March 22, 2016

10 Things I Don’t Wish I’d Done Differently As a Mom (Part 1)

The other day, I Googled “what I wish I’d done differently as a mom” and got 10 million results.
Apparently, a lot of moms have a lot they regret about their mothering.
Apparently, as a parent with some mom mileage on me, I should be writing about my own regrets and done-differently wishes.
And, mercy, do I ever have them to write about. I’ve messed up and made bad decisions and taken wrong turns more times than I can count.
But with 29 total years of motherhood racked up, I’m so thankful to be able to say there are a few things I don’t wish I could undo, by the grace of God.

I'm grateful to be able to share the first part of this post both here and over on Real Life Families, one of my all-time favorite mom hangouts in the blogsphere. 
These things I have done and things I haven’t done have worked for me and for my girls and for our family.
Some of them may be deal-breakers for you. Some of these may be non-negotiables at your house. 
You may read this list and think, “Good grief, woman! Have you no shame? How can you possibly not regret this?!” Which is okay, actually.
Because you see, sweet mama, this is not a list of how I think other moms should do motherhood. This is only a collection of what, with the benefit of some hindsight and two older, happy, healthy, thriving children as evidence, I can leave off my personal do-over wish list, by the grace…



As a mom, I'm thankful I don’t regret that I…
1. Let my girls be cared for by other people. My husband is an only child, and I am the oldest, so you’d better believe the birth of our firstborn was met with no small amount of enthusiasm from both sets of new grandparents. We were blessed to live near my husband’s parents and mine, and from their very earliest days, both my babies spent time with their doting fan club. (We were also blessed to be able to absolutely trust all four of our parents not only with our girls’ physical safety, but with their mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, too.)
Early on, I would race off to Target for the 86.5 minutes I had between nursing sessions. Later, my husband and I left our girls longer and went farther—to Hawaii, in one memorable instance. I loved being home with my babies, just as I have loved being with them into their tween and teen years. But I wanted my girls to know they could depend on people other than their father and me to love and care for them.
I wanted them to have the security and reassurance of a wide net of love and affection and familiarity. Too, those very early days when I lugged the car seat in and out of my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses laid a foundation for closeness that continues to this day.
2. Fought the church battle every Sunday. When my girls were newborns, I could not imagine EVER being able to make it to church again. The number of things that had to happen for us to go was so crazy-impossible, I couldn’t even think about it. But I got used to sneaking in one last feeding session while I practically had one foot out the door, and eventually, we started making it every week. (And years later, on the first Sunday my daughter stood at the top of the stairs wearing tights she had PUT ON HERSELF, I had a flash of what Moses must have felt like when he watched God part the Red Sea.)
We established this routine from the get-go so that going to church every week was not a decision we had to make every week. It’s just what we did. And it’s what we do.
Still, now that my girls are older, I’m not sure there’s any time my family members like each other less than we do on Sunday mornings at about 8:15. My husband is trying to get two minutes of bathroom time to brush his teeth before he backs the van out of the garage because we DO NOT HAVE TIME PEOPLE to wait for that to happen once we’re all in the van, by the grace of God. Meanwhile, I’m running around yelling that we have to leave in two minutes and my girls are being unhappy with their hair and everyone just wants to be back in bed, for crying out loud. In this mood, we set off for church. Because we will not offer sacrifices to the Lord our God that cost us nothing (see 2 Samuel 24:24).
My point (and I do have one) is that all this has been worth it. Because it has laid a foundation for faith that I witness growing stronger every day. I see my girls reading their devotions at the breakfast table and leading worship with me and praying and posting inspirational quotes online. And the point of all this is not all this, but that all this is pointing them toward God. They are filling the God-shaped hole inside their hearts with the God Who put it there. Which makes all that Sunday-morning angst so worth it, I can’t even talk about it.
3. Waited an extra year before sending my youngest to preschool. When my second (and last) baby was three, I agonized over where to send her to preschool. I thought every three-year-old needed to be in preschool. I searched all over our area for a program that was a good fit, but most of them started at 8 a.m.—right when I was getting my would-be preschooler’s big sister on the bus.
Finally, after endless phone calls, I had a moment of clarity: I did not have to send her that year. I was at home with her. She was learning and growing and developing. We could just hang out for awhile longer. We could do library time, and she could come with me to Bible study and play in the nursery, and we could take naps together on the couch. She could go to preschool the next year, followed by kindergarten.
So this is what we did. And thank God for it, because when, two years later, I sent my baby to kindergarten and everyone asked if I was sad, I was able to honestly tell them I wasn’t (much). We had done that “bonus” year together. We had hung out. We had taken the time. And it had been a wonderful gift.
Now, as I watch her navigate middle school, I know I wouldn’t trade that year for anything. (I also sure wouldn’t mind another nap on the couch.)
4. Sent my girls to public school. I have so many friends who are amazing home schoolers, and I am in awe of what they do every day…usually before 11 a.m. But my husband and I felt very clearly called to be Christian public school parents—a full-time job in and of itself.
For one thing, I believe teaching is a gift not everyone possesses to the same degree. And the degree to which I possess that gift would not have gotten my daughters past preschool nametag day. I so greatly admire the talent and training of professional educators and understand that I cannot do what they do. So we intentionally bought a house in a school district we knew and respected and trusted and sent our girls there from the beginning.
We have been aware of what our children are doing and learning. We have been involved. The staff knows us by sight and by our first names. I have been PTA mom and room mom and “attendance hotline” mom and band mom and popcorn mom. While I’ve been around, I’ve seen what my girls’ teachers do every day and have been awed and grateful.
My daughters have not just had good teachers all along—they have had amazing educators, and many of them have been Christians who have nurtured my children not only educationally but spiritually and morally. My daughters are growing daily in their knowledge of and love for God, and they exercise their faith muscle every day when they are around their public school teachers and peers.
5. Limited my children’s activities. The formula for the way our girls spend their time pretty much looks like this: school + family/home + church + dance + friends  =  life. Band is the other big component of their existence, but because it is a school activity, the extracurricular time they spend on it is limited.
We like being home together as a family, and this requires us to semi-regularly be: 1)home and 2)together. We’ve never done teams or groups that have Sunday practices or games. We’ve never done multiple sports at the same time. We’ve never done anything year-round. This doesn’t mean any of this is wrong. It just isn’t the plan we went with for our little family.
I know the pressure to allow kids to try everything and not “limit their potential” is huge in our culture today. And we have created opportunities for our girls to explore various interests in case they became passions. But having afterschool and evening and weekend activities every day of every week of every month was never an option for us.
I call this “selective scheduling,” and it has worked for us. For. Us.

