New Year’s Resolution #3: Live Openly

For many years I considered myself an open book. No secrets were far buried for me. You could get to my deep thoughts without too much digging. An admirable way to live. Done and done.

Actually, this is a terrible analogy. An open book? The books I read often require much digging to get to its heart and some secrets are never truly revealed. Interesting literature for sure, but not healthy as a human. Despite constantly trying to crawl inside a book (I’m on my third book in 4 days), trying to emulate one is not a mental health goal.

Recently it’s become clear just how much I’m not living openly and what that does to my ability to connect with others personally and even advance professionally. I am hesitant to admit personal struggle unless I feel it might help someone else, even in my own home where I should be most free, most open, most loud.

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New Year’s Resolution #3: Live Openly

This year I want to say what’s on my mind. I want to speak up and be wrong and apologize and get over it. I want to be a burden at times. I want to get messy and embrace being messy.

This is the resolution that will be hardest. I honestly don’t know how to do it, except with as each small opportunity presents itself I will try to take a step closer.

New Year’s Resolution #2: Me First

Me first can sound selfish or it can sound obvious depending on where you’re at in your mental health, self-care journey. I always thought I did a pretty good job before I had kids. I had ample hobbies and interests, friends and social activities that my life felt full and rewarding.

Kids totally knocked that out. I did not have a routine. I did not have a stable, dependable habit or thing that kept me sane during tough times. I was just floating by.

Side note: the most important unsolicited advice I would offer an expecting parent is that you establish a meaningful, flexible routine that allows you to keep your sanity in check. Daily meditation? At-home yoga practice? Friend that you can call day or night? Get it before that baby arrives in your home. 

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Sometimes the only answer is to leave the house, rain or no rain. I wanted to go hiking but didn’t want to risk messing up his nap so just hit a nature trail nearby. Compromise.

Now that we’re two kids in I have learned that I really don’t have any self-care habits. I had things I did for fun, not really for calm and it’s really made it difficult to have any emotional resilience.

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Another rainy moment but we rode downtown for ice cream. Totally worth it. 

New Year’s Resolution #2: Me First

I’m going to do something for myself every day. Some days will be small. A cup of tea after the babies go to bed. A long cuddle with Clara. Saying no. Ignoring chores. Taking the kids for a walk even if it’s dark outside or sprinkling rain. Perfect conditions not necessary. I don’t know what this will look like (I’m learning after all) but these are my plans:

  • Hot baths
  • Baking bread
  • Get outside, with or without kids
  • Stating what I need, am feeling
  • Declining invitations
  • Ignoring chores
  • Writing blogs, essays, gratitude journaling
  • Watering the plants
  • Eating food when I’m hungry, not waiting until the children leave me alone
  • Take a pottery class
  • Go to yoga
  • Crafting

 

More Than Gratitude

Multiple times recently I have pulled up my laptop, opened a new blog post and froze. I don’t want to write about I am still struggling with the balance of two children. That every day, for a short moment, I look at my kids and think, how do people do this? How do they help two children at the same time? How do they go to work, take care of their family and still pay attention to themselves?

I don’t want to write about I still feel lost from the person I was before becoming a mother. I want to share about how satisfying my career is, how I’m getting back into my hobbies, how I am living a zero-waste, screen-free, nutritious, socially engaging  and responsible life.

I thought I’d be more prepared the second time around. I was. But that didn’t really change that having children is difficult. Who knew, right?

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But I am writing you on Thanksgiving. My children are sleeping quietly in their own beds, hopefully until 6 am. My belly is full of food made with love. I am drinking hot cider and watching junk TV, the way you should on the night of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is complicated and problematic and tough because the way I have always celebrated it- filled with food, family and friends, is special to me. But that doesn’t erase that the Thanksgiving story we have been told is a lie and Native Americans have never treated with thankfulness or gratitude since Europeans came ashore.

Life is complicated. Children are complicated. Family is complicated. Thanksgiving is complicated. America is complicated. I am complicated. So are you. We cannot pretend that because we like something, it is inherently good. Or because we wanted a family, it is easy. To really participate in something, you have to see it for what it is, understand it for what it is and commit regardless. Commit to make the best of it. Commit to make it better. Commit to try.

Committing is harder for some. It is incredibly hard for me. I want to avoid. I want to keep my options open. I don’t want to get invested. This Thanksgiving though, I am trying to live my values. I don’t want to just be grateful for my life, my family, my country, I want to commit to it. I want to invest in it. Here we go.

 

Baby Austin

This week Austin turns one. One. Is it even possible?

