I hope it was you!
Sadly, I never did see who it was, but this thought popped into my head: I want that JOY! The pure, unfiltered, literally dance like nobody is watching joy.
Two things can be true
This past week in our circles a theme kept emerging - it started with comments like:
I'm so excited my 15-month old is walking, but I'm also mourning that his baby days are over.
I desperately want a break from holding the baby, and I miss her when she's not with me.
I feel proud of my body, and am frustrated that my clothes don't fit like they used to.
We often feel like we have to choose one of the sides of each of these situations - but both can be true.
I think that one of the hardest things about being a parent is having two seemingly conflicting thoughts at the same time. It can leave us feeling confused, vulnerable, and uncertain. We often then dive down into a rabbit hole of judging ourselves for how we feel - calling in guilt or shame as we wrestle with the "right" way to think ("I should ALWAYS want to be with my baby," for example... dive deeper into the shoulds here).
In these moments, it can be helpful to acknowledge or even thank the thoughts that come up - noticing, without judgement, how they may ping pong back and forth: "wow! I'm so thrilled this baby can move himself around and explore the world. Oh gosh this means he's really growing up and he's my last baby. I'm going to miss his snuggles. I am so thrilled I don't have to carry him everywhere anymore!" Can be met with, "thanks brain, for giving me so much information to consider!"
You are allowed to have two (or more) thoughts or feelings at the same time. And both can be true!
Part of getting accustomed to this inevitable part of parenting is practicing. Practicing allowing the thoughts or feelings without judging them (or yourself for having them). Here's one way to get started:
How are you?
It's a simple question that feels impossible to answer.
I am not well: The world is literally on fire. The supreme court has taken away our safety and essential healthcare.
I'm filled with joy: On the trail near my home, wild wineberries are ripe, my kids fingers and faces sticky with their juices.
I go between fired up and hopeless, numb and feeling everything.
We're coming off our third family isolation and quarantine for covid in under a year (I wish I were kidding) and I know these things are true: we are resilient. We are exhausted.
Taking a deep breath in
It's my son's last day of his first year of preschool and it feels monumentous in a way I didn't expect it to. I have this incredible sense of "we made it!" In my body, it feels like a fluttering lightness in my chest. A sense of openness I didn't know was missing.
For the first one and a half years of the pandemic, my kids were home with cobbled-together grandparent childcare and outdoor pod school so I could work and we could all have some socialization. This past fall, they were both off to school. We've had great days and hard days, covid and quarantines, picnics and play dates.
It feels a bit like I imagine the end of a marathon would - elation, exhaustion, reflection. A moment to reimagine what I want our life to look like for the next few months.
This week was also our final session of this year's cohorts of Motherhood: Redefined - since last fall incredible groups of mothers have come together and supported each other in exploring our identities, learning to trust ourselves and value our needs, and, for every single one of us, finding more time for space and rest.
One of my favorite lessons that we shared yesterday in our closing circle is from writer and activist Karen Walrond, as shared with Brené Brown in her podcast Accessing Joy and Finding Connection in the Midst of Struggle:
It's time for a shift. Seasonally we're barreling into summer (especially here in the DC area where highs are forecasted into the 90s for the next few days!) and personally I'm exploring ways to create more ease and space in my life.
I recently came across this post from writer Gloria Alamrew:
"My life will be a practice in joy."
Over the past few months I've been looking toward summer with excitement accompanied by a little bit of unease. After many hours of excel spreadsheets, conversations with friends, and moments of quiet reflection, I've decided that a shift in my work schedule is one way to move toward this different way of living.
The process hasn't been easy - battling with the cultural message that we should always be striving for more and making the decision to pause a yoga class I've been teaching for over 7 years have been just a couple of the challenges.
Each challenge brings the reminder: rest is a practice.
Happy (?!) Mother's Day
All emotions are welcome here.
Happiness for a day spent with (or without!) your children.
Heartbreak from the loss of your own mother.
Rage that the decision to become a mother is about to be taken away from millions of people with uteruses.
Gratitude for the people in your life who make you feel appreciated and valued.
Grief for the children that aren't here with us due to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.
Delight in handmade cards and simple moments shared.
Exhaustion in the tantrums that always seem longer on "special" days.
