It’s been four months of motherhood.
Four months of figuring out a new normal. A new routine. A new perspective. A new body.
Four months of times where I don’t feel like I’m good enough, doing enough, or doing it right.
Four months of moments of self talk where I tell myself I’m killing this mom thing, that I can do this, that I’m totally getting the hang of things.
Four months of other moments of self talk where I ask myself, “What the French,” “How do you people do this,” and, “I might be going crazy.”
Four months of watching every single New Girl episode at all hours of the day. Laughing one second, crying the next because my sleep deprived/mom/hormonal emotions were crazy. (Specifically in those first few weeks. YIKES.)
Four months of new mom brain – yes, it’s a thing. I didn’t believe in pregnancy brain, but I wholeheartedly believe in mom brain. Example: I was at Target and heading out and proceeded to put my car in drive and went straight over the curb instead of simply backing up like I’ve done a million other times. Yes, I got a tiny (ish) crack in my front bumper. No, my husband doesn’t know yet. (This is secretly a test to see if he reads my blog. DON’T TELL HIM ….or you’re dead to me. Kidding. Kind of.)
Four months of adjustments to new daycare, schedules, and gym time.
Four months of worrying about things I had never given a second thought to in the past. Weird looking poopy diapers…rashes… a cough that doesn’t sound “quite right”…choking back tears while holding a sick babe with a bug while the doc tells you over the phone “I know how hard it is, but just wait it out, it’ll pass.” When you want to yell… “My kid is not ok!!!!” (PS: a day later and he was totally fine. But man, in the moment, things are SO NOT FINE.)
A million emotions in such a short time. A complete life adjustment. I knew it would be, but I really didn’t know what to fully expect.
AND I LOVE IT. Adjustments aside, my heart literally aches with happiness most days. This kid thing is the bees knees.
Clearly all of these adjustments didn’t come painlessly though. Before I went back to work I started having some major anxiety. Which was surprising to me, because for the most part, I’m typically I’m an even steven type gal. I’m sure this is nothing new for first time mamas who are trying to figure out what their lives will look like and what they’ll be like once they have to go back to work. I was sleeping terribly in addition to waking up a handful of times during the night for baby Demps. I’d lay awake at night thinking about all the upcoming things, schedules, calendars… basically how the heck I was going to fit everything in. It was stressing me out. And I still had a month of maternity leave left! Jon kept saying, “Stop worrying! You have time!” But I couldn’t shake it.
So, I turned to the group of gals that never lets me down with their wisdom when I call on them – the ladies of Thrive. This is a diverse group of amazing women I basically forced to be friends via a Facebook group. They’re my secret online girl gang. Thrive is a safe space for us to share things, encourage each other, ask questions, etc. And when questions are asked…this gang shows up.
Here’s the question I threw out there in late February, almost two months postpartum. Totally solicited.
Ladies/Moms/friends of moms – need your advice/words of wisdom/perspective.
I still have a month of maternity leave left, but for whatever reason the past week I’ve been lying awake at night feeling super anxious about how I’m going to fit work, coaching, working out, husband time, friend time and kid time into my schedule. How did you handle it all?!
HELP. How do I fit in taking care of myself mentally and physically by making it to the gym if I don’t have time?! And what about coaching? Is this a thing that still fits in my life?
Also….I feel like I’m going to drop Dempsey off at daycare at 8am and pick him up at 6pm and then only get like an hour with him before he goes to bed (and also 6pm and on is usually not a baby’s happiest hour…lol). Enter irrational fear of being a bad mom.
Irrational fears?! Am I crazy? My mind goes straight to making a million lists and handling a calendar and trying to fit it all in….and my brain won’t shut off. But…sometimes naming these fears out loud helps…instead of letting them build up until you explode 🙂 So here we are. Haha.
Also, I need to sleep again. lol.
I hit “post” and waited. Nervously. And man these gals showed up with their responses. Big time. Their answers helped shaped a new perspective for me, helped me to create a more healthy internal positive dialogue with myself and really prepped me for what was coming. Life savers. I contemplated trying to reiterate all of their advice for you guys…BUT, I thought, why not just share their exact words? If these responses helped me …maybe they can help speak some life into you as well if you’re struggling with the balance of life. I STILL go back and reference these replies. Read ‘em and steal ‘em.
