Monday, May 26, 2008

Motherhood my way (or, my long manifesto)

I don't feel like I rant on here too terribly much. But people, it is time. You know, just in case you run into me and my family in Denver at lunch on a Sunday afternoon--that way, I can spare you the trouble of feeling the need to clue me in on what I'm doing wrong!

Background: Panda Express (gotta love coupons), after church, we're asked by a fellow customer if we "brought the whole neighborhood." No, Kevin explains politely, these are our children. Flash forward a few minutes to me and the kids sitting outside while Kevin is ordering the food, and that same customer is leaving. She approaches me and asks if I have someone come in to give me help so I can go out by myself. No, I say politely, I enjoy spending time with my kids and we like to do things together, as a family. The woman assertively informs me that I need to get help because I NEED TO GO DO THINGS FOR MYSELF, otherwise IT WILL BE TOO MUCH FOR ME. Well, I say, God gives me the strength to do the things I need to do, and I love being a mother. Okay, have a good day she says, and finally leaves.

Wow, what a great start to a lunch out. I cannot even begin to say how vulnerable you feel when a complete stranger sizes up your life and situation, and GIVES YOU ADVICE because surely, SUREly she knows better than you what you can and cannot handle. SO awkward! It's one thing if someone is concerned or wants to encourage you, but honestly this lady had a total air of hostility about her. Why, I have literally no clue.

I've only been a mom for 4+ years, not a super long time, and I am continually finding things that do and don't work for me. It's a journey. I doubt you ever have it all figured out. Well maybe some people do, but I never will! Anyway, for whatever it's worth, here are some of the thoughts that shape what we Heldts do as parents. If it's different from what you do--and at least some of it probably is--that's not me saying my way is right. In the end I think most all our kids should grow up to be decent, contributing members to our society, whether we follow Dr. Sears or Babywise or something else. :)

So like I told the woman at the restaurant, I don't have hired help. I clean my own house (in theory :) ), cook our own meals, and I'm with my kids from the moment they wake up to the time they go to bed. (Praise the Lord for naptime.) Yeah, that makes for a long day and more often than I'd like to admit, a grouchy girl. But being an at-home mom has always been a huge value for us. Neither Kevin nor I would have it any other way. I left college without graduating because the Lord blessed us with a baby. I don't know if I'll ever finish or not; right now it's a moot point because I've got four little ones that need a sane and present mother more than they need a mom with a fancy piece of paper on the wall, or a mom who feels like she "accomplished" something really great in the world's eyes.

I think children are small for a short time, even though most days it doesn't feel that way. :) Most of our time is spent at home. My kids don't go to preschool, though Anna knows all her phonics, her numbers and colors, and Yosef and Biniam know most of them, and they play quite well with other children. The older kids have learned such patience, compassion and gentleness from spending so much time with their baby sister. The relationships and bonds they have built doing day to day life together are priceless. (We DO go on outings, I'm just saying the norm is being home, and this routine works well for us.)

Honestly I don't feel like I sacrifice my life on the altar of motherhood to be home with them. YES I have "other interests", I enjoy adult conversations, and look forward to time with good friends but no I don't feel like being home with the kids turns my brain to mush or is unfulfilling--I feel like it's God's call on my life. I integrate my kids into whatever we are doing...whether it's showering in the morning (yes me and four kids in the shower, good thing it's a good size!), running errands, whatever, I think they are learning about life, God, and the way the world works by experiencing things WITH us.

I've found that for us flexibility and setting standards are really, really important. If something's not working, find a different way. I also think it's easy to underestimate your child in many ways, and for us we've found that having expectations in certain areas works great. (Like, not throwing a fit if you can't go with Daddy to the store--that was last night, eating whatever the rest of us have for dinner, etc.) I think our society sells our kids short way too often. Even very young children can be taught to deal with disappointment, and difficult things, and I think this prepares them for life and builds a sense of security as you nurture them.

Now finally, this one's a big one. No I do not believe I'm depriving my children of a happy childhood by having four of them. Not by a longshot. They beg to sleep in the same room, don't generally like to be separated, and are best buddies with each other. It's a paradigm shift I think. You go from thinking only in terms of how do I invest in this child to make them feel loved to seeing how nurtured, loved and enriched their life is just through day to day family life. I wondered when Kaitlyn was born, how might I meet her needs in addition to those of my three older children? Then I was floored by the sheer amount of love Kaitlyn was born into what with two brothers and a sister who adore her without condition. AND amazed by the patience and kindness the older ones showed in not once getting upset if I needed to tend to my newborn. I obviously can't predict how things will play out in the future. Sometimes I have doubts about what on earth I'm doing. So far though, I love the relationships I have with each of my kids. They are all unique, dynamic, and rich.

