To the Toddler Momma Who Feels the Pressure

Dear Toddler Mom Who Feels the Pressure,

It doesn’t happen all at once, does it?  It’s more of a gradual mixing of equal parts pressure and mild panic.  It starts when you see Johnny’s mom post a sweet little video clip of him singing his ABC’s. Well that was cute! Maybe we can incorporate the ABC song into our bedtime routine. I know that one. One day at dance class you overhear some moms talking about how their daughters recently mastered counting and identifying all the numbers from 1-20 in preschool.  Hmmm.  That’s pretty impressive. They can identify them, too? I bet at least one of them still calls it ‘five-teen’. At a family gathering your mother-in-law pulls you aside asking what your plans are for little ole Bennie because she plays Bunco with this woman who’s cousin’s wife’s best friend just taught her three year old how to write his first AND last name with all letters facing the right way.  What the fuck? Isn’t his last name Lombardozzi? My kid only enjoys writing so he can see how much pressure it takes to snap the lead. Then there’s the hair on the camel’s back.  While at a play date with some of your mom friends, one of them shares her daily schedule for her 2.5 year old. Which is fine, except for the fact that includes a 35 minute block at 9 a.m. during which they use flash cards to practice sight words.  WHAT?! Too far, Karen. TOO FAR. 

This gradual mixing of pressure and panic has eventually gotten you to question the very competency of your role as mother.

My kid isn’t doing any of these things yet.  Should I start looking at preschools already? But I’m not ready.  Do I need flashcards? Yes, flashcards. Ok. But of what?! I don’t want little Bennie to fall behind. What do they even need to know before kindergarten? I have no idea. Can I google “shit to know before kindergarten”? Why can’t I get Bennie to sit for more than four freaking seconds to learn from me, anyway? Where do I start? Upper case letters or lower case letters? WHY ARE THERE TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CASES OF LETTERS? Should I send him to a private preschool to catch him up? I mean he’s clearly already fallen behind.  That’s it.  In the morning, I’m hiring a tutor.  Now where do I find a tutor for a two year old? I wonder if that Lombardozzi kid can come over before nap time? 

Oh Momma, I feel you.  I feel you because some days I am you.  My education and work experience is in elementary education, a lot of which has been working with at risk students.  Teacher Erica knows better than to feel this way, but Momma Erica understands the pressure.  For the past few months I’ve watched mom friend after mom friend send their littlest tots off to preschool with their adorable little backpacks, and I’ve internally struggled over when to send my own.  It can be a challenge to drown out all the noise around me and really get to the root of what is right for MY kids. But no more.  Teacher Erica knows better.

Please don’t misunderstand me, or feel offended by my words.  If you’ve stopped by here before you know me well enough to know that I wholly and completely respect your choices.  Maybe you’re starting preschool early so you can have some time to actually work your part-time job from home.  Maybe you don’t know anything about how to teach them when they’re that little and sending them off is what feels right for you and yours.  Maybe you can’t afford a preschool you feel good about, and sending them isn’t even an option.  Maybe your tot hasn’t been able to make any friends and you want her to gain some social experiences. Whatever your situation – whatever the reasoning for your choices – they are yours, and I support you whole-heartedly.  We all just want the best for our kids, right?

But to the Toddler Momma Who Feels the Pressure, I want you to let it go.  Let it go with me. Put on your blinders, follow your gut, and know it will be alright.  You want to know how I know?

Because they are toddlers. Toddlers who learn everything they need to learn right now through play.

They are toddlers who joyfully transfer water at the water table or sift sand through their hands for hours on end.  They are toddlers who love to jump, crawl, spin, climb, and sprint down aisles at the store.  They are toddlers who carefully watch everything you do, and tell you “I do it!” one hundred times a day as they begin to explore their new independence.  They are toddlers who are learning to share, and desperately trying to regulate their emotions when it doesn’t go their way.  They are toddlers.  And this is how they learn.

Before ABC’s and 123’s, they need to time and opportunity to think critically, apply, play with cause and effect, flirt with boundaries, communicate emotions, experiment with their physical capabilities, and workout their social muscles.  They need time to be bored so their imagination can fire. They need opportunities to question, to examine, observe, negotiate, be let down, learn responsibility, and gradually build their attention span.  They need time to watch you do all these things, as well.  Academics will always be there, I promise. There will always be books to read, teachers to listen to, and curriculum to follow.  Preschools today keep moving from play based to academic based, and while that helps us feel like we are giving our children a leg up in the short term, it is not always beneficial in the long term.  So if not preschool right now, then what? Right? The good news, momma? Most of this can happen authentically in your day to day life, and often times with little to none of your help.  They are toddlers. And this is how they learn.

Let them develop their fine motor skills through play so when they do get to school, they are able to hold their pencil with ease and cut with scissors like it’s nobody’s business. Bust out the chopsticks, syringes, spray bottles, and tweezers.  Encourage them to use their utensils at meal time correctly.  Wring out sponges full of water, rope Cheerios on a string, and transfer beads between bottles.  Build wobbly block towers, and let them hammer golf tees into the soft grass (with supervision!). Let them put coins in the parking meter, push pipe cleaners through holes in boxes, and let them pick up their peas at dinner using their pinchers.  Keep those little hands busy.

Take the time to teach them about their emotions and how to appropriately navigate them.  Emotional control is a growing concern with today’s youth, and putting in the work in this area is essential.  Guide them to recognize the differences between anger, frustration, sadness, joy, and empathy.  Name the emotions, and talk about your own feelings as you feel them.  Practice cool-down techniques, breathing techniques, and phrases that allow them to communicate these emotions.  Equip them so they don’t grow into adults who lack emotional control and struggle to succeed in the workplace and in relationships.

Give them opportunities to practice patience and delayed gratification.  Our world is so ‘I want it now therefore I need it now’.  Don’t give in the toy request just because they asked for it.  Put it on their wish list instead and let them earn it.  Teach them that sharing follows this concept too.  Sharing isn’t so much “I want it now, so you must give it to me”, but more of a “when you’re done using it, I’d really like a turn”.  When they demand your attention in the middle of you talking to someone else, teach them a signal or phrase that says, “I see you, and I will listen in a minute when I’m done talking”.  Aside from emergencies, not all of their wants and needs will be met exactly when they would like them to.  And that’s OK.

Let them explore and develop their gross motor capabilities so when they get to school they can sit upright in their chair with a strong core, and physically keep up with a full day of school.  Toddlers are made to MOVE.  Its what they do and how they learn.  It is quite literally what keeps their brains going. So provide those opportunities.  Let them climb rope ladders, walk a balance beam, bear crawl up a hill, jump on a (kid friendly) trampoline, and climb up to the big slide.  (And only when there’s no one else at the playground, let them climb up it, too 🙂 ).  Teach them how to jump on one foot, skip, shuffle, do somersaults, dance, walk backwards, swim, kick, ride a bike, throw, and spin.  Don’t always catch their fall so they can learn their physical capabilities and boundaries. Let them scrape up their knees.  Let them PLAY and MOVE. They aren’t built to sit yet. They are toddlers and this is how they learn.

Teach them social etiquette and manners. The ‘please’s, ‘thank you’s, ‘nice to meet you’s, and holding the door open.  The ‘I’m sorry I didn’t mean it’s, ‘excuse me’s, ‘no thank you’s, and respecting personal space. Teach them how to wait in a line, how to say hello and goodbye, and how to wait their turn to speak in a conversation.  Let them order their own meal at a restaurant, and teach them how to start a conversation with new friends at the playground.

