Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. It’s a big one, and as a writer, I feel this funny need to look within and say something noteworthy about this milestone.

So I started this post three times, but each time it was wrong. In my other posts, I focused on the hard times. I wanted to share specific failures that led me to learn that marriage is better when I care more about how my husband is feeling than I care about being right.

I wanted to share how I’ve learned that no matter how much we’ve been through, and no matter how many inside jokes we have, we’re still two different people. No matter how united we have been or how united we currently are, we are two completely separate individuals who both have funny hang-ups about things.

I wanted to tell you specific fights we’ve had that led us to take Gary Chapman’s Apology Language test, and how that revolutionized the way we communicate with each other.

I wanted to highlight the hard to prove I’ve learned something, to show you I know what I’m talking about.

I’m sensitive when it comes to the topic of marriage. I have a good husband, and because of that I get snarky comments about how nice it must be that he does this or how lucky I am to not have to deal with that.

I’ve allowed myself to get self conscious over the years, and I started holding back on praising my husband or sharing my joys. Not entirely, but a bit. I felt like if I was going to share happiness, I also needed to show UNhappiness. Otherwise, I was just being too Pollyanna-ish.

So when I sat down this time to write about how much I love my husband, I began with a description of a fight to prove my happiness in marriage is realistic. It’s earned. I am NOT Pollyanna.

But it didn’t feel right. I love my marriage. I love my husband. Ten years has taught me a lot. I’ve learned to say sorry when I would rather be prideful, I’ve learned to hug when I would rather walk away, and I’ve learned to think of someone else’s needs when I want to think only of my own. I’ve also learned that joy can be doubled, that tedious tasks can be made fun, and that funny can turn to hilarity when shared with the right person.

But writing this post made me realize perhaps the most important lesson: It’s ok to be happy in marriage, and it’s ok to share that.

Ryan and Rebecca, March 18, 2015

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Motherhood? No thanks

by Rebecca on March 12, 2015

I was sitting at a church activity the other night, listening to some teenage girls tell each other they would never, ever get married and have children. Once you do that, you see, your life is over.

“Oh yes,” I said. “I don’t do anything. I have no life anymore.” It was a lame joke, and we all moved on. But what I didn’t tell them was that I said those exact words when I was their age. There was no way I was ever going to saddle myself with the burdens and responsibilities of married life and children. Gross!

Obviously, I changed my mind somewhere along the way.

But listening to those girls say the same things I used to believe got me wondering: Why do they feel that way? Why did I feel that way?

I don’t think I know for sure, but I think it’s a mixture of a whole bunch of messages that get put into our brains by society. And then I think we internalize those messages and speak of them as if they’re a reality. This is not an exhaustive list, but take a gander at just a few things we sort of believe about motherhood:

Motherhood turns you into a fat slob

I’m rolling my eyes over here.

But when I was a teenager, the only body messages I heard were that babies give you stretch marks and extra pounds. I heard that children give you gray hair and wrinkles. I heard that there was no room in the family budget for new clothes for Mom. (There may have been positive body message swirling around me, but that’s all I ever picked up.) I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being heavier after a baby or not staying up on the latest trends. I’m just saying that if I were a teenage girl with a tight body and great fashion sense, why on earth would I want to enter motherhood when that’s the biggest motherhood body message out there?

Kids sap your energy

How often do you see a mother frazzled out of  her freaking mind? How often have you been that mother? I know it happens to me a lot, and I know I let it show. If I were a teenage girl watching mother after mother look like she’s either going to spontaneously combust or abandon her children on the spot, I’d also be saying no thank you!

Husbands do nothing

Raise your hand if you’ve sat in on a discussion bemoaning this travesty. She can’t stay out too late on her girls’ night out because he won’t put the kids to bed. She can’t take a job because he ain’t gonna touch that childcare biznis. She has to cook and clean up because he doesn’t know his way around the kitchen. And darned if she’s going to “let” him figure that kitchen out because he’ll just do it wrong anyway. If I was a teenage girl hearing my future being one in which I have a husband about as useful as the family goldfish, I think I would also run for the hills!

What I’m trying to say is this:

We’re not really painting pictures of happiness in motherhood. And teenage girls notice. Motherhood is a dirty word for some (not all!) teenage girls. I know it was for me when I was 16.

The interesting thing is, since entering motherhood, I’ve “found” myself more than I ever had before.

I’ve discovered new passions, interests and talents

I thought I hated to write! That’s because I majored in Art History (useless, but interesting), and all my writing assignments were big research papers. Turns out, I just hate to write research papers. Once I became a mother, I started writing about my children and found I absolutely love to write. Not only does it fuel my creativity, I’ve also helped pay the bills with several writing jobs I’ve had over the years. I actually have a career that came about because of my children. I’m not saying I never would have figured this out about myself if I didn’t become a mother, but motherhood certainly brought that interest to the surface.

I’ve learned I love to teach, jog, cook, hike, sit in libraries, find hidden gems in cities, travel, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and bake treats for the neighbors. I didn’t know I liked any of this until I had kids I wanted to start traditions with, until I started running a household, and until I looked for ways to enrich my children’s lives.

