I have had a handful of people ask me why I haven’t posted a new blog recently. I’ve told them that I have been busy and, while that’s true, the more honest response would have been to say that it’s been written but I’ve been terrified to hit that publish button. It’s a vulnerable post and it’s unlike me to share so much personal information with anyone, let alone everyone. So here goes nothing
I think that I have had a different experience entering parenthood than most people. More specifically, becoming a mother. And even more specifically, transitioning from a working adult to a stay at home mom. Everyone always hears those stories about losing friends once they have kids and becoming so consumed with their children that they lose much of their own identities as well. This wasn’t the case for me. At least not at first and not currently.
Very shortly after Carson was born a casual friend told me about a moms’ group and when Carson was two weeks old I went to check it out. I went religiously when he was little, and that group really changed the trajectory of being an isolated new mom living in a town where I didn’t know a single soul. He was only a couple months old when playdates started to become a normal part of our daily routine and moms’ night outs became a coveted activity that we all looked forward to. I had found my people and I was in a groove!
And then when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I decided to sell our house and temporarily move in with my parents while we purchased a new house. Looking back, it was so easy to see. Every marker was there for what was going to come next. I didn’t reach out to anyone and blamed the lack of contact on other people because the distance from them to my new “home” wasn’t convenient for them. I was short with my husband and wanted to find a new house right that second because I couldn’t stand temporary living anymore. I cried. I was irritable. I yelled at my son. My gosh, I will never forget that day standing in my parents dining room converted to a playroom when I looked down at him and yelled so hard my throat hurt. I can’t for the life of me remember why I was upset with him, but I distinctly remember laying in bed all throughout his nap crying and thinking I was the worst mom on the planet. I remember it all so vividly, that it only took me about ten seconds to dig this status up from that day:
That was the first time I had ever truly yelled at him. He was twenty months old and I was eight months pregnant. Up until that moment, I thought that I had it pretty much together as a mom. A couple months prior to that my dad sat in my living room and told me that he and my mom agreed that I was doing a really good job as a mom and they were proud. After that day when I yelled at him, that’s when everything for me as a mom and a person went plummeting downhill. It’s really no surprise, given the markers, that I had trouble adjusting once my daughter was born and coping with a newborn who was either sleeping for short periods or screaming for upwards of nine hours a day (my oh my how I wish I was exaggerating). Actually, scratch that. I didn’t have trouble adjusting. I was at a cliff every day with my husband, my parents, and one friend laying on the crumbling edge with their arms outstretched trying to pull me back to the top while I shook and wiggled and did anything I could to escape them. But they didn’t let go. The four of them held on as I tried to convince my husband that he and the kids were better off without me and I should move out of the house we just bought, and as playdates shifted to primarily including me bawling my eyes out while my friend spent time with the kids alone. They held on when I would disappear and not tell anyone where I was going or when I’d be back, and they even held on when yelling didn’t become a one-time event that I’d remember forever, but a daily occurrence of the new, awful, mom I had become.
You want to know the crazy part? I knew exactly what was happening, but I couldn’t stop it at all. When my husband would ask me a simple question and I starred right past him and responded in slow motion, I knew it was happening, but I literally could not stop it. I knew I was severely depressed and I knew all the logical steps to take, but I couldn’t do it. Heck, half the time I couldn’t take a step at all if my husband was home. The moment he walked through the door each evening (or afternoon if it was a particularly bad day and I just couldn’t do it anymore), I completely checked out of being a mom.
I’d love to be able to provide an update now that it was just a short-lived fluke that accompanied the onset of several changes at once, but I’m not here to spin a web. Everything has gotten substantially better, but I will never be able to go back to being the person and the mom that I was three years ago. I constantly yearn to be the mom that I was before I stood in that room and screamed at my son, but depression is a constant in my life now. And so, for now, I’ll settle with knowing that I manage it much better and most days I win the battle between my mental health and myself. There’s a lot more to share about the past three years, but I would like to focus on the past year because.
In the past year I have had relationships change, both for the good and the not so good. One friendship, unfortunately, will never be completely the same, but that helped propel me into being intentional with relationships and my time. Last May was particularly hard for me, as one relationship began to cave in. In an effort to take my mind off things, I spent a day with the kids that wasn’t meant to be a turning point but definitely became one. We went for a walk on a nearby path and hung out in the woods for a while looking for worms and bugs and then we found the biggest puddle we could and I let the kids go hog wild. It was both a sad and exhilarating feeling when it dawned on me that I had lost the ability to find joy within my family. I’m a socially driven person, so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when I realized that I had been consumed with filling time with people rather than moments. I vividly remember standing in the parking lot at the airline trail while my kids were covered from head to toe in mud when I decided I was going to be intentional with my time, my kids’ time, and relationships in my life. From that day on, I started to say no to people and I started to say yes to myself and my kids. I decided to commit to filling our lives with moments that mattered rather than filling our time with whatever presented itself.
Warning: what comes next is something I’ve not so conveniently omitted from sharing with most people in my life.
