Mommy Wants A Nap

Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to hit pause? Let me rephrase, do you ever have a day where you don’t want to hit pause? Lately I feel like I’ve been trying to chase an unwieldy boulder careening downhill… while wearing a blindfold… and with one arm tied behind my back.

I’m not exactly your typical working mom. My “day job,” if you will, involves working with children facing developmental or behavioral challenges and that has me driving to schools and students’ homes. My other job – and yes I consider it to be a legit job – is writing and I can fortunately do that anywhere and at any time. Both jobs require using my brain and I can’t really go on auto-pilot. Well, I could, but the outcome probably wouldn’t be great.

homer simpson job fail

“Just gonna check Facebook for a minute and – WHERE’S THE BABY?!”

Sometimes I wish I could just “check out” for a minute and not think about anything at all. I tend to be a tad neurotic and over analyze things, so when you couple that with being a working mom, you have the perfect recipe for a mushy brain by the end of the day. But that’s just the thing – there really isn’t an end of the day for most moms, working or otherwise. There’s usually not a beginning either, just a continuation of whatever chaos preceded the momentary silence. I could be a bit biased, however, since my toddler still isn’t sleeping through the night. No, that’s putting it mildly. He refuses to sleep through the night. He abhors bedtime. Perhaps my son was a Welsh poet in his previous life?

Renamed "Ode to a Toddler's Bedtime"

Renamed “Ode to a Toddler’s Bedtime”

Work becomes at best a hiccup and at worst a reprieve from the routine of the day. I don’t ever want to treat work as an escape from motherhood nor do I want to resent work from tearing me away from my son. It’s a conundrum and not just a maternal one. My husband similarly knows this back-and-forth game as well. He works a full-time, physically demanding job and usually has weekends off. He occasionally is jealous that I get, as one could call it, our son’s “best” hours. For the most part, I’m the one that has him during the fun, play time of the day while my husband is there just as Max is waking up or getting ready for bed. As the old saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Or as parents say, “How come the baby never cries when he’s with you?”

This might have something to do with it

This might have something to do with it.

I often think, “If I just had more ____, then I could breathe easier.” Whether it’s sleep, time, money, help, etc., I’ll convince myself that it would be the miracle cure to whatever happens to be stressing me out at the moment. Yet my biggest realization about motherhood is that I can’t control everything and micromanaging is rarely the answer. Yeah, sure, I had the realization, but that doesn’t mean I acted on it. Despite my repeat viewings of Frozen, my Type A Personality prohibits me from letting it go.

Grumpy Cat gets me on so many levels.

Grumpy Cat gets me on so many levels.

Like most working parents, I wear many hats in a 24 hour period. I’m an employee, a mother, writer, wife, sister, friend, and the list doesn’t end there. I’ve found it’s healthy to complain, sometimes I should say no, and asking for help is never a sign of weakness. There are huge life lessons I’ve learned and growing pains I’ve gone through in adding “mother” to my résumé. Yet with all the soul-searching, usually the answer to my problem isn’t some grand sentiment that you’d find in an”inspiring quotes” Google search. Sometimes the solution is quite simple: Mommy wants a nap. Who’s with me?

"So that's 1, 2, 3, 4... 957,015 in favor?"

“So that’s 1, 2, 3, 4 ….. 957,015 in favor?”

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Mom Jealousy

Oh jealousy, you fickle fiend, always rearing your grumpy green head at the absolute worst moment.  As if I wasn’t stressed enough – planning my son’s first birthday and traveling back and forth between the Florida coasts to visit family – that familiar feeling decided to come creeping up recently.  Logically, I know it’s just my own insecurities making me feel like I’m losing some imaginary mom competition (Mompetition?), but that doesn’t seem to help me shake the feeling.

Just can't shake it!

Just can’t shake it!

I’ll be honest.  I get jealous.  A lot.  I get envious of moms who appear to have it all, moms who seem to be able to do it all, moms who don’t worry, healthy moms, moms who have all the answers.  You name it, I’ve either been jealous of or insecure about it.  But I don’t really linger on the jealousy.  It’s more of a fleeting thought that flickers across my mind when I see a woman at the grocery store, hair perfectly in place, bright eyes, carrying multiple things with ease, that I wonder to myself how I must look in comparison.  Messy ponytail with strands pulled undone by little hands, bleary eyes, struggling to find where I last put my debit card.  How could I not feel a little twinge of envy?

yup

Riiight?!

