10 Promises from a Working Mom

Almost 6 weeks ago I put on some real pants (you know, the kind not of the yoga variety), packed up my breast pump and all of the confidence I could muster, and walked out the door. I drove to a job where I wear the title "Therapist" for 36+ kids, ages 5 to 18, who rely on me to ease the stress of their varying emotional disorders and trauma histories. I spend my days in therapy sessions, visiting schools, writing treatment plans, and talking frazzled parents off of the ceiling. And then I come home. I come home to an equally exhausted husband and two beautiful small children who need me to be ON.

Now that this whole working thing feels less "new" and more routine, I am able to step back and see the ways that this GIGANTIC life change has trickled down and impacted the various facets of my personal life. It hasn't been easy, big change never is. It has been scary and jarring, I continue to feel challenged and pushed and constantly wonder how I am going to make it all work. But I'm trying to go easy on myself - it feels unnatural as a woman to do just that, but I am trying. And in that process of trying I have decided to make a few promises to myself and to my family.

1. I will not worry about my "supply".

Norah has been exclusively breastfed her entire life. I am extremely proud of our nursing journey and would not take back any of the hard moments. With Jack, I supplemented with formula from 6 weeks on, but with NB? That emergency stockpile of formula has gone untouched. I was worried that working was going to screw everything up. Would I have time to pump? Could I pump enough? I am happy to report that so far, so good! But there are days when I will look down at the end of a pumping session and feel panic because I only got 2 ounces out of my left boob. There are days when I look at the clock and realize I FORGOT TO PUMP. But guess what? If I dry up, if I cannot supply enough, everyone is still going to be okay! I can overdose on fenugreek and squeeze in a midnight pumping session, but it won't make anything LESS stressful. Instead, I can roll with it. If there isn't enough milk for the next day, the nanny can thaw from the frozen stockpile. If the frozen stockpile runs out we can go from there... I will take deep breaths and remember that we are all going to be okay!

2. I will not get defensive.

I have found myself giving this big long explanation for why I am working. People find out that I have a baby and gasp with sadness that I have to be at work instead of home with my sweet precious little ones. But I am CHOOSING to work. And that is okay! I promise to own it. I am working because I LIKE to work. I am working because I feel passionate about what I do and it fulfills me in a way that being a mom does not. There is no need to make excuses and I don't owe anyone an explanation. As long as my family is good, I am good!

3. I will not try to do it all.

Jack was the "Superstar of the Day" at preschool this week. It was exciting for him but it meant that I had to come home, come up with a "nutritious" snack for twenty 3-year-olds, think of clues for his "mystery bag" show-and-tell item, and write down his prayer request. I felt like I needed to go above and beyond! Jack had to have the best homemade snack and the cutest print out of clues! I spent all evening making everything perfect and when I finished both kids were asleep and I had spent maybe 5 minutes with them. Jack would have been fine and just as excited with a pre packaged snack and some handwritten clues. We all would have been better off if I had spent my time snuggling with him while watching a movie. I will not kill myself trying to be the do-it-all mom. Ain't nobody got time for that!

4. I will make time for myself.

Because working is not an excuse to neglect my health (mental and physical). The 30 minutes I spend exercising will benefit everyone.

5. I will make time for my marriage.

When the clock hits 8:00 pm and both kids are asleep both John and I are ready to just check out. We are guilty of mindlessly watching things on TV and then before I know it, it feels like days have gone by where we haven't had a real conversation. I struggle with wanting to leave the house after being gone 40 hours a week but I refuse to not go on dates or make time for the number one most important job that I have. Being wife comes first, before mom and before professional. Time for date nights, baby!

6. I will not feel sorry for myself.

I am choosing to work. No one is holding a gun to my head. I don't get to feel sorry for myself when I miss milestones or don't make it to that class party. This is my choice and I need to own it.