I'll put the rest of this list up next week (barring a surprise early-anniversary trip where my husband whisks me off to Hawaii). And maybe someday I’ll put together a list of what I wish I’d done differently. (And let me say it again: I have plenty of fodder for that collection. Mercy.) But right now, I’m just incredibly grateful I’ve got a few things to put on this list…a few things I’ve done that I wouldn’t undo.

By the grace.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 
Looking for the rest of this list? Aw, thanks! It's right here.

This post has been gratefully shared at Real Life Families...if you're not already a fan of this amazing site, please check it out. You'll be glad you did.

It may also have been a guest at some of these lovely blog bashes.

55 comments:

  1. Great post! It's definitely a struggle getting all of the kids off to church every Sunday, but I'm glad that we've done it, too. I also make my kids sit still rather than coloring or playing with toys or eating during Mass. I think that even a small child can handle learning to sit still for one hour out of a whole week! ;)

    (The 2 year old isn't still for most of it, and neither is the 6 year old, but we are practicing just the same!!)

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    1. Oh my word on that Sunday struggle...YES, Jamie. But if practice doesn't make perfect, at least it makes possible. Keep fighting the good fight, mama--even though "fight" is exactly what it feels like sometimes on Sunday mornings! ;) Thanks for taking time to stop by today...you are a blessing!

