Lesson #5:

“I am God’s favorite”

Lesson #2 I spoke briefly about my “intentional parenting” that my husband and I actively practice with our daughter. I am in no way a professional, nor do I have 100 children to test these theories out on, but I can just tell you what we have learned (through trial and error) with our daughter. All of this stems really from my desire to create a positive inner voice and rock solid self-esteem. Recently, my brother decided that he would quit his job and move to Hawaii on nothing but a dream. When I asked him if he was scared, he simply replied, “Why should I be? I am God’s favorite.” I laughed at his response and then later on in the car it bugged me how I could not get this amazing sense of arrogance and self-love out of my head. My brother has a big personality and his filter is seldom engaged to his mouth, so I know what he said, hereally meant. Religion aside, I started thinking about how I want my daughter to adapt this sort of mentality. If someone says something nasty to her, I hope she is able to look at that situation with the same arrogance and self-love that my brother has. 

I wish I could emphasize how badly we wanted a daughter; we prayed for her and spoke about her like I was already pregnant. What would she look like? What kind of personality would she have? Maybe it was my hormones, but my joy quickly became fear. Instead of questioning what she would be like, I quickly began to think of all of the terrible things myself or female friends of mine had experienced and I started thinking “how can I protect her from…” If you think like that, you are bound to go crazy which I found out the hard way. I focused on what I wanted her to know about herself, how we would create the little voice inside of her head that would guide her through her life.The interesting parallel is that once you know who you are, no bully or difficult situation can defeat you. Meaning that many times in our life we get to the point of defeat and second guess who we are. Maybe we didn’t get that promotion or job offer and we start second guessing if we’re really qualified. Maybe we get called fat and we start to think that every time someone looks at us that’s all they see. Maybe our boyfriend just broke up with us and we’re not sure if we’re valued or capable of being loved. Whatever it may be, I want my daughter to be able to look in the mirror and seeexactlywhat I see: a big, smart, strong, silly little girl who is independent and brave.  So, below are the things my husband and I talked about when we started our “intentional parenting” journey with our daughter.

“You are big, smart, strong and silly.”

In my life, I have seen little girls called beautiful, cute, pretty a dozen times over and the effect that it had on them. Now, I think my daughter is one of the most adorable little ladies I have ever seen, but if you find affirmations in things that change then your self-esteem is based on something unstable. You will go through puberty and have acne, you will gain weight, you will lose weight, you will get wrinkles and stretchmarks and go through awkward periods of your life. What does not change and what I want my daughter to build her stability on is that she is big, smart, strong and silly. We do hand motions when we tell her each of these things just so she hears it and sees it and can be remembered easier. And my love, if someday you read these blog posts just know that you will be a grown woman and I will do those motions of big, smart, strong and silly to embarrass and remind me until you remember. Don’t tell me to stop, because I am not going to.

When she puts together a Lego set or helps me with dinner and is covered in flour, as much as I want to tell her how beautiful she is and how much I love the dimples in her cheeks – we tell her how smart she is and how she learned how to (fill in the blank!).  This is not to say that we don’t tell our daughter she is beautiful, because I can already hear the army of angry people in my head, but we never let the “cute” or “adorable” outweigh the big, smart, strong and silly comments.In Lesson #1 we talked about the five love languages and to an extent this applies to those affirmations. When you tell your spouse how smart they are for doing the family’s taxes or how considerate they are for fixing something around the house all of a sudden those affirmations become their own positive inner voice. I have spent years telling my husband how amazing his hugs are (seriously – you’re missing out) and now he will arrogantly tell me, to come get one of his hugs. I don’t say arrogance in a bad way, just that he has so much self-love that he knows.
If you have a child, what sorts of inner voice affirmations do you hope to instill in your child? If you do not, what inner voice affirmations do you wish you were told as a child?

Lesson #4:

Healthy boundaries

Ah, one of the parts of any relationship that I do not think we talk about nearly enough – conflict resolution. In a world of social media, we seldom post the bad times in our lives or even share with friends. Coincidently it is something that all of us can relate to. At my bridal shower all of the attendants were asked to put their best marriage advice down on a piece of paper and the night before we got married I would read them. In my opinion, they were full of terrible advice and advice that I had never thought of before (someone remind me to talk more about this!). One piece of advice was to never share conflicts between you and your husband with anyone other than each other. This felt very 1950’s back when couples argued in their room, after the children had gone to sleep and only quietly. In my opinion this has lead to a generation that has a false sense of what a relationship is. Coupled with movies, when we do not share how we resolve conflict or respectfully communicate in the heat of a disagreement we teach our children that it is abnormal to argue and that it isn’t love. I want my daughter to know that even when her father and I argue, or when her and I argue there is never a doubt in her mind that I love her. The act of loving someone is not easy and arguments are common, but it’s how we handle these arguments that set healthy boundaries and reinforce respect.

My husband and I started dating in high school and although there were many downsides (like getting off the phone at 10!) one of the greatest things that came out of this foundation with my husband was communication. We do what we call “temperature checks” within our marriage every few months to see where we can support each other better and where we want to focus our priority as an individual and a family. It’s really beneficial for us and I’d highly recommend it if you have never done it before. In any relationship, conflict is going to come up but I think it’s healthy for us to talk about how we manage it and move past it. It’s interesting to note that people always compare a marriage to a team but all teams have a common goal – can you clearly define what your goal is as a couple? Your short term/long term goal? If not, try doing a temperature check!

I vividly remember in the start of our relationship talking about certain “rules” we would have when we argued. The 5 that we agreed upon were:

  • Course of Action
  • No Name Calling
  • Sleep, Food and Air Conditioning to Reset
  • 3 Reasons Why
  • Unconditional is not just a word, it’s a verb

Just to jump right in, the very basis of all five rules is that in the event of conflict that we still respect each other. Sometimes arguments get so nasty that we stray away from rules (like wanting to call him a butt head) but these help keep the conflicts productive and respectful. All of these rules sound so simple, but in the event of passion and anger they keep us focused.

The first rule is that we try to never argue just for the sake of an argument. When we approach a topic that we know will get heated, we always have an end goal. If I am mad because his laundry has piled up in the bathroom for the last week, my course of action is that he needs to either put a hamper in the bathroom for him to use or that he needs to take off his clothes in our bedroom before he gets into the shower. This is just a very small example, but you see my point. We address each other’s issues and what we are going to do about them.

The second rule is that we do not name call. You wouldn’t call your boss at work all the names you want to, why would you feel it’s okay to call your spouse and partner names. It deflects from the issue on hand and any time names are being called people’s natural defenses build and the conversation is no longer productive. When you say something, you can’t take it back.

The third rule goes back to the marriage advice that we got at our bridal shower. I cannot tell you how many “never go to bed angry” messages I received from my attendants. We tried the “never go to bed angry” after our honeymoon and all we found it do was put this argument in a gigantic loop. Everyone has different triggers which cause them to be impatient and easily aggravated. For my husband, I know that it is him being hungry. If the man has not ate or his mind is on food – forget about anything that is said to him or what is said by him. Now that he and I both know that, he will tell me when he starts to get hungry and I am able to extend grace. Conversely, I am impatient and easily aggravated when I am tired. For other people, like my brother, I know that when he is hot all bets are off. If we are going through any of these triggers, the best thing we can do is sleep on it and if we wake up and it still bothers us (which 97% of the time it doesn’t) we address it. Basic human needs need to be handled first.

The next rule is what I affectionately call the “three reasons why.” As I mentioned previously, my Type A personality is a planner and when I make a decision I am often hardheaded to change my mind. During one of our temperature checks, my husband told me that he needed my support in attending different career training. My first reaction was anger and flashing before me of days spent away from home where I would be responsible for our family and household – alone. Sudden feelings of having to compete with a career suddenly turn off what he is saying and the conflict is no longer productive. So what we learned works for us, is to do our “three reasons why” we want to make a decision and as a wife I have had to learn that my way is not always the best way. It shows each other that this has been clearly thought out and allows each of you to address concerns appropriately. He told me he wanted to pursue this training because he felt like he was not confident with this part of his job, that this training would allow him the first step in pursuing a different department if he so chose (which would give him a more consistent schedule) and that by signing up rather than waiting for his boss to volun-told him would allow him the flexibility to pick which dates he would be gone. While it is never ideal for me to handle our responsibilities, alone I knew that he had given this thought and agreed.

The final rule is more of a reminder. When you say to each other you love each other unconditionally it is not just lovely language and I have found that being reminded of unconditional love at its purest is when it is most difficult to love. It is not an excuse to take advantage of a person, but rather a reminder that despite our disagreements and differences of opinion that we are a team. A team with a common goal. We may disagree and raise our voice or leave the room, but I never have to question if he will leave me because our love is unconditional.

