Seven years ago today, I became a mom. It was as humbling then as it is today. While I strive for a Utopian work-family balance, sometimes I feel like a miserable failure.
Reflecting back on those first days and weeks and months of motherhood, I can't say I enjoyed it much. I felt awful. I had extreme difficulty with breastfeeding; I felt overwhelmed and overly-anxious, lonely, crippled with sleep deprivation, and torn between staying home with my baby or going back to the job I previously loved. I felt plagued with guilt and fear, and suffered from severe postpartum depression. I slept about 8 hours a week for roughly 6 months. I thought I was losing my mind.
How I managed to get myself out of this is a long story, but somehow my husband and I were able to reinvent our lives from two parents with full-time jobs and a (wonderful) nanny, to two parents running home-based businesses and ample time for ourselves and our family.
Though often I feel like my family is totally out of balance (and always feel like it's my "fault" if we are), I endeavor to keep us all on track, and have ample time/space for everything, everyone, and be fully present in every moment.
It's extremely challenging to cultivate balance, and feel happy in all aspects of our lives, but I truly believe it's possible. I have a long, detailed strategy of how I balance family and work, but even with all my lists and systems and strategies, it doesn't always work.
In those moments, when everything comes unraveled, I try to not judge myself, because that's just the way it is with kids sometimes. It's a mess, and it's magic, all at the same time.
So all this is to say, keep striving for balance, people. I believe we CAN enjoy our work and family and ourselves, if we make it our top priority.
I want to live in a world where parents don’t have to choose between career or family or self; a world in which all parents have meaningful, flexible work, and have ample time to simply be with their families without constantly rushing. I want to live in a world where parents feel fully supported by society and by their communities and by each other. Yes I know it sounds Utopian, but...
The truth is that we don’t live in this world unless we create it. We have to build community, make time for ourselves and demand flexibility from our jobs, or create businesses of our own so we can design our lives to work around our families. It’s challenging to live life the way we really want, but I truly believe we can do anything we set our minds to. So strive for happiness, work less, play more, put yourself on your priority list, and enjoy life as much as you possibly can!
Because really, how many of our kids will ever think, If only my parents had worked harder and made more money!?!
Parenting is really, really hard. I've got 2 kids, 2 years apart, and I'm still humbled daily by the endlessness of parenting. Nobody told me I would have these feelings, but I swear every mom feels them. Even if you don’t admit these things to yourself, guilt may be secretly wearing away at your very core, threatening to take you down. Here are Five Mom Taboos, with correlating Guilt-Liberation Tips.
1. We feel like failures at everything. Whether we work at home, outside the home, or we’re the primary caretaker, we feel like we’re never doing anything good enough. I know you’ve heard these voices in your head: I’m a terrible mom, a lousy wife, a bad friend and I’m so tired, I can’t even do my job!
Guilt-Liberation TIP:Resist multitasking, cultivate efficiency, and re-program those negative voices! You’re not a failure; you’re a mom, you’re doing your best, and that IS good enough. Pinky promise.
2. We let our kids watch more TV than we admit. I’ve finally stopped agonizing about this now that my kids are 4 and 6, but I am guilty of lying to friends about how much TV they watch, and I know the lies are reciprocal!
Guilt-Liberation TIP:Chances are, if you’re reading this, your kids have very well-rounded worlds and have a LOT of stimulation. Give yourself a break, and worry about something else!
3. We want to run away. OK, maybe it’s just me, but some days I seriously feel like I just can’t take it anymore. Last week I was feeling particularly cagey from caring for sick kids ALL WINTER, and I thought, if I hear Mommy! one more time, I’m going to die, or leave, or both!
Guilt-Liberation TIP: Thinking about leaving and doing it are different. If your kids are driving you nuts, go away with a girlfriend for a day or a week, so when you come back you, want really want to be there! (I go away with a girlfriend for a week every year and it’s amazing, try it sometime!)
4. We have violent feelings sometimes. Yes, it’s true. We all have them. It’s those moments when your inconsolable baby is screaming at 3am, or your toddler is having a tantrum and hitting you.
Guilt-Liberation TIP: Relax, it’s normal. Yes, you might lose your cool with your kids, and feel TERRIBLE when you do (been there!), but beating yourself up about something you merely thought is a waste of energy.
5. We’re not interested in sex. After childbirth (or c-section), 24/7 hour breastfeeding, between the full time day-job or childcare-job (SO much harder); between laundry, groceries, poops and puke, I’m sorry man, sex isn’t on the priority list!
Guilt-Liberation TIP: You don’t have to pretend to be interested, just throw him a bone every now and again. Or trade for a massage if necessary. It will help your marriage, I promise!
In our race to build careers, create financial security, and amass material things for our families, many of us have forgotten to strive for happiness. Often we’re so off-track, we don’t even know if we’re happy or not. Busy planning for our futures, we don’t stop to think about how our happiness—or lack thereof—affects our kids. Or maybe we think of it, then push it way down out of our consciousness, because there are more important things to do.
The things is, kids don’t care about money or the size of your home or the brand of your car. They just want unconditional love, undivided attention, and happy parents.
Ask yourself if there’s one thing you can do right now to be a happier person. Not a better parent, or a harder worker or a bigger bread winner, just happier.
