Finding my Voice Through Motherhood

It’s not a secret that becoming a mom literally changes everything.

Your schedule is no longer about you, you have to think of a little persons needs before your own, you can’t just leave the house at a moments notice, and last minute plans just can’t happen anymore.

What may surprise you is how much you change inwardly once you become a mama

I remember saying to myself “I’m not gonna be one of those moms that let’s motherhood change them!” I’m pretty sure most, if not all of us, say this at some point. We all picture ourselves continuing on being who we were prior to motherhood, just with this little baby tagging along for the ride.

While I’m pleased to say I never fully lost myself, (although, like all moms I have certainly had my moments), I am definitely not who I was prior to becoming a mom.

I’m not so different that I’m unrecognizable. I’m not so different that if I were to hang out with my friends without kids they wouldn’t know what to do around me. However, deep down I am changed forever.

Yes I’ve changed in the normal ways you expect. I’m not out until 1 am with my friends anymore…. I honestly don’t even know what 1 am looks like anymore. I’m not getting my nails done every two weeks, or getting together every weekend with my girlfriends for a glass of wine. I’m genuinely happy to spend my weekends with my little family watching my toddler explore snd learn.

But there’s one way I’ve changed that I LOVE, and that’s truly surprised me.

I’ve found my voice, or at least I’m finding it!

My whole life I’ve been the girl who did as she was told (with a few rebellious spurts in my younger years). I’ve never really been one to say no when someone asked a favor, even when I really wanted to. I would never rock the boat if I disagreed, because I HATE confrontation.

Once I became a mother, that has slowly started t shift. Ask my husband… Almost instantly after becoming pregnant with my second I have pretty much no fear speaking my mind.

If someone asks me to do something now ,and I really don’t want to, or in my gut I feel like it’s a bad idea, the answer is no. No more people pleasing.

That doesn’t mean it’s anything personal against the person asking for the favor, or inviting me to something. Time just becomes a precious commodity once you have another human to care about. They tend to take up the majority of your time, especially when they’re so young. Adding more events, or favors to your plate can be stressful.

Personally, I know I am a better wife and mother when there’s a sliver of time in my day carved out for myself, and if that means saying no to a night out with friends so be it. I can’t pour from an empty cup, and sometimes the best way for me to fill my cup is an hour of alone time. For this reason, I am super comfortable saying no to plans. After all, once you’re a mama alone time is so hard to come by.

I’ve also experienced the fun of postnatal anxiety. So saying no to things involving my kid when in my gut they just don’t feel right has become second nature now. I know that if I follow my intuition I won’t regret it; but, saying yes when my my head is screaming no always results in anxiety.

I really found my voice recently at the pediatricians office. A doctor I don’t normally see, but have had to with limited staff, tried to pressure me into multiple vaccines at once. I delay and space them out as a matter of preference.

I found myself being lectured… no more like bullied, by the doctor about why I may have a point but she didn’t think it was correct. Now, normally when someone of authority talks to me like that, I cower and just agree so the argument ends. This time, mama bear snapped.

I nicely, but firmly, told her it was my preference, and that while I appreciate her opinion, I’m doing what I personally feel comfortable with. She huffed and puffed but eventually gave in. Ever since, she’s been kind and understanding when I say no to something she suggests.

When it comes to my own personal beliefs, and the beliefs of others, I’ve always wanted to remain respectful. I was raised to treat others as I would want to be treated. I personally don’t want someone shoving what they believe, or their ways of doing thing down my throat. Therefore, I try to do the same.

My personal code of ethics is to keep my beliefs to myself unless you seek me out. If you genuinely want my opinion I’m happy to give it. I’ll talk personal beliefs all day with anyone open to it.

At some point during your pregnancy, (pretty much as soon as you announce it to anyone), it’s almost like a sign is tattooed on your forehead. It reads: “unsolicited advice welcome here!” It’s not really welcome here, but it’s given to us anyway, and it doesn’t stop after the baby comes. It just gets worse.

This advice, and outspoken opinions, come from a well meaning place… usually anyway. A loving family member or friend gives you a piece of information they personally found helpful. They truly want to better your experience with their suggestions.

Sometimes this advice, suggestion, or the belief they are unknowingly pushing on you, just doesn’t align. Sometimes it may seem, or even BE critical of the way you do things, or what you believe. I used to smile and nod, again, trying to remain the peacekeeper.

