Motherhood & Friendship: It's Harder Than it Looks

Motherhood & Friendship: It's Harder Than It Looks | Writing Between Pauses

When I was a freshman in college, my best friend from high school got pregnant. We were very, very close the summer between senior year in high school and freshman year in college--and throughout our first year at college, we wrote each other letters, sent each other silly emails, text messages, and Facebook wall posts. (Remember Facebook wall posts!?) We were each others rock when we didn't really have a lot of other people who understood our background: we were perfectionist girls from small towns outside of a major metro, who went to a Catholic school where everyone was just a little wealthier than we were. We worked hard, took AP classes, played sports, and got good scholarships. 

I wish I could tell you that our friendship survived her pregnancy, that her becoming a mother and having to quit school, because you can't keep a soccer scholarship that covers most of your tuition when you're pregnant. I wish I could tell you that I had been there for her. And truly, I did try: I was 19 years old, however, and while that's no excuse, I didn't really have all the tools necessary to deal with her circumstances.

We fell apart for several years. My best friend disappeared into the background of my life; I remembered her fondly, but I wasn't sure exactly how to reconnect with her. But a year before my wedding, as I was trying on wedding dresses, I spotted her: she was trying on wedding dresses too. We hugged each other, we swore to get together... and we never did. I've chatted with her a few times since: we've met up for dinner once, she gave me the last of her breastmilk when Forrest was in the hospital just after his birth (a favor that is truly one of the greatest kindnesses anyone has ever done for me), and we talk occasionally on Facebook. But the spark of our friendship--that exciting feeling to have someone who just knew me, who understood all my quirks, who laughed at the same jokes as me, who sent me goofy cards she found in the grocery store just because--it's gone and it doesn't really come back. 

Recently, I was reading Jimsy Jampots, a newsletter by Amy that I really love, and she talked about friendship, about how some people seem to have a friend group that survives just about everything and others, well, just don't. I'll be the first to tell you I've never been great at making friends; I'm introverted and shy, with a heaping dose of social anxiety. I'm eternally self-conscious, always convinced I'll say exactly the wrong thing. It's like I never learned how to have a conversation, sometimes. But when people get to know me, I really do think I'm quite funny. But friends? Lasting friendships? That's something I really struggle with. 

In Amy's newsletter, she included a link to an article on the Pool about friendship and motherhood, and about how friendships shift and alter throughout our lives, but especially when we have kids... or don't have kids. You can read that article here. It got me thinking about my friend and how our friendship really dissolved once she was pregnant and especially after she had a baby. I was still in college, living a completely different life from her. 

Similarly, almost 3 years ago, I was having a baby when almost none of my friends were. I've written before that I found pregnancy a really fun experience (despite learning later on that I actually had a quite difficult pregnancy), but that I found the first three months of motherhood absolutely brutal. Postpartum life is isolating, exhausting, and, truly, just not very fun. Some people adjust really well and some people just don't. 

One line stuck out from that article by Robyn Wilder in particular: 

Recently, the Daily Mail zeroed in on a “controversial” blog post by Australian writer Nadia Bokody, in which she claimed that “I can’t be your friend anymore now you’re a mother”. And in reply I’d like to say this: “Well, of course you fucking can’t.”

I’m not the same as I was before kids. I’m a mother now. I have a pram the size of an SUV that I don’t know how to collapse. I have to watch a YouTube tutorial every time I want to get it on a bus. So, no, I cannot meet you for cocktails in a trendy Brixton bar that you can only access via a broken fridge door in a back alley.

It's very difficult to explain to people that it's not that I don't want to go to a trendy bar, or, god, even sit on a park bench and eat a sandwich and chat for hours. It's that I literally, physically cannot. I might be able to beg my child off on a babysitter for an hour, but that's just an hour. Or I can bring him along, spend all the time not really listening to someone talk, try to entertain him, annoy everyone else in the coffee shop, bar, or park, and then have to leave early because he didn't get a good nap, or he needs to eat lunch, or some other reason. (And truly, the stroller situation is out of control. Why don't they fold up easily!?) 

