I'm leaving my family to spend a week on the beach with a girlfriend. No kids, no interruptions, no cooking, care-taking, whining or guilt. You may not be ready or able to take a real retreat like this, but it's up to you to find a way to get out, so you can come home a happier, healthier, more rested person. Check out my best-kept escape secrets below, then schedule something for yourself today!
You both have jobs, but only one of you gets paid. There’s a common myth that the Bread Winner has a harder job, but it's just not true. I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and I guarantee that childfree office work is a trillion times easier. I was shocked when my former boss tap-danced into the office on Mondays, openly giddy to be free of diapers and tantrums. I get it now. The harsh truth is that parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.
I don’t care if you're a banker or lawyer or candlestick maker, you Bread Winners get to leave, you get a break, you can pee whenever you want, your work has material value, and you don't feel like a loser when you can’t manage a shower or finish folding massive mounds of laundry.
So the next time you wonder why your spouse is so stressed when you come home from your relaxing office job, think twice before you ask why. Instead, I dare you to swap jobs for a week and see how it feels to be needed 24/7, to have your work focused exclusively on naps, puke and poops. You will learn a lot, and your marriage will benefit, because you will finally understand what it feels like to walk in your partner’s shoes.
You lovingly rocked and shushed and soothed your newborn, and have likely enjoyed many peaceful moments while she slept in your arms. You learned to ever so gently to lay her down, and it worked – for a while. Then sometime between 4-7 months, you find that you can’t get her to fall asleep so easily, and your previously peaceful sleep routine turns into a 45-90 minute ordeal. Suddenly, no amount of nursing, rocking, bouncing and shushing works, and no matter what you try, she wakes up screaming the minute you put her down. Repeat 8-12 times, night and day, and you end up feeling like you’re in a bottomless pit with no way out. I've been there, I know.
First of all, you haven’t done anything wrong. You’ve been helping your baby sleep, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if it stops working and you find that your entire life revolves around trying to get your baby to sleep, then maybe something needs to change.
I’d like to invite you to think about how your baby sleeps, and be honest with yourself. Do you really think you’re helping her sleep with all the bouncing and shushing and nursing and rocking? Is it helpful to go in and out of the room, pick her up and put her down, over and over again, while she’s trying to fall asleep?
If any of this resonates with you, maybe you can give yourself permission to simply DO LESS. I’m not saying you should send her off to boarding school at 5 months old, but can you simply pull back a little bit, and empower her to feel 100% secure and safe falling asleep without all your help?
You're a new parent, and you're trying to roll with all the constant changes. One day you think you have it all under control, the next you feel like you've totally lost it. You can barely get out of the house and shower daily, and the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on you. This is unfortunately one of the hardest parts of your journey, and an impossible problem to solve. The only way to really cope with all the changes is to embrace it, and know that every time you get into a good groove, something else will change. If you’re emotionally prepared, it might feel a teensy bit easier, but not much.
If you like predictability and routine (like me), you will spend much of your time trying to organize and control everything. That’s fine if it makes you feel better (it does for me), but one thing that will NOT change for the foreseeable future is that you no longer have control over most aspects of your daily life. You will try your best to be the Perfect Mom, to have everything in order so you feel more relaxed; you will have good days and bad days, and few of them will feel totally successful.
The more you allow yourself to let go, accept that your new life is chaos, know there's nothing you do to make it Perfect, the better you will feel. Embrace it, because basically, you have no other choice!
Yesterday, I spoke with a new mom who’s having a rough time. She’s at home with her 7 month old, breastfeeding, doing all the childcare, night parenting, and guilt-ridden for not feeling very happy. Naturally, she loves her son, grateful for the opportunity to be with him, but she feels trapped, lonely, and like every other mom is having more fun. Sometimes it’s so bad she gets into the shower at the end of the day and just cries. She’s crippled by sleep-deprivation, her husband works 12 hours a day, and doesn’t get how awful she feels. He gets to go to work, which is by far the easier job.
A few years ago, when my kids were 2 and 4, I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 years. He was divorced with no kids, and was so genuinely excited to hear all about my family. “Wow, you’re a Mom,” he said. “That’s amazing! What’s it like?”
My response was a shock, like a bucket of ice water thrown at my face. “I don’t like it at all,” I said, with far too much honesty.
His face fell. His jaw dropped. And I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. Moms aren’t allowed to feel this way, certainly not allowed to say it out loud.
I began dog-paddled backwards,“Of course I love my kids, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but…Diapers? Mopping up vomit? Bleeding nipples and breast pumps? Being awakened repeatedly through the night and at 5-6am daily for four consecutive years?”
No, the truth is that I like nothing about the actual job, yet I love my kids more than anything else in the world. So I do it anyway, even if I hate it sometimes.
If you’ve ever felt this way, I urge you to be honest with other moms. Write about it. Go on camera and tell the truth. Perhaps if we didn’t expect that mothering would be the most joyous time of our lives, we wouldn’t feel so blindsided and guilt-ridden.
I wish someone had told me that motherhood isn't always the most joyous, beautiful, glamorous event that the media portrays. I wish someone had prepared me for the fact that it might be the most humbling, emotional experience of my life, and that I might not actually love my new role as a Mommy.