Meghan: My advice is to set realistic expectations for yourself. Would I love to get to the gym 5-6 times a week? Yes. But that is not realistic for me in this stage of life so I need to be proud of myself if I make it 3 times! I constantly compare myself to the pre-Mom version of myself and this is not a healthy habit.
(ME: Yes! Realistic expectations ARE.KEY.)
Jessica: A happy and mentally healthy mom is a good mom. A stressed and unsatisfied mom or a mom that feels like she lost her identity in becoming a mom is not the ideal mom. Whatever you do make sure you get your “me time” and don’t feel guilty about it. It makes you better and sets an example for your kids on self care. So throw that guilt out! You’re doing no one any favors. Reframe it so that you’re looking the need to maintain what makes you happy and healthy as a necessary example for your kid on the importance of positive self care. ALSO! Share the burden! I see too many moms that feel like since they’re the mom, they must do it all and the husbands end up just a sideline observer. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard mom friends say “he doesn’t know how to do it right…” about their husbands! Well, I bet he’d learn fast if given the chance! Or he’d develop his own method which would work just as well.
(Share the “burden” and don’t feel bad about it. PREACH sister.)
Lindsay: …. whatever you decide…if you are happy your baby will be happy. You’ll be a better more present mom when you are with him if your doing something that’s fulfilling for you.
Colleen: Just gotta remember we can’t pour from empty cups.
Katie: 1) Give yourself GRACE. I think it’s impossible to be the best mom, wife, athlete, coach, friend, employee etc ALL at one time with a newborn. A newborn requires and deserves so much of you. It was a total lesson in selflessness for me. How I see it now looking back…I will never regret the commitment of time and energy that I gave to my sweet boy. Try not to set the standard for yourself of being the same athlete, employee, coach and friend that you were prior to having Dempsey. It will take time to get back to that, but you will!
2) With all that being said, I think you need glimpses of that former self throughout the next year aka “Me Time.” For me, when Gib started to sleep longer, nap better, drop feedings, and eat solids I started to feel more freedom to get out of the house for workouts, coaching, and friend time. My workouts were different. Some days I had more energy than others, but I tried to just accept that. Many days just walking with my boys was the best/most stress relieving/energizing workout. That’s a long way off from my former soccer workouts, but that’s life.
3) Stepping away from coaching doesn’t mean you won’t have opportunities in the future, they just may look different. As much as I loved the group I was working with at the FIRE I just couldn’t justify the time away and the stress it put on our family dynamic. I chose to step away from the structure of team soccer coaching and now do more private coaching and volunteering throughout the year. It’s nice because I can work it in where it fits my schedule best and can step away more easily as well. I still find it very fulfilling. Know whatever you choose to do, it doesn’t have to be permanent.
(ME: Grace is HUGE. For me, for my husband and our relationship and for the learning curve that is parenting. Also, trying to change and let go of that mindset of needing to be that same athlete, employee coach and friend is so, so hard. But it’s a work in progress. And nothing has to be permanent, like Katie says.)
Rachelle: Each situations is so very personal. Give yourself time to reflect and prioritize. Enjoy the you, you are today and don’t get too down on yourself for not being the same you, you were before. You’ve taken on the best role life can give you, it will be so worth whatever sacrifices you decide. I love you.
(ME: Reflection is HUGE. And being a mom really is the best role ever.)
Liz: It may seem impossible and this does not sound at all helpful but you will find a way to make it work when the time comes. And it takes some compromise and probably a lot of change from what you’re used to but you’ll fall into a new routine that works….. it is so important to still have time for yourself to do the things you love.
(ME: It’s true, you WILL find your routine…as impossible as it seems in that first month or so. And it’s such a game changer when you do!)
Katrina:How wonderful it is when we are in a position to have choices. This overwhelming nature of your current decision is partly BIOLOGY. Nature wired women with the desire to keep these new humans thriving at all costs – especially while they are tiny – a true downside to the limited time American women are allowed for maternity leave. Later when our bodies have recovered more and our babes are little older, the decision may not be so overwhelming. If something has to change, personally, it helps me to list my identifiers. What is my identity or what do I want it to be? Then look at each one and ask, what if in a year I was not X. Would I be content with that? Then be confident what you are doing is NOT wrong. There is no right.Thoughtful decisions aren’t wrong, change can always be made again.