Let them be bored and let them learn to play independently.  Boredom can fuel imagination, as does being left alone to play with toys in whatever way you see fit.  They don’t always need to be entertained, nor should they always look to you for their entertainment.  Give them some toys or tools to engage with and let them do their thing! And when they are done, join in on the imaginative fun and spend a morning walking and talking as real life pirates exploring uncharted waters.

Give them opportunities to practice independence and self sufficiency.  I know, they are our babies and sometimes its so darn hard to give up, but if you’re wanting to raise capable and well adjusted adults – let them do it.  Let them attempt to get dressed on their own for as long as it takes for them to nail the difference between the neck and arm holes.  Tying their shoes, cutting their food (with kid friendly cutlery), washing their hair, brushing their teeth, preparing meals, making their bed, feeding the dogs, buckling themselves into the car seat (which then gets checked! 🙂 ), and cleaning up after themselves. Our lives are so go go go these days that slowing down and taking the time to allow them this independence can be painstakingly brutal.  But its worth it one million times over.  Slow down, and let them do it.  They will still need you plenty, I promise.

Don’t always give them the ‘effect’ in cause and effect.  Let them discover that on their own sometimes as they exercise decision making abilities.  When you jump off the stairs one step too high, it will hurt. When you drop food off the table, the dog does get it.  When you refuse a jacket in the winter, you will get cold.  When you avoid dinner at all costs, you will go to bed with a hungry tummy.  When you’re mean to friends, they won’t want to play with you.  And when you won’t listen to mom and dad, there will be consequences.  Let them be teachable moments, and let them discover what good and bad decisions look like.

Set a strong foundation for kindness, compassion, and tolerance.  Teach them how good it feels to be kind and helpful to others.  Show them how rewarding it can be to be a good helper.  Demonstrate how to comfort someone who is sad, how to think of others’ feelings (this one takes a long time!), and how ALL people deserve kindness and love.  Recognize and celebrate differences between yourselves and family and friends.  Read literature with diverse characters and cultures.  Give them experiences that teach them gratitude for what they have and inspire a desire to help those less fortunate.  The world needs more of this, and you have the opportunity to be a catalyst for it.

This stuff doesn’t all show up on a preschool report card, but I promise you… its worth it.  These are the kinds of tools that need to be taught at this age so when it is time for academics, they will be ready to learn and thrive.

Still hung up on academics? That’s OK.  I am sometimes too.  We can’t fault ourselves for wanting to exercise those little brains.  And I’ve got more good news for you Momma.  You can teach age appropriate academics within the nuances of your everyday life – you just have to take advantage when they arise.  Teach counting with one-to-one correspondence at the grocery store by letting them put the tomatoes in the bag.  Count toes before putting on pajamas, birds at the bird feeder, slices of apple that still need to be eaten, and pennies they’ve earned for their piggy bank.  Teach directional words like over, under, bottom, and top while playing at the playground.  Teach them how to tell stories and elaborate on their day by Facetiming grandma and grandpa.  Slowly build up teaching them multi-step directions.  Start with one (“Put your cup on the table”), to two (“put your cup on the table and take your plate to the sink”) to three (“put your cup on the table, take your plate to the sink, then come here for a hug!”).  Point out colors in natural surroundings as you explore.  The greens of the grass, the blues of the sky, the red of the stop sign on your way to the park and the firetruck that squeals by, and the yellow leaves of fall.  Read fun counting and rhyming books.  Build critical listening skills by closing your eyes and listening closely for the differences between a plane and a helicopter flying by.  Play memory matching games, and recognize numbers as you play hopscotch, dial a phone, or read a clock together.  Let them count money to pay the cashier.  Incorporate talking about the weather in your morning routine.  Read read read, and read some more.  Better yet, focus on their relationship with books and make it one of comfort, happiness, and joy.  (Their future teachers will thank you!).  And no, a little Sesame Street never hurt anyone. 🙂

Toddler Momma Who Feels the Pressure, you’re doing a wonderful job.  Your concern and care over the best for your child shows it.  If you feel overwhelmed, that’s OK.  I do, too.  We’ve got plenty of curriculum right here at home, huh? Let the pressures of ABC’s and 123’s roll off your strong shoulders for the moment, and remember its OK for life skills, playing with friends, and exploration to be your focus right now.  They are toddlers, and this is how they learn.  

IMG_4493

One is Not Always the Loneliest Number

A week ago I sat down to start gathering my thoughts for this post, and at the time I had every intention of it following a similar format to previous posts of mine.  An anecdote or two, followed up by how I felt about it, and capped off with my pearls of wisdom that I learned from it.  The aim for the majority of my posts is to not only help me clarify my own experiences through the writing process, but they are written with hopes of letting other moms know they aren’t alone.  I cross my fingers that someone reads it and it breathes wave of relief into their chest as they are reminded that motherhood, while unique and individual, is also very parallel and shared.  Something that screams, “I feel it too, and I understand.  You are not alone”.  Something that allows someone to find a piece of themselves in someone else’s experience, too.

Like several of my prior posts, I reached out to my Momtourage beforehand to gather any of their thoughts or experiences with the motherhood lonelies. Message after message after message poured in illuminating the vast and varied forms this solitary feeling can take on, and I was holding twelve pages worth of candid and honest words that completely shifted my understanding of the topic.  Loneliness that stems from work or staying home, friendships, marriage to being a single mom, or the loneliness that comes from having to find a whole new identity as you try and grasp to pieces of your prior self. To write about my singular experience would be severely limited, and trying to integrate their thoughts into my narrative would be reckless.

So below (and with their permission), I’m sharing their experiences along with my own peppered throughout.  I’m hoping that through hearing our words, others can find comfort in knowing that the number one is most certainly not always the loneliest number.  

“My loneliness stems from being “just a mom”.  I’ve always worked a lot and its hard to have an identity and purpose when your sole purpose is being someone’s mom.  I struggle with relating to my husband and friends because they truly have no idea how hard it can be.  Its the best kind of work but its still work and I feel a bit discounted for the work I do.  Its so easy for the day to pass and you feel like you have accomplished nothing. Having commitments on the calendar (classes, play dates, whatever!) really help”.

“It’s all an adjustment learning how to go from no kids to one, from one to two and from working to staying home. They are all big changes! I feel like whenever something involves a struggle it can often be accompanied by lonely feelings.”

“I think being a stay home mom is the most wonderful gift but there are times when I feel so alone, like the lone soldier left on the battlefield! I also feel like I can’t say anything about the loneliness because my husband works very hard so I can stay home or to my friends that would like to stay home but don’t have the opportunity. Most of the time I would not give up the chance to stay home for the world but there are times that I feel very alone and those times I feel even more alone because I feel like I can’t say anything to people about it because it makes me sound ungrateful for the opportunity!”

“I think this is something that no one can prepare you for. You are always with baby, yet sometimes you feel so alone. In the early newborn phase I feel like it wasn’t as lonely because other people could soothe her and she was new and exciting so everyone wanted to help with her, so people were around more, asking about how WE were doing, etc. As she gets older, the newness has worn off and she knows other people, yet if I’m around, she only wants me, and it can be very lonely. No one seems to ask about how I am doing anymore, it’s all about her which is fine, she is awesome and I really love to talk about her too but I can pretty much guarantee no one really knows about anything going on with me outside of what’s going on with my baby!”

