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!
I’m a control freak and I know it. Many of my women friends are; we simply can’t help it. We’re so used to being in charge of everything, we forget that other people can sit in the driver’s seat if we let them. I realized much later than I’d care to admit, that if I allowed my husband to be completely in charge of our kids, the world didn’t end. And when I managed to restrain myself from micro-managing the details, he did (and still does) an amazing job! I caught myself often grumbling about why I was always the one packing for the kids when we went out of town, and why it was my job to be in charge of knowing when the kids' needed new shoes or coats. But before my feminist feathers got too ruffled, I really thought about it one day, and realized that I had set it up that way myself. So often I see new moms worry when they’re not completely in charge of their babies every detail. As new moms, we may feel compelled to give instructions about how to hold the bottle or change a diaper or put the baby down for a nap. But it’s important to remember that we have to back off and really, truly let dads develop their own parenting style. Moms go through the trial and error of learning to breastfeed, burp, soothe and get our babies to sleep. If you have a partner who really wants to be an active participant in caring for your baby/ies, by all means, don't stand in his way. Not only will you be more relaxed and have more time for yourself, you might just fall in love all over again watching him take charge and give you a much deserved break!
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.