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No Leprechauns, No Valentine’s Boxes, No Elves, and why that is Okay

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Holidays could easily make me feel like a mom fail. As I scroll through Facebook and Instagram, it is obvious my little ones are getting the raw end of the deal. My kids are the ones dressed in old sports uniforms for Halloween, and one year I sent them to school with a plastic grocery bag for their Valentine’s box. Leprechauns have never visited our home. We tried the elf on the shelf and he only moved once…from the tree to the banister.

When notes come home about large, artistic school projects, I groan inside. I am completely incapable of cutting a straight line which doesn’t translate well for science fair boards and large scale book reports. It’s tough to tell the difference between my artistic efforts and my kids’. I just hate that kind of stuff.
Pinterest has created an even wider chasm between the “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to creativity and patience. It used to be that only the really talented parents could pull off a show stopper, now it’s shocking when someone can’t.
But, here’s the thing. I LOVE that you can.
I love going through the Valentine boxes (or bags) and seeing darling, homemade cards. I love hearing about the coolest Halloween costumes and seeing really amazing science fair projects. I love that you celebrate the heck out of St. Patrick’s Day. I love that my friend makes ridiculously amazing cakes for her kids’ birthdays and that my cousin threw a carnival when her twins turned one complete with cotton candy, clowns, games, and a myriad of other awesome things.

I also really love it when you invite us to be a part of all your momentous events.

And, it’s not just the mom stuff that I think is incredible. I am in awe of our pediatrician who diagnosed allergies by a line on my son’s nose and women who create their own businesses out of small ideas in cluttered garages. And first grade teachers completely knock my socks off. Can you imagine throwing a seven hour birthday party every day for 28 six-year-olds and hoping they learn something in the process? I could never do or be any of these things, but I am so glad there are women who can.
We teach our kids that different is good, that life would be boring if everyone were the same. But when people are different than we are, or, more pointedly, better than we are at something, it makes us feel insecure…like them being great all of a sudden makes us less good. That feeling makes us scramble or insult or dismiss or excuse just to put ourselves back on higher ground.
But instead we sink, and we bring other women down with us.
I don’t want people to dial things down so I can feel secure. My friends don’t need to hide their talents so I can feel better about myself.  I want to live in a community where women can showcase their strengths and pursue their talents at home and in the workforce without the fear of being or looking “too good.”

When women excel, at anything, it is good for all of us. I love that my kids get to be part of crazy creative class parties and caring playgroups. I’m grateful for intuitive physicians and gentle dentists that keep my boys healthy. And I like bringing what I have to the table too. I like helping with essay writing and reading. I like sharing book lists, favorite museums, and a few good recipes. I like pulling a little extra weight in the school or classroom or driving to soccer practice while another mom is out on the police force or nursing a newborn.

I spent most of my college years studying literature from a feminist perspective, and in hindsight, I may have had it all wrong. Feminism is different for me now. To me, a real feminist allows all women to discover what their best self is, and then lets them be that best in a world, nation, and community that refuses to cut down what is painstakingly being built inside the home or outside of it. We should celebrate the opportunity that women can be anything, from a corporate leader to a killer room mom. There is a seat for everyone at the table and we all benefit when everyone gives their best to make things work.

I had a neighbor who had a talent for making every moment sensational for her family with visits from the magic school bus and themed family evenings; I had another neighbor who was a concert pianist and so cultured and well spoken you wanted to brush up on grammar and philosophy after chatting with her; I had a friend who donated serious amounts of cash to many organizations children were involved in. Being close to these women didn’t make me a less successful woman or mother. I was still me, but I was able to learn from their creativity, culture and generosity and hope that a little of their goodness might rub off on me.

Many years ago, in a rough moment of inadequacy, I wondered how I could ever measure up to everyone around me. Then, I had a distinct Godly impression, almost a voice that said, “I gave you these boys because they needed YOU to be their mother.” It was a beautiful, spiritual experience as I realized who I WAS instead of who I wasn’t. My boys didn’t need a college professor, a sports star, a party thrower, a decorator, or a perfectly organized mother, they just needed me, and I was enough.
So, I guess what I am saying is that you are the perfect mother for your children and your kids just need YOU. They need your best self, and when you are being that, whoever YOU are, is enough. After that realization, who other people are, what they do and what they have fades into the background and what emerges is who you are now and who you can become.