These days, if it rubs me the wrong way, or feels too pushy, I shut it down. I don’t do this in a rude way. Instead, I politely say “thank you, but this is how I’m doing it”, or point out where my boundary is, and respectfully ask that it is followed.

I cannot tell you how freeing this is.

Motherhood is the most challenging, wild, experience of my life. It’s also been the most beautiful transformation I’ve ever experienced.

Yes, I’ve had my moments where I look in the mirror and don’t know who I’m looking at anymore. Yes, I’ve had days where I need a break and want to rip my hair out. More than anything though, I feel like I am more myself than ever before.

Motherhood has made me stronger in my convictions. It has made me realize that speaking my mind, and standing up for myself, and the family I’ve created is much more important than keeping the peace. It has been more freeing than anything.

When I birthed my little girl, I was born again too. I became a mom. Mothers are warriors. We love hard, and we fight hard for our families.

The greatest gift I’ve received as a mother is my little girl. The second greatest gift I received was my voice. I’m still finding it, and learning to use it, but I will forever be grateful for it.

So from one mama bear to another, don’t ever be afraid to let someone hear you roar. It is a gift, so never be ashamed to use it.

You Asked for This

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the frustrations of our days…. or hey our year if it’s 2020.

Our kids blatantly ignoring us calling their names, the fact that you’ve cleaned the kitchen 10 times today and have to do it once again, or that your husband doesn’t seem to know what the hamper is for. We’ve all been there.

A few days ago I found myself trying to get some reports done for work, and trying not to rip my hair out as my daughter was climbing a table in the other room. I had corrected her about 100 times that morning, and even rerouted her attention multiple times. She’s at this fun age though where she knows she’ll get mommy’s attention away from work if she does what I tell her not to.

I was so very close to snapping, losing my shit, and having one of those mommy moments we’ve all had and later regret. You know the ones where you go psycho and scream, and then later realize you just argued with a 20 month old?

I happened to be listening to a podcast…. which for the life of me I cannot remember who or what it was about…. mom life. The guest on the podcast spoke these words right before I hit my boiling point: “you asked for this.”

I literally think I laughed out loud as she began to explain how every time she gets upset with how her company, or being a parent, or a wife is going she reminds herself of those four words.

“You asked for this.”

Now, you may not be into all the woo woo spiritual things like I am, but I fully believe that this was a message from above.

I NEEDED to hear those words at that exact moment, or I would have gone Mad Max on my poor kid, who really just can’t understand why I’m not giving her my full attention on workdays.

This resonated with me. I sat there shaking my head, and giggling, and realizing I DID ask for this.

I asked to be a mother. I prayed for it over and over. I planned for it, and did everything in my power to make that happen.

I wished and hoped to be able to spend all of my days with her…. not the way that it happened (you know a pandemic), but here I am home full time with my little girl. I got what I asked for.

I wanted to have a free spirited, strong willed, little girl who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. At only 20 months, boy can I tell you, I sure got it.

I wanted this. I asked for this. I prayed, and prayed for the life I have right now.

Yes it’s hard, yes it’s messy, yes it’s frustrating at times, but that is what this life comes with. Deep down I knew that. I knew it would be sleepless nights, arguments, a messy house and endless worry about my child’s well being, but still I wanted this!

We can’t ask for something and then decide we only want the good parts. That isn’t realistic. Life isn’t perfect. If you didn’t know that, maybe this year is showing that to you.

Not even a day later, I was walking with my daughter on the farm. It was a cold day and I grabbed my winter coat that had been tucked away since April. I reached into my pocket and felt a small tiny marble.

I pulled it out of my pocket and started to laugh.

I’m pretty sure I said out loud “okay! I get it!”

It was a small clear glass marble I had gotten at a shop in Salem Massachusetts on our baby moon. The shop had a huge bowl of them with a sign that said “free wishes, take one make your wish, and hold on to it to remind you of it.”

Guess what I wished for folks.

I wished to be able to stay home with my daughter full time, while still being able to help my husband financially. I kept that little marble in my pocket since November 2018, and here I am almost exactly 2 years later and that wish has come true.

Yes, somedays while working from home I want to pull my hair out. It’s hard to wear two hats at once. Yes, it’s annoying to stop my work every few minutes to make sure my daughter isn’t jumping from the bay window to her death. Yes, it’s hard to focus when your kid constantly asks for snacks, or asks for you to play with her. Yes, work takes longer because of all the tiny interruptions.