Confusion at the dissonance between this day to celebrate motherhood and the other 364 days a year when we're completely unappreciated by our culture.
Anxiety about navigating this day and all of its conflicting emotions - some of which are deemed "ok" to have and others which are not.
What you are feeling today is valid.
You are not alone in feeling so much all at once.
Motherhood is messy, joyful, devastating.
We're here for all of it and we're celebrating you and all of your complexity today. Wishing you self-compassion as you navigate motherhood today and every day.
I thought I was the only one...
Modern day motherhood is isolating. Add on 2+ years of a pandemic and many of us can count on one hand the meaningful social interactions we've had with other parents. Sure, there are knowing glances at the playground. The desire to run across the street and strike up casual conversation when you see someone else out on a walk with a stroller.
We are social beings. We were meant to raise our children in community - for more hands to hold babies, stir soup, and fold laundry. And, more than that, for the shared experience. For knowing we are not alone in what we are going through.
In all of our circles the most incredible moments are not when we trade swaddle tricks, or the best shows to binge watch, or strategies for dealing with in-laws (which are all very helpful!).
They are the moments when someone is brave and vulnerable and shares a story, or a feeling, or an experience they think nobody else can understand - and then look around the room and see nodding, acceptance, and often tears. This is true connection.
Sometimes the loneliest part of motherhood is not actually being in our houses by ourselves with our children, but truly feeling that we are the only one going through what we're going through.
So we wanted to share just a sampling of these burdens that felt unique and were met with deep understanding in recent weeks:
One sleep story
At the end of February, I posted an article about Releasing Expectations - as a part of the post I shared that I was working on releasing the expectation of independent sleep. Our family has been on quite a sleep journey over the last 6.5 years and over that time I've worked with hundreds of families, witnessed many different sleep strategies, and have come to this conclusion:
There is no right way for every family to sleep.
The best thing for your family is to sleep the way that works for your family at this time.
Our family's sleep story has included SO MANY different combinations including (in order):
Last week I shared the idea of a "rainy day" closet - a reminder that our kids aren't the only ones who could use a fun activity to turn things around sometimes.
I in NO WAY want to suggest that's the solution to centuries of patriarchal oppression, 2 years of a pandemic, and a culture that still has no appreciation for women or caregiving.
I actively reject the idea that if we could only get 8 hours of sleep, eat healthy meals, drink water, and take time for ourselves we'd be ok.
It's not enough.
I was recently listening to this incredible podcast and early on in the episode Martha Beck says:
Culture is just consensus.
The simplicity of it made my jaw drop.
I'm definitely not in consensus with our culture at the moment.
She continues a moment later:
...When you get bewildered by the culture, you have to be wilder than that. If there's no path laid out for you, that works for you, you have to stop coming to consensus and start coming to your senses. Being here now, opening your eyes and ears, and all your other perceptual apparatus and really seeing, also opening your intuition to whatever inspiration tells you about what to do next.
Over the last 6+ years of being a mom, my world has been rocked by how abandoned we are by our culture. By how little we are valued. How so many mothers are completely overwhelmed by guilt and shame and anxiety despite being incredible human beings who are raising kind, caring, compassionate children.
And that was even before the pandemic.
It's why we gather women together to unmask the culture that we're so steeped in that we don't even notice it. Until we do.
We're coming to our senses.
The "Rainy Day" Closet Upgrade
In one of our motherhood circles a few months ago we were talking about putting away a few holiday gifts (especially from very generous grandparents) for our kids to open on rainy days. We shared stories of how a new coloring book, set of stacking blocks, bath paints, or a $5 art kit from Michaels could turn a gloomy day (or a covid quarantine day) around.
It's a great strategy for our kids.
But what about us?
What if we could open a "rainy day" closet or an "I'm in a funk" drawer filled with wonderful goodies?!
Yes, we had a good laugh about this idea but then started diving in a bit more seriously. When we're having a hard day (or year) wouldn't it be nice to open a closet or drawer and find a few surprises to brighten things up a bit? What do we really want in those moments?
After a little more unpacking what would actually be most helpful, we challenged ourselves to make a list of things we could do to make us feel rejuvenated.
Here's what we came up with:
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
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