Here is a little flashback montage of Betsy and I, we worked for a campus ministry together so there was a LOT of dressing up for theme nights-- which are a clean version of a sorority social!
|And one picture of us looking normal, just as a reference|
Today I told Betsy that I have started noticing I do this super annoying thing, I give a lot of unsolicited advice. For instance, a great friend came to visit a few weeks ago and I could not stop offering my opinion on things. What the best diaper brand is, how to sleep train, my newest recipe for baked chicken, why I stopped wearing flip flops (no time for pedicures!), where to buy the best almonds. Who even knows what I was talking about half the time?! I couldn't stop!
If you have ever been in a group of women, particularly parents, you might notice that person, the outspoken lady who has her two cents to say about every topic. Having become that sort of person myself, I would nothing more than to tell you why some people can't keep their thoughts to themselves! Because that is my new M.O.
I'll start by sharing an example and a chance to give you a piece of advice. Last week I tried a recipe that was awesome-- baked apples by a favorite blogger Mix and Match Mama. I bought an apple corer 2 years ago and finally had a little bit of motivation to use it as this recipe sounded so easy. No added sugar (aside from maple syrup) and all the ingredients were in my cupboard: apples, oatmeal, pecans and raisins. My kids helped me without creating a mini-food tornado in the kitchen, and it tasted amazing. It was even safe for my baby to eat and he gobbled it up.
Being home alone with the kids, I sometimes don't even notice how desperate I feel to share life with another adult. My husband can only get THIS MUCH excited about the baked apples I made 8 hours ago-- and didn't save any for him,--when he walks through the door at night. No other adult was in the room with me to chime in and say, "Wow, Ally you really nailed this recipe! How nice of you to try something new for the joy of your children!" Instead I got 3 and 4-year-old feedback like, "Why is it mushy? This makes me thirsty for milk! Mackie got more than me! I dropped mine on my shirt!"
Since I have all the time in the world for self-reflection, sarcasm! --I see that for me, my advice giving comes out of a desire to really connect with other women and not knowing how. Rarely am I listened to around the house. I spend all day figuring out laundry systems and mastering crockpot meals with no one to share my hard won victories with. It takes 10 conversations to make my 3-year-old aware that I'm asking him to pick-up his toys. My daughter takes great joy in doing the same things over and over again that I've asked her not to do, especially picking up the baby! And Archie is oblivious to my voice except when I mention the words "dada" or "bottle" so really I am 0/3 for active listening in my house.
Spending your day issuing unfollowed instructions gets a little old, but ah, such is parenting. It is a new world to interact with others who might not only listen to you but also respect and glean "wisdom" from your thoughts!
This advice heaping definitely was not true about me with baby #1. I was the ultimate advice SEEKER. I read books, I texted friends, I googled all day and all night. Now that we have 3.5 kids, I am for real no more confident. The view that moms with more kids have it more together is a total joke. If anything, we are more clueless because the differences in our kids baffle us and just leave us with more questions than answers! My quest to share things with the world is totally not coming out of a place of pride and confidence, it is much more a desire to engage with other women and actually hear my own voice.
Surely, God is with me, helping me create a life for my family and championing my every move. He holds mamas like in high regard, scoffing at the world's lowly view of the housewife and using our tinniest sacrifices in ways that seem mostly invisible. His promise to use me is a soothing balm to my anxious worries that I'm not a good enough mom, that there is no point in cleaning messes that will be made again, and that my kids will be selfish and whiny until the end of time.
But too, I think God might understand that sometimes-- we just want to be good at something. We need a little win, and a pat on the back. Since nobody is going to pull you aside at the end of the quarter and give you a raving peer-review, offer you a year-end bonus, give you an office "perk", or tell you you got a promotion and bonus, I tend to settle for sharing things on social media and hoping friends engage me with comments and likes.
I forget that there is no replacement for instead being that soft place to land for another friend, being the one to listen and not judge, to receive her worries and concerns and help her carry her burdens through a little encouragement and a sympathetic ear. When I imagine the type of friend I long to be and am working towards, I think of a person who is at peace with all her frettings and failures and has learned to silence them in order to better hear the ones she loves.
But for now, I am still taking the unsolicited advice route-- if I don't stop myself soon, I can totally see myself as one of the older ladies hovering around small children at the grocery store, reminding mothers how quickly it all passes-- and shouldn't that baby be wearing socks? It is a good reminder that those women often aren't judging you, they are doing their best to connect in an otherwise lonely world. Perhaps you are the only person that will interact with them that day so please smile, give a nod, and if they ask you in a sassy tone: "Are all of those children really yours," cheerfully smile and tell them you and your husband just have a lot of sex!