thoughtful about what activities they sign up for.
9. I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF: Over the years I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself to be a good mom-that sometimes the best thing for the whole family is for mom to leave on Saturday morning and not come back until dinnertime. For most families I know, the mom sets the tone for the house. Taking time for myself and coming back refreshed sets a nicer tone than staying in the house and feeling resentful.
10. I TELL MY CHILDREN THAT I LOVE THEM: It may seem small, but it’s important and I do it all day long accompanied with lots of hugs for as long as they let me!
Now it’s time for you to toot your horn! How are you rocking motherhood?
Commiserating with mom friends is a must right?
Raising kids is hard. It’s nice to be around people who get that. I kind of thought I would be awesome at it and I would have all these great instincts and my kids would act perfectly because of my superior mothering skills. Turns out, that’s not the quite the case for me. I’m often without instincts, my kids do misbehave, and no one has ever described me as superior! At this point in my life, I’ve given up the ideal of what I thought mothering would be and am just trying my best. Trying my best to raise my kids and trying my best to enjoy them, even in our messiest moments.
Commiserating with other moms who really get it helps me to find the humor in our not so perfect moments.
Here’s how a typical commiserating session might go:
Me: You are never going to believe what happened to me this morning! I was upstairs on the phone scheduling a doctor’s appointment and when I came downstairs I saw that one of the girls had been cutting her hair with kid scissors!
Mom friend: I know the feeling. My daughter and I walked away from her homework for a second to look something up on the computer and when we came back, her little brother decided he wanted to do “homework” too and colored all over her paper!
And then we all laugh because at the time those moments are hard and stressful, but after a while it is funny, and it makes us feel better to get that off of our chests, and here’s another mom who really gets it. The rest of the day is a little easier.
So, that brings us to this week. Here I am at a mom event, a play date, a meet up, an excursion or whatever you young moms are calling it now, and I am commiserating with another mom.
Me: So get this, I’m running my 9 year old to the bus because we are late! Again! And my 5 year old apparently thinks I’m leaving forever because she runs out of the house in the cold with no pants on screaming, “Mommy, don’t leave me!”
I chuckle and wait for her to bounce a story back to me.
Mom friend: (pensively says) That’s funny. But, yeah, how do you make sure they don’t go outside without you? My oldest can reach the door knob now and I’m a little worried about it. Did you keep your doors locked all the time, or did you have a talk with them about safety?
Ummmm. Ok. Not a funny story, but…
Me: I don’t know. I can’t remember if I locked the doors when the kids were younger. But mine are pretty obedient and it wouldn’t really occur to them to run out of the house without me. I think this time was like a one time thing.
Ok, now that’s out of the way – let the commiserating begin!
Mom friend: Your kids are pretty obedient aren’t they? I saw them holding hands in the parking lot this morning. At what age did they start doing that?
And then it hits me. Like a ton of bricks. We are not commiserating. She is asking me for advice! Which in and of itself is not a problem really. It’s kind of flattering actually. The problem is that I was seeing us as contemporaries and we were going to COMMISERATE! But what’s happening here is I’m the older mom! The more experienced mom. The mom she can go to with questions. I know these moms. I love these moms. I’ve peppered these moms with questions. The their children seem great, so they must be doing it right, so let me get some tips moms. But that’s not me! I’m not “older.” I’m a mom with young kids!
But then I glance over to this woman’s children, a three year old bashing blocks with a plastic hammer and an 11 month old gnawing on the corner of a board book. The rest of the room shows a similar story. The kids are teeny. Babies crawling around eating cheerios off the floor. Toddlers impulsively grabbing toys and shouting, “mine!”
My kids are 9 and 5. We haven’t eaten a board book in ages. My youngest can dress themselves, brush their own teeth, and pour their own milk (kind of). My oldest is reading chapter books and gets off the bus on his own. She’s right! I am the older mom!
There will be no commiserating. There will be no laughing release of tension at the end of this conversation.
I politely answer her questions, give her all the best tips and tricks I can remember. I let her know she is a good mom and doing her best. And then I get the hell out of there! I certainly don’t mind giving advice to the younger moms. Just not when I thought I was one of the younger moms!
I run home, pull out my phone and call one of my best mom friends for some real commiseration. “You are never going to believe what happened to me this morning!”