“Gosh, being a single mom is the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my whole life. Not only do I go to sleep by myself at the end of every long and trying day but I watched my son walk for the first time by myself, he rode his bike down the sidewalk and I cheered him on by myself, and with every accomplishment and milestone I celebrate by myself. Sometimes I feel grateful that I don’t have to share, but if I could just have someone curl up next to and the end of a long day and say “today he swam, all by himself!” I would be thrilled. I love being a mom, I love doing and being everything that my son needs, but I just would like to feel like I have someone to rely on other than myself”.

“I remember being on vacation with several other adults (all family including my husband), and baby girl would be crabby and need a nap or need to be fed or just need a change of scenery so without thinking much about it, I’d walk or drive around just her and I for hours sometimes to get her to sleep while the rest of the people got to hang out, take their time eating, drinking, having adult time … yet here I am essentially alone doing what needs to be done for my baby. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I cherish those moments because she only wants me and it makes me feel like I’ve done a good job loving her and she knows it, but sometimes I wish someone else would understand her needs like I do”.

“[an incident involving babe potentially getting hurt]… This incident just reminded me that no matter how many people are around, she is still 100% my responsibility. It’s all on me and I can’t truly count on anyone else to keep her safe because if I am there, everyone else thinks I’ve got her”.

“I have a great husband who helps out with the baby and yet I still feel alone. I know I’ll never truly be alone but the feeling that I provide my child’s daily food (at an impressive rate I may add), work full time with high expectations from my boss (or maybe I’m just continuing to hold myself to high standards?), and keeping up with the things that need to be done can be lonely. And on top of it the standards my husband holds for me regarding duties around the house and other things. Maybe the feeling of loneliness comes from us having a baby and his social life continues without any hesitation.  Maybe I feel alone because my list of responsibilities has grown and his didn’t”.

“My feelings of loneliness hit this summer when I was off work! I love being home and if my husband said I could stay home I would in a second, but none of my friends have kids! So NONE of them really get it! I see my sister in law with every one of her friends having kids and it makes me feel lonely. I’m trying to make more of an effort but a lot of the time it’s just little babe and me and as sweet as she is she doesn’t talk back to me yet!”

“I think as the excitement of having a newborn wore off and as routine set in, I noticed hubby starting to check out a little. He was perfectly fine with me doing everything (I was still on maternity leave) and he wanted to resume his normal social life again. But as hubby was gone more and more and little man started to get out of the newborn stage (aka not sleeping ALL the time), I started to experience a lot of loneliness. It seemed like I was doing everything to care for little man, continue to take care of our home, and I also had gone back to work. I felt like I was alone every weekend and a lot of weeknights (my husband stays very busy). I have learned from all of this that I need to say no, I need to ask for help, and I need to be honest! Becoming parents is an incredible privilege but it is also a very stressful and every changing time in your life and having a solid support system and team is absolutely essential!”

“Oh, the lonelies. I absolutely had them and still do. They first kicked in when the visitors stopped and my husband went back to work. I was busy caring for baby, my house and myself and full of joy and happiness – but lonely. It’s such a strange internal conflict to never be alone (NEVER!) and still feel lonely. The things that have helped the most are support groups. Real life ones that I got dressed and left the house to go to. It’s incredible what a safe space to talk to other women, nurse your baby, and change diapers all in one room (besides your house) can do to help those feelings. Going to visit friends at their homes is just as good when groups aren’t available. My online mom groups are invaluable too. Especially during a never ending middle of the night feeding or any other time when its not feasible to leave the house. Now, when I’m lonely, at least I don’t feel alone!”

“It’s so amazing that there is the whole new wonderful person in the world yet sometimes feels like there are now LESS people in your life. Friendships change, marriage changes, family dynamics change. Cray cray MILs are really the only constant! 😉 I’ve felt lonely in a sense that I know my emotions regarding my baby are not replicated by anyone else. So my fears, whether valid or not, will not be the same for anyone else. So, it’s hard to find someone who understands because they really couldn’t. I want to say that this Momtourage has drowned out the loneliness for me on so many occasions. I think when new moms leave the hospital, their first order of business should be “Find a Momtourage!”

“I chose to move out of state for work after college, never expecting to meet my husband and start a family away from my own family. I’ve always missed my family but it wasn’t until I had my child that I felt verylonely without them all the time. Those first few months raising my baby without my own mother to call over anytime was the hardest. I love my husband but for me there were so many times when I just needed my mom there. I am also grateful for our Momtourage because it saved me from that loneliness many times”.

“I’ve noticed my loneliness stems from my struggle to make myself get out of the house and put myself first. Even if it is to run errands I find it difficult to just do it. I am someone who is okay being alone because being alone and being lonely are two very different things. I like my quiet time and very much enjoy it but loneliness is another beast. I miss the freedom some days of just doing something without having to think, just send a text that I was going somewhere and I’d be back later. I’ve noticed that since having baby girl I am less likely to reach out. I agree that doing something sounds nice but unless prompted I won’t push it and make it happen; very different from my typical self. I’m not sure if its exhaustion that influences all of this but I know that getting out has been helpful, meeting the ladies from our Momtourage was and is helpful and spending a few moments on the phone with my best friend is always amazing too. I think being a new mom is lonely because the only people who get it are the ones that are in the trenches with you”.

“Since I work, I don’t think I feel the loneliness the way you would if you are home, but sort of the opposite. When I have a busy week at work, and I’m relying on hubby to do the drop off and pick up/dinner time with little man, it seems like little man and I grow apart a little. He typically prefers my husband, but when I get stressed and busy at work, I know I’m not mentally all in at home either and sometimes not physically there to see him, and the wanting daddy gets even worse. I sometimes feel exhausted from having to put so much work into building my relationship with him back up again. Makes me feel lonely in some way if that makes any sense”.

“When baby girl was a newborn, at around 10 weeks, I thought about going back to work earlier than my planned 14 week leave. It was a hellish winter, I was in a town with limited friends, my husband traveled most weeks M-Th, and I was stuck inside with a newborn that I loved very much, but who was unable to give me much reciprocity for all the effort and love I poured into her. I felt bored, lonely, and unstimulated. I felt horrible for wanting to leave her and go back to work early. Now that I’m home again at 20 months, it’s a lot better. She is fun and active and we can get out more. But if I don’t make an effort to see friends, do classes, or at least get out with her, I feel very lonely and unstimulated. It helps greatly to have my parents nearby, too. Sometimes I just go over there with baby girl and do nothing more than I would at home, but it just feels good to have someone else around” .

“It can be very lonely to climb into bed alone at night after rocking a screaming baby to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby more than anything in the world. But I do wish I had someone to sit down with and talk to after a long day. I was married to my high school sweetheart for a long time. And then I went through a very difficult divorce. I decided it was better to be alone than with someone who didn’t make me happy. Little man is better off with a happy mama. Loneliness is better than being unhappy. They are two completely different things. What combats loneliness is finding wonderful friends to surround yourself with. Support groups. Family. I’m thankful for things like our Momtourage. This is where I come to after my long day”.

“The lonely feeling for me always involves my husband being gone – work, trip, even running errands while I’m home. It usually involves monotony – stuck in the house during the winter or rainy days. I feel like a prisoner in my home those days and sometimes I want to just get out kid free to do SOMETHING! It intensifies when the kids are difficult or when I feel really motivated to do something but nothing pans out due to schedules or no one else being available”.

