My Motherhood Confessions

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I use to write a lot of list posts--- you know, the kind that attracts the "browser." Or, the kind of reader that wants to skim without actually engaging in the text. That is what all the "tips" on how to write a successful blog say anyway--- "keep it short and sweet" and "get to the point." But you know what? I followed those rules when I was writing for you. Now I am writing more for me. That is not to say that I do not want you to read my blog, because well, I most certainly do. But I'd prefer it to be because you want to get to know me more and connect with me….and connection takes more than numbered lists.

Anyway, today I wanted to get it all out on the table. Lay it all out there like I don't give-a-rip (even though I totally do). Because envy and comparison runs thick at the playground as we judge the mother on the opposite bench from us.

Today, at the playground, I saw a mother handing her three children apples for a snack. They were undoubtedly organic and bought from the local Farmer's Market-- "damn, she's good," I thought as I handed my children prepackaged, chemically charged, absolutely-the-best-thing-you-ever-put-in-your-mouth Oreos.

Then came the guilt. The whole I-am-not-good-enough because I feed my kid's too much crap thing.

But that is the truth. The bare-boned, I don't give-a-rip truth.

 

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And here are some more of my mom confession truths:

CONFESSION ONE: I've tried bedtime charts to get my children to stop sleeping in my bed. Hell, I have even bribed them with new apps (yes, my children depend on me to sleep and depend on screens for entertainment---double threat bad mom-ness right there). Sure, I am pro co-sleeping so you would think that I just embrace getting kicked in the head in the middle of the night…but the truth is, co-sleeping is what I have succumbed to because it is the only way to catch enough zzz's to make it through the day with four children. Whatever works, folks. Whatever works.

CONFESSION TWO: I have a "land of lost socks" bin. It probably holds every single sock in our entire house because I hate finding the matches to socks.  SO I throw them all in there (knowing that it's match is probably in there too) and pretend that they are "lost."  If I were rich I would buy new socks for everyday of the rest of our lives.

CONFESSION THREE: The microwave is our main cooking source.

CONFESSION FOUR: Macaroni and cheese (the really bad powdered cheese kind) is served at least once a week for dinner at my home.

CONFESSION FIVE: Laundry and dishes are my nemesis's.

CONFESSION SIX: Fruit and vegetables are often gagged at. Legit gagging. 

CONFESSION SEVEN: We have lived in our home now for 3 years now and my kitchen still has a wall with partially peeled off wallpaper.  

CONFESSION EIGHT: My fridge is from the 50s. Not sure why that is important right now…but I really wanted to add that.

CONFESSION NINE: I HATE when my kids have homework. I hated doing homework when I was in school and I hate it even more now. My daughter's second grade math homework is already over my head. My son's sixth grade homework is impossible. 

CONFESSION TEN: I hardly ever read bedtime stories to my kids. Just kicking myself while I am down here (the guilt is overpowering).

CONFESSION ELEVEN: Sometimes my kids go to bed without their teeth brushed.

CONFESSION TWELVE: I think Legos suck. I mean I fucking loathe legos, man. They are little weapons of foot destruction. Does anyone ever actually play with them or are my kids just using them against me?

CONFESSION THIRTEEN: I curse....all the fucking time. 

CONFESSION FOURTEEN: I always wished more than anything that I could fast forward past age two. Age two sucks. PERIOD.

CONFESSION FIFTEEN: I liked my kids better when they couldn't talk. Or, should I say, when they couldn't talk back. 

Ahhh, that felt pretty good. These confessions are pretty much the universal struggles of motherhood though, am I right? It's this incredible journey where you want to scream and vomit and skip and twirl and celebrate and mourn and feel all the feels. It isn't based on perfection. It is  real. And raw. It is messy and full of moments when you want to rip your hair out and run for the f*cking hills. Every mother has her vices and weaknesses. Mine may be my sailor mouth and distaste for laundry while yours may be something else.

I'd like to think that the mom at the playground feeding her kid organic apples has her vices too. Maybe she too has a pile of dirty clothes at the bottom of her stairs that everyone seems to trip over. Maybe she too curses like a drunken sailor. Maybe she too is counting the days when they are all in school full time and she can breathe again. Or put on makeup.

