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Tag Archives: Motherhood

Currently Digging: Emily Ley’s, “A Simplified Life”

1 Feb

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More than six months ago, I picked up Emily Ley’s book A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living. If you know me or have been a long-time reader, you know I don’t often buy books. I love to read and I LOVE books, but feel that too many just weigh a space down. For something to take up space on my shelf, it has to be my absolute favorite and/or a favorite I will reference often, like a book of poems.

Therefore, I err on the side of hitting the library before committing. I owe Marie Kondo a debt of gratitude for teaching me this when I read her book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up a few years ago, (which, yes, I do own and highly recommend.)

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But Emily Ley’s book is a keeper, for sure, too. Just holding it in my hands at the bookstore made me feel calmer and hopeful that I could soon be back in control of everything that had been spiraling as of late last summer. And with it’s preppy, Kate Spade-esq navy, pink + green stripe cover, I was styling it on my shelves and coffee table long before I’d even cracked it’s spine.

Some of my favorite tips include:

  • Simplifying breakfast
  • Planning scheduled Friday Pizza Nights
  • Having a uniform

None of these are particularly mind-blowing in and of themselves, but sometimes you’re so in your own way that having someone tell you to do something via a book is just what you need. I’ve always been a huge consumer of anything in the “self-help” genre and, in general, would describe myself as a very goal-oriented, focused, driven person. There is so much that interests me, among which is self-improvement, so I read a lot about creativity, productivity, being your own boss, manifesting positivity, and so on. A lot of the books that did make the cut when I semi-gutted my possessions after reading Marie Kondo’s book were the “get it together” and “organize your life” types of books, so it’s safe to say I’ve always aspired to make the chaos of my life, home and mind more tamed.

It was the chaos that ultimately drove me to the Self-Help section at Barnes and Noble last summer, on what I jokingly call my “mom vacation” where I sip a coffee, alone, browsing books in peace after I’ve handed the kids off to my husband after those particularly challenging day as the “stay at home parent.”

There were a LOT of tough days this summer, let me tell you!!! I think I need to develop a multi-part series to really dive deep into the year-long journey I’ve been on as far as redefining my values, moving towards my goals and dreams, and eliminating all the unnecessary “noise,” in my life, be it wasted time watching mindless TV, keeping in touch with friends I’m not particularly close with, or even completing workouts I don’t absolutely love. But I digress.

What I learned from Emily’s book is not so much what or how to organize, but rather, what I can gain by focusing more on what outcomes or feelings I want in my life. And what I gain is margin. What is margin, you’re wondering? It’s the free space of your life to feel like you can plop down on the floor and actually play with your kids, free from worry about all the other to dos you “should” be doing. And going out to dinner with your spouse because you have a standing date night every other week. And it’s also being able to spontaneously walk out the door for a long walk just because it will feel good to move and get some fresh air, without having to rush off to some commitment you’re not that excited about. Margin is the single biggest takeaway I gained from reading Emily’s book.

Really, a lot of this ties in to everything I’ve shared since reading that Oprah article  last summer in addition to everything I’ve learned since starting my Bullet Journal practice last January.

Having two young kids at home used to mean toys strewn all over the house. Mealtimes were exhausting and stressful and the paper mess got out of control if I wasn’t vigilantly on top of it. Having to decide what to eat for breakfast myself often seemed like too much, to give you a sense of how starved I was some major self-care.

The past year has been a period of intense self-introspection and incredible shifts in redefining my values. And the result has been that I’m happier than I’ve ever felt, I’ve lost weight with minimal effort, I’ve appreciated and valued being at home with my kids more because the difficult moments are more tempered now, and I actually feel more fulfilled in my own dreams because I’ve managed to create space for me to actually devote time to them for a change. In a word = margin.

I can say with certainty that Emily Ley’s book, A Simplified Life, changed my life SO MUCH for the better in 2018 and has continued to do so in 2019. If I could gift just one thing to all my friends and family this year, it would be this book so I highly recommend.

