Is Motherhood Really This Boring?

Is Motherhood Really This Boring?

Motherhood can make you feel like you’re stranded on a deserted island like Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway”. Your Wilson volleyball is your baby. You talk to your baby as if it’s going to indulge in conversation. You shake things that rattle. Play endless rounds of Peek-a-boo. You believe showing your baby a “black and white” book

When you walk into your home as a new mom, your maternity leave starts and perhaps never ends. Suddenly ten hours of your day are free for you to figure out what the F to do with your baby. Add in the couple hours where you used to grab drinks with friends. Now you have twelve hours on your plate. Then the hour when you took a SoulCycle class and the hour you watched Bravo and you have fourteen hours. Don’t forget your baby is awake most of the night when you used to be soundly sleeping. Oh yes, it’s the after-hours party you wish you never showed up for.

Before baby, you accomplished great things in your career, learned new things every day, and interacted with interesting people. Today, motherhood seems to rob you of these personal accomplishments. You feel unsatisfied and ineffective even though you’re exhausted and burnt out. It’s difficult to justify your day when you’re doing such mundane tasks. You’re desperate to make this day a bit more exciting but is going back to work the only solution?

Part of my problem as a new mom is I felt the need to entertain Brooklyn every second she was awake. The day had to be filled with activities or items that would create some kind of interaction between the two of us. The goals with these activities were to make her grow, thrive, learn, and feel stimulated. God forbid I leave her to entertain herself, otherwise I fell into the terrible mom trap. Honestly, I didn’t know that she could actually entertain herself and explore her world without me in her face.

I created so much pressure and high expectations based on outside sources. One day it was from an article I read, then I’d tap on my Wonder Weeks app, and the next I’d fall down the rabbit hole of a Facebook group about all the things other moms were doing with their babies. Thank God I wasn’t Pinterest-savvy. The guilt mounted in my brain if I wasn’t paying attention to her, playing with her, teaching her, and creating for her. I was a chaotic clown at a circus, exhausted from being “on” all day.

The personal neglect also contributed to my boredom. I wasn’t doing the things I loved to do before I became a mom. I still loved music, concerts, reading, exercising, being outdoors, traveling, art, restaurants, and binge-watching reality TV. I enjoyed getting dressed up, doing my hair and wearing makeup. Ninety-minute yoga classes energized me. Long walks by the river inspired me. Every single one of these things was put on a bookshelf the moment I entered my home as a new mom. My day consisted of at least twenty hours of baby. If I was lucky to have four hours of sleep that night. Or a shower.

It took time for me to realize that in order to alleviate my boredom, I had to take control of how entertaining my life was to me. There were things I simply didn’t enjoy doing, but felt too guilty asking my husband or someone else to do them for me. Bath time? Hate it, always have. But for some reason I wasn’t asking my husband to do it. Playing make believe? Loathe it. For some reason I felt guilty telling Brooklyn I didn’t want to do that, but perhaps we could do something different. After hearing mothers tell me that it’s OK to not enjoy EVERYTHING about motherhood, and it’s OK to delegate so I could do things I enjoyed, I started to find my groove. Reading and listening to mothers connect to THEIR passions and make time for what they loved to do made me comfortable carving time out for myself. And guess what? Brooklyn was just fine. She still is. The other day she wanted to do a tea party. Normally as moms we reluctantly get the tea set out, yawn and look at the clock the entire time. Instead, I told Brooklyn I wasn’t in the mood for a tea set but how about we make some new slime? I know, you’re sitting there reading that saying, “MAKE SLIME? IS SHE NUTS?” But I actually love making slime with her. Of course she’s obsessed so she was thrilled for the suggestion. Win-win.

Do I get bored as a mom still? Of course. Like anything in life, there are times of boredom. But I now hold myself responsible for my day and happiness.It’s a give and take and I teach Brooklyn that as well. It takes work but just do baby steps towards creating a life you can get a bit more excited about.Knowing that like life in general, it’s OK if you hate to do certain things or if something simply just doesn’t sound fun. You’re normal and it’s now time to create the life you want to live as a mother and as an individual!

