being a mom

Adopting a "Me First" Attitude

"Moms put themselves last" is a phrase I hear probably at least 2-3 times a weeks--and it's a good one to hear. It's easy to allow myself to slip to the bottom of the pile, to be the last one who gets a shower or to eat. It's easy to think that, as a mom, I should come last. The tides are changing though and as much as some still cling to the notion that moms should, no matter what, be at the beck and call of their children 100% of the time, people are waking up the idea that, surprisingly, the minute you become a mother you don't lose your identity as a person. 

Before Forrest was born, I remember being so sure that I would never lose myself to motherhood: I would never be one of those women who finds themselves unshowered, in PJs, feeling stressed and unloved. I would also never, I assumed, co-sleep or bottle feed or any other those other things, right? It's crazy how my thoughts and mantras and plans come back to bite me in the ass. 

A few weeks ago, something clicked inside my brain: for probably 6 or 7 months, I didn't spend any time during the day not thinking about Forrest. Shout out to Forrest, he's great and interesting and very funny, but conversations are a little one-sided at this point. During my maternity leave, it was even worse; I had nothing to talk about with anyone. All I had to talk about was, in this order: Forrest, pumping, Forrest's poop, my diaper preferences, how many wipes, on average, I used during the day, grocery shopping and how stressful I found it, and random daytime TV. I didn't go anywhere, I didn't do anything. I stayed home with Forrest; I fed him, he napped, we played. That's it. 

Last week, I decided to start doing a few things to help myself, I don't know, get away from being just a mom sometimes. It's true that I go to work and during my work hours, I'm in work mode--but that's still not being me. That's not taking care of me or participating in something that makes me feel revived. 

For the sake of holding myself accountable, here are just a few of the things I've been doing: 

  • More writing about things other than being a mom. If you saw me in person as I typed that, you'd see my shifty eyes, as I'm still, technically, writing about being a mom. But I'll have you know I have written almost an entire short story in a week. If I even produce one piece of non-mom, non-work writing a month, that's a plus. 
  • Less photos of Forrest on Instagram. My Instagram went from a fun, 20-something feed full of pictures of coffee, notebooks, outfits, and food to a feed entirely dominated by pictures of a small baby person. It's probably not interesting to 65% of the people who follow me and it doesn't really serve to promote my blog either. So, sorry Forrest, less you, more me. 
  • Demand time to myself. Sometimes, this thing happens where I cook dinner, Danny gets home from work, we eat, and then... Danny says something like, "I want to go finish this article." Then he's reading for 20, 30, 40 minutes. After dinner, it's a countdown to Forrest's bedtime of 6-6:30pm, so if we finish eating at 5:00 or even 5:30, that means I only get 30 minutes to an hour to myself, since I rock Forrest to sleep and lie with him in bed once he's asleep. The past few days, I've been handing Danny the baby and saying, "I'm going to do this, this, and then this." Those things might be "wash bottles, pay bills, and wash my face" or they might be "take a bath, write, and fold laundry." I deserve those minutes and I will take them.

There it is. It's all out on the table now. As much as I love taking care of Forrest first, it's getting to be personally draining, that's for sure. I don't ever want to be annoyed at taking care of Forrest, so if that means sometimes he plays while I read or take a shower or eat lunch... then so be it. 

The Many Steps to Dressing a Postpartum Body

1. Avoid looking in full-length mirrors. Or the bathroom mirror. And definitely not when you get your rare shower. 

2. Diligently fold all your maternity clothes up and put them in a box. Two weeks later, find that box, unearth the maternity leggings in it, and sigh. 

3. Go shopping for a new pair of jeans. Cry. 

4. Wonder how new jeans can somehow emphasize the mound of jello that has mysteriously replaced your belly. 

5. Pull on jeans while saying things like, "That's it, no more pizza!" and "I'm gonna snack on carrots from now on!" 

6. Yell about your bra size. Just get in someone's face and yell about it. Yell about how none of your dresses fit on top, none of your shirts button, your formerly light and flowy tops have been reduced to ill-fitting boob drapes, your sweaters look funny. 

