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What have modern mothers lost?

Pregnancy and new motherhood have historically been times for human connection. In other cultures, experienced mothers take pregnant women under their wing. Those moms- to-be are embraced and a wealth of knowledge, advice and friendship is dispensed upon them from the older, wiser women of the community. During postpartum, new mothers are doted upon, rarely leaving bed, let alone home for weeks. And as their children grow, they are not raised by a single family, but rather have a community of eyes looking out for them and hands to help when they are in need.

As American mothers, this is far from our societal norm. We’re mostly meeting the needs of our own children, with little community behind us, minus doting grandparents (if we’re lucky). And that’s okay. But in this day and age, where we mostly do it all ourselves, it seems we’ve become quick to push away even well-meaning offers of help, love or advice for pregnant women and new mothers. With all the viral lists of “what not to say”, the dos and don’ts, and on-going slew of no-nos, I can’t help but wonder, with all the new rules of motherhood, what have we lost?

modern moms

No longer is it commonplace for women to offer well-meaning advice to one another, share experiences or heaven forbid, give love in the form of a pat on the belly. Oh, no. These things are not just frowned upon- they’re considered rude, intrusive and downright reprehensible to subject a pregnant woman or new mother to. Granted, some people lack general common sense. We’ve all felt a bit out of place when a touchy-feely grandmother figure got all up in our business. But, I’m talking about advice or physical contact that comes from friends and family members, or other women in our social circles who’ve experienced pregnancy, birth and motherhood, and have knowledge we don’t yet have. Our mothers and grandmothers, our friends and neighbors- aren’t these the people we should be looking to for help and connection, rather than pushing them away?

It seems to me that all the “dos” and “don’ts” and “things not to say” lists (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve written some myself!), don’t do much to connect new mothers. In fact, all these rules seem to do the opposite. They seem to push us further and further away from one another. These days, new mothers seem to do far more learning on the fly, which is no doubt an essential part of motherhood, but wouldn’t it be easier if instead of turning the other way, we tuned into the wealth of information around us? Wouldn’t our first experiences as new mothers be more calm and less anxiety-ridden, if instead, we let people in? And pertaining to pregnancy, birth and postpartum, we can read all the books and articles we want, but what better source of information is there really, than the experiences of our fellow mothers, the ones we already know and trust?

I can’t think of any.

It’s not easy to let people in- I accept and understand this. We simple don’t live in a culture where people do this on the regular. We sit behind computers and phones all day. We are the most technologically connected and yet, emotionally disconnected society that ever was. So it makes sense that most people, especially people in the vulnerable positions of pregnancy and early motherhood, do not have an easy time letting people into their lives with a lot of enthusiasm. We don’t allow people to pat our bellies, ask how many children we plan to have, or if we plan to breastfeed. We feel enraged if someone mention childbirth, daycare or infant sleep, because, hello- that’s just not okay to talk about!

With all the talk of “the mommy wars” dictating our relationships, it makes sense. We are too afraid of the judgment and ridicule we might experience if we do things wrong or differently. So instead of letting people in, we shut them out. We find people who do things just like us, or no one at all. We pile our bedside tables high with stacks or parenting books and use the internet to do our research, rather than looking down the street to the mom of three (with her own stack of books next to her bed).

I am not pointing fingers- I am just as guilty as anyone of all of this. I spent the first few years of my motherhood experience basically alone. And I’m sure it was not simply because I was the first of my friends to have a child, or because I didn’t live in a community with a lot of mothers. It’s because I was afraid. I was self-conscious in my new role. I was not used to talking about my experiences with something so hard and exhausting, something I thought was supposed to come naturally to me, with other people. I was afraid of looking stupid, or incompetent or like a failure. If someone offered advice, I took it to mean they thought I didn’t know what I was doing. If someone expressed affection, I put up a wall. My motherhood experience belonged to me, and I could do it myself, I thought. Yet, I often wondered why it was so damn hard, and why I was so lonely.

