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In Pursuit of Perfection

In Pursuit of Perfection

Let me start this post by saying, “I’m a perfectionist.”

Yep. I’m a perfectionist, always have been. And I am about to admit to you that I AM NOT PERFECT.

I’m learning to live with it.

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Society in general is pretty obsessed with perfection. We want perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect lives. Messy relationships, screaming kids, stretch marks, boring jobs…not exactly the “American Dream.”

But the idea of perfection has been taken to a whole new level with women. As women, as mothers, as wives – we are held to ideals. We are supposed to be beautiful, skinny, smart, sexy. We are supposed to be Wonderwoman of the PTA, June Cleaver of the home, and alluring in the bedroom. Not only does society push these ideals on us, but we push them on ourselves and each other (aka, “Mommy Wars”).

This pursuit of personal perfection is what I really want to touch on. This is something I have been working on within myself. As Birth Without Fear has turned a spotlight onto self-love, I have noticed my biggest issues. (I know, not the core of self-love, but hear me out). I have found that the biggest way I am cheating myself is in this idea that I should be perfect. Not only should I be perfect, but I need to prove it to the world.

I have a Pinterest account with almost 1,400 pins.

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I mean, REALLY? When am I ever going to get around to doing 1,400 things? Most of which are focused on cute/non-essential things. Sure, about 150 pins are birth related. About another 150 are homeschool related. But other than that…basically it is one big to-do list for me. That is around 1,000 things that I felt the need to remind myself to do. And when I accomplish one of them? This is what I do:

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Yes, that is my fridge. I put baskets in it, because Pinterest told me to. Now granted, it really did help keep the fridge in order. But honestly, did I have to prove myself to Facebook? Did I have to let everyone know that my fridge was clean? Several days after posting this, a thought hit me. “What if I made someone else feel like they need to clean their fridge?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all stop posting photos of those moments when the laundry room is finally clean, or the walls get a new coat of paint. But I do think that we create a paradox here. If we only post photos and statuses of when we have out “$hit together”, we are telling ourselves we are only allowed to share our perfect selves. And that is not self-love.

I take pictures of my kids all the time, most moms do. But only a fraction are posted to Facebook or shared with family. Sometimes it is due to the blurry capture of a running child, or the fact that I have already posted a million things that day. But usually the biggest reason I decide not to post something? You can see a mess in the background. You can see crumbs on the carpet or the dingy soapscum in the bathtub. You can see the dishes I have not washed or the toys that seemingly procreate each night while we sleep. I don’t post the photos because I don’t want you to know that we have a mess in the house…a house with a three year old and six month old and two not-so-neat adults.

Who am I helping when I don’t share those photos? Surely not my children who are adorable and love taking pictures. Surely not my family who would love to see photos of every little thing we do. And I am not helping myself or you either. For myself, I am just reminding myself, “Damn, I haven’t vacuumed yet. This place is so gross.” And for all of you out in Facebook land, I am only showing the most perfect side of my life. As far as you know, my house is always spotless and my kids are always dressed nicely. And then you turn around and judge yourself by those standards, whether you realize it or not.

To give an example, lets look at a common mommy subject – potty training. I have majorly struggled with this within myself (with admitting my three year old is not potty trained, not that I can’t use the potty 😉 ). What is the one thing we usually hear most? “Oh, my child was potty trained at 10 months!”, “Oh, we were diaper free all the time, even for bed, by the time he turned two!” And you know what, if that was your kid that is GREAT! I would be excited too! I mean, who really loves diapers? But you really don’t see a mom say “My three year old refuses to poop in the potty and hates underwear.” Why? Because society in general has told us that there is something wrong if a child doesn’t “get” the potty at an early age. Not only are our mothering skills brought into question, but we also think someone might judge our child too. And so, we don’t share and we don’t ask for help or maybe we even tell a little white lie about how well the potty learning is going. And then we unknowingly add to this idea that all kids are potty trained by “x” age.

I find myself not sharing certain photos of me baby-wearing simply because the straps pushed my love handles into view. I go as far as deleting a photo totally if my REAL smile is caught on camera because I am really insecure about my teeth. I am striving to help other women feel inspired and beautiful and I am striving to teach my children to love themselves just as they are. Meanwhile, I am deleting photos of myself or hiding my love handles. I am not going to become skinny or have better teeth by doing this…but I am going to slowly wear down my self esteem. I am not living honestly.