And I’m not done yet! I have plenty more interests and hobbies I can’t wait to try out.

I’m pretty sure my brain has grown

A doctor once told me he would write down his instructions for the feeding of my starving baby because he knows “mommy brain” is hard to deal with. I had the baby in my lap, but if I didn’t, I might have slapped that doctor in the face.

Yes, I regularly call my children by their siblings’ (or the cat’s) name, but don’t let that fool you. If anything, motherhood has made me smarter. I have to stay sharp to run my household, take care of my children, manage my work responsibilities and stay on top of my church responsibilities. I feel more power and strength coming from my brain now than when I was in college.

I’ve learned to be a kinder person

Ok. I once told my 3-year-old to “open the damn door,” and I once got my 7-year-old to behave by threatening to slap her in the street. But for the most part, all the time I spend taming my temper for the sake of my children has made me a nicer person. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m much more patient and willing to overlook faults than I was eight years ago.

Motherhood is just one of many vehicles to greatness

Could I have learned all of this without becoming a mother? Probably. It’s not like motherhood magically transformed me and gave me powers. But motherhood has taught me to be creative. Yes, I have to work with and around my children, but that only brings out other talents and creativity I didn’t know I had. Could I get that without motherhood? You betcha. But I also get it with motherhood. Get it? Motherhood hasn’t ruined me!

There are certainly seasons I would love to trade. The past eight months with a struggling, sick baby have been quite wretched. I gave my everything to that boy, and there was absolutely nothing left for me. And while that can sometimes happen for periods of time in motherhood, it isn’t the definition of motherhood. Plus, it’s not like motherhood is the only thing in life that’s going to give you a stressful season. That’s just life.

Motherhood hasn’t ended my life. It’s kind of where my life really began.

So back to those teenage girls. Why do they feel like motherhood is the end? Why did I feel that way 15 years ago? I wonder if it’s because the media and the women around me supported that picture. Yes, I saw successful mothers everywhere. But I also saw those same mothers complaining about their children and their husbands. I saw them sighing at how they were treated by their family, I saw them bemoaning their lack of free time, I saw them blaming their children for extra pounds and wrinkles. And then I saw the media telling me that’s what motherhood is. So I bought it — hook, line and sinker.

I wonder if we chose to put our best faces forward more often – if we chose to talk about the happy, to expose the success, to reveal our new talents — would we change that attitude? I’m not saying we should hide the hard things. Truth is truth, and motherhood is hard. But what if we switched things to 90% positive and 10% negative? What if we searched for the ways motherhood has enriched us, and then spoke openly about that?

In my own home, I speak openly about my interests and my work — even when my children’s eyes glaze over. I also tell them almost every day that being a mother truly makes me happy. I want them to see I can have happiness as their mom and as myself.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s not going to make a difference. But I’m going to try the 90%/10% rule. Will you try it with me?

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The moments

March 4, 2015

I walked into our bedroom to see Emma (3) doing a little dance. She was wrapped head-to-toe in her towel after a bath, and everybody knows there’s nothing cuter than a kid wrapped in a towel after a bath. Ryan was kneeling down in front of her, still taller than her even on his knees, copying […]

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7-year-old Lydia

February 20, 2015

Ever since Lydia turned 1, we’ve been taking her picture with her favorite stuffed animal at every birthday. I knew I was going to love the tradition when I started it seven years ago, and I always have. This year, it’s making me all sorts of weepy. SEVEN? SEVEN! I feel like this is the year when we’re […]

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The gods must be angry — or not

January 14, 2015

“Do you think Rex is extra… strong? Or extra… smart? Or something?” I tentatively asked my husband a few weeks ago. We’re pretty gaga over our kids, and tend to think they’re geniuses at everything they do. But I was really wondering if the strength and intelligence I see in our 6-month-old was the same as […]

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It’s somebody’s fault

October 29, 2014

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was looking at the pile of unmatched socks I keep on my laundry room counter. I thought to myself how unattractive that pile looked, and wished I only had a drawer underneath the counter where I could stash them. Suddenly a drawer appeared, and I was giddy as I […]

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Moms have to grow up too

September 5, 2014

  I thought sending my oldest to kindergarten was hard, but it was nothing compared to sending her to 1st grade. Oh, the worries. How can she be away from me for the whole day? How will she figure out how to eat lunch in the cafeteria? How will she remember to take a snack outside […]

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3-year-old Emma

August 29, 2014

         Emma turned 3 a few weeks ago, and we kept with our tradition of taking her picture with her favorite stuffed animal, Dino. The idea is for her to still be taking pictures with Dino when she’s a teenager, but with all the loving Dino gets, I’m not sure the little animal will make it […]

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Rex’s blessing day

August 29, 2014

My parents’ 1-year mission as employment specialists to Detroit for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ended just a little bit after baby Rex was born. It was perfect timing because by the time they made their way to Utah on their way home to California, Baby Rex was 6 weeks old, and I was […]

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Emma’s third birthday party

August 21, 2014

Having a baby just one month before your daughter’s third birthday means you have no energy to do anything for said daughter’s third birthday. Thank goodness for a summer birthday that could be held at a park, and thank goodness for friends and family members who are willing to step in when Mama is a […]

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