It’s been a year since I quit my 9-5. A WHOLE YEAR. Where did the time go? I have the cutest little human to show for it, and I’ve learned a lot. There have been moments of despair, moments of joy, and realizations along the way that it’s all OK. Here are some of the lessons I’m able to articulate, but it’s always changing, just like this journey.
Progress is not linear. This one is hard for me. Before having a baby I was pretty good at working towards goals. I could break a problem into several parts and work through them systematically. But how exactly do you work through a toddler who won’t eat solids for two days in a row? Tell me your best strategy for trying to sew something when your toddler won’t rest until you let them play with your pincushion (time to put the sewing away). Talk to me about trying to eat healthy when your body just wants sugar after a night of 5 hours of interrupted sleep. Most recently, I wanted to wean Gemma. I was over it. BUT, she is notoriously attached to nursing (remember when she would rather go hungry for 8 hours than eat while I worked?) and night weaning incited hours of midnight crying. Some nights Gemma would allow me to comfort cuddle her back to sleep and I would think we had turned a corner. Then the next night she would wake up 4 times demanding I nurse her with an impressive and terribly sad banshee cry.
As an ambitious, over-achiever I struggle to let Gemma and my body do things in their own time. I read blogs that said, don’t worry, progress is sometimes two steps forward and one step back, but the step back really knocks the wind out of me. I am learning to take heart when life makes me step back. I am learning to be patient. I am internalizing that progress is not linear.
RELAX. It’s so easy to get wound up when it takes me 10 extra minutes to get out of the house, or Gemma poops on our way to an appointment, or spills another cup of water (or worse) all over. There came a point when I realized that I could make a choice to take a deep breath, have a nice tone of voice, and allow us to be late. Colin helped with this realization. One day he told me that he realized rushing through traffic on his bike wasn’t worth risking his life to be in a meeting or at his desk two minutes earlier. I thought about my day with Gemma and came to the same conclusion. Our life was so good. I got to be with Gemma everyday and see all the little moments. It wasn’t worth risking gratitude for the wound-up anger over spilled milk or being late.
Everyone has bad days. I’ve loved being home with Gemma and I’ve also desperately missed work. For a long time whenever I’d have a frustrating day with Gemma I’d wish I was working still. I’d think I wasn’t cut out for the 24/7 mom gig and I should structure my life differently. Then I remembered. Even when I was working I had bad days. I had days when I hated sitting at my desk. I had days when I counted down the minuted until I could shutdown my excel sheet and leave. Days when I felt unappreciated and skeptical of the companies I worked for. When I stopped seeing work as an escape, and started seeing being a mom and working as equals then suddenly it was OK for me to have a bad day. I would recover just like I had when I worked and move on. That’s life!
I need friends. I know this is obvious, but I need mom friends. We moved in December and I was scared of leaving behind my support network. Not long after moving I found a tribe of moms through a stroller workout class called Stroller Strides, the company is Fit4Mom. Having a group of moms with similar aged children has given me the social outlet that I desperately needed. Sometimes I am tempted to stay home with Gemma and have a day of cleaning / being productive, but every time I choose to spend time with the moms I am happy I did.
My spouse is more supportive than I think. This year I’ve gone through insecure moments of feeling like I was failing in the career department. Colin has tenderly tried to help me navigate that despair by asking what I could do to improve the situation. Unfortunately I perceived his questioning as criticism and projected all my insecurities onto him, as if they were his opinions. After a few heated and snappy exchanges, Colin would remind me that I needed to calm down and remember that we are on the same team. I am learning to give Colin more credit for being on my team. It’s amazing how much better our relationship is when I can separate my own feelings from his.
I am really really lucky. I am learning not to take my life for granted. There have been many times I miss working outside the home, but now I focus on what I do get to do, and it has changed my mood a hundred times over. When Colin comes home from work I can tell him all about the the bossy girl Gemma stood up to at the play kitchen (so much mom pride), how putting a stuffed donut on her head made Gemma giggle for 10 whole minutes, and the way she says “no” and pushes a fork away when refusing to eat. I love being there for the little things. The more I lean into motherhood the more fun Gemma and I seem to have. The feedback loop is working and I am happy to say that a year of full-time experience has made a huge difference.
I once told someone that I thought I should be a working mom because as the oldest of 4 I’d already learned a lot of the nurturing lessons I needed. I cringe to think of that egotistical and naive moment (it’s actually really hard to admit I said that on a public blog). Being a full-time mom is repetitious and sometimes it feels like you aren’t learning anything, but that’s just not the case. When your heart is changing it takes time and tedious repetition. Almost without you realizing it you will be a different person. You will start to see that what you learn isn’t really as important as what you’ve taught your child about love.