Austin is my little sunshine- not always happy but always a force of nature, always moving, always laughing although he does not give out smiles as easily as his brother. He’s quick to lay his head on your shoulder or leg for a quick cuddle, the sweet snuggler, and he picks up on everything- learning, imitating every movement he can. He’s mischievous and sneaky, giggling towards everything you tell him not to.

Life is a wild ride and I’m so glad he’s on it with us.

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A Letter to New Mothers

Hey Mama,

We are closing in on the end on my little one’s first birthday. It is hard to believe that our tiny new babe has been here for a year. It’s a wonderful, nostalgic, wistful time and also the first signal that we’re exiting baby land. This little guy is getting bigger. Soon he’ll be off bottles and taking one nap a day. All the signs that he’s becoming a little person and we’re leaving the land of littles behind.

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Baby land is a wild and chaotic place. It is the Wild Things. It is a jungle. It is a beautiful place, full of mystery and bliss and struggle where you must work harder than you have ever worked for joy you thought might come easy.

I highly recommend baby land. If you want children, baby land is incredible, but it is a very hard place to be, even under the best of circumstances. As I see this chapter of our lives come to a close, it’s hard not to wish I had been able to access the knowledge, the clarity, the sanity that I have now and wanting to give myself so much more kindness that I ever would have allowed.

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As you enter this new world, you may find yourself looking at the past. Looking at a life that you could have had, had you not gone down this path. There will be moments when you are overwhelmed and you think, did I really choose this? Then in a flash, your child may smile at you or lay their head on your chest and you will think- oh yes, thank goodness I did. Their hand will accidentally brush hair from your face and you will hold your breath in the hopes it lasts forever. 

And yet again when they go to bed at night (for a few minutes, for a few hours?) and you choose to rest or you choose to clean or you choose to daydream or pull out your phone and look at their photos, you may think, “What have I done?” But you have made life and are molding that life and it is molding you.

It is okay to daydream of relaxing days. It is okay to be annoyed that you cannot eat your lunch in peace or feel overwhelmed that nothing is going to plan. In this new world of motherhood, there is an expectation of super human abilities. That you will remain calm in the face of chaos. That you will keep a beautiful home, perfectly divide all domestic duties with your partner, lose the weight, keep up your Instagram aesthetics and live a full, robust meaningful life outside the home. You will have it all and do it all.

Except you can’t. You’ll have to give some things up. A little bit of sanity, some hobbies, the clean floor, some of your social life. You may even think you have to give all of it up, but that’s not quite true either.

For many mamas, for me, the hardest thing I never understood was having to advocate for myself with myself, to practice self-care. To be able to recognize when I was heading towards the brink and to be proactive. To understand that I needed a break whether the day was hard or not. That I didn’t have to be drowning before asking my husband to take over, before saying, “I’ll do the dishes. You put the baby to bed.” It was both our jobs- the dishes and the babies. For all my feminism, for all my preparation, I have learned that lesson over and over again.

This new baby will be all consuming and you will feel you must make them the center of your life- how could you not?- but you are still important. That baby loves you and wants you to value yourself even if their tiny brain could never put that thought together. Put a reminder on your phone to do something for yourself every day, even if it is just a hot cup of tea or 5 minutes outside alone. Treat yourself like your best friend would- with kindness but no bullshit.

It’s okay to reduce your stress level. Let go of what you think meals should be- exciting or complicated. Change from cloth diapers to (biodegradable) disposable ones. Give up breastfeeding for formula. Whatever is not working for you. And when you do, send your guilt out with the trash. This is your journey and your family. Outside judgements need not enter here.

No matter how it feels, you’re not alone Mama. While being a mother may make you more aware of the sharp judgements of others (many opinions you may have been guilty of once too), you will also be shocked at the kindness and generosity of total strangers. Ask for help, reach out for a kind word, share your journey, joys and sorrows.

I am not out of the woods. I am learning motherhood every day. This new world has opened me wide and raw. It has fogged my brain and cleared my eyes. It feels like it has changed everything and yet, has it? Or has what’s important just been amplified? Has what’s important simply been revealed?

The days are long but the years are short. You will not always be able to embrace the chaos, sometimes it will be suffering and sometimes hilarity but if you can laugh through the tears from time to time, you’re doing something right.

Although I am incredibly frugal cheap, I recently made the investment in family photos. When I met with the photographer, she asked me why we were getting these done. I was honest when I shared that this time is so incredibly difficult that I struggle to see beyond the chaos. That I want photos that I can look back on and see how truly beautiful things were. That our family was just as it needed to be not in spite of the challenges of parenting but because of them. It’s not always easy to remember.

Everyone’s experience is different. You may walk into motherhood as if you were born for it, but if not, these feelings too shall pass. But the love you feel will not.