It’s not all pity party, though.  Sometimes I get these “epiphany moments” where I’m inspired by some random BuzzFeed article, convinced that I’ve found the ultimate life hack to turn me into Super Mom or a Pinterest board with the perfect sensory play project to guarantee my baby will be the next Einstein.  I’m full of optimism that I can finally be the best mother my child deserves and the best me that I deserve.

Such blind optimism

Such blind optimism

Of course things never turn out that way.  Something will inevitably go wrong and then those insecure feelings come back.  It can be a vicious cycle.  And normally, if I find out that I’m not alone in my self-doubt, I’ll start to feel better.  Yet somehow this isn’t one of those times.  I’ve heard every woman I know, chronically ill or not, vent about their issues of Mompetition (I’m trying to make this word happen, if you can’t tell).  And sure, we get together for a GNO and all chime in with our own horror stories and commiserate with each other, but most of the time we still go back home full of angsty sighs that would make a 90s grunge teen look like sunshine.

Angela Chase ain't got nothing on me

Angela Chase ain’t got nothing on me

But you know what snapped me out of my ‘Envy–>Self-Doubt–>Repeat’ cycle?  It may seem totally insignificant, yet it was a game-changer for me.  Not too long ago I was out to lunch with my best friend and my son.  On paper he should have been fine; he had just eaten, napped, and been changed.  Except, right around the time when I was getting ready to eat, he decided to have a meltdown.  So there I was, in a restaurant full of judge-y eyes, feeling the “shame sweat” begin to bead up on my forehead, trying to gently bounce him on my knee and maintain a smile as if he wasn’t letting out a demon-summoning shriek.

...basically

…basically

And you know what happened?  My best friend, God bless her, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey, you are doing great right now.  We all need to feel validated and I’m here to tell you that you are doing great.”  At the time, I just shrugged, nervously laughed, and mumbled out an awkward thank you.  But as I drove home, with my untouched lunch in a to-go box and my mini-monster blissfully asleep in the car seat, I let her words really sink in.  She saw, as only another woman can, the exact kind of panic I was in.  And she didn’t try to flatter me with superficial cliches nor did she avert her gaze and pretend not to know me (which I wouldn’t have blamed her for).  Instead, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.  It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else; it’s about being told you’re doing great, warts and all.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

So to all the women (mothers or not) who have validated me, I sincerely thank you.  And in case no one has told you yet, you are doing great.

Why It’s Okay to Complain

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with health issues my whole life. Maybe it’s because I’m a new mom. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not. But I’ve long felt the necessity to stay strong and never complain. Perhaps I felt as if I were betraying all the strong, fierce feminists that came before me. I’ve always thought that if I complained, asked for help, or took a break that it somehow meant I was giving in and letting my struggles get the best of me. Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. It really is okay to complain sometimes.

It wasn’t easy to allow myself the freedom to complain. Honestly, it still isn’t easy even now. I still hesitate sometimes when asking for help. And when I do ask for help, I’m convinced that the other person is secretly mad that I bothered them. Again, this could just be me dealing with my own issues, but from the other moms and women with chronic illnesses I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. So here are five reasons why it’s not only okay to complain, but it may just be the best thing you could do for yourself.

5. It Puts Your Pain into Words

So often, when I’m having a health issue or beyond exhausted, pain just becomes a part of this unspoken routine. Even before I had a child, I still couldn’t just take a day off whenever I was in pain or sick. If that was the case, I would have been home more days than I worked. So, you learn to just “deal.” But I did eventually get to my breaking point, as we all do. So I complained. And it was awesome! I got to put into words exactly what I was feeling which did two things: 1) it helped me articulate just how debilitating my health issues can be, emotionally and physically, and 2) it gave everyone around me a better picture of what I was going through and how to help. Contrary to popular belief, glaring at someone does not actually tell them what’s wrong.