And you know what? I bet that same kids at the playgrounds you saw eating organic apples is having sodium-packed hotdogs for dinner straight out of the microwave. Yupp. There I said it.

At the end of the day, we are all going through the thick of it. The truth is that even with all the confessions, it only takes one moment, one smile, one accomplishment, one "I love you," one gut-wrenching giggle from our child to make us stop and realize that it is all going to be okay --that it is all worth it. 

Our kids just have a way of bringing us back. They can be little shits for 23 hours and 59 minutes in a day and then curl up beside us and say, "you make my heart happy Momma,"  or even just, "thank you" and all is well with the world. That one minute makes motherhood worth it. 

So now, I do have one more confession for you all. It's the one that brings it all into perspective for me. Driving it home here, ya heard? 

MY FINAL CONFESSION:

I am now well aware that the days are long but the years are short. This is not lost on me. My oldest son is now twelve, he's almost my height, he no longer fits on my hip, or lets me kiss on him in public. I dont remember the very last time I held him on my hip, sadly. That memory has faded and I likely wasn't even aware it would be the last time when it happened. I wish I did. Oh how I wish I had cherished that moment. My sweet boy. I should have marked it down in his history like a first step or a first word, though I suppose it's a little bit sad to measure all the "lasts." Anyway, if your babies still fit on your hips, even if you carry all the same confessions as I do, I urge you feel their presence and warmth. Allow their bodies to press against yours. Feel their weight. Carry it for them. Try to take note of all the firsts along the way, but don't forget to notice the lasts as well. The lasts are underestimated.  

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turns out it was still pretty much a "list" post. 

I planned on being a cool mom.

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In my younger, kid-free days, I was much more of a free spirit. I was spontaneous, daring and carefree. I thought the world was my oyster and life was long enough to live every moment I dreamed of living. I thought time had nothing against my big dreams and plans. To top it off, I believed with every morsel of my being that I could take life by the balls and own it. 

To be fair, I am still a take-life-by-the-balls kind of women but I also know that at any moment, life could pull a sweep, single leg takedown and face plant me into the earth. 

So, I've always considered myself to be a leaper or a cliff jumper. I've never done anything halfway. I rock barefeet over sneakers. I chop off all my hair because I've never been a "just to my shoulders kind of girl." I bought my first camera before I knew whether or not I'd ever be able to figure out how to use it. I eat five pieces of pizza in one sitting even though I know the regret is inevitable, and I pop out babies before I even think about whether or not now is the right time. But again, I also realize now that I am not indestructible and wild spirits must sometimes be tamed.  

So, the tides are changing alongside this motherhood journey I am on. I can feel my reserve setting in. I am slowly becoming less and less of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of women.

Motherhood has this incredible way of inspiring you while also scaring the shit out of you. 

I'm a momma of four. My heart quite literally walks around in four tiny pieces every single day of my life.  And all the glamorous plans I had of being a "super cool mom" flew out the window along with my time and ability to pee alone.

I vowed that motherhood would never change me and that I would be the kind of mom who would allow curfews to stretch and would hand over car keys without question. Hell, I believe when I was 17 years old, I said --and I quote-- "I will let my teenagers smoke pot in my house one day because at least I'll know what they're up to." Is that serious? WAS I SERIOUS? What did little 17 year old me know then? I had no effin' clue what it was like to love someone more than myself. I had no idea that mother's had to tiptoe along  eggshells every single day of their lives because they understand all the pain of the world and hope like hell their kids will never have to. 

17 year old me never had the experience of waking up in the middle of the night, when the rest of the world was still, to the sound of a sleeping baby. 17 year old me never picked that baby up and whispered into that baby's ear that she would always, always, always, always protect her. 17 year old me never knew what it was like to wake up everyday with only one thing on her mind: to keep that promise-- to mama-bear her way through life, claws out and ready to fight for her cubs at any given moment. 17 year old me had no fucking clue what it would feel like to send your kid off to middle school every single day. Middle school was hell for me. Absolute hell. I am sending my child to hell every single day and I am not their to protect him. 

So that fearless free spirit I once was? Well, she's grown up. She's a momma now.

