A Dear John Letter

Dear Fear,

I’ve given you nearly 38 years of my life. I’ve let you guide and dictate nearly every move.

You’ve made decisions for me that I’ll always regret. You’ve made me wonder what if far too many times.

You’ve made me say no when yes was all I wanted. You’ve pushed me to say yes when I needed to scream no.

But this relationship isn’t working anymore.

It’s not me. It’s you.

Of course, we’ll always be friends. Perhaps not the fondest of friends. After all, we’ll never have Paris as you’ve forbidden me from flying over the ocean.

So, while this isn’t goodbye, it is a departure. I’m sure we’ll meet again soon. More likely than not, our paths will cross when I most expect it. I’ll be ready and waiting. A quick hug. A peck on the cheek. But that is all. Nothing more.

I’ll always carry a piece of you with me, but you’ll never have all of me again.

Cozy Reading Nook

When you’re a mom, you rarely get space that is just yours. Even the toilet is shared space when you have small kids (one day, I’ll remember what it’s like to pee without an audience).

Ever since I started reading and writing again, I’ve been bugging my husband for a reading chair. A recliner. A giant bean bag chair. Whatever as long as it was mine and only mine.

I’ve found approximately fifty chairs I HAD to have. But, none that were perfect. That is until this beauty came into my life. I found it at Bargain Hunt, but it is originally from Target. The Target regular price was $232, it was only $150 at Bargain Hunt. Score.

The reviews on Target’s website say it isn’t comfortable, but the are wrong. The chair is firm and supportive, which is perfect. And, I can curl up in it comfortably. It’s also amazing for writing.

In a word, it is perfect.

Tired as a Mother

Sleep regression. Leaps. New routines. Teething. Sickness. Fears. Anxiety. Nightmares. FOMO.

Whatever the reason, whatever the name, babies and toddlers have incredibly fickle sleep habits. Just when you think you’ve mastered the whole sleep thing, it all changes and your kid is up at 2 am and ready to PAR-TAY.

As a working mother, this is my nightmare. It always seems these moments strike on the nights, er, mornings, before I have important meetings or projects due. While I live and die by my lattes, there is little they can do when I am living on four hours a sleep three nights in a row.

My son, 3.5, and daughter, 11 months, appear to be on the same sleep regression schedule. It’s almost comical how predictable it is. He wakes up at midnight and she’s up at 12:01 am. Worse is his cries or yelling will wake her up more than hers do him. His propensity to slam the toilet seat has resulted in her waking more than once. We’ve not mastered our use of inside voices or gentle toilet lid closing. One day.

Aside from the obvious, the biggest thing impacted by this is my health. Building a fitness routine has been damn near impossible since #2 was born. I am a morning fitness person (just don’t talk to me). My ideal workout time is right around 4 or 4:30 am. (Yes, I understand this may seem insane, but if it doesn’t happen then, it ain’t happening). My daughter loves waking up raring to go around 3:45; this after waking around midnight. I can handle a 4 am wake up if she rocks or nurses back to sleep, but that fifteen minutes seems to be catastrophic to my workout mojo.

The lack of sleep also results in more caffeine (LOTS of coffee and lattes) and really, really shitty food decisions as I seek out desperate (and fleeting) attempts to fuel some sort of energy.

Before you lecture me on the energy provided by working out, I know this. It’s one of those Catch 22 things… I need energy to workout, working out provides that energy, but I need to have it to do the working out part. Aye.

My poor husband is right there with me. Except, he gets the added bonus of my downright tyrannical bitchiness from not sleeping (bless his heart). Honestly, that’s a kind under-exaggeration. It’s more like an unleashed wild rage. At times, the exhaustion is enough to bring tears at just the thought of sleep.

I know these days are numbered and one day I may look back on them fondly (should I do so, please point me back to this post), but right now in the moment, they suck. They suck so much I am at a loss for words to adequately describe how sucky they are.

Saying this does not make me a horrible mother, nor does it mean I don’t love my children in the stage we are currently in. All it means is that this shit is hard, so hard, and sleep is a fundamental need for human beings. I miss it. I miss it more than I miss the feeling of my pants fitting without digging a canyon into my gut.

