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:
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!"
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.
Matrescense, or the process of becoming a mother, comes with a very particular set of growing pains. The physical pain of labor and recovery involves obvious discomfort, but truly there are so many growing pains that come with the larger scope of matrescense.
There are the pains of shifting friendships and relationships that pull at our heartstrings. There is the pain of not being able to go back to our old selves yet the uncertainty of which path to carve out for our new selves. There is the painful shock upon realizing that we are inherently and viscerally changed. There is the pain of distance from our children or the inevitable loss due to mortality.
The matrescence growing pains are real and vivid and yet, one thing is clear to me about them. Somewhere in the midst of the most intense pain, each one of us finds our voice and makes our way. Perhaps it’s even because of the intensity of the pain that we are able to find the clarity, the brightness or lucidity and it allows us to make the biggest and best decisions for ourselves and our babies.
When the stakes are high and the pain is intense, we tend to make those decisions with little reservation. I see this time and again at births: we know what is right for us and our babies in those heightened moments and we fight for it.
This has been a very hard week in what has been a very hard year. The pain is overwhelming. I see all of you, making decisions and fighting for what is best for you and your families in the midst of all the pain.
We will shoulder this pain together.
We see you.
We see how you think about what to make for breakfast (and lunch, dinner, and snacks).
How you keep up with doctors appointments, even when they are virtual.
We see you doing art projects. Sensory play. And when you're not looking and the whole toilet paper roll is unraveled around the house (which totally counts as play).
When you look into switching care providers and consider the options of where to give birth.
How you research developmental milestones, coordinate evaluations, and schedule speech therapy appointments.
And listen to podcasts about how to handle toddler tantrums.
I see you reaching out here - for advice, for connection.
How you think about family traditions, order gifts, and provide donations to families in need.
We see you in our circles taking the time to hear others and share your experiences of carrying the invisible load of motherhood.
This work may be invisible to many, but not to us.
We see you. We're here with you.
We celebrate the invisible load you carry every single day.
Fall is all about letting go. Even the leaves are letting go of their branches for that glorious wind-swept tumble to the earth.
Something that keeps coming up for me when I think of letting go is the word should (and her sister shouldn't). I hear it - and used to say it - all the time.
"I shouldn't rock my baby to sleep"
"I should cook more"
"I shouldn't give up my career for my kids"
"I should be able to do it all without help."
"I shouldn't need to ask someone else if I can take a shower."
"I should enjoy playing with my kids more."
In working with so many families and seeing all of the diverse and wonderful ways to do this whole parenting thing it's made me get really curious about the "shoulds." Especially as they relate to being a mom and raising children.
This past week I saw our October theme in action -
On Friday a dear friend texted me about an incredibly productive day she had - she made meals for families in need, participated in 5 different zoom meetings, got her flu shot, and made weekend plans for her daughter.
All I could think was "how?!"
So I asked her, and she said, "You know, I finally said 'no.'" She had a big project that she was being pressured to jump in on and after weeks of trying to fit it in she finally said "I can't do it." The next day, after dropping her daughter off at school, she used the time and space she had created (in between zoom meetings) to connect to her community, check a few things off her to-do-list, and set up a weekend break for herself.
By saying NO to someone else, she was able to say YES to herself. This comes up so often in motherhood - we will often put our own health and wellbeing last to avoid disappointing someone else. Which is not only a physical and time burden on our lives but also an emotional one.
Thank you for diving into our September Theme - What do I need? We talked about checking in with our bodies and our feelings, texting friends for accountability, getting sleep, making time for yoga and meditation, and so much more.
Now, we're taking the next step - Being open to receiving support.
When was the last time someone offered to help out and you said "Oh yes! I'd so appreciate that. Thank you!"?
Likely, your automatic response is "Oh it's ok, I've got this." Even if life feels completely overwhelming.
Because in our culture we're supposed to do it all.
I'm here to dive in with you on starting to answer the question "What do I need?" And we'll begin with two more questions:
1. How do I feel right now?
To me, this is the first step in figuring out what I need - checking in with how I'm feeling. We usually notice a feeling when it is REALLY present - like complete exhaustion, pure joy, overwhelming stress, etc. but with practice we can check-in on the more subtle or nuanced feelings - check out this excerpt from Do Less by Kate Northrup on tuning in to ourselves.
Remember, all feelings are valid! This great Brené Brown Podcast with Mark Brackett (author of Permission to Feel) has other great ideas for getting in touch with our feelings.
It can be helpful to write these down. We can only begin from where we are and acknowledging that is the first step. Then, move on to the next question -
To me, this is one of the greatest challenges of motherhood- to feel and allow all of the conflicting emotions as we love our little ones. Wishing you a wild heart ♥️
I can't tell you how many conversations I've had about how hard it is to make decisions in this covid-19 world. There are so many factors. So much (and so little) research. So much news. So many contradictory studies. So much advice from well-meaning (and maybe some not-so-well-meaning) people in our lives.