4. Better Out Than In!

That saying has stuck around for a reason. It really is better to let it out than to keep it all in. When you keep things in – health issues, relationship problems, anger, sadness, etc. – it becomes toxic. And what’s even scarier is, if you hold on to the problem long enough, it becomes a part of you. One day, I caught myself in the mirror and realized I looked miserable. Not sad, not unhappy, not even angry, just plain miserable. I was holding in all this frustration that it was physically manifesting on my face and it wasn’t cute. So I wrote down a list of all the things that were causing me stress or pain. Then I showed it to my husband when he got home. The conversation that followed wasn’t exactly cute either, but I caught myself smiling for no reason the next day 🙂

3. Perspective

Not all the things I put on that list were really stress-worthy. Sure, some issues on the list were serious (like finances and health), but some were downright silly. I wrote “all out of Baked Lays.” It’s funny now, but at the time I’m sure it was a very legitimate thing to be stressed out about in my life. But reading it on that list not only let me see how small and easily fixable some of my problems were, but it also showed me (and my partner) that if you let things build up, it only takes one little thing to push it over the tipping point. That saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” definitely fits here. And not to worry, I finally got my Baked Lays and all was right in the world again.

2. Healthy Alternative

I’m not suggesting everyone who bottles up their issues immediately becomes destructive, but I have seen firsthand the negative consequences that can come of it. One of the most important things I should point out first, is that this can happen to women and men. I’ve seen both mothers and fathers who never complain, yet they are visibly unhappy and some are even resentful or bitter. I’ve also seen pain eat away at someone until they’re just a shell of who they used to be. Partly because of what I had seen, I knew it was important to me, my partner, and my son that I never let myself become overwhelmed under the weight of chronic illness and motherhood. So if a little venting from time to time prevents you from a life of resentment or unhappiness, then I say it’s worth it.

1. Forming Bonds Stronger than Denture Cream

Believe it or not, giving myself permission to complain didn’t help just me. It was like a magic wand had been waved! Out of nowhere, all these friends and mothers were released from their guilt-ridden spell of silence. Suddenly I was getting texts and calls and Facebook comments and messages from both friends I’d known forever and people I’d just met saying things like, “Oh my God! I thought I was the only one!” or “Finally, someone is talking about it!” I began to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones by simply “complaining” on social media about how real the struggle of balancing motherhood with chronic illness can be. So if you haven’t already, be the first person to break the “Guilt and Silence Spell” and enjoy the deep sense of camaraderie that you will find among friends new and old.

What Your Parenting Style Says About You

In our four-part series on parenting styles, we looked at four very different kinds of moms.  We talked about everything from being super-strict (like the Helicopter Mom) to ultra-lenient (like the Laid-Back Mom) and hippies (like Crunchy Mamas) to geeks (like Techie Mommies).  And whether you identify fully with one style or just pick out a couple of similarities, it says something about you.  So what does it all mean?

Besides the obvious judging, of course

Besides the obvious judging, of course

 

Let’s take it back a bit first.  The whole idea for a series about different kinds of parenting came about in a rather serendipitous way.  I was at a local mommy & me type play place and couldn’t help but notice that there were so many different kinds of moms there – moms on their phones, moms hovering, moms talking about amber necklaces, moms “asking” their kids to obey, etc.  And it got me thinking: where do these habits come from?  Are we just carbon copies of our own childhood, mirroring our parents?  Is it instinct?  Or is it a combination?

It's confusing, I know, but bear with me

It’s confusing, I know, but bear with me

I think we can’t help but bring some of our experiences into the process of parenting.  If you were raised never to eat meat, and you continued that lifestyle into adulthood, then chances are you’re probably going to pass that on to your children, too.  Yet I also remember poring over countless books and online articles during my pregnancy, bound and determined to learn everything I could to raise the most perfect, well-rounded little person… and then I clearly remember forgetting everything I ever read or experienced the moment I held my son on my chest for the first time.