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  2. So nice to hear about the public school involvement... mine did public school too, and I get gasps and "how ever did you put up with it all?" and even question my parenting. I just know that it requires as much involvement as home schooling does, and my kids had a great experience and were able to be a light in a dark place. Won't ever regret it. :) #ClarinetMomsRejoice
    Love your post today, m'dear! xxoo

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    1. Christine, thank you so much for sharing that perspective! Another thing we have in common, fellow clarinet mom! ;) And what you say goes back to one more mom lesson I've learned: in parenting, decisions usually do not come down to all right and all wrong but best based on various circumstances and factors. I am so encouraged that you say you won't ever regret public school. To date, neither have we. Thank you for being such a lovely encourager. Hugs back to you.

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  3. Love this, Elizabeth! Sometimes we're so hard on ourselves as moms and it's nice to look back and recognize good decisions we've made that have benefited our families. Praise God for the wisdom He grants and the direction He gives as we seek to honor Him in our parenting.

    Looking forward to the rest of the list!

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    1. Yes, absolutely, Tracey. I never want it to come across like I'm patting myself on the back for these non-regrets. I'm just GRATEFUL for the guidance and wisdom God has given...because I certainly don't think He wants us to live our lives wishing for only do-overs! Thank you as always for your sweet support. Looking forward to reading how your girls' fine arts festival went! :)

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  4. Great list, Elizabeth! With 3 grown kiddos I completely agree. I have some regrets, but none of the things on your list. 10,000,000 results for mom guilt! Whew! It's time for us to rethink that isn't it? Thanks and blessings to you!

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    1. Thank you, Deb! I know: 10 million IS a lot of mom guilt. I think sometimes we wear it like a badge of honor...the more guilt we feel, the better moms we hope we are. And I'm not talking about being proud and haughty with a list like this one. I just think that God gives grace and wisdom and that it's okay to be thankful for areas of motherhood that have turned out well! Thanks and blessings right back to you!

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  5. I love this! I'm only eight years into this parenting gig but I pray I have a list of things I'm glad I did in a couple decades!

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    1. Mary, no doubt you'll have a list a lot longer than 10 items! ;) And if I wrote my list of mom mess-ups, IT would be a lot longer than 10 items. But I'm truly grateful there are a few do-overs I can pass on. Thanks for stopping by and for hosting Works for Me Wednesday! :)

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  6. We have very similar parenting styles, especially 3 and 4. As a teacher and a mom, I can say best decisions we ever made with our girls. Limiting activities - please let's shout this from the roof tops! Thanks for shouting it out on Party at My Place today!

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    1. Wow, Michelle, your feedback as both teacher and mom is SO encouraging! Thank you for blessing me with that today. And I will gladly join the "selective scheduling" shout-out! It has worked for us, and I don't think I'll ever regret it as a parenting position. Have a joyous Easter, lovely lady! :)

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  7. What a great post and as a girl mom can most certainly relate, especially to the pre-school one as I sent both my girls at 3 years old and now they are fully ensconced in full-time elementary school and that is time I will never get back - ever.

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    1. Aw, Janine...bless your heart! I want to be clear that I mean NO condemnation on any of these non-regrets. I did send my first daughter to preschool when she was 3, and it was a lovely experience all-around. It just didn't work out the same way for my younger daughter, and it was freeing to realize there wan't only one "right" way to do things. Maybe that's the bigger lesson in all this? I truly feel what you mean about time in the past that cannot be retrieved, but I can tell you as a mom of older girls that you have, God-willing, many, MANY more precious times to look forward to. Those sweet moments do not automatically come to an abrupt halt when your kiddos get to double-digit ages...or even ages with a "teen" on the end! ;) Thanks so much for taking time to stop by today!

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  8. I'm wondering if ANYone's rushing-to-church routine looks sane. I'm usually rushing around & getting Gv in her carseat (still asleep), sticking a dress that can go over her pajamas next to her, backing out the car and waiting in the 6:30 dark in the driveway waiting for my non-morning-person husband to rush out, jump in, and race us off where we can slip in the side door and see how long it is before our sleeping beauty awakens to pull out every offering envelope in the entire row of our pew...

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    1. Oh my. Shall I pray for you on Sunday mornings, too? This seems to be a recurring theme. I'm starting to think the only families who aren't going through this are the ones who aren't trying to go to church in the first place.;) The temptation of which I truly understand. Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

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  9. I love this article! I really do think we are secretly related! Every one of these reasons found me nodding my head in agreement. I can't wait for the second part. Thanks so much for all you do!