During my second pregnancy, I started to understand how people genuinely felt connected to my experience much more than I did the first time. I’d since felt that same connection to other moms or pregnant women, too. When people reached out to me, I began to look at minor invasions differently. I understood now that words and excitement and hands on my belly came from a good place- no one was trying to be offensive, harmful or invasive. They were simply trying to offer love and support because having your first baby, second, and so on, are times of incredibly transition, anxiety and wonder. Our hearts swell when we see a pregnant woman or a mother caring for an infant and we’re built to feel this way, not to live our lives as separate entities who don’t help or guide or teach one another, especially during the transitions that motherhood brings.

These days, no matter how deeply we feel those connections, we’re also taught to push them away hard and fast. Few people mean to be offensive, or harmful, when giving a loving pat on the belly or words of wisdom. But it is so often, viewed as invasive, as are words of advice or tales from experience. Now, instead of offering advice or support when we see a new mom, we mostly keep our mouths shut, our hands to ourselves. We’ve read one too many lists of rules and we know the things we aren’t supposed to do by now. Even though, we know in our hearts, women don’t often reach out to one another in order to ridicule- it’s to offer help, compassion, friendship, we remain quiet. We play by the rules and leave new moms to fend for themselves, like we did.

I’ve been a mother for over six years now and my thoughts on connection between mothers has shifted. These days, I embrace well-meaning intrusions whenever possible in whatever form they come in. I listen and take advice whenever I can- in fact, I’m desperate for it. I’ve grown comfortable in my skin as a mother and so, I’ve let down my walls. I don’t always agree with what’s being offered. I’ve been around the block long enough to have my own way of doing things, my own ideas, my own motherhood agenda. But even with that being true, now I realize, that there is always the opportunity to learn from the mothers before me, the ones whose daughter is going through puberty, or whose son is struggling in school. There is simply too much to learn, to keep pushing others away, and it’s hard and it’s scary, but becoming a mother is all of those things, too. It’s less scary with community. It’s less scary with connection (and I don’t mean the internet).

New mothers have a lot of worry and sometimes one of those worries is about all the advice they might receive. But that is one I think we should all scratch off our list. Because if we’re so worried about the usually well-meaning intrusions of other mothers that we completely close ourselves off, then that is the saddest thing of all. Motherhood is not a time to isolate ourselves, in fact, it is a time that should connect us through common struggles and experiences. It is a time to let people in, to ask for help and to throw out the damn rulebook. Because while some of the rules might make sense on paper, in real life, the only thing that really matters is having people who are there for you, and there will likely never be a time when you need them more.

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Being a depressed parent doesn’t make you an “ungrateful” one

If you haven’t seen the results of the recent survey on parental happiness, perhaps you’ve been sleeping under a rock (or under a mess of children) for the past couple weeks. The study, which no one can seem to stop talking about, looked at over 2,000 Germans before they had children until two years after their first child was born. The researchers found that on average, parenting was not only more stressful than divorce or unemployment, but also than the death of a partner.

The internet erupted, and continues to erupt over the findings. Parents are at odds with one another about the study. Some feel it’s ridiculous, proclaiming they enjoy absolutely “every moment” with their kids. But others aren’t surprised one bit that the first two years of parenting are monumentally draining, emotionally taxing and, yes, depressing, some commenting to the tune of “did we really need a study to tell us that?” It’s okay that all parents aren’t on the same page here. But then the word “ungrateful” starts to get thrown around a lot and that’s when I get all revved up and start typing.

What rubs me the wrong way is the name-calling and trying to speak to someone else’s experience when you haven’t walked one day in their shoes. If someone isn’t enjoying every moment of parenthood or is going through a rough patch with a newborn (or, hell, a teenager!) they are instantly pegged as not being grateful enough for their children. The minute a parent admits it’s not all roses, it seems the mud-slinging starts and it’s not okay.

Opinions about whether the study is a crock or not aside,  lets get one thing straight- depressed or unhappy parents are not necessarily ungrateful parents. So can everyone please stop saying that? Being exhausted, overwhelmed, lonely, financially strapped are things a lot of people have to go through and no, it is not always easy and enjoying every moment is not always possible.

Sometimes, you’re just trying to keep your head above water. Sometimes, you have to go through really, really difficult things that you didn’t expect, like an infant who doesn’t sleep more than ten minutes straight for a whole year, or a partner who travels constantly for work.  Sometimes parenting is so much damn harder than we expected it to be and we have no idea where to turn or what to do to make the carousel stop turning.