OK Random Thoughts: Keep doors open, maintain licensure, stay in communications with potential colleagues/employers. Ask for help: blood family or pseudo-family. Say yes when help is offered – your child/family unit can be a blessing to others, even when it seems like you are the one benefitting. Fitness some days maybe running with your kiddo in a baby jogger, not Crossfit. I didn’t have access to a gym for all of my infant/toddler years, so 5 a.m. running or running with a kid in a jogger was my fitness. Now with older kids that have activities all evening and homework late into the night, 5 a.m. workouts are much harder, so I had to switch it up. This parenting/marriage thing is an ultra-marathon with obstacles!
Things are always changing and your kiddos will always want you present. It is an amazing, hard journey. You nurture them when their tiny, THEN you get to model a life you WANT your kids to have. So you prioritize that sh**. Schedule time with your partner regularly to talk about “the big picture” for your family and each of your long term goals. If there is a long term imbalance in your personal goals, pay attention. If financially, prioritizing one parent’s career make sense, put a time cap on that decision. Revisit it in 6 months. If your spouse goes to the gym 4 days a week, YOU get to go 4 days. If your spouse takes a guys weekend away, you schedule a weekend away. Then leave the kids and go away together.
EVERYONE gets thrown for a loop at some point, no matter how well planned or intentioned. BUT look what an amazing group of supportive people you are surrounded by. Give yourself the grace not to compare yourself to other women/parents. Give other women the grace not to question/judge their decisions. Now go watch Michelle Wolf “Nice Lady” stand-up on HBO.(which I still have to do!)
(ME: This advice is EVERYTHING. Mic drop, Katrina!)
Chrissy:Your old schedule, life, routines, priorities will obviously never be the same but you WILL find a new schedule, life, priorities that work in the “new normal”. Much of that is trial and error. It’s takes some vision setting, lots of conversations, testing out what feels good etc. The GOOD news is nothing is permanent – not jobs, not schedules, not routines, etc. There were various phases of my kids’ life where I was not getting in my workouts as much as I wanted (for various reasons), but we adjusted and learned and always kept it a priority. I will also say – know when to quit shit and say no. Last year I stopped teaching boxing and Lisa stopped running a community group because it came at a cost (missing family time, organizing babysitters, etc) and we just felt like FOR NOW it wasn’t the right time. Again, it’s not that we will never do it, just not now. Hang in there mama- you’re at the start of a new phase. You’ll figure it out!
(ME: Learning how to say “no” has been a hugely humbling and hard lesson. And I love the FOR NOW bit. Nothing is permanent. Chrissy, you were one of the first people I talked to about all of this…THANK YOU.)
Sandy (aka mom):Write down what is MOST important to you, and give that your best. For me it’s faith, family (including yourself), friends, and then everything else – which means not having extra $ for stuff and keeping the house spic and span! Remember how our house was never the cleanest one on the block? It’s okay. Give yourself permission to give up some stuff. It’s so cliché, but true . . . In 10 years would you rather Dempsey say that you had things and the house was clean, or that you spent time with him, and that YOU and Jon were happy and healthy?
(ME: Moms always give the best advice. Basically my mom just gave me permission to not clean….right? LOL. And also, she’s right. Dempsey will remember so much more the time we spent with him, not whether or not the house was clean top to bottom.)
I can’t even tell you how many times I think about these responses on a daily basis. There’s been some hard adjustments – namely two things that have always been important to me – coaching and working out. I stepped down from my assistant coaching post at Aquinas College because it would have been too much with work + family. I could have made practice a couple times a week, but then what’s the point if now both the girls/coaching staff AND my family are both only getting half of my best. Not worth it.
The gym, where I would typically attend 4-5 times a week has now gone to about twice at the moment. Some days I settle for a stroll with the hubs and babe outside…and I’m ok with that for now. I struggle some days with how my body has responded to post-pregnancy, because as one of the gals said above, you’re suddenly not the athlete you used to be right afterwards…or for a while. That’s been a TOUGH acceptance process. (BUT, I did get a really cute one piece from J-Crew as a result. So….there’s that. 😉
At the risk of sounding cliché this close to Mother’s Day…Moms freaking rock. Whether you’re a mom in the traditional sense or a motherly figure or the “mom” of your friend group – you have a big job. And there will probably be …scratch that… will definitely be…times when you think to yourself “Woah. I can’t do this.” In those times, stick close to your people when it feels like life is running you instead of the other way around. Share with them. Let them help you. They’ll pull you out from under that little cloud of doubt and anxiety, hold your hand through it, and say… “It’s going to be ok. You’re doing a great job. Keep going.”