Life, unedited. Take one.

In April, Clickin Moms, an online photography forum, released a workshop that really hit the refreshing and liberating button when it comes to documenting real life. None of these pretty and clean images that take time to create before you shoot. What? No need to clean up the space before I press click? Yes, please! I caved and signed up for the workshop too and boy was I in for a treat. Enter Erika Ray’s “Get Real, An Honest Approach to Photography”. She takes the physical mess and makes it art, the emotional mess and spills them onto the table, and does every little bit of it with unshaken honesty. A common feedback from her blog and photography followers: Erika, you share once again what many of us feel but are not brave enough to speak. Erika embraces the raw hardness of motherhood and doesn’t cut out any part of the mess because it’s real. It’s hard not to love this mom-tographer just a little.

Reading her words inspired a group of us who signed up for her workshop to form a blog circle where we would share our messes in our lives, in our own way. The goal is to own the mess, and rock doing it. So here’s this month’s edition of my Life, unedited. Take one.

It has been six months since my gig as a stay-at-home-mom officially started. To be honest, I never saw this coming. I never thought I would sign up for this. I had my eye on the career prize, eager to have my second (and last) child and dig right in to advance it. After all, I went to school, invested all those long hours and weeks in the field away from my family and husband and friends for just that reason. Balance is what I’ve always wanted, have my career and be the great wife to my husband and mother to my girls. Then I realized this balance is too much for me to achieve. It was hard for me to admit that and for me to accept that there is nothing wrong with staying at home and enjoying my children.

Herein lies the problem, those expectations of enjoying my children, all.the.time. Ok I’ll admit it, I am enjoying Janie, but enjoying Elliotte comes by a little harder. She can be labelled as, what do they call it?, spirited with a capital S. I call her sassy, sometimes so sassy that she’s full of piss and vinegar that I’m supposed to drink down with patience, using positive language, all the while enjoying her. I was brought up in a different time and culture where being physically disciplined was considered the norm. As a seven year old, I remember going to school with rattan cane marks on my legs, the lines of shame. It said I was a naughty, disobedient child and I probably deserved the punishment. As a mother, I try to so hard not to resort to physical punishment or fear tactics to get my children to listen to me. I want them to be good for me because they want to. I didn’t want them to grow up experiencing what I did throughout my childhood whenever I acted up.

But man, is it ever frustrating when I am met with Elliotte’s wall of defiance. I try giving her limited choices, I try to speak with her in a patient voice, I try to remove emotion from the moment and remind myself that she’s not behaving like that because she’s trying to make more work for me or hurt me. Some days, she’s so emotionally overwhelmed that the simplest things will be a power struggle that leads right to a tantrum, going from 0 to 60 in a flash. This might seem cruel but when I need to step back to take a breath and pull the emotion out of it, I have taken my camera out on a few occasions and taken a picture of her difficult moments. She’s not happy all the time, so I want to record her sad emotions too.

20130419-00191

45 minute power struggle because she wanted to be carried indoors instead of walking.

I'm not hungry, and definitely not hungry for peas in my fried rice

I’m not hungry, and definitely not hungry for peas in my fried rice

No to putting away jacket and shoes. Tantrum ensues with arm flinging and kicking on the ground.

No to putting away jacket and shoes. Tantrum ensues with arm flinging and kicking on the ground.

It’s so easy to yell, it’s so easy to react, and there are moments when I think maybe a good spanking would straighten her out. I am not proud of the guilt talk, but I have said, “Maybe I should go back to work, since nothing I do with you seems to be working.”. If not for the amazing teachers at her school who educate me about parenting, and supportive friends who listen and gently advise, I would have gone to that bad place, more often than I want to admit. I welcomed the help because I felt desperate and I needed it. I take parent workshops and read articles to look for answers on how to deal with my very sassy and spirited and defiant girl. But instead of giving me answers about “how to deal”, it taught me about myself and how to gain the skills I’ll need in my toolbox to troubleshoot. It taught me how to observe my child and watch her emotions and behaviour and what she’s trying to tell me. No the turning point hasn’t been immediate, but I have to persist because the alternative of being a mother that’s yelling and screaming to make her authority known is not an option. It never fails, I am dripping with guilt whenever that happens.

So today’s workshop is a visual map of what I need to look at to help myself take a step back, breathe, and observe, then come along side my child. I took a picture of it so I have it as a reminder.

Visual reminder.

Visual reminder.

As much as she is that difficult child, she’s also got moments of sweetness so pure that it fills my heart so much it could burst. I need to remember that too, moments like this one, where she wanted to pop the bubbles for her little baby sister because it makes her giggle. Thankfully it happens at least once a day, and it’s what gives me renewed hope daily that we can work through this trying phase with her.

Come, let's pop them Janie!

Come, let’s pop them Janie!

Now please head over to Jessica Miller’s blog to check out her version of Let’s Get Real. And definitely take a moment to read this blog post from Erika Ray: Some weeks I’d put myself on a milk carton.

 

  • Catherine M. said:

    Felicia - thank you for such an honest post! I loved your photographs as always but even more I loved your writing. I am one step ahead of you with our oldest, my friend and I can say that it - will - get -easier! Do not doubt what you know in your heart to be the right path.