Lesson #3:

Mind reading is the work of magicians, not men.

When you get married, you lay the baggage of your childhood at your spouse’s feet. You become your most vulnerable self and you build the foundation of your marriage on that. You look to your spouse in the eye and say that even after knowing all of their trauma and regrets – I love you. I’ve heard a few friends talk about how people change after marriage, and while I do not believe that to be all together true (maybe we just pay attention more once the parties and honeymoon are done) I think there is a sense of relief that comes when you are vulnerable. My husband is not an emotional person and if you ask his friends and family they will tell you that they have never seen him cry. He always masks a smile or a joke to cover up his feelings. I don’t remember a time where he wasn’t the class clown, but the truth is I see someone completely different. I know the man that balled his eyes out when the nurse said “Congratulations Daddy” in the hospital after our daughter was born. I know the man that was so upset after seeing something horrific at work, that came home and put his head in my lap and cried. As we grow older and further along in our marriages, maybe that seems as though your spouse as changed – try to see it as you have been trusted with seeing more of the real them.

My type A self, is a planner and I struggle a lot with asking for help. I know that in my marriage, the load is meant to be shared with my husband but oftentimes I feel like if I ask for help it means that I am not capable or worthy of the responsibility. I find comfort in pain and struggle in a strange way. For instance, I feel as though if I do not make sure that the house is picked up, the floors are mopped, the dishes are done, the laundry is prepared and the linens are clean and the house is ready for the next day I am not worthy of having this family to take care of. I would rather suffer hours of sleep and stress than tell my husband, “I need help.” It is a personality trait that I consciously try to work against and struggle with. The overwhelming need to want to take care of everyone and be the one who can be relied upon is due to my own childhood trauma.

I am not going to change overnight and I know this about myself. I am open with my husband about how I am feeling and he knows me well enough when to notice when I need him to carry the load until I can catch my breath. If I am being honest, most of the time I do not need to even tell him when I am overwhelmed. I will come home and dinner will be made, the house will be picked up, my laundry will be folder on my nicely made bed and my diffuser will have my favorite scents in it for when I go to sleep. This is my love language, like we talked about for Lesson #1, and I go from feeling like I am going to burst to being overcome with love.

Tonight, when you are talking to your spouse about your day I want you to ask them, “How can I help?” When they vent about work and all of the traffic they sat in and had to get home and rush to get dinner ready, what could you have done to help? When they response, use that response and recognize that you are in a partnership and are willing to carry the load. Sometimes people like me, have a hard time asking for help on our  own, but need to be prompted. It shows that it is not that they cannot handle their responsibilities, but more so that you want to carry them together. Whether that means you order a pizza while you are working late and your wife is running behind or you put the kids to bed. The best part of a marriage is the everlasting team you create.


Lesson #2:

OWN the dog food

I parent my daughter in a way that I call “intentional parenting” which is something I am looking forward to talking much more about in the future. When I am making a decision or responding to a question o f hers I try to be very deliberate in my response. There are so many different ways to parent and it feels like everyone has an opinion regarding EVERYTHING related to parenthood. I try to live my life without any judgment. I recognize that everyone comes from their own background with different expectations, culture and struggles than I do. I had never experienced real judgmental people before I became a mother. I am sure there were people who spoke behind my back about my relationship or career or family, but never to my face. I’ll never understand why a group of women who know how difficult it is to raise another human being, are so tough on one another.

When I had my daughter, it was hard for me to get dressed. I felt like I was constantly going and going, that putting on clothes or brushing my hair felt like a waste when I had so many other things to get done. My mother made me feel guilty, like if I didn’t immerse my child into social activities then she would be awkward and inept to handle elementary school. I decided one day to get dressed, put on deodorant and pack us up for the day to hang out with perfect strangers. I was nervous to meet new people and had come up with a handful of excuses why I couldn’t go. But I went. I sat in a room in the library with other babies, my daughters age, and listened to the other mom’s brag about how great their newborn was doing in swimming lessons, or how well they were at sleeping at night and how great cloth diapers were for their babies and the environment. It seemed like the more I listened, the more I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. My daughter screamed when I put her in the tub (let alone a POOL!), she would sleep for 4 hour stints and then would be up, I had chosen to use disposable diapers because the thought of doing any more laundry made me want to curl up in a ball. 