Instead, I was blindsided by trauma, plagued with incessant fears and anxieties that I was abnormal, that every other new mom was happier than I felt, and that I was therefore, an exceptionally bad, inept mom. In retrospect, I now know that there's a conspiracy to trick billions of smart, independent and progressive women into believing that motherhood is fabulous, the penultimate joy, and that we can successfully juggle our careers, parenthood and mariages, all with a cheery smile.
The truth is, some new moms don't instantly bond with their babies, many of us have extreme difficulty breastfeeding (a learned behavior that we cannot possibly learn when it's not visible for us to learn!), and more women experience crippling postpartum mental health issues than is accurately reported. I believe that this is due to unrealistic expectations, and the lack of awareness about how hard and humbling motherhood really is.
So today, as you recover from a c-section and prepare for going home with Walker, who you and Hudson will love like you've never loved before, I wonder...
Should I break it down and tell you the truth, or let you find out on your own how emotional and painful this transition may be? Because I wish someone had told me, I am dedicating this post to you and Hudson, as you embark on this remarkably profound journey. May it be peaceful, uneventful, and easier than my experience.
It’s a fact: new moms judge other moms about their parenting choices. I’ve been there, I know. I’m ashamed to admit, I even lost friends over it. Nearly 7 years later, I can finally understand it more objectively, but it still perplexes and angers me that educated, intelligent women are fighting over how they “should” care for their babies.
Why should you care if your friend co-sleeps and quit her day job to be a full-time, baby-wearing mom? And why should she judge you for sleep-training your baby, and going back to your full-time day job? Is it simply because we’re so insecure about our own choices? Are we so afraid of doing something "wrong" that we judge others because they believe a different method or theory or author? Can we blame baby theory “experts” for pitting moms against mom in these theoretical wars, or do we blame ourselves for falling prey to this bourgeois pettiness?
In Attachment Parenting or The Alternative, I write about how opposing parenting theories are confusing new parents more than ever. I would further argue that this trend is divisive amongst women. Megan Francis, author of The Happiest Mom, writes a humbling account about her struggle to find her own parenting style in a piece, On Labels and Limits: Why I No Longer Call Myself an Attachment Parent.
There’s a lot of buzz in the Mommy-sphere about how moms are divided and feuding over parenting choices. Leslie Morgan Steiner’s book, Mommy Wars: Stay at Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families is a perfect example. It's all shockingly true, and it fries my feminist feathers! Why on earth do women compete about how their kids sleep, or for how long they breastfeed? Sorry Ladies, but I grew up knee-deep in 70’s feminist ideals, and I just don’t get it. What happened to Sisterhood?
I’d love to hear from you about this. Have you lost any friends, or are you at risk of losing any friends over your parenting choices? Please share your experiences! And most importantly, WHAT CAN WE DO RIGHT NOW to make this a better, more supportive world for all moms?
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!
Today I want to honor my colleague-partner-client, Sara Frohlich, who recently joined the New Mom Club with the birth of her son, Henry. Sara, this message is dedicated you, and all Newborn Moms:
You have crossed into an unknown land, one that you’ve heard spoken of, but have never before entered. Now that you’ve arrived, it may be a much nicer terrain than you imagined, but it may also be a surprisingly dark and scary place. You may find breastfeeding difficult. You may not instantly “bond” with your baby. You may cry more than your baby does. You may wonder whose idea this was, or feel angry and helpless and alone. You may feel totally in control one minute, and then completely out of control the next. You may stare at your baby for hours and forget to brush your teeth. You may berate yourself for all the aforementioned things, especially considering millions of women do this every day. How can this possibly be so hard?
Now, I want you to hear this loud and clear: Every new mom feels these things. Every new mom struggles. Every new mom wonders if they’re doing it right; if they’re good enough for this job. Every new mom feels guilt, and fear and doubt. Every new mom cries. Every new mom wonders why other moms look more “together” than they do. Every new mom is sleep deprived, and it’s a bitch. Especially when you hit that two week mark and you’re so tired it feels like a bottomless pit.
The good news is that the coming days and weeks and months are all revolving PHASES. It will get easier, and you will sleep again, I promise. If you can make it to 6 weeks, you can do anything. Meanwhile, let people help you. Accept food from strangers, let your friend do your laundry, and if you need anything at all, I’m here!
I recently attended an inspirational mini-seminar, in which the facilitator asked participants to “befriend” their deepest fears. The purpose of the exercise was to identify road blocks to achieving goals, and confront them in order to prevent self-defeat. It’s a great exercise for anyone seeking positive change, but I think it’s particularly good for new moms to ponder. What’s your deepest fear about becoming a mother? Are you afraid of childbirth? Afraid of becoming your own mother; afraid of not instantly “bonding” with your baby, or that you might not enjoy being a mom? The worst and most common fear is that you won’t be a “good” mom. But how do we measure that? Is the ideal mom of your dreams a calm, happy, engaged stay-at-home-mom, or an urban woman who successfully juggles work, fitness and family and bakes cookies with her kids on the weekends? Chances are your standards are high, and you may experience some performance anxiety along the way. The good news is that there is no right or wrong with mothering; we veteran moms simply strive to do our best. Confronting mom-fears, breaking through them and accepting that we will never be perfect, is crucial to happy mommyhood. I still wish I had a guilt-liberation pill though, for all the moments when I feel like I’m doing it all wrong (we all feel that way, so don’t beat yourself up if you do too)!