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    1. Well, dear Jennifer, at the very least, we are sisters in Jesus! ;) Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. It means so much to me. I never want to come across as preachy or judgmental, but I do want to support other moms in recognizing what has "worked" for them and for their families. Have a joy-filled Easter, lovely lady!

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  10. I LOVE this, but especially the point about fighting to get everyone in the van and to church on Sunday. We had so many family fights (or was that just between my husband and I?) before we ever got to church! 3 girls, all that hair and only one boy (hubs got off easy), and yes, the tights, the dresses, the melt-downs, all of it was worth it in the long run.

    My kids are grown now and all save the last are out of the nest (she's about to turn 20) but they are all in church and serving the Lord faithfully and I know that was one battle worth fighting!

    Elizabeth, I appreciate your wisdom and I want to feature this post on my blog next Tuesday Talk! Do you mind if I copy your picture, or would you like to send it to me? You can let me know at ruthiegray123@gmail.com if you don't mind - or just comment on my blog. Thanks! :)

    http://www.rearreleaseregroup.com/

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    1. Oh my goodness, Ruthie! First of all: WHAT a testimony your children are to the worthwhile-ness of that Sunday struggle, and you'd better believe I'm going to tuck this sentence away to recall on Sunday mornings: "My kids are grown now and all save the last are out of the nest (she's about to turn 20) but they are all in church and serving the Lord faithfully and I know that was one battle worth fighting!" That is just so encouraging. We cross a county line very shortly before we arrive at church, so sometimes I have to say, at that line, "Alright, everyone, act like you love each other." Which, really, is okay, because love is choice, and sometimes you have to do it even if you don't feel it! ;) I would be incredibly honored if you wanted to use my little list in any way. Feel free to copy/borrow/reprint/reuse anything in whatever way you need to. Thank you so much for giving me these gifts today!

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  11. Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!! to number 1. I worked outside of the home for the first year of my oldest's life, and while it wasn't the best thing I totally do not regret staying home once my youngest was born. We were really able to find our rhythm as a family since I am home full-time. It also helped us realize that homeschooling was an excellent option for our family. I completely understand those who send their kids to public school. There are some amazing public school teachers out there.

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    1. Well, hello, Surly Housewife! It was lovely to "meet" you earlier today. I love your comment because it reinforces the foundation of this post: what works for me and my family might work--or not--for someone else! There are lots of different ways to get motherhood "right," and whichever way you choose, it's nice to recognize sometimes that it WAS right! Thanks so much for finding your way here today!

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  12. I love this! We try to limit our involvement in sports and activities for more family time too!

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    1. Thank you so much! It's encouraging to know we're not the only family that practices "selective scheduling"!;) The older my girls get, the more my heart's desire is just for our little family to be home together. It doesn't happen often even with our limitations, but it happens more than it would if we weren't deliberate about it. Again, it works for us. Blessings to you on your family time! :)

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  13. Oh, Elizabeth, I am so happy to see a post about what you DON"T regret!
    Beautiful!
    God time, and effort to do His will is never wasted, is it?
    Friday Frivolity

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    1. No it is not! :) And I'm so glad my little list resonated...I absolutely have my share of regrets, but this far in, it's nice to recognize that some things have worked out just fine. Thank you so much for taking time to stop by. Best wishes on your recovery! ;)

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  14. You've made a great list. It's good to focus on what we've done right. I think the tendency is always to look at what we've done wrong.

    Thanks for "talking back" at Harvest Lane Cottage. Do you know that your comments come through to my email as a "no reply blogger"? If you'd like to get direct responses to your comments more often, you might like to know how to change that. I wrote about it in this blog post.

    http://harvestlanecottage.blogspot.com/2015/01/are-you-no-reply-blogger.html

    If you're like me, you don't have time to go back and check on other blogs to see if you've gotten a response to your comment. I sometimes can take time to track down commenters, but I'm usually short on time.