Yes, I’m speaking from experience. And yes, I can tell you, after the last chaotic and exceedingly overwhelming year of my life, that is it entirely possible to be mind-numbingly depressed and still completely and utterly grateful for the lives and health of our children. In fact, it’s the only thought that kept me going after the birth of my second child. I am so grateful for this baby. I thought it, said it, felt it when I stroked his cheek on the rare occasions that he slept. I cried and cried and held him and said “thank you” a hundred times a day because I was so grateful for him even in my darkness. Sometimes I even felt my immeasurable gratitude exacerbated my anxiety that something could one day happen to him. That he wouldn’t always be okay. That there were a million things , scary things, completely out of my control. 

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While the study didn’t shock me as much as it did some, it did make me realize one thing- as a community of parents, we need to do more to help one another because most people feel very alone at some point during their parenting journey, but especially during the first two years. I’ll admit, the results of the study aren’t easy to digest. How can parenting be more stressful than death? But even if it’s a little rough around the edges, it seems to me that there has to be a kernel of truth there, and that is, that parents are struggling.
As a community, we need to realize that not everyone walks the same path. Just because parenthood has been kind to you, don’t point fingers at someone who is struggling and say “how ungrateful you are! Why did you even have kids in the first place?” Because sometimes it’s the parents who are giving absolutely every bit of themselves to their children that struggle the most.

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Giveaway: Introducing Udderly Hot Mama in honor of World Breastfeeding Week

There is nothing I love more than helping hook mamas up with awesome products while also introducing a wonderful business that is dedicated to supporting them. That’s why I’m reeeeeally excited about this giveaway.

I have long been wanting to do another giveaway, since The Mediocre Mama hit 2,000 followers ::mini wave in celebration::, but I’m even more excited because this giveaway happens to fall during World Breastfeeding Week, too. Woohoo!

Udderly Hot Mama is a clothing line specifically dedicated to nursing and pumping mamas. How cool is that? Now, way back when I was nursing (like 2 months ago… dammit, don’t get emo, don’t get emo!) I basically wore a nursing bra and a t-shirt or one of the same two nursing tank tops every day. It was… alright. But there were times when I definitely wanted to look a little more put together. I usually erred on the side of comfort, though, because comfort and easy access are crucial when your boobs are in high demand.

http://www.udderlyhotmama.com
http://www.udderlyhotmama.com

The greater public doesn’t always do that much to support nursing mothers. The world we live in is just not that psyched on seeing women’s breasts doing what nature intended them to do. It’s not uncommon to hear about women getting kicked out of restaurants, pools, or literally have their babies dragged away from them… for nursing. WHAT? I know… but it’s true.

Even the boldest nursers sometimes feel conspicuous while breastfeeding. I tried my best to be bold the second time around. I nursed any damn place my baby needed to nurse and I didn’t use a cover or a towel or hide in a bathroom stall. I just nursed when my baby got hungry. But there were a handful of times I felt the stares. There were also times when I really wished my postpartum belly wasn’t hanging out because of a poor outfit choice.

Needless to say, when I come across a business that is actually working for the breastfeeding mother, to make her life easier and to help her in her breastfeeding journey, I get a little excited.

Also… I may or may not have gotten myself into a situation, once… or possibly twice, where I had to take my entire outfit off in order to nurse my baby (once I realized there was no possible way to get my boob out of there). It’s just what happens when you aren’t used to getting dressed up, get overly excited at the thought and totally space out on the whole, need-to-get-your-boob-out-in-a-hurry-situation- the exact reason why you never dress up in the first place.

The reason Udderly Hot Mama is so awesome and the subject of our World Breastfeeding Week giveaway is because the clothes are designed to make a mama comfortable, stylish and obviously, accessible to her little one. They’ve been featured in US weekly, Celebrity Parents, Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine and various news outlets. And in our opinion, they’re worthy of all the attention.

The Luxe (long sleeve)
The Luxe (long sleeve)

The front of every top easily pulls down so you can nurse your baby. But the coolest part of this clothing line has to be the undercover flap that lays on top of your breastbone and provides a little extra coverage so you don’t have to feel like your entire breast is exposed each time you nurse. The flap easily snaps off so you can remove it at any time, like perhaps if you don’t give a rats ass about extra coverage, or when you are done nursing altogether.

