Mothering the Mama

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So I threw a tantrum last night. 

I just want to do something for me! I want to write! I want to create something! I need a break!

My poor husband. The answer was simple for him. “Just go!” Tilting my head back, arms weightless at my sides, I exhaled. Fiiiiiiiiiiine. Now we all know where my 3 year old gets it from. 

Our life is unique. Because he travels part time, I’m a full-time-mommy-and-daddy half the time, so it really throws off my attempts at a balanced life.  When he’s gone, I do it all. I get the baby up in the morning. I try not to get pee on me as I wipe Shiloh, eye’s half closed. I make the coffee. And every morning my husband’s gone, I tug on the kitchen shades exposing the outside world, begging my tired body to wake up. I didn’t bring in the trash cans. Man, I miss him. 

(I can’t tell if it’s an enduring thing that our trash cans remind me of my beloved. You’d think it’d be the golden roses outside the grocery store or the Boys to Men track hovering over me while I push the cart that bring up these feelings of longing. That would make more sense, but the trash cans always get me.)

When he is home, I forget I have a partner in this. There’s always a small adjustment period where I have to learn how to step back and let him be Dad and he has to remember to wake up before 10. Sometimes this takes longer than usual. Sometimes I throw the baby into his arms and I’m out the door in record time. Either way, we’re still learning how to get back into the flow and I’m still learning how to fit in self-care and mother the mama in me. 

When I first became a mom, I had no idea what this concept of mothering the mama meant. I knew the importance of self-care, but was stuck on the front end of the learning curve for way too long. I was trying to figure out how to mother my little pudgy parasite, not a 27 year-old-woman. Suck it up. Don’t let this baby take you down. But the more I ignored my basic needs, the more I evolved into an odorous ogre. When the hubs would encourage me to take a break, get a massage, go to the gym, I didn’t know how to say yes. Like some form of Jim Carrey in Liar Liar but reversed. Instead of screaming truths, I could only verbalize excuses. This pen that I hold in my hand is RED (if you haven’t seen the film, the pen is, in fact, blue)! I felt the mother should not only do it all but also supervise anyone who was willing to help. Because let’s be honest, it’s not fun relinquishing control. It’s all just easier if you do it. Until that you becomes someone you don’t even like to be around.

I definitely learned the hard way. It took way too long for me to do something for myself, but once I did, I realized how deprived I was from my basic needs like sleep, food, and social interaction. From that point of realization, I promised myself to do something for myself daily. Whether that was stop at my favorite coffee house on the way home or lie down for 30 minutes, I’d do it even if that meant dirty dishes sat or the TV was on. Mickey Mouse saves mothers.

After our second daughter arrived, self-care came more natural because I already knew the tricks. You lie one baby down for a nap, hand the other kid the iPad so she can watch PBS kids on the floor of the bathroom, throw your hair up in a top knot, position the baby monitor so you can see it through the glass door, jump in, apply body wash as fast as you can, ask the toddler how her program is to be sure she’s still alive, check the baby monitor about ten times and question whether or not her arm moved, rinse off most of the body wash, jump out of the shower to find that we all made it safely. 

Even after all this successful showering, I’m noticing clean skin isn’t going to be the thing that actually makes me happy. When you google “self-care for mothers,” endless lists of self-care practices pop up. I do all this stuff. Yet something is still missing. That’s when it dawned on me. A mother's job is not limited to the care of her child's basic needs. I don’t get to peace out in eight years when they can finally feed and bathe themselves. Just like I will be there to support all their dreams and ambitions, I realized I need to be there to support all of mine. 

Mother the mama in me.  

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Like the tantrum I threw last night, it’s those buried dreams that are now calling for my attention. I’m not proud at how I acted, but I’m proud of myself for listening and giving this need the attention it deserves. Seeds planted long ago have cracked the surface and I’d be a fool to trample them back into the ground.  Since then, I’ve made it a goal to write at least twice a week. My ultimate dream is to write every day. Can someone come over and do my dishes for me? K. Thanks. Bye. 

I believe if there is a dream in your heart to do something, you are meant to go after that desire. I do not believe that desire was placed there by some malicious white bearded man stretched out on a glowing cloud laughing at your inability to fulfill this dream. I believe dreams are placed on our hearts by a kind, warm-hearted Father longing to give his child the world, if only they would ask for it and be obedient enough to pursue it.  This is what separates us from everything else on this planet, our ability to take a thought, a vision, a desire and actually turn it into something tangible. As a mother, to simply mention following your dreams feels overly selfish. Who’s going to take care of the kids? Who’s going to make sure the house is kept together, the laundry gets done, or the bills get paid? It’s not about me anymore. Oh, but it is Mama.  

This is the scary part about dreams. They are way bigger than we like to admit. But they are worth it. No massage, manicure, workout, candle lighting, meditating session feels as equally good as when I actually work on my craft. Pursuing my dreams will not only fulfill a personal desire, but they allow me to be the example for my daughters so they see firsthand what it’s like to make their dreams come true. If I go after my dreams, so will they. 

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, one of my best friends gave me the book, The Female Brain (One of these days I’ll write an extensive review on it because it’s just too good not to share). The brilliant Dr. Louann Brizendine gives extensive insight on the female brain through every step of a woman’s life. Her chapter on “The Mommy Brain” forever changed me. Brizendine states, “Motherhood changes you because it literally alters a woman’s brain— structurally, functionally, and in many ways, irreversibly.” We aren’t crazy! Mommy brain is a real chemical thing! Brizendine, a mother herself, talks a lot about how mothers, given the right amount of support, can actually make for better individuals in the workforce because of the change their brains have encountered. 

    “Mothers may have better spatial memory than females who haven’t given birth, and they may be more flexible, adaptive, and courageous. These are all skills and talents they will need to keep track of and protect their babies. Female rats, for example, that have had at least one litter are bolder, have less activity in the fear centers of their brains, do better on maze tests because they are better at remembering, and are up to five times more efficient in catching prey. These changes last a lifetime, researchers have found, and human mothers may share them.” 

When I think about the work I did before having children, I’m slightly embarrassed. I cut every corner, made every excuse and wasted a lot of time. According to Brizendine, the brain that called the shots before motherhood is irreversibly gone. And I agree. I can fit two days worth of cleaning into one hour while the babies nap. If potty training doesn’t teach you determination I don’t know what will. A spider in my house would have paralyzed me until my husband came home, now I’ll kill that spider in 2.333 seconds. I can feed a family of four with absolutely “nothing” in my fridge. Mothers already raise this world, now it’s time for Mothers to stand up and run this world. 

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Mothering the mama means taking care of all her needs. In the same way a mother will do everything in her power to help her child pursue their dreams, you owe it to yourself and to your children to do the same. Yes, our work begins in the home, but it doesn't have to stop there. You are not confined by these four walls. When we pursue our dreams, I know the world becomes a better place…one successful mother at a time.