Motherhood changes everything in your life. In one monumental way (you have a human life that is dependent on you for basically everything) and in many small, insignificant ways that sometimes feel glaringly painful. They are little paper cuts, reminders that your life is somehow much better, but also much harder, than it was a year ago, or two years ago, or whatever. It's like someone has come into the apartment of your life and just changed the furniture a little bit. Your body doesn't work quite the same anymore and neither does your brain, really; you don't have as much time as you once did to lounge on the couch, or binge watch TV shows, or chat with your friends. Your car has gotten bigger, bulkier, and harder to maneuver and the backseat is basically a non-space, taken up entirely by a plastic potty that you have to carry everywhere, a bag full of extra clothes just in case, snacks, and the carseat that cost about the same as a house payment. You find yourself doing things your parents used to do: folding money into parchment paper and saving in the freezer with peppercorns inside, carefully wiping tennis shoes with wet paper towels to clean the mud off, creating travel books out of old binders and hole punched activity sheets you photocopied from your sister's old books, counting coins out for allowance, creating a chore chart. 

And there are people in my life who don't understand any of these things. They might even have kids themselves, who are older, or who are younger, or maybe they just adjusted to motherhood better than me and don't have to check the stove 3 times before they can get in the car. It makes friendship difficult. It makes it easy to go a week without talking, then two weeks, then somehow it's been two years and you're not even sure how to start the conversation anymore. 

Parenting is hard. It's not the hardest thing in the world and ultimately, it's a choice--but it's still really challenging. And it's hard to juggle parenting and socializing, especially if you, like me, aren't great at socializing to begin with. I've been on both sides of the coin: I've been the one moving on while a friend becomes a parent and I've been the one left in the dust, looking around and wondering when the last time I spoke to so-and-so was. And it's ok. At the end of the day, it's ok for friendships to fade. 

Because, in the meantime, you can find new friendships. Mom groups have bred some of the best friendships I've ever had--people who totally get me, who understand me and my difficulty with parenting, who laugh when I joke about starting a revolution, who understand when I say I don't really know if I want a second baby because I really, really like my first baby. People drift apart and it's hard to make time in the quagmire of our lives, but if you meet someone who is also fighting a two-year-old 13 hours a day, you'll be surprised as how well you can talk over screaming,. 

Motherhood & Remaining Passionate: Why It Is Not Selfish to Keep Your Hobbies as A Mom

Why It Is Not Selfish to Keep Your Hobbies as A Mom | Writing Between Pauses

It is often said that women lose themselves in motherhood. 

After we give birth, we start "getting our bodies back" (whatever that means). We become "dairy cows" (if you're lucky enough to breastfeed). We have a small life depending on us, so it's easy to feel like our identity becomes flattened into one idea. Many of us spend weeks, or if you're lucky, months, away from work; and some will end up quitting their jobs because it becomes more cost effective. It's more difficult to make plans with friends, especially in those early months, and we find ourselves watching more TV or listening to more podcasts to keep our minds occupied. 

Here's a quote from Mia Redrick in her piece, How Women Lose Themselves in Motherhood

I call this the “Silent War,” the process of slowly fading away from yourself, your interests and your passions without even realizing that it is happening.

At some point, all mothers face this crossroad in parenting. We come up for air and realize that we can’t answer even the most basic questions like: When is the last time you read a book and finished it? What is your favorite place to shop for clothing? What are your hobbies? When is the last time you had fun doing something that you love?

It's good to know I'm not the only one who had one of these moments. 

Before I had Forrest, I ran, I worked out, I wrote constantly, I kept meticulous journals, and I read voraciously. In the long, hard months after I had Forrest, I didn't do any of those things. I read a few books in the first year of his life--maybe 6 or 7 total--and I wrote some blog posts that I only recently went back and deleted. Mostly, I pumped. I fed him. I read about formula online. I chatted with fellow moms. And I watched a lot of TV. It took me a good two years before I started feeling like it was ok to let myself indulge in the hobbies that seemed, well, kind of frivolous. 

I've often seen the argument, not necessarily from outsiders, but from mothers themselves, that they feel selfish when they take time for themselves. I don't necessarily have this feeling, but I do struggle to plan in time alone during the week. I do a lot of work throughout the week--my day job, plus running this blog and doing freelance work--and that tends to take up the time that I would otherwise spend indulging in my hobbies. 

Yet, it can still feel very selfish. When Forrest is playing or watching TV, I start to feel a little bad that I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my headphones in, listening to a podcast. Or, when he's napping, I start to work on the short story idea I've been outlining and re-outlining in a notebook for weeks--then I realize I have laundry to do, or lunches to prep, or the living room to vacuum. I feel caught in the web of having to do things that are "productive"--or that are beneficial to the entire family, not just myself. 

