Moms, Let’s Help Ourselves

We often forget that moms are individuals with a past and identity before having children. That moment when she finds out she’s pregnant, the focus immediately shifts from “me” to “we”, and that feeling only intensifies the older the child becomes. Therefore, in order to truly give something back to the moms in our lives, one must simply let her figure out how best she can renew herself. Everyone is different, the needs of one mom vary from one to another. One mom might need a night out with girlfriends, another a long hot bath and a good novel. The cure for what ails is bio-individual, but the need is undeniably there.

When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed by the realization of that responsibility. Breastfeeding, tummy time, around the clock feedings and diaper changes all contributed to a culture shock I had mentally prepared for but not emotionally connected to yet. I felt extremely tired and the weight of responsibility was leveling. I had always been strong, but this new life as a mom required a higher, more intense level of resiliency I hadn’t acquired yet. I had to adapt, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. I was a fighting a losing battle against the tide, and I felt myself being pulled under.

It wasn’t until I had healed enough from giving birth and could workout, that I saw my first respite from the pull of the metaphorical undertow. The road became a lifeline to my former self to pull out of the constant drudgery of mundane daily tasks that motherhood requires. In the 30-60 minutes I was out on the pavement I felt lighter and lighter. Each step was a reclamation of my former self, and I breathed in the freedom I felt had escaped me. When I returned home, tired and exhilarated at the same time, I was at peace with my life again, and happy to dive into diaper changes, cuddling and even teething meltdowns.

Running and eventually yoga, weight lifting, and meditation, were the outlets I needed to be whole again–another mother may have a completely different set of requirements. I use myself as an example because it’s what I know for sure. What I also know without doubt is that as women, we are intrinsically selfless creatures. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves that the cup becomes empty, and that is where it becomes a matter of health.

Health is more than what is on our plates. It’s found in our relationships, our career, our connection with a higher power, and of course nutrition and exercise. It takes going inward to find out how we as mothers are doing in each of these categories, and then making the appropriate changes to make ourselves healthy and happy.

It may sound extreme at first for her to take 30-60 minutes for herself every single day, but if you think of the mother as the center of the home, it makes perfect sense to nurture her. The health and happiness of a home is almost always directly related to the sense of wellbeing of the mother. But no one can help a mother, she has to do the work and find what she needs to help herself. So mothers, do the internal work, and families support her. The result is a scenario where everyone wins, and the potential of every family member can be fully realized

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The Mommy Wars

The issue of whether a woman should continue to work after having children, or resign herself fully and completely to being a stay-at-home mother (hereafter”SAHM”), has always been hotly debated. Even before I was blessed with two wily and vivacious sons, I heard the shots being fired back and forth on television, radio, movies and books about this pressing issue. SAHM advocates proclaim the sheer unbelievable selfishness of mothers who would place their small, defenseless, children in institutions to be raised by strangers, rather than sacrificing their ambitions for the good of the family. On the other side, working mothers routinely lambaste SAHM’s who chose to leave their burgeoning careers, by saying they are throwing away years of advanced education and financial independence in order to play patty cake and coordinate carpools and play dates. “Why what if she and the husband divorce, then she’ll be sorry with her shortsighted choice! And forget getting back into her chosen field, that door is closed!”

As you can probably guess, I chose to continue working despite the very real pangs of guilt of putting my (then) little babies in the care of other adults. However, my emotions aside, I logically understand that my children are better served learning curriculum with their peers in a structured classroom environment, rather than staying home with me all day bouncing from one random activity to the next. I have witnessed my oldest in class, without him knowing, and he is much better behaved and far more focused than he is at home doing the same type of project with me.

With that said, I do not want to disparage the mothers who choose to stay at home. At its core, the decision to give up financial independence and prolong any career advancement is innately personal. Whatever the reasons are behind her choice, it should remain exactly that, HER choice. I take issue with those on either side who self-righteously place blame and condemnation on a woman who is simply doing what feels right for her and her family. How she defines that and lives with that day in and day out, is her burden to bear, and an unkind, and (probably jealous) condemner, is not going to change her mind about her current situation. Rather, it will only causes a greater divide between two sides that should be working together and excited that both options are in fact available.