One day, I’ll sleep a full eight hours. Until then, bottoms up my fellow coffee-loving mamas.

Adventures in Breastfeeding

The familiar feeling of an impending letdown alerted me that I was now thirty minutes past my normal pumping time. My shirt and bra were getting tighter and the pain was beginning to distract me from my current task. I glanced towards the back of the office to the room that was supposed to be reserved as the “Mother’s Room.” It had a sign posted and a reservation schedule by the door – because my boss thought it would be too awkward to have the room listed on the calendar as “Mother’s Room.” He’d nearly vomited at my original suggestion of “The Milk Barn.”

I sighed audibly and got up. As I walked back to the room I contemplated all the mean faces and side eyes I would give the person who’d ignored every sign and was occupying the very room I needed. My irritation was growing by the second and I almost pitied the person on the other end. Almost.

I knocked quietly and waited. No answer. I knocked again. After the second non-response, I tried the handle. The door was locked. Awesome. I knocked one last time, but again, no answer. Someone had locked the door and closed it behind them as they left. I could feel my eyes starting to burn as my breasts reminded me again that I desperately needed to pump. Taking a deep breath to quell the tears, I found our office manager and asked for the key to the room.

“We don’t have one,” he said. “How badly do you need in there?”

My face flushed and I had to again force back tears, “Pretty badly.”

My co-workers, sensing my frustration, sprung into action. They tried to jimmy the lock with a paperclip, personal credit cards and random keys found in the office. Nothing worked. My pumping room was locked down tighter than a white collar prison, with my pump and supplies inside. Had they been at my desk, I likely would have just popped by boobs out and started pumping in front of everyone.

Maintenance finally showed up an hour later and I ran into the room to relieve the pressure. I may have also given in to the tears that I’d been fighting.

Now that I am nearly seven months into my second go-round as a working, breastfeeding mother, I am quite used to the variety of hurdles that come with this.  am committed to providing for my daughter as I did for my son. I do believe that breast is best (for my children) and worth every sacrifice. But this does not mean I am immune to feeling the stress and frustration.

With both my children, I started new jobs around their fifth month of life. Both times I agonized more about when to tell them I needed to have a space and the time to pump than salaries or benefits. I constantly worry that my need to pump will be an inconvenience to others, but I also find myself becoming highly annoyed when they are inconvenienced or weirded out when I mention my need.

image2While I was pumping for my son, I started traveling for work. Thankfully, I produced enough to have a freezer stash to use for him. Work travel as a pumping mom is a challenge – calling ahead to ensure your hotel room has a refrigerator only to find out upon your arrival that they do not, but you can bring your breast milk down here and we will store it (and accidentally freeze it, meaning it will thaw and spoil before you make it back home), getting excited to learn the airport has a mother’s room only to learn it is in the terminal you are not flying out of. You haven’t fully lived if you’ve never had a twenty-something TSA agent ohh and ahh over how thick your breast milk is, “WOW this looks like whole milk! I normally see watery milk, but this is THICK! And, dang, it’s like a gallon!” all while your boss and co-worker wait patiently for him to finish scanning the bags so everyone can make it to the gate in time.

Aside from the travel challenges, far too many companies do not consider the needs of working mothers. The law requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide a private space that is not a bathroom for mother’s to pump (the laws are a little more intricate than that, but I am going to skip the legal ease), but many either do not care or do not have the space for it.

I am fortunate to work in a corporate setting, but I have seen how difficult it can be for mothers that work in retail or restaurant environments. My career has led to be in those positions momentarily as I am pumping and starting new jobs. During those times, I pumped in my car because the restaurant or store I was in did not have a private space that wasn’t a bathroom or monitored by cameras. These instances were rare inconveniences for me, but for many moms, this is a reality of life every single day and most don’t fight it.

Part of the issue is the fear of asking – similar to one of the arguments of why women are paid less – because we are afraid of making requests or asking for what we deserve. This is something I struggle with regularly, both in pay negotiations and asking for time and space to express milk for my child. At some point, we as women need to stop apologize for existing and start demanding for our proper space.