You know how on airplanes, in the safety guidelines, they always say to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others? That's motherhood, at the end of the day. You have to give yourself time to be a whole person before you can effectively help anyone else become a whole person. 

It's difficult to find the balance, however. It's easy to go all or nothing in our lives. But finding a balance that works for you and your family will help you be a better mother in the long run. I know it has made me a better mother to have an hour to myself in the evening, to write, read, exercise, or sit on the couch watching the ID channel. Learning how to schedule in time for yourself is a hugely personal task; there is no right way to do it, and no single method that works for every family and situation, especially if you have a child with a disability or illness. 

I always tell people that there is more to my identity than being a mother. Yes, being Forrest's mom is the biggest part of who I am--it's definitely the most important, in a lot of ways--but it's not the only thing about me. I also love learning about makeup. I love watching trashy reality TV. I love true crime. I love German music. I love writing, about anything and everything.

If you let motherhood consume your entire identity, you're doing not just yourself a disservice, but your child a disservice. This isn't to say that your hobbies should come first (that's absolutely not the case); but it is to say that as a mother, you matter too and it's ok to take time for yourself. 

The Benefits of Formula Feeding (That No One Tells You)

The Benefits of Formula Feeding | Writing Between Pauses

Formula feeding has a somewhat bad reputation. And it doesn't help matters that there is so much bad or just plain false information out there regarding formula. I know when I was pregnant, I felt adamant and absolutely sure I would never need the samples of formula I received from my doctor. The thought of having to use them left me feeling cold and confused, as if I was plunged into a world I had never stepped for into before. 

Friends, as we well know, I used those samples of formula and more. (You can read my blog post about my postpartum depression, partially caused by my difficulties breastfeeding, here.) 

When I wrote this post idea down on my editorial calendar, I found myself getting very, well, nervous about actually writing it. Writing about formula on the internet is dangerous business indeed; lots of women like to pop in to give their unsolicited opinion about formula, about women who use formula, and the horrible things formula "does" to infants (we'll get to this last point in a bit). I don't like confrontation and I don't like arguments; it takes a lot for me to stick me neck out and argue with somebody. But when it comes to formula feeding, it's one of the few things that really, really gets me going... probably because I believed so many lies about formula feeding before I even gave birth. 

Let's start from the beginning, shall we? 

My Experience with Formula

To briefly summarize, my son, Forrest, was born premature due to my severe preeclampsia. He is what is called a "late term preemie"; he was 36 weeks, which is "technically full-term," but not actually full-term. See, infants develop, and practice, suckling inside the womb at 37 weeks. Since Forrest was not in the womb at 37 weeks, he never learned to latch correctly. (It should be noted: some babies develop this earlier, which means they can be born at 36 weeks and latch successfully. But this is relatively rare; 36-weekers are notorious for being poor feeders, even with bottles.)

So, not only was he not developmentally able to breastfeed, he also developed severe jaundice (he had 2 forms of jaundice at once) and extremely low blood sugar; these two things made it very difficult for him to stay awake and effectively feed. We had to feed him in his sleep and he stayed in a bilibed for 6 days. We weren't allowed to dress him for the first 10 days of his life, because moving him around too much caused him to use too many calories. 

I, rather heroically, pumped for exclusively for the first 2 months of his life. But as we got home and got settled, my needs for sleep outweighed my ability to pump. Finally, my doctor, at my 8 week appointment, sat me down and told me that if I didn't sleep more than 2 hours a day, something bad would happen. She told me to stop pumping at night and sleep. So I did. After that, my supply plummeted; I was more rested, but I was still a wreck, constantly anxious about how much milk I was producing. 

So, I started supplementing with formula. I knew it was the only way. And it was very successful. I became less stressed about how much Forrest was eating and how much I was producing and I was able to more enjoy motherhood. I was still very depressed, wishing that Forrest could breastfeed like other babies (and trust me, packing a bag with formula, breastmilk, my pump, and everything else was an absolute pain when we left the house), but my anxiety was reduced. 

At 6 months, I developed mastitis after a dramatic shift in my production. I went from producing about 10-12 ounces a day (my supply had always been very, very low) to about 2-4 ounces. I had a 104 degree fever and felt absolutely awful all day. Finally, it was time: I had to go all formula.

