Her View From Home: 3 Ways to Love Your Husband Again (and again)

When Jason and I were first dating, he took me to a local creek that winds its way through a narrow canyon. It’s idyllic there, perfect for conversation and a picnic lunch. We found a pebbled beach and spread out a quilt. After cold sandwiches and fruit, we inched close, gazing at each others’ faces. This is what you do when one of you grows up evangelical and the other Lutheran; you get close enough to touch, and then you stare.

Jason flashed a half-smile and breathed, “Wow.” I braced for one of those compliments that gave me goosebumps. “I never noticed,” he began, “how much hair people have on their faces.”

Yeah.

See, this man who became my husband is a sweet guy with no lack of guileless charm, but every once in a while, he says something like that. He was close enough to see my cheeks’ peach fuzz; I was now close enough to see his foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Head over to Her View From Home to read the rest of my post there!

Motherhood Made Me a Bad Citizen

Motherhood tends to get a gauzy filter in our art and folklore. Mothers use their instincts and sensible haircuts to become superhumanly patient, staid, wise, and—above all—model citizens. Who better to run the local charities, school fundraisers, and safety rallies than a mother? 

Well, I’m calling it on my own transformation into the suburban example of good citizenship. Before having kids, I was polite, on time, put together, and generally even-keeled. Now I feel lucky if I’ve had enough sleep to remember the socially acceptable responses to “how are you today?” Here are the ways motherhood has made me a worse citizen. 

emilyfisk.com

1. Sometimes I litter

I saw a Snapchat rant the other day about how someone found a dirty diaper on the floor in the changing station stall of a public bathroom. My initial thought was immediate sympathy for the mom who likely dragged one or more screaming children out of a public bathroom after performing an operation roughly equivalent to wrestling a ball gown off of and then back onto a chimpanzee—while keeping said chimpanzee from touching any surfaces. If a diaper rolls and gets left behind in the process, there's a decent chance I might also leave it in the name of my mental health. (Also, I get it. I would have been all over that rant pre-kids. Because ewwww diapers.) 

2. I don't always return my cart

I used to be a model citizen when it came to returning my shopping cart—only lazy people don't make that walk back to the cart return, right? These days, it doesn't take much to convince me to leave it. No parking spot near the cart return? Given the choice, I’ll put that cart discreetly to the side before hauling my 30-pound, late-for-her-nap toddler across the length of the Costco parking lot while dodging angry fellow shoppers. This has become especially true as I enter my third trimester of pregnancy with baby number two. It just isn’t going to happen. 

3. I now speak fluent “no”

There was a time that I had a fairly high discomfort level with declining requests and invitations. Whether it was volunteering for an event, putting in a few extra hours at work, or attending a fundraiser, I was generally your gal for an obligatory "yes" and a begrudging extra mile or two. These days, I reserve that yes for myself and my family first—and everything else comes in a distant second or third. 

4. I’m chronically late

It's a well-documented phenomenon that science has yet to explain, but young children and babies have an uncanny ability to sense when you're in a hurry and time their most impressive bowel movements, tantrums, and existential crises accordingly. For the first year of my daughter's life, I felt genuinely stressed and ashamed of my unfashionably-late arrival times, but now I warn people beforehand to expect my tardiness—especially to morning functions. 

5. I'm more outspoken

You can decide whether this makes me a worse or a better citizen in the long run, but I've found I have a tougher time keeping quiet about injustice, unfairness, and cruelty in the world now that I'm a parent. I used to stay silent when acquaintances and strangers and even friends put down other individuals, groups, or ethnicities, but now I feel an obligation to leave this world better for my kids (I hope). My sense of justice got a major shot in the arm the day I became a mother. 

I know someday I'll be out of the topsy-turvy years of babies and toddlers and drool and spit-up and diapers. I'll probably get a little bit of that old politeness back when I have more brain power, more sleep, and fewer spaghetti-o stained shirts. In the meantime, I'll count my duty to society admirably fulfilled by doing my damndest to raise kind, respectful, hard-working kids to be a part of the next generation.

Present Parenting When Real Life Hurts

Some days parenthood is downright Instagram-worthy. 

On those days, my toddler's world is an attractive one, and I'm a willing participant in the play-doh creations and the ABC repetitions. I love the days that start with cuddles and coffee and end with bedtime stories and slow-breathing slumber. There are plenty of these days, and being home with my daughter has given me an appreciation for the slow, steady, magical pace of childhood. 

But then there are the days when real life comes knocking. The bills, the what-ifs, the lay-offs, the uncertainties, the decisions, the news. The washing machine malfunctions; the check engine light glows. I've been solidly stuck in those kinds of days recently. These days, I struggle to bridge the divide between my adult world of harsh realities and her world of childhood play. 

