It's a heavy, heavy time. Russia is invading Ukraine. There is an unrelenting assault on trans rights in Texas. We're about to enter year 3 of this pandemic.
I've been struggling with wanting to do more - more activism, more fundraising, more supporting communities outside of my own.
I've also been struggling with what to say about it all. The unfairness. The complete heartbreak. The seething anger at those who intentionally bring suffering to others.
I've gone outside. Played games with my kids. Sat in silence. Called friends.
I've let the grief take up residence and noticed how the guilt flows in and out like waves.
And I keep coming back to a lesson I've already learned a thousand times:
We are doing incredibly important work.
The holidays can be a mix of everything - deep gratitude, devastating grief, overwhelming joy, immense frustration, and so much more.
There are multiple layers in the national tradition of Thanksgiving - is it about gratitude? Or mourning? And on the individual level of our families there can be so many different dynamics as well.
I have found a few wonderful posts on instagram recently that I wanted to share with you as we enter into the holiday season - because they all say it better than I do :)
Over 3 days last week I received 3 emails in a row that inspired me to write this post - on my day off. Because it's so taboo and absolutely essential to talk about our rage.
When a woman in our community sent me her member story I had to stop everything. First, because of her incredible story and deep honesty and also because of her question to the community. She writes:
"I'm so disappointed in myself. I'm discovering that I yell at my toddler frequently. Can I get some communication tips for talking to an almost 3 yo? My husband and I have also made a commitment not to hit the children. We don't have effective tools/tips that aren't hitting. We are struggling with how to properly discipline and offer punishment."
It struck me because yes, we need strategies and new ways of thinking about behavior and discipline, but we also need to be supported so we don't feel so disappointed in ourselves all the time. The pressure to always be calm and patient while at the same time being expected to do it all without any breaks can make motherhood feel impossible.
On Monday we asked our community, "how are you feeling about your bandwidth?" and - not that you'll be surprised - nobody answered that they're ready to take on more.
For many of us, our bandwidth is full. Overflowing. In one of our motherhood circles last week we discussed how overwhelmed we often feel and I was reminded of these words of wisdom from author Nora Roberts:
The key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic & some are made of glass.
In the juggling act that is parenthood, we have to decide what to prioritize and what to let go. Some balls feel like glass but are areas in our life where we may have more flexibility than we think - it may surprise us when we drop a ball and it bounces. Or we may think something is plastic then end up pick up the pieces when it shatters.
One of the key pieces of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' viral twitter thread on the subject is this:
Nora was not talking about juggling five balls. She was talking about juggling FIFTY-FIVE balls. The balls don’t represent “family” or “work.” There are separate balls for everything that goes into each of those categories. “Deadline on Project Y” or “crazy sock day at school”
THIS is what is often so misunderstood about motherhood. The hundreds of decisions big and small that we make every. single. day.
This past week in our circles you were so honest and vulnerable. Many of you shared the grief that can accompany Mother's Day - because you've lost a parent, a child, or have felt completely neglected on the day you're supposed to be celebrated. It's not always a happy "Hallmark moment" holiday.
And getting vulnerable produced magic. You were seen and heard by other moms. Nobody judged you for not loving "your day." And the ingenuity that comes from the sisterhood of motherhood shined. We talked about creating rituals to remember those we've lost, taking time by ourselves to heal, and completely redefining Mother's Day - even moving it to another day to be able to celebrate how YOU want.
Mother's Day can be joyous or devastating. And this year we invite you to redefine it how best serves you. Brunch with your family? Great! Time alone? Perfect! Connecting with someone else over the trauma that it brings up for you? Please!
We're celebrating you every. single. day. And we know that this whole motherhood thing is HARD and making our own way is the only way.
I was just re-reading an email I sent almost exactly a year ago - and thinking about the past year I feel simply exhausted. We have endured so much and lost so many.