Whew, there you have it. Some thoughts on motherhood. I wonder if maybe you can generally fly under the radar with 2 or 3 kids, but if you have only 1 child, or 4 or more, people tend to judge you. I know this because I am an only child and people made all sorts of assumptions about me growing up. And now I have four kids, and people at Panda Express assume stuff about me all over again, and my kids, and our lives. I suppose people judge each other, period.

Thankfully God is bringing me to a place where I am resting more and more in His plan for me, and where He is giving me the strength to speak up for myself and especially for Him. I'm the type of person who avoids confrontation like the plague. But I believe that God wants to use my family and your family and how can He do that if we're always avoiding it? I'm at a place where I don't really have qualms with sharing how or why we do what we do. If a stranger wants to question how I raise my kids, that's fine, they will get a polite and honest answer. I can assure you my kids are happy, carefree, secure, and know that they are loved by us and loved by God. I am so grateful for the four blessings He's given me!!! (And there's no way I'd trade away my life with them for more "me" time. Goodness knows I spend MORE than enough time thinking about me!)


joy said...

oh, brianna--well stated! i can't believe that lady. actually, i can. i think it's hard for people in today's world to understand that there are those of us who believe in sacrifice and investing in our children without complaining (well mostly) or feeling that we are losing self. in a society so full of self, it's probably hard to get. you have an amazing family and i admire your honesty and strength and we happen to think you all are just plain fun! i'll never forget talking with one of cade's cousins who is very wealthy. his second baby was just born and they have a nanny and housekeeper. i was pregnant with abe and he asked if i was getting help when abe was born. i told him no and he just stared incredulous at me--how are you going to do that without help? he just couldn't believe i would stay home and raise 2 kids without a nanny. oh and his wife wasn't working either. long enough comment--sorry!

Katie Lady said...

I am so sorry people have the "freedom" to make judgements without spending any time with you or your well-behaved kids! With two little boys--one in my arms & one holding my hand--I hear people say to me a lot, "wow, your hands are full!" Yeah, like I didn't notice & thanks for reminding me! My calm, smiling response has gotten to be, "yes, and so is my heart!" That tends to stop the conversation short if they're grouchy & leads to more conversation if they're simply commenting on my two little kids. When I'm tired & frustrated (all too often), I remind myself that I prayed, no rather BEGGED, God for these delightful blessings & that helps me to keep my own need for "me time" in perspective. I hope you do find some girlfriends to get some mommy time, just to recharge now and again. You work so hard-- it's a special treat that you've earned!

mayhem said...

That lady was way out of line. Sounds like you handled the situation with grace!

Clearly you've made the right choices for your family. You're a thoughtful, deliberate parent.

Unfortunately, it seems to me like someone will judge your choices and feel free to offer opinions no matter how you parent or how many kids you have. It's a nasty set up, I'm telling you, perfectly rant-worthy! :)

Tamara said...

Even with 2 we stick out, well Gregory's implants send up "disability" signals that seem to get us many lectures too. I feel that establishing a solid foundation for my young children is the most important thing right now. You can't get these young and formative years back.

Choosing to be a parent means sacrafice, time, energy, money that you could focus on "me". But, for me, in the end, choosing to NOT be a parent is a greater sacrafice (not trying to say that everyone should choose to have kids in order to be fulfilled). My children, and their challenges are shaping ME, making me a better, stronger, more aware woman. They are teaching me things that no amount of college classes could cover; compassion, seeing life in a innocent and fresh way, protection for all that I love, even if it means mustering up courage and strength when there is nothing left in me, God holds us up.

Sure, I want that college degree, I want to be a doctor, in fact one that deals with this lovely birth-defect of ours, but it will come in time...even if I go to medical school with my son! For now, I am content with teaching him what I can, showing him the beauty in our world and rejoicing over his hard won triumphs.

YOU are the best parent for YOUR kids Brianna, so don't let any nay-sayers get you down. God chose them just for you and knows what you all need.

Brianna Heldt said...

Your comments and experiences are so fun to read! I think it is true that no matter what, "interesting" people will come out of the woodwork to speak "wisdom" into your life. :) Not too long after we had Anna I fully had someone AT CHURCH ask us if we had any regrets?!

and katie, come now, i think it's time for you to start your own blog!!!!!

Valerie said...

So well written! It is always refreshing to read another mom's input on all of those things, and funny how it doesn't matter how many kids, what color kids, etc. you have, someone somewhere is going to have an opinion or think you're doing it wrong or whatever. We have one boy, age three, from Guatemala, and for the last few years I have heard more than my fair share of opinions on fertility, adopting, why do we only have one kid so far, etc. etc., and it used to bother me, but like you, I too have learned that really it is only God's opinion that matters, and that it is His plan that I need to follow, not anyone else's.

