Mourning Motherhood

Motherhood transformationMotherhood strips everything away. You leave humility behind in pregnancy and there’s no going back.

The person you are now is a thin shadow of who you thought you were. You may have spent a substantial amount of your adulthood figuring out your identity. That’s discarded when you become a parent. You’re forced to say goodbye to all the superficial things you thought comprised your core self. It’s a earth-shattering kind of thing that will change you in a good way forever.

There are the clothes you used to wear post-baby you will never ever wear again.

There are the jobs you won’t get because employers and clients can smell a sleep-deprived mother thousands of miles away.

There are the interests that used to define who you were, but you no longer have time for.

There are the friends that grow weary of hearing baby talk or rescheduling their lives to accommodate yours.

There are the beliefs you used to have: “I’ll never be that lenient/hard as a parent. I would never look that disheveled. I will never be that parent.”

But with everything that’s taken away from you-there is something that comes in its place.

Through the cracks of who you once were, there is a stronger, braver, more authentic you. When you are forced to leave behind the person you once were with all of her demands and expectations, you become a soft, vulnerable heart that suddenly understands the world’s ache.

Here’s what happens:

If you allow your children to change you, other people’s stuff won’t affect you in the same way. You will grow compassion for the mother that’s super slow in the grocery line. You won’t even wince when someone is rude. You will have saved your energy for the things that truly matter.

Because your time is so precious and valuable, you will willingly let go of friendships that don’t serve you. You will give up jobs you thought were necessary for your self-worth. You will want more for yourself the way you want the world for your children.

You may even grow forgiveness for your parents.

Children are our mirrors. They remind us that we are responsible for our own actions. They teach us that presence is the greatest present there is. They re-awaken the part of us that always knew that time is our most valuable resource.

If we see our own longings, frustrations and inner issues through their tantrums, cries and rebellions, we will be better changed for it. We are wounded children ourselves trying desperately to heal so we can become the parents we needed.

Children give us that second chance.

What I once thought was a sacrifice, I now realize was a blessing.

Yes there is a painful shedding and mourning of the old shell.

The person that arises aware that our children are here to teach us and not the other way around, will triumphant and so will the world.

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The Things They Teach Us

Mom and child silhoutteIf anyone told you that one day you would endure hours of physical pain, mindless work and emotional struggle all with little hope of continuous sleep, you would think they were talking about imprisonment or self-torture. But many of choose this life when we become mothers. And surprisingly, we want to do it again, and again.

The reason?

We lose our ambition. We lose ourselves. We lose friends. We lose sleep. But there’s nothing like a child that can return you back to what’s truly important.

Love.

I don’t know of any other job as hard. I didn’t think I would one day grow up, spend a ton of money on school and more school, and end up being a mother. But now that I’m knee deep in it, I can see I was meant to do it.

My ultimate goal in life has always been inner growth. There’s nothing like a demanding toddler or a fussy baby that forces you to get real with yourself. You can’t hide behind a false sense of yourself or get away with whittling away with your time. For children, now is everything. In the process of breaking me open, they’ve changed me forever. These are the precious lessons they’ve taught me about what’s really important.

If you’re going to write, get to it.

Play is as necessary as breathing.

Don’t waste time and energy cajoling with un-joyful folk.

What you say matters, but what you do matters more.

Things are nice, but memories are everything.

Messing up is a daily necessity.

You don’t grow out of tantrums when you get older. It just looks cuter in kids than it does in adults.

It’s not the mistakes you make, it’s how you clean up afterwards.

Boys are dirty. Get over it already.

Life is more than what you’ve accomplished.

Rewarding moments rest in the most ordinary days.

One day soon your worst days will be the ones that had the greatest potential for growth and change.

Change is hard for everybody, kids included.

Babies and toddlers know what’s up every when they can’t say it.

If you want to teach your child kindness and empathy, teach yourself first.

Academics are not everything. There are many measures of success.

You can grow up poor, but feel rich with love.

You can mess up your kids in so many ways, but remember this. What they will remember most is whether they were loved.

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The Superhero You Know

Super momThe next biggest superhero isn’t coming to a theater near you. What most people don’t know is that they have one of the most powerful ones in their home.

It’s you.