But sitting here on my porch in the sunshine, I'm also in complete awe of the wonder of nature. The breathtaking beauty of blooming magnolias, forsythia, and cherry blossoms truly lighten my spirit.
It feels strange to look back and think that we really had no idea what what the year ahead would bring and how it would change our lives. But the truth is, we never really know what's going to happen next.
Gilda Radner offers us some words of wisdom:
Can we savor the ambiguity? Delight in not knowing what's going to happen next?
This week in our newborn mamas circle we talked about the feeling that we should be doing more than just taking care of our babies. That it doesn't feel like enough to bring life into the world and keep these tiny humans alive.
And while sometimes we're motivated by the desire to move our bodies, or have clean laundry, or use our brains in a different way, so much if it is our culture telling us that we're not enough.
It's complete bullshit.
Mothering is hard. It's relentless. And the fact that it's completely unappreciated in our patriarchal culture makes me want to scream! And create CHANGE!
I have a whole lot more to say but for today (because my toddler is about to wake up from his nap) what I want to tell you is this:
If you have held a baby, lost a baby, cried with your baby, or been simply enraged at the unfairness of it all, you are enough.
If you work for pay or work for no pay, you are enough. All moms work. You are enough.
If you feel like you can't do it anymore, if you've set your crying baby down to go scream into a pillow, if you've melted into a puddle on your kitchen floor. You are enough.
I'm so over mothers having to pretend during the work day that we don't have children or be only grateful that we get to stay home with our kids. We are raising tiny people who are the future of our world, and that should be celebrated.
I hope that today you can find the space in your heart to know that you are doing the most important work. You are enough.
I came across this poem the other day -
It was just the reminder I needed. It was the day of slushy wet snow, when we got soaked and cold after being outside for 15 minutes. No big fun snow day was ahead of us. I was tired.
But instead of striving - to get things done around the house or to make it a "magical" day for the kids, we just played. We ate lunch. We watched a movie. And it was ordinary. It was joyful.
And more than being a reminder for treating my kids in this way, it was a reminder to me: do not ask yourself to strive. Instead, make the ordinary, or, as it's felt recently, the monotony come alive. Which in a way felt kind of daunting, but also like permission to just be.
We don't have to do extraordinary things today. Or this week. Or this year. We don't have to "lean in." We can find wonder in the ordinary activities of stacking blocks or preparing a meal for our families. We can allow ourself the gift of non-striving.
It's a lesson for what we teach our children, but also a lesson for how we live our own lives. Because we're learning that how we are in the world - what we say and do and how we live - is so much more impactful than what we try to actually teach our children.
How can you find the wonder in the ordinary?
So much of pregnancy and mothering is about feeling many conflicting emotions, often all at once.
"I'm desperately needing a break from my toddler but know I'll miss him when I have a few minutes to myself."
"I really want to go into labor but am also feeling apprehensive about how having a baby will change my relationship with my partner."
"I'm feeling great about staying home with my daughter and also sad about missing out on connecting with colleagues."
And for many of us, the pandemic has intensified these diverse feelings. You've told us you are both more anxious and deeply grateful. Quick to anger and also great at finding the silver linings amidst the challenges.
As a list maker, I came up with this one:
More that just zoom yoga showed up on both lists in the longer version. Because we can have so many feelings about the same.exact.thing.
We'd love to hear from you this week - what are you REALLY sick of? What are you so GRATEFUL for?
We're in this together.
Mamas, this is a crazy week.
We're living moment to moment and taking deep breaths (when we remember). It's hard to be in the DC area, hard to know what to tell our kids, hard to not feel on the edge of our seats.
No one wants to be going through this. The stakes are so high. Our physical and mental health is on the line. Although we are by no means in the same boat, we are all in the same pandemic storm. We are all afraid. We all want safety for ourselves and our families. And yet completely opposite approaches to the situation are also being forged. Ones where empathy and care for ourselves and each other are not mutually exclusive.
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.