When I'm worried and stressed, anxious and upset, grieving and frustrated, it feels impossible to find any satisfaction in yet another walk to the park. Real life co-opts the joy of motherhood too often. It's then that my patience dries up and I just wish she'd join my world; that she'd get it and wallow in the self-pity with me. 

But then, the last thing I want is for her to understand my world. Not yet, not so soon. She doesn't understand—that's why she's plaintively requesting "pool" and "ball" and another sixteen pushes on the swings. She'll someday know the weight of the weary adult world, but for now, joining her world is the best therapy I could ask for. 

Even if all I can muster on some of these real-life days is reading books on the couch, snuggled too close in the sticky heat, her reality is a blessed soother if I welcome it. And if I'm honest with myself—if I lay aside my assumptions and expectations—I know that the real-life days are more frequent than the magical days and that living in this messy in-between with her is a sacred thing. 

"The Better Angels of Our Nature" and How I Cope When the World Feels Dark

A familiar scene played a few nights ago. I lowered my swollen, pregnant body into my memory-foam mattress, arranged my pillows with effort, and connected my iPhone to its power source. Before switching to night mode and setting my alarm, I saw my final notification of the day: a reminder of another disaster, more dead children, the latest rash of violence. 

I swiped fast and locked the screen. I can't read more today.

There won't be sleep now; not in the immediate future. There will only be grief, guilt, elevated heart rate, breathless prayer. I'll hold my belly, I'll stare at my sleeping toddler over the baby monitor, I'll imagine it was my children lost, my city blown to rubble, my shopping mall desecrated by violence. It feels too close—always too close. 

...

I attended an intriguing lecture three or four years ago by Steven Pinker, an experimental psychologist and Harvard professor. His premise: violence is declining, and humanity is safer now than it has ever been. 

I remember him often, his insistence that humanity is becoming more civil. He talked about the "better angels of our nature," telling a room of undergrads and graduate students that, as a species, we were on the upswing. His words feel hollow nearly every day when those notifications and news updates flash across my screen, even though he backed them up with an 800-page book and extensive, impressive research. But the thing I remember most about his lecture is this: the average person knows more today about the violence happening around the world than we ever have—and it might not be good for us. 

Pinker notes that media—particularly the internet—has created an always-on stream of bad news, and our bodies don't know how to differentiate between real and immediate threats and those happening thousands of miles away. We used to know what happened in our house, in our neighborhood, and our county. National and international news were slower coming, more filtered, less immediate. It's not that we didn't have fears; it's that the fears we had were much closer, more immediate—they were things we could ostensibly exert some control over.  

...

I never feel less in control than when I read the news. I never feel smaller, less powerful, less able to change a damn thing about this dark world. And what's worse, I can't escape from the news. Not because I can't power down the phone, delete the New York Times app, or filter my Facebook feed. I can't because I think I shouldn't. 

Here's my confession: I hold a mistaken belief that the world needs my pity, my tears, and my bleeding heart—that my heartbroken iPhone scrolling does something. I can't look away from those updates because the least those aching, hurting individuals deserve from me is my tears. But that's just it: that's the least they deserve. 

How I Cope When the World Feels Dark

I'm calling my own bluff. Reading the news—rather, inundating myself with the headlines—doesn't make me a better person or help a single soul. It might assuage my guilt at lying down every night next to a living husband, down the hall from a safe, sleeping child; healthy, happy, whole. But it doesn't help the people around the world who don't get to do that. Instead, it makes me far less able to love my own family or do something for my neighbors or—here's a thought—do something for global victims of violence and oppression. 

I've decided it's time to unfollow the bad news.

It's time to rid my daily life of updates that remind me of things I can't control. I know I'll still hear about them, but I'll be able to control how and when rather than being assaulted by bad news through groggy eyes every morning. I know that I know that this simple act will make me more present with my family. 

But that's not all I want to do. I want to start being more intentional about sharing, spreading, and being the good news. I recently started following Branden Harvey, a friend of a friend who has an incredible role as a good-news teller. He's a fellow story-lover, and what he says resonates strongly with me: "I love telling stories filled with hope, joy, justice, and love because I trust that those stories hold the power to change the world." He even has a good newsletter, a weekly email dedicated to uplifting, positive news stories. The headlines never read "Thousands of Flights Land Safely," or "Countless Babies Born Healthy" or "Billions Didn't Starve Today"—but maybe they should.

So here's the good news in my life this week: 

A friend's baby was born, early and traumatically—but alive and thriving. We brought them a meal and marveled at that tiny miracle. 