“What I struggle with is that I work all day so when I’m not at work, I want to be with my kids. I want a date night with my husband so bad, but all that means to me is more time away from the kids. I have tried not to miss my friends’ weddings, bachelorette parties, showers, birthdays, etc, but again, it means more time away from my kids. So time for JUST ME? Forget it! Its lonely.”

“One of the ways I find myself feeling very lonely is when it comes to missing stuff because you have to take care of the baby.  All the times we had family or friends over and I had to head up to bed long before everyone else because none of them are going on months without getting a full REM cycle and none of them have the responsibility of getting up at 6 a.m. with their game face on.  They all continue on laughing, eating, drinking through the night without a care in the world, and I’m upstairs trying desperately to hit three hours of straight sleep.  Have you ever been to a wedding and brought your kids? That’s usually a whole heap of loneliness.  The speeches at dinner are one of my favorite parts.  Because baby girl was overstimulated for too long.. guess who was having to wander the halls alone with her, missing all the dinner speeches? Unless a lot of your friends and family have their own kids present, chances are you’ll be missing out on interactions and fun you desperately want and need. As helpful as husband is, its usually on mom, and its a very lonely feeling”.

“I’m a stay at home mom and I go through stretches where I feel very trapped and alone.  The walls of our main living area can be like a jail cell if we aren’t getting out enough.  And its not always because we don’t try to get out… we do. But nap schedules don’t always align, between the two of them there’s a good chances someone is teething, or has separation anxiety, or refused a nap and has subsequently grown horns… there’s always something.  We schedule regular play dates with other moms and kids I adore, but unless your kids are a bit older, the level of attention and conversation you can really give each other is very limited.  You’re there with each other, but there are still very busy kids running around that need attention and tending to”.

“I married a man from the town I went to college in. So after college all my closest girlfriends moved out of state or back home while I remained in my college town. I had my first child in my mid twenties when most of my friends were still single, let alone even thinking about marriage! At the time, I think I imagined that motherhood and having a baby might fill that void of loneliness in my heart but I quickly realized that, though the love you feel from and with your child is like no other love imaginable, it still left me feeling lonely and isolated from the adult friendships I had had for so many years. It’s just so hard to connect with your “old” friends when they are still spending late nights at the bar and you’re spending late nights feeding and nursing a baby. You’d try catching up but their stories were of crazy drinking adventures and your stories of were of an explosive diaper and hearing your girls’ first real giggle. I’m a working mom and most of the women I worked with at that time were older and their kids were in high school or even my own age! I just felt like I didn’t have anyone to connect with. It took awhile but I finally had felt that on my second child and changing jobs helped me to finally meet some great mommas who were in the same stage of life as me. I so thankful for these friendships now that I know there’s others going through the same things as me! And in a way, it’s also empowering for me to have had a child earlier than most of those friends because I feel like I’ve already been there, done that and can give them the support I wish I’d had at that important time in my life”.

“I feel lonely and isolated with the girlfriends I’ve had since childhood. I was the first to get pregnant and start a family, and two babies and several years later I am still the only one with kids.  Maintaining those friendships and keeping a common ground to connect on has been incredibly challenging. The more time passes, the more I feel like we have less to connect on. I get sad and down on myself because I keep thinking, “motherhood in and of itself shouldn’t determine your friendships – step it up!”.  But the honest truth is, for me, it does play a big part.  I stay home.  My job is my kids right now.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I have plans to go back to work, and I know its a short season of my life, but when my entire day every single day involves my kids right now, I don’t have an extensive list of other things to talk about.  I’m not traveling the world at the moment.  I’m not interviewing and taking new jobs.  I’m not dating. My entire wardrobe is from Target.  And I can’t go out trying all the new restaurants and bars.  My job is very rewarding, just not in a way they can understand or really care about right now.  When they ask how I’m doing (which seems far and few now) I feel like anything I really say won’t be understood, ya know? Motherhood and friendships – there’s no handbook for this thing!”

“As we continue to struggle with me returning to corporate America I continue to feel alone. If I decide to stay home my husband will resent my decision, me putting my child in daycare has my mom itching in her skin. And I’m lost in the middle. I like being mentally challenged but I love my little. I just wish everyone would put their bias and opinions to the side and recognize what a hard time it is for a new mom to find their new identity – and that that identity might push the family outside comfort zone”.

“I miss quality time with friends. In the hustle bustle of caring for a bunch of young kids during an afternoon/evening/weekend together, I often find myself thinking, “Gosh, I didn’t get to talk to Susie (or whoever) for more than two minutes at a time and we didn’t talk about anything ‘real’. I miss the connection uninterrupted time affords. And though I see my friends and love them, I sometimes feel less close to them now”.
“My husband has been on the midnight shift essentially since our baby was born, and it has been really hard. He helps out and is very hands on, but he needs his sleep. He doesn’t have a sleep schedule so he sleeps when he can, but I feel so lonely. I am with both kids during the night (who both wake up), by the time they get up in the morning he’s already back asleep and every day after dinner he needs a nap before work so I am also the one doing bedtime alone. He does help watch the kids some days, but it’s while I am at work so I actually am not the one getting to spend time with him. Needless to say having a newborn and a midnight shift has been quite the adjustment!”

“For the first two weeks my husband was so helpful. We were sharing duties and slowly that faded away. You think you’re going to be this cute little family but then reality hits and I’m the one doing all the baby work. We are the only ones of our friends with a baby. Some days I just feel trapped. I am with little man seven days a week all day everyday and mostly by myself. My friends are not at the same place in life as me. I am by myself all the time. I feel like I go through some days doing what I know I have to do but I am kind of sad on the inside. I see pictures on Facebook of all the fun activities that people do with their kids and I get kind of sad because I don’t have anyone to do it with. No one I know has kids and no one is home during the week. Because we don’t have anyone to babysit I am working weekends. So when people would be home..I am at work”.

“Just having our Momtourage has made a big difference in the isolation factor! Just hearing about others’ experiences/questions can give a temporary break from a monotonous day. I actually think I have a really great balance with a part-time schedule and an awesome, supportive boss, but even those days I’m home can sometimes seem long. From the very start even with just one kid I have felt cooped up when in the house all day, so I almost always get out with a mix of kid-friendly activities and errands. Then of course I sometimes feel like I’m not giving them enough “quality” time at home, but I think keeping myself sane is probably just as important!”

“I feel loneliness in a different way, like I’m missing out on other “mom” activities. Coming from a mom who also works outside of the home, I get kinda bummed when other moms can do play dates together or go to the zoo, etc. during the day. I love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way right now, and I know that’s not the reality of every day being a SAHM I just miss the interaction. Or feel like I’m depriving my child of doing these other fun things. And then on the weekends like I’m sure everyone else we have to clean and run errands and just want to spend time with our families all together, so it’s hard to plan stuff on the weekends too – especially in the summer. So I feel loneliness because I don’t get to hang out with other moms”.

image1 (1)
*A special thank you to my Momtourage.  Not only have you combatted my lonelies on so many occasions, but you are so doggone reliably honest. Wonderful and powerful things happen when women support one another, and sharing your experiences so candidly opens the conversation for others.  I love and adore the freaking heck out of you.