7. Wrap yourself in sweats and flannel shirts and whisper, "I will never wear real clothes again. I am the mom, one with the yoga pant, so forgiving." 

8. Vow to eat healthier. Immediately think about the jar of lactation cookies that you need, seriously

9. Make yourself cry by trying on your old jeans. 

10. Be comforted by the fact that your workout clothes still fit. 

11. Declare your lazy days of postpartum bliss over and start working on. Attempt a 21-day no junk food rule. 

12. Eat junk food after a mere 3 days. 

13. Google at least 3x: "how many calories does breastfeeding burn really?" 

14. Wonder how many moms actually lose tons of weight exclusively breastfeeding. Upon asking mom group, find out it's basically the unicorn of postpartum life. 

15. Thanks, doctors, for making us all believe in unicorns. 

16. Vow to do a big closet clean out and repurchase stuff to make you feel better. Vaguely wonder just where you'll find the money to do such a thing. Push those feelings aside. 

17. Put your trusty leggings back on. They look pretty ok, anyway, and the baby never judges you. 

All the Things I Just Can't Wait For

Sometimes, I worry that I sound too disappointed when I talk about having a boy. As I've written before, my disappointment is not really "this is a disappointment" and more "that was not what I expected." I'm less disappointed, actually, and more sad. When my friend from college, Bek, was visiting, I managed to convey just why I wanted a little girl so bad: I love my mom. That's it, pure and simple. I love my mom; I talk to hear at least once a day by text and visit her as much as I can. I love our relationship. I love that when I was 14 and just about to go into high school, she took me shopping and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was beautiful and would always be successful because I was smart and that I would really enjoy high school. (That last bit was wishful thinking for both of us.) I love going to Portland with her, running errands, looking through old photos. I love my mom. And I wanted a little girl so I could have the same kind of relationship, because the relationship between mothers and daughters is vastly different from that between mothers and sons. 

I realize now, after a lot of time having passed between finding out little Forrest's gender and now, that that kind of expectation can be really damaging. By trying to force a certain kind of relationship on my child and I, I would undoubtedly be disappointed over and over again. I don't know what Forrest will be like and, even if he was a girl, I have no idea if we would connect and bond the exact same way my mother and I do. 

Thanks to the relationship between my mother and I, I know exactly how to be a great mother to a daughter: I know the things I want to say and the things I don't want to say; I know what to do, how to act, how to talk. What I don't know is how to be a mother to a son because, well, that's just not my experience. 

For now, all I can do is focus on the things I'm excited to do with Forrest and hope that he enjoys them to... and that I learn, somewhere along the way, how to be the best mommy I can be. 

Here's a short list of all the things Forrest can be assured I will drag him to: 

  1. Disneyland. Thanks to my friend, Meghan, I have a set of Mickey Mouse ears for him already. Several people have asked me what I'll do if Forrest doesn't like Disneyland. But really, does anyone not like Disneyland? It all depends on your experience. And I'm going to make sure he has the best time. Mainly because we'll go in the off season. 
  2. Halloweentown. Did you know the classic Disney Channel Original Halloweentown was filmed in St. Helens, Oregon? And did you know that every year they recreate the set of the movie in St. Helens, Oregon? Did you know I grew up obsessed with Halloweentown and did not know this fact until just two days ago? Did you know that literally nothing will stop me from dragging Forrest there next year and maybe this year?  
  3. Countless posed portrait shoots. Gotta capture the cute... while forcing him to wear a tiny suit. 
  4. The Newport Aquarium. And I will make him take a picture with the shark jaw, of course. 
  5. The High Desert Museum. One of my favorite places around Bend, I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk about it. It's not as exciting as an aquarium or drive through safari, but I loved visiting as a kid and teenager. They have foxes, owls, and more, plus a replica of a central Oregon pioneer town. It's a mix of natural history and Oregon history, all wrapped up in one. 
  6. A million different pumpkin patches. You will love Fall, Forrest. You will love it!