 

 

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The Present of Presence in Motherhood

22 Jan

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Earlier this morning, I was re-reading some posts about Emilia at 4 and 5 months, and as my heart twinged a bit that her (and Caroline’s) infancy is long over, it was a nice reminder of how time alters perspective. As I read about her developments, I almost forgot the impatience I felt back then for the next thing she’d do. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to charge through her childhood, or rush her learning to walk and talk, but I remember feeling so incredibly excited for it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that in the moment, a lot of the baby milestones can seem so inconsequential almost — observing a baby studying a pattern for example. Or learning just one sign, like “milk” in ASL (American Sign Language.) It’s only later when you realize you have a toddler who can recreate a pattern with blocks and utilizes sign language to emphasize her point as she speaks that you become more aware of how foundational and BIG those seemingly small achievements were when that girl was only months old.

Something else I’ve realized on reflection of those early newborn months is that it can feel difficult, frustrating even, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Days and nights blur together, particularly if you’re breastfeeding, and those first 12 weeks especially, can feel like a monotonous eternity regardless of whether you’re napping when the baby naps. What I want to say to myself back then, with my first, is to savor each and every second and to be assured that it won’t always be like this. For good and for bad. Babies must be so cute and endearing because taking care of one takes such a great amount of effort that accomplishing any other daily tasks seems impossible. A reminder, (or for the first time moms, simply sharing this insight), that these long, difficult, all-consuming, exhausting baby days have a finish line, is something I wish more women verbalized in discussions of motherhood. We hear (and see) all about the parenting highs on Facebook and Instagram, but the low moments are less discussed. It’s one legacy I’ve taken upon myself to share loudly and often to absolutely anyone who will listen.

That said, if anyone except ME (a future self?) had advised me in this way, I’d have probably screamed — or cried— depending on how Emilia had slept that night. Even now, as a mom of two with almost four years of parenting in the rearview, it is nails on a chalkboard to me whenever I’m casually advised to “Enjoy it, it goes by so quickly!” 

I’m finding myself creeping into that territory though; of all those well-intentioned, seasoned moms and grandmothers whose kids are in high school now, and college. Whose children are getting married and having their own babies. The ones who pause as I struggle through the grocery store juggling and entertaining two girls, but who only see two sweet little girls with their mother and lean in to say: What beautiful little girls, enjoy it! It goes by in a blink.

Just reading that post I referenced before, about Emilia at 4 months old, rocketed me back to those intense “new baby” months when Brian and I would just sit together on the couch, Emilia in my arms, just staring at her in utter wonder. She can track us with her eyes! Is that a smile? That’s her ‘milk drunk’ face. Wait, no, that’s her ‘poop’ face!, as we’d both peal with laughter. It’s amazing how time has tempered my memory of the intensity of this period of time.

For example, in my walk down memory lane, my absolutely brutal experience learning to breastfeed didn’t even factor. I certainly documented it with blog posts and it colored so much of my first weeks and months home with Emilia — yet, somehow, time has softened how difficult that experience seemed. I had a tongue-tied baby who couldn’t latch so each and every 45 minute nursing session every 2-3 hours found me sobbing hysterically, bleeding, and unsure I’d be able to withstand the pain of the next feeding. Nursing for as long as I did made me feel stronger, better. It reinforced what I’d known long before I’d even gotten pregnant: that there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t endure for my children.

So here I am, with the 4th birthday of my eldest on the horizon and I’m reminiscing about when she was just months old. It’s made me pause in those trying, day-to-day, “grind” moments with young kids, and realize that these moments, right now, are what I’ll be fondly remembering before long. A year from now, I’ll miss the way Emilia mispronounces “dumpling” (ducklings) and “earmuffs” (earmops). And how Caroline puts her hands to her mouth to mock shout “Nya Nya” (Emilia) whenever we arrive at preschool pickup.

