I’ve used this term, you’ve used this term, this term is overused, I used it last night, and I’ll likely use it again.
But I hate it.
When my husband got home from work last night, I gave him a big kiss and a “thank you” before I headed out the door to meet some old work colleagues for dinner. This was a much needed “girls night out” for me, since my life consists of “girls night in” with my baby boo, 99% of the time. I don’t usually instruct my husband on what to do with Bella when I’m not around, he is a capable, hands-on, loving father (knock on wood).
The first questions from friends who learned I was out of the house sans baby and hubby?
“Is Eliot on daddy duty?”
“How did you manage that?”
“Did you have to bribe him?”
Yes, easily, and no. He IS on daddy duty, I simply asked him if I could get out for a few hours, and no, absolutely no bribery of any kind was necessary for this to happen.
Why do people insist on treating dads like hands-off aliens that only share our living space and have nothing to do with their children after they’ve made them? My husband was eager to be a father before I had even entertained the idea of bearing children, so when I married him, I knew I was getting a great baby daddy.
For the most part, I was raised only by my mama, and my early days before my parents divorce is mostly a blur. My strong, single mama was incredible, but I really had no idea of what a daddy-daughter relationship should look like, or would look like. I dreamed about what it COULD look like, and I dreamed it could be something beautiful, and I am one of the lucky ones I guess.
While there’s plenty we don’t agree on in life, we see eye to eye when it comes to Bella. We both want the same things for her, we both shower her with love and affection (in different ways), we both long for our quality time with her day in and day out, so when it comes to me needing some alone time, it’s only natural that he take over without me having to beg for it.
Now don’t be fooled, there are still times when he’ll ask for guidance when he’s alone with her. I still get those “when do you think you’ll be home?” texts when I’m out. It’s ok…. It’s only natural. Men were not born with a motherly instinct.
Fatherly instincts, however, do exist – and while we’ll never do things exactly the same way, one thing is for sure – we love the hell out of this little girl, and it’s no “duty” for either of us, it’s an absolute pleasure.
I cannot end this piece without giving a huge shout out to the other inspiring dads I’ve come across along the way…
Please check these guys out when you need some “dadspiration”!
As I write this, I am sitting across from a dear trusted mama friend who is not only raising a delicious 18-month-old daughter, she also runs a successful resume writing business (and by successful, I mean, her work was ranked top 25 in the nation). Until recently, I had a very hard time believing in the work-life balance, especially as a new mom, because it was something I wanted no part of. Well, like many women in today’s society – I have no choice. As my days of stay-at-home-mom life are running out, I realized I’ve had to change my perspective on returning to work – and FAST.
Back to my friend I mentioned earlier… She has found the ultimate balance between mom life and working. I’m sure she’d tell you otherwise – but when I speak to her at any point in the day, she has already managed to hit the gym, complete another resume, pump out some breast milk and fit a conference call or two into her day. With each passing month of her daughters life, she becomes more successful and accomplished in all areas of her life. Her daughter will NO DOUBT grow up proud of her hard-working, beautiful mama, and I have decided once and for all, I need my daughter to feel the same way.
Beyonce posed the question, just a few years back – Who run the world? Girls. We are now living in a society that is moving more and more towards female equality in the workplace (I hope), and just like I overheard my husband whispering to our 6-month old daughter over the baby monitor a few nights ago, we may see a female President in the White House next year. Badass women are the hottest thing since trophy wives right now; badass, multitasking, hard-working women. I’ve decided I’d like to join this club.
And why shouldn’t I? I’ve been working hard for more than fifteen years. I have put so much time, energy, sweat and tears into my teaching career. I have had so many amazing teachable moments, made countless connections with students and their families, and have heard “you changed my life” enough times to make me not want to stop now.
I had a thought last week, after speaking to the mother of a former student. She mentioned how happy she was for the fact that her son had me as a teacher and that she knew I’d be “that teacher” that her son would always remember. I instantly imagined myself years down the road, having lunch with my daughter, and this student walking over to our table, all grown up, and telling my daughter how her mother changed his life and made him love learning. Imagine the impact this would have on my daughter. How could this not make her proud?
So I’m getting ready to go back to work next month. I am starting to plan out my new classroom setup. I am working really hard to wrap my head around the fact that after 6 blissful months of doing nothing but being a mommy, I have to hand my daughter off to a daycare to take my place between the hours of 8 and 4. I know that my daughter will be just fine with this drastic change of events – she’s great like that.
I am the one who will cry on her first day (and likely for a few weeks thereafter).
I am the one who will continue working towards being the best mom and wife I can be while enriching the lives of my students in the best way I know how. I am the one who will continue working towards becoming a doula and I am also the one who will continue helping high school students write their college admissions essays on the side. I am the one who, much to my own shock, will strive to multitask like so many badass women before me. I am the one who has finally wrapped her head around this new attitude. I am the one who will swallow it every morning like my own personal pill of determination and motivation. But, Bella, my sweet little Bella, is the one I’ll do it for.
Because all I wish for her to say one day is, “My mom is awesome, and
I’m so proud of her.”
This post is dedicated, first and foremost, to my daughter. Next is a list of some “badass mommies” I’ve met along the way, and ones I do not know personally, but who have inspired me in so many ways…
– My own mama, Margie – who totally ROCKED IT as a single mom.
