A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
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A few years ago, my sister-in-law went through a pretty dramatic personal transformation.


She reignited her interest in fitness and athletics and along the way she lost weight and made a lot of new friends. I witnessed the transformation at a distance via Facebook updates and our twice annual family visits, so I didn’t fully understand the driver behind her big changes until she revealed them in a blog post.

After her first baby was born, she acted the way she thought a stay-at-home mom was supposed to act: crafting and making every minute about her kids. She said “yes” to things she thought she was supposed to do and lost herself along the way. In the end, she wasn’t happy, and she spent a long time figuring out how to fit her identity as a mom into the life she wanted to live. After I read her article, my first thought was, She finally found her personal brand.

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Personal brand defined

Have you heard this term before? It’s trendy business lingo for what makes you stand out in a crowd. Your personal brand showcases your special talents and is built around who you are, what you do, and what you believe. It’s your unique combination of skills and personal qualities that bring value to what you do, and it’s used to keep you operating in a consistent and focused way to achieve your personal and professional goals.

Entrepreneurs and consultants use this as a way to promote themselves and explain in a shorthand what clients can expect when they partner with them. Job seekers use their personal brands to communicate their unique value to prospective employers. Before I left the corporate world, we were rolling out personal development training to a segment of employees to help them identify their brands as a lens through which they could look at their careers and their approach to solving business problems.

Adding “parent” to our personal brands

Old habits die hard, so even though I’ve been out of Human Resources and home with my kids for a few years, I couldn’t help but connect my sister-in-law’s self-realization with the concept of personal branding. Bringing this idea home into our family lives could be the answer to each of us finding peace with our individual style of parenting.

The good news is that you don’t have to feel completely lost in who you are to benefit from the process I’m about to share. I know this because I’m the exact opposite of my sister-in-law, and I still found value in doing this.

I’m more confident in my role as a mother than any role I’ve ever had. On the spectrum of mom guilt, I suffer from very little, and I don’t second-guess many of my choices as a parent. Of course, I worry about my kids, but I don’t worry whether I’m a good mom.

Still, when I challenged myself to come up with three adjectives to describe myself as a mom, I was stumped. My immediate thoughts went to how I wish I was behaving differently (i.e. magically turn into a morning person, so that I could accomplish household chores and workouts before the children wake up), and this isn’t a productive or, in my case, realistic way to think about parenting.

It’s not productive for a few reasons. First, focusing on our strengths makes us more successful than obsessing over our weaknesses. Second, defining our parenting brand, which is really just succinctly naming our strengths and how to use them to raise our tiny humans, serves as a compass to keep us on a win-win path that’s good for our families and good for ourselves. Naming what we want out of life makes us more likely to achieve it, and setting our own expectations, rather than adhering to what we think other people want, makes us more motivated to keep it up.

It’s for moms and dads

In truth, I first thought of this idea only as it relates to moms because we seem to experience a higher level of internal and external scrutiny for our parenting choices than dads do. Developing our unique mothering identities seemed like the best way to slough off for good the superficial labels we’re assigned. You know the labels I mean: soccer mom, helicopter mom, mean mom, crunchy mom, or hot mom (well, you can keep that last one, if you really want).

The more I thought about this, though, the more I realized it’s a worthy exercise for dads because we all keep a set of standards in our heads to which we measure ourselves. Naming our personal parenting brand gives us a chance to question whether the expectations we’ve defined are realistic and helpful.

If they’re not, it’s an opportunity to recalibrate the parenting bar we’ve set and focus on engaging with our families in a way that feels more authentic. This is what my sister-in-law did. She let go of the feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and fear she had about her role as a mom and embraced the identity that made sense for her — a mom who’d rather coach her kids’ soccer teams than volunteer in their classrooms. 

What’s more, going through this exercise together with our partners is a chance to revisit the expectations we’ve consciously or unconsciously set for one another. This is a chance to rebalance our joint approach to parenting and appreciate how our unique parenting brands compliment one another. And in case you’re getting any bright ideas, defining your brand as “I don’t change diapers” isn’t going to fly.