Here is the shirt we are giving away! Isn’t it cute? Read more about it on the site (and it’s hidden features!).

The Sassy Scoop Neck Nursing Shirt
The Sassy Scoop Neck Nursing Shirt, retails for $54.99

Now, listen closely because here are the rules.

All you have to do to enter is the following:

1. FOLLOW: Make sure you are following both Udderly Hot Mama and The Mediocre Mama on Facebook.

2. COMMENT AND TAG: Leave a comment on this blog, on the giveaway post on The Mediocre Mama’s Facebook page (or both) and TAG A BREASTFEEDING, PUMPING OR SOON TO BE BF-ING OR PUMPING PAL! 

3. SHARE: Share the giveaway post via Facebook.

That’s it! 3 steps! 1, 2, 3! Don’t skip any! I can’t way to give this lovely clothing item to one deserving mama bear. Good luck everyone and Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

The winner will be chosen exactly 1 week from today on August 12th, at 12 PM and Udderly Hot Mama will hook you up ASAP. 

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Mom who smokes pot to curb anxiety is doing her best, just like you and me

Mom-blogger, Lea Grover, recently won the hearts of honest moms all over the globe when she admitted in a piece for Cosmopolitan that she smokes pot. Not only that, Grover said she believes smoking marijuana to curb her anxiety makes her a better parent because she can relate better to her kids, break up disputes without getting angry and still feel in control. She also said she never drives her children anywhere after smoking so she doesn’t feel she is putting them in harm’s way.

Grover, who writes the parenting blog “Becoming Super Mommy” says she also has a prescription for anxiety, Xanax, but it typically makes her too sleepy to take good care of her kids. So she prefers marijuana and feels more competent in her ability to parent her 3 kids that way. Even though Grover is upfront about her anxiety (bravo, mama!), she of course is still going to be questioned for her outspoken “drug” use. (Notice the quotations. I’m using the term drug here very lightly). Even though marijuana is medicinal and is often prescribed for the treatment of PTSD and other anxiety disorders, Grover is still being questioned about her intentions and her capabilities as a parent.

Source: Lea Grover's- Author Page via Facebook
Source: Lea Grover’s- Author Page via Facebook

The popular mom-blogger has dealt with her fair share of criticism over the Cosmo piece. Family Safety Expert, Alison Jacobson, said on Fox and friends that she believes Grover’s pot smoking sends the wrong message to kids. She also expressed concerns about what would happen in the case of an emergency. Likewise, parenting expert and physician, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, “Dr. G,” told Yahoo Parenting that her biggest concern was about reaction time, which marijuana is known to delay. “When you are taking care of kids, sometimes reaction time and coordination really matter.”

While in some cases that may be a valid point, ya know what else delays reaction time, Dr. G? Struggling to parent through a deep fog of depression or anxiety. Secondly, the amount of marijuana Grover is smoking is quite small, just one or two hits to better cope with her anxiety. And, by her own admission, she is more capable when under the influence of marijuana than a prescription medication.  She personally feels safer, and that her kids are safer, when not taking a prescription drug. It seems that the women arguing against Grover must not have that much experience with treating anxiety because if they did they would note that it is perhaps the most distracting thing to deal with when it comes to taking care of kids, far more than a puff of a “one-hiter,” which is what Grover uses to smoke.

I would also make the case that while prescription medication is way more socially acceptable (I have many parent friends who openly admit to using anxiety medication on a daily basis) it is equally, if not more powerful, than a couple hits of pot. Likewise, that many friends or more take a nightly sleeping pill, like Ambien, to get a solid night’s rest. No one tells these moms they are doing something wrong- and I’m not going to start. These drugs are prescribed by a doctor and being used appropriately to treat depression, anxiety, or sleeplessness. But in many cases, they are also over-prescribed and when they are used without adequate need, they can cause harm and dependency. While marijuana can no doubt be “habit-forming” it doesn’t possess the same highly addictive qualities that many prescription pills do.