An Apology Letter To All My DINKS (Double Income No Kids)

To all my favorite DINKS,

There it goes.  Another RSVP checked “will regretfully decline and celebrate from afar” for an out of state wedding. This one hurt. Bad. A wedding I want to be at. Should be at.  And I genuinely mean what I checked; I will celebrate from afar. There is a lot to celebrate, my love. And not just how stunning you’re going to be in white, but how you’ve snagged a man that is the perfect snap to your ginger.

Two weeks ago it was the same dark fate for a bachelorette party. A celebration for a woman I love from the tip of her bright blond hairs on her head down to her perfectly polished feet (seriously.. she spends a lot of time on them). It is with a heavy, heavy heart they were sent.  Please don’t think I checked “no” quickly. Don’t think I didn’t mull it over for days and weeks and talk logistics with all players that would be involved. Don’t think I didn’t go into our bank account and look ahead at our upcoming monthly budgets. Don’t think I didn’t go into my measly little freezer stash of breast milk and count every single ounce. Don’t think I don’t want to be there. Not for one second. Whatever you invite me to that involves a celebration of you, the answer is always yes, I want to be there.

I know what you’re thinking.  “I hate when women become mothers and then totally lose track of themselves and never put themselves first”. Or, “If she really loved me, she’d find a way. Just because she had a kid shouldn’t change much”. Or something like, “God I swear when I’m a mom I am going to be the exact opposite of Erica”. 🙂  I know. I know, because before I had kids I thought the same things. Trust me. I know. 

Unfortunately, its just not that simple. Oh how I wish it were.

I was the first of us to get married. The first of us to have kids. And as much as I love that in some ways, it also kinda really sucks in others. I love that I get to keep that “I’ll do it first and then tell you all what to expect ahead” dynamic. Keeps me feeling like the older sister to go to for advice. But I hate that until you all get here, you really can’t understand. You just… can’t.

So I’m feeling compelled to try and show you. Maybe you already know all these things, but I’ll sleep a little easier knowing I got it off my chest. Knowing that you know its a not a simple act of “I don’t really care enough to be there” when you see a ‘no’ pop up in your mailbox.

I’m a stay at home mom, which is one hundred and fifty percent our choice. We knew money would be tight. We knew we would have to make sacrifices. We knew we would need a budget to stick within. But for us, at this season in our life, this is what makes sense for us. I read an article the other day that laid out how it costs around $650 to attend a wedding these days if there’s any travel involved. Add a husband and kids and that number skyrockets. Bachelorette parties today are usually an entire weekend at a destination hot spot. So. much. fun. But for me – so. damn. expensive. Add in the bridal showers and gifts for everything, and you’ll see the sweat start dripping off my brow. For being so tiny, kids sure do know how to make you spend those dolla dolla bills, ya’ll. Apparently they need to go to college someday? The truth is, we just don’t have $10,000 of extra disposable income to spend in one summer for weddings and all they entail. I could put it on the credit card and say we’ll pay it off one day, but I’m trying my damndest to be fiscally responsible and keeping our family afloat. Those combined student loans of ours are a killer. Thanks a lot, Sallie Mae.  Please know that my love for you is not tied to how much money we are able to spend. If it were, I’d be best buds with the loan officer at Chase and I’d be taking out those loans on the reg. Trust me.

Then there’s that whole issue of who’s got my babies? We don’t have any family in town to come babysit for the day. A lot of our family is out of state, and when I’m truthful and honest, the only people I’m comfortable leaving our kids with for a weekend while they are still so bitty is my parents. And hot damn do they have a busy social life on the weekends too! I know. Branch out. Hire babysitters. Leave them with other family – they’ll survive. I know. I know, I know. But do you know how much a good babysitter today costs? (The good ones, not the Craigslist ones.) And I don’t want my kids to ‘survive’ a weekend away from us right now. I want them to feel at ease and at home when mom and dad are gone, and having all the stars align for that to happen is equivalent to me at the driving range. I’ll swing all damn day, but its usually a bunch of misses.

Not only do we have a certain amount of night and weekend chips to cash in with my parents, but a lot of those chips need to be spent on us. The daily grind of working and two babies over time can easily wear on a marriage. It takes a conscious commitment and dedication to putting in the time and effort. Which means time alone to reconnect and just be us. So as much as I want to spend all those chips on you guys, I also have to be conscious of keeping our marriage happy and thriving. Sometimes what little vacation money we have each year will need to be spent on us. And I can’t feel bad about that. I just can’t.

Bring them? Ha. The only thing worse than spending outside your means to attend a wedding is not being able to spend an ounce of attention elsewhere during the wedding and then having to leave no later than 8 p.m. because once they hit overtired… well, its some modern day exorcism shit.

Aside from the other things like Matt’s work schedule that sometimes includes weekends (which sometimes includes little notice), accommodations for the dogs, breastfeeding and pumping concerns, this current night time hiatus that includes teething and a sleep regression, my new social awkwardness, and back up plans in case things fall through – there’s this paradoxical & insanely ironic mindset that can befall parents. That burning yearning to just get away we have so often, is just as quickly met with that burning yearning to be with your kids. To not miss a minute of them. We might complain and have hard days and just. want. to. sleep – but the second we are gone, we want nothing more than to be back with them. Its insanity.

I know I seem like Carmen San Diego lately, but I promise with my whole heart, I will be there for every single thing I can be. Just bare with me. Remember its not a reflection of my love for you. And one day I will make it up to you – I can assure you of that. And it will most likely be when my kids are in school and I sleep through the night; I will come to your rescue as your newborn has you crawling out of your skin in tears. I will make it up to you. I promise.

Please don’t compare me to other moms out there you see, either. You’ll find that every mom, and every mom’s circumstances are as different and unique as their babes. We all have our strengths, all doing the best we can.

Don’t give up on me just yet, friend. Remember I am here for you, ready to help in any way I can, and I will most certainly be celebrating you from afar when I can’t be there holding your hand.

So many hugs and smooches,

E

[This letter also applies to all of my single friends with no children. Because my single friends make about as much money as most double income households anyway.  Smart bastards.]

376330_10101357728687644_1831645560_n

Finding My Level Of Busyness

There was once a time when I equated how much you cram into each day with how good of a stay at home mom you were. Being home with your kids is your job, so therefore to be good at your job, you must have lots to show for each day. I wanted our daughter to start swim class as early as they allowed her. I never wanted to miss a Story Time at the library. Every day had to have outings. Between the museum or classes or play dates or errands or playgrounds or pet stores or open gyms or splash parks or dog parks – we were busy. So I was a good stay at home mom.

Until I wasn’t.

When my sweet little sidekick turned eleven months old we found out she would be blessed with a younger sibling. The further into the pregnancy I got, the more exhausted I became. My back was giving out on me. My hips were giving out on me. And the frustration I felt from not being able to stay at my daughter’s daily pace slowly ate me alive. I felt like I was failing her but couldn’t do anything about it. I was forced to learn to slow down. I was forced to stay in some days. For the whole day. Frequently. I was forced to find new adventures in or close to our home and to reinvent toys that were already in her playroom.