It was hard at first, because I felt like I had failed... but when I tell you that life became so much easier with formula, it's the absolute truth. No more monitoring my pumping schedule! No more constant washing and sanitizing of pump parts! No more worrying about taking my pump to work, or pumping while I drove, or trying to figure out which bottle of breastmilk I put in the fridge first. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. 

And honestly, Forrest thrived on formula. He thrived on any milk after the first 6 weeks, really, but once I became less of a mess, he truly became a different baby. I started reading about formula and trying to better understand the myths I had heard--I still worried that I wasn't giving him "the best," that I was going to be absolutely destroying his absolutely perfect insides. And you know what I found out? 

Nearly everything I'd been told about formula was a lie. All the myths about the correlation between diabetes and obesity? Lies. All the myths about tooth rot? Lies. All the myths about formula and breastmilk being shockingly different? Lies. I want to talk about them, because it's important. 

The Worst Formula Feeding Myths

This blog post isn't intended to talk anyone out of breastfeeding. However you choose to feed your baby, the most important thing is that 1) you feed your baby and 2) you are as happy and healthy and thriving as your baby. If I've learned anything from motherhood, it's that we matter as mothers and people as much as our children matter. We can hurt ourselves just for the sake of our child; it's not worth it. 

There are just so many articles out there about breastfeeding. When I was struggling, I felt like there were no resources out there for me! Everything was about breastfeeding! I want there to be one voice for formula feeding, so that if you're struggling, you have another voice to here. 

Alright, let's jump into those myths, shall we? 

1. Formula feeding is pushed by hospitals. 

Formula feeding was incredibly popular from the 1960s through the 1980s. If you were born in a hospital in the United States between 1960 and 1990, you were probably formula fed. It was just what everyone did. Why? Formula feeding was associated with wealth; it was expensive, but it was incredibly reliable. Prior to the invention of mass-produced formula, infant mortality was much, much higher; those who had the resources to afford formula were much more wealthy. 

To say that formula feeding was pushed by hospitals during those years isn't wrong. Formula feeding was considered the norm and it was very popular. However, most hospitals now receive grants through the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). What does that mean? If they have higher rates of breastfeeding, they receive more grant money and maintain their status as "baby friendly." Overwhelmingly, it's much more difficult to receive formula in hospitals these days. I had to sign a waiver to receive formula for Forrest and they pressured me to choose breastmilk from the Portland Milk Bank instead. 

2. Formula feeding is correlated to higher rates of diabetes, obesity, etc., and can lead to lower intelligence in children. 

These myths are all combined into one, but basically all have to do with the same thing: formula fed babies are stupid and unhealthy. This myth is so boring and so clearly aimed at guilting mothers, I debated even including it. Formula feeding is associated, now, with lower income women and families. Why? Because these families are more likely to receive formula via programs like WIC. They are also more likely to have to return to work within 4-6 weeks of giving birth (sometimes even less), they are more likely to not have health insurance that covers things like breast pumps or lactation consultants, and they are more likely to have employers who don't provide them with the necessary breaks. (In the United States, technically all employers must accommodate breastfeeding mothers; however, most workplaces only have to provide 1 30-minute lunch period for every 8 hours worked, as well as 2 10-minute breaks. If you're still pumping every 2 hours or so, that's just now enough.) 

Associating formula feeding with increased health problems and lower intelligence, you are linking and stereotyping these issues to lower income families, while ignoring the reasons that many lower income families have to rely on formula for the sake of their children. This myth is a whole mess of problems and false correlations, but more than anything else, it's just plain wrong. 

As I said, almost the entirety of the United States was formula fed for 25 solid years. That means almost everyone we know was formula fed. Most of my friends were formula fed and I'd say they are as smart or much smarter than me. Repeat it with me: formula feeding has no impact on health or intelligence. It's just food. 

3. Formula causes tooth decay. 

Tooth decay in children is called "bottle rot," because in the 1970s and 80s, it was associated with babies and toddlers being put to sleep with bottles of formula. Many mothers in this time just didn't know this wasn't wrong; their babies slept and everyone was happy! Until their teeth started to rot. Pediatricians learned quickly to warn mothers of formula fed babies to always brush their teeth after bottles and to never let them sleep with a bottle. The issue is that when a baby or toddler falls asleep drinking a bottle, the milk often pools in their mouth, staying on their teeth and causing rapid decay. 