An unintended consequence of realizing who you are, is that your children see confidence and assurance in your mothering. You don’t have to make excuses or tell half truths; you are who you are, and not only are you okay with it, but you embrace it and hold to it. They stop begging to do things like other families and manipulating your emotions to mold you into their ideal parent, and they start enjoying what your family has to offer them (well, most of the time).

And next February 14th, you can send your kids to school with a plastic bag for their Valentine’s box and do it with a smile, because you show love differently, and it is just the kind of love they need.

To see my recent interview about this post on KSL’s Studio 5, click HERE!

More posts like this:

Eating my Words

To My Boys Before the First Day of School

I left my phone at home. The results were priceless.

I Never Thought I Wanted Kids but I Was Born to be a Mother

Why we are taking the FUN out of life

 

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148 thoughts on “No Leprechauns, No Valentine’s Boxes, No Elves, and why that is Okay

  1. Oh, Brooke. You got me. I was so ready to comment that I've thought the same thing about feminism before. I wrote a paper in college in my class taught by a lesbian minister about feminism, and how I was sick of people believing that feminism means you have to be like a man (or like someone else) rather than being proud of being a woman with traditionally "womanly" traits. I was there with you.

    And then I read the line about God sending us our kids because they need US as their specific moms. I was COMPLETELY caught off guard by the tears that came. This is more than exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for reaching deep and sharing the personal part of your story, and not just the high points about how we can all love each other and each other's talents. Thank you for making it real and poignant. You are seriously the greatest.

  2. I love this. I also did quite a bit of study on feminist issues in college, but I was lucky to have a more third-wave feminist ideology professor. But, I still run into women that are always looking left to right — comparing and judging and snarking or apologizing or whatever — just let it go!

    "You are Enough." Perfectly said. It also made me think of this: "As others seem to grow larger in our sight, we think we must therefore be smaller…But God does not work this way." https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/the-other-prodigal?lang=eng

  3. Thank you! From a mom who cried a few tears this morning over an article telling me to "take it down a notch", this was incredibly refreshing and truly filled with love. I am the mom with a leprechaun who visits and homemade Valentine boxes and Halloween costumes. Because that is what I love and what I am good at. It is these things that I find joy in creating memories and traditions with my children and family – thank you for acknowledging that we are different but that that is OK!

  4. Thank you so much Brooke for sharing this post! This touched me as I know I struggle sometimes when the holidays come and I feel like I am scraping by to measure up in some way to all the pinterest ideas that make it look simple as pie. Your post greatly encourages me to keep being the best mom I can be.

  5. This is absolutely incredible, and every woman needs to read what is so right on! You my friend, might send your kids with plastic bags to school on Valentine's Day, but have the perfect perspective and goals to build by far the most important components in life which include……your husband and those adorable boys! I am so lucky to call you FRIEND! I'll sleep a little better tonight because I read this today. Love you!

  6. And I've been the mom that's thought, "Who has time for that? Who likes that?" This post of Brooke's helped me see that there's room for all of us–you who enjoy at crafts and holidays and (eeek!) sewing, and me who enjoys kitchenaid bread and bedtime songs and walks with the little red wagon. There's room for all of us, and having our kids exposed to all different kinds of mothering can only make their lives richer. (That said–I wish I lived by you around Halloween time–maybe you could give me a few costume pointers!) Thanks to Brooke, and thanks to you ArlaMo, for helping me see it all from a different perspective.

  7. Thank you for sharing!! These same thoughts have crossed my mind a lot lately!! I too have four boys and I feel like my first two got the short end of the stick, but with more experience and the example of other great moms we can too become the mothers our children need!! Again, thank you so much for sharing, I truly enjoyed your blog-Maggie Summers from TEXAS

  8. Thank you!! I have started writing a post with the same sentiment so many times over, but have never been able to express it well enough to hit 'publish'. You've said exactly what's been in my heart, and I applaud you!