7. I will let myself cry.

That being said... if I miss Norah's first steps or Jack's first choir concert, I am going to be sad, and that is okay too! Shedding a tear for the missed moments is going to be unavoidable, I will allow myself the time to grieve it out and let it go.

8. I will turn off my phone.

I made the mistake of leaving my work phone on over the weekend. Most days it doesn't ring past 5:00, but Sunday night it did. I didn't answer it, but I listened to the voicemail. It was a client, she was sobbing and begging me to call her back. I hurredly powered it down and threw it in my purse... Out of sight, out of mind? While I stood firm on my "no work on the weekends" boundary, I was thinking about that client for the rest of the night. I wasn't soaking in the last bits of an amazing weekend at home with my family, instead I was wondering if I could squeeze in one more quick morning appointment and if I could get a hold of my client's dad before he left for work. From now on, my phone is turned off.

9. I will say no.

I'm tired at the end of a work day. I come home and the last thing I want to do is deal with a naughty 3-year-old who is bound and determined to get his own way. Some nights it would just be easier to give him what he wants and survive the evening. But I refuse to let my exhaustion and my work come at the expense of the best interest of my children. Jack (and eventually Norah too) needs to know that the standards are still high. Just because I am not home all day does not mean that manners or good behavior are optional. I need to come home every day ready to parent. I will say no, I will deal with tantrums, I will be patient, I will listen.

10. I will celebrate the little moments.

Yesterday I came home from work to find John and Jack playing Memory on the living room floor while Norah happily played in her activity saucer. I dropped my bags to the kitchen floor and sat down next to them. Norah's face lit up and Jack excitedly told me about his day. I buried my face in fat baby rolls and spent the evening rolling around the floor playing peek-a-boo. We ate dinner in shifts, the house looked like a laundry bomb had gone off, and I sure as hell needed to be cleaning the bathrooms. But, I felt like my kids went to bed knowing that they were loved and that their little moments mattered. And to me, that was better than a family dinner and a clean house.

I'm not even close to having it all figured out and I keep waiting for the day I will magically feel organized. But as every work day comes to a close, I feel this growing sense of normal. I know that I am in the right place and doing the right things for myself and for my family. I know that I am growing a professional life that will make me proud, and I hope one day it makes my kids proud too. I am a strong, capable, and loving wife and mother. I will be kind to myself. Every day is a chance to grow, and I know we are all going to be okay!


The Big Lie of Womanhood

Last night a childhood friend posted a status on Facebook that said something along the lines of. "Apparently 25 means being surrounded by engaged and pregnant people." This status had over 100 likes and 20 some comments that said things like, "we're having more fun!" and "follow your dreams and have more fun doing it!" and my personal favorite "27 looks like divorce" (OUCH!). While this is not the first statement I have seen, read, or heard from a fellow female my age, there is still that tiny part of me that questions my life choices and whispers, "Am I doing it all wrong?"

I can't help but feel shamed by the 11,000 Buzzfeed articles about what I should be doing in my twenties. Because I have not travelled to 50 different countries, started my own business, learned to play an instrument, and mastered a foreign language apparently I am a failure and shall be placed in the shameful corner of women that are doing it wrong.

And then again I can only assume that these publicly proclaimed exclamations of having WAY more fun without a husband or small humans to tote around stems from a similar place of insecurity. Constant relationship changes to "Engaged!" or "Married!" alongside adorable (okay, probably annoying) explosions of baby pictures is probably like a smack in the feminine face - with a similar feeling message. You're doing it wrong. 

So that's the catch, right? No matter what, as a woman, you always feel like you aren't right, that your decisions are flawed, and that you are failing social media and the rest of the world by either having or not having weddings and cute babies by age 27.