I love love love your blog and reading about your family. Please keep it up, especially the posts like today, because it is encouraging to so many out there you may not know about! :)

Kristen Borland said...


First of all, I just want to say (from one non-degree holding lady to another) you HAVE accomplished something great in this world, and I know that was done by the Grace of God and can be seen in the eyes of your children, who I am SURE will one day rise and call you blessed!!

Second, we too were at Panda Express recently (yesterday), and I was sitting there looking at my handsome and loving husband, my oldest son chomping away at one of his favorite foods (and eating a ton like a true Borland), my youngest son cuddling in my lap (sick with a bug--and, according to my RN mother-in-law, okay to be in public because we didn't let him touch anything and he didn't have a fever and, well, we needed to get out of the house), and feeling my baby girl practicing ballet in my tummy... and I can not tell you have incredibly blessed I felt!! Like Katie, I BEGGED God for these children (and for our three birth and one almost adopted children in heaven), and I was overwhelmed at the privilege of sitting with them and loving them. Yes, we got some looks (two toddlers and a pregnant belly), but people were mostly sweet about it because they could see the joy in all of our eyes. It is GOOD to be a family!!

And, you already know some of my stories about random strangers telling me I'm crazy....

Brenda Williams said...

Brianna, so well said! I love your mother's heart and great love for your children. As you said, so much of our culture suggests that children are a burden, and that is just so way wrong and sad!
Like Katie, I often hear "you have your hands full" in kind of a "poor you" kind of vein. This amazes me when I only have two children! But my response now is always "aren't they just adorable?!" to which most people agree and go along their way :)

And hey, we are in the Springs this week, so a shout out to you in Denver!! Shane is working on the new store build out.

Jeannett Gibson said...

Great post, well put. I was actually just at the bank, trying to conduct business, and Henry was super squirmy and wanted nothing more but to crawl around and/or play the ever entertaining "I drop the object, mommy picks it up 8000 times" game. Finally, i just held on tight and let him fuss. An old lady looked at me with disgust and said "hyper one? maybe he'll be better behaved as he gets older." HELLO???!!! He is ELEVEN months old! How on earth do you expect me to reason with him and explain that he can't do this or that? So, I guess my point is that it really doesn't matter how many kids you have, people will always find something to say...even if you don't have any kids..."so, when are you guys having kids? why are you waiting so long?" You can never win, I tell ya.

Jeannett Gibson said...

Great post, well put. I was actually just at the bank, trying to conduct business, and Henry was super squirmy and wanted nothing more but to crawl around and/or play the ever entertaining "I drop the object, mommy picks it up 8000 times" game. Finally, i just held on tight and let him fuss. An old lady looked at me with disgust and said "hyper one? maybe he'll be better behaved as he gets older." HELLO???!!! He is ELEVEN months old! How on earth do you expect me to reason with him and explain that he can't do this or that? So, I guess my point is that it really doesn't matter how many kids you have, people will always find something to say...even if you don't have any kids..."so, when are you guys having kids? why are you waiting so long?" You can never win, I tell ya.

Cat & Mark said...

I completely understand! We went from 2 kids to 4 just over 2 months ago and I have been floored by the number of comments we get regarding the size of our family! I really thought we'd get more due to the transracial issue, but maybe people just have no problem sharing their view on family size!

Oh, and my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so there is plenty of judgment to go around about that too!

Oh, and for what its worth - I have a fancy piece of paper (2 of them actually) and I take my accomplishments as a mom much more seriously. =) I certainly work a lot harder for them - every day!

Stacey said...

Well said Brianna! I think that some people just don't know what to say so they say what ever pops into their heads without activating their "filter" first. I've had family members say things about our kids (or our desire to parent more children)and I try to respond with something positive. Children are such a blessing from the Lord...unfortunately some people never learn this!!!!!

emily & mike said...

I'll keep it short, I just want to say "amen"!!!

I loved your post and I completely agree with your parenting philosophy. I think you are doing a great job, and hey, you are completely famous in the adopting blog world so there must be a reason so many people are drawn to your site!

Tracy Regusci said...

I love reading your blog for posts just like this one!! With 3 kids I get so many comments just like that. And even more when they find out we are planning on having more!! It bugs me also when people think that I gave up some wonderful career or never persuade my dreams because of my children. I always think "Hello, my children are my career and are the answers to my dream!! Love your post!

Mike and Rachel said...

I giggled a little thinking of you with 4 kids in the shower. I hadn't thought of putting Ainsley in there with me too. Hmmm... time management at it's best!

You know I am a fan of "me" time, mainly because it makes me a better mom and wife. But my me time is usually done after dinner is served, or during afternoon naps so I don't miss out on much.