The four steps

We’ll walk through four steps to help you create your personal parenting brand and to figure out what to do with it once you have it. Take as much time as you need to complete these steps.

1 | Know thyself 

As a party trick, I used to do quick personality assessments on people based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and there was never a lack of volunteers. That’s because it’s fun to learn about ourselves, and it’s even better when the observations are insightful and give us pause for thought.

Below are some free online assessment to try. Take as many as you want and, by all means, dig around their websites for more information on each. The research-backed assessments are widely used for team and personal development and each offers a more in-depth analysis for a fee, should you find one particularly useful (I have no financial connection to any of these).

The fluffy ones are just for fun. Pay attention to patterns in your results, even in the non-scientific ones. For example, loyalty and helpfulness show up for me in some fashion regardless of the specific test I take.

Do a gut check while reading the description of your results. Take note of where you find yourself nodding your head, thinking, How do they know me so well?

VIA Survey on Character Strengths: A 15-minute assessment ranking the strength of 24 character traits that we all possess to some degree, just in our own unique combination. (They also offer a youth survey for children ages 10-17.)

Connecting with Colors: A five-minute assessment assigning you a color that represents your dominant personality traits and communication style. (They also offer an assessment for teens and tweens.)

DISC Personality Testing: A 10-minute assessment which places your preferences for connecting, communicating, and interacting with other people into four quadrants.

What Kind of Parent Are You?: A 10-question quiz, just for fun by Quizony.

Which Iconic Sitcom Dad Are You?: An eight-question quiz, just for fun by BuzzFeed.

Which TV Mom Are You?: An 11-question quiz, just for fun by Zimbio.

2 | Do some “me-search”

I had a psychology professor in grad school who used to say that “research is me-search,” meaning people choose to study topics with which they have a personal connection. In our case, we are doing me-search in the truest sense of the made-up word.

We’ve got to investigate how other people perceive us. It’ll either reinforce our view of ourselves and get us closer to locking down our brand, or it’ll highlight a disconnect between how we think we’re behaving and the vibe we’re actually putting out there.

Ask your partner, close friends, and family the following questions. Don’t forget to ask your children, if they’re old enough (and willing to play along). This doesn’t have to feel like a serious endeavor. Everybody loves me-search, so make it a round table and take turns answering the questions for each other. Chat over a glass of wine (or two) with the adults. Talk at dinner with the kids, and younger kids can draw pictures. You can share the results from your self- assessments, too, to gauge their reactions and get the conversation started.

There are no wrong answers and the fact that you’re taking the time to figure out your personal parenting brand proves you’re already a good one, so listen with an open mind to what those closest to you have to say. Try these questions:

  • If you could use one word to describe me, what would it be?
  • When do I seem happiest as a parent?
  • What do I complain about the most when it comes to being a parent?
  • What’s the most fun thing we’ve done together as a family recently? What made it so fun?
  • What do you think I’m really good at?

3 | Name that brand

Now it’s time to make sense of all this information. Keep the feedback you heard from family and friends and your own self-assessment results in mind as you think about the following questions and create your personal parenting brand statement. While the feedback you received from others is important, the answers to these next questions are yours and yours alone, so be honest in your responses, even if it differs from what your partner or children said.

  • What’s important to me as an individual and a parent?
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I want for my child(ren) in their lives and what qualities do I have to help them achieve this?
  • What’s my favorite way to spend time with my child(ren)?
  • What’s an example of a time I’ve felt successful as a parent?
  • When do I feel most drained by my kid(s)?
  • What qualities do other people admire in me? What am I known for? 

Now, it’s time to put this all together into a few sentences that represent your personal way of being a parent. Pulling from the answers you’ve given above, describe yourself with two or three adjectives (I am…). Then, state your goal for how you want to raise your kids (I will…) and call out something you won’t do because it doesn’t align with how you parent (I don’t…). Here are a couple examples:

I am practical and nurturing with a twist of intrigue. I will help my kids become well-adjusted and independent adults by being honest and fair with them. I don’t sweat the small stuff. 