  9. This was wonderful, and I think we can all use this as a reminder! We need more posts like this that embrace each others differences rather than driving an unnecessary wedge between us because of our various parenting styles! Thank you for writing this! Hooray for moms everywhere!

  10. I am so not creative. I think that's why I surround myself with creative people. And that's why dad helps with projects, because that's not mom's strong suit. You need help with math, I'm your gal. I tell my son how I was hoping for a girl and I ended up with him and that's okay because he's the right kid for me. I wouldn't have it any other way. I actually have a degree in Women's Studies. I was planning on getting married after my senior year and there was a woman in my senior seminar at every single class would talk about what a patriarchal institution marriage was. Every single week. So annoying. Feminism is the idea that women are valuable members of society and should not be limited in what they can do because they have two X chromosomes. And by extension, men should not be limited in what they can do either. Big brushstrokes. Live and let live. It's all cool. Just don't be a jerk.

  11. Bless your ridiculously awesome heart! This was probably the best blog post I've ever read. Thank you for this beautiful reminder that life isn't a race and that we can all live in love rather than jealousy. I shall be moving forward with a new attitude. THANK YOU.

  12. Thank you for putting all of it into perspective. As one who has been teased for being so organized, your words resonated with me. No, I can't sew, draw a straight line to save my life or necessarily even keep my house straight, I love and admire those who can. Some of my best friends are ridiculously creative and I love them to pieces for it. There's room for all of us here.

  13. I'm so glad that you wrote this perspective! I feel the same way, I'm not great at many things, and I don't feel bad about it. I'm glad other women have time and talents that are different than mine. I always try to tell my friends not to feel insecure or badly that they aren't "pinterest perfect". Who cares? They are loved by their friends and family for who they are. Thanks for the article!

  14. Those were the exact 2 points that stood out to me too. Thank you for a great post! I know women feel inadequate when others do more, or do differently, but I just feel like we all need to stop the comparison game. Someone else's success doesn't mean we are failures. This was an excellent post on being true to yourself and owning that truth, as well as allowing others to do the same for themselves without judgement.

  15. I'm so glad I read this. I'm not a mom, but I feel like a lot of these things that you say are applicable globally across women, heck even people in general. As a food blogger, I excel in making mundane tasks like pouring sugar into a cake batter look exciting and pretty, but when it comes to crafts, decorating, home organization, style… I bloody fail.

    I never feel any negativity towards the people who have those types of blogs or excel at those kind of things, but I totally agree with you. As the fourth wave of feminism begins to wash over us, we need to support all other women, showcase their talents instead of bringing them down so we don't feel inadequate (E.g. "She's a stay at home mom, she has time for that kind of stuff" instead of "Wow what a great mom. I'll continue doing whatever I do best"). We are so fortunate to be able to choose what we want to do, be it an actress, a mom, a writer, a CEO… heck maybe even all of the above.

    Love this post =)

  16. I just came to your blog from a Facebook link and I could not agree more!!! Thank you so much for writing this! I really wish we could all be secure in our mothering and be happy with how we raise our own families! I applaud all mother's who are doing their very best.

  17. There were so many other comments I almost hesitated leaving one – but the point of leaving a comment is to applaud the post and show support! And I highly support and connect with everything you said here. Wonderful message and it was conveyed beautifully! Thank you!

  18. I too got here through Facebook. And I agree with Jessica–I don't normally leave comments but this "conversation" has struck a nerve and I wanted to tell you thank you thank you THANK YOU for posting this!! You have put into words what I was thinking. I too was left a little upset over the "other" article telling me to dial down the magic. It is so disheartening when women–especially mothers–criticize rather than express understanding and love over our differences. I am also a mom whose home the leprechaun visits and who loves making extra special Valentines because it MAKES ME HAPPY! Thank you so much for this perspective!! I love that we are all different-how boring would life be if we weren't?! 🙂

  19. I completely agree with this article and the comments given. I felt a little bad about not doing the leprechaun thing and felt a little guilty about that but then when I read the "other" article about dialing things down I felt guilty because I am going way over the top on my girls birthday party. It's hard to remember to value others abilities without feeling a need to compare ourselves sometimes so thanks for the great reminder!