With Honesty,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media and the Loneliness of Motherhood

Social Media and the Loneliness of Motherhood

“Your life can only be as fulfilling as your interpretation of your experience. Your perception. No matter how great, if you don’t have a healthy relationship to those experiences, then no matter what amazing things happen, you’re not going to feel fulfilled.”  –Julianna Raye

I didn’t know how to enjoy the beauty of the photograph and associate it with entertainment. Instead, the pages I flipped through became the standard on how I should look and a reminder of the lifestyle I should, but wasn’t, living. I never thought about the camera angles, clothing techniques, airbrushing, or weeks of nutritional deprivation that created the photo in front of me. A model that was perhaps internally miserable, forcing every smile and pose. As a teenager and college student, I mindlessly traveled through the glossy pages of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Vanity Fair. I paused and stared at the model who defined glamour, beauty, and excitement. I felt like I knew her entire life, but the reality was I didn’t know her at all.

A spark that creates connection

When Brooklyn was born, she became a huge part of my social media. My postings began on the day she was born and from that day forward everything about her was random, funny, and oh-so-adorable. Things like her first fart, an accidental Elvis smile (probably while farting), when she discovered and stared at her fist for the first time, how she was obsessed with staring at ceiling fans, and me up at 4am and asking if anyone else was.

Facebook “friends” I barely knew would stop me at a local parade or around town and ask, “Are you Brooklyn?” where we would stop to chat with the fan that Brooklyn created. I didn’t think it was creepy nor did I ever feel the person stopping me was going to kidnap Brooklyn. What I felt and saw was pure joy and a person that was brave enough to introduce themselves and tell me how happy my posts were making them. The bonus was I had officially met my Facebook “friend” and created a connection beyond our phones. After all, that’s what social media is all about, right?

What a mom wants, what a mom needs

I’ll say it again, motherhood can be really lonely. If you’re like me, you may be trapped inside while your body heals or until you’re comfortable leaving your house. So of course we crave SOME kind of connection if we aren’t getting the live stuff. Social media is perfect for this. Social media can get a bad rap, and at times I want to burn it at the stake. However, there have been some pretty awesome things that have happened to me because of social media. Not only have I met amazing women but I’ve also learned a lot when it comes to raising my daughter. I was a part of fabulous mommy Facebook groups that were the support I needed at the time and didn’t require me to leave my front door. I also virtually kept myself connected to friends and family that I wasn’t able to physically see. Human beings crave and need connection; I don’t care what you tell yourself. Social media can help you with this connection while you adjust to this new life of yours. Until you’re ready to “go live.”

Baby steps

Admitting motherhood can be boring is half the battle. The other half of the battle is what can you do about it? The solution is so simple but also one of our biggest challenges: finding others to connect with. Then you can at least find someone to talk to about how boring motherhood can be!

When you’re physically and emotionally healing after having a baby, you may not be ready to leave the house and meet new friends. It can be kind of scary if you haven’t done it in a while too. Or maybe you’re ready to rip the king-size pad off and get those yoga pants back on to bust the hell out of your house? Everyone is different. If you’re like how I was, I just wasn’t ready to leave my house those first few months. I thought I had all the friends I needed (although I wasn’t seeing any of them) and was nervous meeting new people. Luckily there was a way for me to find the connection I was so desperate for.

Social media was the way for me to slowly connect with moms in the same season I was in. I also found moms that were in a different stage, but still weathering the motherhood storm and open to making friends. My connection began with 2am desperate pleas of help with anything from breastfeeding, to sleep, to first foods, to weaning, to amber teething necklaces, and safe products for Brooklyn. I found women that lived near me along with groups catered to the area I lived in. Eventually when I was ready to get some air and venture out into the world, these groups had ways for all of us to meet face-to-face.

I encourage you to join just one. Search for groups in your town or ask a friend if she knows of any that are worth joining. Take your time getting to know these moms and eventually you’ll have the confidence and comfort to meet them in person. Maybe even make a life-long friend.

How has social media helped you through motherhood? I’d love to hear from you so comment below!

With Honesty,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

Tightrope- Do I go back to work or not?

Tightrope- Do I go back to work or not?

As I commuted from the suburbs to the city, I thought I would be able to handle being a working mom, and had always planned on making it work. My friends were making it work. The women on my reality shows made it work. It seemed like a seamless process. You have the baby, then maternity leave, and you’re naturally back in action eager to get back to work, right?

