{on motherhood} 365 days later

Last month, E turned one, so naturally I wanted to write up a little something-something for his birthday. It got me thinking about an email from a reader, who said she appreciate that I write about motherhood versus writing about my son

I would've never thought to word it that way, but she was right, and I felt grateful for the distinction. I will always want to write about my experience of motherhood in order to find the lines of similarity with other mothers, and note what seems unique or unusual or even commonplace to me. I will always want to talk about the stuff nobody else is really talking about, not openly, and I will always want to read other stories of motherhood as well on a whole range of topics.

But I'm not a mommy blogger. Nor will I write about my child's life at this moment in time, even though he can't talk or walk yet. That's an important distinction, though the two are entwined. 

Other moms might feel 100% comfortable sharing small anecdotes from their babies, and trust me, I looooove tagging along for that journey. I will like all your cute Instagram photos, I swear. I will tear up and laugh at your essays about what your kids are saying at age four. I will peer from across the Internet, kindly, or revel in what you choose to share with me real-time in real life. However, for me, the whole writing and blogging and posting experience is separate from my child. He is a part of it, sometimes, but not always. He is what made me a mother in the first place, so I'm grateful that his entry into the world shoved me up against the corners and cracks of my heart, mind and spirit—so I could see, and write, more clearly with all of you.

In honor of his first birthday, then, I want to share what he's taught me about motherhood thus far, which in turn, translates into what he's taught me about myself:

  • Lots of truly wonderful moments are simultaneously hard as hell. See: childbirth, marriage, buying property, career, time management, family, "balance", working out, patience, et cetera forever.
  • I often resent the endless neediness that accompanies parenthood, and at the same time, I cherish the gift of that same thing from my own parents. I think it's okay to feel the weight of responsibility, concern and love and also revel in the beauty of it.
  • "Mothers are keepers of bodies." I recently read these words by Courtney E. Martin, and they struck a chord in me. I never realized how much I would love the tactile parts of mothering. Some days, I miss breastfeeding: that sense of physical connection unlike any other. Other days, I miss being pregnant, which is funny because I didn't really love being pregnant while it was happening, but now I look back with wonder and awe about keeping little E by my side 24-7. And every time he grabs my hand, tugs at my shoulder, snags his fingers in my hair, gives an open-mouthed kiss and snuggles into my lap, I want to squish him back inside me. That's so weird, but moms, you get what I mean. It's the whole "your heart is living outside of your body" sentiment.
  • I can't do it all. And I'm not supposed to. 
  • Ask for help and then accept it. Seriously, accept the freaking help!
  • Most of the stuff I worry about is not important. Most of the things I'm looking at on my phone can wait. Most of the feelings I have will pass, for better or worse. Everything is temporary.
  • So many experiences are AMAZING: like dog tails, and light bulbs, and snowstorms, and books with flaps, and a bunch of people clapping in the same room at the same time, and raspberries, and music playing, and climbing two stairs, and long necklaces that jangle, and clothes hangers that click and clack, and walking holding onto someone's hands, and dumping a bowl of Cheerios on the ground, and opening and closing doors. The world is magical, and deserves a loud OOOOOOOH. 
  • My son thinks I'm beautiful, even when I've got three giant breakouts happening on different parts of my face, lines around my eyes, a wrinkled sweater that was supposed to go to the dry-cleaner a month ago, frizzy yet greasy (whyyyy) hair in a half-hearted bun and a crooked tooth. He thinks I'm beautiful, even still, and worthy of a giant smile and a big hug, so I try to offer that to myself, too. (Alternate title: how to come face-to-face with your own vanity and then get over yourself.)
  • Mac and cheese is a perfectly adequate dinner. Take-out is a lifesaver. Eating pizza for four meals a week is fine, especially if you eat a salad as your side dish every time. 
  • It is easy to put your kid first. It is harder to make time for yourself. Prioritize self-care, date nights with your husband, phone calls with your friends, yoga so you don't go crazy, and a quiet cup of coffee in the morning. But stop being a martyr. Quit with the self-imposed pressure around being perfect and doing everything right and living for your child 100% nonstop all the time. You're a woman, and a writer, and a wife, and a sister, and a friend, and a citizen, and a manager, and a runner, and a reader, and many more things. It's okay to care about these other things, too, and sometimes even more than your son for a given moment. 
  • You don't have to pick up your baby every time he cries, but boy, does it feel good to pick up your baby when he cries.
  • Find a breakfast and lunch routine and stick with it. Just makes life easier. For me, that's fruit and hard-boiled eggs in the morning, protein bar for a snack, and some sort of leftovers/sandwich combo for lunch. I don't overthink it.
  • Bathtime is the best. Making a mess is fun. Being naked part of the day is kinda nice. 
  • You are stronger than you think. 
  • You know when something doesn't seem right. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself.
  • Life is so very short, and it can change in an instant, so be present for the good and the bad. Hard days will shift into easier ones. Effortless, peaceful moments might be brief, but take all the pleasure you can from them; bank that shit up for later. 
  • Don't forget about the people who knew you before you became a mother. Those pieces of yourself matter, even if they've changed.
  • Anyone can have a baby, but not everyone can parent. It's so hard, and so incredible. Thank you to the mothers and fathers who have paved the way for me, and who help me parent better.

Happy first birthday, E. You light up our life.

{2017} march intentions and recap

This year, I did a values exercise that led me to these five words: honesty, passion, growth, humor and solitude. I decided to set mini intentions every month, based on these values, and write about the experience.