I am fun, hard working, and thoughtful. I will lead by example to show my kids that life is too short not to take chances. I don’t take life for granted.

4 | Getting and staying on brand

Congratulations! We’ve made it to the final step. It’s not easy distilling the complex realities of parenting into a few sentences. Well done. Now it’s time to think about what you’re currently doing with and for your kids and compare it to your brand statement.

  • What do I need to start doing to get on brand?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • What do I need to continue doing?

Your answers to the above questions will determine your next steps. If the bulk of your responses fell under the “continue” category, then you’re right on track and should share your brand statement with your family and close friends. They’ll most likely nod their heads and say, “Yep.” 

If your answers indicate that you have a gap between the way you’re parenting and the way you want to parent, then think about this:

What help do I need to make these changes? From whom?

It’s important to say here that therapists and life coaches are helpful resources in making any kind of personal change, but if you’re ready to tackle this yourself, then here are some considerations:

Bring your family along for the ride. Without their support and agreement, this can’t work. Really, it can’t, not for the whole family, and it’s critical that we remember any individual changes we make impact our families. Talk through what needs to be different and how you see it happening. The bigger the changes, the more time everyone will need to adjust to it, and you will have to be open to compromise.

This isn’t an excuse to stay in your comfort zone. Use your brand wisely to say no to things you can’t do and say yes to the things you could be doing instead. Don’t use it to avoid testing your limits or trying new things. It’s not a justification to underestimate yourself, so keep a growth mindset — the idea that everyone has a basic set of talents and aptitudes that can change and grow over time through practice and experience.

Your brand should be consistent in public and private. If it’s not, if you’re still acting differently at home and in public, then you’re still figuring out who you are and how to be honest with yourself and others about this. Stick with it. It’s worth it!

Last, but not least

Life is unpredictable and there will be moments when you need to adapt. Your personal parenting brand is your compass for how to live your life and raise your kids, but every once in a while you’ll take a detour for the good of the family, for some unavoidable reason or just because sometimes we have to do things in life that we don’t want to do. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed, and it doesn’t mean you can’t get back on track. It means you’re human, and life’s not perfect. Just remember that defining your personal parenting brand is your way of saying, this is who I am, this is how I parent, and I don’t have to apologize for it.

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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

loleez

When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

This article was sponsored by Lolleez. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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The nurses and my husband were pushing the stretcher as I tried to put some makeup on; I have always loved red lipstick and bought a new one for this special occasion. I want to look pretty in the pictures, I can not be seen with this face, I thought.

My brown skin contrasted with the white of the operating room—I was there because twins generally means it's high-risk pregnancy, so this was an extra precaution before starting to push. Doctors were ready; clean and sterilized. My husband was dressed as an astronaut and I? Well, I was disheveled, with huge dark circles and no sleep, but extremely nervous and excited.

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"Push, push, push," they said when everyone was set up, but I was just trying to get my hair in a ponytail. There is nothing glamorous about giving birth.

Labor began shortly before 11:00 in the morning. At 11:04, my daughter was born and by 11:07 my son arrived. The two of them were vaginal deliveries. No cesarean. It was so fast that I didn't have time to put makeup on or do my hair. I had no time to get picture ready even when I had spent 37.5 weeks waiting for this moment.

My daughter cried softly and my son was tiny. I could only hold them for a couple of minutes, just a short skin-to-skin hug before they were taken to the NICU. They needed more oxygen and some tests.

From the operating room, I had time to send photos to the family, give the good news on WhatsApp and post something on Facebook. Their dad ran behind them as they went to the NICU. I was left alone, but not empty. I was happy, proud and full of love; I don't know if the epidural was working its magic, but I was never afraid.

Then I was back in my room. A nurse bathed me, braided my hair and put a little makeup on my exhausted face. My mom came to see me, probably a little disappointed that the twins were not with me. Everything happened so fast. Just half an hour after the delivery, I was in a wheelchair on my way to the NICU to see those little strangers that had formed in my belly.