Here are top 10 super powers that should deem you the next Super Hero:

  1. Super pain. Yes labor is equated with running a marathon. But marathon runners get to rest afterwards. Moms don’t get any sleep and probably won’t for the next few years.
  2. Super smart. What other person can get by on a few hours of sleep and make coherent sentences, never mind cook dinner, clean and make sure their kids aren’t animals when they leave the house?
  3. Super organized. Okay so you don’t know what day it is or when you went to the gym last, but the diapers, the hand sanitizer, and pacifiers! You could find them with your eyes closed.
  4. Super chef. Maybe no one would pay to eat at your restaurant, but when the kids are whining and the fridge is empty, you can whip up something edible like nobody’s business.
  5. Super patient. Yes we all blow up after 12 hours of whining. But only you can hear your child’s fifth plea for milk without losing your mind.
  6. Super resourceful. MacGyver has nothing on you. You can wield a nursing cover out of your jacket and turn toilet paper rolls into a musical instrument, bowling game and craft project.
  7. Super determined. You know you’re not perfect. But that doesn’t mean you won’t try. Even if you can’t be cool like your kid’s classmate’s mom, doesn’t mean you won’t try to be the most loving one.
  8. Super hopeful. Love is blind. And that’s a good thing. Your kid’s not perfect either. But you love him or her anyway. And you’re hopeful that even though today the crap hit the fan, you always have tomorrow.
  9. Super prepared. You’ve got indentations in your back from carrying around a 50 pound bag. But no one’s more prepared for runny noses, antsy toddlers and toilet mishaps than you.
  10. Super efficient. You don’t have time to twiddle your thumbs. You’ve got changing a diaper down and can multitask like nobody’s business. Thirty minute meals? You should be a Food Network for your infamous five minute meals.

All together you’re braver (do people know what potty training looks like?), stronger (have you carried a toddler in a carrier) and more powerful than any superhero. And while you won’t save victims from fires and deadly villains, every day you do the hardest, most meaningful job in the world. You’re raising your own mini superhero. So go on and give yourself a pat on the back and forgive yourself when you don’t check off all the items on your to-do list. It’s okay that you’re not the model looking mom who raised her kids while cultivating a kick ass career. You don’t get recognition for it, but what you’re doing is amazing. Remember that. Remember that when the toilet overflows, your toddler is screaming, oh and the baby hasn’t slept yet. Good job Super Mommy! Good job!

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What I Would Tell the Disheveled Mom With Her Screaming Kids

cry babyIf this were B.K. or before kids, I would try to avert my eyes and run. Mommy meltdowns and blood curdling screams from tantrumy kids made my skin crawl. It’s one of the reasons why I thought I would never have kids.

Fast-forward three years.

I’m running through Target like a contestant on Guy Fieri’s Grocery Games. Move people! I’ve got a hungry, crying baby. Next up-a flying toddler. My kid dives out of the shopping cart. Without warning. While I’m paying. I’m trying to figure out how to stop him from doing it again when he darts for the evil junk at the checkout aisle. There’s a growing line of people building behind me, a cranky two-year-old and a cashier that wants to strangle me. I had an amazing moment when I realized I’m that mom. I’m the mom with the snot soaked shirt. I’m the mom with suitcase under her eyes that’s yelling at her kids, that’s holding the line, that’s not in control.

I’m all those moms.

So here’s what I would tell you if you ever a) find yourself in this same predicament b) see a mom who is:

Take a deep breath. It’s all okay. You feel judged. You are probably are being judged. But those people don’t know how hard it is. They might be seeing you at your worst. They don’t know the hours you spent trying to calm a teething baby and a scared of the dark toddler. They don’t know how you soothed your son’s fears or kiss his owies away or spend hours trying to find the right recipe that he will actually eat. But none of that matters. The person you should be concerned with is you.

I’m taking a Self-Compassion course with Brene Brown and Kristin Neff. One of the things I learned is to put our hands over our heart or give ourselves a gentle hug. Secondly, tell yourself the following: “You’re struggling. This is hard. Everyone struggles. You’re not alone.”

This is what I would tell you.