    ஐღLauraღஐ
    Harvest Lane Cottage
    ...doing what I can with what I've got where I am
    on a short shoestring budget!
    ~~~~~

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    1. Thank you, Laura, both for your kind words AND for the little tutorial on blog comments. I did not realize about the "no reply" situation and am so glad you mentioned it. I'll be sure to check out your helpful post before next week's round of link parties. Thanks so much!

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  15. I love LOVE this list and look forward to the second half. Thanks SO much for sharing at 4Real Moms. You are truly one of my all-time favorite writers!!! :-)

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    1. Aw, thank YOU so much, Christine! You are one of my favorites! :) I will always bless the day I happened upon 4Real Moms. You are a treasure. xoxo

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  16. I love this! I think that it's SO easy to feel like you are doing alllll of the mom things wrong, but you're doing what is RIGHT for you and your family.

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    1. You're right, Morgan: the wrong seems to have more power than the right. But sometimes you get those glimpses of what has worked out well, and it's like a mom paycheck! :) Thanks so much for stopping by...hope you get one of those "pat-on-the-back" moments yourself today!

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  17. I like the idea of focusing on what you've done right as a mom! I love your description of getting ready for church. We've been there and we're still there, but I can see it paying off with our older kids already and there's no other way I'd rather have done it.

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    1. Ha, Jenny! It's nice to meet a fellow warrior in the Sunday trenches! ;) How great that you are already seeing the dividends from all those investments. Thank you so much for taking time to read my little list and to leave your feedback...I love it! :)

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  18. This is a great list, Elizabeth. Your Sunday mornings sound like the ones from my childhood - crazy! We didn't go overboard with activities for our son either. We want to him to like and love one or two things and be good at them without feeling the need to experiment with many. I can't wait to read the rest of your list. Thank you for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

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    1. Hi, Lori...you are so sweet to faithfully encourage all your Thankful Thursday guests every week! I really love the approach you've taken with your son. In our modern society where there are SO many options, it can feel like a mandate to let our kids try everything and to DO as much as possible. Which I know works just fine for lots of families--just not ours! ;) Thanks again for your thoughtful feedback. You are a link party hostess with the mostess!

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  19. I absolutely love this list. I congratulate you for finding the good things about what you did as a mom and pointing it out. This is rare. Your right we hear a lot about regrets and not enough about the things that we don't regret. In fact I started thinking about my list of things that I don't regret and I could not think of anything. This is alarming to me. I am definitely going to sit down and make a list. I cant believe how much I have focused on the things I would do better.

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    1. Gladys, thank you so much for this sweet and honest response! Bless your heart...no doubt, you have done MUCH as a mom that should be on a list of your own. I think it's a hard assignment, though, because we are so much better at focusing on what we do "wrong." And believe me, I've done plenty of that! But it is OKAY to celebrate and be grateful for what has worked well for you and your family. I pray God will direct your mind toward those things, and that you'll come up with a list that fills you with thanksgiving. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  20. Like you, we limited our children's activities. I've always wanted them to have time to lay in the grass, watch the clouds blow by and dream. Congrats, you're featured this week at the #ThisIsHowWeRoll Link Party on Organized 31.

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    1. Thank you SO much, Susan...I got that happy surprise early this morning when I stopped by to party. It made my day! :) And as you can see, I am completely with you on giving our kids that "down" time (sometimes, literally). It is NOT wasted. Blessings on your day, and thank you again!

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  21. Hey There Guilt Mama - I mean Elizabeth!

    You are my kind of gal, and mama! I love your site! I found you through the Count Your Blessings blog party. I'm so glad I did. I spent about 20 seconds reading your "about me" widget and one or two other things and I subscribed ASAP!! And liked your FB page. You are so funny - and I truly appreciate that. I NEED that! I've already read your list of 25 things over at the Every Mom website and I love part 1 of this post. Can't wait to read part 2.

    Thanks for having this blog and making a ton of us moms feel normal!

    Blessings,
    Tiffiney
    WelcomeHomeMinsistry.com

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    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much Tiffiney! Your comment MADE my day! I'm so glad you found me and left your link so I could find you. I loved your site on sight...especially how you call it a "shindig." ;) Have gladly subscribed and liked your page, too. So glad to meet you today! And THANK YOU for posting the 25 Things piece...that's one of my favorites because I think moms need to recognize all the "little" things they do every day that make a big difference. Blessings back to you!