    • Catmac, thanks for your support! light at the end of this tunnel right? Then another, and another :)

  • Maria said:

    Felicia your daughters are beautiful and this is a very real post, I'm proud of your honesty! Also good for you taking the steps to realize that you don't have to raise your children the same way you were raised. I think a lot of times parents get caught up in the "that's how I was brought up" thinking and the cycle continues as their children grow up to raise their own the exact same way. I catch myself doing it a lot as well. I also struggle with balance and trying to work full time and just quitting to be a stay at home. It's a daily mind battle for me. I personally get through my day with a MILLION deep breaths. But hey, I get through the day, right?!?

    • Haha Maria! Sometimes it's dragon breaths, like today. I even had the principal at the school call out, "lots of breaths" for one situation at pickup today. But if you stop taking them, then we're in trouble! Thanks for your kind words, it's great to always know others feel the same way.

  • Pingback : real everyday life….april/may » Nina Mingioni Photography

  • kelly said:

    Felicia, this blog is absolutely beautiful.
    Really, these are the things that so many moms feel and want to say but are afraid of being judged, bravo for you! We have all been there (and some of us...I mean me...um, yup I'm right smack in the middle of it with my capitol S first born as well. Capitol S- spirited, sassy, sweet, super, and suffocating! These girls are exactly who they are meant to be and we are the moms they are meant to have. I deeply believe they will be exceptional young girls and women if they can make it through their toddler years alive ;0). Walking through it with you sista!

    • Kk, means a lot that you stopped by and read this! I always think our girls are great and spunky and yes, that they will be great people one day with our guidance right? I think if and when I survive this AND the teenage years without damaging them too much, then I will have done something good in this life!

  • erika said:

    I've got one of those S-Word children too. How about we agree to be each other's stop when we runaway. I'll let you hang out for a while and I'll gently remind you why you have to go back. You do the same ok?

    • Thanks for reading this Erika! You are inspirational. Case and point, your little BO spurred on quite the wave of honest sharing and supporting and love through the more painful moments. And that, is nothing short of amazing :) Thanks again for being so thought provoking with your words.

  • Meredith said:

    Brilliant post Felicia!! Honesty is simply something I feel like we don't get enough of these days!
    I don't know what it is about the oldest but I will join in here and add that my oldest is also spirited with a capital "S". I have also have purchased many books and cannot say that any one has been a miracle, however 1,2,3 Magic did help some. Also, I hate to admit it but as he has gotten older and gained a couple of electronics (Wii and Kindle) it has been nice to be able to find a meaningful consequence (removing all electronics for an allocated time). I think taking pictures is a great idea--anything to give you a few breathing moments when the challenging behavior is at it's worst. It also might give you and her something to laugh about many years down the road.
    I also left my job to come home and be with my kids. I thought I would spend my life in the white ivory towers (as they are often referred to here) of academia. I never pictured myself as a stay at home Mom. Photography has been a wonderful way to feel some of that professional void and to meet many wonderful and talented women. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself here! I have enjoyed getting to know you over the past couple of months in class and on FB.

    • Meredith, thanks for sharing! This literally would have been possible without your nudge and help on the website and also always being so forthcoming with CCs. I wish 1,2, 3 would work and consequences are balked at most times or met with tantrums, no matter how consistent we are with her. Well, we just have to keep trying something new. It's has been so nice getting to know you too!

  • Gina said:

    Oh, I could have written this post a few years ago! My second daughter was very similar. For her, it turned out to be a dietary intolerance. Who woulda thunk? Well, now we have it figured out, and I'm back to dealing with a very opinionated 3yr old. ;) I love the shots and reality you captured.

    • Thanks Gina! I'm sure my second, as easy as she seems right now, will hit her stride too :)

  • Jessica said:

    I admire your honesty Felicia! It can be so hard to break out of a cycle like that - there are a lot of things I want to do differently than my parents and yet I find myself struggling to not walk in the exact footsteps! I always thought it would be so easy; you don't like a behavior - don't repeat it! But it's complicated.
    I reduced my hours from full time to part time after Isla was born and I have to say with 100% certainty, staying at home with your kids is the hardest job in the world if you're doing it right! Haha :P
    It probably doesn't feel like it every day but I'm sure you'll look back and cherish these years you had to spend with them. But today, feel free to get real girl! ;)

    • Thanks Jess, this would blog would not have happened if you didn't plant the seed. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share and I always love reading what you have to write, so really, this blog circle fills my cup!

  • Ana said:

    I have one of those children, too! Oh man, it's tough! I feel like he just makes the simplest things so difficult! But when he's happy, oh my, so sweet and happy. Let's hang in there together? :)

    • You betcha Ana! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, much appreciated!

  • Nina said:

    Felicia, i enjoyed your post! i remember those days with my oldest, and, oh, how painful it was. my little one is not quite there yet. promise, it will get easier soon! your photos are really documenting the essence of her moods :)

    • Nina, thanks for your kind words, I keep telling myself that too!

  • Christina said:

    Felicia, I admire your ability to write about what is going on in your life and the struggles motherhood presents. I am such a quiet person and I find it difficult to open up. Thank you for your honesty and I enjoyed your post and images this month.

    • Christina, it's not easy to share like this for me either, but writing it out somehow helps me get through it :)

%d bloggers like this: