My New Self

On the eve of returning to work full time, I have so many thoughts. This maternity leave has been hard and amazing, but it really put a light on some areas in my own identity that I needed to work through.

The pandemic and having Walter made me do some self-reflection that I honestly have been avoiding. I have been moving through life just kind of in the zone long before the pandemic hit. I was just getting things done, but not really taking the time to enjoy it. I was anxiously awaiting the next thing or compiling the next to do list. I found myself resentful of others and then feeling guilty all the time.

In December, it kind of came to a head for me. Granted a lot of the emotional turmoil could be attributed to having a baby, but it was really a pivotal moment to realize I needed something. I wanted to be a different mom. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be anymore. I had let my anxiety overrun me.

I needed help, and I needed to put some time in to focus on my needs. So while I had this time at home, I knew that I needed to ask for help not only with the baby but how to navigate this transition so I could come out of this sacred time with a clear head and clear focus.

So in order to truly do the work, I started investing in both a therapist and a personal trainer. I needed to cry some things out and sweat out some other things. Both have been instrumental in my health journey post-partum.

I have not been in counseling since I was in grad school. And through my profession, I knew I needed help analyzing my anxiety and really talking through it instead of just pushing it aside to get everyone to the next thing. My perpetual to-do list was wreaking havoc on my ability to live in the moment. I had this need for perfection that drowned out any opportunity to be vulnerable even with those closest to me. My emotions were in control of my world view. I know I am an emotional person; this is nothing new. Most of the time I can keep them in check in public. But at home, I was losing it. I couldn’t enjoy my family because the only thing I could think about was the fear of not getting things done. I was nit-picky at anything and everything because of the chase to perfection. At home, I had a really hard time just appreciating what my family was doing because I was always on to the next thing. I had become so wound up trying to control it all that it was coming out in expectations I had on my family, which were often unrealistic. My anxiety manifested in all kinds of ways in unexpected situations. Some times it was in fear, some times it was in anger, and some times I just sulked around the house.

I didn’t want this anymore.

It was as though birthing Walter was also a rebirth for me. I wanted to do better, and so I needed some help processing it all. We only are given this one life, and I was just marking things off without really embracing anything. Working with my counselor has been really refreshing. I have been validated, but I have also been challenged. I won’t get into all the things since counseling is a personal journey, but I will say it has been helping me. Here is the thing, I still have a lot of baggage where my anxiety stems from. I still LOVE a to-do list. I still want things to go well. But I am learning more coping skills to keep the panic attacks and overthinking at bay. I am learning to look at the facts instead of imagining all the what-ifs of imperfection.

Often times as moms, we feel that we have to do it all and we often sacrifice our own mental health to take care of all the things. The mental load is taxing. My anxiety made me feel selfish in so many ways which is why I left it unaddressed for so long. Not being perfect really hindered me connecting with my kids because deep down I didn’t feel that I was good enough. Understanding that I wanted better for my kids and to actually enjoy my kids, I have to be a little selfish to take care of my own needs. Having Walter and this pandemic really helped me see that I couldn’t keep living this way for them, nor did I want to for me. I want to experience more in the moment. And while I do always have the to-do list looming over me, I can ask for help and communicate better to build a team around me. It’s also okay to be vulnerable and share how I am feeling even if it is not perfect. I also know that I am enough.

Honestly, what I was looking for was accountability. I needed someone to check in with every once in awhile to talk through my insecurities and walk me through how I can navigate my self talk when I start to spiral. I needed some one to tell me what to do in the gym so I could be stronger. I need the accountability to focus on my self growth so I can be a better wife, mother, friend and colleague.

Coming out of this maternity leave is bittersweet. I know that I will never have time like this at home again. I was able to spend weeks off at the holiday time with my family since I essentially didn’t come back to work after Thanksgiving. I have been able to see George off to school and most days pick him up from school, which is time I have really come to love. I have been able to see Daphne explore her world in a way that I wasn’t privy to before. Obviously spending time with Wally is a dream come true.

But honestly, I am most thankful that I found a new version of myself through this time at home.

I want to be mentally, emotional, and physically strong for the people around me. Having this space has helped me understand that I am not selfish for asking for balance or for help. It has taught me more about my priorities and how to focus on my family. I am learning more on how to vocalize those needs so I can be more available. I am coming back to work with a renewed sense of direction and passion for what I do. I am excited to come back to work for I know that it doesn’t have to be an either/or anymore. I can still crush it at work and crush it as a mom. I also am learning that crushing it in life doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect. It’s ok for me to ask for flexibility so I don’t have to sacrifice one identity over the other.

Nor do I have to sacrifice myself to make it all work.

So all in all, I am so grateful for Walter joining our lives because of the little person he is becoming and will be. He is everything I dreamed of. But I am so eternally grateful that I am becoming me too.