Maybe you used to play the guitar but put it aside? Maybe you were a dancer but hung up your dancing shoes when you became a parent; or maybe you know (like me), that if you committed to two yoga classes a week, you would be a completely changed and happier person?
If we prioritize our own happiness, we have a better chance of actually being happy, and passing it onto our kids!
In my former life as a luxury travel consultant, one of my favorite clients asked me to plan her 50th wedding anniversary trip. Knowing she and her husband were still happily married and traveled several times a year, I asked for her secret to a happy marriage. She said, “Don’t have children unless you really want them.” A shocking response, I thought, so I inquired further.
She explained how she had raised four children, and ended up feeling resentful for having lost so much of her life and self-identity to motherhood. Her son, for example, didn’t want children, but married a woman who did. The result was an unhappy marriage that ended in bitter divorce and deeply troubled children. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t have children,” she said, “I’m just saying you should think about it before you do, and make sure you and your husband agree. IF you want kids, by all means have them, but make it a CONSCIOUS decision.”
I think of this conversation often while raising my own children. Did I listen to her? Did I really think about how parenthood would change my life? Did I weigh the pros and cons of parenting with as much detailed research as I do with every other major life decision? Or did I simply make babies with the man I love because my body wanted to make babies? If you’re truly honest with yourself, did you make a CONSCIOUS decision to be a parent?
Before we have kids, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us have NO idea what we’re getting into. As new couples, we look at families with children and we think warm, glowing, happy thoughts. We name our hypothetical babies in bed as we cuddle with our partners. We dream about becoming mothers ourselves, but don’t truly understand what’s going to happen if and when that happens. In the media, motherhood looks beautiful. Expectant mothers “glow”, they instantly fall in love with their babies, they giggle and play with their kids in the park – they look happy! And maybe many of them are, but as a mother of two young children, I see the another side, and I worry for all the moms who think they should be happy, when they’re really not. I see a lot of moms who are pretending, because it’s not socially acceptable to be an UnhappyMom. What about those of us who hated being pregnant, hated breastfeeding; those of us who didn’t instantly bond with our babies and really felt (if we’re truly honest with ourslves) that having a newborn was more of a trauma than a difficult childbirth? What about those of us who really miss our former bodies and sleeping in and having private time and reading novels and having our own identities beyond mom/wife/worker? The societal pressure to be Happy Moms is driving many women into a deep, dark depression, and we need more honesty and open dialogue about how we’re really feeling. If not for our own sakes, for our children – to become better, more honest mothers and role models. It’s OK not to feel all the things the media tells us we should feel. And it doesn’t make you a Bad Mom if you don’t love motherhood 100% of the time. I’m curious to hear from moms about this. How many of you feel like a Bad Mom at least some of the time? Please tell me I’m not alone!
How many of you reading this deliberately chose parenthood? I’m not talking about that biological thing that makes you want a baby; I mean, how many of you clearly understood what parenting is, and said, “Hey, I want to be a parent!”. I’ve been pondering this question lately, and trying to be honest with myself. Why do we breed? Seriously, think about it. They deprive us of sleep, independence, spontaneity; they strain our marriages, cost an inconceivable amount of money, and there’s really not much return on the investment. Let’s face it, parenting is pretty much a one-way street. Full-time preschool in NYC starts at about $20K per child, per year; a nanny starts in the $40K range – and these are pre-tax figures. Yet most couples (my family included), still choose parenthood – twice! Why? Is the biological pull really that strong? Now that I have two kids, I honestly can’t even remember why I wanted them so badly. Fifty years ago, Americans had kids because that’s just what was expected, or they needed extra farm hands. Today, (most) educated, urban couples have the freedom to choose whether they want a family, or live childless lives. But how many couples do you know who actually decided (infertility excluded) to NOT have children? Perhaps we still choose parenting for religious reasons, family expectations, or maybe we subconsciously worry about not having kids an extended family when we’re old. For me, it was a very primal urge to make babies with the man I love, but not a truly conscious decision that I thought out in the same way we think about career paths or other major life events. Now I’m a mom of two beautiful kids who I love more than I ever dreamed possible, but if I’m truly honest with myself, I didn’t consciously, deliberately, decide I wanted to become a parent. So I’m curious, if you chose parenthood, why? All comments are welcome!
I recently spoke with a woman who was 31 weeks pregnant with her second baby. Although she had no complications with her first delivery and delivered a nearly 10 lb baby naturally, her ObGyn is concerned about another big baby and keeps mentioning that she should schedule an induction a week before her due date. This mom wants to deliver naturally and has no interest in an induction, but she's afraid to speak up to her ObGyn. She is nervous that her ObGyn will drop her as a patient, or that he will force her to be induced. Now, this may sound silly, but it's a very real fear and it's too common, especially in NYC. Why not state your birthing preferences? Why are we afraid of medical practitioners? Whether you want to deliver naturally, have a scheduled c-section or an epidural, it's your body, your baby, and your preferences should be honored, period. Things may not go as you planned in childbirth, but if you don't discuss your plan with your birthing team, you will never know if they're agreeable or not. If you're not comfortable enough to speak honestly with your practitioners, or if they are not willing to honor your birthing preferences, perhaps you should find a new practice.