We eventually moved from a pregnancy induced slow down to a “I have a newborn and a toddler” slow down. From there, it moved to a “it’s way too fricking cold out” slow down. Helloooo, Michigan winters. Then one day I read a normal weekly schedule of a fellow mom friend and was quickly reminded of the busier lifestyle we used to grind out once upon a time. Except this time, I no longer felt like I was a bad stay at home mom. When I really paused to reflect on these “slow downs” that used to annoy me to no end, I began to notice something…

We no longer rushed through breakfast. We would take time to make a good breakfast together, sit down, and enjoy it. No more, “You need to hurry and finish up, please!”.  

Getting myself ready in the morning wasn’t met with resentment.  It used to be I either woke up at 5:30 a.m. for a little alone time, or I would get easily irritated with Tayler as she was somehow always in my way.  Now instead of getting up at 5:30 I pull Harrison into bed with me and cuddle him till both kids wake up.  Now instead of fighting Tayler to let me get ready, I let her join me and she puts on my blush and lipstick.  

IMG_0924

I had time to actually play with the kids in the morning. It wasn’t rush to make breakfast, rush to make them eat it, rush to get diapers changed, snacks packed, bags organized, dogs let out, and car ready. If things weren’t rushed, we would never get out the door in time to do stuff before it was time to come back for nap time.  

I had more me time, which made me a better mom.  If we had more time at home where I was engaged with the kids, I felt less guilty letting them play independently and take some time to do things for myself. Maybe get in a workout as I watched them play.  Sit and write a few of thoughts that were playing on repeat in my head. Catching up a little on the previous day’s Ellen.  A little me time made me feel better about myself.  Happy and healthy mom, happy and healthy kids. 

I was more present. We started making a lot of fun activities and crafts together.  Playing with her farm animals could go on for hours and it was OK. If our play took us in a new direction, we were able to explore it. I had more time to be there, in the moment, and be her partner in crime. 

IMG_2013

We had a little down time and a little boredom. Kids don’t need to be stimulated 24/7. And like adults, they need some down time to recharge.  I didn’t feel guilty about watching a movie every now and then.  They were filled with playing with each other’s hair, snuggling tight, and enjoying being in each other’s arms. She is the BEST, most affectionate snuggler. Every now and then we’d get bored. There’s beauty in boredom, though.  It fuels creativity and her independent play broadened. 

Outings began to feel exciting again, and a lot less like a chore. That feeling of monotony was replaced by the lost feeling of fun spontaneity.  If we went out, it was because we really wanted to. Not because I felt like we had to.  It had been awhile since we’d been to our giant pet store, and it was like seeing the animals new again.  

I was more patient. I let her put on her own shoes. Even if it took 45 minutes.  I let her help pick out her clothes in the morning instead of me quickly grabbing something. I would willingly fulfill her “1,000 hugs before 9 a.m.” quota without getting frustrated. My words were more deliberate, my tone stayed more calm, and I said “yes” a hell of a lot more than I said “no, not right now”.

I started to become what I now know is a better mom. Every mom has different levels of “busyness” that works for her. Some are genuinely more content and happy with a full schedule.  Some thrive off daily engagements. Some thrive off some. And some thrive off none.  For the first time I had begun to realize that THIS was the level of busyness that made ME the best version of a mom I could be. Once I got over thinking we had to have a long list of extra curricular activities to learn and thrive, we began to really learn and thrive.  

Please don’t misunderstand; we aren’t hermits.  We still go the museum.  We still run errands. We still go to the library. We still have play dates.  And fingers crossed for a Story Time reappearance next week.  I just don’t let it all consume us. If we are having a bad morning, I no longer force us to leave anyway and then get frustrated when it ends in a public tantrum.  I’ll whip up a fort, play Frozen (again), and snuggle the bad moods out of all of us.

IMG_2021

Whatever level of busyness you operate best at, don’t be scared to live there. In no way, shape, or form does it have any equivalency to the quality of mother you are.  

IMG_1503

New Moms: I Give You Permission

Ok let’s just start with the obvious here.  You surely don’t need my permission. Frankly, you don’t need anyone’s permission.  But if you’re wired similar to how I am, as a new mom it might feel that way sometimes.  I mean, they just give you this baby at the hospital, you put it in the car, and then its just… yours? To do what you want with and hope you don’t mess it up?

You see I grew up one of those first born, adult pleasing, rule following, scared to get in trouble kind of girls (except for that stretch in middle school – yikes!).  Not that I don’t have my own original thoughts or won’t stray off the beaten path when necessary, but I generally don’t like to rock the boat too much and prefer to do things the “right” way.  So as a new mom (and sometimes still!), I feel like I need to hear from someone, anyone, its OK to do things a certain way.  In my gut I know I’m right.  Hello, I’m the mom here!  But the truth is, it still feels good when you see someone, knowingly or not, give you the green light to do things a specific way.

Now please understand that I’m not intending to make any of your concerns seem silly.  This is not one of those times when an experienced mom looks down from her high horse and chuckles at how new to this you are for worrying about something. Girlfriend, every worry is valid as a new mom. But before you go worrying too much or wondering if you’re totally botching this one shot with this gorgeous tiny human, I will gladly be the one to give you that permission.  Trust me, its ok!

I give you permission to… 

Not use a nursing cover if you don’t want to.  While this one obviously relates to your own personal level of comfort and depends on the setting for which you’re nursing, if you don’t want to sweat with your baby as you try to keep it in place while keeping baby happily latched – DON’T! And don’t you dare feel like you have to run to your car or hide in a bathroom if you’re out and about. If you want to – absolutely. But don’t be shamed into anything. You are literally feeding another human with your body, which in my book means you have super powers. My rule at home is: my home, my boobs, my baby.  If you don’t want to see him eating lunch, don’t look! Or you can eat your lunch at my kitchen table with a bag over your head.  Because that’d be the same. And it’d be pretty frickin’ funny.

Use the same sippy cup for awhile.  If I used a new cup every time my toddler wanted something new to drink, I’d need an entire cupboard dedicated to her cups and I’d be a slave to the dishwasher. Don’t be a slave to the dishwasher.  When she’s done, throw that puppy right back in the fridge and pull it out later.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  (Just don’t let things sit out for 18 hours and then try to reuse it.  Because then she could get sick.  And ain’t nobody really got time for that either).

Use your breast pump parts a few times before washing. Let’s just go ahead and piggy back off the one above. Use your pump, put the parts in a clean bag, put it in the fridge, and repeat for up to 24 hours. Thorough cleaning after that, but don’t kill yourself every single time! You are not a slave to your pump. Don’t be a slave to your pump.

Put on your face and tame that mop every day.  Some days I don’t get to this one till 3:00 p.m., but let me tell you – making yourself feel a little pretty, whether that means putting on a little make up, styling your hair, or simply washing your face is a game changer.  Do it every day.  Do it even if no one except the babies are going to see you. Take that time for yourself.  It makes a difference, trust me.

Keep baby in the same clothes if its just a little spit up.  So her shirt has a little wet spot.  Wipe it up, and move on.  It won’t be the first and certainly not the last time a little something gets on her clothes.  If its not going to make her uncomfortable, its not a sanitation risk, and its not going to stain if its remnants stay for a little while – leave it.  You’d be a slave to your washing machine. Don’t be a slave to your washing machine.

One or two cups of coffee.  Pregnant or nursing. Everyone will be just fine.  Maybe half and half makes you feel better.  That’s fine too.  Everything in moderation.  Don’t take this as permission to pony up to the espresso bar and imitate spring break of ’03 here.  But one or two cups – you’ve got bigger concerns than that.

