Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Motivated by MotherStyles

MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths has truly been an answer to prayer for me. Since I’ve become a mother I’ve often found myself comparing my mothering style to other fabulous moms and I come up short. I wondered if some women are just natural-born mothers. Perhaps I missed the necessary DNA.

I struggle with the homemaking aspect of being a stay-at-home mom. I’m not nearly as organized and structured as I think a good mom should be. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the physical needs of my kids. I see many moms who left their careers without a backward glance while I have grieved the loss of my built-in way of learning new ideas, engaging in stimulating conversations and creating things.

While I’ve moaned about my short-comings, I’ve forgotten what I am good at. I’m tuned in to my kids feelings and I encourage them to be themselves. I love playing with them and getting to be a part of their imaginary worlds. We enjoy pretending the swing set is a pirate ship and we're hunting for buried treasure in our backyard. We love to snuggle on the couch to read stories, have picnics in front of the fireplace on chilly nights, play games and so on.

This book uses the Myers-Briggs temperament indicator to help mothers recognize their strengths, understand their struggles and provide practical tips to reenergize themselves. Penley describes each of the personality types in depth so you can understand yourself and possibly other mothers better.

I found the specific tips on how each type can reenergize herself particularly helpful. For instance, as an INFP, I need at least 30-60 minutes of solitude a day to energize my introverted preference; I feed on new ideas, perspectives and dreams as an intuitive so I’m at my best when I take time to read, talk to an interesting person, learn something new, or daydream; as a feeler I need a break from others’ needs; and as a perceiving type I need freedom from a tight schedule, so I give myself unscheduled hangout time and break the routine once in awhile. My house is certainly messier since I’ve been implementing these ideas, but I’m a much happier mommy. And my kids are happier because I have more patience and energy for them.

The best part about this book is how validating it is to EVERY mother. There is no perfect mother. There is no temperament that is better at mothering than others are. We all have our strengths and this book helps us to value what we are naturally good at.

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's a conspirament!

That's what Owen says when he's mixing things together, like the ketchup and water I saw him stirring the other day. I can't help but wonder if the experiment is a conspiracy or a conspiracy is an experiment.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My life in a chestnut shell

I know it's hardly the time for mistletoe and Santa Claus, but I thought posting our latest Christmas letter would give you a sense of what our lives are like.

November 26, 2006
Dear Diary,
Today, I’m going to get a head-start on our annual Christmas letter. I want to get it done in plenty of time to mail before the holidays. Let’s see, what have we done this year… uh-oh, Owen just poured a gallon of milk on the kitchen floor, gotta go!

November 30, 2006
Dear Diary,
Today, I’m going to write our Christmas letter. The boys are playing quietly together, so I finally have a chance to sit down and think a bit. They’re such good friends. Jonas copies everything Owen does. Of course, they have the usual squabbles 4-year-old and 2-year-old boys are going to have, but they really are buddies. What? Looks like someone destroyed someone’s train tracks. I never knew I’d grow up to become an expert track builder.

December 1, 2006
Dear Diary,
OK, now’s my chance to write the Christmas letter. Jonas is taking a nap and Owen is playing outside on the swing set the boys got for their birthdays. I think I love that thing almost as much as they do! Oh no, I hear a cry for Mommy. Owen got a scratch and “needs” Grandpa’s band-aid (Grandpa gave him Dora the Explorer band-aids and they are much more popular than the plain Band-aids I buy at Costco).

December 3, 2006
Dear Diary,
Today, I really am going to write that Christmas letter. I don’t know what to say in it though. I mean, we haven’t had any exotic trips, nobody’s offered our boys a modeling contract and Jack hasn’t won the Nobel Prize in chemistry yet, so what can I say that will make the letter fun and interesting?

December 6, 2006
Dear Diary,
Today, I really, really AM going to write that Christmas letter. I love being home with my kids, but it still amazes me how busy I can be all day yet by day’s end still have laundry tumbled on the couch, dirty dishes in the sink and bread crumbs and jelly smears on the floor. I tried working outside the home for a while earlier this year. I was feeling restless and missing the challenges and affirmations I got while working, not to mention the money. So I started looking for a part-time job. Then I got an offer with a local company editing nonfiction books. They offered flexible hours, so I could work in the evenings and weekends, but it had to be 40 hours a week in the office. While I was debating whether or not to take the job, our backyard fence blew down and our bank account was hovering near zero balance. I took the job. I soon realized that I missed my boys too much. I worked long enough to pay off the mini-van. Those five months now feel like an unreal hick-up in my life. It settled that nagging question I’ve had the past four years though—I am happier at home with my children than at the office right now. But I do need something. I’ve been working seriously on developing a part-time freelance career since I left that job. I’ve made some contacts and have done a couple editing projects so far and am confident more will come. Actually, I need to finish up one of those projects. With the boys in bed for the night this is my time to get some work done.

December 10, 2006
Dear Diary,
Jack and I have been married for six years today. So why am I trying to write that Christmas letter? I have something, or rather, someone, more important to focus on today. See ya!

December 12, 2006
Dear Diary,
I haven’t made any progress on that blasted Christmas letter. What can I say about Jack… As usual, he’s been working hard on getting his results published and seeking an NIH grant. One of the sweetest sounds of the day is when we hear the motor for the garage door opening. All three of us yell, “Daddy's home!” and run to greet him. That’s him now, gotta go.

December 18, 2006
Dear Diary,
I’ve got to write that thing! It’s been hanging over my head like a mistletoe encrusted guillotine. Let’s see, Owen is now 4 and broadening his interests beyond Thomas the Tank Engine. We took him to Legoland to celebrate his birthday and now Legos are his favorite toy. He still loves his trains and cars and airplanes though. In fact, that’s what he’s building with his Legos. He’s also become very curious, asking questions that require trips to the library to learn about the solar system and weather. Jonas is a charming 2-year-old who follows his big brother like a shadow. He’s become a little “Me too.” He is expressing himself better every day. “I help,” he says and he drags a step stool to wherever I am. I’ll often find him standing on that step stool at the kitchen counter and he’ll say, “I cooking Mommy.” Oops, that what’s he doing right now and how in the world did he get the lid off the peanut butter jar?

December 23, 2006
Dear Diary,
I cannot put it off any longer! It’s practically Christmas!! We’ve drove the past two days to spend the holiday with family and I still haven’t finished that thing. At this rate it won’t be a Christmas letter or a New Year’s letter, but an Easter letter! Oh well, that’s our lives. We’re busy with kissing scraped knees, mediating disputes, reading stories, singing and dancing and blowing our “trumpets” (empty toilet paper tubes or the like), cleaning messes, making trips to the grocery store, playing trains, working at home or the office, answering questions like “Why does it rain?”, playing at the park with friends, building vehicles out of Legos, and so on. And as I’ve learned earlier this year, it’s the way I want it.