However, like any mom, I make the best of the situation and make it work. Even if that means pumping in my car in the heat and humidity of a Nashville summer.

An excerpt of this originally appeared on Our Epic Blog and can be found here. 

The Threenager

My son turned 3 in June. Everyone warned me about this age. Two isn’t the terrible year, they told me, the year of the threenager is. I remember thinking, yeah, two hasn’t really been that bad. I braced myself for three. At least I thought I did.

Nothing could  have prepared me for three. Especially the three that comes after your sweet, gentle soul of an only child becomes a big brother in the months leading up to the big third birthday.

The tantrums. The mood swings. The willful disobedience. The potty training regression. The sleep regression. The behavior regression. The yelling, the hitting, the arguing … I was not prepared for any of it.

Lord, help us all.

I am going to be brutally honest here (judge me if you must), no age or moment has challenged me as a parent more than three. I doubt my decisions daily – both my parenting decisions and my decision to become a parent. This boy tests me in ways I’d never even imagined were possible and I fully understand the words my mother used to say to me when I was a teenager – “I love you always, but I don’t like you right now.”

Typing that I realize just how big of an ungrateful asshole I sound like. But until you’ve been kicked, slapped, screamed at and peed on by your adoring child all within the span of a minute, you have no idea how trying these moments are.

Every once in a while I will start to wonder if maybe my child is worse than the other threenagers I know. Could there be a bigger issue? Then, as if the Facebook Mom Group Gods are listening, a fellow threenager mom posts a story that mirrors the one I’d just barely survived.

Nope, he’s a normal threenager. Thank you Jesus. I think.

But, three isn’t all bad. We have so many amazing moments and are making lifelong memories – this kid is a steel trap and remembers everything. EVERYTHING.

He adores his baby sister and loves to help with her. He can make her smile and laugh in a way neither her father nor I have mastered yet.

He shows compassion for his friends, sister and family. I can already tell he is going to be empathetic and caring towards others.

He gives the best hugs and is always up to a bedtime snuggle. His favorite thing is to give “Avengers” hugs … we have a Hulk big, a Black Widow hug, a Spider-Man hug … you get the idea.

 My son has become his own person – he has ideas and an amazing imagination. He makes up stories and loves telling them to us. My favorite? The one he insisted his teacher hit him and his friend on the head with a broom and ended up in timeout. It took some work, but we finally got him to tell us he’d made up the story. We’re working on learning the difference between the truth and a lie and when and how to use our imagination to make up stories.

We can hold real conversations and he is capable of telling me what he needs. He’s observant to the world around him and can, for the most part, hold his own.

Some days it’s hard to remember that he’s still a toddler. He uses complete sentences and has moments of pure genius as he works through his own logical approach to life. At times, he’s so mature that I forget how quickly he can slip back into threenager mode. I have to constantly remind myself that he is still just three years old and he has all these big emotions that he’s just now learning to cope with and process.

And, I am still learning how to parent a threenager. I’m sure I’ll figure it out sometime around his fourth birthday.

My Kid Won’t do THAT

Y’all remember life before kids? Back when you were on the outside looking in and full of wild ideas and judgement … you know, all those “when I have kids …” moments? Don’t look at me like that, we all thought it. We’ve all said it.

So, to make us all feel better and laugh at ourselves (or, maybe, just at me), I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all the things my kid won’t do that he does, in fact, do.

  • Eat McDonald’s. Weekly. Sometimes twice.
  • Know there are toys in the Happy Meal & he certainly won’t play with them before he eats.
  • Watch TV.
  • Have a tablet.
  • Throw a tantrum.
  • Throw a tantrum in the middle of Target.
  • Scream in a restaurant.
  • Run away from me in a restaurant.
  • Wake up at 4am. Every. Single. Day. Of. His. Short. Life.
  • Have a pacifier.
  • Suck her fingers/thumb.
  • Have play weapons.
  • Take over the house with toys.
  • Eat different dinners/meals than the rest of us. I will NOT cook two dinners.
  • Eat candy. Definitely not as an entire meal.
  • Be bribed. I would NEVER bribe my child with any of the above tactics. Nope. I will never negotiate with candy, toys or screen time.
  • Eat in the car.
  • Tell strangers about his penis.
  • Lick the handicap railing in the restroom at Costco. )Wait, that’s super specific. Who’s kid did that? That’s horrible. Yeah, that was my kid and I had no idea I was supposed to add that to the My Kid Won’t do That List.

