Motherhood & Marriage: Tips & Tools (Part 1)
Motherhood is no joke. Doesn’t matter where you live, what your economic bracket is, whether you have adopted children, birthed babies, or are preparing for babies on the fertility journey, it’s the best kind of hard. Our first son, Levi was born in Los Angeles, where he spent the first 18 months of his life, and Lucas was born in New York City, where we are currently raising our two boys.
Sweet Levi in our home in Los Angeles, September 2014. He was four days old.
Precious Lucas in New York City, June 2017. He was one-day old.
I am certainly no expert when it comes to parenting. There are women who have raised children, have grandkids, and write books about this topic. I, for one, still yell at my toddler sometimes, struggle to take a shower, sneak chocolate, and wonder what the heck I am doing, most of the time. Still, new (or pregnant, or working on it) Mamas often ask me questions about becoming a mother, or a mom of two, and the impact on their marriage (if applicable), work, relationships, and health. More specifically, a little more than 80% of America lives in urban cities, and women want to know how to do life in the city context. The three biggest things we hear are that people are time poor, financially strapped, and that there is a lingering desire for deeper, more meaningful relationships and community. I feel you sister – you are not alone!
In a question and answer format, in a two or three-part series, I’m responding to some of the questions I get, with the hopes that it will bless you and help you, as you mother, or prepare to mother, alongside the other 945 things you do.
How do you emotionally navigate having a new baby, or a baby with a toddler?
I work at becoming emotionally healthy. That means I try to process my emotions through healthy channels, so I don’t take them out on others, or expect others to fix me or make me happy. Whether we do this or not, there will be days when we will probably feel crazy, confused, sad, angry and irritable. This is normal. Anyone who tells you they are full of joy all the time, and that Motherhood is awesome 24/7, might be 1) in denial 2) an a-hole 3) selling something. Maybe it’s more serious for you. If you find yourself dealing with postpartum depression, that’s also very normal, and it’s okay to get help. Talk to your doctor, or a medical professional you trust, to get the help you need.
We lose margin when we enter motherhood, and that’s a beautiful thing. Still, it requires adjusting to a new normal for how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to our children. I miss all the time I had to myself to binge watch Netflix, read for hours, cuddle with my hubby, and pee by my doggone self. As we think about margin, I am aware that we all have very different scenarios – some of us are single mamas, stay at home moms, working mothers, moms who have no help, or do have help from family, nannies, or chefs and personal assistants, but hey, the struggle is real regardless, so I’ll say this: Do the best you can. If you need a good cry, take one. If you feel angry, find a healthy way to express that (reading, writing, screaming in a pillow, calling a friend, whatever). If you feel overwhelmed, focus on what’s right in front of you. Is it just making lunch? You can handle that. Is it sending one email? You can handle that. Is it letting the baby cry for a few minutes so you can make a cup of coffee? You can handle that. Just do the next thing. The bigger picture can wear you out during this time, so take it moment by moment.
How do you rest, or take a vacation?
Oh man, well, the honest truth is, I don’t. Not really, but I am trying to get back to a place where I do. I have had some experience in doing this well, so I can speak from that, but I wanted to be honest about how we’re really doing in this area. How, I ask the heavenly hosts, do we rest when we have a teething baby, a toddler with endless energy, who also comes into our bed sometime between 3 and 5am, no extra income for vacation, and no Sabbath when we can sleep-in, rest and do something besides legos, the park, indoor sports, and breast feed all the live long day? The struggle is real hashtag probably started with a very tired parent.
So, here’s a few things that refresh my soul. I have decided rest is about that in this season. If it’s five minutes, I thank Jesus, and take it. The shower. Yes, Lawd, I am all alone. I sit, I sing, I think, I be. I maximize nap time. Lucas sleeps three hours during his long nap, and Levi has quiet time for half of that, where he gets his iPad. I write, or watch a show, or lay on the couch doing NOTHING. Praise the Lamb. I read my Kindle every night before going to bed. I love to read, love it. It refreshes my soul, and I take close to an hour each night, even if it’s late to read in my bed. I get gel nails done once a month. That’s my one thing, as we are in a season where we are more selective about what we can do for ourselves. What’s your one thing? How do you refresh yourself? (Also, Goodbye DryBar. I loved you so hard, for so long. Goodbye Thai massages. Goodbye gym membership. You’re all dead to me.)
How in the world do I stay healthy? I struggle to take care of myself, now that I have kids.
Suffering succotash, this is a real thing. I was an athlete my whole life, and during my first pregnancy, did CrossFit and Pilates up until the week Levi was born, and got back into it a few months afterward. Moving to NYC, our gym membership transferred, but the location was too far for us, so we cancelled it. We do walk two-four miles a day, just living here, but working out, and eating well became more difficult due to time, budget, second pregnancy, and sheer exhaustion. In December, I made the decision to start working out again, as I have officially mourned “the way things used to be”, and am done having a pity party. (Sigh. How good are we at those? Living in the past is something we do, but eventually, we have to embrace reality, and create a new normal.) I like pop Pilates, with music, so I signed up for Pop Physique 57, for $20 a month. There are 10, 15, 20, 30, and 60 minute options for workouts, and I find this extremely helpful. I don’t even need a yoga mat, although I use one, and when I can’t find my baby weights, I use two cans of black beans (you’re welcome for that pro-tip). Levi works out next to me (just kidding, he crawls all over me), but I make it work.
Nutrition is trickier for me, but I am catching a rhythm. Ladies, listen, be kind to yourself during transition. It’s just harder to plan well, which is what it takes to eat well. If you’ve recently moved, had a baby, started a new job, give it some time, instead of stressing yourself in the two extremes of I CAN ONLY EAT THESE THINGS and I DON’T HAVE A PLAN SO I DO WHAT I WANT INCLUDING EATING A WHOLE PIE. Mind the middle, and do your best. I have a background of eating disorders, and I have had to learn how to eat to live, to accept myself, and to deal with my emotions in a healthy way – that’s a long process of recovery, but that is actually what it takes to be motivated to care for ourselves through nutrition. Practically though, I try to have staples in our fridge. Mixed greens, hardboiled eggs for salad, chicken (either rotisserie or pre-made, chopped from Trader Joes), organic chips and salsa, Tupperware with washed mixed berries, healthy bars, kombucha, almonds and trail mix, anything I can grab and go. I try to drink a ton of water, because often when we are dehydrated, we think we are hungry, so that helps. And try not to be Judge Judy when I tell you this, but I drink coffee almost all day. A cup in the morning, another around noon, and another one around 3pm. Coffee is happiness, and I like mine with agave and steamed heavy whipping cream. Dinner is whatever we’re having (but always tacos and homemade pizza once a week), and on my three office days, I end up eating out. I wish I planned better, but I don’t. And by the time I have my work bag, purse and breast pump bag, what in the world am I going to do with a grocery bag on the train? Nope, no ma’am. Lunch out for one, please, and I shall sit and enjoy my own silence.
A final word for today:
The best advice a mom ever gave me.
Friday, I am going to answer three more questions:
Baby(ies) have changed the nature of our marriage – how do we deal with that? What can I do? We struggle to communicate – we don’t feel heard, or understood, and we end up fighting – what do we do? We’re strapped for money and time – what do we do?
In this with you, my friend.