Ok so it's already almost end of March, and because of everything going on with moving into a new house, I've barely thought about intentions. But what I draft-wrote at end of February still applies, so what do you know, I had a sense of what I wanted to work on this month anyway!

HONESTY: Admitting change is hard.

This month, there's been major change at work and at home. It's exhausting. Sometimes, it is exciting. It is usually uncomfortable. I see it, I recognize it, I know my impulse to shove back/push against/run away from it, and I try very hard to practice self-care so I can ride the waves through it. I wouldn't say I "succeeded" at handling change this month, but I definitely spent a lot of time being aware of it and admitting when I felt overwhelmed.

PASSION: Go on two date nights.

We actually did this! Went to a Johnnyswim concert with my sister and her fiance, which involved cocktails at the Continental beforehand. (Many thanks to a good friend/fellow mama for babysitting E to make it happen, too. Community is crucial.) And then tonight we're going for dinner at our favorite place, Centro, where I'm absolutely having a dirty martini.

GROWTH: Journal every night.

Nope. Sigh. I don't know why, but even writing a few lines every night feels HARD. This is dumb and no excuse because I have time to scroll through Instagram before bed every night. But I'm giving myself some slack this month, considering all the massive change and extra work and unpacking and painting happening, so aiming for more personal writing in April.

HUMOR: Have fun with house decisions v. decision fatigue.

What a blessing, buying a house! And yet, I've fallen deep down, most days, in the Eeyore feeling of being stressed and overwhelmed. This requires a huge attitude adjustment, and sometimes I just want to complain rather than count my blessings. So, here we go.

Wow, we have a beautiful, big home now that we can afford. We are able to paint multiple rooms in it, colors we like! We installed a cool backsplash in our kitchen that ties together pretty cabinets and nice counters. We put up new lights, and I'm obsessed with them. Our first floor bathroom is no longer ugly beige; it is clean, modern and even has a wood wall. (Kudos to my MIL for that vision). The bottom line is that our house feels homier by the day, and rather than get all worked up about what "needs to get done," I need to chill the F out, enjoy what we've accomplished and remember Rome wasn't built in a day. Plenty of time for projects.

SOLITUDE: Put the phone down at night.

You know that moment when your spouse calls you out on something (usually poor behavior), and you're like UGHHHH LEAVE ME ALONE but also, you're right, okay, fine, I KNOW. No? Just me? Ha.

One night, we were watching tv after putting the baby down, and my husband said, "You're on your phone too much, and you're not listening to me." Me: (offended) "What! I do listen! I'm listening right now! I want to relax on my phone in the evenings, too!" (what does that even mean??) (totally defensive). BUT. He was correct. I was getting into the habit of being on my phone too much in the evenings, and then being very distracted toward him and our son. Of course, it is hard to reconcile downtime in a world of social media and great shows. Being present takes more energy than checking out. But I don't really wanna be the latter to my family.

So the next night, I put my phone on the charger when I got home. I played with E and talked to J about his day. I went to yoga (and left my phone versus bringing it in the car). We ate dinner together at the table and drank a glass of wine. I read a magazine and went to bed early, and I woke up feeling insanely refreshed. 

Not every night can go that way, but certainly more can, and it starts with putting. the goddamn. phone. down. (Note: I still have to practice this every day/night, so I'm very far from perfection here.)

{2017} february intentions

February is obviously a short month, so I tried to pick intentions that were a little bit harder or more challenging . . . since there are fewer days involved. Ha!

HONESTY: Stop making an effort with friendships that have become a one-way street.

As part of writing this article for The Everygirl, I realized that I was kind of prioritizing a couple friendships wherein the other party probably wouldn't return the favor. And that felt shitty. But it felt shittier to make an effort and get zero response, so I decided to slowly just . . . stop. Stop sending cards. Stop calling. Stop pretending like we were going to make plans when we both knew we wouldn't. As a result, I already feel a bit of a lift, because cooling off certain friendships provides more space for me to devote time and energy to loved ones who make their commitment to the health of our friendship known. 

PASSION: Go on two date nights.

Straightforward, but gosh, these are difficult to prioritize! We love socializing and being with our baby, so often we choose those options versus going out just ourselves. And because it is winter in the Midwest, the only date night options this month often mean dinner or drinks out. Which can get a little boring. Still, I'd like to go on two dates this month because I know it makes ALL the difference in our relationship.

GROWTH: Write 500 words a day for my novel.

TOO HARD ALREADY OMG. Yeah, it's February 5th and I haven't done a damn thing. But last year, I managed to write almost 50k words as part of my dream to publish a novel someday, so I'm not starting from scratch. And from that experience, I learned writing everyday is less about the content and more about the habit. Considering a book proposal is on my list to complete by end of year, I need to get cracking so that I can then prioritize editorial time. 

HUMOR: Play with Ezra every day.

This one is leftover from last month, but still stands. I want to make time each day to make him laugh, smile and giggle. Fun matters, especially when the world often feels so very dark. Semi-related, I'm trying to watch more funny movies, look at hilarious memes and enjoy comedy as a whole while remaining an informed, politically active citizen. In my opinion, it's part of self-care that allows one to fight on for what's right over the course of the next few years (and always, but you know what I mean). 

SOLITUDE: Meditate for one minute every day.

I need to download an app or something, but yeah. I want to do this. It kind of stemmed out of the whole "don't look at my phone upon waking up or right before bed," as I really want to find a moment to clear my head on a daily basis. Count my blessings, Take deep breaths. All that jazz. I don't currently meditate, so starting with one minute seemed achievable instead of like, five or ten or fifteen. Even if I literally just close my eyes and try to think about nothing for 60 seconds every day, that's cool by me.