So, bottle rot is associated with formula feeding. But you'll be surprised to know that cases of bottle rot have rapidly increased in breastfed babies. 

Why? Because mothers of infants who are breastfed are not warned to brush their children's teeth and, in cases where mothers are following attachment parenting, are encouraged to let their children breastfeed all through the night. But a child that lies all night with milk on their teeth that isn't brushed or rinsed away is going to get cavities. That's just how dental hygiene works! If I drank a glass of milk before bed every night and didn't brush my teeth, I will get cavities too!

Breastmilk and formula are both just fat and sugar; at the end of the day, that's what they are. If that is left on the teeth, it will cause cavities. All parents should practice good dental hygiene with their children, regardless of what they are fed. 

4. Formula feeding is lazy. 

This is, to me, the most hurtful myth. It presumes that if you choose formula feeding, you are lazy and therefore, don't love your children. It dribbles out of people's mouth and probably is followed by, "I bet you let them watch TV" and more. It's judgmental, it's stupid, and it's wrong. 

Formula feeding, especially from the newborn days, is difficult and time consuming. You boil water; you prepare bottles; you have to sanitize everything. There is powder everywhere. It's awful! And worse, in the middle of the night, you have to mix up bottles, warm them if your baby takes them warm, and then wash it so you don't have a disgusting surprise in the morning. 

That also doesn't take into account that many, many formula feeding mothers start as wanting to breastfeed. They may have tried very, very hard to breastfeed. They pumped, or they went to lactation consultants. They tried and tried and tried. Is that lazy? No, absolutely not. 

And even if a mother choose formula as the best choice for her family, it is often because of a lifestyle choice--not because she doesn't want to put in any effort. This myth is so offensive; it allows those who repeat it put themselves on pedestals while disparaging other mothers. And, frankly, I'm tired of it always being a competition. 

All the Benefits of Formula Feeding

You know the myths. You know they're wrong. So what are the benefits of formula feeding? 

1. Travel is much easier. 

Forrest was an Enfamil baby and when he was about 7 months, I found out that Enfamil makes these on-the-go packets of formula. They are pre-measured for a 4 ounce bottle, so all you need is 4 ounces of water. It was genius. No messy dispensers. For us, travel became so much easier when I wasn't pumping; plus, Danny could feed Forrest in his car seat while I drove, so our trips didn't get disrupted. It was also so much easier to be out and about, because Forrest could have a bottle as I walked around the mall or store. 

2. Transitioning to whole milk is easier. 

Formula and whole milk are very easy to mix. For us, making the switch at a year was so effortless and easy, Forrest didn't even notice! It was much harder to transition to sippy cups, but at least we knew he would take whole milk, and therefore get all the fat he needed! 

3. Being able to accurately measure intake is amazing. 

Having a preemie meant that we were always a little paranoid about measuring his intake. I counted diapers until Forrest was 8 or 9 months old, and I still have spreadsheets of his intake for months. His pediatrician always wanted to know and so being able to tell him that he averaged 25 ounces of formula a day and 10 wet diapers felt so easy. We always knew how much he was getting, so if his growth stalled, we didn't have to wonder if my supply was low or what. We just had to increase his bottles! 

4. Mothers don't have to do all the feeds. 

This is the best part. With most breastfeeding mothers, the onus is on the one who breastfeeds to do every feed. And for the first 3 months, that's every 2 or 3 hours, around the clock. It's easy to get touched out in that scenario. With formula feeding, anyone can feed the baby. Dad? Yep. Big brother or sister? Sure! Grandma? Yes. Grandpa? Absolutely! It gives mothers some free time to relax, or do some basic chores, and can be a huge help in reducing anxiety and depression. 

I hope this blog post has been illuminating! If you're considering formula feeding, don't be afraid to send me a note, either on social media or via email. I want to hear about you and answer any questions you may have. 

How to Stay Creative As An Exhausted Mom

How to Stay Creative As An Exhausted Mom | Writing Between Pauses

Have I ever mentioned that I'm really tired? Are you really tired? 

Everyone has different reasons for being exhausted. And I'm definitely not one of those people who thinks that, just because I have a kid, it makes my exhaustion more valid or more intense than other people's. This isn't the Olympics and no one gets a medal for being more or less tired than anyone else. 