They were twins, but completely different. My daughter was a brunette, but my son was more likely to be blond; she was fully awake and he was sleeping. You could definitely tell that she would be the one with a strong personality and he would be the sweet mama's boy. They were two tiny individuals that grew together in my belly.

"I'm mom," I introduced myself in a whisper.

It was the second time they saw me and I made sure that I looked a little bit better this time. It was not the makeup or the hair, love made me look pretty and I was full of that wild and inexplicable new emotion.

Then something happened. It was just a second, a click.

We recognized each other and loved each other instantly. My mom told me about that "magical connection" but I never really believed it until I felt it.

I was a brand new mom with no experience at all (I have to confess that I even took classes to learn how to change diapers and use a stroller). And, of course, I didn't know what to tell them or how to lull them; there are no classes to prepare you for that. It was so unexpected that I, a writer and a journalist, was out of words.

I was so in love that I was speechless. They were so tiny and had so many tubes and machines on them that I was afraid to do or say the wrong thing.

So I sang. I sang every single lullaby in Spanish that I could remember while I rocked them to sleep. In the beginning, it was one by one, in their own rooms and then, together, one on each arm, like the family we've been since then.

I spent my first night as a mother away from them, yearning for them and missing them. I spent the second night in a larger room with no crib or babies. The third, the fourth and even the seventh—and others—I spent in the NICU, with them.

Our boy was still in the hospital and our daughter in my arms. I discovered the magic of motherhood amid pediatricians and nurses, pumps and tubes. But, even with all that chaos, I found true joy and the most frightening fear.

It has been five years now. Today they are no longer babies; they say they are a big boy/girl now. I know it's true. Where did the time go?

They have grown a lot, but they are still my babies; they can bathe alone and brush their teeth making circles as the dentist taught them, but they are still looking for my arms, my kisses, my touch and my words of love.

They think they need me, but in reality, I need them more. We're a team; we are family. We love each other, we accept each other, we challenge ourselves, we—almost always—like each other, we push ourselves to the limit, but with the same intensity we love each other.

I'm so blessed to have them in my life. I'm lucky and beyond. I'm so excited to walk with them in this life and I'm so thankful that they chose me to be their mom.

Larga vida, mis cachorros. Los amo.

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Life

I have a secret to tell you.

I really, really loved breastfeeding my babies. I loved it so much I fed them both from my breasts for nearly two years each. I nursed my first son while pregnant with my second. And man, I loved every single second of it. I cried for two days when I decided to wean my second and last baby. I will always remember the way the tops of their heads looked and smelled as they nursed. It is a memory emblazoned in my soul.

I am afraid to admit this though because I have been told that if I did I would be shaming other moms who struggled to nurse. I would never want to make another mother feel bad about her choice or struggle.

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You see, I think sometimes in an effort to "not shame mothers" (all for the not shaming btw), we have made celebrating our own joys as a sort of shame-inducing thing for other mothers. And man, I think that kind of stinks.

So here is my plea... Moms, dads, SAHMs, working mamas and every kind of mama, can we bring back more of the celebration? Feelings of accomplishment no matter the feat. Praise for a job well done, whatever that job is.

I am never going to say "breast is best" or working moms have it harder, or anything like that. Nope, I am not here for that. I am, however, going to do my very best and do what works for me. I would love some space to feel good about that. And in turn, I would love to praise you for your choices, your accomplishments and your mommy style

I want to hear about how great your kid is at soccer. I really want you to brag as much as possible about her athletic prowess. She scored three goals today? So amazing! We need more of that mom-brag and swag.

I will tell you right now, my kid is not that soccer star, but you sharing how awesome your daughter is will not make me feel ashamed. I want to celebrate you and revel in your pride even while my kid is taking his 10th water break of a 20-minute game.

Mom life is legit hard right? If you are anything like me, you worry approximately 7,453 times a day about your kids— are they "normal," are they succeeding, am I making sure they are not turning into legit insane monsters?

