Saturday, February 9, 2019

A Working Mom's Diary: My First 8 Weeks

If you've followed my blog a long time then you know that I created this space 9 years ago when my oldest was born.

I was a stay at home mom struggling to feel connected with other young moms and hoping to make a little extra cash on the side.

Blogging for money was good to me.

I definitely didn't make thousands of dollars, and sometimes it was pretty tedious work (you can only write SO many blogs that promote wedding favors). But, it did help us buy groceries during a time when my oldest daughter's dad and I were more broke than we'd ever care to admit.

And not only did this space help me put food on my table for a short time, but it helped me walk through some pretty dark days of early motherhood.

Days when I struggled-very quietly-with postpartum depression.

This space gave me an outlet.

It let me stretch my wings.

It has always allowed me to say things out loud that I sometimes don't have the courage to let cross my lips.

And in this space I have-for the most part-always found forgiveness, understanding, and other voices willing to chime in with their "Me too!" or "Amen!".

For me it's a sacred space.

A space where I am never afraid to tell the truth.

So, here's the God's honest truth:

I've been juggling this mama of two role for almost eight weeks, and I can already tell you that this season of my life will undoubtedly be the hardest.

After my divorce, I never pictured myself as the mother of more than one child.

My oldest daughter was my whole world-she still is.

But, fast forward to almost three years post divorce and I was saying yes to a boy who I never saw coming and I wanted nothing more than to give him a child of his own.

So, we took the leap!

We kissed our mornings of sleeping in and our quiet family dinners goodbye.

And just like that my heart that was so completely devoted to my oldest made room for another, and now I am totally smitten by the two most beautiful girls in the whole world.

It is truly amazing how your heart grows to make room for another, and how you can love two little people with everything you are-especially when you never thought you could.

And while my love for them fuels my fire and makes signing up for round two of months without any sleep or personal space worth it, it doesn't change the fact that this mom gig is really super hard.

Thankfully, I feel like my postpartum hasn't reared it's ugly head this time in the form of dark depression and I'm grateful that the "baby blues" have seemed to be more mild.

I know that I can thank my husband for that.

I am blessed with a loving and supportive partner and that has made a huge difference for me.

And while I don't feel incredibly sad or lonely this time, my postpartum has manifested itself in the form of anxiety.

Anxiety that some days completely overwhelms me.

Anxiety that makes me question every decision I make as a mother to my newborn.

It's like I've completely forgotten how to do this.

Anxiety over the fact that they've changed ALL the rules since I had my first infant 9 years ago, and the Internet is far more popular now that it was back then.

Anxiety that leaves me second guessing my ability to go out in public with my baby, and then leaves me feeling awkward and inadequate when I do.

Anxiety that makes me feel torn between caring for a high needs newborn who barely sleeps...ever...and an older daughter who is feeling a little lost in the shuffle.

Anxiety that made it hard for me to comprehend how I was going to do all of this and go back to my high-stress, extremely demanding job two weeks ago.

A task I was not at all prepared for, and to be honest, I'm still not.

I didn't have to do this with my oldest daughter.

With her, I had the privilege of staying home (even if in the moment it certainly didn't feel like a privilege).

And while there are many things I regret about my oldest daughter's early years, there was no mom guilt about leaving my child with someone else or feeling so incredibly selfish for choosing to chase after my goals.

There was no need to juggle drop offs and pick ups with late meetings and being on call 24/7.

I never had to give up whole weekends just to listen to people complain for 4-5 hours at a time while I wondered what my daughters were doing.

It was just different.

Back then it was just the two of us. We didn't really need a feeding or sleep schedule. We just did our thing.

Now don't get me wrong: I think being a stay at home mom is one of the hardest, and most rewarding jobs in the whole world. I truly admire mothers who choose to do it, especially with multiple littles.

But for me, choosing to be a mother and return back to work just feels harder.

It feels so much more daunting than all the days I spent home alone with my oldest daughter.

And if I dwell on it too long or too hard, the anxiety overwhelms me to the point of tears.

I mean how did my mother do it? My grandmother?

How did all the working moms before me summon the courage to face the inevitable and to do it with grace?

And how did they do it when faced with the doubt and negative comments from those who don't understand?

You know, the ones who make you feel like your choosing your career over your children.

The ones who preach that motherhood is the most important job-like you've somehow forgotten.

The ones who take one look at your bottles full of formula and your child's fully up to date vaccination record, and write you off as if you have no idea what your doing, because you don't "do your research" or you're "putting your need for convenience over your child's needs".

The ones who leave unrequested articles from a medical journal on your desk that basically state that your child's recent bout with a 7 day fever is a mental disorder brought on by the fact that you must be a terrible mother who is doing more harm than good.

I wish I was kidding.

How do you drown those voices out?

How do you trust your instincts?

How do you prove that you are capable of both: loving you children fully and completely all while having a rewarding career that fulfills a side of you that motherhood cannot?

I think the answer is simply this: you just do it.

It's no secret that the expectations and demands of being a millennial parent far exceed those that our parents dealt with twenty to thirty years ago.

Not only are we expected to entertain our children every minute of every day, but we are also expected to do it while making them perfect bento box lunches and meals that are gluten, dairy, and sugar free...thanks, Pinterest.

We are expected to work 40+ hours a weeks and some how make it to every class party that happens at 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday.

And if we don't? We are "mom shamed" or made to feel like an outcast by the "good moms" in our child's classrooms who special ordered their cupcakes from the best gourmet bakery and spend hours assembling the pieces for this year's Valentine's Day craft: cupids made from straws so they don't end up in the ocean.

And don't even get me started on parenting in the social media age!

Every time I open my Facebook there is someone trying to start drama by sharing "informative" articles on why vaccines are killing our children and baby whales, and the dangerous side effects of screen time based on how it impacted a test colony of raccoons.

Don't worry, I DO "keep scrolling" and I NEVER comment on those types of post, because I-unlike some-can keep my opinion to myself.

Shocking. I know. 

But, I do see them and the negativity they cause.

And while I may not agree, they do make me somehow feel inferior to what our generation has deemed the "better" moms.

Our parents didn't have to parent while everyone on Facebook not so quietly looked on waiting in stealth mode to jump all over a parenting "mistake" they noticed in one of your pictures.

Yep. Being a parent was already hard enough before the Internet and social media, and now some days all of that just makes it seem almost freaking impossible.

But, regardless, I must persevere.

I must do my best to drown out the commentary.

Not only because I disagree, but because my postpartum anxiety will run me over and take me hostage if I don't.

I am learning to accept that "mom guilt" is just part of it.

It never goes away-it's always there.


And it takes courage to taste and feel that guilt while choosing not to allow it to define you.

Even on the days when you have no idea what you are doing or how you will get it all done.

Because the truth is: I have overcome far worse.

And all I can do is take this day by day.

Hour by hour.

Minute by minute.

There is no rushing the process, because all of this has to run its course.

But, the silver lining is this: there is light at the end of this tunnel and wisdom to be gained on the road ahead.

And while my postpartum days with my oldest daughter are slightly fuzzy now, I do know this: that walking that journey has prepared me for this journey-even if it does look a little different.

Because at the core of it, I'm still a shade of the girl I was at twenty-three, and just like her, I'm just trying to do my best and minimize my kids future therapy bills.

I may not be perfect.

I may not have chosen the "ideal" road.

But, that's ok.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

So, I'm going to take a deep breath, swallow my fear, and remind myself that I can do anything.

My track record for bad days that have killed me so far are zero.

So, hang in there, working mamas.

We may not have it all together, but we do a damn good job of faking it.

And our kids still love us exactly the same.

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