What are some of the things you swore your kid wouldn’t do, but totally does?

Setting the Tone

I try to make my bed every morning. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I do this for two reasons … first, because my son absolutely loves messing up the pillows and it’s his bedtime “treat” and because it helps set the tone for my entire day.

I haven’t done any scientific research, but anecdotally, I have noticed a dramatic difference in my level of productivity on days I make my bed versus days I don’t. I believe (also, not scientific) that this is all psychological.

The visual of the bed being made is usually the last thing as I see as I head out the door and one of the first things I see when I get home. When the bed is made, I feel like I have my shit together. The bedroom feels more orderly and it’s almost inspiring.

Same goes for the dishes. My husband will be the last person to tell you this … though he should be the first, he’s just too nice … I suck at dishes. I suck at cleaning. I suck at housework.

I’ve found that when the dishes and laundry pile up, I won’t do it. Period. I will leave it for him to do. (Sorry hubby).

Conversely, if the dishes are caught up or there’s just one load of laundry, I am all over that shit. I’ll unload the dishwasher and get (unjustly) irritated when my husband leaves dishes in the sink if the dishwasher is dirty and not full. One load of laundry? I’ll fold that bitch as soon as the dryer buzzes.

Since returning to work after AB was born, I’ve been making an effort to stay on top of these things because I know they won’t get done if I don’t. Well, they will, my husband will just do it all (sorry, again). Part of this is due to being insanely inspired by The Simplified Life by Emily Ley (its life changing y’all), but also because I have always felt guilty for not helping more with housework.

That said, I’m still not mopping the floors and I won’t stop asking for a house cleaning service. But, I will (try to) make the bed every day and help keep the dishes and laundry from exploding (like they did this week).

Fears and Anxiety

Worrying comes naturally to me. The worst case scenario always plays first, no matter how hard I try. I’m not a negative person, for the most part, but when it comes to the potential for something bad to happen I always jump strait to that conclusion. This is especially true when it comes to my family.

This summer one fear has haunted me more than others … drowning. It seems every day a new story pops in my feed about a child my son’s age drowning or experiencing dry drowning. We don’t have a pool or even easy access to one, but we’ve been swimming twice this summer and the anxiety I feel leading up to those events is paralyzing. I want to cancel plans. Find excuses. Anything to keep my children far, far away from water.

The worst part of the anxiety is simultaneously worrying that my anxiety will rub off on my child and make him or her afraid of water or anything remotely daring. So, for the most part, I do my best to bury that fear and try not to project it onto them. But, I know it happens. He can hear it in my voice when I tell him to not run by the pool, to stay back, to wait for Mommy and Daddy. He is timid and fearful in the water. It’s my job to make him comfortable and sometimes, my fear causes me to fail.

Aside from projecting my fears onto my child, I am also hyper aware of how much my anxiety annoys my husband. The eye rolls and audible sighs when I reiterate precautions we need to take and things we should be aware of  (rub in the spray sunscreen, watch for dry drowning symptoms after he randomly jumps face first into the water, etc.) don’t help my anxiety, quite the opposite actually. Knowing that he dismisses my fears makes me feel as though I am 100% responsible for ensuring safety, even when I rationally know I am not. By acting as if my anxiety is trivial, he signals his lack of caring or attention. Whether that is the intention or not, that is how I perceive the reaction.

Partners of people with anxiety, don’t do this. As trivial as it may seem to you, it’s not at all trivial to your partner. By ignoring it or dismissing them all you accomplish is exacerbating their anxiety. Be supportive. Listen.

