The Weight of the World
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...
Wow, I really am a mom!?
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:
Reflecting on Rage
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.
What balls can you drop?
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.
Reimagining Mother's 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.
Are you leaning out?
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.
We've been body brainwashed
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.
You are Enough
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?
The Pain of Motherhood
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.
We don’t expect babies to crawl or walk or talk perfectly the first time they try these things. We understand that it takes time and patience to learn new skills. This is true for the rest of our lives. Life takes practice. Mothering takes practice. None of us, not one single one of us, ever gets anything right straight out of the gate every time. Mothering is no exception.
They are watching
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.
I've been following the amazing Paula Kuka on instagram (@common_wild) for a while and had to share today's post with you all -
Her illustrations and captions capture motherhood so authentically. I feel connected and supported just looking at them and knowing there are SO many other women who relate to her work and her posts.
I never would have thought that an artist from the other side of the world would contribute to my feeling supported!
Mother.ly did an interview article featuring another of my favorites:
Hope you find some joy and comfort (and maybe even support!) in her work.
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.
Letter to a Part-Time Working Mom
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.
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