My children's lives are flying by. I see them growing and I cannot help but hope that they don't inherit their mother's love to test fate or walk barefoot.

Because you know what? My kids harbor the beauty of innocence. They still think the world is good and free of hurt. They truly believe themselves to be invincible. And on top of that, they still do not understand the depths of my love for them. They don't realize that when they risk their hearts or lives, they are risking mine too.

They are too young to grasp that when I say, "be safe, and make smart decisions" I really mean, "I cannot live a day without you," "the world is scary and unsafe," "I feel every morsel of pain you feel," or "every breath you take keeps me breathing."

So I may not be the cool mom I thought I would be when I was 17. I will never just hand over the car keys without asking questions and I sure as hell won't condone them smoking pot in my home, but you can bet your ass that my kids will be smothered with love. In-your-face, I-want-to-know-everything-about-you love. Over protective Mom's are totally hip, right?

I may not be the cool mom, but I am definitely the real mom.

Living with Anxiety & Resting Bitch Face

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I'm going to start at the very beginning. The moment I realized I was different. The moment I realized the thoughts inside my head were not typical and that everyone else was not walking around day after day wondering if it is was even worth it -- life, that is. 

Ever since I can remember I have had these thoughts on whether or not I want to remain on this earth. Now before you call the police and report your concern for my safety, let me acknowledge the fact that just because someone has thoughts like this does not mean they are suicidal. I am not. I never have been. Well, except maybe that one time. 

It isn't about wanting to kill myself. It wasn't when I was 10 years old and it certainly isn't now, it is about wondering if I am valuable? If I am worth it? If I can stand to walk around every single day scared of my own thoughts and even worse, the thoughts of others. 

When I was 10 years old and standing in my 5th grade classroom, I remember being surrounded by a group of kids. They were chatting and rotating around me like planets. I so desperately wanted to be invisible but at the time, I was cursed with a pretty face and athletic ability which in 5th grade makes you popular by default, even if you really would prefer to be irrelevant. 

One of the boys was telling one of my very best girlfriends that even though he thought I was cute, he didn't like me because I was weird. And shy. This delighted my friend, of course, because she was only asking him who he thought was cute in order to find out whether or not he liked her, not me. He pointed at my face, which was crimson red, as usual, and he said, "see....she's always....red."

I'll never forget that because for the first time I realized that people saw me as different, and that I didn't just FEEL different. 

From there, every single night as I laid in bed, I barely slept. In fact, I would say that when most kids had 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night, I had maybe 2 to 3 because I would lie in bed awake and nauseous, mulling over every single thing I said and did that day, wondering why I felt so awkward all the time and why the hell anyone even spoke to me? There were nights when I literally wished I was born ugly and small and invisible. Then, when I woke up each morning with swollen eyes, I would plan out my day and plot out my path in the hallways through middle school and high school in order to avoid the people who made me feel uneasy and red. I would consider just pulling my hood over my head and keeping my head down but I couldn't decide if that would just make me stand out even more. Why did people have to notice me? The worst part was that the people I enjoyed spending time with the most were often the ones who made me feel nauseous and I could not understand why I was trapped in a body and mind that suffered so deeply within. It was horrible. I'm not sure if most people enjoyed middle school and high school but I can tell you right now that every single day of it was hell for me. And I was popular. And I had boys calling me and telling me they wanted to date me. And a lot of friends. On the outside, when I wasn't cringing and red with anxiety, I had what many people would long for. I do not say that to sound stuck up, I say it because I want everyone to know that just because someone looks like they have it together on the outside does not mean they do not suffer on the inside. And sometimes the people who you think have it easy, may have battles they are fighting which cannot be seen. 

I wish that their were a blog post or a book or a poem or a note tucked in a bottle floating in the ocean that I found when I was in high school so I could understand that it is not normal to want to disappear but also that I was not the only person in the universe who ever felt like this. When I was younger, anxiety was not as openly discussed as it is now. If you had anxiety or depression, you were considered a little bit crazy. Allowing the term "crazy" to be stitched to my being or listed amongst a chart with my name on it felt even more lonely than trying to ignore it did. So I ignored it and tried to disappear even though I never could. 

Forcing smiles has never been easy for me. Resting bitch face is a real thing. It's not that I'm unhappy, I am now achingly happy with my life and have learned to cope with my anxiety a bit. But it is the constant need to pretend to be someone I am not that eats away at me. Why do we live in a world where women must be peppy? Have you ever noticed that? Its completely okay for a man to shake your hand, say "hey, how are you?" with a small smirk and carry on, while if a women were to lose her pep, forgo a hug, and not start up a conversation, they are looked at as a bitch. I just want to be able to shake someones hand and leave it at that. Listen, I like you, respect you and appreciate you and why can't that be enough? Why do I have to force a hug, a conversation and a smile? 

I always feel the need to find the moral to any post. So what is it here? Well, I think I just want to start a conversation about seeing past this little thing called "resting bitch face," and understanding that introverts and extroverts are all kind of the same on the inside, some just deal with their anxieties and internal battles silently, while others just let their shit hang out. 

So, 

1.  You should not always associate being bubbly and cheerful with being a good person. Let's face it, the world loves a good extroverted and cheerful person. They are the kind of people who others gravitate towards and who light up a room. They tend to be easy to talk to and make others feel at ease. Yet, too often, we underestimate the introvert in the corner with the resting bitch face. Likewise, we assume the extrovert has all the talent and goodness because, well, they eagerly share it. Let's rid the notion that good always comes with cheerful. 

2. Resting bitch face does not equal bitch. Over and over again, people assume that if you're not overly friendly then you must be bitchy. That cannot be any further from the truth, at least in my book. You do not have to be a cookie-cutter, outgoing and smiley person in order to be kind. Introverts with RBF may not stand out with their bright personalities but to be honest, they never wanted to anyway. 

3. People with anxiety and resting bitch face do not think they are better than you. In fact, if nothing else, we spend more of our time wishing we were more like the bubbly girls. The fact of the matter is that every personality is different, every face is different and smiles do not always equal happiness and resting bitch face does not equal unhappiness or judgments. We just can't get our face to look happy sometimes without it also looking like we are pooping or constipated. 

4. Serious people are just that, serious people. When did "serious" become a bad thing?  Serious means just that, we are serious. Meaning, we take things in. We observe. Everything matters immensely to us and we feel things a little more deeply. Just because we don't say, "oh this is SO WONDERFUL" or laugh as loudly as the prettiest, most bubbly girl in the room, does not mean we are not feeling those moments as intensely. In fact, it may mean that we are feeling those moments even more deeply.

5. Just because we don't wear our emotions, doesn't mean we don't feel them. That's all I have to say about that.

6. Affection does not come easily for introverts or those with anxiety. We aren't going to be the one in group calling everyone, "babe" or "hun," it actually makes us cringe a little. We wonder how in the hell some people allow those words to flow out of their mouths as easily as the F bomb flows from ours. Oh, and the most difficult thing we have to face is the simple task of saying "hello," or "goodbye." We start planning our entrance and exit from a party before we've even arrived. We never know when to hug, shake hands, or stand there with our arms flopped at our sides. Do we smile? Do we attempt an awkward cheek-kiss? And more often than not, we are wondering if we can sneak out of this place without anyone seeing and if we do, will they think we are assholes?

7. Phone conversations make us want to vomit. You think we are just being an asshole for not answering your calls, we know it. But the truth of the matter is that phone calls take weeks for us to prepare for. So, when all of a sudden our phone rings, we are snapped into the reality that we must communicate with the outside world and we have no freaking clue how to do that on the spot. So if you are friends with an anxious introvert, do not call them unless a limb has fallen off or you are on your death bed. Text messages were absolutely created by someone with resting bitch face and anxiety. 

8. Don't get us started on doorbells. I am going to take this one on from my perspective. When my doorbell rings, the first thing I do is drop to the ground like I've been lit on fire. Stop, drop and fucking roll. If it takes me 10 minutes to open the door, it is because I am spying on you from the attic window, trying to remember if my garage door is open and you can see my car and know I am home, and of course, reminding myself how to speak words. I might even do some voice exercises to prepare. Isn't it illegal to knock on someone's door these days? This is my freaking safe harbor man, why are you here? 

