sacrifice

Dear New Mom

| On Parenthood

Dear New Mom,

You don’t have to apologize. So, stop right now.

You’re in the mama circle now. That means you get to fall off the face of the earth, complain, cry, ask for help, or not return phone calls and texts, and we’ll still be here. We’re crying and complaining about our kids too, so no judgement.

However, if anyone complains while they are “helping you out” even if that person is another parent, politely ask them to leave. You don’t need that shit.

Speaking of help, people are going to want to help you. Let them. They won’t fold your clothes the right way, they’ll put the groceries in the wrong place, and the dishes they just washed may still have food on them, but who cares? Let them help you. You can’t do everything. And you’ll send yourself to the crazy place if you try. Let them feed you, let them take the baby so you can poop, even if the baby cries the whole time. You need to poop.

Breastfeeding is hard. If you are struggling, it’s because you’re human. It’s okay. And just because you’re human and your body was designed to do this, doesn’t mean it will come naturally. Ask for help. There are a lot of options and it’s okay to try all of them. In the end, you need to feed your baby. So, feed your baby. And whatever your decision (tube feeding, pumping, formula, breast milk sharing, half breast milk/half formula, taking domperidon, using magic pixie dust), it’s okay.

If anyone tells you to just relax, you can absolutely shove a pencil in their eye. Just kidding. Don’t do that. But it’s okay if you want to.

Oh yeah, and it’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to put your baby in a safe space and go in the other room to scream or cry or poop or just breathe. They’ll be fine for a few minutes. And you’ll feel a tiny bit better. Sometimes your baby, toddler, or kid is going to be a complete a-hole. You’ll want to send them back. Sometimes he or she will be dazzling, hilarious, or super sweet. Those moments make it worth it.

You’re going to miss being alone. You’re going to miss long brunches with friends, sleeping until noon, solo adventures, and all the yoga. You’ll wonder what you used to do with all that freaking time. Non-parents will complain about not having enough time for this or that. Just smile and nod. They have no idea.

You’ll squeeze an amazing amount of to-dos into nap time. Or you’ll stare at the TV. Or sleep. Whatever. These moments are golden. They are yours to do with as you please. You can “reflect” on life or write your five-year plan in your head on the way from here to there. Seriously. You’ll be in survival mode for awhile. So, take your vitamins, hydrate, and breathe. You’ll get through this.

It’s okay to love being a working mom. It may mean you can’t have play-dates at 2pm at the children’s museum, which also means you may miss out on a few mom friendships. You can connect with moms online and your kid will make friends at daycare. If being a working mom is good for your wellbeing, THAT’S good for your baby. Win-win.

And it’s okay if working is not for you. If you want to be home all day with your kid and have the means to do it, DO IT.

Either way, do not waste your time feeling guilty. There is plenty of that in your future; don’t waste your energy on this one thing. Choosing to work or not work is not a choice between being a good parent or a bad one, being a present parent or an absent one. It’s a choice you make for your family.

While we’re talking about work, let me add there is no such thing as balance. For us or them. As long as they have a basic structure to their day, lots of love, and boundaries, you’re doing great. Some days you’ll OD on TV. Don’t worry. And some days you’ll spend hours outside exploring. Same thing with us adults. Some days you suck at everything and pay your bills late and cry three times. And some days you are on fire, multi-tasking the shit out of your day.

No one is asking you to do anything more than your best. But the best you can give depends on what’s going on in your life. If you have the flu, are sleep deprived, or going through some major life upheaval, your “best” is not the same as it is when life is calm and flowing like honey. The “best” your child is asking of you is based on a sliding scale according to what you can afford. You do the best you can in any given moment and that is good enough.

I read somewhere that it’s better to give them 100% of you 50% of the time, than 50% of you 100% of the time. I think Magda Gerber said that. In any event, that one little piece of wisdom really helps me keep perspective and stay present when I am with my kiddo.

This may be exactly what you wanted. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe you didn’t want any of this. Maybe you love the crap out of your baby, but you don’t totally love being a mom. We are complex creatures, and as such can hold space for both emotions. Or maybe you wanted to be a mom, but the universe handed you a really complicated, unfair, and all-around shitty situation.