One of the little girls in our Mom’s Group, crawled up to her mother, Christine, and started to get fussy. Christine, obviously a little embarrassed that the other children were quiet while her daughter was having a meltdown, frantically went through her diaper bag until she pulled out a bag. Her daughter was thrilled and started to wave her arms in the air as she saw it. It was just about to glance down at my phone when I heard one woman say “did you really bring goldfish to feed your daughter?” Christine was pale as a ghost now, and started to stutter as she tried to explain to a group of mother’s acting like a bunch of detectives. The “detectives” dug in further questioning Christine about all of the chemicals and processed foods she is giving her daughter. Christine looked gutted and the longer I waited for Christine to stick up for herself the more mad I got. I didn’t want to step on Christine’s toes but I felt like I needed to step in. After about 5 minutes of listening to this interrogation I belted out, “my daughter at dog food yesterday – so at least this is human food.” Christine looked at me with relief as the women quickly changed the subject to talk about what everyone almost caught their children eating and less focused on the goldfish.

I sat in my car in the parking lot of the library with such anger. How could they be so judgmental and VOCAL? How could goldfish be so taboo?

I learned that if you OWN your struggles with parenting, no one can make you feel less without your permission. I OWNED that I am not the earthy crunchy mother who knows what her child is doing at all times – and yet I know that I love my daughter, I know that she is healthy and that I am trying my best. No one is making me feel guilty or unworthy without my permission. If anything, I can laugh at my struggles because she gets into all sorts of stuff! As soon as I put the struggle out there and accept it – their power goes away.

I just want you to know that you are doing an awesome job. If your kid has never seen a  television or if you need to put on the television every day for some peace. If you feel your kids the most organic, non-GMO delicious meals ever known to man or if your child has goldfish snacks. Just know, that a happy parent and a stable home is far more valuable then anything else in that child’s life. Do not give anyone the power to make you feel less than. OWN your struggles.

Lesson #1:

Shattering Expectations

I want to preface this blog by saying marriage is the most difficult and rewarding thing in my life. I want to create a dialogue and be able to share true struggles and successes with other likeminded people about love, family and the balance of it all. I mean it with every fiber of my being, the world is a better place because my husband is in it. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my soulmate and someone that I am oftentimes undeserving of. I got married at 22 and was in no place to listen to anyone in my life tell me about my marriage. My husband and I went through marriage counseling before our big day (shoutout to Pastor Bill!) and were hit with some difficult questions regarding what expectations we were coming into this marriage with.

I am a child of a very messy divorce and it has tainted the way I view love. At one point in my life I found myself being very untrusting towards relationships (much like a “how long until you’re gone” game.) and at the first sign of a struggle, I was gone. My husband and polar opposite, comes from a household where his parents have been together for over 30 years and divorce in his family is not as common and accepted as mine. In fact, I can’t think of a single family member that has not been divorced on my side.

My expectation, I learned, was a very romantic view of marriage. Probably because I did not have a stable marriage in my household I had to learn what marriage looked like through movies. I expected love to be effortless and blissful (like the universe brought two people together). I knew that once you got married, you created a family unit and I spoke during counseling about how he would make me feel every day. For those of you who have been married for a while you’re probably laughing. Romantic, but not probable. My husband, however, was much more of a realist. His expectation is that we were going to go through some dark days but that he would never have to question that we were a team and approached struggles together. His expectation was that we would kiss each other every day and that football games were non-negotiable parts of his life.

Okay, so he didn’t say the last part although we schedule our Sundays around when the Patriots are expected to play.

If you are engaged or married and haven’t done the 5 Love Languages test I strongly suggest you and your spouse do it. I had been with my husband for 7 years by the time we got married, and after taking the test I felt like something clicked-for each of us. My husband feels love by physical touch followed closely by words of affirmation. So when he tells me his expectation is that we kiss every day, he is really saying that he wants to feel loved every day even when we don’t like each other. My love language is quality time followed closely by acts of service. Could we be any more opposite? My expectation in a marriage is that we spend time together and that he show me he loves me in small ways like making the bed so I don’t have to or putting my favorite soda in the fridge so it’s cold when I want it.

The harmful thing about expectations is that oftentimes we are not honest with ourselves or our spouses about what we want. So this week I challenge you to take the 5 Love Languages test or share 5 expectations in marriage with your partner. Even if you assume they already know what they are, share them and as your partner shares don’t feel the need to respond, just listen and discuss how your expectations in love and marriage can be met – as a team.