I worry about you.
I worry about not being the best mother for you.
About not giving you what you need.
I don’t have a manual.
All I have are my instincts, my feelings and my love for you.
No one tells me that I am doing a good job.
But there are plenty of hints and questionable looks suggesting that I am not.
So I worry.
My mind floods with fear that you might need more.
Something, someone to help you flourish.
And I worry that my love for you is not enough.
I carry this load and observe you daily, in silence.
I sigh of relief when I see you smiling and enjoying yourself.
My heart cringes when I see you struggling.
I’m afraid to share my thoughts, my worries.
To speak out about my growing sense of trouble.
About the signs that I see.
Am I seeing signs?
Or am I overthinking?
I struggle with acceptance.
Not because I can’t accept you for who you are.
Their silent question marks,
weigh on me like judgement.
And I have a hard time shaking that off.
I battle with misconceptions and harsh opinions of strangers.
But when I look at you,
I can tell every little aspect of you that makes you so precious.
I see your infinite worth.
You are like that one flower in the flower bed.
The flower that keeps drawing my eye
Uniquely shaped yet oddly colored.
The flower that I admire the most.
This piece is a combination of my own struggles and the struggles of the mothers that I face around me.
Mothers who have a child that is struggling or going through a rough time;
Mothers who have a child that is developing differently;
Mothers who have a child that has special needs.
I would like to ask you to withhold your judgment or quick advice.
Just see her, and respect her process.
After all she is just like you.
She loves and wants the best for her child.
Do you ever worry about your child’s development?
How do you cope? What are strategies that help you?
This is an original post written by Mirjam for World Moms Network
Today is my birthday.
It also marks the day that I’ll start to remain vague about my age.
A few years ago I turned 40,(No, I won’t give you specifics.)
And I remember a slight panicky feeling in my chest the night before.
I thought I was officially old.
But there was a life after 40 and it was a good one.
Some of my friends are approaching 50,
and they are making me feel pretty darn good about my age.
I have come to terms with myself and who I am.
The 40 something version of me is more outspoken and less anxious.
I feel older, wiser, and more at peace with myself.
Life has shown me that it is ever changing.
When I become too comfortable everything shifts and a new process begins.
The perfectionist in me has learned that there is no endgame, no specific goal to achieve.
I am an ever continuing work in progress.
But I do have the urge to be hopeful, helpful.
To spread kindness and positivity.
I want to fulfill my hopes and dreams.
I want to love and to be loved back.
Never stop learning and continue to grow.
My birthday is always at the same time of the year,
that I start to reflect and set my goals for the next year.
Oh, and what a crazy year it was.
This year I will just take a moment to count my blessings.
I have no specific birthday wishes or wishes for 2017,
only to be extended the grace to enjoy a fulfilling life.
I want to live my live to the fullest,
and not being held back by fear at trying to fulfill my hopes and dreams.
And I want to dance be silly and artistic.
Now excuse me while I go and eat some cake!
What are your birthday wishes?
Have you set your goals for 2017?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Mirjam in the Netherlands.
My mother used to say the same thing whenever I was sick: “Well, your hands are not sick.”
She expected me to do my chores and not to make a big deal about being sick. It was a motto she lived by. When I think of her in those days, I cannot picture her sitting down or lying in bed. She was always busy taking care of us and taking care of the house. I can almost imagine her feeling sick in the morning and saying to herself: “Well your hands are not sick,” and getting on with business as usual. I have tried to live up to this motto as long as I can remember.
This image of a mother that takes care of her family regardless the circumstances, was printed in the core of my being.
When I got diagnosed with depression, I was deeply conflicted within myself. Every moment that I needed for myself, every day that I couldn’t go on as usual, troubled me. I judged myself. There is always something the matter with you. Are you sick again? I felt like a sad excuse for a mother. I pitied my children and husband for having to live with me. Being sick has always been a powerful trigger for me to sink deep into depression.