We do this to so many things in our lives. I catch myself judging myself in all these little ways so often. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I am striving to not only recognize these moments but to also push my boundaries a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, if I post that photo of my adorable toddler dancing complete with crumb covered carpet some other mom won’t feel so alone in her struggle to keep the crumbs away. Chances are, most people won’t even notice the carpet because my son is stealing the show with his amazing smile. I am going to focus on the fact that *I* made that kid smile…hell, I MADE that smile, literally. I created that ball of joy. Screw the carpet.

Permission to Love the Imperfections

Permission to Love the Imperfections

When I got pregnant with my first baby 10 years ago, I was so excited to have a homebirth. I was fully committed to natural childbirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and being an awesome mom. When my son was born, I realized quickly that I loved birth so much that I wanted to become a doula. I read all the books I could get my hands on, went to doula training and attended births. I soon became a certified doula. My main goal: a natural, intervention free birth, beautiful breastfeeding, and happy moms and babies. Many people would say, “Awesome!” After all, if I was busy being an awesome mom, I also needed to be an awesome doula, right? I kept track of all my statistics on natural vs epidural births. I wrote out birth stories for my clients, trying to put a positive spin on interventions, and spent countless hours helping moms breastfeed. Over the course of several years, I continued to support families as a doula and build my own. I soon had 4 children, three of whom were very small. I had nursed two toddlers while pregnant. I still had three children sleeping in my bed. When I went to the mall, I wore two in my mei tais and chased after another. I was an awesome mom and an awesome doula.

So why didn’t I feel like one?  Why did I feel like I was drowning?

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I slowly began to realize that my awesome mom status had very little to do with what I did. I started realizing that I wasn’t really taking care of me, of my marriage, and that caring for my children in a way that made me sacrifice my well being wouldn’t work out well in the long run. When I started to re-evaluate my life, I also started taking a closer look at my job as a doula. I had been photographing births for years, but not seriously. At this point, I decided to forego birth stories completely and replace them with photographs. When I was hired as a doula, I was also hired as a birth photographer.  I started to see births as they were, not how I imagined or hoped they would be.  You can’t hide things as easily in a photograph. Not long after, I started photographing births where I wasn’t the doula. I saw families excited about C-sections! I saw families happily snuggled up with their 2 hour old newborn while they bottle fed her. I saw families go through what I would have considered a tragic birth and walk away elated. My exhaustion as a mom was at it’s peak, my marriage was falling apart and everything I knew to be true and “best” about birth was being put into question.

I felt like a superhero who had lost her cape.

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I won’t say it happened overnight, but I started to shift my thinking. I started to give myself permission to leave my clingy toddler for 30 minutes so I could exercise. I allowed my husband and I to hire a baby sitter for two hours so we had time for our marriage. I allowed myself the ability to enjoy a birth that was full of interventions. I happily congratulated moms who planned a C-section. I stopped trying to convince my doula clients to switch care providers. What I soon realized was that it was never about how something was done. It was always about how you feel about something. If I am breastfeeding but feel angry or resentful towards my baby or spouse or mother-in-law, I am not doing what is best. If I fall into deep depression because I am so sleep deprived sleeping with my baby, I am not doing what is best. If I tell a friend who is planning a scheduled C-section, or bottle feeding, or enrolling her child in kindergarten, or buying them McDonalds not to because I see those things as wrong, I am not doing what is best. And lest anyone worry that I don’t buy my kids McDonalds, you can rest assured that I do. I am human, after all. What I found through all of this was that I wasn’t any less of a person because I bought my children McDonalds. My belief system hadn’t changed, but I had given myself permission.  Permission to love myself.  Permission to love others and to be empathetic to them wherever they were.

Permission to love a completely imperfect picture of my dirty, fighting children who dressed themselves and who had just finished eating sugar cereal.  And to share it online.  And love it.