It seems strange that this topic is still relevant. I feel as if it has been talk-showed to death, however just today I was reminded through a friend’s indecision on social media and the responses that followed, that it still continues, and that women have not resigned themselves to living and letting live. Perhaps, it is because we are all dealing with our own form of guilt. There is no genuine winner. The working moms feel like they are not being present enough during their children’s formative years, and the SAHM’s feel as though they have sacrificed everything and will be left an hollow vessel with nothing to offer once everyone is old enough to take care of themselves. The truth, is that when we place our value in people and things outside of ourselves, we will never be happy. That holds true for careers and/or children. Happiness, as we all know, is an inside job. So make the choice that is right for you, and feel confident in that decision. After all, we are the ones that have to live with it, no one else.

Momming is Hard

I have a confession. It is not what mothers are supposed to say. It is “wrong”. But I believe in living an authentic life, and so with that, comes revealing things that you normally would not in order to maintaining a shiny veneer for your family, Facebook friends and colleagues. My big, dirty secret is that I am a working mother, and I would not have it any other way. Well, unless that meant I could keep my kids in daycare AND not work, in that case, sign me up.

See, doesn’t that come across as backwards, mean, and lazy? I imagine readers thinking why would she even have kids if she was not going to raise them herself? What is the point? I would see it that way too…before having children.

Now I know what mothers have known for a long time, but perhaps never really talked about because there was simply no advantage to revealing weakness, especially if it did not change your circumstances. But I can freely say, with absolutely zero reservation, that being a mom is HARD. Not the love part. Loving your children is the easiest, most natural inclination there is (thanks mother nature). I loved my two the moment I found out I was pregnant, and meeting them at the birth only confirmed my adoration for these little souls. However, I am not talking about maternal love. I am speaking instead about the day-to-day GRIND of being a mother. It is an entirely different and savage animal. It takes patience (something I am self-aware enough to know that I intrinsically lack), fortitude, physical strength, mental and emotional balance in the face of obstacles, and of course sheer willpower to do what needs to be done even though it may be the last thing you want to do at that moment.

For example, last night my oldest son Nash did not want to go to bed. I was exhausted after my reveille at 4am with his younger brother. Nash sensed my weakness and instead of complying with my firm, (yet obviously not convincing enough) demands that he go brush his teeth, use the potty and go to bed, he happily said “No mommy”. Mommy looks tired, the iPad could be mine all night, teeth brushing be damned! (So I imagine he said to himself). And it could have turned out that way, I was that tired.  But then I would feel like I was failing, and he is only four for Gods sake, and I need to get it together and get him to listen to me!!! (So I imagine the range of emotions coursing through my body put to words in the milliseconds after he said no). After a brief, albeit boisterous, back and forth, Nash did what I asked him to do and was asleep within minutes of laying down. Goodnight.

I use this mundane, everyday experience, to illustrate my point. It is such an honor to be responsible for another life, one that you had a part in creating, but the long days of doing what has to be done in order to keep life going, is incredibly tough, and I am so thankful that I have a full-time job to release me from that drudgery, at least temporarily. And in that space I grant myself through work completely unrelated to motherhood, there is room for reflection and growth. I believe, because it is absolutely true for me, a mother who creates space for herself to nurture her selfish desires and curiosity about life, brings so much more richness to her and her children’s lives, and the result is that everyone benefits from it in the end.

I am incredibly happy to be a mother. Everyday I am challenged, I learn something new about humanity, become more empathetic and grounded, and release any remaining vestiges of my ego due to some embarrassing event at a store or restaurant. I am a better person because I am so tightly bonded to these other humans, but I am not ashamed to admit that come Monday morning after a long weekend with the kids, I am ready to drop them off at school with a kiss and get to work so I can think without distraction, or take a sip of hot coffee without having to break up a fight.

Motherhood is a wild, ever-evolving time in the life of a woman. It comes with so many challenges, ones that no one can really prepare you for. My little sister is thinking about having her first baby, and even though I feel like I’m constantly telling her about what new craziness I’m experiencing with my boys, I am so excited for her because I know her life is really about to begin. She will be elevated to another dimension of stress, sleeplessness, and aggravation, but with that also comes the emergence of a love for another person that I know I had never experienced before in my life. It is truly indescribable but also so incredibly simple, you just love them completely. I tell my sister that it is this instinctive, powerful drive that keeps me going when motherhood gets tough, but I also tell her to not quit her day job.