I will say, however, that having a child drastically reduces the amount of time that I have for 1) recharging and 2) creating. Two things I know I need in my self-care arsenal to make sure I'm not cannonballing off a diving board into the anxiety pool. 

The more tired I get, the less able I am to be creative. The less creative I am, the more anxious I feel. The more anxious I feel, the more tired I feel. You get where I'm going with this? It's an endless cycle for me. 

After I finished Blogtober (October), NaNoWriMo (November), and Blogmas (December), a friend asked me: just how did you manage to do three solid months of constant writing & creative output without absolutely losing it? 

The answer: I just... did it. 

Ok, it's not that simple. Let's what through how I did it--and how I start creative, outside of that 3 month timespan, with raising a toddler. 

A Little Disclaimer

I wanted to start with a little disclaimer: it's ok to not have creative output. 

If you're a mom, who is creative, who based her life on creating prior to having a child, it's ok to not create anything if you genuinely don't want to. It's ok to not feel inspired. You don't have to force yourself to do it if you think it will be damaging to your mental health. Your health takes priority over writing, or painting. Getting sleep, eating meals, and having time to relax is more important that writing a week's worth of blog posts. 

So this is just my gentle way of saying: this is what works for me. This is what helps me to feel better. It is not for everyone. Take care of yourself first!

1. Make the Time

When Forrest plays in the afternoon, I often sit on the couch with my cell phone and take flat lay photos, or I write Instagram posts. Or, if I don't feel like doing that, I cross stitch. Both of these activities stimulate my mind, but don't invite Forrest's attention (he is obsessed with my work laptop) and aren't so time consuming that I can't focus on Forrest as well. 

I am someone who needs to be "productive"--and for me productive means actually producing something. This is why I sometimes struggle with handling my anxiety around cleaning and doing laundry; it doesn't necessarily "create" anything. So little things like editing photos, doing cross stitch, or organizing my bullet journal during playtime help me to stay creative and mentally stimulated--without throwing myself into a larger project. 

This is what I call "making the time." It isn't forcing yourself into a big project during a one-hour nap time or anything like that. It's just doing little creative things, when you can, to keep your mind active. 

2. Have a Goal

I've said this before but: having Blogtober, NaNoWriMo, and Blogmas as goals really helped me to focus and stay on top of creating, in a way that was motivating and didn't make me feel like I was wasting time. I like having goals that are relatively simple to meet--all that Blogtober and NaNoWriMo required of me was writing a little bit every single day. So instead of spending my evening watching TV or cleaning the kitchen, I wrote blog posts or I worked on my NaNo novel. 

Having a goal to works towards, for me, keeps me working towards something. I'm not a huge fan of big, big goals--but writing a blog post every day or creating a small piece of art every week is absolutely doable. And once you do it enough that it becomes habit, it's a part of your life--and it's something that can keep you creative every day, even when you're very, very tired. 

3. Create What You Can 

You aren't always going to be working within your medium of choice. I am a writer, but sometimes, I keep myself creative by taking on other tasks that keep my brain stimulated and help sooth my anxiety. Things like bullet journaling, coloring, cross stitching, and baking are huge stress relievers for me, and allow me to experiment, create, and feel productive--without being quite as mentally taxing as sitting down to write a short story or even outline a novel. 

You won't always be creating art that will win awards. Sitting down to doodle a page in your bullet journal or start a new cross stitch pattern might not feel like you're working towards any kind of goal, but you can multitask with both those activities (such as watch Married at First Sight, my guilty pleasure) and they help keep your mind from getting bored and sluggish. 

4. Take Care of Yourself

Like I said: you can't be creative if you aren't taking care of yourself. I don't stay up late writing or working on anything anymore. I certainly used to, but these days, when my sleep is at a premium anyway, I simply don't allow myself to do it. I make myself stop to make dinner or go to sleep. I make sure to spend time before bed reading, doing a face mask, or simply lying in bed, dozing or going through my day. Relaxing is an important part of creating. And even though I like to be in near constant motion through working and writing, I know that if I don't take some time to not create, the next time I really need to buckle down and write... I won't be able to. 

I Have It All (& Sometimes It Sucks)

A lot has been said about women and "having it all." A lot has been said about the pressure to achieve having it all and the stress that comes with that. A lot has been said about resisting the urge to "have it all." 