Pick that teething toy or paci up and (gasp) wipe it off and put it back in baby’s mouth.  Whoa.. relax.  If it fell in a pile of dog poop or got stepped on or fell in a public bathroom, or any bathroom, you bet I’d be cleaning that thing up.  But use good judgment, keep a pack of paci wipes in your bag for emergencies, and don’t sweat every time it drops.  Truth is, if baby gets to it before you, its going right back in that little mouth anyway. Just suck those germs off and pop it back in. Seriously.

Lay baby down and take a shower. There will be days a shower is your saving grace.  The hot water has actual healing powers. Fact. So if you are dying to take a shower, take one. If baby is fed, dry, and safe in his crib, lay him down and take a shower.  Albeit he may be pissed, but he’ll be ok.  A happy and healthy mom means a happy and healthy baby.  So if you want to stand in that glorious box of hot water goodness, you better get in there dammit!

Don’t stress out and run when baby cries in public. It’s going to happen. Repeat that with me. It’s going to happen. Your baby will lose their freaking mind in public at some point. Or a lot of points. And sometimes there’s not much you can do.  Half the people who are witnessing it have had kids and should understand.  And the ones who give you a dirty look, well, karma is a relentless bitch.  Whether its because baby isn’t feel well or its because you’re sticking your ground in a teachable moment – don’t sweat it.  And if you see this happening to another mom in public, its in the mom handbook to give her that smile and nod that says, “I feel you sister. You’re doing a great job”.  IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.

Not change the crib sheets for a few weeks. It happens. You’ve got a lot on your mind. The world will keep spinning and baby will keep sleeping. Promise. Better yet, take one out of a fellow mom’s playbook, and put a few sheets on the crib. One gets soiled, rip it off and there’s a clean one underneath!

Turn away visitors. You’ve probably heard and read this one a million times already so I won’t dive into it, but you’ve heard and read it a million times for good reason.  Take care of yourself.

Keep baby in the same clothes for a few days. Its easy to fall into this time warped trap that is your home when you are a new mom. If all of a sudden you wake up and realize baby has worn the same jammies for three days, no one cares. It’s all good, darlin! Maybe try a new outfit, today? And no, it doesn’t have to match.  You don’t have to memorize every Carter’s matching set you were gifted.

Keep yourself in the same clothes for a few days. OK I wanted to be clever and have this match the one above it. The more I think about it though, your clothes are most likely pretty gnarly.  Whether its night sweats because your hormones can’t decide where they want to level, breast milk that has streamed down your stomach repeatedly, spit up, or baby snot you’ve wiped with your sleeve repeatedly…scratch this one.  Change your damn clothes. Chill.. I didn’t say you had to shower, too.  🙂

Cry.  Seriously. I’m giving you permission to cry guilt free. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll do it six times a day during the first month (cough, cough – year). Don’t try and fight it. Don’t try and mask it. You let that shit flow and ugly cry your ass off.  Cry because you’re happy. Cry because baby smiled at you.  Cry because you’re overwhelmed. Cry because you finally got through your first postpartum poop.  Cry because its a Tuesday.  Just do it.  You’ll feel better.

Cry because you clipped baby’s skin while clipping her nails. Yeah yeah I just said ‘cry’ above. This one is separate because everyone has done it and everyone loses their marbles when it happens. Their tiny finger bleeds what seems like their body weight, and it won’t stop. You’ll be hysterical, but I’m telling you – its fine.

Feel nerves about leaving your house with baby the first few times.  The first time I left with my first child I had packed a bag for the end of the world and walked her what I felt like at the time was 12 miles to the store.  Turns out it was 0.2 miles, and I still laugh at myself to this day.  The first few times are nerve wrecking.  Do it anyway.  You’ll get better every single time. 

Have a glass of wine or a beer while breastfeeding. Yes, while breastfeeding. It won’t get into the milk yet and it starts your “two hours per drink” timer at the earliest possible moment. Sometimes you need that grigio baby! But no, the wine pours you got accustomed to when you were 24 don’t count. Standard pour, sweetheart. I would post a pretty epic picture I have of myself doing this, but I don’t think anyone wants to see my areola. And if you do, I don’t want to show you, because that’s weird.

Shake it off if no monthly pictures get taken on the actual day. 30 years from now when your precious babe looks back at this beautiful book of baby pictures you made for him, he won’t be able to tell if his 9 month picture was taken one day before he turned 10 months (or if you forgot all together and slapped a 9 month, then 10 month, and then an 11 month sticker on a 12 month old baby with a few outfit changes) . It still counts. And you won’t tell the difference either.  High five, mom. You rock for trying to capture these elusive monthly pictures. By elusive, I mean good luck after they start sitting and crawling. 🙂 Don’t be a slave to the 12th of every month.

Shop Mom to Mom Sales and buy Christmas presents at a second hand store.  Fun fact: kids’ interests change fast and their bodies grow even faster. I think Tayler wore a new outfit every single day when she was in 3 month clothes, and not even all of her 3 month clothes got worn.  If Kate Middleton can recycle outfits, so can my kids, dammit. She’s not a princess! Not only do they grow out of clothes insanely fast, but half the ones they do wear usually get caked in some sort of bodily fluid at some point. You don’t have to buy $30 baby pants just so they can contain a blowout.  My $3 used once Baby Gap pants from a Mom to Mom do the same thing for 230% less money.  And kids don’t need a ton of toys anyway.  Get out your Clorox wipes or vinegar mixture and shine up a used toy that looks new for a quarter of the price.  Your child will NEVER know, and neither will your friends who come over for play dates.  Unless you tell them, because its awesome. Put your money towards your children’s college fund or for some fun classes if you feel like makin’ it rain. Don’t be a slave to keepin’ up with the Joneses.

Drop the kids off. Take the day off. Tell NO ONE. OK, tell your spouse if you want. But you need a personal day sometimes.  Take those kids to their day care and go home for a nap.  Eat a bowl of popcorn while binge watching Parenthood on Netflix and crying over how you wish you were the Bravermans. Get a pedicure. Take care of yourself. Remember: happy and healthy mom means happy and healthy baby.  No one needs to know.

Be sad. Not every moment of motherhood is like the commericals. Not even the Huggies ones. There will be moments of loneliness, sadness, confusion, despair, anxiety, worry, insecurity, and that ‘feel like you’re drowning and can’t come up for air fast enough’ kind of feeling. It’s normal.  And it is not a reflection of you as a mother.  It’s a reflection of chemicals in your body and some major effing life changes all at once.  I give you permission to ride out, embrace, and allow yourself to feel these things.  What I don’t give you permission to do, however, is harbor them all yourself and not seek help or talk to anyone.  Ask for help. Talk to someone. Anyone. Email me if need be.  Seriously.

Not feel the pressure that surrounds us moms constantly. Thanks a lot, Pinterest. We all have our thing. We all embrace different stages, different ages, and different areas of motherhood differently.  YOU are the best person in the entire world to be your child’s mother.  YOU are giving that baby everything he needs simply by loving him as fiercely as you do.  You will grow just as fast as he does.  You will reach a point where you feel comfortable in your mom skin.  You will learn that if it is what is best for you and baby, then that is all you need to know.