My daughter fell down a flight of stairs headfirst—and escaped with hardly a bruise. 

A talented fellow writer received word that two of her pieces are being published. 

A local fire was contained before it could engulf several neighborhoods. One house was lost, and the community is rallying to support the family. 

It might seem cheesy or insincere or kitschy. Maybe focusing on the good makes you feel less active, less aware of the world around you. But let me tell you how it makes me feel: able to go on, empowered to help heal, ready to join other humans in world-changing. And that's worth it. 

Let's Talk Modern Mothering: I Need Your Help!

Why do modern parents get picked on so much? Are we really the worst, the most contentious, the least prepared? Are we truly the authors of the "Mommy Wars," or are we just caught in the crossfire of an opinion machine called the internet?

It happens every day. Every single day. 

My daughter will slip around the corner out of my sight, and two clickbait headlines run through my thoughts: “Helicopter Moms Ruin it For Everyone: Just Let Your Kid Play Alone” and “It Only Takes a Few Seconds: The Tragic Way This Toddler Died.” 

Later in the day, she’ll want grapes. I’ll debate how thoroughly I should wash them, and there are more headlines: “All Grapes Full of Toxic Pesticides” and “Modern Parents Need to Stop Obsessing About Stuff Like Organic Grapes.” Oh, and then I have to decide whether to cut them in half, because: “Toddler Chokes to Death on Uncut Grapes” and “Stop Cutting Your Kids’ Food for Them.” 

In the evening, she’ll take a bath. I’ll walk into the hallway to grab a towel, with more articles ringing in my head: “Expert Says ‘Never Walk Away From Your Bathing Children’” and “In the 70s, I Bathed Myself From the Age of Two.” 

None of these articles are real, of course. But plenty of them could be. My reality as a modern mother is a daily bombardment of “information”—often in the form of opinion. It’s part of what it means to be a modern parent—it’s just one piece of what makes my generation’s experience of parenthood different than previous generations. Sifting through and filtering out are vital to replacing the noise with your own knowledge and instincts. 

///

I’ve sat down at my computer multiple times in the past few months to write and instead stared at a blinking cursor. I’ve been overwhelmed by what I’ve wanted to say. 

I want to write about modern mothering; I want to explore why it's hard, and why today's mothers face different but the exact same challenges as generations before. I want to defend my generation for doing our best, but I also wanted to encourage current parents to look critically at the norms of modern parenting—to cut through the noise and embrace what matters. I want to elevate the voices of my fellow parents and listen to our elders with a respectful ear while pushing back against stereotypical pigeon-holing of all generations of parents. I want to encourage mothers across generations to unite together in the reality that parenting is hard, and we're all doing our best. 

Whew, that's a lot to want. (#alsoworldpeace) I immediately realized I couldn't do all of this alone.

This got me thinking: what did my mother worry about when she was parenting young children? I know she asked the same questions I ask every day: do they know I love them? Are they healthy? Am I preparing them for life? We're not so different, we parents of different generations. 

Here’s a life maxim I’ve found to be true: when we sit down and talk honestly, with respect for each others' perspectives, we usually come to realize we're startlingly alike—and the differences we do have are kind of beautiful (yes, we can all start singing Kumbaya and We Are the World now). That's why I decided to start this "Let's Talk Modern Mothering" series, which I'll be drafting, collecting, and editing throughout the summer to publish in the fall.

About the Series

Let's Talk Modern Mothering: A Series on Made of Stories

I'm passionate about elevating the voices of individuals. I think stories matter—I think we're all made of stories. When I began confronting the complexities of generational differences between parents, I realized the answer wasn't in data, social trends, or generalized assumptions about how we "all" parent; the answer is in the stories. We're not statistics, we're not "what's trending," we're not all the same: we're mothers, and we're doing our best. 

This fall, I'll be featuring the stories of mothers across the generations here on the Made of Stories blog. But before that starts, I need your help. I'll be using the summer to collect these stories through a survey I've created. Would you help me capture the stories of mothers by taking and sharing this survey

The goal of this series is to let mothers speak for themselves, to gather and feature the voices of mothers from different generations and put them in conversation. I imagine daughters sharing the survey with their mothers—and instead of focusing on whether we put our children to sleep on their backs or their fronts, talking about the universal worries, joys, and pain of motherhood. Stories have a uniting quality that data and methods never provide. 

This fall, I'll be compiling and sharing some of the stories from this survey, as well as the voices of other modern mothers like myself. I hope you'll be a part of it through this survey, and later through our Instagram community using the hashtag #letstalkmodernmothering. 

If you want to stay informed about the Let's Talk Modern Mothering series, sign up for my email updates! 

Sign up for email updates

* indicates required