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How ‘SMART goals’ got me out of my postpartum funk

My youngest child just turned 1.

Knock on wood, I think I'm leaving the new motherhood fog.


I've read such fog lasts for the “fourth trimester," “when your kid sleeps through the night" or “when crawling starts." Mine lasted longer than any of those definitions. Regardless, I'm starting to re-connect with the world and re-figure out the person I am—and who used to be.

While the birth of my first child brought a feeling of purpose and joy, the birth of my second came with an unexpected wave of postpartum anxiety and depression. Suddenly I had to navigate mothering with my maternal instincts clouded by exhaustion and self-doubt. I don't like doing things poorly (does anyone?) and I set high expectations for myself as a paren.

Accordingly, my confidence took a nose dive.

To restore it, I looked to outside sources for validation. My business was an obvious target—it had historically provided a sense of accomplishment, and I had relatively more control over it than other parts of my life at the time. In my postpartum mind, if my clients liked (i.e. hired) me, then I was a likable person again. If I successfully got them art (I'm an art advisor), then I was a successful person. Linking my self-esteem to my work would give me the boost that I needed to get a grip – so I thought.

This plan crashed, burned, and ultimately provided a useful education that frankly would have been handy when I started being an adult. But regardless, there were a few lessons: First, “business" is hardly under your control—if it were, I'd have a different financial profile. Your business choices are in your hands (service offerings, marketing languages, client service), but the mentality of your target clients is not; in fact, it is heavily influenced by the social, economic, and political landscape that is entirely out of your control. My emotional struggles, for example, coincided with the 2016 election, and anyone remotely interested in life as we know it could not have cared less about art on their wall. Second, as a small business-owner, you are your brand (and your brand ambassador).

If you're linking self-esteem to business, then your sour mood translates to a sour brand. These days, people aren't begging to do business with a brand they don't love…there's too much competition with too many distractions, so a deflated business owner should not expect an inbox overflowing with inquiries. The company that I built and loved was accordingly not providing the validation I needed.

I made MANY subsequent efforts to find my way out of PPD (I make it sound like a trap, but that's actually how it felt), and I am attempting to write a semi-humorous book about those antics—but the relevant and noteworthy game-changer for me was the discovery of“SMART goals."

This acronym may be wildly popular, and though I've heard it before, it wasn't front of mind when I first needed it. A business success coach reminded me about how to approach “SMART goals" by spelling out the acronym. The goals I set were—

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-Bound

The objective here is to make goals that are all of the above… that are essentially entirely within your control.

When you make goals related to items outside of your control, you can perceive yourself a failure for not doing anything that has actually failed.

This was an intriguing realization, and so I started to practice. My un-SMART (stupid?) goal of “get new clients" changed to “call 3 referral sources from X.com." “Figure out Instagram" became “read article on IG followings."

I LOVE checking items off a TO DO list so I started writing items down, crossing them off, and found it so fulfilling that I expanded my scope: “get baby to nap X hrs" became “put baby to nap at 9."

“Get in shape" was changed to “jog 2 miles."

My days became organized and manageable and my sense of accomplishment heightened. I even started to have some spare me time, which was initially confusing and then blissful. I got a haircut, bought some clothes, and took a bath with my new scented candle.

The SMART goals became a distraction from the self-loathing that had consumed me for months.

My anxiety and depression faded, and I started to laugh more, be present, and remember what makes me tick—when alone and when with my family. Not surprisingly, business started to pick up. That was good news, but I proudly realized that it wasn't driving my confidence… it was a bi-product of the choices I was making—the choices that were in my control and not at the mercy of outside world happenings.

This knowledge was empowering, and it gave me stronger faith in what I could accomplish personally and professionally. My brand felt more defined, and like my personality, it became more secure, appealing, and something people proactively wanted a part of.

This past year was incredibly inspiring and challenging. I literally tear up when I pause to think about how grateful I am for my girls, my husband, my parents, and the opportunities we have every day. And while I still have sporadic irrational breakdowns (yesterday's related to getting the wrong Easter egg dye), I'm generally able to navigate those by accepting (or eventually remembering) my own definition of success—one that involves setting and making an effort to achieve real goals, taking control of what I can, and embracing what's left to chance

In this second year of my baby girl's life, I choose to define success for myself.

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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