Category Archives: women

Married with Kids – It’s OK Not to Like Your Spouse Sometimes.

This piece originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

This is what being married with kids looks like – sometimes you don’t like each other and that’s okay.

Sometimes, I think back to the first couple of years after my husband and I got married. It was so… easy. We didn’t fight like many newlyweds might, over who should take care of dinner or why there were clothes left on the floor next to the hamper. However, when we started having kids, we realized the times of things being quite that simple were over.

For starters, we were exhausted. Correction: we are exhausted. There hasn’t been a day (that wasn’t some sort of child-free vacation) that has gone by since 2012 that both of us have felt “well-rested”. Either one of us gets the rest, or neither of us do. Which, as you can imagine, leads to some stress in our household, and our relationship.

But what we’ve figured out (and learned from wise friends) is this: even though some days you don’t like each other, it’s important to still love each other, and furthermore, to show it.

You have to prioritize your marriage, even though in a lot (let’s be honest, most) situations, you’ve got to put your kid – or all your kids – first. Their needs seem more pressing (butt-wiping, feeding them, keeping them from falling off ledges, you know the drill) and so you neglect the other relationship in the household while you’re meeting the more immediate needs – or simply, the ones that are shouting at you more loudly.

You see, there are more than a few reasons to take care of your marriage, even when it means putting aside the other stuff for a little while at a time.

One of the most, if not THE MOST  important reason to show the love, spread the love, and take care of your marriage even after you have kids is because those kids are always watching.

You’re setting the number one example of a marriage in their eyes, and you want it to be a positive and healthy one, right? Set an example for them of the importance of marriage, the teamwork it requires, and the love that it stems from. Show them a healthy relationship so they know what it looks like. Even have healthy disagreements in front of them sometimes; they need to know about that, too. They don’t need to see only the “good stuff” or they’ll have unrealistic expectations. Healthy dialogue, PDA (yes, affection is important to show!) and the importance of spending time alone together are important things for your kids to know about!

Among the myriad of other reasons to nourish your relationship with your spouse, I think the next biggest reason is this: one day, your kids will be grown and live in their own homes, and it’ll be just you and your spouse. Again. Alone.

Don’t wait until then to try to fall deeper in love with your spouse.

Don’t wait until there’s not the glue of parenting young children binding you.

Don’t wait until your lives have been growing apart for years to really cherish your relationship with your spouse.

I won’t say that won’t work – but I will say I bet that it’s harder that way. Communicate with your spouse, about big stuff and small stuff. Practice honesty – even when it hurts.

Say “I’m sorry.” and “I forgive you.” Do the easier things too, like dating your spouse! Have date nights or early breakfast together. Chat on the phone when you’re in the car. Send sweet text message to each other during the day.

Take a weekend away somewhere from time to time if it’s possible for you. Those things aren’t reserved for “dating” relationships unless you let that happen. “Dating” your spouse is a way to rekindle, reconnect, and intertwine your lives again when you feel like you haven’t been so “together” recently.

Make time in your schedule and room in your heart for your spouse. Even when you’re exhausted, feeling frumpy, and thinking it’s the last thing you want to do. Chances are, you’ll be so glad you did. Make sure to kiss, to chat, to hold hands, and to have sex! Those things are important… Don’t let them wait until the kids are gone.

5 Books to Read and Love

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project at the beginning of the year. These books are still great, even if you’ve already kicked off this year’s reading venture!

Every year, I make a resolution to read more. I know it’s a common resolution, so I’m assuming a few of you out there made it this year, as well! Here are a few reads I’ve loved recently to get you started on your reading goal!

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley. What a beautiful, beautiful story this was! I grabbed it off the employee’s picks at Barnes and Noble, and I read it in less than two days. It’s the story of a woman whose mother was adopted, searching for her family history, not knowing what (and how much) she’d find. I loved the artistic influences there as well.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This mystery had me thinking about it all day, even when I wasn’t reading. Bernadette is lost somewhere, and it’s her daughter and husband’s job to track her down. Full of surprises and oddments, with a little drama, this book is one you’ll fly through, just so you can know how it ends!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. If you haven’t read this one, it’s a must! I love Moriarty’s books anyway (specifically What Alice Forgot) but this one is a book I couldn’t put down till I’d solved the puzzle. I encourage you to read before you watch the miniseries, if it’s on your list, too. The cast is great but there are some changes, so read first if you can!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I know this one isn’t remotely new – quite the opposite! This classic is timeless, and full of beautiful imagery. This year is the perfect time to read it, or REread it, since the movie comes out in March!