So cheers to the end of my maternity leave and all the emotions I am sure to have!

Werk, Werk, Werk, Werk, Werk…

I am at the end of this maternity leave. I feel so fortunate that I have had the opportunity of having the last 11 weeks off work, and even more so to have the next two weeks part time to ease myself back into the swing of things.

While it is hard to transition away from my time with Daphne and my family, I do want to look at the positives of returning back work.

  1. I am ready to be back in the real world. I have been living in this perfect bubble of baby cheeks and boxes of raisins. I have no idea what is really happening outside of my house, so that will be nice to engage in reality again.
  2. I can eat lunch at a normal time instead of between cries and feeding other people. I can eat something that is hot and without having to hold a baby and worry about spilling on her. That one meal a day is going to be like a vacation.
  3. Routine. We have no routine right now. On one hand it is nice, and I have enjoyed the flexibility. But having no routine means that I have to have a billion alarms on my phone to remember things like paying the bills and taking my vitamins every day. Having a routine is good.
  4. I can wear my hair down for more than one day a week and dress like a real human being. I like my wardrobe, and I want to use it. I love Daphne but she likes to pull my hair and barf on me, so I have been living in grungy gym clothes all summer.
  5. I don’t have to worry about other people’s bodily functions or help them doing them for at least 8 hours a day. Bless them.
  6. On that note, I can go to the bathroom by myself.

Lastly, I really enjoy my job and August is such a fun time in Higher Ed. There is excitement to a new academic year, and all the hoopla that happens in the fall is just wonderful. I can’t wait to meet my class for my freshmen seminar and also the individual students that I will be coaching this fall. I know I am going to miss my babies, but coming back to this high energy time is going to be perfect to help me to get back into my professional mojo. It is the perfect time to be rejuvenated back to working mom life.

Tomorrow feels like the first day of school. I have all the bags packed and our clothes picked out. (I have tried on a million outfits like I am presenting myself to the world again.) I am excited to see all my friends and colleagues again. I have the jitters about leaving my family, and I’m slightly nervous that I have forgotten everything over the last few months.

I feel like I should be arming myself with a Lisa Frank Trapper keeper.

It’s going to be great…

I will get up in time…

Both kids will get to the sitter fed and clothed…

Pray for us.

This is Hard.

Yesterday, I cried at a salon.

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With George, I cried a lot during his first couple months. I had no idea what I was doing, so much was changing for us, and breastfeeding was a pain (literally and figuratively). With Daphne, things have been so seamless so far so my spirits have been high. But yesterday, I hit the emotional brick wall and had my first meltdown.

We are struggling a little with Daphne in the afternoons/evenings. She gets to a point where the only thing that will console her is me. Whether it is feeding her or me putting her in the wrap carrier, I am the solution.

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Knowing that I am going back to work soon, we knew that we needed to start getting her used to other people and getting her used to bottles.

So I have been more intentional about leaving the house while Tom is home or letting others hold her when we are out. I am also trying my best to not be holding her all day when I am home with her (STRUGGLE).

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Y’all, this is hard.

It is devastating to hear her cry. She’s wants nothing more than her momma.

Yesterday when I was at the salon, and Tom was sending me desperate texts asking me how to help her since she started screaming the moment I left, I was heartbroken because there was nothing I could do or that he could do.

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So I became emotionally unglued for the first time since she was born.

(Luckily it was during the time that they were letting my perm set so I was in the sink area by myself.)

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I feel guilty for wanting to go back to work.

I am anxious that she will just scream until I get back to her.

I am sad that our beautiful summer together is quickly coming to an end.

I have a heavy heart knowing that I am her security blanket right now.

The longest I have been away from her is three hours. I am starting to think about all those moments missed.

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I know there is no solution to this feeling, and I know from having George that some days the weight seems to bury you and others you do just fine carrying it all.

I also know that it is ok to cry.  And although the feeling of guilt is heavy, I don’t have anything to feel guilty about.

I know that being a mom is never easy and there is guilt with any lifestyle, but dang this is hard right now.

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I rationally know that I am doing what is best for me and my family by going to work. I love what I get to do and feel so fulfilled professionally. I nkow that they get the best of me when I am home. I know that the kids get the benefit of other folks loving on them and interacting with other kids all day. Rationally I know all of this.

But sometimes a momma’s emotions are not rational.

I mean look at those cheeks? How do you not start crying knowing you can’t eat them up all day long?

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So for now I am letting my hormones get the best of me and cry along with her as we start this transition back to normal.

I enjoy all the time we do get together, and I feel so fortunate to have a few more weeks at home than I did with George.

I will try not to stress too much about what is to come in two weeks. I know everything will work out fine, and that I am not scaring them for life.

But I have to admit, today, it is hard.

(That’s what she said.)