If nothing else, longing for the sweet newborn smell of my girls’ and how completely they’d relax into me while they chest-napped reminds me — today — to be present and to savor every single second with them, for better or worse. Because I know I’ll blink and they’ll be in highschool. And then college. And then getting married. And then, hopefully, if their own, (ideally) joy-filled childhoods have inspired them as I hope they will, having their own babies.

Getting My Mama Playwright On

28 Jul

2018 Twitter Image_Work of ChildrenI didn’t exactly kickline into my role as a stay-at-home mom of two. I’d always dreamed of being a mom in the same way other little kids exclaim they want to be a MOVIE STAR!!! or a FIREFIGHTER!!! when they grow up, but where a career or self-fulfillment fell in all this, I never daydreamed about; I just knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a mother. Still, when my first daughter was born, I was very fortunate to work largely from home with fairly flexible hours thanks to an exorbitant amount of help from my mother who babysat when I needed to be in the office or at a client meeting. But with my second — it was dark days at home, less my income.

It was a total slap in the face and I felt completely blindsided.

The irony wasn’t lost on me, with my lists upon lists of projects I wanted to pursue, do, photograph, explore and write. As soon as I started to freelance from home during the daylight hours instead of being confined to a desk working my 9-5, I had a baby. And then bam, a second.

I careened into a dark place.

Married With Style

Any mother of two knows what I’m talking about. When you bring the first one home, you walk on eggshells and read everything. SO MUCH HELP is offered, almost forced. There are meal trains, visitors, babysitters, and check-ins. With two? Shortly after Caroline arrived, I overheard some family talking and one older, very experienced mom quipped: Well, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They know what happens when you have sex!

After Caroline, when people asked how life with two was going, I would joke that it was touch and go for a while, but that eventually they break you. And then suddenly, once you’ve stop fighting it, you can almost, just barely function again. Ta dah: you’ve figured out life with two. Barely functional. That is your new normal. That’s your operational “Go” zone.

I mean… it’s no wonder people stopped visiting.

[In all of this, I do want to be very clear — I LOVE being a mother and I love MOST of the time I get to be home with my children. I feel beyond blessed and grateful that my husband and I have prioritized giving our children at least one parent home, recognizing the monetary sacrifices we make as a family in order to make it possible. But that’s not to say that even that works out “equally.” Enter: the rage.]

It was more than just Postpartum Depression. It was more than “the mental load,” although that was certainly a huge part. It was even more than just the utter shock of how much more work just one more kid is and the indignation and betrayal of other mothers not going around waving their arms at the singleton moms, screaming: LISTEN!! YOU NEED TO KNOW!!! YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU’RE IN FOR. NO, YOU REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND.

If I had to put my finger on it, my mental state is where it is today because of the huge injustice of this unpaid, undervalued, highly invisible yet “oh so important” WORK of raising children. 

The monotonous exhaustion of bathing, feeding, teaching, entertaining, dressing and just keeping alive, two little human beings, paired with all the pressure that US MOMS (my fellow women at arms! my ladies!) are all putting on one another, jabbing at each other to be acknowledged that we are, in fact, getting it right; that we’re succeeding in our efforts to guide these little beings, be it with breast milk or formula or soy or nut free, or whatever the fuck we are using because we must; all this heroic effort and warring is absolutely blasted apart when asked “So are you working?” shortly after the birth of my second.

EVERY GODDAMN SECOND OF EVERY DAY, lady.

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I’ve felt a lot of rage since about January, but it wasn’t until the spring when I finally pinpointed where it was coming from and began to devise an outlet. I’d put it in a play.

I’ve always loved film and music, but specifically, musicals. The Les Mis original Broadway cast recording left such an impression on me as a kid, that even today, I gravitate toward soundtracks in most of my music collection. [Also, strong female vocalists.] So when I said play, what I really meant was a musical. Are you still reading? OK good.