9. If you want to know our real thoughts, ask us. Anxiety, resting-bitch-face and introverted-ness has given us one gift and that is HONESTY. If you ever want to know what we are thinking, ask us. We are incapable of holding in our emotions for too long and word vomit (mixed with brutal honesty) is our specialty. 

10. Because I was too anxious to stop at 9 (odd numbers suck). So, 10 it is. 

The Truths of Being a Stay at Home Mom

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Truth #1: You have to deal with a lot of shit.
I mean this both metphorically and literally (gasp!). Not only will you find yourself changing endless amounts of stinky diapers, but you also have to deal with the not-so-fun-never-ending demands of children. "Mama, I need a drink..." after his 25th freakin glass while the baby is spitting up all over your bare breast. Not to mention the taunting sound of Yo Gabba Gabba: "don't...don't...don't bite your friends", blasting in the background while your toddler is grunting and red-faced in the corner working on another epic diaper change. 

I can remember a moment when I literally was walking around with my boob out for the world (a.k.a my children) to see as I tried to reattach my newborn while simultaneously pouring a drink for my son. At that moment I glanced up into a mirror hanging on our dining room wall and realized I had shit smeared across my cheek. Yes, shit. Somehow I had smeared shit on my face. Worst part- I had changed the baby 4 hours ago and it took me that long to realize it was even there. 


Truth # 2: You may feel guilty.
For some women who stay home, they admit to feeling like they are not contributing to the family enough. Smack that right out of your head ladies. The truth is, our families could not survive without you. Sure, you may not contribute financially, but you save money by not sending the children to daycare, by not shopping for convenience (snack) foods for yourself and the kids for daycare or work, and by saving on gas money from treking to work each day. Also, it becomes easier as a stay at home mom to budget, menu plan, and shop sales (money savers!). Not to mention, you organize, schedule, educate, bathe, feed, clean, and provide for your family in endless amounts of ways. 

As a stay at home, I feel that I am not contributing to the girl-power movement per se. I do not deck myself out in business suits and heals, I do not strut into a building or office with commands or demands, I do not have the time to update myself on politics or news, I am not highly educated and I do not make people drop their mouths at my professional title. But, in my little house on my little street in my little town...they call me Mom. And god damnit, I am proud of that. I have battle wounds on my stomach, a constant aching back, and I can carry a carseat in one hand, a toddler on my hip and 5 bags of groceries at one time. Sure, I may not be the proud modern-day women taking over the world, but I'm in charge of what matters in my little dot on the map.

Truth # 3: You may not get the respect you deserve.
Now, hopefully this is not true when it comes to your husband (or children). After all. the decision for you to stay home was most likely a joint one. But as a stay at home mom, you have to be prepared to be looked down upon. Is it right? Hello no. Does it happen? Yupp.

When people ask what I do for work, I usually respond, "I'ma Mom." To this I get blank stares, a dropped mouth...or even disapproval. Some even go as far t tell me that there aunt's friend always says how lazy stay at home moms are. Are you sure this is what your aunt's friend thinks and not YOU? Then, some ask if I am bored, if I feel guilty for wasting my college education, or what the heck I do all day...as if I have nothing to do. Well...let me tell you bucko, I do a hell of a lot more than you do in a day. Infact, I can do it all with smeared shit on my face and a smile...beat that.

Truth # 4: You will never poop in peace.
This may be the worst of it ladies. As a lady...we like our privacy in the bathroom. After all, it is not a very lady-like moment. But, as a stay at home mom, your poop becomes a family affair. 

I usually have either a breastfeeding baby attached to me, a child asking me pointless questions about an absurd topics (that appraently could not wait), or a toddler crying and pulling at me with painted hands and a snotty nose, all while I'm glamorously committing this very unlady-like act and hoping for just one moment of pride. Nope, your pride goes right out the bathroom door, along with the swealtering smell of your shit. 

Truth # 5: You will someday embarrass yourself in public.
Whether you walk out the door with baby-poop smeared on your face, run into an ex-boyfriend with no makeup and a frazzled fro, or begin leaking out milk through a white t-shirt with your nipple peering through...it is inevitable that you embarrass yourself in public. At some point or another you will leave the house in slippers or pajamas without even knowing (afterall, this is your daily attire) or you will find yourself with random and uneccesary stains of spit up on your dress at a wedding. Motherhood is messy.