I have friends whose kids haven't missed a day of daycare this year and others who have not been anywhere except their homes and the outdoors since mid-March.
Some of us can't imagine doing this one more day. Others have settled into a rhythm that works for their family. I have those same two thoughts sometimes within 5 minutes.
Those of you who have had children know that so much of the transformation to motherhood happens behind closed doors. It is largely invisible to the world. It is also a monumental shift. It’s real work.
In a newborn group this week, several new moms spoke about how guilty they’ve felt that they are sitting around feeding babies while partners do everything (or don’t do everything and there’s conflict!).
Some women really enjoy pregnancy. I didn’t. In fact, I hated every moment of those 27-months. I can’t believe I did it, on purpose, three times. For me and others, the debilitating nausea, exhaustion and physical pain leaves us feeling out of control of our bodies and our lives. Even if we’re well through pregnancy, there still comes a time when we have lost the ability to do something we have taken for granted - like tying our shoes, going for a run, or just getting up off the floor unassisted. As the baby bump gets bigger, we can’t control the unwelcome comments everyone, even strangers, feel entitled to direct at us. We lose even more control during labor. Contractions begin, become more intense, and then with a final push, a new life comes into being. And our lives are irrevocably changed.
Art and words by Morgan Harper Nichols.
I've been feeling the outward call to action in response to the injustice and tragedy in our country. The need to do something, anything. And while there are great organizations to support and resources to gather we also need the reminder that transformation begins with us. In our own internal landscapes, with our families, our neighbors, and our communities.
This wonderful post from Paula Kuka is a great reminder:
I hope you'll be able to make some time for reflection this week. Looking at our own values, lives, and actions so we can use this amazing gift of motherhood to make the world a better place through our own actions and as role models for our children.
We have to trust ourselves and each other to know better than anyone about our own unique experiences.
Pain isn’t without purpose. It is designed to get our attention and change our behavior.
For example, physical pain tells us to stop walking on an injured foot, or that we’re dehydrated and need more water (or that it is time for a baby to be born!) Emotional pain can tell us it is time to leave a job or make a change in a relationship. How do we learn from our pain in a way that allows us to grow and thrive?
Life is messy. It’s constantly changing. Nothing is meant to stay the same. Sometimes changes come in small ways: we try a new recipe, take a new class, meet a new friend. Sometimes those changes are bigger: we change jobs, move our home, get married. Other times those changes are extraordinary: we get pregnant and prepare to give birth. Becoming a mother is an extraordinary change. Like death, it not only changes our circumstances, but it also rocks us to our core. We are forever and irrevocably changed by the experience.
And it’s messy.
And you are experiencing this extraordinary time in the middle of another extraordinary time, a global pandemic.
Talk about messy.
Before a caterpillar becomes a butterfly it turns into a soupy mush in its cocoon. That cannot be a pleasant experience. And it is certainly messy. The caterpillar literally gives itself up in order to become something completely brand new. This is what motherhood is about. I don’t mean that you give yourself up to be whatever your child needs, though there is an element of that. What I mean is that you give up the caterpillar you once were to become the butterfly you were meant to be.
Last week we re-discovered Brené Brown's INCREDIBLE Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto. Her article introducing it on HuffPost is also completely worth reading if you have 5 minutes not covered in children (which definitely doesn't happen every day in our lives...).
Honestly, it was exactly what we needed to hear and what we'll be diving into with our Mamas Circles and Pregnancy Support Circle this week. Not in a circle? Share your thoughts on Mama Love.
Modern motherhood is universal and unique - even within our Mamas Circles we span diverse sets of circumstances. Some moms are living across oceans from their families and others have live-in grandparents. We are in long-term relationships, separated, divorced, and single moms by choice. We stay at home with our children, own our own businesses, and go to jobs we love (and hate). Everyone is trying to piece together a meaningful and satisfying life - while constantly being judged for all of our choices.
A few years ago, I came across a letter from working mother to a a stay at home mother and vice versa from an Australian blogger and have often shared it with my clients and in our circles. Recently, in one of our Motherhood Circles, we had a deep discussion about the joys and challenges of part-time work - an area not addressed by either letter. After the session, one of the moms composed the letter below about the unique position of working part-time outside the home. She kindly shared it with our group and her words resonated deeply with many of us. I'm so happy to share it with you here!
Dear Part-time working Mom,
I know you're stuck between a rock and a hard place, as they say. On the one hand, you are committed to your work-- either because you have to be or you want to be, maybe both!--but on the other hand you strongly desire to be a meaningful presence in the day-to-day lives of your children. You want to do mommy-and-me classes and bake sales, but you also want to pursue professional goals and support your family. You dream of doing it all with skill and grace, but more often than not you feel like you're failing at everything.
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.