In 2011 I got diagnosed with depression, which led to a long struggle with dealing with my depression and undergoing extensive therapy. Just as I started to feel a little bit better in 2013, I broke my right shoulder and as it started to heal, I had to have my gallbladder removed. After that, a long period of feeling sick and dealing with throat problems, led to a tonsillectomy in 2015. In 2016 my doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. The word rheumatoid arthritis was mentioned. I’m still in the process of finding a diagnosis and proper treatment.
But I am doing fine. In a sense, I am grateful. It is easy to find joy when you’re healthy and pain free. When you’re walking in the sunshine it isn’t as hard to be hopeful. I have learned to enjoy every single ray of light when walking in the shadows. I do have my occasional pity parties, and I indulge in them, because I allow myself to feel, to grieve, to be sad when I need to. But my pity parties end and when they end, I pick up positivity and make the most of what I have.
Depression always lurks in the shadows. But it is more a kind of melancholy that accompanies me, reminding me of its existence. It doesn’t bother me as much, nor does it scare me the way it used to.
I feel fine, I feel happy. We’re almost in the 11th month of 2016 and I have had approximately two days this year without physical pain. The other days have fluctuated between noticeable pain, manageable pain and excruciating pain. All things considered I still feel blessed. It could have been so much worse. I still feel privileged and grateful.
I have reshaped my image of what a mother is supposed to look like. No longer is she shaped like a rock, a bulldozer, a mechanical machine. She is covered in flesh, imperfect, she bleeds, she falls, she lifts, she cries, she smiles. She is shaped like a human.
How has your concept of motherhood changed since you had children?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands.
I stood in the doorway. Uneasy, uncertain if I was at the right place at all. I couldn’t seem to find my way around this hospital. My eyes flashed back and forth, seeking for some sort of assurance. A doctor passed me, I stepped aside to let him pass in the narrow hallway. I read the sign on the door again. It said to report here, but the lady behind the desk was ignoring me. Her phone conversation seemed to be going on forever. Then she stepped out of the room and passed me. Nothing about her acknowledged the fact that I was there. She held her nose high, her face a mask of arrogance. Her heels clicked away while I repressed the hint of anger that I felt rising in my stomach.
I took a seat and a big breath of air and turned to my phone for distraction. The heels came clicking down the hallway again. Still on the phone, she took her seat behind the desk again. Still nothing. I was completely invisible to her. By this time I was having a vivid conversation with myself.
“Leave it Mirjam. She’s talking to a patient. Maybe she didn’t see you.”
“I am so certain that she saw me! This is not worth getting angry over.”
“But you have to stand up for yourself!”
“No, I’ll just leave it.”
The doctor called me in and ended my inner struggle. I mumbled something about being ignored, but let go of the situation. After my appointment, I sat in the same hallway again waiting for the doctor to hand me the forms for my bloodwork. A woman approached me, she smiled apologetically. Her face was soft and friendly.
“I’m so sorry that I kept you waiting,” she said. “I had a situation and I was in a panic. Are you still waiting for me? Did the doctor call you in already? You don’t have to wait in the hallway, you can wait in the lounge, where you can have a cup of coffee. I’m so sorry. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
As she walked away, I could have slapped myself in the face. If there is anything I have learned this past year from working with kids with special needs, then it is that there is always more then what you can see at first sight. My first rule is: whenever there’s an extreme, look beyond the behavior. There’s always a reason for the behavior. No one yells for no reason. No kid acts out for no reason. At my work when I react to the behavior, I miss out on the real reason behind the behavior. I miss out on a chance to really connect.
I have used this technique a lot in my work. When a kid starts throwing things in anger, I can give a lecture about not throwing things and give a consequence. But I can also start a conversation by saying: ‘I can see that you are really angry,” and find out what the real issue is.
Most of the time I find out that the angry child is feeling sick, had a difficult morning or is feeling anxious about something. Addressing the real issue always deescalates the situation quickly.
I have also tried this technique at home. Whenever my youngest is whiney and starts yelling for no apparent reason, instead of reprimanding her or correcting her behavior, I stop and think a moment and then I address or investigate the situation. I take her by the hand and look her in the eye. “Are you hungry? Shall I make you something to eat?”, “Did you have a rough day? Do you want a hug?”, “You are tired, aren’t you? Do you want to sit on the couch, can I get you a blanket? Shall I make you a cup of tea?”