Here's my two cents: We have been sold a lie. From babyhood on, as females, we have been told one giant, enormous lie. We cannot, I am sorry to say, have it all. No one can. This seems to be particularly hard to stomach for our generation because we really just thought we could make it happen - but we cannot. History and society and culture for all of time has dictated that no matter what women will probably feel at least a tiny bit guilty or shamed or wrong if they choose to work instead of have a family, wait to have a family, or have a family and still work. Women are also likely to feel judged  or less than in the eyes of the women listed above should they choose the opposite. The women who have families in their twenties or choose to stay at home with their kids will probably feel a tiny bit guilty or shamed or wrong for not being better "feminists".

You see, there is no winning. All we can do is support one another and let go of the who is right and who is wrong.

Despite the little nag of insecurity I felt after viewing the said Facebook status, mostly I was just inspired to ponder the changing definition of "fun". While traveling, building a career, getting drinks with friends, and living with girls instead of the same boy for forever and ever do sound great - my kind of fun has morphed into a walk around the neighborhood with my incredibly spirited and sweet 2.5 year old son. Fun is staring at my daughter's face for like 45 minutes straight and marveling at her pure and utter perfection. And mostly, fun is carving out a couple of quiet hours post 8 o'clock to sit and enjoy my husband on our back deck.

Is my fun more important than anyone else's? Nope. Does my fun sound horrible to someone else? Probably. But I've taught myself to love the life I have 90% of the time (because, I am human, and sometimes being a wife and mom sounds far less preferable to the independent life of a single woman in her 20's). We cannot have it all, we cannot be it all. We just need to be okay with that. At least 90% of the time...



Yesterday was my first official day on the stay-at-home-mom train. Now that school is over, I have decided to put finding a job on the back burner for the summer and enjoy my new baby girl and get in some quality time with big brother Jack. And while I hate the idea of leaving Norah home with a nanny so young, I am slightly terrified that I will not survive this summer.

Do I love being a mom? Yes, absolutely. Looking at my little babes makes my heart explode 10 million times within the course of one hour. But I also find myself thinking, "Oh my gosh, I have two kids!" with equal parts amazement/joy and fear/whatthefuckhaveidone.

Perfect example: yesterday. By 9 AM I was sending SOS texts to my husband. By 10 AM I was online searching for jobs. I felt like I needed an extra arm, some xanax, and an IV drip of coffee. Just to go to the bathroom, alone, I had to endure angry newborn cries and Jack banging on the door screaming, "MOMMY!"

But, you know, we made it. So what, everyone was in their pajamas when John got home. Jack was running in circles, dying for some rough house time, and Norah was in a fit of gas-filled rage. But we got through the day.

So here we are, day 2. Both kids woke up at 6 AM and I have a raging headache, but, I feel more ready to handle the day. Last night I went to bed with the idea of a schedule. Routine is going to become my best friend. So bring on the Pinterest toddler activities and lets do this thing.



Last week, on Tuesday, I finished my master's degree. Holy hot damn - what a train wreck! When we calculated my due date 9 months ago, I knew this last month of school would be insane. I was right. After an all-nighter on Monday and a long day of class/work on Tuesday I thought I might die. But I made it, and Norah? She slept 5 hour stretches for the very first time, allowing me an almost full night of sleep.

The craziest part of it all is everyone that keeps coming up to me and saying how amazing I am for doing it all. I feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, I'm trying to be proud of myself. It wasn't easy. Only taking two weeks off after having a baby is less than ideal. Physically, mentally, emotionally I still needed to be in yoga pants on the couch. But that just wasn't in the cards. Part of me feels like I could have saved myself a lot of stress by getting papers and assignment completed ahead of time, and that because I didn't do that I don't deserve the kudos.

That's the joke right? We push and push and find success but we still don't feel like enough for ourselves? I am trying REALLY hard to recognize my accomplishments and pat myself on the back. I grew a baby for 9 long months. I endured constant nausea for 25 weeks, bladder infections, low blood pressure, low iron, and 7 days of contractions - I did all that while going to class/working, mothering a 2.5 year old (that weighs 36 pounds) and trying to actively participate in my marriage. We bought a house, moved, made this house a home... When I type it all out it feels like a lot. But it also sounds like I'm looking for pity... or something like it. None of this felt like it earned me a "badge of honor". It felt like living through the choices that I made.