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  22. I love this list! And I love how you are choosing to look at the positives, resisting the pull to make negative comparisons... I feel like that is SO common right now (/ always, and I'm just more aware of it right now?)

    I especially appreciate your making the points you did about your public school choices -- I was homeschooled all the way through, and later went on to be a teacher, and I feel like so many people assume homeschooling is the "right" choice in a "God's anointed path" kind of way, and I just don't think that's true at all. Thank you for sharing another side / perspective in such a graceful way. :)

    #FridayFrivolity

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    1. PS, forgot to say, pinning and tweeting!!

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    2. Sarah Eliza! I appreciate everything you have written here, but the part that makes me happiest is this: "Thank you for sharing another side / perspective in such a graceful way." This means everything to me, because it is so important to me. I am so often UNgraceful that you have given me a gift of encouragement by your perspective that here, at least, I have perhaps gotten it a little bit right. And just based on what I can see in your fabulous blog (Devastate Boredom, for anyone reading this who's not Sarah Eliza...in which case you should go there right now: http://www.devastateboredom.com/), I can only imagine what a fabulous teacher you must be or have been! Thank you so much.

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  23. I loved your list Elizabeth! I share many of the same non-regrets. I'm also glad that through my imperfections my kids have learned to forgive themselves when they get something wrong, learn from their mistake and be persistent. We only get one shot at this job of parenting, but thankfully we have a couple of decades to get a decent message together! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rachel! This is fabulous: "we only get one shot at this job of parenting, but thankfully we have a couple of decades to get a decent message together!" I'm still working on that message! Some days, it's more decent than others. ;) Thank you for stopping by!

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  24. Love this Elizabeth! As moms we so often look at what we have done wrong instead of what we have done right! I think every family has to seek God and pray together to make those big decisions for their families. We are really blessed to have my husband's parents a few blocks away from us. I don't know what we would do without them. We need our date night! It's hard getting everyone dressed and out the door for church but we have to do it for so many other things, why not church! Love your determination. I think part of the reason I homeschool is so I don't have to get them out the door so early though we still start school early! That is so great that you have good schools in your area. We also don't have activities every day. I couldn't handle it. I am all for selective scheduling;) Linking up with you at #shinebloghop

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    1. Aw, thank you, Rebekah! Aren't grandparents just some of God's best inventions ever?! I sometimes feel guilty about how much our girls' grandparents do for us and for them, but then I remember that they themselves LOVE it and are so blessed by it. So it's a win-win-win-win! And believe me, I can absolutely see the draw of so many, many aspects of homeschooling. If I had felt God calling us to it--meaning He'd equip us for it--we'd have done it! Thanks so much for stopping by from the #ShineBlogHop!

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  25. Elizabeth, your words are always so refreshing and encouraging to read. Thanks for being so authentic and joyful! I'm going to start thinking of my list too because it's just too easy to dwell on the things that you regret doing rather than the things you feel, dare I say, almost proud of. P.S. I love that little quote below about the counselor!

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    1. Thank you so much, Angela! I feel the same about YOUR words! I would LOVE to read your list...I hope you write it and put it up soon. ;) As for my Anna's brutal honesty...well, there was no arguing with her! :) Thank you for stopping by. You've blessed me greatly.

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  26. I think it's beautiful when we can look back over our past and see God's grace was over everything, even our mistakes. You have a great attitude. Thanks for sharing this list; it makes us all feel better too.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa, for your lovely and thoughtful words. And what a beautiful blog you have...I've just been drinking it in. Thank you so much for visiting today!

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  27. Thanks for this refreshing post - I think we all need to think about the things we DON'T regret doing as parents more often than we focus on the regrets. I appreciate the last point you made here - not over scheduling. So many parents over schedule and then wonder why they are overwhelmed. Thanks for linking up with Grace and Truth.

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    1. Thank you so much, Aimee! I'm so grateful it came across as "refreshing" and not "holier than thou." I'm just thankful for the wisdom God has given...that there ARE pieces of motherhood I wouldn't undo or do differently. By the grace...;)

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!