Yes, it is more difficult than heading to an office, then leaving work there at the end of the day.

Honestly though…. I wouldn’t want to go back.

So now whenever I start to lose my shit, or I feel my frustrations bubbling up at my daughter, I’ll take a deep breath and remind myself “you asked for this.”

You asked for difficult, you asked for challenging, you asked for repetition and monotony. It comes with the territory of the most rewarding thing you’ve ever wished for.

Along with all the frustrating parts of your wish you got far more amazing aspects.

You got unconditional love, the best hugs and kisses on the planet. You got the sweetest little “I love you mommys!” You got the best little adventure partner, and beach buddy. You get to experience childhood again.

All that outweighs the hard stuff that came with it.

I asked to be a mother. I asked to be at home with her full time. I asked for all of it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I asked for this.

Check on Your Quarantined Mom Friends… We are NOT O.K.

We are all feeling a little stir crazy right now.

No one ever imagined that the lockdown situation would have lasted more than 2 weeks, a month tops… but here we are.

While it’s easy to find statistics for death tolls and infection rates plastered on Facebook walls and media outlets, there are some other rising numbers the media doesn’t seem to be covering.

The mental health crisis happening right now in America is a silent pandemic. I haven’t spoken to a single person who isn’t feeling a mental strain right now.

Humans are not meant to be isolated from one another. Virtual connection has literally been proven through science to leave people feeling lonelier. That’s right. You actually feel more alone connected through a screen.

Human brains produce oxytocin when we hug, kiss, smile or even just see someone we love walk into a room. This hormone is very helpful in boosting our immune systems.

Isolation causes depression and anxiety which actually weaken your immune systems. This can’t do much good when we’re worrying about fighting off a virus.

I completely understand why we are being asked to stay home, wear masks and gloves, and social distance. I am very thankful for our health care and other essential workers, and wish to support them by any means I can, and if that means abiding by these rules I will.

Now that being said…. I am f*^$king losing it!

A day before Mother’s Day our state was told that the lift of the NYS “pause” would not be happening next week. Now it is moved until June.

I literally felt my soul die a little when I heard this. Yes I can read, yes I listen… I know that he is opening regions in stages… but I can say with certainty from numbers that my region won’t be one of them.

I am blessed to be able to earn an income from home. My husband is considered essential and is working as well. So we haven’t even had to worry about half the burden so many are dealing with right now.

I have had family members and friends who have contracted the virus, and even been hospitalized for it, but I have suffered no great loss from this.

I am lucky to have my husband and daughter to keep me company while we’re stuck at home. Something I do not take for granted at all. I feel for all those doing this alone.

Still, my mental health has been suffering since the start…. and I am in no way alone.

Every single friend I have spoken to in the last few weeks has talked about the mental toll this is taking on them. We are all feeling it.

The media isn’t sharing the fact that suicide rates, depression, anxiety and domestic abuse is on an exponential rise right now, but if you google it on your own you’ll find it.

We need human connection.

You could argue that I’m getting plenty of human connection at home right now… and I don’t want to complain because I realize I’m blessed.

Let me paint you a picture of what being quarantined at home with a toddler looks like right now.

We wake up every day around 6:30.

If I want any time to do anything for myself I have to get up by 5:30 or it isn’t happening.

She just finished getting her molars in all at once, and now her canines decided they’re gonna come in all at once as well! If you don’t know, this means she’s cranky AF from the second she wakes up til nap time 5 hours later.

About an hour after she wakes up she demands her breakfast. Although she can say quite a few words, I still have to guess what she’ll want to eat for breakfast each day… and if I get it wrong it’s tantrum city. Some days I can get through this first wave of tantrums, and somedays I want to cry too.

After breakfast I usually try to get some work done from home. This means I use my trusty babysitter Sesame Street to watch her for an hour or two so I can sit at the table and attempt to get something done uninterrupted…

5 minutes later… I’m interrupted.

She wants to “help work”. It’s adorable but after a few minutes I wanna cry. She isn’t much help… in fact she just makes it impossible to get anything done. My husband is a real hero on the days he is home, and this interruption can be avoided for the most part… when he’s not home I’m pretty much interrupted every few minutes until nap time.

