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.
Your Care Matters
In our circles, we've been hearing about a wide range of pregnancy and birth experiences, and earlier this week we asked how you felt about the care you received during your pregnancy and birth. Many of you feel supported and empowered by your care team while others have been completely disregarded, shamed, and disrespected.
You DESERVE to be supported, listened to, and respected. Always.
And you can always change care providers.
You can change providers at 6 or 39 weeks. You can find a new OB or Midwife to provide your postpartum care. You can change pediatricians anytime.
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.
My decider is broken
A dear friend recently told me a story about how her partner asked what she wanted for dinner and, after taking in her blank (and subtly annoyed) expression, said, "your decider is broken, isn't it?"
I'm sure I don't need to explain this to you. Because you also make literally thousands of decisions every single day. And the feeling of decision fatigue is SO HEAVY these days that choosing what to eat can feel like an insurmountable task.
If you'd like some solutions, a simple google search for "decision fatigue" results in about 108,000,000 results. But that's not why I'm writing this today. I'm writing to say what I said to my friend:
That sounds really hard. I totally get it.
Because sometimes, we don't want solutions. We want commiseration, support, and empathy.
My friend had an awful month at work, kids just out of quarantine because of covid exposure, a recent visit from her in-laws, and she just needed someone to say: I've got you.
Mental health support
One of my favorite moments from our motherhood circle this week was when one mom shared: "my 50mg zoloft prescription is a lifesaver!" Last week in our Mamas Circle more women shared their experiences with taking medication for depression and anxiety - both before becoming parents and postpartum (and beyond!).
I love how deeply you all share and how your stories empower others to get the support they need. I wanted to share a few resources this week in case you are seeking (or interested in looking for) more mental health support.
Here are a few evidence-based practices to try:
What's going to happen next?
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?
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.
Who does what?
In a few of our circles last week we talked about division of labor at home - something that can be challenging without children and is almost immediately amplified with a new baby because there is SO much more to do.
The pandemic has brought a whole new level of challenge to many of our partnerships. Literally hundreds of news articles (which are no surprise to us) describe how women and mothers are bearing the largest burden of childcare and housework, PLUS the mental load that comes along with it. As a result, we're feeling completely burnt out, resentful, and often at a loss for how to redistribute the mental and physical load of raising kids.
So this week we're experimenting with the who does what list. It was originally developed by the Gottman Institute, but I like the way Better Life Lab breaks it down in an easy to follow "experiment."
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?
Really Sick of / So Grateful for
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.
Breathe in, breathe out.
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.
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.
You Did It: A Sparkle of Hope
This year has been really hard and very different, to say the least. It’s been a far cry from previous years and the shifts in our communities have put a big spotlight on the amount of time and energy that goes into motherhood.
It’s pushed many of us to our absolute limits by stripping our families of their support systems. It's made many of us make gut-wrenching, life-changing decisions.
Whether you are pregnant, living life with a newborn baby or you have small children, the physical community that maintains the regulation of our society has largely evaporated.
I know it’s been really hard. I am here to put a big old mirror up and say, “look at what you did! You did it!” You have navigated an enormous amount in the middle of a global pandemic. I say this because, if you’re like me, I’ve often been focusing on what I haven’t been able to get done - and believe me, that list is a long one.
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.
Letting go & Shoulds
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.
“I let go of doing the dishes last night. Now what do I do?” asked a busy mom. That’s the dilemma isn’t it? What comes next? It’s so hard to let go, and once we finally do, we expect some kind of change or at least some relief. But the dishes are still there in the morning, along with everything else, and often we are left feeling discouraged.
Letting go is a practice. When our precious resources of time and energy are stretched to their limits, we have to let go in order to get through. We have to prioritize what’s essential and let go of what is not. We have to regularly practice asking ourselves: What is the most important thing to do or be in this moment? Letting future moments go until we get there, or have the space and time to plan.
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.
Grieving Loss in Community
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Our theme of the month is receiving support. If you have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, or if you ever do, we want to make sure that you feel supported by your community and know how to get help.
One of the hardest parts of losing a baby, outside of the loss itself, is grieving in isolation and without support. When I recall my own loss, the feeling of being alone stands out. I had never heard a close friend or family member talk about pregnancy loss. I had no idea how common pregnancy loss is. I wondered if I had done something wrong.
I questioned every choice I’d made in that short period of time: should I have not consumed that cheap coffee? Should I have not gone on that run? Should I have not yelled at my husband that day? One of these things that I had done might have caused it. I should have been more careful. These were the messages my vulnerable and isolated mind created.
How do I receive support?
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.
The Equinox and what we need
We're well into September and tomorrow marks the Autumn Equinox - the point at which the sun shines directly on the equator and we (in the Northern Hemisphere) mark the start of Fall. It's a time we can feel anticipation - think squirrels hoarding nuts for winter - but also the need for more rest. In traditional Chinese medicine this big shift is explained: energy that previously flowed outward turns inward in preparation for the winter ahead.
I was talking with a dear friend who has a 2 and 4 year old this morning about restorative yoga - she asked, "what's the deal with that? Should I do it?" My question to her was "when was the last time you rested but were not asleep?" And the answer, predictably, was "never."
What do I need? Step 1!
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 -
We had big dreams for this community. We wanted this to be a place you could go for advice, to feel supported, make connections, and meet up in real life (remember what that was like?).
Because it was already hard enough to be a parent. It was already isolating and lonely. And now this. Our vision for this community (and, lets face it, most of what we wanted to do in 2020) was completely derailed by Covid-19.
But now the need is greater. The isolation deeper. The parenting so much harder. As a friend of mine recently wrote to me, "I've never felt such a convergence of heaviness and turmoil." Me either.
So we're here to figure it out together. Amidst caring for ourselves and our children, trying to maintain relationships, managing risk tolerance, and taking on a completely overwhelming and unreasonable amount of emotional labor.
This month we're going to start to figure out what we need.
We're often given the advice "ask for help!" Which is great, and incredibly powerful when receive it, but we have to know what to ask for.
We may ask ourselves: What will actually help? Maybe it's a shower every morning. Someone to take your kids for a day (or a month?!). It could be a scholarship so you can take a yoga class or join a mamas circle. Or a really big ugly cry. The time and brain space to read an anti-racist book to your 4-year-old and talk about it. A social media detox. Long walks as a family. A visit with an elderly relative. The reminder that you're not in this alone.
We're here for you - to teach and learn and completely mess up together. We always love your feedback, thoughts, honesty, and realness.
Thank you for being a part of our community!
Wishing you a wild heart
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 ♥️
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
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