I’m envisioning a Rent-type ensemble vibe with multiple storylines. I want to cover ALL of the experiences moms are having. Or as many as possible. The guilt if you’re working. The pressure if you’re not. The obnoxious comments at the playground about attachment parenting or babywearing, or sleep training and co-sleeping. I’ll never forget being told that “breastfeeding past four months is for the mother” by a more senior mother who’d bottle-fed back in her day, just after mentioning I was still exclusively nursing my barely five month old. But I also want to talk about how lauded we are for all this important work we’re doing (oh hang on, not really!) and how rewarded we are with leave time and support (again, nope! just kidding). It’s not right and it’s not OK.

Really, what I want is to shine a big, fat, spectacular Broadway spotlight on what is going on RIGHT NOW in the mothering world, because Tina Fey may have covered the Mean Girls of high school, but sometimes I feel like some of my mom friends and I are just the mean girls who grew up and had babies. And what about the wanna-be-mothers out there who don’t have babies (or even boyfriends — or girlfriends!) — yet. My neighbor Alyce was as much a mother as anyone who carried her own babies, but she was never blessed with her own children. Or who lost babies. Or those trying to conceive. Or the happily childless, sick of being asked when they’re having kids. What about “mothers” who are actually fathers?

An infusion of Mr. Roger’s humanity and kindness and love is missing among all of us and I feel like a hard look at what we all go through to shepherd our babies through infancy and into childhood, and hopefully, adulthood, through the lens of a play, with hilarious music and lyrics is something that will speak to a lot of us. Because it takes a village.

To start, I’m just compiling as many of the “mom” stories I can, so if you have one you’d like to share, please email me!

To start, I’m starting toward my beginning, with my first real lactation consultant visit.

My First Lactation Consultant Experience

Me: [broken down, exhausted, dejected, feeling like I’m failing as a mother because nursing isn’t coming easily; nipples are raw and bloody. Worn out from battling at the hospital where they were pushing formula which I had been persuaded was more or less poison]

Me: “Lactation consultant” is a very medicalized-sounding term for someone who is a mix between a fairy godmother, Mary Poppins, and a lifelong dairy farm hand.

I remember when I met mine for the first time in my home, one day after we brought Emilia home. She radiated wisdom and calm. The LC, not the baby. As if it was a prerequisite of the job, she was buxom and busty, with ruddy cheeks and milk maid coloring. She was the great aunt everyone has who could bake the prizewinning pie and birth a baby in the barn in the same day.

Everything I’d read and thought I knew was wrong, because she knew everything. She was only just a little holier than thou about it. More indignant that the poor baby had to suffer because she wasn’t there yet. But we would all be OK.

My baby was NOT a “lazy nurser with a lazy tongue” as the hospital lactation consultant had declared. She was a BABY.

Oh wise Lactation Consultant, TEACH ME, [I silently begged].

[I’m topless, with a nursing pillow or boppy or whatever the fuck it’s called, strapped around my waist. Oh that’s right, the “My Breast Friend.” Sending a silent fuck you to whoever came up with that product name. May you silently choke to death on the buckle of that wretched product. And it was great, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED that thing. But along with my nursing tops, that was happily tossed into the fire to burn the day my daughter finally weaned at 1 year, 11 months.]

Lactation Consultant: OK, why don’t we start by having you show me where you nurse.

ME: [Settles onto the couch and prop my daughter into the “football hold” as taught in the hospital.] This is the only position I can bear the pain in. [My daugher latches and I wince.]

More to come — would love to hear what you think so far about any of this. 

Also, an older post I wrote about my my impression of Life With Two Kids.

And finally, I just want to send out a special THANK YOU to my friends Staci and Grace who immediately got behind me when I ventured to tell them about this entire endeavor. No snarky laughing or tongue biting; just unabashed enthusiasm and support. It means more to me than you know. I know this is crazy. MWAH! Love you guys.

And finally, to my friend Shawna, for pointing my attention to the original “Mental Load” cartoon and article which was really the impetus for turning the tide of my rage. Without that, which helped me slowly uncover part of what was at the heart of my indignation and frustration, and our texts throughout the winter and spring about a lot of stupidity that surrounds us in our daily “Mom” lives, I would probably have driven my car into a tree by now. Love you!