The truth is, having it all means one thing and one thing only: having your cake and eating it too. 

It's really, at its heart, a lame, boring concept. Yaaaawn. 

The truth is, I have it all in a certain sense: 3 days a week, I work a job I love, where I am respected, where I am trusted to handle decisions; 2 days a week, I'm a full-time mom, wearing yoga pants, pushing a stroller, going to Target. I'm married with one baby and one career that I don't plan to give up. 

I "have it all." 

And sometimes, it really sucks. 

Being a working mom is one of the most challenging things I've ever done. My three months of maternity leave were, also, one of the most challenging times of my life. For a while, I wondered if I was suited for either: what if I just wasn't cut out for motherhood or working full-time? What if, when faced with these options and my aptitude, the answer was, "Just kidding, you're bad at everything"? 

As things got easier, I fell into a good pattern. But the truth is, I'm still stressed out all the time. I have it all. I have the cute baby and the side blog and the nice husband and the good job. I have it all!

I also have a slew of anxiety problems, including a near constant worry about developing diabetes (I can't explain that one), panic attacks, and extremely disordered eating behaviors. I handle my own life exceptionally well for being so highly strung. It's almost a miracle. 

Sometimes, it does suck to never be able to sleep in, to have a hard day at work and come home to a teething, crying baby who just wants to cuddle or throw books or scream at me. It sucks. It does! Why aren't we saying it more? 

Sometimes, being the mom, standing there with a screaming baby, dinner burning on the stove, the dog barking, the phone ringing, the computer beeping with messages from the work Slack channel I swore I would ignore when I got home... it sucks. It sucks

It's the thing I'm not supposed to say. I'm supposed to be grateful, right? I get to work and I get days home with my baby. I get to have my cake and eat it too. Shouldn't I be happy? 

You know how sometimes you can be so excited for something? I get this way when I've dieted all week and I promise myself a treat--say a cookie or a pastry. When I get to that cookie, that cupcake, that scone, I often find myself disappointed. It never tastes as good as the dream cookie. Sometimes, it tastes amazing. But sometimes, it just tastes bad. 

That's having it all. Sometimes, it just isn't good. Sometimes, it just sucks. It's ok. It doesn't mean it sucks 100% of the time! But sometimes, it would be nice to just be able to eat Cheerios on the couch for dinner, to watch TV mindlessly for a few hours, to not soak and wash sippy cups and baby bottles while I ignore my emails. 

But you know what? I wouldn't trade it--just know, it's not rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes, it's rainbows, sunshine, and a little poop emoji. 

A Day In My Life

"What's it like to be a mom now?" 

That's the question I get asked most now. It used to be about Danny or my job or any number of other things. But now, people just want to know what motherhood is like--especially if they are expecting or not yet mothers themselves. It's something I love talking about because I think it's important to be open about what motherhood is really like. Unlike the (very funny) memes that float around on Facebook or the lifestyle bloggers that gloat in your Instagram feed, motherhood isn't 100% messy or 100% perfect. It's somewhere perfectly in between. 

This is a day in my life when I'm not working. My work days are infinitely more boring than any day at home with Forrest. 


I wake up, usually, around 5:30am. Both because I have an alarm set and because usually Forrest is awake by then. I get up, let my dog outside, make a bottle, feed the dog, start the coffee, and then run upstairs to grab Forrest. We usually lie in bed while he drinks his bottle (and I change his diaper). At 6am, we migrate downstairs where he plays in the living room while I make my morning coffee and our breakfasts. We eat at 6:30am usually and then play for a while. 

Forrest usually takes his first nap by 9am; I strap him in the Ergo baby carrier, turn on some river sounds on my phone, and walk up and down our driveway until he is asleep. Then, I get some work done at my desk. I write, answer emails, blog, and design for about an hour. Once he starts waking up, we go back downstairs. 

He usually has his mid-morning bottle at 10:30am. I clean up the kitchen while he plays. If I have time, I'll clean the downstairs bathroom and the entryway. At 11am, I put him in his high chair and give him something to snack on (banana, peach, or Cheerios), and make lunch. 

After we eat, we head in to the park to play and walk. I usually try to walk 2-3 miles, while listening to podcasts. 


When we get home from walking, Forrest usually has his afternoon bottle around 1pm. Sometimes, he takes a second nap during this time; sometimes, he just refuses. We play, sing songs, and read books until about 3pm, when I put him back in the high chair and start making dinner. As I make dinner, I narrate, sing songs, dance, whatever, to keep him occupied. 