I'm proud that I have my master's degree. It is the "step one" to having the career that I want and I am happy and excited (a little nervous too) about the future and where that aspect of my life is going. I also know that it will make me a better wife and mom because I will have this area of my life that fulfills me and fires me up individually and separately from my family.

It was a BIG year. It was exciting and crazy and absolutely flew by! I cannot believe it's over. I cannot believe that Norah is here, that graduation is on Friday, or even that summer is right around the corner. I'm taking this week to relax and rejuvenate. Next week we will settle into a new normal and start making a routine - but for now, I'm just going to watch E!, hold my baby, and work on feeling proud that we survived this crazy year.


Norah Belle

Five weeks ago our "new recruit" came into the world and I am so in love! After a full week of progress-less contractions and two "false alarm" trips to the hospital, I woke up out of a Benadryl induced sleep at 1 am and knew it was the "real deal". Ten hours later, our little lady was born and it was honestly the most amazing and relaxed labor/birth experience I could have ever imagined.

That's kind of been the theme with Miss NB. Relaxed. She is so sweet, hates to cry, and makes the cutest little squeaker noises all.the.time. We aren't really sleeping, and it's been a really crazy 5 weeks (remember that whole grad school thing? Yeah, it JUST ended) but I am so obsessed with this daughter of mine! 

Jack is pretty smitten as well. He loves "Baby Or-uh" and pokes her in the face 4589234829 times a day. This whole family of 4 thing is quite the adventure, and I would not trade it for the world! 


A New "Recruit"

It's true, our family is growing! However, while my pregnancy with Jack seemed to last forever - my March 28th due date seems to be approaching at break-neck speed.

This space of mine has gone quiet, it's been easy to find other things to do. But I keep finding myself thinking that this time in our lives needs to be written down... documented.

This little plum-sized baby currently taking up residence in my body has been far from easy on me so far. I had to wave my white flag and call in for back-up (in the form of Zofran) at about 7 weeks, and still, the nausea creeps quietly in the waiting room- ready to strike if I stay up too late or don't eat every hour.

I feels surreal that in 6 months there will be a new child in our lives. A new baby to drink in - a new person to love overwhelmingly. I'm excited, I'm scared, and even a little anxious.

I suppose all there is to say is, bring it on!



Photo credit to my brother-in-law, Justin!

It's nap time around here and I just tried to settle a very excited little boy into his bed. He asked me to lay next to him ("Mommy! Bed! Pillow!") and I snuggled in close and put my face next to his. I told him the story of when he was born - how he was the most beautiful thing Daddy and I have ever seen (to which he responded, "yeah!"). I told him about his thick black hair and deep blue eyes. I explained to him that he wore a blue hat ("silly!") and he cried until I held him in my arms and rocked him to sleep ("Baby Jack! Sleep!").

While two year old Jack seemed far from sleep, I gently crept out of his room and closed the door behind me.  I felt compelled to watch the video I made for his birthday one year ago. The song in the background still resonates so true in my heart as a mother.

all for love
we become larger than lifesize, wondersome,
great in the eyes of someone.

Jack is so great, so wondersome, in my eyes and I see the same affections reflected back at me, and at John, each day. I feel great in the eyes of my son, and there is no better feeling!

Although this little space on the internet has gone silent for over two months, I couldn't let this day pass by without celebrating this precious soul that I have been blessed to nurture. The amount with which he has grown and changed in this past year leaves me full of awe. I know that this will be a reoccurring theme as each birthday passes by, but it's still such a miracle to me!

This little child that lights up my life each morning, each day, and each night - he never stops surprising me. The amount that I love him has yet to stop growing. John and I often lay in bed at night and whisper to each other about our overwhelming love for this little boy. It is truly a gift.

Happy second birthday my sweet John Henry. Every day with you is a day I treasure!