I applaud Grover for doing what feels right to her and having the guts to admit it. As a long-time sleep-struggler, I have sometimes smoked pot to get a better night’s rest. My reason for doing so is that I can be easily awoken if I am needed in the night (I almost always am) and I don’t wake with a “hangover,” like many prescription sleep-aids leave behind.  Smoking a small amount of pot before bed helps me to wake feeling refreshed instead of completely exhausted due to sleeplessness. If something genuinely helps me to take better care of my kids, I have no reason to feel bad about it. Neither does Grover.

While many parents struggle with anxiety and depression and need a bit of help either daily, or once in a while, there aren’t that many parents out there who don’t have a drug of choice, whether or not is it truly a need. Grover contests that she is using pot medicinally, when her anxiety is too much to cope with on her own and I believe it’s a responsible choice. But how many of us don’t have a couple of glasses of wine after a day of one meltdown after the next, or even on our best day? It is completely socially acceptable to drink beer, wine or even whiskey in front of our kids, as well as take prescription medication. Mention marijuana, even being smoked privately, and everyone loses their minds. I guess I just prefer sanity, even when it comes from a weed.

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Ricki Lake’s new documentary, The Mama Sherpas- How collaborative care is giving women back their rights in birth

My first birth was a standard hospital delivery. It was attended by the on-call doctor, a man I’d never met until my baby was practically spilling out of me. While it wasn’t abysmal, it certainly wasn’t what I thought the birth of my first child would be like. I was forced to labor on my back, like a lot of women, which felt unnatural to me and made my labor far more difficult to bear, let alone to be an active participant in. I was given an unnecessary episiotomy, so quickly I couldn’t protest. I was covered in uncomfortable monitors that dug into my contracting belly and had hands shoved inside me during back labor which was by far, the worst pain of my entire life.

Lastly, I didn’t see my real doctor, the woman I’d been meeting with every few weeks for nine months, until days after my baby was born. She stopped by the room for no longer than 60 seconds to press on my belly and tell me I was “good as new” and in a flash, she was gone, off to press on a dozen more bellies and deliver just as many babies before noon- that I understood. But overall, it was a highly impersonal, slightly degrading experience and one I had no plans of repeating in the future.

Unfortunately, this is not unlike a lot of women’s experiences with hospital birth and when I talk to other women about theirs, it seems that I was actually one of the lucky ones. The truth is, we live in a culture where it is not uncommon for women to suffer birth trauma because of how their rights in childbirth were violated or how their bodies were manipulated. Rates of unnecessary interventions are sky high, as are the rates of women reporting feeling largely dissatisfied with their level of care during birth. Some say they were seriously wronged during labor or perhaps that they didn’t feel cared for or even safe. Some women are even taking legal action after the events surrounding the birth of their babies.

After working hard to educate myself after what happened during my first birth, when I became pregnant with my second child, I sought out a drastically different option- a home birth attended by midwives. At the time, home birth wasn’t exactly legal in my home state of Maryland (though legislation has recently passed to change that), but I felt it was my best and safest option. The closest birth center was about an hour away and given this was my second birth, I figured it might move more quickly and I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of laboring in a car. I knew without question that I didn’t want to be back in a hospital, forced to labor in a way that my body objected to and be in a situation where I was at a huge risk of having major abdominal surgery (about 1 in 3 hospital births result in c-section, high above the recommended ranges).

After researching home birth success rates, I felt safe and informed in my decision. Still, I knew having my baby at home would give me some extra hoops to jump through, like having to fight to get my baby’s birth certificate (after about 17 phone calls and two home visits from a social worker and we were good to go), not to mention the social stigma of having your baby at home and finding a pediatrician who didn’t treat me like a negligent mother. But I was confident home birth was the right option for me. I’m glad to say that it turned out to be a wonderful experience and one I would do over in a heartbeat, mainly because the midwife care I received was so personal, nurturing and took my feelings about birth into consideration.

It goes without saying that my two birth experiences were drastically different and while I was thrilled with the outcome of my second birth, many women don’t get to experience that kind of liberation with subsequent births. This is especially true for women who have had a cesarean and are hoping to have a vaginal birth with subsequent deliveries (VBAC).  In many states, women seeking a VBAC currently have very few options. Some birth centers refuse them and many doctors will tell them they can “try”, but do little to support their choice. I know many women who have sought out a home birth simply because they couldn’t find a doctor or a practice that was supportive of helping them achieve a VBAC.