– The hardworking resume writing Mama I mentioned up top, Emily Kapit
(visit her at http://www.refreshyourstep.com )
– The always happy, always overworked Patty Villazon, my aunt and a full time working mom of two babies.
– The beautiful and well-dressed, Jenny Berger, a very dear friend, talented wardrobe stylist, and mama to a delicious and chunky 7 month old boy.
(visit her at http://www.wearitwell.com )
– To my mother-in-law, Robyn, for working her butt off and raising my amazing husband (and two other children to boot).
– To Beyonce, for continuing to SLAY, at all times (no other justification is necessary on this one).
– To Rachel Hollis, who I follow religiously on instagram as MsRachelHollis, who became famous for rocking a bikini with zero stretch-mark shame a few months back. She doesn’t know me, but her smile, positivity, and zero-body shame attitude has inspired me for months.
AND TO ALL OF MY MAMA FRIENDS WHO CONTINUE BUSTING THEIR BEAUTIFUL BUTTS FOR THEIR FAMILIES!
From the moment you conceive, it seems you are inundated with information about Postpartum Depression. At least that’s how it felt for me.
Maybe I paid more attention to this section in my pregnancy books and baby classes because of personal experience? Having just heard of a college friend who took her own life just one month after her daughter was born, I was fixated on the topic, and tried to educate myself as much as possible, as if this might help me avoid such a troubling ailment.
Why was I worried? Depression was not my problem. But anxiety was, before pregnancy, and much worse during those 9 months. The problem for me was that nobody spoke about anxiety and pregnancy. There wasn’t a section in my pregnancy book for Postpartum Anxiety, just depression – but didn’t everyone know that untreated anxiety can lead to depression?
My usual fix on an anxious day was a sweaty workout, a glass of wine, a night out with friends – none of which were possible in pregnancy (at least not my pregnancy). With all of my band-aids gone, I was left to navigate the serious hormonal overload and bouts of anxiety all on my own – and this was no easy task.
“Take a walk,” I’d often hear. Really? A walk?
A walk and some fresh air has never done anyone any harm, but when you are crippled by your own fears, worries, and feelings, a walk just provides a prettier landscape to continue sweating the small stuff.
My pregnancy was riddled with small-stuff-sweating. I was metaphorically covered in sweat, if you will. So often, I’d be criticized for “constantly worrying” or for “transmitting negative emotions to my baby”. Didn’t anyone realize that I didn’t CHOOSE to feel this way? That maybe I couldn’t help it? That I was panicked by the changes my life was about to face? The life growing inside of me, my marriage, my new home, my job status, my friendships, my lack of friendships, my weight gain… HELLO?!?!?
When an amniotic fluid leak turned the beginning of my third trimester into an all out sweat-fest, the worrying and anxiety got worse. Suddenly leaving my job to lay in bed with only my thoughts to keep me company was the new plan, for the last 11 weeks of my pregnancy. There were new issues now; financial worries, scrambling to get the nursery ready in case of an early delivery – and my biggest fear, what if something happens and I can’t get in touch with my husband? This was the worst.
My husband is not typically easy to reach. He is the type who will place his cell phone down somewhere (on silent) and forget where he’s left it. He’s the type to get to work, leave it in the car, and not realize until noon. Not his fault, he’s just not glued to his phone like the rest of society.
This made things so much worse for me. Being the “glass half full” type, he just didn’t understand. Nobody could.
Luckily, we made it to 39 weeks and our girl was delivered easily and in good health. We had a week of blissful moments and spent each second falling more in love with our creation – there was no other feeling to feel.
The Monday morning that my husband returned to work – it hit me. I was a mom. I was responsible for this little 6 pound nugget laying peacefully in her bassinet. It was all on me. Every decision, every next move, all of it. So naturally, I fell apart.
I cried all morning, until my husband came home at lunch for a quick visit. Then I cried some more. When I had no more tears, anxiety set in again – making it impossible to enjoy the little moments when I was constantly worried about what might come next.
“What if she starts crying and I can’t stop it?,” I’d ask my veteran mama friends. This was a question that usually got nothing more than a laugh.
I was frozen in my worry. I wallowed in it. It consumed me. I was so in love with this little baby yet so terrified of her at the same time. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, I just wanted to do things right, I wanted the answers to all of it.
About 6 weeks in to my life as a mom – it hit me. Postpartum anxiety or not, I knew I had to get it together – and fast. For my daughter, for my husband, for the good of our family, for MYSELF… so I did.
I let myself learn the hard way. I began to slow down and enjoy the little moments. I learned that each time my daughter cried – I had the magical powers of figuring out what I could do to soothe her. I stopped worrying about me, about everything that was out of my control, and focused on her. What made her calm, what made her smile, what made her – her.
And just like that, I invited my uninvited visitor to get the hell out of my house.* And I fell in love with motherhood.
*** Feelings of anxiety and depression following the birth of your child should be taken very seriously. Do not let anyone tell you this is “normal” or that it will pass. If you do not feel right, if you cannot control you emotions, if you have any negative feelings towards your child – speak to a healthcare professional immediately.
- For more information on PPD and anxiety, visit www.postpartumprogress.org