The Hardest Part

What is the hardest part of being a parent? My favorite question (insert sarcasm). Being a parent is the only job in the world where two days of experience suddenly makes you an expert. I have done something along the way to convince my childless friends that my 2 1/2 years of experience (and I use that term loosely) qualifies me to give them my professional opinion. As if me saying “Yes, the terrible two’s are the worst part” makes it the ultimate truth and somehow negates the fact that I have yet to see the three’s or four’s or tweens or anything in-between.

I am a hopeless romantic and having a child was no different. I romanticized the crap out of bringing a baby into this world. Romeo and Juliet didn’t hold a candle to the beauty of the parenthood story in my head. While reality turned out to be better and worse in many ways, I always find myself wishing people had been more honest. That I had heard more truths and less stereotypical responses with half-smiles. I think I would have been better prepared. Having been asked this myself though I can now say I understand why they took the easy road. I understand why they smiled and said “Oh the lack of sleep is tough but it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do” or “Think of how much fun it will be” or “This is the best time in your life”. They did it because the truth, the words that really hit it home, are inadequate.

How do you tell them the hardest part is all of it? How do you explain to someone that the best and worst days of their lives will be had in parenthood? How do you tell them that the it will both breathe life into them and crush their soul? How do you explain that they will never look at any piece of the world the same? That all the bad becomes so much worse and that they will lay awake at night wondering what kind of world their child will grow up in? That the good becomes so much clearer and that they will hope everyday that their child holds onto their innocence long enough to be a kind human being and bring more good to the world?

How do you quantify what it means to have a piece of your heart beating outside your own body? That every fall, every scratch, every tear will take a little piece of you?How do you explain that every time their child is sick they will lay awake just to make sure they hear them breathing? How do you tell them that will give up so much of themselves somedays that there will be nothing left? How do you tell them that everything they thought they knew will become irrelevant when they have a child – that they will be learning everything all over just when they thought they had finally figured it out?

How do you share the hopes, the dreams, the fears? How do you tell them you can’t even see a child diagnosed with an illness without looking away because it hurts to even consider the possibility? How do you say that you worry about if you will like your future daughter-in-law (which seems so silly when they are 2 1/2)? How do you tell them the difference between dreaming for them and with them?

How do you adequately explain to someone the gut-wrenching, all-encompassing, forever evolving journey of parenthood? You don’t. You simply can’t. So you just smile and say “Oh the lack of sleep is tough but it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do” and you hope that when they take their journey they will understand your stereotypical answer and your half-smile.

The Woman I Used To Be

She was vibrant, charismatic, carefree. She was well-rested, well-dressed, and well-read. She smiled and laughed, the kind that reaches all the way to your eyes. She was a summer day, windows down, radio blaring. She was messy. She was a little reckless. She was fun.

She was everything I am not.

My memories of her have continued to fade and it recently occurred to me that I am not sure I recognize her at all. I am simply just not the woman I used to be. That woman could have a night out and not worry about what time her human alarm clock would go off. She could spend an hour doing her hair and makeup without concerns of making everyone late for work or daycare. She had time to plan meals, date nights, and girls time because her days were not filled with budgeting, errands, and to-do lists a mile long. She did not know what true exhaustion felt like because she had never weathered the storm of a sick toddler in the middle of the night. That woman was able to float blissfully unaware through her days. She didn’t know the heaviness that is felt with the responsibility of having someone depend on you 24/7.

I am certain that my husband noticed her slipping away long before I did. Maybe it was in a joke he told where I forgot to laugh. Maybe it was in the moment he wanted to stay up late and I didn’t. Maybe it was in the lost ‘just checking in’ text messages, the calls on your way home from work, or the sweet voicemails. Maybe it was the moment he needed support and I had none to offer. The funny thing with something like that is it doesn’t happen all at once – it happens slowly, piece by piece, so that you can’t even see it until there are too many pieces missing.

So my love I ask you to be patient with the woman I am. When you look into my tired eyes try to look past the woman on the surface. Although there was beauty in that woman and that time in her life, there is also more beauty in this woman and this time in her life than we could have imagined. Occasionally on a date or after a few too many glasses of wine when you catch a small glimpse of the carefree woman you fell in love with, cherish that moment for what it is. Know that our children will not always be little and it will not always feel like the weight of the world rest on our shoulders. Someday our sweet littles will grow and our home will quiet. It is there in the peace and bittersweet memories that you will find the woman I used to be waiting for you.

Thoughts of a Bad Mom

Here are a few internal thoughts that will let you know if you are doing this motherhood gig right. If you have ever thought any of these things, you are on track!

