"Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best you can."
I put this quote up on my FB wall mostly because I wanted my other mom friends (Momrades to quote Beth Woolsey) to see it. I have acquired an interesting role as of late: "wise advice giving mother." (my mother would refer to this as entering my "crone stage," but I am to vain to go there yet). I have many friends who are young mothers. I listen to them talk about their lives, and I can so clearly remember when Caroline was a toddler, and I tried to take on the entire world. Somehow I functioned on four hours of sleep and was able to work full time, take care of all of the housework, all of the errands, the pets, the cooking, and Caroline every night and most weekends. What the hell was I trying to prove? Social media was relatively new. I had no idea the world was full of mothers who were also a barely functioning shit storm. Mothers who would look at the chaos in their house and say "Fuck it!" I did not know about the debilitating side effects of anxiety and depression. I just thought I was weak or my family's favorite diagnosis: melodramatic.
By the time I had made it through a second round of PPD after Lily was born (I was so deep in my own world, that I had no idea that was my problem and did nothing to treat it), I finally learned to say "Fuck it!" By that time I was 36 years old, had lost 1/4 of my family and was getting ready to lose even more. I found an online support system and parenting reached the stage where it was more manageable. Things seemed less life and death. Rob's schedule changed and he was able to pitch in (he still wonders how the heck I did everything that I did). Still though, this is the hardest thing I have ever and will ever do. It is hard to be a mother. Period. End of sentence.
I feel like I have an obligation to be a sounding board and a voice of reason for young mothers. I can point to Caroline and explain that at one time I thought she'd never be potty trained. Lily's first word was jackass. I spent almost 14 years never sleeping on my own. It seemed like there was always a child's foot almost up my nose. I want to tell them if I didn't break my kids, you won't break yours.
I feel like I should serve as a cautionary tale as well. I lost myself. I became a "mombot," just going through life doing what needed to be done, but finding very little joy in it. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mother and loved being the mother of my girls when they were little, its just the job itself sometimes overshadowed the joy. But, I came out on the end with my sanity intact. My job is far from over, but I feel like it might not kill me. I even have time now to do things that I enjoy. Provided I make myself take the time.
I give advice only when given permission to do so. The biggest one is "learn to let some stuff go." Life cannot be perfect. This seems to be a war cry for mothers online lately. They bravely post pictures of their messy, yet love filled homes. They share embarrassing stories of the times they lost their shit and were not their best selves. They are honest about battles with depression and anxiety. We all share this so others know: "you are not alone."
Another benefit is I get lots of "baby time." I love to cuddle newborns (and sneak sniffs of newborn heads). I climb down on the floor and crawl around with toddlers. I bite my lip and try not to laugh a sassy "threeangers." My niece is the queen threeanger. I think she is just awesome!! I ignore the apologies for supposed messy houses ans ill behaved children. I am a story teller by nature. I listen to their stories and laugh along with them. Being a parent is often the most absurd thing you will ever do. I still find delight in the absurdity. Good grief come to my house and see what ill mannered and messy really looks like.
My goal is to provide the support that I needed. Not a week goes by that Caroline or I aren't sharing a tale of woe with Rob. It always involves another female who has done us wrong. Sometimes it is exaggerated, most often it is not. During one of these vent sessions, Rob paused and said something to the effect of "I don't know why women can't support each other. Why are they in such direct competition? I wonder if this is why women haven't risen as high in the corporate world. If they worked together, it would be easier." He said it better, I'm paraphrasing. He does that about once a year. He stops me mid rant and makes such a profound observation it takes my breath away.
He has a point. So hear and now, I am starting a support network for moms. Not a place to compare stages and milestones, to shame others because of their feeding choices, sleeping choices, crafting choices, teaching choices, disciplining choices... Just a place to listen and to respond "I've been there too. You are doing great. I believe in you. You will get through this!" And because it cannot be said enough "Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best you can."