Mom life is also riddled with self-doubt (hey there, talking about myself again!), insecurity and uncertainness. So I understand the need to make sure we are never shaming another mama. I work hard at this, and I also work hard to make it clear that just because a mama parents differently, it doesn't mean it's better or worse.

Since mom-life has all these stressors, I really want to see if we can let go of the idea that sharing our joys and triumphs means we are shaming one another.

Your kid sleeps through the night every night at 2 weeks old? Um, so I may be the most jealous ever, but goodness, I am so happy for you and genuinely want to celebrate you.

Your kindergartner is reading chapter books and mine is over here coloring outside the lines and still gets confused between his b's and his d's? I am so proud of your buddy and you! Mine will get there, in his own time, as it is meant to be.

Share with me, celebrate with me, beam with pride, mama.

What do you say, mamas? Can we start to share those joys a little more? Celebrate those accomplishments of the tiny humans we are working so hard to raise? Find the joy in our friends' kids and our own?

I'll start. Today my 3-year-old only cried a little when I dropped him off at preschool. He typically screams. Tiny victories Mama, they count too.

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Life

Your to-do list is kind of under control. The kitchen is mostly clean. You just finished that big work project and to celebrate, you scheduled a lunch out with the girls tomorrow while your little one is at school. As you rest your head on the pillow you think to yourself, “Okay! I might actually sorta-kinda have this whole thing under control!"

And then you hear it from down the hallway: cough cough.

Your eyes shoot open. No. It's fine, just a little tickle in her throat. She's fine.

Cough cough cough.

Nope, it's fine. If I lay here and don't move nothing will be...

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“MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY I don't feeeeeeel goooooooood."

Sigh.

You break out the humidifier, the Tylenol and the snuggles. And then comes the inevitable question—can they go to school tomorrow? It's not an easy question to answer, for sure.

On the one hand, kids are basically walking booger factories at all times—if we kept them home for every sneeze and cough they'd never go to school. On the other hand, we don't want to put our kids in a situation where they could get sicker—or make other kids sick.

When in doubt, you should always give your pediatrician a call for guidance. Most schools have policies on it as well.

But as a general rule of thumb, here's what to know when your child isn't feeling well:

On fevers

The most clear cut of all symptoms are fevers—if they have a fever, they stay home. A fever is any temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater. A child needs to be fever-free for a full 24-hours before they can return to school.

Note: If your newborn has a fever she needs medical attention right away. It could be an emergency.

On stuffy noses and coughs

A mildly stuffy nose, or an occasional cough isn't enough to warrant a day off from school. But if the mucus is really thick and/or the cough is frequent, loud, or just sounds “gross," it's probably best to keep her home.

Coughs can linger for a long time in children, but if it persists for several days, or she has a fever with it, give your doctor a call. If the cough sounds like a seal barking, and certainly if she is having any trouble breathing, get medical attention right away.

On tummy troubles

Or as my daughter's preschool teacher called it, “intestinal mischief." If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, they should stay home (and should stay home for 24 hours after the last incident). Make sure everyone at home washes their hands really well, as stomach bugs tend to be very contagious.

Remember to encourage your child to drink lots of fluids. If they aren't drinking, call your doctor right away.

On skin issues

This can be tricky—between marker explosions, dry skin and rashes, it seems like my kids' skin looks different every day. Rashes are almost impossible to diagnose over the phone, so if you are concerned, they'll need to be evaluated by their doctor to help determine the cause (and contagiousness) of the rash.

If you suspect your child has lice, they should stay home as well—and you'll probably have to give the school a call so they can ANONYMOUSLY alert the other parents.

Along the same lines is the dreaded conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Usually your child (or lucky you) will wake up with their eyelids crusted shut, or they'll have a very pink eye with lots of goop (sorry—but we're all moms here, we can handle the eye goop convo right?)

This is highly contagious, so they should for sure stay home from school. Depending on if it's viral or bacterial, you doctor may prescribe medicine that clears it up quickly.

On pain

This one is tough—kids often complain about various boo-boos, especially when it means that they get a Frozen Bandaid out of the deal. If they complain of pain persistently, if the pain prevents them from playing, and of course if you witness a bad injury, keep them home and get medical help right away.