I give you permission…

to not feel any need to get permission. 🙂

— As always, a quick thank you to my honest and witty Momtourage. You didn’t think I wanted permission for all of these things on my own did you?! 🙂 — 

Why You Won’t See Me With My Kids When You’re Visiting

Yesterday was the day.  We officially got back into the grind after a wonderful holiday season as a family of four.  My husband went back to work after two glorious weeks at home, our gauntlet of family Christmases and get-togethers came to a screeching halt, and I was flying solo again with our two vibrant munchkins.  While it definitely felt good to get back into our routine, a tiny part of me couldn’t help but mourn all the help I had over the past month.  You see, when we’re around family and friends, I get to sort of quietly slink back to the sidelines and allow our loved ones to take center stage – whether they realize it or not.  Sometimes I wonder if our family and friends ever question my mothering ability.  After all, when they’re here, I’m usually on the couch with a glazed over smile, letting others willingly attend to most of the needs and wants of my kids.  If that’s been you at one time or another, please know I’m not completely checked out of my parenting duties.  Every want and need is carefully and quietly observed, and my legs are on constant standby ready to jump up for instances only mom can handle.  But for several reasons, I’m letting you take the lead.

If you’re visiting with us, it means you’re an important part of our life, and therefore an important part of our children’s lives. Proximity isn’t a luxury we have when it comes to family and friends.  If we’re together, it means it took effort, planning, and may not happen again for awhile.  I want our kids to know you, to see your picture and shout your name, and to feel comfortable the second you walk in the door instead of hiding behind my legs.  So when my daughter pulls your hand into her playroom for the 72nd time in an hour, I’m going to let her.  I want her to have that bonding time with you – whether you’re secretly just wanting to sit on the couch or not. 🙂 Thanks for being a trooper and letting yourself get silly!

I’m learning and observing while watching you play with my kids. Yes – I’m learning from you.  Sure, I’m the mom and I arguably know my children better than anyone on the planet.  I know the things that make their drums beat and their hearts flutter, but you get to come in and see them with fresh eyes.  You always seem to spot the toys we haven’t pulled out in awhile, the books that need to be read with some new gusto, and the dance moves we’ll now be adding to our repertoire. Your style of play, the way you manipulate toys, the things you do to make them laugh, and ways you challenge them are all being carefully cataloged into my mental filing system. Spending all day everyday with them can cause some ruts I’m oblivious to, so you bring a new light into our house that I’m thankful for.  Quite frankly, I envy this fresh and limitless energy you come in with. Players gonna play, play, play!

Despite common belief, mothers don’t always like to hold their babies all day everyday.  How dare I say it, but its true! No one loves cuddle time more than me, and no one loves breathing in my sweet baby in my arms more than I do, but I do it for endless hours every single day.  By holding my son for awhile, you’re giving me a little time to feel human again.  I get to pee without juggling a “I’ll only sleep in your arms right now” baby.  I get to drink coffee.  HOT.  I get to sit without rocking and swaying back and forth (until I subconsciously do it anyway).  I get to put a little makeup on without having to sing and dance so baby stays entertained. I get to make a meal that will take longer than three minutes to prepare.  It gives me a little “me” time, and for that I am so grateful.

My kids need to know others can take care of their needs as well.  I stay home with both of my kids. As a result, they don’t get the same levels of interactions with other caregivers and children that daycare children do.  We go to play dates, classes, and play places so they can flex their social muscles, but I also want them to know that at times other adults will need to take care of them outside of mom and dad, and that’s OK.  So when you feed our daughter, put our son to bed, or give them a bath to help out, you’re not only doing us a favor – but you’re doing them a favor, too.  They learn to trust their loved ones and know their needs will be met.  You may not do it exactly like we do, but that’s OK, too.  No judgment here – your way keeps them flexible!

If you’re one of the ones who shies away from anything related to our kids while you’re here – that’s OK in my book, too.  Having you around is all we really want anyway. Come join me on the couch. 🙂

10427336_10105974705254594_5352261415973744027_n

The Compliments I Wish More New Moms Received

It used to mildly annoy me. Then for awhile it frustrated me. And now, after having it shoved down our throats repeatedly, it kind of pisses me off.

Olivia Wilde looks incredible just three months after baby! Claire Danes was on the red carpet in a size zero just one month postpartum! I’m pretty sure Kristin Cavallari wore her skinny jeans on the way home from the hospital. And I’m almost certain Gisele Bundchen gave birth during a pilates class and finished her exercises once she delivered. These headlines are everywhere, and every day it’s a new mom that is applauded for an even better version of her body than she had before pregnancy, and she achieved it in no time.

WE GET IT. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WE GET IT.

I’m not on a media crusade here, I’ll leave that to the much more competent, much more influential people out there with the platforms to make a difference. And after really evaluating why it infuriates me like it does, it’s not even that I’m on a jealously rooted rant. (OK, a tiny part of me is jealous). Honestly, it just really makes me sad. It’s sad to feel like the only compliment our new moms receive these days has to do with how quickly they can make themselves look like they never carried and birthed a baby in the first place.

Now please understand I’m not knocking women who, whether through unwavering dedication and hard work or the jackpot of genetics, bounce back quickly. Being healthy and taking care of ourselves should be a priority, and it should definitely be acknowledged.

My problem is, there’s so much more our focus should be on when speaking about women who just gave birth. There is never a shortage of the, “you look great!”s, and “wow, it melted right off you!”s. So much so, they often feel artificial and insincere – its just something people say to new moms whether they genuinely mean it or not. While I know I got them, I don’t remember a single one. The compliments I DO remember, however, had absolutely nothing to do with my physical appearance.

I specifically remember the text I got from a dear friend (who, at the time, I didn’t even know really followed my motherhood journey). Out of the blue, she let me know how fantastic of a mother I was and how she hoped to be “a quarter of the mom that I already am”. I specifically remember the conversation I had with my husband, where he told me one of the biggest reasons he was excited to see our family grow again was because of me, because I was “such an amazing mother”. I specifically remember the conversation I had with my grandmother about how she was so impressed with all the experiences I was trying to give Tayler and all that I was exposing her to. I remember the compliments about breastfeeding, about patience, and about how hard I was working around the clock to give Tayler everything she needed. Those words all stuck with me and helped build me up because they acknowledged the kinds of qualities I think really matter to new moms. The qualities our focus should be on when speaking to new moms. Those were the compliments that reminded me my energy was being spent in the right places.

I imagine Us Weekly would have to shut down if they changed their focus. I’m not sure the headline “Olivia Wilde is an avid baby wearer!” would sell any copies. But for those of us who are around your every day new mom, the ones who don’t have night nannies, who make their own meals on a budget, and who try and squeeze in a jog or some squats when they find a free 20 minutes and their energy isn’t completely zapped – acknowledge something more than just her physical appearance. Let her know you’re in awe of how natural she is in her new role. Tell her you respect how hard she works at work and then comes home and works with that same tenacity. Let her know that despite the few hours of broken sleep she got, you admire how she’s able to keep her patience and provide lovingly for her infant all day long. Reach out to tell her you revere the fact that she has the confidence to go against the grain, knowing what she is doing is best for her and her baby.

A new mom has so much more going on in her life than only worrying about how far she is from her pre-baby pant size. Not only that, but many women love their new motherly shape and don’t want to look like they did before children. We need to acknowledge that fact and change the conversation so our new moms can focus on the things that matter and be reassured their priorities are in the right order. Compliment her heart, soul, and fierce love for her babies. Those are the qualities that are raising exceptional little people – not the inches around her waist.

Tayler 8.12.13 002