You’re doing the best you can in a job impossible to be perfect at. You will have good days when you feel like you’re doing a pretty good job. Your child will look up at you and smile. You’ll feel like you got this parenting thing down. And you will have those horrendous days when the poop literally hits the fan. And that’s okay too. You messed up. Your child’s disappointed, scared or sad. You tried your best. You can try again.

I don’t think anyone leaves childhood unscathed. We’ve all got scars. They will have them too. Our job is to teach them that life isn’t perfect, but love is. Teach them you can love yourself even when you feel like a monster and you will have done an amazing job because we all mess up. We all say the wrong thing. We all hurt each other. The main thing is whether we can say to ourselves at the end of the day, “I loved my hardest. I lived the fullest. And I forgive myself for the moments that I didn’t measure up. I am both beautiful and messy. I love you. I love myself. We are all works in progress.”

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Running On Empty

Running on emptyI grieved. I was afraid. But the most difficult part of all of this was that I was the one who created it.

I was not talking about some writing project. I was talking about a new baby.

My first child sobered me into any fantasies I had about having kids. I tasted pain, heartbreak and fatigue. I knew my dreams would take a backseat. I knew it would be a sacrifice. I didn’t know if I was worthy of doing it again. I didn’t know if I had the energy to be even “good enough.”

I’m often surprised by the amount of things you can get done when you’re running on a few hours asleep. Some days, I feel like someone is gnawing at my brain. All. I. Want. Is. Sleep.

On bad days, I feel resentment bubbling to the surface. In my computer, there are several files that haven’t been touched in weeks. I think about those moments of fear and regret I had when I was pregnant. I still have them.

But I feel something sprouting beneath the surface. I don’t feel like I’m teaching my children. I feel like they are molding me. They are cracking me open in every sigh, tantrum and wide-eyed begging to be seen.

I cannot eat, google or text my way out of the two-year old staring at me screaming to make me see that this is one single moment. Whether good or bad, this one will be gone. And so will the next one. And the next. Will I be able to remember them? Will I be able to savor those sweet chubby toes and those adorable sayings or will they shrink into one long day filled with shouting, ignoring and invalidating statements because I couldn’t let go of the me before them?

Sure, my dreams of publishing a children’s book one day is real. It’s important. But the lessons they have in store for me are paramount. Because if I don’t get it, if I don’t surrender into the love I’ve got now, I know I will regret it. I will spend a lifetime wishing I could redo a childhood that was gone in a blink of an eye. I have only two chances to live childhood. One’s dead and gone. The other is through the eyes of my children.

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The Unwanted Things Your Kids Teach You

file0001971678256Being a parent teaches me a lot of things. Sometimes it forces me to learn things I’d rather not learn. Things like how to survive the world with less than a few hours of sleep or how to cook dinner with a crying toddler and un-soothable five-month old or how to be patient when you haven’t slept in three years. Things like that.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with maintaining my health and well-being while my two kids are simultaneously going through growth spurts/separation anxiety/teething.

Everything I read says that sleep is mandatory for your mental and physical health. It helps you lose weight and maintains your sanity. But having kids teaches you that when circumstances are beyond your control, you need to take the reigns on what you can. This means to stop resisting what you don’t want so you don’t miss out on the moment.

I have always struggled with insomnia. But now I have external alarm clocks in the sounds of crying babies that wake me up. Being a mom makes me hyper-alert to everything from the late night jogger to the car down the street. Normally, a lack of sleep turns me into an ugly gremlin. My son has even closed my door once saying, “Oh no! Scary mommy is coming out!” I’ve had to fight my desire to sleep. But I realized that some things like sleep are beyond my control. Is it possible to still find something salvageable in a day even if I don’t get what I think I need?

Of course!

Yesterday during one of the worst days without sleep, my son and I laughed and giggled. While I’m too tired to remember over what, I do know that my ability to let go and surrender gives me the energy to do what I can. Fighting with what is not only depletes me further, but it ruins what still can be a wonderful day.

This does not mean you’ll see me smiling like a fool (unless it’s from delirium) when insomnia hits. But it does mean that my kids have given me yet another reason to be grateful. Yes I may not have slept at all last night. Yes my eye is twitching like crazy from fatigue. Yes I probably won’t have the energy to be supermom today. But every one is well. No one has to go to the ER. And I am here and so are they. In the big, giant scheme of things, this is but one day. I will probably have many well-rested nights when the kids are grown and gone. But I have them now cuddly, crazy and needing their momma.