I haven’t perfected this technique, at least not at home. I have found that at home it is harder to control my emotions. When one of my kids starts acting extreme, my first instinct is still to correct the behavior or to step in and join the madness. At work it is easier. I can take a step back and think before I react. But I am getting better at this every day. The situation in the hospital has taught me that adults are no different from children in this area. Instead of getting angry, I could have reacted with patience. I could have been more apprehensive. In hindsight, I realize that I did notice that her cheeks were flushed. I heard her say that she was doing her best to fix the situation. I should have looked beyond her behavior.
When I look at the world around me this way, I find that I am so much more understanding, so much more forgiving for people around me. This is why I am sharing this with you today. Because we could all use a bit more understanding, right? The next time your child, spouse, neighbor or coworker starts yelling or overreacts for no apparent reason, don’t join the madness. Take a step back, think, make eye contact or make physical contact and address the situation, investigate.
I guarantee you, you will witness a tiny miracle.
Do you think you can use this technique? Have you ever been in a situation where there was more behind someone’s behavior than you thought at first?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands
When my husband and I got married over 16 years ago, we had very little belongings. What little savings we had, we spent on the wedding and on buying paint for our new home.
We had no furniture, not even a bed.
Any help we were offered by friends and family was refused by us. We knew exactly what furniture we wanted and saved every penny to buy furniture piece by piece. We made numerous trips to Ikea just to fantasize about how our house would look like furnished. We went to work and cooked a meal together and ate it while we sat on the kitchen counter or on the floor. Life was uncomplicated in those days. If I had to make a list of my possessions back then, it would have probably fit on one page. And I am not sure if that page would have been full.
With every year that passed my house started filling up with things: furniture, tableware, linen, and baby furniture, toys.
More and more stuff came in through the door: clothes, kitchen supplies, books, videogames.
Suddenly my house was full and my life had become complicated. Some of my days felt like an endless list of chores, schedules, and mostly decluttering. I felt suffocated by the amount of things I owned. I started longing for the simplicity of those first days when my life (and my house) wasn’t filled with so much stuff.
It wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t had such a hard time with throwing things away. Many of the things I owned held memories for me. I can go through my things and tell you a story about every item. About the way I felt when I purchased it, I can tell you who gave it to me or why I desperately wanted to have it. My memory is selective that way. I cannot say exactly in what year I graduated, but ask me about any toy my kids have and I can tell you exactly where or who they got it from.
It was little over a year that I took a good look around and decided I wanted a change. At first I started clearing out and organizing my closets. After a while I started throwing out more and more things. With every closet I cleaned out, with every bag of clutter that left the house, I felt happier and lighter. Since then I have devoted myself to simplifying my life.
On Pinterest, where I spend more time than is probably considered healthy, I discovered that my new found strife for simplicity actually has a name: minimalism. I now know that minimalism is about far more than having less things. Minimalism for me is the art of letting go. Being content with living in the here and now not clinging to the past or hasting your way on to the future. Minimalism is embracing simplicity in its purest form. Pausing, breathing and enjoying the essentials. And surrounding oneself with nothing more than that. After all we should carry our memories with us, there is no use on stacking them ten feet high on shelves in boxes that we never look in. Minimalism is about trust, about not having to be prepared for every little thing, not having to keep everything because you might need that one item one day in the future.
I have been trying to convert myself from a compulsive hoarder to a content minimalist for over a year now. I have a long way and many stacks of clutter to go but I will get there. I even have a name for this journey. I named it: Project Simplify and it is definitely to be continued.
Tell me your thoughts: What is your experience with clutter? Do you have difficulties with throwing things away?
This is an original post for World Mom’s Network by Mirjam from the Netherlands.
I write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.
Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.
As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.
“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”
The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.
“What are the responses there?” he asked.
“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”
I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.
It was another hate seed being planted.
But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.
I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.
On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.
Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.
My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –
How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.