I was at Michael's for an hour with both kids and I was cracking up at how nuts I was. They have mini carts and it must have looked funny to see my kids both in this cart made for ants as I slowly walked the lanes looking for train stuff. I also was at the post office for 32 minutes today, no stroller. Aubrey kept talking very loudly about wanting to leave and meet Daddy for lunch. "Hurry up, Mommy! Time to go." I was secretely hoping I would be moved to the front of the line because people felt sorry for Aubrey, but no luck. I guess that was one of her lessons in disappointment too.

This was a fun post. I've got parenting advice from a lady driving by me at the mall who actually stopped and rolled down her window to let me know what I could do better. :)

Shannon said...

It never ceases to amaze me what perfect strangers will say or ask.

I'm still irritated at the woman I met at work who told me "you should have kids by now".

Laundry & Children said...

Great post! I feel like you were describing my life. We get comments all the time about our family, which looks a lot like yours. It drives me nuts.

Sure there are times that I would like some "me" time, but I'll get plenty of that in a few years when they don't need me quite as much. I bet by then I will want more "us" time.

shell said...

I love it and you know I understand COMPLETELY. :)
So far on vacation, we have been asked twice at parks if we were a daycare and then the neighbor said "you got a permit for all those kids?" :) I have given up, I just smile and say they are GREAT! Kill them with kindness........

Samantha said...

Those types of comments are definitely the majority, but just once in while, the Lord has seen fit to bless me with a different comment. I had an older gentleman come up to me at Walmart one day and give me a necklace of a mother holding a baby and tell me that I am doing the most important job in the world and to always remember that I am truly blessed. Talk about making me cry in the middle of a store! Another lady at the post office got two knitted hats out of her car and gave them to my older two and said that she only gives them to special kids who are blessings to their parents. Another old man told me one time at the store that it was so refreshing to see a feminine, modest young lady these days who actually seems happy to be a mother.

The fact that most of the comments I get are like, "Just wait until those three are teenager, then you will be sorry!" It makes the occasional blessing all that more special.

God bless you and Kevin as you are walking in the ways of the LORD. The world will never understand, but at least they can see a reflection of the Truth through you. Love you guys!

Kevin Heldt said...

Yes, Samantha, we definitely get some of the "good" comments too. In fact, on the same Panda Express outing: we had been sitting outside and there was an elderly couple eating inside just on the other side of the window. I couldn't determine the sentiment behind the occasional glances directed our way so I was extra mindful of Biniam saying hi to them through the glass and waving (I can certainly understand not wanting to be bothered during your lunch). Well when I went back inside to put the high chair back, this man got up from his seat and walked over to me and said something along the lines of "I just want to congratulate you on your beautiful family. This world needs more families like yours." Obviously, I was touched. I introduced myself and he did the same and we talked a few moments more. I walked out of that place with this huge, dopey grin on my face -- I just LOVE meeting awesome strangers like that!

Brianna Heldt said...

another lady at the same restuarant actually also came by to say the kids were cute, etc. i am always SO GRATEFUL to the Lord for things like that, because being out in public can become quite draining!

i also hope to more often compliment other peoples' kids, etc. because it means a lot to people.

Anonymous said...

I don't comment much, but I just wanted to thank you for this post. I relate to so very much of it.

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I get the looks and the nasty comments as well. I keep thinking I will someday come up with the perfect comeback or not let it bother me - but it does every time.

I just heard a podcast that you might like. It re-affirmed why we have 4 kids and are not done yet.

I wish I could do the cool link in comments but I can't so:
go here

and listen to the podcast called The Centrality of the Home.

Voddie ROCKS!

Amber said...

I cannot believe how rude that lady was! She must have been taking one of her personal issues out on you. I'm so glad you are strong enough to take comments like that and let them affect you. She had no right to say that to you.

Angela said...

I love knowing you. I love being able to 'hear your voice' as I read your words. You write just like you talk, and I LOVE THAT. I love what you have to say and how you say it, and I'm SO glad God brought you here to Denver! You are such an encouragement. Your children are adorable. I just love em. You are such a sweet momma. I love it. Hope we can double date sometime. Would love to have our hubs meet, too...
(another crazy mom with 4 kids...almost! 2 are coming home from ETHIOPIA this summer!)

Mike and Rachel said...

You return the high chair? You rock. I guess people are probably making nasty comments about me leaving the high chair at the table whenever I leave those types of places.


asnipofgoodness said...

I just found your blog, and I just had to write a comment of encouragement. You are so refreshing in your post, and right on target with your mothering philosophy! Just in case a stranger saying "you are wonderful, and doing the right and good thing, and more power to you" is of any use to you,then there you have it girl. You and Jesus rock on!!!!


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