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We were all born with the ability to choose right and wrong. We were also born with the capacity to decide what is right and what is wrong. You can argue that there are biological or religious truths. You can say that we were created to be a certain way or do a certain thing. The fact remains that there will always be someone on the other end saying you are wrong. Ultimately, it is only your truth. And it is perfectly ok! It is just fine to look at your beliefs and hold strong convictions about them and design your life around them and then live that way. It is not ok to force others, belittle others, judge others, or push others into doing the same. And it is also ok to look at your own life and decide that maybe something isn’t working.

We live in an age where we are connected to others in so many ways. We have social media and email and phone. We blog about our experiences and share our daily trials on Facebook. What happens is that people are far more intimately involved in our lives! And sometimes in a very non-direct way. They think they have the right to say things they would never otherwise say to our faces. We share a beautiful image of our family and it goes viral and all of a sudden people are commenting on our parenting choices! Never in any other time has this been the case. So what does that mean? It means we need to start loving each other. We need to start caring for the person behind an image. We need to stop worrying about how a baby comes into the world and worry more about whether it is loved and cared for. We need to stop worrying how a baby is fed and worry instead about making sure it is actually being fed! We need to accept all families in their unique forms and circumstances and beliefs and traditions. We need to love the diversity that is around us and that makes us who we are.

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I think above anything else, we need to love ourselves. We need to not compare ourselves to others. Learn to be authentic and true to who we are, but first love ourselves. One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, writes, “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”

When we can step outside our own little box and look at the world through the eyes of others, we not only get to see the world in a new way, we get to see ourselves in a new way. It can transform you… usually for the better.

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Bio:

Elizabeth Boyce is first and foremost the mother of five beautiful children and wife of one amazing Husband.  She is also owns Earth Mama Photography, a fine art portrait and documentary studio located in Dallas, Texas.  She is still an “earth mama” and enjoys bare feet, long skirts, and all things tie dye, but isn’t afraid to feed her kids fast food.  You can see more of her work at www.earthmamaphotography.com

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Don’t Argue About Our Differences…Celebrate Them!

Don’t Argue About Our Differences…Celebrate Them!

We don’t judge how you birth. We care that you are respected and supported. We don’t get worked up over how you parent the small things. Each family is unique and we love that. Who cares if you have an elf in your house reporting back to Santa (ours is named Didi and we love her). Or for that matter if you don’t ‘do’ Santa. It’s nothing to argue about!

What we do care about is that you have the information and support you need and that you love your babies. We encourage you to cherish each beautiful day you are blessed with and we want to inspire you during the hard days…we all have them. We love each one of you. Instead of arguing over our differences, we celebrate them! Because that is what life is…small moments coming together and becoming memories.

~January

*Picture: “This was sebastians first “portrait” after our awesome VBAC.” ~Bekah

Mommy Blog Reading

Mommy Blog Reading

As I step back from Facebook, I have a little more time. OK, a lot more time. It’s so nice. Playing with the kids more, catching up on picture files, writing more, getting to bed earlier and reading blogs. You remember how blogs were the rave before Facebook became popular? Now they are popular only if shared through Facebook. Well, I’ve been reading really great blogs the last few days and I’ll share some of my favorites with you.

The first one is this blog post by Rachel Held Evans. Believe it or not I am not a fan of social media or the ‘mommy wars’. I hate it actually. I think Facebook is internet high school on steroids. Rachel’s blog post puts our mommy wars in perspective with real mommy wars that other women are going through.

As Rachel points out, “For while we argue about stroller brands and family size, millions of women are engaged in a different kind of mommy war, fighting with every decision of every day for the very survival and future of their children. “

Read the whole post. It’s worth the 5 minutes.

The next blog has inspired me exactly where I need. A Bushel and A Peck is written by One Thankful Mom of 11 kids, biological and adopted, but all hers. She home schools them all with the support of her husband. She is wise and compassionate.

I am looking forward to learning from her. As many of you know, I feel women can learn so much from other women that have been there before them. Motherhood is hard. We need to share and support each other!

Lastly, I’ll share a blog that is giving me great ideas of things to do with my kids. I love to create and want to be more hands on with the kids again. Just 3 1/2 years ago I only had 2 kids and now I have 5! I’m finding my groove once more and Chasing Cheerios is helpful. I can’t wait to do the ‘toys in ice’. So simple, yet entertaining and fun!

What are some of your favorite blogs?

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