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. If you don’t know about Bunmi Laditan, look her up and give her a follow right now. She’s hilarious, and her novel is no exception! More horribly laughable things happen to the protagonist (a business woman-turned-stay-at-home mom) than you would think possible; you will literally laugh out loud!

AND! Coming out this year are some other books by authors we love, so keep a lookout for I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (I love her book This Must Be the Place) and You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfield (I love her book American Wife). There are also new books on deck from James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Danielle Steele, if you have been reading their books for years like I have! Good luck with your reading goals – and tell me what you like, so I can read it, too!

NEW BOOK! Mom Life: Perfection Pending

I have a friend I’ve met through writing online – not just any friend, but one who writes amazingly well, inspires me to be a better mama, and sometimes even publishes my work on her site (Heyyyyyy Meredith, thanks!). Just this week, she just released her first book! I couldn’t WAIT to share about it, so I thought I’d give her some love.

The book is called Mom Life: Perfection Pending (a nod to her website’s title). She writes about the imperfection of good moms everywhere… how we do the best we can, even through our failures and shortcomings, at the hardest task: parenting. It’s a read that’s relatable to everyone with a child of any age!

Here’s the Amazon link if you’d like to purchase it!

As always, you can follow Meredith Ethington on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for humor and a healthy dose of parenting realness.

PLEASE go read her book! I promise you will LOVE it! And don’t forget to buy a copy for a friend 🙂

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

lost and found.jpg
Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

Why Five Minutes Makes Me a Better Parent

This article originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

It’s overwhelming, this whole motherhood thing. I think back to the days of answering only to myself, and doing things only when I felt like it… I don’t necessarily miss those days, but I’d give a large sum of money for a day or two like that every once in a while.

When I get up in the morning, it’s usually to the sounds of (at least) one of the kids. Often, it’s the jabbering of my youngest, playing happily in his crib, knowing I’ll come and get him soon. Those days are so nice. I can go to the bathroom, wash my face, and drink a little water before I start the diaper change and breakfast hustle. But other days, I hear stomping on the stairs, drawers opening and closing, or even cries of, “He hit me!” or something similar. As you can imagine, that’s not quite as pleasant at start. Some days just begin in a more relaxing way than others.

I find myself, on difficult days, craving a moment to myself. That could be almost any sort of moment… for instance, I love the grocery store. I could take a mile-long grocery list to the store, alone, ideally with a cappuccino, and it would be the perfect hour: super productive, not a waste of time, but relaxing, and also delicious if I ended up with that fancy drink. Just to have that bit of time to myself to regroup is my biggest desire in a hectic day. I suppose that’s how the memes about moms eating chocolate while locked in the bathroom are born. Boy, can I relate.

But actually taking the minute to myself doesn’t happen as much as needing it does. If I end up – for whatever reason – pushing through my need for a break, I’ll just end up back feeling crazed again in another half an hour. If I don’t take the moment I need to center myself, zap my coffee and take a big swig, or sit down and zone out for a minute or five. I’m so driven by productivity and “getting things done so that I can relax later” that I rarely let myself take a few minutes for myself before the to-do list is finished.

I do know one thing, though. I can prevent the feelings of stress and anxiety from getting worse (and sometimes break that cycle entirely, if I’m lucky) by taking that time I need for myself sooner. Need a breather? Take one. Need to just sit down for a few minutes? Do it. Need three minutes to calm your brain and scroll through Instagram? That’s just fine. There are very few things on my “list” that won’t still be there in five minutes – including the kids. A mental break is just as important as a physical one, but sometimes I can’t pull my brain out of the frenzy unless I pull my body out of it, too. Sometimes, I even leave the house… I step out to the back porch, or walk to get the mail. Sunshine and fresh air are an immediate shock to my system when it’s bogged down by detailed-oriented tasks and grabby hands that need me. The way my home is set up, the kids are usually in the room that leads to the porch, and it’s full of windows, so I’m not exactly leaving them unattended. But I’m getting out of the situation enough to hear birds instead of the arguing, or to see sun and trees instead of the pile of laundry I was about to get to. Sometimes, even sitting down with the kids and watching Octonauts is a break. It interrupts their cycle of crazy when I redirect them to something else, and it interrupts my cycle of “can’t slow my roll” when I get in there for a snuggle.