  20. I love that you didn't put down anyone here – the one's who go over-the-top all out, or the super laid back type. We can celebrate everyone and not compare ourselves. But it's okay to learn from another or be motivated by them. There is a really great conference talk by Elder Holland from several years ago that I think goes along with this theme. "The Other Prodigal" (Apr. 2002).

  21. What I positively love about this post and what sets it apart Is the positivity. I'm not a perfect Mom I fall short in many areas. I do however love to make great cakes, throw big parties for birthdays with homemade decorations that take days, the leprechaun always visits, a bow is made for every occasion and holiday. Now what I don't love is getting in trouble for that. After holidays getting scolded by moms who didn't have time for that and that's ok but don't get mad at me because I did. It is thought that pinterest has caused this competition between women when really for me it just helps me with ideas from a bunch of amazing women out there to help make my children have amazing experiences. I do the things I do to see my kids happy faces and take beautiful pictures to capture those amazing family building experiences. Do I think you have to do these things to be a great Mom? Absolutely not but if I do and I enjoy it I don't want to get in trouble for doing it. I love your message and enjoy learning from everyone.

  22. What I positively love about this post and what sets it apart Is the positivity. I'm not a perfect Mom I fall short in many areas. I do however love to make great cakes, throw big parties for birthdays with homemade decorations that take days, the leprechaun always visits, a bow is made for every occasion and holiday. Now what I don't love is getting in trouble for that. After holidays getting scolded by moms who didn't have time for that and that's ok but don't get mad at me because I did. It is thought that pinterest has caused this competition between women when really for me it just helps me with ideas from a bunch of amazing women out there to help make my children have amazing experiences. I do the things I do to see my kids happy faces and take beautiful pictures to capture those amazing family building experiences. Do I think you have to do these things to be a great Mom? Absolutely not but if I do and I enjoy it I don't want to get in trouble for doing it. I love your message and enjoy learning from everyone.

  23. This is such a wonderful (and needed) post. Thank you for your insight. I have often thought that many of the comments I've heard or posts I've seen have just been "mean girl" syndrome. In other words, if they don't think it's cool, it's stupid or a waste of time. Instead, we should compliment others, recognize our unique differences, and celebrate being women! In my opinion, it all boils down to us comparing ourselves to others, and we need to stop! Thanks again!

  24. I LOVE this! So many moms are SOOOO much better than me at so many things – and that's great! I love learning and being inspired and just admiring from a distance all those other moms and their awesomeness! I don't do all of our crazy family traditions and fun holiday celebrations to keep up with anyone. I do it because that's how I enjoy parenting! And I love that there are people WAY more creative than me to help with the inspiration and how-to's. It doesn't make me feel better than anyone else because I do it and they don't. Honestly, we don't celebrate the "real" holidays as much as the silly ones. Leprechaun traps and elaborate Valentine boxes? Not for me. Butterbeer and licorice wands on Harry Potter's Birthday and waffles for dinner on National Waffle Day? Count me in! Aren't you glad we're not all exactly the same?

  25. Thanks ArlaMo! Maybe we will stop by for an extra special holiday one day! I am glad you felt the love and the satisfaction of raising your kids the best way you know how. Hooray Charlotte for taking a moment to see things differently! I felt the way you did and a conversation with a dear friend that I loved really changed my perspective…been thinking about it for almost a year trying to find the best way to express my true feelings. And thanks Karen for your kind words!

  26. Ah Jessica, please know how much it means to me that you took a moment to comment and share your feelings. It feels so good to know that there are so many women out there feeling similarly to the way I feel. We can change things!

  27. Wendy, thank you for sharing. I read the other article too, and honestly LOVED it. Laughed out loud and so hard I was crying. It was a great piece of literature. However, after sharing it with a good friend and hearing her perspective on why she does big holidays and other things I think are just crazy, my opinion completely changed and I started seeing things through her eyes and mine too. I thought, we all can do better and be better.

  28. Carrie it is so true. It is so tough, even when you try to have a great perspective! For me, it is easiest to be confident when I truly feel like I am giving all I can at the moment. When I am, it is the best I have to offer.