Remember that you know your child best. Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Your pediatrician will be there to guide you, and one day, ONE DAY, you really will get that whole to-do list tackled... we think?

You've got this.

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Learn + Play

"I understand what you're going through."

"That happened to a friend of mine."

"Everything happens for a reason."

"It wasn't meant to be."

Silence.

On the rare occasion that I open up about our experience with family expansion losses, disappointments and tragedies, I almost always find myself faced with a loving person who has no idea what to say or do. Reactions typically range from awkwardness to avoidance. And while it certainly hurts to watch friends fumble, I get it.

The reality is, there is no perfect way to respond. It is tricky terrain. But here are some thoughts I encourage you to consider before sharing your words of support.

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No, you probably can't relate. We all have different experiences in life.

Not all failed pregnancies are the same. My husband and I have had a failed pregnancy when the stakes were low—early in our efforts when we were younger. We've had a failed pregnancy when the stakes were high—after countless cycles of crushingly expensive, time-consuming, emotionally draining IVF with the last healthy embryo we'd (likely) ever create. They weren't the same.

Not all failed adoptions are the same. We've had a failed adoption that cost us zero dollars. We've had a failed adoption that cost us 40 grand. We've had a failed adoption that happened within a week. We've had a failed adoption that happened after 6 months of dreaming and planning. We've had a failed adoption in which we never met the child. We've had a failed adoption in which we held, fed, changed and photographed ourselves with the child.

Thankfully, we've never experienced a failed adoption where the child was removed from our home after a year. But this has happened to families we know.

Even if you've had an experience related to the same topic, please don't assume you can understand the experience. It's highly likely that you can't, and that's okay.

You don't need to tiptoe around the topic like you're on eggshells.

If you treat a person like they're broken, they may start to feel as if they are. They're in pain. They're hurting. Their dreams may have been shattered. But they are not broken.


There have been times when friends haven't included us in their joyful moments because we weren't experiencing ours at the same time. I'm sure they thought it was kinder to do so as they likely deemed the events not "relevant to us" and being present might cause us pain. But the reality is that blessings in their lives are not things we want to avoid. If someone I know is pregnant while I'm not, nothing they do will make me forget my reality.

Assume the best.

I believe that most people can be happy for others even if they haven't received the same gifts. I know I can. For instance, I don't fly first class to exotic locations around the world, but one of my best friends does. When she returns from her adventures, I love to hear her stories and look through her pictures.

I do wish that someday I can join her on an adventure, but for now, I am simply happy for her. She's living her best life, and that's exactly what I'd wish for her.

I have a big heart, and it has space for the joys of my loved ones. If you're bringing another child into your family, that's a blessing. Might I sit in envy for a little while? Maybe. Might I shed some tears wishing I could have what you do? Possibly. But that's human. A true friend will work to carry themselves through those feelings. Assume they will.

Please don't judge. It isn't about anyone else but those going through it.

Along this journey, I'm sure there have been times we haven't been "ourselves." All we needed from those around us was a little patience until we were feeling better again. Sometimes that can take longer than usual. Trauma can do that to a person. Repeated trauma certainly can.

I had a tendency to drown myself in work. Sometimes we distanced ourselves from friends. Occasionally we didn't leave the house for an entire weekend. As long as people kept inviting us out, even when we repeatedly declined, we felt supported. Eventually, we rejoined them.

The last thing we ever needed while going through those hard moments in our lives was to feel guilty for the things we weren't doing with our friends. It was a period of grief or us, and getting through it took every ounce of our energy.

We remember.

We have anniversaries that no one else may know about. We can't and won't forget about them because they've been part of our journey. We haven't needed others to know about them or remember them if they were told. All we continue to need is the grace to let us handle those times in our own way, and be kept in their hearts.

As for where we are right now…

Are we through our pain? To some degree.

Do our hearts continue to heal daily? They do.

Will we always need our friends and their loving hearts? We will. We always will.

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