My life in the past year has been evolving, but 2018 is where the insight and changes started to really take shape. When I was younger I had a miscarriage that I never really dealt with or processed. For years, I pushed it aside even though it crossed my mind almost daily. In a surprising, completely unexpected turn of events, I had complete closure with this part of my past literally overnight. While there have been ups and downs since then and I have silently struggled with tangential issues and a relationship the closure came with, I ultimately concluded that I never grew from the miscarriage the way I thought I had. Let’s face it, I’ve been dealt all the right cards in life and am, most recently, hiding behind a royal flush; I have a husband who works hard to provide for our family and supports me in staying home, a house, two kids, an education, parents who care about me and my family, and friends that I am comfortable being myself around. And yet I’ve spent a lot of time still thinking of folding. While I have spent many years not dealing with the miscarriage, I have also had many years to not be a young mother with cards stacked against me at every turn. I have been tossing away the opportunity I’ve been given to grow as a person and be the best mom I can be with all the right cards in my hand. With closure with the miscarriage and new relationships began to form in my life, my outlook took an intentional shift.
I have spent most of 2018 trying to be as intentional as possible in all aspects of my life. Last year I nailed down focusing on relationships that were important to me while this year I have put extra effort into growing family relationships. My husband and I have been spending time with other couples rather than me going out independently and we have been having our family get together with other families instead of more of the play date style we were accustomed to. These types of interactions are truly fulfilling to me. It’s a wonderful thing to see the people you love and care for most connecting with and enjoying each other. I finally trudged up some motivation in 2018 and purged my entire house (you too might be harboring twelve trash bags of clothes in your bedroom that you won’t blink an eye at if you donated them). I know it’s cliché but purging my house of clutter has had a trickling effect to my mind as well. I have tried to do things that bring me fulfillment and don’t require other people to get to that point. I have read a handful of books this year, including one that I have had for about ten years and have started at least five times but never got more than sixty pages into (spoiler alert: don’t waste your time. Somewhere around page 600 I was still wondering what the book was about).
You know what else I’ve done? I have made puzzles and- after years of having the intention- framed them and hung them on the wall. I have done my version of decorating the house by painting several rooms and creating a nook in my bedroom, complete with what my husband not-so-lovingly refers to as my “old lady chair” and finials that were painstakingly picked out with a friend by my side (all that’s left is pulling the trigger on an Etsy order for a shelf, letter board, and decorations when I find the right time to smuggle money out of the joint account).
In 2018 I have read a book about money management and considered following the advice. I have ventured into enjoying seemingly insignificant moments with my kids and have been learning that a good hand of cards is all a matter of how you play them. I am almost three months into exercising without despising every moment (which has taken a village, so huge shout out to everyone who has made it tolerable). I even made a New Year’s Resolution for the first time ever and am happy to report that halfway through the year I am still holding strong. I have done a lot of self-discovery and think that I am finally able to be on top of the cliff with my friends and family rather than dangling with my feet kicking.
My life since becoming a mom has certainly been a roller coaster, but I know myself better now than I did before, and I have deeper relationships than I did before I had kids. Of course, my relationships look different now, but I am lucky to say that I didn’t lose my “pre-baby” friends, but we have all worked to adjust the friendships. The ups and downs have forced me to move forward and learn who I am, who I want to be, and have helped pave a path on how to get there. I am very blessed that I have a life outside of my kids and have people who view me as me, but who are also there to support me in my role as a parent. Remember those friends that I made starting when my son was only two weeks old? I still get together with several of them at least monthly. The best part is that we hardly get together with our kids. We are friends because we want to be, not because we have similar aged small people living with us that need socialization. We still support each other in the parenting journey, but we mostly have conversations about non-kid topics and without a side of “What are you doing?! Don’t lick your brother!” tossed in. I have found the fulcrum and am in perfect balance with meaningful relationships and more casual friendships. I am incredibly thankful that my husband never questions how many nights a week I get together with friends instead of being home for the dreaded bedtime routine or how often I request an hour or two alone on the weekend. Recently, I had a breakthrough for myself and my relationship with my husband. It was literally life changing when I realized my husband didn’t have to be my best friend and I could stop trying to force him into being someone he wasn’t. It goes without saying that he is inexplicably important to me, but he doesn’t need to be the person I tell every detail of my day to and he doesn’t need to be the person I confide in about my emotions. I have learned to accept that my friends- and husband- all serve different purposes to me, as I do to them. It’s truly been liberating being able to tap into the best parts of my husband without being bogged down with things I’d like to him to be.
Sure, I still have my struggles. While some are small daily struggles, others are more monumental and stressful, and depression always finds a way to creep back in. The difference now is that I know who is standing at that cliff with me, what they mean to me, and why I want to be there with them. I also know what I want to focus on next and that I don’t want to be stagnant. If having a miscarriage at a time in my life where a birth could have been viewed more as a catastrophic event than a welcomed gift has taught me anything, it’s that I must embrace to take the cards I’ve been dealt and make my move to truly live. Maybe I would have had excuses if things turned out differently, but they didn’t, and those excuses are all but gone. I was given another chance in my life and as a parent, and I need to embrace that. If being at rock bottom with two kids under the age of two has taught me anything, it’s that even when you don’t want to believe it, people who care about you are out there. I need to spend my time and energy wisely so I can be sure to fill my life with people who know that I will try my hardest to be that one holding them on with all my might if the edge of their cliff becomes brittle.