Every year, more women are choosing out of hospital birth because of the high rates of unnecessary surgery and interventions taking place in hospitals. In fact, even obstetricians themselves are choosing home birth, as is demonstrated in the documentary entitled Why Not Home? While I’m a huge advocate of birthing at home, I don’t believe this is the right choice for every woman. Simply put, women need more options when it comes to how and where to birth their babies. Some women have high risk pregnancies and other women simply wouldn’t feel safe giving birth outside of a hospital environment. It seems there needs to be a form of care that can support women who want a happy medium- care that is personal, evidence based and overseen by qualified professionals, whether that be a doctor, a midwife or both.

Fortunately, in some practices, this kind of care is now taking shape. In the new film, The Mama Sherpas, created by executive producers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein (The Business of Being Born) and DC-based director, Brigid Maher, we are introduced to the idea of “collaborative care” which is where doctors and midwives work together to manage women’s health during pregnancy and delivery. In a country where these two professionals are often on opposite ends of the spectrum in regard to practices and policies surrounding delivery, this idea is pretty empowering.

The Mama Sherpas_POSTER

Women can now reap the benefits of what both professionals offer throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery. The result, as we see in the film, is care that is evidence-based with lower rates of interventions (such as cesareans) and maybe most importantly, women feeling respected and supported during such an important time in their lives. With women experiencing “traumatic births” or even suffering PTSD for years to come as a result of their delivery, I’d say it’s about time for this model of care to come to the forefront of the birthing business.

The film looks at one practice in Washington DC, GW Midwifery, which is embracing this model of care and working hard to support VBAC women. The film opens with the delivery of the thousandth GW Midwifery baby (though that number has now doubled), a milestone which the practice is shown celebrating. You can quickly see the outpouring of emotions as one mother thanks the midwives “on behalf of VBAC mamas” and for giving her “a real shot” at having her baby the way she felt safest. With a 93% VBAC success rate, it’s shocking more hospitals aren’t already embracing this model of care, but hopefully, practices like this one will soon be an inspiration to many.

The flimmaker, Brigid Maher, also had a VBAC in a hospital with midwives when she gave birth to her daughter, Josie. Maher claims the experience of achieving the birth, a birth which so few women are given the opportunity, was so inspirational to her she says (in the film) “about ten minutes after her birth, I blurted out that I had to make a documentary about nurse midwives.” Maher says she “couldn’t imagine” trying to take care of a newborn and her older child during what she expected would be another rough recovery if she were to go under the knife again.

In many hospitals, women still feel that their care is limiting, impersonal and lacking evidence-based policies. While the risk for VBACs and the risk for having multiple cesareans is about the same, women are often railroaded into having multiple c-sections without cause. For lack of better options, as a culture, we’ve come to accept the care we’ve been given. With this form of collaborative care now in the works, hopefully, a new trend is on it’s way in.

Midwives and doctors working together seems like a welcomed change that will greatly help to support families in pregnancy and birth. And on a personal note, as someone who experienced two very different models of care during my births, I got chills watching the doctors and midwives collaborate to give moms the best of both worlds. Collaborative care could be the future of childbirth and if so, it’s a great future for mothers and babies.

Watch the full film here or keep up the The Mama Sherpas on Facebook.

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Needing more than to be needed

As a mother who stays at home, works at home, wipes snotty faces and does everything else at home, on any given day, finding time to shower or go to the bathroom is a struggle. When I do, it’s hurried or a spectator sport at best, a crying, massive, ridiculous meltdown in the making at worst. One baby screaming in his crib and flailing his body against the rails while his sister throws things at him or down the stairs or tries to make him dance while he protests and cries harder. Who knew peeing (or God forbid, pooping) could cause such utter chaos? People with bladder control problems and mothers (so basically, just mothers)- that’s who.

The time I have away from my children at this point in my life is very limited. It is almost nonexistent. My husband travels for his job about half the month and during that time, I am holding down the fort and sometimes unraveling, briefly, then putting myself back together before too much damage has been caused. I am always hopeful that by the end of the day, tired children will go to bed easily, sleep well and there will be a few moments in the day for me. That I will end the day on a high note, feeling like I did the best I can do and once they are tucked in my good karma will kick in and I can put my feet up. Usually, that doesn’t happen, but I remain hopeful with each passing day that soon it will.