  29. Thanks Ashley and you go girl! It is obvious that you find so much joy in making events and holidays awesome for your kids, so keep it up and let the rest of us benefit as you share your talents!

  30. Such a smart mom! I will NEVER forget the day my kids came home from a friends' home who had just moved in. They said, "Mom, when are we going to decorate for Easter?" What?!!!! I never heard of such a thing and guaranteed them this was not their mom. I later found out this friend's mom decorates for absolutely EVERY holiday on the calendar. Ugh! Who would do that to themselves?

  31. My aunts and I were talking about comparison last night and I couldn't sleep afterwards. I want to raise my children to know their worth and to see the worth of others. When I read this this morning, it was exactly how I feel. I don't throw big parties, I don't do leprechaun traps, and my 4 kid rarely have their hair done. But, I can MacGuyver just about anything, I am incredible at making up silly songs, and I have happy kids. I choose to be happy with myself and glad for the talents of those around me. Thanks for a wonderful post. Made my day.

  32. As I am the mother of five boys (and one amazing daughter who puts up with all the brothers!), you would fit right in at our house! Too bad J & J moved away from WW – if you had ever come to visit them, I would have loved to meet you. Again, so much appreciation for this post. After only one day, I have seen some amazing positive affects on friends and acquaintances who have opened their minds to a more supportive way of thinking (me included!) and I have also seen many crafty women take heart by the thoughts you posted. Love your writing, love your blog! You have a gift and I applaud YOU for that!

  33. Brooke, you kill me!! Look at all these amazing, supportive comments. You truly are an incredible, insightful, AWESOME woman, mother and wife. I love the end where you said that "realizing who you are, is that your children see confidence and assurance in your mothering…They stop begging to do things like other families and manipulating your emotions to mold you into their ideal parent, and they start enjoying what your family has to offer them." This makes so much sense, yet something you just don't think of. I hope I can remember this as my young children grow. Thank you soooo much for sharing. Keep posting all your wisdom and insights!! Love you girl!

  34. This is a great reminder. I need it sometimes (or most times). Who else could handle the crazy life that has been given to me in the way I can. Thanks so much for sharing this. I shall embrace my uniqueness!

  35. I'm a Grammie now but reading this post (recommended by my 1st grade teacher daughter) brought tears to my eyes. You are so wise. How lucky you are to realize this about yourself NOW and share that with other moms who feel like they just don't quite measure up! You said it so well. Kudos!

  36. Well said. I wish I was creative and knew how those that are, find the time to do it. Either way, I'm glad for those that are willing to share it and help out those of us that aren't! It's been fun to see people I know with no connection to you sharing your articles! Getting big time now!! Way to go!

  37. Excellent post. I loved it and agree wholeheartedly. Reminds me of a quote from a talk called "The Other Prodigal" by Jerry R Holland which states "When others succeed we somehow feel that because the sun is shining on them, that as they seem to grow larger in God's sight that we are somehow less…and unfortunately, sometimes we begin to act that way."

  38. Excellent post. I loved it and agree wholeheartedly. Reminds me of a quote from a talk called "The Other Prodigal" by Jerry R Holland which states "When others succeed we somehow feel that because the sun is shining on them, that as they seem to grow larger in God's sight that we are somehow less…and unfortunately, sometimes we begin to act that way."

  39. I'm so thankful for women like you Brooke who wake us all up to the reality that we are a unique individuals with specific talents and gifts. We can't be good at everything so let's celebrate the things we can do and in turn be gentle on ourselves when we can't do something. I'm constantly in awe of my ultra talented friends who go after their dreams and goals or quietly raise some incredible kids in their home. Thank you for sharing your gift with us – your gift of wisdom and insight and having the courage to write about it beautifully.

  40. Brooke!! I love it. You are so amazing, I will try not to feel jealous of you 😀 I love seeing it shared by my facebook friends that don't know you! It is a really great reminder.

  41. I have had the same thoughts Connie, but I learned to love those moms because they are also willing to decorate for school plays and church parties, something I REALLY hate to do!