Similar reaction, basically

Similar reaction, basically

So what does it all mean?  Obviously I’m not a doctor or an expert by any stretch of the imagination (unless you count my own, then yes), but I believe that all mothers instinctively want what is best for their child, and that may mean something different to each mother.  For the Helicopter Moms out there, they show their unconditional love by being a constant presence in their child’s life.  And for many of the self-professed Hoverers I’ve talked to, it’s because they themselves felt unsure or distant from their own parents as a child.  So they have vowed to do the exact opposite for their children by doing everything they can to be there for and protect them.

Not all moms share in the same upbringing or ideology, and that’s okay, too.  A lot of the more “hands-off” or free-range parents I’ve talked with don’t even dig that deep when I ask them about why they parent the way they do.  For them, it’s not something they even have to devote that much thought to – it just came about naturally.  Though they may tend to do their research when it comes to important issues (like health or education), at their core they care more about living in the moment with their child than anything else.

As I finished up the last of the four-part series last week, I was already wondering how I wanted to tie up the whole thing.  And wouldn’t you know it, the idea came to me in the same place that started it all.  Back at the play place with my fellow moms and my baby’s bffs, I stopped (subconsciously or not) putting parents into categories.  I stopped seeing “Crunchy Mamas” and started seeing the beautifully complex women that they always were.

You are amazing, don't ever forget that

You are amazing, don’t ever forget that

So that’s my takeaway from the whole thing.  You may have some helicopter tendencies or geek out from time to time, but that’s kind of the point.  We differ a little bit in our parenting styles, but when get right down to it, each and every one of us just care about helping our little one make it through this crazy world.  What do you think?

What’s Your Mom Style? Part III

So far we’ve met the Helicopter Mom and the Crunchy Mama.  Who’s the next mom to make it into our parenting style spotlight?  It’s none other than the…

Techie Mommy

Have a parenting problem?  Well she’s got an app for that!  Smartphones and tablets are always within reach for this gadget-geared gal.  In her opinion, there’s no issue that can’t be solved by technology, electronics, and/or the all-knowing internet!

Profile:

The Techie Mommy is a lot like The Force: you can either go good side or dark side.  Some moms can integrate technology into their daily routine successfully whereas others let gadgets and gizmos overrun their life.  Either way, the typical Techie Mommy can be seen glued to her smartphone, snapping and uploading pics with her baby distracted by bright colors on a tablet.  The “electronic babysitter” can come in handy when all other baby-calming methods have failed, and she will be sure to tell you all about it, too.  Armed with all the knowledge the internet has to offer, this digital diva is always the first to diagnosis an ailment, know the best-reviewed gadgets, and won’t think twice about shooting down your old-school crafts in favor of her ultra-cool DIY Pinterest projects.

I can't be the only one who feels like this

I can’t be the only one who feels like this

Pros:

Technology certainly isn’t going away, so it’s not like we can pretend it doesn’t have its benefits.  For instance, video baby monitors come in handy for the perma-nervous first time mom and even experienced mommas can feel a little safer knowing their children are just a phone call (or GPS tracker) away.  Technology can also help bridge gaps, like being able to show pictures of your baby to a faraway relative or quickly capture and preserve memories with older generations.  My personal favorite?  The internet allows me to share my motherhood experience with all of you!!! (Shameless plug, sorry)

Aw wittle gwamma and gwammpa kitties

Aw wittle gwamma and gwammpa kitties!

Cons:

Admit it.  We’ve all been to the playground and seen the mom searching for wi-fi, seemingly oblivious of her child’s whereabouts. These parents are so busy plugging in that they tend to check out of their immediate surroundings.  Some studies have even shown that our society’s burgeoning obsession with snapping pics of everything from the sentimental to the mundane are actually harming our ability to remember the event!

Great job

Way to be “in the moment”

Subtypes

The Savvy Supermom

This mom is able to do everything!!!  Or at least that’s how she makes herself look on Facebook.  Her social media presence is well-tailored and every event is a selfie opportunity.  In a given week, she posts pictures of all the tasks she easily completes (“Supermom, able to leap tall laundry piles in a single bound!”), she keeps herself looking fresh and fit (perhaps her Instagram filter helps?), and she and her little one are taking the town by storm since she always makes sure to “check in” at all the best spots.  No one can compete with this tech-savvy, Google-searching, hashtag tweeting, tutorial pinning Supermom!