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Instead what almost always happens is some variation of the following. My daughter gets excited because she has me all to herself. There is no other adult in the kitchen to talk to and sneak glances to or to help me make dinner. Just a baby who doesn’t talk and a 5-year-old who never stops talking. If my mind drifts for a moment my silence is met with “mama!… mama!” I love her adoration of me, but sometimes, it is suffocating and it is overwhelming, especially now that there is another tiny person to feed, clothe, bathe and put to bed, too.

She is in my lap, she is pawing at my hair, she is covering me in garments. Her tiny hands are all over my body. They are on my bare breasts, cozying up to me while the baby nurses. On my face and neck and belly. They are everywhere. They are hands that I love more than anything, but they are playing a very intrinsic part in my combustion. I grit my teeth and take deep breaths and sometimes I say “mommy, needs some space,” but more often than not those words are lost on her.

This feeling rises up in me that I can usually push away. It’s just me. And it will just be me at 3 AM and first thing in the morning and when I’m at my breaking point. Even my breaking point doesn’t matter. There is no getaway, minus when my heart-of-gold neighbor with her own small child offers to take the crying baby so I can jog out my stresses before he implodes from separation anxiety or hunger or angry-baby-itis. Or when my mother watches him while I go to a long overdue dentist appointment, settle into the chair to watch Regis and Kelly and feel like I’m on vacation. That is, until they tell me how pregnancy and hormones have done a number on my gums and holy hell, that hurts and why didn’t I find time to come to the dentist in the last four years?

More often than not, at some point in the day that I start out having the highest hopes for, I feel completely defeated. And I ask myself “why is this so hard?”

On my husband’s most recent trip, my daughter stayed home from her morning preschool due to a mild fever the night before. She’d been running circles around me all day while I tried to not picture the entire lonely week ahead of me.  After hours of making dinner, begging people to eat dinner, cleaning it up, tantrums, baths, nursing, more tantrums, a teething baby who can’t sleep and big kid who was enraged about it, I lost it. I yelled. I sobbed. And then my “me time” that I’d been looking forward to, instead of spending it putting up my feet, watching The Mindy Project, I spent feeling the pangs of horrible, devastating guilt and wondering “how did I become this angry, tired, overwhelmed mom who yells? This isn’t who I wanted to be. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. In fact, it’s the opposite of everything I wanted to be. This isn’t what my motherhood was supposed to look and feel like. This is not my motherhood.”

I spend almost all of my time and energy loving the shit out of my kids. Finding these little magic moments in ordinary days. Kissing dirty faces and being easy going and making sure everyone has gotten enough enough hugs, kind words and discipline. And then I spend just a little bit of time wanting terribly to get away from them. Needing to get away from them. And it’s not because I’m a horrible person or because I’m not enjoying motherhood as much as I should be. It’s not because I’m emotionally unbalanced (well, maybe, a little). Mostly, it’s because “away” doesn’t exist. Breathing easy, being alone, working, writing uninterrupted by a poopy diaper, a spilled drink, or getting hit in the head with a sock monkey, it’s just not a part of my life. Or it’s so fleeting, it’s over before it started.

Even on my best day, when I’m calm, cool and collected, or do a good enough job pretending I am, by 10 PM, sometimes earlier, I just want to curl up in bed and not be needed. I want to do a good job, not a mediocre one, on something I get paid for. I want to prioritize something thats mine, instead of always letting my work, my ambitions, my “chances” slide because there is too much else that’s important. And I let that thought come in, that sounds something like “I can’t see them anymore today. Not right now. Please, stay in bed. Please.” And I let it wash over me and feel the enormity of the guilt that comes with it. Every ounce.

My motherhood experience is not all roses and I don’t need it to be. I don’t need to be told how much I will miss these times because I already know how true that is. The other day I was driving home and I started thinking about when my daughter was two with her white tuft of hair and her long eyelashes and her fearlessness. I got a tear in my eye but I couldn’t finish the thought because she yelled “mama!… answer me!” from the backseat and then it was gone. The opportunity to reminisce, to miss something, evaporated.

