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.
In one of our motherhood circles last week we were talking about identity and the conversation shifted toward exploring our expectations of motherhood. These expectations were formed from our childhoods, our evolving ideas of motherhood, cultural norms, and our peers (just to name a few).
What emerged was this: What we thought motherhood would look like often isn't our reality once we're here.
And as we're here in the cocoon of early motherhood - the messy, uncomfortable in-between space between our old selves and our new ones - trying to make sense of it all can feel completely overwhelming.
I keep coming back to this line from "Surface Pressure" from the Encanto soundtrack...
Last week I had a moment. I was sitting on our living room couch and watching my kids race around the house screaming with joy. And this thought just popped into my head: "these are my KIDS! I am a mom! This is my LIFE! How is this possible?!"
I immediately thought of the Talking Heads song "Once in a lifetime." Specifically:
And you may ask yourself, well,
I mean, I know how I got here. My kids are 6 and 3.5. We've spent SO MUCH TIME together.
And sometimes it still takes my breath away.
A few days later, in our Motherhood Circle for Toddler Moms, similar "Wow, I'm a mom!" stories emerged:
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.
Today in our Mamas Circle we dove deep into how having a baby - whether it's your first, second, third or more - shifts your priorities. There were collective feelings of frustration, guilt, and complete overwhelm about adding this new role as mom into our already full lives.
We are defined for most of our adult lives by our work outside the home. We get paid to do this work, we often receive fulfillment in doing this work and we're usually pretty good at it. As women, we're most often the ones saying "yes!" and are shaped by our culture to be accommodating, people pleasing, and to do our very best every single day.
Then we become mothers.
And we start to question... "Do I even like my job?" "What happens if I have to put in fewer hours?" "I know I need to put boundaries in place but HOW?!" "What if I want to stay home with this baby?" "Who even AM I?!"
We wonder how we can make it all work and still feel valued.
My 5 year old daughter LOVES her body. She loves everything about it - she told me the other day that one of the freckles on her arm is "SO cool."
It is heartening and heart breaking.
As adult women we've been bombarded for almost our whole lives with the message that our bodies are never good enough. It's exhausting, it's controlling, and it's something that with every fiber of my being I can't stand having my daughter (or son) be defined by.
It's something that's come up in every single one of our circles. How pregnant bodies seem to be an invitation to comment - "Are you sure its not twins?" "You don't even look pregnant!" "You're gaining too much/too little weight." Or how in a pandemic we feel truly invisible even though we're literally growing a human being.
Then we're supposed to "get our body back" after giving birth - like it's something we've lost instead of something that grew and birthed a baby (or two or more). Even though we did the most amazing thing in the world, we still feel devastated when our clothes don't fit or someone's judgmental comment brings our insecurities roaring back.
Disrupting this system and changing our own thought patterns is HARD. But living in a system that benefits off of our body shame, that keeps women, minorities, and differently abled people out of positions of power, is so much worse.
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?
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.