Fair question

Fair question

The Geeky Gal

While there is a definite difference between the terms Nerd (think FanGirl) and Geek (think Pocket-Protector), they find a kind of happy medium in this mom.  Her parenting style is equal parts “Well WebMD says…” and “Did you see this scientific statistic?”  For her, technology is a definite step forward in the evolution of mankind, so why not use it for all its benefits when tackling the challenges of motherhood.  As passionate as they are about their gaming and obscure pop culture references, they are even more passionate about their child.  But just make sure to never get on this mom’s bad side, because she can ice you out in the digital world and in real life.

It’s a real thing, people

 

 

Alright, so for you folks keeping count, this is mom style number three!  Have we highlighted your style or parenting yet?  If not, there’s always next week 😉  Stay tuned!

Is “Me Time” Necessary or Narcissistic?

Every mom, newbie or old pro, knows her baby is the number one priority.  At least that’s what society tells us.  Everything from film to television to social media tells women that once they become mothers, they are to wear their unkempt hair and blood-shot eyes as a badge of motherhood pride.  We’re supposed to be tired, selfless, angels who never complain about performing the same endless tasks without ceasing.

But guess what?  That’s not reality.  The reality is that yes, we get to a point where we don’t care if there’s a little spit up on our shirt, but we also know that we need a break every now and then, too.  I’m not suggesting you put in earplugs and take a bubble bath while your baby cries in the other room.  I’m suggesting we all stop pretending to be robots that are capable of indefinitely living on no sleep and able to do everything without help or support.  After all, even robots break down.

So here are some of the reasons I think we should start a new trend of unapologetically taking care of ourselves so that we can continue being the awesome mothers we already are.  And just for fun, all the gifs are of Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec because why not?

It Helps You Compartmentalize

Sometimes, when you’re knee-deep in dirty onesies and your hands are full or drooly toys, you can get overwhelmed and your to do list can seem insurmountable.

leslie thoughts

Enjoying a nice cup of tea for a moment allows you to take a step back and look at the problem with a fresh pair of eyes.  A little breather can make any to do list less Mt. Everest-y and more pitcher’s mound-ish.

It Lets You See Your Child Differently

When you are with your baby 24/7, life can become a routine.  Feed the baby, change the baby, play with the baby, calm the baby, repeat.  Did I mention life has no pause button?

leslie oh ann

Even a little time apart can put your baby in a new light.  All of a sudden it’s not a routine you have to keep up with; you get to watch this funny little human grow up right in front of your eyes.

It Clears Your Head

This one is a no-brainer, no pun intended.  When you’re running around worrying about doing the laundry, taking care of the baby, and running errands, you can easily become frazzled.

leslie music

Even meditating for fifteen minutes can give you time to clear your head of any fears or worry and be able to face the day recharged.

It Extinguishes Anger

We all get angry, don’t lie.  Whether your baby soiled his clothes for the umpteenth time or your partner forgot to clean the bottles, even the littlest things can cause you to see red when running on little sleep and a fried brain.

leslie angry

Stepping away from the situation can put things into perspective and calm you down.  You may even laugh about whatever it was that initially got you grumpy in the first place!

It Can Make Your Partner Appreciate You More

You know that saying, “A pictures is worth a thousand words,” right?  Well thirty minutes with a fussy baby is worth a million words.  You can tell your partner a hundred different ways about what all goes into your day and that the baby isn’t always a perfect little angel.  But…

All moms are like ninjas crossed with Jedis

All moms are like ninjas crossed with Jedis

Some one-on-one time will show your partner just how hard you work while taking care of the baby, and I bet you will be more appreciated.

So go on ladies, it’s time to do away with the guilt and the fear of judgement.  After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, then you can’t take care of your baby.

How Chronic Illness Prepared Me For Motherhood

Math and I aren’t really best friends.  In fact, we’re barely on speaking terms.  There is one thing that Math and I have in common: a love of Venn Diagrams.  Get it?  “Have in common” haha, oh man, puns.  Point being, a light bulb went off for me recently when I was thinking about how my chronic illnesses interact with my new-found motherhood.  I started thinking about what the two things have in common and how having a chronic illness got me ready for the challenges of motherhood.