I mean, I didn’t go to college to simply quit my job and stay at home. How could I even think about handing in my resignation for something I worked so hard for? I shouldn’t have to say goodbye to the rush, excitement, goals, promotions, and accomplishments.

But I knew before giving birth that my career was impossible for me to continue as a new mother. I would wake to a 4:30am alarm and sit on my 6am train thinking, “How the fuck am I going to do this?” Then I’d be headed back on the 6:10pm, walking into my house at 7:30pm wondering, “How the fuck am I going to do this?” Then there were the week-long business trips that had my head spinning. 

I was in denial of the decision I had to make. 

My current job wasn’t the most “mom-friendly.” It didn’t have a work-from-home option, nor was I mentally in a place to send out resumes or put on my control top pantyhose for interviews. I was already starting over in the HUGEST way and couldn’t wrap my brain around starting over in another way.

I thought I was going to have a Mr. Rogers way of living. During the day I had my power suit on as I climbed the corporate ladder and when I happily swung my door open with a gigantic grin, I changed into my yoga pants and mom role. I imagined it would be seamless. Others seemed to make it work. 

So I hopped on the trolley to the land of make believe. And was about to crash. 

But how do you let go of something that you’ve spent so long building? Something that you’re actually really good at and proud of? If you are lucky enough to enjoy your career, why would you want to say goodbye to it? Obviously you don’t have to, but if you’re like me, what if it truly isn’t going to work when you become a mom? 

My brain started flooding with thoughts on my train rides to and from the city…

“What am I going to do with my life now?” 

“What will I say to my boss?” 

“Will he think I’m weak? That I gave up?” 

“Do I really want to be a SAHM?” 

“What if I change my mind?”

“What if I can’t change my mind and I made the biggest mistake?”

“What if I am not working for long enough and then I can never return?” 

“What will I do then?” 

What adjectives would I now use to describe me  instead of my decades of hard-working, dedicated, intelligent, driven, and motivated? Where will the woman who pounded Michigan Avenue with her Starbucks in one hand and briefcase in the other walk now? What if I change my mind but can’t go back?

I walked into my boss’s office, closed the door, and sat on his purple velvet couch. My heart sank just looking at him, like a little girl feeling like I already disappointed him. His face was neutral but I felt he could read my mind. I felt like everyone knew. I took a deep breath, and nervously said, 

“I need to talk to you.”

To which he replied, 

“I already know.”

Was it difficult for you to make the decision to go back to work or be at home? Was it an easy decision? Comment below and I’d love to continue the conversation.

With Honesty,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

The Self Care of Today is Anything BUT

The Self Care of Today is Anything BUT

What a glorious time it was being single, making my own money, not a care in the world other than paying the bills and showing up for work the next morning after a late night out.  The only person I had to take care of was myself and boy did I dedicate time for me.  Student loans, rent, and utilities were pretty much my financial obligation where my leftovers were left for me.  I worked hard and therefore played hard where there was no reason not to.  I had a gym membership that I actually went to, sat in comfy chairs for manicures and pedicures every couple weeks, a massage twice a month, a run along the lakefront on a Saturday morning, brunch with friends on a Sunday, shopping for fun clothes after work, booking a Mexican vacation with high school friends, sleeping in, yoga, getting my hair highlighted, and some more goodies I popped into my weekly schedule.  I didn’t owe anyone any explanation nor had a source of guilt.  There wasn’t a nanny’s salary, preschool tuition, diapers, toys or clothes to think about or extracurricular activities to flock to.  I wasn’t utterly exhausted, other than from a long night out and a vodka 7 slammed at last call.  The guilt wasn’t there either.  That fucking mom guilt where God forbid you do one thing for yourself that day.

