We've been a little quiet on here over the past few months as we've prioritized our connection time in our circles- and we've missed you!
Our monthly(ish) newsletter and additional content is now hosted on the Mama Love Substack - feel free to subscribe to receive our updates in your email or just read along at your convenience:
We hope you'll join us for our next community-wide playdate on Sunday May 21 from 11:30am-1:00pm at the Fort Stevens Recreation Center!
Michelle Tebor from the Happy Little Art Studio will be joining us for some fun kids art activities. New classes start at the studio this week and are highly recommended by many parents (and kids!) in our community.
If you are looking for more regular community and support please join our upcoming nutrition workshops, prenatal & postnatal yoga classes, baby & me yoga classes, and circles for pregnancy, moms of newborns, newly 2nd & 3rd time moms, moms working outside the home, and small business owners (or small business owners to-be!).
Hope to see you soon!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
It's International Women's Day - a day to join together, celebrate our achievements, and build a better future together.
It may feel hard to celebrate today. Amidst war, devastating climate change news, and women's rights and trans rights being stripped from us by our leaders.
As mothers, we often hold two (or more) opposing feelings at the same time - the desperate need for a break from our baby, then missing them 5 minutes into our alone time. The heartbreaking reminder of a miscarriage as we celebrate our toddler's second birthday.
There is a place for grief. For joy. Anger appears next to hope and gratitude beside fear.
Today, on our day, I found these words from Mari Andrew especially inspiring:
Today, I'm turning toward the goodness.
Here's what I'm celebrating:
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 a year ago, I found this incredible podcast about burnout. I think I've talked about it in every single group I've facilitated since then, and have texted or emailed it to everyone I know.
Here's one of the best parts -
"What we realized is that self-care is the fallout shelter you build in your basement, because apparently, it’s your job to protect yourself from nuclear war. So we talk about sleep, we talk about stress, get physical activity. Well, that’s not going to work if you live in a household where you’re the only person who prioritizes your well-being.
It requires everybody in the household agreeing that your eight hours of sleep is a priority, and we are going to cordon off that time and space and protect it, so that you can have that time. Self-care requires a bubble of protection of other people who value your well-being at least as highly as you do.
So the cure for burnout must ultimately be all of us caring for each other, and right now more than any other. We don’t do lean in, we don’t do lean down, we do lean on. Lean with. Pick each other up."
Since most of us are in Survival Mode I'd like to share a wonderful strategy from Brené Brown - her"Family Gap Plan" for when parents' energy levels don't add up to 100% (likely the case for most of us now... and to the incredible single moms out there - we see you doing EVERYTHING!).
She explains the plan in this podcast. But during survival mode 25 minutes to ones's self is likely not happening so here are the cliff notes:
She and her husband check-in with each other often, using a percentage number system. As she explains:
I talked to him on the phone last night, and I said, “Look, I’m on the edge. I got a solid 15 right now.” And he said, “I was at 15, I’m up to 40.” We got a gap, 15 plus 40, 55, we got a 45 gap to 100% relationship, 100% parenting, 100%… We’ve got a gap. So, what’s the family gap plan?
When her kids were young, this was the gap plan:
Happy New Year!
Yes, I know we're 10 days into January but I think you all understand. And, full disclosure, I'm writing to you instead of folding THIS mountain of laundry:
At least the bed is made?!
I have no shiny big announcement and no brilliant new ideas in these early days of 2022.
And that's okay.
One of my favorite parenting articles of all time is Glennon' Doyle's Don't Carpe Diem.
She rejects the idea of "enjoy EVERY moment with your kids!" (because that's close to impossible) and gives us another approach: acknowledge that a lot of parenting is HARD but that there are some truly incredible moments.
Those times when time stops and you are just in AWE of your children, your life, or just in a moment of pure joy.
People often talk about motherhood as a before and after. What we were like before the baby and then who we became after, as if in an instant we changed on a molecular level. I’ve heard some people describe it this way, but I know that it is much more typical that matrescence is a process and there is always so much more to each of our stories.
If we think about becoming a mother, or matrescence, as a whole stage of life like adolescence, when can we say that we have fully arrived on the other side? What defines or separates the before and after from one another?
With the holidays in full swing now, one thing is coming up in our circles that we hear repeated by many parents of young children and pregnant people: we are very much still living in a pandemic mindset and reality...and this is manifesting in tension with our families, friends and peers as we continue to live very different lives from many of those around us.
Maybe tension has arisen with family members with different situations than us that make family gatherings stressful. Maybe people aren’t seeing our needs and all the compromises and losses we’ve suffered over the past 2 years. Maybe people aren’t thinking about our safety in the same way that we are.
This intentional invisibility can manifest in hurt feelings, resentment and anger. At its base, though, what makes it so frustrating and hurtful is that it further isolates us as parents. New parenthood can already be so incredibly isolating in our culture. Having a baby or young child in a pandemic adds a double (or quadruple) layer of isolation. We might feel left out, invisible, forgotten and perhaps even abandoned by our communities.
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 the past week in our circles, a topic that has come up over and over is how to find calm so that we feel less out of control and also better able respond to our children.
We've been talking about how important co-regulation is for our children's development (new to this idea? Learn more here!) and how when we're calm, we can help our babies through the witching hours, be present for our toddler's tantrums, and make it through the chaos of bedtime at any age.
We know it's important, but when overwhelmed by sleep deprivation and juggling all the things we often find ourselves losing our cool more than we'd like.
One thing that kept coming up is HOW to ground ourselves - we all have visions of an hour to take a yoga class, have a deep conversation with a dear friend, or take a long walk in the woods. But it often feels impossible to find that much time once a week, much less every day. Which led to a few awesome brainstorms - broken down by time - that we'd like to share with you:
In our pregnancy circle, we often try to conceptualize what being “prepared” to have a baby means or looks like.
How can we know what kind of support we will need once we have a baby?
How can we prepare for the vast unknown of postpartum beforehand when everyone's experience is different?
How can we see the light of what we need when we’re in the middle of it and have no frame of reference for what we can expect?
How can we seek out help when newborn life already requires superhuman energy and a level of giving that is so above anyone’s normal (all while adjusting to enormous hormone shifts and recovering)?
It’s so hard to know what we’ll need beforehand and, as I’ve learned, even when we’re going through it. I am all for the deep reflection, but want to suggest that it’s really ok if you’re feeling like “oh crap I have no idea!” Or if you look back and think "argh I wish I had done that differently!"
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.
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.