Thank you, MS Paint

Thank you, MS Paint

5. Just Dealing with It

Not all of us are lucky enough to live life without worrying about finances.  For me, I worked two jobs to put myself through college.  Looking back, I have no idea how I managed to do all of it.  Actually, I have no idea how I manage to accomplish a lot of things.  But, just like many people with a chronic illness, when I am told I can’t do something, I am just that much more determined to do it.  So you learn to deal with it.  Have to pull an all-nighter to cram for finals but you’re in the middle of a flare-up?  Tough cookies.  There are just some things in life that you really can’t bail out on no matter how much your chronic illness sucks.

If only I could fix my scoliosis like this

If only I could fix my scoliosis like this

And learning to just deal with the suckiness of it all turned out to build up this thing I call a “Stamina Callus.”  Just like you need calluses to be an awesome guitarist (I think?  I don’t know I’m not musical), you need to have a certain stamina level to survive motherhood.  So when the baby needs to be fed and I’ve only had 2.7 seconds of sleep, I can just do it.  Thanks Stamina Callus!

4. Compensating

Compensating, to the average person, means to counter-balance something.  To a person with a connective tissue disorder, it means constantly shifting your weight or changing your stance in order to prevent or manage a dislocated joint.  I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos when I was a teenager, but I had been living with it my whole life, obviously.  Even from a young age, I remember wondering how my T-Ball teammates could just jump off the bench and run on the field.  Whereas if I had done that, my hip probably would have given out and I’d just wipeout before even exiting the dugout.

So funny, but so true

So funny, but so painfully accurate

So bending over to pick up a fifteen pound infant a gazillion times a day really didn’t seem so bad after a lifetime of faceplants.  I already had experience balancing, being uncomfortable, and knowing when to ask for help to avoid a really bad spill.  And trust me, once you have such precious cargo in your arms, you become even more aware of the dangerous, slippery world around you.

3. Sleeeeeep

Clearly nothing compares to the lack of sleep you experience once you become a mother.  But I would bet good money (like four bucks, maybe?) that the fatigue associated with Lupus and other autoimmune disorders could be a close second.  Lupus fatigue also comes with a pesky side of anxiety.  It’s like you can feel it coming on, yet you know you have little to no control over it.  Imagine you are driving a semi-truck on an icy road on the side of a mountain and right as you are about to go around a scary curve, this blindfold begins to descend over your eyes and you are defenseless.

Supernatural GIFs are always appropriate

Supernatural GIFs are always appropriate

The fatigue/anxiety combo actually was a pretty accurate test run for being a new mom.  In those first weeks, you’re desperately exhausted, yet every time your head hits the pillow, you immediately panic thinking the baby needs you.  I’m not gonna lie.  That panic is still with me almost eight months later.  I still hear “phantom cries” and get up to check on the baby “just one more time.”

2. Must… Remember…To…?

Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgotten why?  Well, some people with chronic illness experience these “mental fog” states on a fairly regular basis.  With the amount of times I’ve searched for my keys whilst holding them in my hand, you would think I was driving to get the early bird special with my AARP discount.  Not only do we experience lapses in both short and long-term memory, but we can be absent-minded as well – and not in that adorably awkward, professor way.

Totally believable

Totally believable

Long before pregnancy or motherhood had me putting dishes in the fridge, I was bringing the remote into the bathroom.  That makes for a really weird sentence, but you get the point.  I guess I just wasn’t as rattled or shocked by memory lapses since that had become the norm long ago.

1. Time for an Epiphany

Once, when I was walking across the stage at my hard-earned college graduation, I suspected it.  Then, again, after fighting through red tape and regaining my license after seizures, I wondered about it again.  But it wasn’t until I held my child in my arms did I realize my suspicions were true: “I AM A FREAKING SUPERHERO!”  And guess what?  You are, too!  Women living with chronic illness and balancing motherhood are amazing.  We are warriors, we produce life, we rise from the ashes again and again.  Can you tell me how that’s not the making of a superhero?  Exactly.  So go find your cape because it’s about time you accepted the truth that you are an amazing forth with which to be reckoned!!!

Whoooo! Go girl!

Whoooo! Go girl!