It's like a weighted blanket—comfortable and amazing and you never want to come out from under it... But you also feel that weight. You notice it. It becomes part of you.
It starts with the diapers and the feedings and the exhaustion from only getting small chunks of sleep at a time. The worries, the unanswered questions, the guessing.
Are they breathing?
Are they eating enough?
Are they okay?
Then it's the milestones and the climbing on everything and the tantrums. The teething, the speech delays, the food fights.
Are they developing correctly?
Are they on track with their peers?
Are they okay?
All of a sudden it's school and potty language and their questioning of every word that ever comes out of your mouth. The leaving the nest, the making new friends, the bittersweet heartache of watching them grow.
Are they understanding how hard I work for them?
Are they being kind to others?
Are they okay?
I've been deep in the trenches of motherhood for six years. I had three kids in a short amount of time. Pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, identity crisis, repeat, repeat, repeat. There's been so much trial and error. So much learning and growing. I've been winging it, doing my best to figure things out as I go. After all, how else can you walk this journey?
What I've experienced in the trenches is this—when you're deep in there, you can't actually see how far down you've gone. You don't even know which way is up.
And you feel a little lost.
And you may even feel a little broken.
When you're down there, it seems like life will be this way forever. You start to convince yourself that you'll never not feel overwhelmed.
But, slowly, at a moment I can't specifically pinpoint, the fog started to clear for me. I was finally able to see just how far down I had sunk. I was scared at first, knowing how much work I had ahead of me. And sad, too. Because I felt like the overwhelm had stolen some of my life.
There was also joy, though. And hope. I knew I was still there inside of me, and I wasn't willing to give up on myself.
From that moment on, I couldn't pretend I wasn't lost anymore. I needed to find my bearings. I needed people and tools to help guide me in the right direction. So I made a decision to do whatever I needed to in order to start showing up for myself again. This was the beginning of my journey back—a journey I'm still traveling.
There are many things I've turned to in order to reconnect with who I am, small things and big things. Like meeting with a therapist who I feel comfortable and safe with. Or deciding to go back to acupuncture—something that I used to love to do before I had kids, but stopped because it started to become too hard to fit into our schedule. I've leaned heavily on music, crying while listening to Kacey Musgraves' 'Rainbow' a million times, and singing my heart out to Lizzo's 'Like A Girl' a million and one.
I started exercising regularly at a studio I love and I now spend most of my Sundays outside of our home doing what fills my creative cup most—writing. I even kicked it up a notch this weekend by booking a night away (by myself!) to write, read, rest and do as I please.
What I've been practicing is allowing myself to consider myself—my needs, my wants, my feelings. And it has felt both refreshing and also like, "Shouldn't this be a given? Why have I needed to re-train myself to think about myself?"
Because the truth is, it should have never gotten as foggy as it did for me over these past six years. But it did. We live in a society today that demands so much from mothers—pouring pressure on us and layering guilt on top of that. We're often asked to make the unrealistic and unimaginable happen—from working 50+ hour workweeks and figuring out childcare to making gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free birthday treats for the whole class and making sure homework is done before the 3+ hour bedtime process begins.
Instead of simply taking a deep breath and getting every wild task done that has been asked of me, I've finally realized I can say a big, huge, satisfying "nope!" to those unrealistic expectations—and everything will still be okay. And I will still be a good mother.
We can change things in our society, my friends. But it starts with changing things for ourselves first and foremost.
So, we have to show up.
It's a fight to climb out of the trenches. But instead of fighting with myself like I have many, many times before, now I'm fighting for myself.
My youngest child recently turned two, and I feel like I'm finally starting to come out on the other side. As I sit here and write this, I acknowledge things are still messy. That's life. Some days, each bucket of my life seems semi-balanced. And some days they each feel like they're spilling over and no one is cleaning up the mess.
But the notable thing is—I'm not becoming one with the mess. I'm not losing myself in it.
As I lift the diapers, tame the tantrums and peel off the many hats I wear, I look at the woman I've become, and tell her I'm proud of where she's been, where she is and where she's going.
I remind her of her strength, her power, her love.
And I ask her—
Are you breathing?
Are you eating enough?
Are you okay?
It's your turn, mama.