The fleetingness of motherhood is with me, always. But so is knowing that I need more than simply to be needed. Part of my motherhood experience is remembering me- the mother. And finding her and telling her she’s important, too. I love my children all the time, but sometimes, I just want to miss them. I want to know what it’s like to come up for air. And I want to know that that’s okay.

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The #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt Challenge

I recently got back from a 3 night/4 day trip with my family. It was wonderful in many ways. Minus sleeping arrangements… apparently it’s not a good idea to have four people sharing a hotel room without another room to shove the sleeping baby in. We could get away with this with one kid… kind of. But I guess these days we will have to shell out for a suite even on shorter trips. Between my husband’s snoring (sorry, hunny) and the kid waking up the baby and baby waking up the kid, there wasn’t much restfulness going on on this trip which I suppose is to be expected at this juncture. But there was a lot of eating and drinking and not much working out. Riding bikes and walking, yeah. But sweaty exercise, not really. I did get to the gym one day, but, felt rushed, per usual and didn’t do my best.

Having a kid who didn’t sleep for the better part of a year who continues to be tough upon every milestone and a energetic 5-year-old… and a husband who travels and my love of food and wine and inability to workout at a moment’s notice… has seriously taken it’s toll on how healthy I feel (or don’t feel). Not to mention, I’m still nursing a baby which although they SAY burns up a ton of calories, it also makes me hungrier and groggier, sometimes. Yes, nursing burns calories. But it also can make your body hold onto extra weight because it knows you are still feeding another human. THIS IS WHAT I’VE READ, OKAY. Let’s not argue. Just let me have my believes that my body is not doomed. BTW… this is about as body-UNpositive as I’ll get. I am totally on board with respecting my body as wonderful and amazing having housed two babies, even if it’s not in prime, tip-top condition currently. But with that being said, I’m needing some extra energy and to feel lighter and healthier. I figure a lot of parents out there may be feeling the same, so I hope we can do this together.

I decided I’m going booze-free for 30 days (this doesn’t mean you have to chose this challenge in order to participate, btw. I don’t know why you would unless you need red-wine-detox as badly as I do). Here’s my regret face after I posted this on Facebook yesterday on the car ride home.

This... is gonna suck.
This… is gonna suck.

The challenge will run for 30 days, starting TODAY, April 13th, 2015. Here’s what it will look like:

1) Pick your goal or goals. For example, my goal is going to be to attempt not drinking for 30 days (yikes) and eat clean(er). I also want to get to yoga or the gym 3 days/week. That one is SO much harder than it sounds right now with a baby that won’t let me out of his sight and screams bloody murder when I try to leave him at the gym stay-and-play. They should call it stay-and-scream-until-we-call-your-mother-on-the-intercom-who’s-crying-because-she-doesn’t-get-to-workout-AGAIN.

2) Post an inspiration shot (or MANY) on Instagram or FB and tag @TheMediocreMama (make sure you are following) and hashtag #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt. OR post on Facebook to The Mediocre Mama fan page and hashtag #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt. These photos will be your entries in the challenge. I’ll be posting tons of pics so you can follow my example. A note about this postings- they do not have to be “LOOK HOW GOOD I DID TODAY!” although those posts are fine, too! But I’m looking for REAL inspiration. Like, “ugh, here’s how much I want wine today and this happened that was crappy and DAMMIT ALL TO HELL!” Tell your struggles, your story, whether it’s work, kids, traveling hubby. What makes this challenge tough for you but why is it important for you to feel good and be your best you?

3) For extra entries, share, share away!! Always tag @TheMediocreMama and use the #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt hashtag to document your challenge.

PRIZES: I’m going to pick three winners. The person who inspires us the most with his/her or her genuine, real life struggles/accomplishments will get a $50 TARGET GIFT CARD! The more you post, the better your odds. I will also pick two other winners with prize packages to be announced at a later date.

Remember, you don’t have to go for a full 30 days- this challenge is shaped by YOU. What do you want to get out of it? It could be as simple as “I’m going to watch less TV” or “I’m going to put my phone away at 5 PM.” It could even be “I’m going to be more mindful” or “be kind to myself.” This is YOUR challenge. Just be sure to document it and hashtag away! Now get going and let me know you are participating by commenting on this post or on Facebook. Get a friend to do it with you so you can encourage one another to stick to your goals. Complaining encouraged!! Good luck!! #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt