“In The Trenches”

We have all been there – that moment where nothing seems to be going right or as planned. That moment you are running out the door and everything happens at once – one child poops their pants; one kid pours everything out of the diaper bag; the dogs run into the yard because one kid opened the door; you lose your keys in the midst of repacking the diaper bag (only to find you actually put them in the diaper bag); you get everyone loaded into the car; you run back into the house to grab a sippy cup and the favorite toy of the week; you finally get the dogs back inside; a child unlocks their carseat; you get everyone re-strapped into their seats; you start the vehicle and realize … I’M ALREADY EXHAUSTED AND I HAVEN’T LEFT THE DRIVEWAY?!

Throughout life as a mom, there are challenging phases with children – I like to refer to these as “in the trenches”. Most moms and parents can appreciate this comparison and being “in the trenches” can sometimes feel like a lonely, never-ending phase.

Like when your little one is a baby – you are running on zero sleep and can’t remember the last time you took a real shower or slept for longer than 3 hours at a time. Or when your toddler is screaming at the top of their lungs because they can’t communicate and you clearly didn’t give them the right dinner. How about those Pre-K years when all the kids do is bicker over who gets to play with Elsa or they scream when you refuse to buy them strategically placed candy in the checkout aisle. Or the dreaded teenage years where there’s a 90% chance your child will hate you at some point if not all the time.

IN THE TRENCHES!

Ever been to the grocery store with 3 small children? I tend to wear workout clothes because I know taking my small army of strong willed children to the store does not usually teeter in my favor. One usually begs for that princess cup in the breakfast aisle; another is trying to climb out of the cart; while the other isn’t able to comprehend you have to buy the food before you eat it. By the end of the shopping trip (after the epic battle to get out of the driveway), I usually look slightly disheveled and understandably frazzled. Occasionally another shopper will smile and say “you have your hands full.” But there are also moments when moms gently smile and say something like “Oh honey, you’re going to make it. It’s just tough right now but I promise you will get through this. You’re doing a great job!”

Those women get it; they’ve been in the trenches at one time or another, raising babies, surviving the chaos and sleeplessness that is the very definition of motherhood. I am so thankful for these no judgment women, who even though are strangers, can relate to public survival with children.

Inevitably I am told moms do survive what I can only describe with a war term. During life in the trenches with our children we create those memories we will “laugh at someday” – but in the moment you just aren’t sure if you will make it. Someday you will be able to get out of the driveway without feeling like you are competing in an Olympic decathlon. Better yet, you will be able to go to the grocery store without having to explain to your child why you aren’t buying all the boxes of princess gummies. And when you do feel alone, trust me, you never will be – other moms are fighting the good fight right next to you. We are all muddy wishing for a long, uninterrupted shower!

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The New Version of the Old Me

Life before becoming a mom is mostly about you. You choose what sounds good to eat; you decide where to work; you use your free time for you; you go to bed when you want – basically your choices to the core are about you and decided based on your benefit.

Before I had babies (“BB” as I like to time stamp it), there was a very specific version of me. Looking back I like that version of me – career woman; workout guru; organization freak – you name it, I was able to live up to my own perfectionist standards. I repeat, I like that version of me.

5 years and three babies later, like most moms, I constantly battle to find the new version of the old me.

In modern society, women have an even bigger responsibly than our predecessors – get an education, find a job, make that money, marry some guy, birth some babies, raise the kids … The list goes on and on. Why are women so torn between being a mom and being a career woman? Why does society praise women who work full time and tsk at those who are “just a mom”? Every mom knows the double edged sword I’m referring to; When you are at work, you feel guilty and think about your kids – when you are at home, you feel worthless and think about working. The majority of women know this internal battle all too well. In order to feel comfortable in our new skin, us moms can help each other by recognizing no matter what our job title, we are and can be enough in whatever role we decide.

Most people have some kind of hobby; mine vainly enough was working out. A hobby for anyone is a way to escape normal life while diving into a personal passion. Before becoming pregnant, my hobby helped me cope with the everyday stresses of work and life. But after becoming a mom, there tends to be a confusing, heart tugging dilemma that makes a mom feel guilty while doing anything for herself. How do we incorporate our old hobbies with the new challenges of motherhood?

Before babies came along my house was very clean and I was organized to the nines. Most days now I put the blinders on and try to keep my own head above water while constantly attending to my children’s needs. My husband recently inquired as to the whereabouts of his once organized wife. For some moms, the opposite holds true – motherhood has blessed you with a keen ability to never forget the diaper bag and properly place toys in appropriate designated bins – Bravo! But how do the rest of us cope with the clutter conundrums children bring to create organized order?

The real mystery to the big picture is: How do we create the new version of the old us?

If I had a firm answer this is where I would put it. But the encouraging thought is a mom (and parent) can decide who they want to be at any time!

A mom’s employment status is an individual family decision and every mom ultimately chooses to work or stay home; the good news, lots of moms work and raise functioning children; the great news, most moms struggle with career decisions whether they decide to work or stay home. Us moms are all in the same boat, trying to do what is best for our children while battling our own swords to conquer inner voices that chatter “you aren’t good enough”. Guess what – we are great enough!

You can wake up tomorrow and decide to plunge back into your hobby that previously left you inspired. You can choose! But be ready … When that little voice tries to convince you moms don’t deserve a few minutes for themselves, push back because Lord knows us moms especially need it!

Most days I have that moment where I miss the old me. I was a professional, fitness, OCD woman. I like to think I had it all together. But the old version of me was always chasing something, running after accomplishments to fill a weird, at the time, unexplainable void. I’ve recently realized why I can’t be the exact old me (minus the fact I have three small humans who need me) – I am no longer chasing an invisible goal. My children unexpectedly became the missing piece to my life puzzle, a goal I never realized I had.

Like most moms, I have constantly strived to become the new version of the old me. Motherhood can be confusing and gut wrenching most days, and us Moms are constantly battling ourselves to find common ground through puke, tantrums, and giggles.

I like the old version of me, but I’ve grown to love this new version. Becoming a mom unexpectedly gave me a richer life with a full heart that constantly beats for my children and doesn’t feel like I have to chase invisible dreams. My children have become the only inspiration the new version of the old me needs.