I had it set in my mind once I had Brooklyn that being a mom meant giving it your everything.  That Brooklyn was so dependent on me that every second had to be given to her, every waking moment that we barely had.  If she was ignored in any way, my heart sank where I remembered the guilt I had about not playing with Lambie enough as I focused on my Cabbage Patch Kids.  Eventually Lambie joined in because I couldn’t stand feeling bad for her.  Yes, even though she was not real.  So you can imagine how crazy I was for a real live human being!  No I can’t go out for drinks- how the hell would I leave her?  She was attached to my boobs every hour!  Hell no I’m not going to a yoga class.  By the time I drive there, take the 75-minute class, then drive home, that’s 1 HOUR AND 45 MINUTES away from my baby.  A lunch date with a friend?  Ha!  I can barely shower nor get off the couch with my Bobby strapped around my ribcage.  I just leave it on and end up looking like Saturn while I rest my plate on it in between feedings.

The self-care activities above are so simple and unnecessary but they are things that I enjoyed doing before becoming a mother.  Something changed once I had Brooklyn though.  There was a massive shift in my values and priorities, which were unintentional and let me preface, very non-judgmental.  I don’t want to ruffle any feathers so I’ll just say that manis, pedis, massages, trips with friends, and all the other things I listed above are wonderful things.  I just fell into a space where I had anxiety even thinking of doing any of those things, much more actually being there and going through with them.  When there’s anxiety about doing something, it’s our responsibility to figure out why we are anxious even thinking of doing it.  It’s our own self-care of discovering what creates joy and allows us to build happiness during a challenging time in our life.  Those activities and rituals are different for everyone and there is only a right answer for what works for you.

The term “self-care” and its mission through society is not only annoying but also not the road we need to be taking when it comes to its true meaning.  I didn’t realize this at first.  I truly thought of all the items I listed above:  cucumbers on the eyes, spa robe, shopping bags in hand, a weekend getaway, or some wine glasses meeting in the middle for a celebratory cheers.  It’s taken me years of personal development, reading, watching, listening, attending events, talking with close friends, listening to podcasts and figuring out what I need to be not only the best mother I can, but the mother I am meant to be.  Which stems and grows from finding what fuels and fires the unique WOMAN I am.

There would be posts and stories I’d hear where this “self-care” term was thrown out so casually and gave this aura of escaping a crappy life.  Oh the kids are loud and annoying, so escape and get a glass of wine.  SELF-CARE!  Husband is being annoying and is stupid so leave the kids with him and get away with the girls.  SELF-CARE!  Work is nuts, you’re totally stressed out, and then you deal with so much at home so take an entire Saturday spa day away from it all.  SELF-CARE!  It just seemed that we, as moms, were being guided to escape the shit versus dealing with the shit we’ve already stepped in.  The crappy day, crying kids, clueless husband, stressful job, and house of chaos will all still be there when you return with your no-chip.  We aren’t dealing with the shit we’ve stepped in, and no matter how much you clean out with a stick, that smell lingers and doesn’t go away until you REALLY clean it up.

The wine culture we’ve created is something that totally bugs me.  You’re going to be rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, “Jesus Michelle, relax and don’t be THAT sensitive mom that I hate” but one reason it bugs me is I come from a family of anxiety, depression and addiction.  The anxiety and depression that was soothed by alcohol.  It just gives me a little heat in my heart when I see guzzling wine to solve problems as funny or a solution.  You know I’m all about being honest by now and I will say I love me a good cocktail.  I enjoy it and don’t judge others that do as well.  I love a talented mixologist at a swanky bar with my girlfriends on a beautiful rooftop.  I enjoy a glass of wine at dinner with my parents and love a bubbly Prosecco to celebrate something special.  What irks me are the memes and mom culture promoting binge drinking to solve our mom problems.  I’m also sensitive to this as I know a handful of women, very special and amazing women, who are conquering sobriety after some challenging times ignited by motherhood.  So I’m not judging, I’m just sensitive to it and I honor my feelings.  I’ve just seen too much and honestly, it scares me.  We don’t need to get all preachy here but I do believe we, as mothers, need to rise above chugging an oversized red wine glass as our means of keeping sane.  We, as mothers, are so much stronger than that and we need to find that strength if you haven’t already.  So have your glass of Rose or a fun Paloma while you’re catching up with your childhood friends, that’s what it’s all about!  Let’s shift from this wine self-care message and believe we can figure out our world on our own- the power is there.