I wish my brain wasn’t wired this way. I wish I could be carefree and cavalier. But, I’m not. Becoming a mom has only compounded this anxiety. Having people I care about gives me more to worry and fret over.

After the fact I can usually see and understand my fears and anxiety were not realized and usually I can start to move forward. Like with flying, the more I have to travel, the quieter my anxiety gets. But, it doesn’t take much to trigger it.

To help the pool anxiety for both my son and me, we’ve signed him up for swim classes. I’m sure I’ll still have anxiety and fear, but I hope I can Chanel that into more productive areas rather than worrying about drowning every single time we head out for a fun day at the pool.


Mama, What Do You Do For You?

Last night I stayed up until 11pm reading a book. I devoured every page and allowed myself to get lost in a world without responsibilities. I didn’t check the time. I didn’t worry about my rapidly approaching wake up call from my 5.5 month old (thank you Leap 5). I just let the fictional characters fill my mind and distract me.

It was glorious, but I paid the price today in exhaustion.

Remember when you could pull a double shift, stay out past 2am and then do it all again the next day? Remember the endless energy? The high alcohol tolerance? The lack of real responsibilities? No one repeating your name over and over while busting through the bathroom door you swore you locked?

Those days are long gone, but I wouldn’t trade a day of my current chaos for the nights of total freedom. Well, except maybe the part about pooping in peace. I miss that the most.

But, those blissful 4 hours of getting lost in a novel reminded me how much I miss and just how much I need to do something for myself every day. I need to recharge my “me” battery. I need to forget reality and mute the anxiety and nagging that comes with motherhood.

I cannot recall the last time I did that. During my last massage I thought about work and my kids the entire 90 minutes. Last time I got a pedicure, I checked emails instead of relaxing. I don’t even remember the last time I worked out.

I’m tired and exhausted. My battery hasn’t been recharged in months. And while I know this is a short season in life, I can’t help but long for the nights of uninterrupted sleep.

And no, Karen, I’m not wishing time away or ignoring the blissful moments that come with being a mom to a 3 year old and a 5.5 month old.

I am not doing either of those things. But, I am slowly realizing that I cannot continue at the pace and rate I am going.  My health suffers – when I don’t sleep, I don’t make smart food choices. When I don’t make smart food choices, I don’t workout. When I don’t workout, I feel tired and sluggish and the cycle continues. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Mamas, we can’t keep running on empty. We have to take time to recharge. We need time to rest and relax and have conversations that don’t center around poop (diapers, potty training, husbands that take an hour to poop, longing to poop in solitude – for real, as a parent 85% of your conversations are about poop).

This is my challenge to me … and maybe you if this resonates … commit to at least 30 minutes of alone time. Workout. Sip your coffee. Drink a glass of wine. Read a book. Lock the door when you go poop. Your kids may not realize it and you might not either, but taking this time will make you a better mom, wife and woman. You need this.

Husbands, if you’re reading this, give your wife that time. Don’t talk to her while she’s trying to read. Don’t knock on the bathroom door. Don’t say her name. Don’t send the kids looking for mommy. Dad, you’ve got this. And Mamas, he’s got this. Don’t stress about how Dad dads. He has his way, you have yours and that’s okay. In fact, that’s perfect.

Mamas, give yourself 30 minutes to recharge. What are you going to do for you?

Me? I’m going to get my butt upstairs for a workout. I need it.

Finding a Tribe

I’ve never been the type of girl to have a group of girlfriends, though I have always dreamed of finding a pack of women I could meet for coffee or cocktails a la Sex & The City. Once or twice in my life, I’ve come close. But, it never stuck. Drama happened and the pack split. Someone would say something about someone else and more than once, that someone else was me. I get it, I have a strong personality and strong opinions and I often rub people the wrong way. I’d apologize for this, but I like who I am and I am learning to care less about what others think or say about me.

Have I mentioned I also have trust issues? This fact combined with the above has led me to avoid large friend groups; especially of women. Despite this, I have always secretly longed for a tribe to call my own.

