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.)

A Day For Us

Days go by so quickly, and I want to remember the little things.

I saw another blogger record just a random day for her family, and it prompted me to do it for us. Our days change so much with our schedules, and with an ever changing toddler, but I thought it would be nice to see just one day of our lives laid out.

And I also happened to do it on a Monday. The day that I rarely have my crap together. Sounds about right.

My alarm goes off at 5:10, but I hit the snooze until about 5:30 when I grudgingly get out of bed. This day, George was still asleep so I rushed into the shower to get done before he decided to join the day. Every day is different though. Some days he wakes me up before my alarm, other days I have to wake him up 15 minutes before we have to leave.

This Monday however, he stayed asleep until I got out of the shower and dressed. He EVEN read his books quietly for about 5 minutes before I went to get him up for his milk.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I pick him up out of the crib is that he hugs you so tightly. Seriously the best. It warms my cold morning heart right up.

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First thing on the agenda for little man is getting some milk. He is barely awake so he usually gets upset when I put him down so I can get his cup ready.

He is obsessed with this chair. He carries it around with him, and he will sit so proudly in it. He looks way to big sitting in it. I do not approve.

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Most mornings though he isn’t done snuggling, and this morning was no exception. So he crawled in my lap as I ate breakfast and did my morning devotion. However, I think the snuggling is all food motivated because he generally gets some cereal in the process. (He eats a full breakfast once he gets to the sitter’s.)

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Every morning George shuts us in this room to get ready. I have the door open, but he feels so proud of himself that he can shut the door on his own so he does it anytime he can. Even though all his toys are behind the door, he usually finds other things of mine to play with, like my scarves. He LOVES my scarves. He is often carrying them around like Linus in Peanuts, or he wears them as scarves are meant to be warn. He is infatuated with them.

He also loves this box and that he can sit on it like a chair. Surprisingly, he will sit on it quietly for about 5 minutes just content with the world on a box.

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At about 7am, we are finally getting George dressed for the day. And I take the opportunity to get some good snuggles in.

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And in the car we go. Folks this Monday, for some reason I decided to make this the day that we no longer use a pacy in the car. It might have been because my car stash had all made it into the house, and I didn’t feel like running back in to get them. But hey, Mondays already are the pits so why not endure a screaming toddler in your backseat.

(He did really well actually. He only cried for maybe 3 minutes on the way there and on the way home. This was our week I guess!)

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I also need to mention that I got all the way down the street before I realized I was not wearing real shoes. So we had to turn around so I could grab work appropriate shoes instead of my slippers. #Mondays

This Monday apparently was like the heavenly Monday because I made it to work on time as well, even with the lack of shoe debacle.

My day at work was a pretty light day. I only had one student meeting. We also had a huge event planned for Tuesday (that I was co-running), so I had a lot of prep work to do for that. Bulletin boards, last minute emails, random printouts, and event set-up were on the docket to make it successful. I also have been working through a personal financial planning course for the last 6ish months, and the final exam was this week. I blocked out a lot of time to study for that, and my test anxiety came back real strong. But I passed it! Now I will be able to talk with students about their personal finances more effectively since our office sees so much of these struggles and looking for options.

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I am loving that it is still daylight once we get home which is sometime between 5:45 and 6:30 depending on the day.

We are trying to teach George how to get from the car to wherever we are going. It is a process. Sometimes he loses footing or his focus.

His hugs. Can’t.Get.Enough.

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George looks like he is having a very important meeting.

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We generally play a little bit before dinner, or while dinner is cooking. He loves his puzzles.

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I have started letting George record himself while holding the camera. He thinks it is great, and I find the videos hilarious to see his viewpoint.

George knows how to feed himself a banana, but some days he will only eat it if I hold it. If I try to give it to him, he throws a tantrum. Some days I am up for dealing with the tantrum. This Monday, I was not.

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We had spaghetti and meatballs with brussel sprouts for dinner. Truth:  the meatballs were from a bag in the frozen aisle.

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George needed some reassurance before getting in the bathtub.

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Sometimes toddlers are odd.

George just climbed up on this chair to assist his daddy with getting ready for work. Tom was on the midnight shift, so he gets ready after we do bath time.

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It’s not easy to say goodbye, but at least we have these moments.

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He may not be talking much, but he can follow instructions.

He does a really great job brushing his own teeth now. It makes me so proud!

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Whenever Tom is home right before bedtime, George gets to jump on our bed. HE LOVES THIS! Jumping is a new development in the past couple weeks.

Before we go to bed, we have to say “night night” and dole out hugs to everyone.

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We usually read two or three books each night. I let George pick out at least one of the books each night, and he ALWAYS picks the “That’s Not My” series.

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Once Gdubs is in bed around 8, I get my me time since Tom went to work. Monday nights I don’t worry about any dirty dishes or the toys every where. Whether it is Dancing with the Stars or the Bachelor franchise, Monday nights are my nights. I am a bump on the couch and enjoy my ice cream watching the drama go down.

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I start getting ready for bed around 9:30/10pm. I am asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Pretty good for a Monday if I may say so. Every day is a new day trying to make this thing work. But we all made it to where we needed to be…on time…and eventually wearing shoes. So that is something!

Fit for Me 10/52

Has it really been 10 weeks since I started this challenge? Wow.

What I did last week:

Thursday-10 minutes on the row machine…HOLY MOLY what a burn. 20 minutes on the elliptical.

Sunday-We took advantage of the beautiful weather and took the kids on a walk. The dogs have been needing more time outside so it was nice to finally be able to get out with the temps not freezing.

Tuesday-30 minutes on the elliptical.

Impressed by:

Making it to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. I wanted to stop at 5.

Struggled with:

My period has come back with a vengeance so I had to sit out from the exercise game due to being in pure agony.

Did I meet my goal from last week?

I tackled the rowing machine! I am not sure if it was like a beast, or if it was the beast. Either way, it was an intense 10 minutes. It has been a long time since I have been on a row machine, and apparently I forgot how it hits everything so I was a little shocked at first that I couldn’t do more than 10 minutes.

What is my goal for next week?

To work out at least 5 days. I have been struggling a little bit, so I need a little goal motivation. Plus I will be going on a road trip at the tail end of next week, so I need to make this week count!

Fitness Thoughts:

I have seen some positive improvements, but the process is slow. I still struggle at times getting out the door or remembering to do at-home workouts. The thing about fitness, unless it is your job, you really have to decide to make it a priority every day. It is not a one time decision. If you want to see changes in the long run it has to be a habit that makes it into your every day in some way. I think that is hard for anyone to find that time, but also the balance that it won’t become a chore. I think that is why so many people struggle with fitness. It is so easy to push it out of your day. So easy. As a working mom, there are so many other things that I could be doing, but should I be? I mean really does my kitchen need to be clean?I need to remember to make a conscious effort to move a little more every day. It definitely takes a re-framing of your mind every day.

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