We are walking closer to how we really need to be talking when it comes to self-care.  Our goal is to find our own unique self-care mission.  Are you choosing to do something to escape your reality that will still be there when you return?  Or should we, instead, be moving towards taking care of our feelings, mental health, physical health, spirituality, and finding our fuel?  When we do this, we can splash our lives with fun things like spa afternoons, Netflix binges, a weekend away, or a facial.  How can we find what truly gives us joy, happiness, creativity, confidence and meaning?  It’s yet another thing to add to your “to-do” list but if you create self-care rituals that allow you to find what makes you YOU, the rituals will become a part of your life’s work and won’t be seen as another task.  You don’t have to do it all on your own either.  Find people out there in your community, bookshelf, social media, yoga studio, or your headphones to teach you how to take care of that beautiful body and soul.

The Reality Show After You Leave the Hospital as a New Mom

The Reality Show After You Leave the Hospital as a New Mom

Brooklyn arrived into the world on February 22nd at 6:27am. By 7:30am I had a lactation nurse in my room bringing my baby to me for my first dose of mom reality. I wasn’t even given time to longingly stare at my baby where before I knew it, she propped me up with pillows, grabbed my boob, smashed it like a burger, and shoved half of it into Brooklyn’s mouth. I want to take time to thank Kristen Bell for this analogy (and laugh). She latched perfectly as I sat there in a daze and just stared at her. OK, not so bad. So far so good and if we hit any bumps along the way, I assumed I’d figure it out somehow and cross that bridge if I came to it. The nurse popped in often to remind me to feed her, just in case I forgot as I frantically tried to recreate the smash and shove method. These women obviously were there to help me, but I felt suffocated as they stalked and stared at my boobs while I fed her.

Two weeks later, the shit show began. Not only was she up all night, but she was up all night screaming non-stop. She would latch but then about a minute into it, she would fly off my boob screaming. Clueless, I would head to my computer with her screaming in my arms and ask Dr. Google anything I could based on what was going on. I’d tell my husband she was cluster feeding based on that night’s research. That’s what it sounded like online at least. I’d then return to the computer and read one article, then another, and then another. I’d open a book and frantically search as if a bomb was going off and I was trying to find the code to deactivate it. All my resources would have twenty different possibilities that only made me feel more lost. I didn’t know how long this would last but thankfully we had an appointment with her pediatrician that week. I was desperate for answers that actually worked. Luckily the Nurse Practitioner was a Lactation Consultant and she immediately told me it was overproduction. Basically, I was drowning my baby as if my boob was a hose that was turned on full blast in her mouth. Awesome, I was already failing at the mom gig. Even though she gave me a sigh of relief with some amazing tips that worked, I got back on Dr. Google just making sure there wasn’t anything else out there that was missed. I was going crazy researching and getting even more confused as a result. Why didn’t I just continue with what she told me and trust the advice, along with myself?

Why don’t I know what to do? I’m so confused!

Let’s cut to the good news first. Most of the time you DO know what to do. That knowledge is in there, but it’s just hidden by our huge fears of failure, looking stupid, screwing up our baby, others knowing all this, and too much information being thrown at us. We’ll cut to the “what others think” and smash that right now: You don’t have to tell jack squat to anyone. Lighten the load worrying about what others will think by just keeping it within the four walls of your home. The analysis paralysis and confusion we have is due to the overload of contradictory information out there. I’ve survived the battles to tell this. One website says this, your doctor poo-poos it with, “Oh that’s just internet garbage!” Your friend tells you that never worked for her, perhaps with a judgmental tone. A book you read then swears by it. Next time you see  your MIL, she tells you “Oh, that’s just a bunch of that hippie dippie crap”, and you’re left wondering what the fuck is going on and what to do. No wonder we are so confused and full of anxiety as new parents, or parents with children at any stage for that matter.

With each situation that blows up in our face, we feel there is this one magic solution out there for all babies. We keep searching for it. This is massive pressure and totally unrealistic. In reality, there could be quite a few solutions that could help you get through something. One day it may not work. Another week it does. One child may respond to it, your second one may not. It’s kind of a crap shoot at times. Trusting your mom compass, taking risks, being open to making mistakes, and seeing them as learning opportunities (versus failures), will lighten your mental load and anxiety. Allow yourself to open the doors a bit, connect with what speaks to you, and be confident in the decision you make at that time for your unique life.

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