I got a lot of advice when I got pregnant. And then I got more when Judah was born. The one thing that stood out and remained mostly true was this: it gets better. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but it will get better. (Even if this isn’t true all the time, I like to pretend it is.)

And I’m standing on the sidelines cheering you on. Some moms may not agree with all of your choices. But who cares? They’re not your baby’s mama. Screw them. If you’re doing the best you can (and you are doing the best you can), you’re doing great. Keep being awesome and you’ll raise an awesome human.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

Me


This letter was written for every mother who needs to read it. (So, feel free to share it with the new mom in your life.) But most of all, I wrote it for myself. I will become a mother all over again in October of this year. I’m very excited. But I’m also very nervous. So, I put all the words of encouragement I usually share with other moms in this one letter. In October I’ll read it again. And again. And again, until it sticks and I truly believe, despite all the screw ups, I’m doing great and raising two awesome humans.

*Black and white photo by Tanya Alexis

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Stop Trying to Live a Balanced Life – Why Balance is Bullshit

| On Living Well

Balance is Bullshit

 

I’m not the first one to declare such a thing. Others have said it before me. But if you’re like me, you probably ignore them thinking, Well, that’s fine for everyone else. But I can totally live a balanced life. Watch me!

And then you go about running yourself down to threads saying yes to every exciting new project, scrubbing your home lemon fresh, preparing wholesome meals (from organic local farms only, of course), keeping your resolution to treadmill your way to glory, while celebrating each and every birthday, job promotion, engagement, and new baby.

We all think we can do it. I want you to know that you can’t. (more…)

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The Thing No Parent Should Ever Tell You

| On Parenthood

Parenting

 

“The hardest part of parenting is catching barf in your hands.”

My dad told me this at some point in the year before Judah was born. My mother agreed. Parenting was easy.

I thought back to these words many times in the first few months of being a momma. And they made me so freaking angry. Parenting was NOT easy. No it was not. If Judah was an appliance, I would have (more…)

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The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself in Order to Live Authentically

| On Living Well

Live Authentically

 

It feels funny like an itchy sweater, or too-tight shoes, or brushing your hair in the wrong direction. You try to pinpoint why things don’t feel quite right. And then one day you realize, UghI hate this flippin’ sweater! 

It’s like that when you realize you’re not being true to yourself. Not living authentically results in a disconnect between the person we want to be and the person we suddenly realize we are. It’s uncomfortable, disorienting; it makes us want to rip that sweater right off. (more…)

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Sucking Just a Little – How to Do Less & Create More

| On Creativity

Freeze Time

 

If I could have one superpower I wouldn’t wish for the ability to fly (as helpful as it would be in a city like Los Angeles). I wouldn’t wish for invisibility, although my inner creeper would probably take that one out for a test drive if given the opportunity. I would wish for the power to stop time.

Imagine it! Imagine living your average day getting as much done as you could in the short 24 hours you are given. Then right at the point when you think you can’t get any more done (more…)

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When bhakti yoga becomes a pain in the ass

| On Yoga

I like to bake.  And one of the best parts of baking is sharing the fruits of my labor.  I like–no love–to watch friends and family bite into a slice of pie or a cookie and make that face.  You know the look I’m talking about, that oh-my-f*cking-God-that-is-sooooo-good face.  They begin to chew in slow motion, close their eyes, and then inarticulate moans and yummy sounds replace conversation.

I love that.  That is what compels me to bake gluten-full desserts that I can’t even taste.  (Yes, Grandpa, that means you’re still getting blueberry pie for your birthday.)

So, in a gesture of appreciation  and pure bhakti (yoga of devotion or love) I decided to bake cookies for the cast of my boyfriend’s next theatrical production.  They work hard and, like many LA artists, they seldom get paid for their time and energy.  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies are in order!  (I just discovered that I can’t digest oatmeal anymore.  Boo!  What to do with all of this oatmeal I just bought…)

And then I remembered that one of the cast members is a glutard, like me.  (Glutard is what Jeremy, my boyfriend, likes to call all of us who are digestively challenged in the gluten department.)  No matter.  I’ve been meaning to try out a new gluten-free vegan brownie recipe.  Brownies for Alexis and me.  Cookies for the cast.

