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To the mama in the thick of it

You don't need to be everything to everyone.

To the mama in the thick of it

Looking back 12 years, I adored our family of four. We had two happy, silly, lovable boys who were just beginning preschool and kindergarten. My partner, Steve, and I were starting to feel like real adults, with jobs and kids and a house to take care of. Life was complicated but beautiful. Our son, David, had a disability, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, which meant he needed to be fed, diapered, and assisted with most activities.

It seemed like there was always someone who needed my attention. I wanted to give each of my boys—my sons and my husband—what they needed, but that required more time and energy than I had. So I defaulted to my old strategy of setting myself aside.

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In our little family, denying my needs and wants meant there was one less complicating factor to manage. Plus, I reminded myself that I was doing a good thing by loving and serving others. I felt confident that this would not only make my boys happy, but it would also fill my heart and make me happy. Best of all, if everyone was happy, I would be okay. I would be enough. I would be lovable. Deep down, that's what I really wanted—to be loved.

Although we had finally found our way into a new normal, I felt tired and, to be honest, increasingly bitter. I resented that the boys and Steve took and took from me, never considering my needs and wants. These feelings ebbed and flowed.

There were also occasional moments when the house was clean and the fridge was full when the boys were happy and Steve and I felt connected. In those moments, I could exhale. Everything was all right. I was doing a good job. I was a good wife and mom. I was lovable. But those moments were fleeting.

Soon the house would be messy again; the fridge would need to be restocked; someone would get upset; Steve and I would disagree. Then I went back to feeling like a failure. Nothing was right. I wasn't doing a good job. I was a bad wife and mom. I wasn't lovable.

I remember a lesson David taught me on a sunny Sunday morning a couple years ago. We arrived at church a few minutes early. Once inside, he pulled away from me. He wanted to explore the sanctuary before the service began.

David was nonverbal, but we were learning that he still had much to say. He communicated by taking our hands and leading us to what he wanted. He spoke through gestures, physical touch, and heart connection. I followed him around the sanctuary as he slid his hand over the smooth wood of the church pews, weaving in and out of the narrow spaces. Then he crossed the aisle and made his way over to a woman sitting by herself. She looked to be in her late thirties, and she had a kind face and gentle presence.

We had never met this woman, but that didn't stop David from approaching her. As he got closer, the woman looked up and smiled at him. Once beside her, David turned around and backed up to her—his way of asking to be held.

"He wants to sit on your lap," I explained. "He can sit next to you if you prefer." "No," she said, ''I'd love to hold him." She carefully lifted him onto her lap. He tenderly wrapped his arms around her neck and laid his head against her shoulder.

"Is this okay?" I asked, anxious to be considerate of her. "Would you like me to move him?" She looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

"My mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple days ago," she said in a quiet voice. "I just needed a hug so badly. He knew exactly what I needed."

I knelt beside them and touched her knee softly as she and David embraced. It was a holy moment of connection that soothed her hurting heart. At that moment, David, who had a disability and was nonverbal, poured out love to a stranger, offering her comfort and connection.

David, my gentle teacher, was showing me how to be my truest self. I simply needed to listen to my heart and consent to be me. In this holy moment, something clicked.

I did not have to be good enough.

I did not have to be kind enough.

I did not have to be perfect.

I did not have to try so hard.

I had nothing to prove. I simply needed to be me.

Taken from Brave Love: Making Space for You to be You by Lisa Leonard. Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Leonard. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

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Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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