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Meaning-Making Mom

MotherhoodIt may seem obvious to you. My husband said aren’t purpose living and meaning making natural parts of being a mom?

It’s true that there’s nothing like seeing your child crawl for the first time, say your name or simply smile that makes life magical. But I think all moms reach for something deeper.

It haunts us when we’re in the shower. It calls us when we’re not being called by our whining kids. It’s a richer, shinier, denser part of our selves that we’re looking for whether or not we’re looking.

Yes, children make our lives stunningly more meaningful. But we also need a segment of it just for us.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re losing “you,” then you know what I mean.

After having two babies, I’ve finally settled into the fact that my life is no longer spontaneous nights out and weekly day trips. It means planning ahead, organization and lots and lots of cleaning of every. single. bodily excrement. possible. But that doesn’t mean I have to give up me. If you don’t want to give up you either, I hope you’ll follow me and try the following:

Read something just for you.

Yes I am one of those moms who has a nightstand of books on anything from No-Drama Discipline to potty training, but those are in the minority. Much of what’s taking space on my Kindle are books like Daring Greatly and Big Magic. In other words, I’m still reading things that are good for my soul and I think you should too.

Create just for you. 

Sometimes you can find an activity that turns on your creative juices with your child. For example, I found that by going to our local Art Explorium I can use my creativity to create something with my son. It becomes mutually beneficial. We bond over a shared activity. But if you can’t find something to do with your kids, you should still save some time to create something: a poem, a painting, coloring in those fancy new adult coloring books. It may seem pointless, but trust me. When you do something creative, you’re waking up a part of you that’s still alive and well and waiting for you to dance with it. Creativity allows us to throw beauty at our frustrations with our tantrum-y toddler. An added benefit is that by doing so we’re teaching our kids how to flex their own creative muscle and express themselves in a healthy way.

Get in the flow.

You can get in the flow by doing the above two or by exercising your mind through meditation or body through running/yoga/swimming. When you’re constantly caring for another human being, you don’t think about being in the moment. You’re probably trying to escape with wine or chocolates, but being mindful is the way to reach meaning. One night I caught myself playing a video game while watching TV while nursing my baby. I realized that I was trying to run away from the moment. But in doing so I was missing out. There’s nothing like zooming in on where I am in this moment that makes life feel so rich and vivid. It’s the difference between technicolor Wizard of Oz and the black and white version. If I keep busying myself, my life will feel like one fastforwarded life. When I take a minute to breathe, meditate, run for 10 minutes, or simply pay attention I experience every facet of my life as a mom of two young babies. There’s really nothing more live giving than that.

Take a class.

I know what you’re thinking. How do you have time to take a class when you’re constantly caring for someone else? Sign up for an online class so you can do it on your own time. While caring for my two young boys, I signed up for Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly course. Just because you’re busy teaching someone else valuable lessons, doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new yourself. Think of it this way. Everything you learn will foster growth in yourself and that in return is a gift you can give your children.

Journal. 

It’s great to talk to your friends or family members about your children. But it’s quite another thing to share what’s been going on with yourself. For the things that you deem too personal, too tender to share with others (your fantasy of being a child book author, your secret desire to have another kid, or your minute to minute mommy doubts), hash them out in a journal and let yourself go. Things have a way of seeping out if we don’t share it. It’ll grumble to you while you’re trying to sleep or when you’re trying to discipline your kids. Journaling is a safe, healthy and therapeutic way to get all your genuine emotions down.

Go on a date alone.

The sound of children is like a symphony for moms whose children have grown. But for moms with little kids it’s a deafening soundtrack that can get annoying fast. Whenever it’s quiet, my ears sigh. Silence is nourishing for the soul. Whenever you can get dad or a sitter to watch them, go out alone. Go to the coffee shop, a bookstore, a park. No matter how noisy it is where you are, the sound of other people’s noises will often be less triggering than the sound of your kids. You need to spend time with yourself to process your experiences, to flourish as a human being and to check in. Are you doing okay? What do you want for you? Unless you get away, you’ll start to lose yourself. And as Beyonce sings in Running, “If I lose myself, I lose it all.”

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