Do I really have to share my ice cream? I mean sugar leads to diabetes so really I am doing them a favor. *eats the whole container while hiding in the kitchen pantry

If I eat these cheerios off their tray will they notice? Should I really be stealing cereal from a two year old? Come on, we all know honey nut is where it is at.

How long can I hide here before they find me? I only have 15 years, 7 months, 1 week, 2 days, 11 hours, 43 minutes, and 10 seconds before they are of age. I think I can survive in this closet that long.

Can I just give him the dog treat? Pick your battles mama, how bad can they really be? Say woof!

So sorry honey, we can’t listen to the gummy bear song anymore. Oh, well because the gummy bear died. He’s dead. *after I hunted him down and slowly ate him from limb to limb

No, I don’t know what happened to your Halloween candy. *buries wrappers at the bottom of the trash can

1,2, clean up the poo 3,4, kids make you poor 5,6, so many fits 7,8, how many plates can one mom make 9,10 never sleep again

Always ask yourself – years of therapy down the road – is it worth it? If the answer is yes, throw that third plate of dinner you made the toddler on the floor and proceed to open the front door and let said toddler escape. Count the hours it takes for a return. If the answer is no, go make the fourth plate to include pickles, ketchup, Doritos, cheerios, and olives. Basically all 5 food groups there.

A little whiskey on the gums never hurt anyone – my grandparents did it. *5 am = hungover toddler > teething

“Do you have any recommendations for a babysitter?” “Well I bounce back and forth between Paw Patrol and Daniel the Tiger.”

Golden rule – never repeat the internal thoughts to DHS.

Feel free to add your own “Bad Mom” thoughts below in the comments section!

The Table of Ages

How often do we find ourselves surrounded by groups of strong, intelligent, and extraordinary women? You might think the answer is not often, but I would beg to disagree. The reality is it happens everyday in our lives during ordinary moments, we are often just too busy to notice. We spend so much time focusing inward that we often overlook the occurrence whether it is a few drinks with the girls to a quick conversation when a co-worker opens their soul for just a minute and shows a glimmer of what’s inside.

Recently I had the honor of sitting around just such a table. I listened as jokes, life struggles, and accomplishments were exchanged over brussel sprouts and beer. You all know the table I am talking about and have probably found yourself there a time or two. This time was different though, perhaps I was different as I had recently undertaken several changes in my own life. I wasn’t just going through the motions of another social gathering, I was listening, really listening to each woman when she spoke and I was amazed when I found myself entranced as these women shared their stories. Some were of heartache, others of accomplishing goals, and some were full life stories – the kind that make you want to wrap the person sharing in a bear hug and tell them how beautiful they are for just having survived.

The real reason I believe this table tugged at my heart and felt so special, so unique was because it was representative of decades of life – from divorce, disappointment, love, laughter, pride, motherhood, loss. Gathered around this table were women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. That’s a lot of life for one table to hold. How often do you find that age gap gathered in one sitting? Call it divine intervention but these women had all crossed paths with a beautiful soul who attracts the best beings into her life and here they were sharing their hearts with friends, some old and some brand new. All brought together in this one moment because of the paths crossed and traveled.

What I found in listening to these women was that strength, courage, resiliency – those traits are not something you are born with they are only forged through trials and tribulations. These women didn’t know me and maybe they never really will, but my perspective is forever changed because of them.

Slow down and take time to reflect on the amazing women in your network. Take a moment to thank them for just having survived, because even if it is unbeknownst to you, they have a beautiful story just waiting to be told. I guarantee you it is worth hearing and it will forever change the way you view them. It may forever change the way you view yourself.

In a recent conversation that led to this blog a friend asked me why I don’t like to share, really share the pieces of my life or more importantly the impact those pieces have on me, and I responded by saying “I don’t want people to look at me like I am broken.” To which she surprised me by saying “Do you feel broken?” At the time, I couldn’t answer her because deep down I knew the truth – that is the first word that comes to my mind when I think about who I am. And though I may be broken, I am so much more than that. I am passionate, and resilient, and stronger than even I realize sometimes.

Sometimes the broken pieces are the most beautiful pieces. Find someone and give them a chance to show you their beauty.

What Having It All Really Means

It’a an age old cliche, wanting to have it all. Having it all means different things to many people at various points in their lives, but for most women in today’s society it means the house, the partner, the kids, and the job. It means chasing those dreams, climbing that ladder, looking for the next raise, and always having the latest and greatest. As if that’s not enough, the other word for mom, guilt, keeps us working to achieve the perfect, but unattainable, work/life balance.