We eat around 4pm (I know, we're old people). My husband gets home around 4:30pm and joins us. 

Then, we sit in the living room and play together, usually letting Forrest play with the bookshelves. After 5:30pm, it's time to get ready for bed. If it's been a while, Forrest has a bath. If not, he gets his last bottle as we put him in his pajamas and sing songs. Then, we rock in the rocking chair with river sounds for about 20 minutes. He's asleep by 6pm at the latest every night. 

Once Forrest is in bed, the party starts. I clean the kitchen and the living room, wipe down the tables, and clean Forrest's high chair. Then I go upstairs and get any additional blogging or work done that I need to. 

By 7pm, I'm usually done for the day; I'll read or watch TV, but most likely, I'll be planning meals for the next day or meal prepping or working out in front of the TV. 

My "me" hour is usually 8pm-9pm: I'll take a bath, clean the bathroom, or lie in bed playing Sims 3. I'm usually asleep by 10pm, thanks to reading in bed with my heating pad. 

Tell me: what's a day in your life like? 

Follow Up: Is It Possible to NaNoWriMo with a Newborn?

Months ago, in the time I refer to as "pre-Forrest," I wrote a little post about attempting NaNoWriMo the month after Forrest was born. At the time, I really felt like NaNoWriMo was both possible and totally impossible. So much of it depended on "how things were going" with the baby and, as I've written before, I had no reason to believe I wouldn't have the absolutely perfect little darling newborn. 

I got a comment recently on that old post about whether I succeeded at NaNoWriMo. In November of 2015, I had fully planned to write follow up posts--but if you go back in my archives, you'll see I posted only 3 times in an entire month. So that's how that went. 

I realize, however, that I never actually wrote a follow up. So here it is, nearly a year later. My NaNoWriMo with a newborn follow up. 

Did I Succeed? 

When it comes to success at NaNoWriMo, the deciding factor is, obviously, did I hit 50,000 words? The answer is no, I didn't. So I failed. 

However, I did write about 20,000 words in the first 2 weeks of November. That is obviously Not the Goal, but it's a sizable enough number, especially given the fact that I was caring for a very fresh little human, pumping every 2 hours, and taking care of a house. For the first 2 weeks of November, Forrest still slept relatively well in his swing for naps, so I could squeeze in 30-40 minutes of writing before I had to hold him and watch TV. (Not that I minded.) By the second week, however, he was rebelling against the swing, so I took to wearing him in my Boba wrap to write. This worked reasonably well until he started to hate the Boba wrap, so I was relegated to the couch again. 

In November, Forrest was still quite small and sleeping a lot--like, most of the day. If I got a few spare minutes, I was eating or making another pot of coffee or trying to clean up my house. I stopped worrying about NaNoWriMo and thus, gave up on it. 

I got about halfway there, which is farther than some people get. And, full disclosure, I also pumped about 800 ounces of breast milk in November, so who's a failure really

What I Learned

Life is nothing without lessons. Whenever I don't do as well at something as I expected, I try to at least take some kind of lesson from it. So, if you're expecting a baby and thinking of attempting NaNoWriMo with your newborn (or just-out-of-that newborn stage baby), here are my suggestions: 

  • Be realistic. Not every baby will nap independently as a newborn. Some babies are great sleepers, but poor eaters, which means you have to keep a diligent eating schedule. If you are having your baby right before November, you have no idea what kind of baby your baby will be, so set realistic goals for yourself. 
  • Know that you'll be exhausted. This goes without saying, but if you have a few spare moments to sleep, you'll take them--versus writing.
  • Get a good wrap or baby carrier. I love my Ergo (I wish I'd gotten it instead of the Boba wrap). I still wear Forrest for naps in the Ergo now. It's easy to sit and work, or wash dishes, or do all kinds of things while you baby wear. 
  •  It's ok if you don't "succeed." Realistically, you might not hit the goal, but if you try, you've still at least tried something
  • At the end of the day, flexing your creative muscles, in whatever capacity you can, will keep you feeling human, even when your life is taken over by the tiniest, meanest boss you've ever had. 

Have you attempted NaNoWriMo with a newborn or young infant? Tell me about it on Twitter @michellelocke_

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.