Truth #6: You will realize it was worth it. 
You may not be using that college degree (who really is working in the field their degree is in anyway?), you may not be taking over the world with your girl-power, you may not even get out of your pajamas for work....but you are working. Goodness gracious, are you working. You will never look back and say, "Gee, I wish I worked more." But you will always look back and say, "I wish I was home more." So, after the guilt is gone, the poop is washed off your face, the diapers are dry, the laundry is done, bellies are full, and children are sleeping...you kiss their eye lids, tuck them in, and smile at your husband and know that today was worth it.

Little bits of life lately & my word for 2018.

Let me start this little shin-dig off by saying HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

It's currently January 5th and I am in full blown, this-year-is-going-to-be-the-greatest mode. I believe it with every morsel of my being. I am breathing in this beautiful fresh, new air and can taste the potential of 2018.

I've vented a few times about 2017 to you all. Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful year — one I will always remember for sure. One I will NEVER regret, But it was my work-horse year as well. I dug in deep, put my head down and worked. When I say I worked, I mean I really really REALLY worked. I barely slept. I took on session after session after session after session, and wedding after wedding after wedding, and project after project after project. We grew our nonprofit Spectrum Inspired to astronomical levels. We not only gained our official 501C3 status, but we traveled the world, expanded our reach, interviewed TEMPLE GRANDIN, and became a TRUELY global initiative! 

And then, just for kickers, you know to see if I could make myself MAD from work, I decided to launch Unraveled Academy with a couple of my best friends and create a community of uplifting artists. So far? It's my greatest accomplishment. No, OUR greatest accomplishment. It has become my new home and my favorite way to spend my time. Turns out my love for teaching didn't die when I dropped my teaching degree a semester before I was about to graduate. 

I've digressed as usual. So, simply stated, I found myself in my career this past year. I know who I am and I know without a doubt who I want to be. I've worked my ass off in search of it all. This isn't a post to brag about my successes or complain about my hardships though. This is a post to chat about how I want to improve myself for the new year and regain perspective. 

What I have lost this year was my peace, my connections, my presence in my children's lives, the ability to keep track of my schedule and my mind, and a little slice of my happiness. 

Throughout 2017, I found myself saying the words, "slow and steady....slow and steady," over and over again in my head, as I was amidst panic attacks in my car or on the verge of tears at night because I wasn't sure if I had done enough that day — knowing there was so much more I could have done. The hardest part of the juggling act I was amidst was mothering my four children. While my youngest is in preschool, I am very much still a stay at home mom to them and am required to be there for all of their activities while manning four blooming businesses. Homework, dance, playdates, therapies — that shit is all on me. It's not easy. 

Gosh, I can't even tell you how many angry emails I received this past year about needing to reschedule sessions or not being able to fit people into my calendar or for not responding to their email within 24 hours. And damnit, I LOVE my clients. Like I really, really love them all and consider them to be stitched within my being. Documenting the lives of people year after year has a way of making your clients really MEAN something to you. Being a photographer is this crazy, out-of-body experience where you suddenly believe that you are apart of your clients' story and that it is YOUR responsibility to capture them authentically. But, needless to say, there were many days and weeks where I couldn't keep up — I was sick, my kids were sick (we were all sick) and I was just unable to return emails or had to reschedule sessions and quite literally found myself pulling off the highway once, getting sick all over myself in my car and I just KNEW that it had gone too far. I had pushed myself too hard. 

So, the moral of this vent/post is: 2018 is my year of "steadiness" I will keep myself steady — from now on. I will better delegate what I can and cannot do. Above all else, I will put my time and effort and love into the projects and people I am most passionate about and I will be absolutely intentional, gradual, present and STEADY in every moment. After all, slow and steady wins the race. Am I right?

Steady never felt so right. 

Do you have a word for 2018? 

And here is a little bit of our life lately (aka 20 minutes with my kiddos locked in my room-- being bribed with chocolate for their participation).