The minute I got my positive pregnancy test with my son, I logged on to the What to Expect app and scoured the message groups. Through this, I found a mom group on Facebook. In the four years since I joined, this group has been my lifeline. These women know pretty much everything about me – the good, the bad, the ugly and all the embarrassing “mom” questions in between.

They made me feel welcome and safe, which is something I can’t say I’ve ever felt before with a group of women.

Until last week.

I recently started a new job, one that I have been ridiculously excited for and that I think will be a huge opportunity for me. I shared my excitement with this group on a few occasions. I talked about the interviews and my excitement and also my hesitations. I shared with them some of the frustrations I had with my prior job. I shared everything.

On Wednesday of last week, I was in line at Starbucks and noticed a Trump bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It had a black marker line through it. For some reason, this made me chuckle and I took a photo and cropped out the license plate and identifying features of the car and posted it with the hashtag #noragrats. It was stupid and silly. I didn’t think anything else about it.

Then on Friday, I learned that some of the members of my mom group took a screenshot of this post and sent it my new job’s Facebook page with a message saying they were disappointed in their hiring of someone like me that would admit to and brag about defacing a Trump bumper sticker on social media.

Warning: I am likely going to get a bit dramatic here.

My heart broke when I saw who had sent the message. I wasn’t particularly close with the person who’d sent the message, but she was part of my tribe and I’d shared so much with her and the rest of them and she’d used that to hurt me. It also really bothered me that they thought I was capable of damaging someone else’s property (for the record, I’m not and never would). Over the course of the weekend, I learned I wasn’t the only one that had been hurt by this small group of women within our tribe.

I legitimately thought I’d just lost the online friendships and support system I’d leaned on for four years. I was hurt and betrayed and devastated (I warned you I was going to get dramatic). I thought my tribe was gone.

It wasn’t.

I opened up to one of the moms in the group that I’d been closest to and told her what I’d learned. She along with a few others that I trusted and had leaned on personally before helped to remind me just how important this tribe was and just how strong we all are.

What’s my point?

My point is I’ve realized just how important it is to have a tribe and a support system. I’ve learned that sometimes it is best to take a few days to process before jumping into attack mode, and let me tell you, that was freaking hard to do. I wanted to blast this person and go at her with all my mama bear force – Good Lord that would have felt amazing for a minute, but it wasn’t the right thing to do. I was ready to jump ship and bail on my tribe – well, I did, but only for a few hours. But, I had a tribe to help talk me off the ledge and remind me that I wasn’t alone and that there were more important things.

It also reminded me just how horrible women can be to each other, whether it is out of jealous or whatever, I don’t know. And, I will never know what motivated this small group of women to go out of her way to hurt me or others. We talk. We gossip. We get catty. And let me tell you, I’ve been on both ends of this and they both suck. I hate how I feel when I gossip and it haunts me for weeks after. I despise myself when I catch myself doing catty shit. But being on the receiving end of it is so incredibly painful. I don’t ever want to cause another woman to feel how I felt after all of this.

Men. Don’t. Do. This. Shit.

Women can we please stop hating each other? Can we stop with the jealousy and the cattiness? Can we just stop being against each other and start supporting each other?

Why do we do this? What is it about women that makes us so damn competitive? Why do we seek to destroy rather than build up?

But you know what else I learned in all of this? Most women don’t do this. Most women want to support each other. They hate the gossip and the cattiness.

I am so grateful that my tribe is still there and that they fought for me. They will never know just how much it means to me that they showed up for me when I needed them. But, most importantly, they’ve reminded me how important it is for women to be strong for each other.

Before you send that nasty message about another woman, think about the consequences. Think about how hard we fight to be taken seriously. Think about how you can use your words to help rather than hurt. Be strong for yourself and for other women. Lift your fellow women up and stop tearing them down – it may make you feel better for a minute, but that feeling fades fast.

We are better than this. We deserve better. We can be better.

More importantly, find your tribe. Find your people. Let them in and don’t let them go. They are worth it and so are you.

To my tribe – you know who you are and I cannot thank you enough – and I hope you don’t mind me sharing this story with all two people that read my blog.