  42. Julie, you are so amazing!!! One of the women who has too many talents to count. I have always enjoyed being surrounded by the beautiful things you create. Wish you could help me decorate this house of mine! Can't wait to hear about your California adventures!

  43. Beautiful post Brooke. It reminds me of one of my favorite Momastery posts "Quit Pointing Your Avocado at Me": http://momastery.com/blog/2013/06/21/quit-pointing-your-avocado-at-me/.

    "Other mamas are just weaving together families using the unique gifts and challenges and interests they have. Just like I am. They are much too joyful and scared and fulfilled and empty and tired and inspired and busy living their brutiful lives to concern themselves too much with what I’m doing. What we seek we will find and if we’re looking for a world full of judgmental mamas – we’ll find it. Parenting is the most important thing to many of us and so it’s the place we’re most vulnerable. But even when we’re scared – we can still choose. We can choose to see each other as competition or as fellow warriors – fighting the same fight on the same team. One goal – many paths. We can learn from each other. We can even ENJOY each other."

    And her post Friendly Fire (http://momastery.com/blog/2013/10/29/friendly-fire-4/) reminds me that our daughters (and our sons) are watching us and learning from all of us about what it means to be a woman and a mother. While this post of Glennon's is more about the so called "mommy wars" between stay at home and working mothers, I think this paragraph of hers rings so true in light of your post about honoring all the various differences we all bring to the table:

    "My daughter is watching me AND you to learn what it means to be a woman. And I’d like her to learn that a woman’s value is determined less by her career choices and more by how she treats other women, in particular, women who are different than she is. I’d like her to learn that her strength is defined by her honesty and her ability to exist in grey areas without succumbing to masking her insecurities with generalizations or accusations. And I’d like her to learn that the only way to be both graceful and powerful is to dance among the endless definitions of the word woman… and to refuse to organize women into categories, to view ideas in black and white, or to choose sides and come out swinging. Because being a woman is not that easy, and it’s not that hard."

  44. What a beautifully written post. It so clearly described thoughts I have been having lately. Completely resonated with me. Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us 🙂 we all have something to contribute!

  45. What a breath of fresh air this post is! And reading the comments has been just as enjoyable as reading the post. How wonderful to see so many women talking about what they excel at and what brings them joy. When we stop tearing each other down and start building ourselves and all women up, we will be more content as individuals, more confident as mothers, and better able to contribute in a positive way to society in general. Thanks for your beautiful words, Brooke.

  46. I just had to stop by and say THANK YOU! I love that you focused on building each other up and accepting (and celebrating) our differences. Let's remember to build each other up! No need to bring people down because we feel inadequate in some areas. I cannot even tell you how much this post has inspired me. Thanks for the smile and for the spirit lifting!

  47. Visiting from Bonbon Break. This is such a great message and one I needed reminding of. I love this idea that I am the perfect mom for my kids whether or not I make that homemade pinterested pudding I just read about (I wish someone would make it for me!). Thanks again for the needed reminder!

  48. Hi Brooke!
    I was excited to see your blog linked to on Power of Moms in a comment! Love your thoughts on this. I remember you talking about this type of mind-set in MI and it has stuck with me ever since. I am so grateful for the talents of all my friends, some who influenced me in a way that I was able to adopt and learn a bit from them a new skill or talent….and others who (as you said) I don't have the talent or interest to mimik their talents, but I am SO grateful that my family got to experience their amazing playgroup, preschool, party, etc. and have those "magical" memorable moments with them.
    Fun to "see" you again! 🙂
    KT

  49. Hey Katie!! I am so glad you found and enjoyed it. You are such an amazing person with so many talents to share. I feel so blessed to have so many great women surrounding me, just as you do. Hope your family is enjoying their years abroad!

  50. I love this! I love your take and perspective of loving people for who they are. There are already so many posts about "don't make me feel bad for not being crafty/super clean" and "don't make me feel bad for being crafty/super clean". You stated that perfectly. You definitely have a talent for being able to express what you are thinking!

  51. I simply want to tell you that I am newbie to blogging and site-building and really enjoyed your page. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your site . You actually have remarkable stories. Thanks for sharing with us your website page.

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