While most women (myself included) are eternally grateful for the Susan B. Anthony’s and Ida B. Wells’ of the world and every other activist who fought and suffered for our right to have it all, I have to be honest: having it all is exhausting. It kicks my ass at least four times a day (are you allowed to use that language in a blog? Ahhh, blame it on the wine).

It’s the reason I took up wine as my evening hobby. It’s the reason I feel like a small child dressed me everyday instead of the other way around. It’s the reason there is not enough time in the day and why I can’t possibly go out with that group of girlfriends for drinks.

Having it all means walking into a meeting with spit up on your blazer, finding diapers in your purse, and constantly having Cheerios thrown all over the back seat of that nice car. Having it all means sleep depravation, trading in showers for 20 minutes to catch a few Z’s (hello dry shampoo – don’t judge me, I know you hide your chocolate), and bags under your eyes. Having it all means dropping your toddler off on their toughest days and leaving someone else to repair their little soul. It means hoping someone else can love them enough in your absence and crying all the way to work because there is no one to repair your soul (hello waterproof mascara).

But here is the thing we seem to have forgotten: the only person expecting us to have it all is staring at us in the mirror. So mama, please stop killing yourself to have it all. If you stop holding me to that expectation, I won’t hold you to it either. You have everything you need.

What having it all really means is late night cuddles, mama hold my hand, just one more story please. It means watching little humans grow into amazing adults and knowing you are (at least partially) responsible for that. It’s crying a little on the inside but swelling with pride on the outside when they finally learn to do it themselves. It’s messy, and beautiful, and bittersweet all at the same time.

Having it all really means a full heart and unconditional love. I promise, that really is all you need mama.

Ready or Not

Motherhood is my “obsession” as friends have so kindly pointed out from time to time so it seemed fitting to make the first post about my entry into the big M. It’s been two and a half years since I joined the gloriously insane ranks of motherhood. I remember it like it was yesterday – it’s hard to forget, ask any woman who has ever given birth. As mothers around the world know, there are good days and bad days but it’s the toughest gig you’ll ever love.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. Some girls dream of their wedding day, some dream of their careers, and some dream of motherhood – that’s normal right? I couldn’t tell you when I knew just how much it mattered to me. It could have been during the eighteenth million career aptitude test taken in high school – notice motherhood does not come up as a suggestion. I am certain there is some legality involved in that decision. Somewhere along the lines I figured out my calling and it sure wasn’t to be a mathematical engineer or even the coveted shrimp fisherman. Everything else just became logistics along the way.

So here it was, my dream. Imagine my surprise when my joy mellowed into fear. It takes time for the reality to sink in. I suppose that’s why the 9 months is built into the plan. A baby. A real baby – growing inside me nonetheless. The beauty and miracle of that was matched only by the fear I felt inside. I had waited my whole life for that moment. I had shed tears and shared laughter on my journey to having a child. This time things were falling into place and we were preparing to bring our own little human being into the world.

My head swam with the prep work involved. Daycare, bottles, clothes, books, sleeping surfaces – really, how many places can one baby need to sleep? Seven. At least that was the appropriate answer in our case – a bassinet, a swing, a rocker, a bouncer, a co-sleeper, a crib, and of course your arms (that last one was the most used, surprise). Check, check, check. My life was a list of to-do’s.

I blinked and it was time. When they called to tell me I had to be induced the first thing I said was “I’m not ready.” My midwife responded with, “Well ready or not, it’s time. Sleep tonight and tomorrow get ready to meet your son.” Ha! That’s like when your parents say “Go to sleep, cookies and milk are out for Santa, he and his reindeer will be stopping by to bring you presents…but you have to go to bed and sleep all night, also don’t you dare get out of that bed before 6 am” – yeah, sure thing mom and dad.

I went in the next day at 7 am running off of three hours of sleep and tea – caffeine free. By the way, what genius thought of that? I won’t bore you with the gory and gruesome details, but we met our beautiful son 27 long hours later. Perfection in my arms. Had we really made this? Happiness, joy, and there it was again, the fear but the moment he looked at me my fear subsided for the first time in months. I knew I could move mountains for him. Pregnancy, labor, and birth prep us for motherhood more than we know. They are messy, chaotic, and sometimes gross, but they are also beautiful and incredibly miraculous, just like motherhood. I finally felt ready.

The day came quickly to go home. I could see the panic on my husband’s face. “Do you have any directions for us?” Without missing a beat our nurse looked at us and said, “Directions not included.” At the time I am sure she thought it humorous, but I don’t think she knew just how truthful her words rang. The reality of those words has not left my side for two and a half years.

And so the next chapter had begun…