Work is harder than ever before and ten times as stressful. I miss being able to drop my girl off to a babysitter so I could get my work done, without having to stop and change diapers, make sure someone isn’t going to jump off a couch to her doom, or eat something she shouldn’t. Now I want to cry about an hour into work because it takes me twice as long to do anything.

Finally it’s naptime! Emphasis on FINALLY!

This is the two hour period of time I use to cram in any important things that need to be done. Usually I use this time to get as much work as I can done. If it’s not a workday I clean my house, I try to take a shower that’s longer than 3 minutes, and I may even shave! Cleaning is almost impossible stuck home with a toddler unless they’re napping, so I usually pick my battles and save it for bedtime or days off. You can tell me cleaning can wait because no one is coming over… but a messy home just makes my anxiety skyrocket!

Two hours goes way faster than it used to… she’s up again! I kinda missed her, but I’m also kinda stressed about her being awake again. Bye bye productivity time.

Lunch time means the same battle that happened for breakfast. This time she usually throws most of the food to the dog and demands my food… which is the same as hers, but for some reason tastes better off my plate.

The next few hours are a blur of tantrums, reading the same books ten thousand times, trying to give her some outside time (and myself because otherwise I will cry), and trying to finish my work.

Now it’s the race to get something edible together quickly while my daughter has a meltdown.

She is crying because she wants to be cooking with me but I can’t let her up by the stove that’s hot, or near the knife I’m using to cut the veggies. I try to use the tv again as a distraction but this time she usually doesn’t take the bait. I end up cooking a meal listening to her scream at me and pull on my legs until I pick her up… this makes cooking dinner very stressful and take much longer.

She usually throws half of that on the floor too.

Bedtime… a mad dash to get a bath, some pjs, and a bottle. We read a book, the tantrums melt away and now she snuggles up to me and daddy. At this point of the night I finally feel peace… I feel so loved and forget some of the stress for a while. I rock her and sing her nightly lullaby and lay her down….

Peace and quiet… just what I need.

Now if it’s a work day I get right back to it! I usually work for another hour or so, then I clean the house… and by the time I’m done… bed time for mama.

Guess what… repeat that every damn day.

On days off you can pepper in a little extra outdoor time, and a LOT more chore time.

There are no breaks.

No babysitters.

No binge watching tv shows.

No naps for mama.

No trips to the nail salon for an hour.

No unaccompanied trips to target where I can aimlessly browse the store.

No cocktails with my best friends.

No nights out with my mama tribe to share our battle stories, and decompress.

No alone time… real alone time where I can do something just for myself.

This is what it’s like to be quarantined as a mother of a toddler.

Add on the strain or trying to educate your child from home, having multiple children, being a single parent, being unemployed or a single income family now.

Try being a brand new mama who just went through a traumatic experience birthing a baby during a pandemic… many alone, and now you’re navigating this new chaos completely isolated. The mental strain can be unbearable.

Every single mother I know has compared this to feeling like they did the first few months after giving birth. Those baby blues, the isolation. We are all feeling like postpartum is hitting us hard again, without that new bundle of joy.

In a normal situation we need that human connection of a night out with a friend. We need in person conversation with anyone who isn’t a child or your partner. We need that time to vent, to cry on each other shoulders, and to feel supported and less alone… we can’t do that right now and it feels all the more isolating.

So check on your mama friends. They already do so much on any normal day… and right now they are handling double the normal physical, emotional and mental load.

They’re therapists, teachers, and caregivers to their children. Support systems for their family. They always feel the pressure to be everyone’s everything, and even more now. That’s a lot.

When all this is over I hope all the mamas get the chance to have the ultimate moms night out. Leave your cell phones on silent, and tell your husbands to figure it out. We have a lot of decompressing to do.

Dads you guys deserve one of these nights too if I’m being honest… I see you.

In all seriousness, this is a very hard time for everyone mentally. We all need a little extra love right now, and are all craving some human interaction. But mamas, I know how hard this is hitting you.

We are always the ones telling our children and families it is going to be alright, and right now that’s what we need to hear desperately.

You are not alone, and if you need a support group please contact me. I would love to get one together.

We will get through this. We got through pregnancy, birth and postpartum, and it made us stronger… so will this.

I hope we can all experience a hug with our friends, a long leisurely trip to target, or a moms night out soon.. but until then just know you aren’t alone mama.

You are stronger than you know, and you can do hard things. That’s what moms do. We got this.