So, if you’re like me, sometimes (often?) wound up tightly, pushing yourself through those moments of anxiety or frustration in the sake of thinking you can handle it – or worse, for the sake of productivity – then give yourself a break. Take that minute, or 5, or 10 that you need. Do whatever you need to do to find the time, sooner rather than later, to let yourself unwind. Drink your coffee while it’s still hot. Sit down to chat or snuggle with your child before you get started on the dishes. Sneak that candy bar in the bathroom! There’s no shame in the game of saving your own sanity. You do something for you, mama, and don’t feel bad about it.

Worthwhile Relationships

During the month of November, I’ll be participating in National Blog Post Month, where I’ll publish a post every single day. Sometimes, like today, I’ll use prompts. This one I wrote in about five minutes.

Today’s prompt: What are the most meaningful relationships in your life?

As a woman, I’m very relational. I have a LOT of relationships that I’m in, weaving in and out of closeness, but always talking, calling, texting, getting together with someone. I love feeling close to people, laughing, crying, sharing stories or hard things, just loving on and being with people. (Can you say extrovert?)

If you truly ask me to choose a most meaningful relationship, or the top 5, perhaps… I don’t think I could honestly do it. My no-brainer answer seems to be my husband. He’s the one that I know I’m stuck with (HAPPILY!) for the rest of my life, and come what may, he’ll be my person until we cross over into heaven – for which I am so grateful. He is amazing; he’s good to me, knows me well and loves me anyway. What more can I ask for?

But when thinking of other relationships that I’d put up there with my marriage, it starts to blur. I have three kids. I can’t very well prioritize one of those relationships with my other kids, right? I also have a Savior, who, admittedly, should’ve been the first relationship I mentioned, since that’s what He calls us to: relationship with Him. Reliance on Him. Love for Him. That should be my most meaningful… and it is, truly. It’s through my relationship with Him that I am given the ability to love, and the very love that I freely give to everyone else with whom I’m in relationship.

But after my familial unit relationships, I put great importance on my relationship with my original family unit: my parents and my brother. And grandparents, aunts and uncles with whom I grew up being close with my entire life, until I did “leave and cleave” to another family unit – whose relationships I also greatly value! And don’t even get me started on our close friends, their kids, our pastors, community group, co-workers at church, co-heirs and co-laborers in Christ’s Church! They are all of great importance to me. There are things to share with each other (not least of which is just sharing life together!) that I could just miss out on if I wasn’t willing and able to put myself in relationship with so many wonderful people.

So I suppose my real answer for the prompt is, well, all of them. All of my relationships are meaningful. Even if they don’t seem overly meaningful to me at this exact moment, they could be to the other person. And just that fact makes me value them a little more. Those people close to me, whom I see and talk to and do life with, those are my most meaningful relationships. Those are the relationships, all 30 or 40 of them, that I value the most, that I make the effort to develop, and that I would be horribly sad to see ended.

Growing Pains

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

The past couple of weeks have been a little tough on my family. We’re facing some growing pains of a particular kind. Our schedules have all changed, due to having our two younger children at one (pre)school, and our eldest child at elementary school. Our toddler is potty-training and teething. Our family is an integral part of a church launch, which is taking much of our emotional and spiritual efforts, if not those in the physical sense. Our jobs are more demanding, somehow, in addition to these other things, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit we’re suffering a little for it all.

Thankfully, these growing pains are all for good reason. They’re happening because we’re involved in sowing seeds, we are in the business of nurturing life, and we are experiencing a fine harvest. And yes, those things can all be happening at the same time.

Life is full of seasons, but within a family, there can be sowing and reaping simultaneously. We are sowing seeds of learning and a love for education in our daughter as she begins kindergarten. My husband and I are sowing as well into our professional lives, putting in extra hours, collaborating with our colleagues, and making more plans. We are nurturing our toddler as his body grows and changes. We are experiencing a beautiful harvest with our church family as we expand our congregation and launch a new campus, welcoming a new community to become a part of the Lord’s work as a part of our century-old church.

Growing pains are a sign that you are living life fully and well. You cannot experience growing pains by remaining stagnant, lying dormant, or settling. Sitting and waiting on something to happen to you isn’t the way to grow. Of course, there are seasons for rest, but we were created to be workers, to toil the land, and to rule over and take care of the earth. That’s literally the reason God created Adam (Genesis 1:28, 2:15) and it’s in our very design! Toiling as builders, as growers, as shepherds, as healers, as parents… these things are in our DNA, and they’re what our Creator divined for us. Great things that happen are almost always preceded by work – whether we worked for it, or God has done the work for us.