I set out to spend just an hour or so of my day off baking before I’d be on to other adventures.  I made sure I had all of the ingredients I’d need and then I got started measuring and humming to myself, happy in my heart to create on a sunny Friday afternoon until–Crap!  The applesauce I needed for the brownies had developed a very colorful pink ooze.  Crappity crap!

OK, no problem.  Off I went to the market to get some more only grumbling slightly to myself.  After all, it was a lovely day in Downtown.  I found applesauce.  Of course, it was Motts and packed with high fructose corn syrup.  Um, no thank you.  Surely, I thought, they’ll have something suitable at the organic market across the street.  Nope.

Damn it!

I considered scrapping the whole idea but I’m really not a quitter by nature.  So I went home and made some applesauce.  Yep, that’s right, I decided to peel some apples and cook them only so I could mix them into my brownie batter.  And then I’d start the oatmeal cookies.

When I got home something strange began to happen.  I started moving around the kitchen at warp speed.  Bowls clanged and utencils banged as I threw them into the sink.  I wasn’t feeling so happy in my heart anymore.  On a subconscious level I understood that the afternoon was running away from me.  Time–oh precious time!–was slipping through my fingers.  Without being fully aware, I was grasping to gain back minutes of my day.

And as I whipped around the kitchen measuring and mixing and banging and clanging my heart rate soared until my conscious mind caught on to what was happening.

I’m guessing this has happened to many of us.  We want to support our loved ones or a cause and donate our time, energy or talent.  We want to show love and appreciation without any reward or even an expectation of thanks.  We want to practice bhakti yoga.  And yet, somewhere along the way the whole thing becomes a royal pain in the ass.  We end up feeling put out and whatever we’ve decided to give, we do begrudgingly.

When this happens, we need to reframe our thought process.  Bhakti yoga should never feel like a chore.  Did Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi (perfect examples of bhakti yogis) complain because there was freakin’ mold on the applesauce and now they wouldn’t have time to paint their fingernails?  No, I think not.

So, here it is:

Three Questions to Bring You Back to the Happy-in-My-Heart Feeling of Giving

1.  Why am I doing this?  It’s a simple question but it should bring you back to your original intentions.  For me the answer is usually love.  “I’m wearing this stupid bridesmaid dress because I love my friend…”  OK, maybe that’s not the best example but you get what I’m saying.

2.  What am I really sacrificing?  Chances are, not much.  Usually it’s just time.  Sometimes it’s money (but that’s usually nominal).  If you’re sacrificing something substantial like missing work or your grandma’s 80th birthday, well, that’s probably time to reconsider what you are doing.  Then again maybe it’s worth it.  Only you can weigh your devotion against the cost.  But reminding yourself and keeping it in perspective will bring you back to the true purpose of your bhakti.

3.  What would happen if I stopped?  Feeling like you would be letting others down turns the selfless art of bhakti yoga into an obligation.  When this happens it might be time to step away.  Bhakti is love for love’s sake.  It is something you do without anyone expecting of you.  Of course, from time to time we do favors for friends and family.  And there are plenty of tasks that need doing and we just don’t want to do them.  This is not to be confused with bhakti.  If you’re not doing anyone a favor or letting anyone down and you’ve lost that loving feeling, then step away.  No one will think less of you.  No one was expecting it.  You’re probably depleted and need to show yourself some love and kindness.  So, take care of you.  Paint your fingernails if you need to.  When you are all filled up and feeling whole again, bhakti it up!  And for God’s sake, don’t tell anyone of your unfulfilled intentions.  “I was going to _____ (fill in the blank) but…”  That just makes you look like an asshole.

I really do love baking and when I reframed my thought process, I realized there would be plenty of the afternoon left for me.  I continued baking and set about infusing my baked goods with love and devotion.  Once I tapped back into my original intention I slowed down and let myself enjoy the process.

And the brownies made with homemade applesauce?  They were just alright.  But hey, it’s the bhakti that counts, right?

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