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.

Sharing my Postpartum Feelings with my Husband

Sharing my Postpartum Feelings with my Husband

What’s more awkward? Sitting on the couch at your parents’ house on Easter Sunday as a converted Jew or your pastor brother asking about the book you’re writing about your postpartum depression experience? Where everyone around you turns their heads and widens their eyes to a record screeching? Or is it all just really fucking awkward?

My husband turned his head to me the most, with a look of confusion going beyond asking where the butter is in the fridge. Right in front of you bro. Just like my postpartum depression, can’t you tell? I stumbled with my words as my mother asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Where I tell her even my best of friends didn’t know. My husband didn’t know. I’m not sure if he felt betrayed that he was in the dark but as I back-peddled to explain to him that it wasn’t just him, I don’t think it mattered. He was in the dark and six years later he was finding out about it just as everyone else was.

I’m the woman who feels she can conquer the world and fix things on her own to justify her existence. My husband is the one that wants to take charge and fix things on his own to justify his importance. Those two personalities don’t work very well when it comes to postpartum depression. It doesn’t help that the two of us are horrible at communicating. Speaking for myself in this marriage, I push things under the rug until they disappear. He does the same, and the times he has expressed his frustrations is usually when the fuse just blows from dealing with the annoying behavior for too long. So my feelings of boredom, sadness, regret, loneliness, and resentment (just to name five) were hidden. Pushed under the rug. I decided to wait and see if it was just the baby blues. I’d find help if I needed it. Trouble is, I didn’t.

Next thing you know, six years have passed and I’m writing a book about all I went through. When he reads the book, he will have many surprises of the many feelings I had as a new mom. He will be saying, “Was she really feeling this way?” and going back in time to try to remember how he could have missed all this. There may be some anger that brews that I wasn’t honest with him so he could help me. Or feelings of insecurity about what he could have done to help if he only knew.

Exactly why I didn’t tell him. I was overwhelmed as it was, so insecure that these feelings defined the mother I was and that it was going to be forever. Ashamed that I wasn’t happy with being a mom and I had regrets. No offense to my husband but if I couldn’t admit these things to my closest friends, who I told just about everything to, then how was I going to tell him?

For now, I’m going to keep editing the book and eventually have him read it. I have to prepare for his reactions and how I can explain to him why I kept these feelings a secret. Why I chose to take the postpartum journey alone with all of them.

How did you share your feelings with your partner? I’d love to hear what helped you.

Sincerely,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

Get off the new mom deserted island!

Get off the new mom deserted island!

No matter what label and story you’re telling yourself, the fact is that as human beings we need human interaction to survive. As moms, we crave connection beyond baby. We desire face-to-face over staring at our computer screens. We are wired to interact with other humans beyond our baby. So if you’re telling the story, “I’m an introvert” or “I have never related to women” then it’s time to change your story. I recently listened to a killer podcast episode from Mom After Hours about “Overcoming Isolation in Motherhood” with Allyson Pitre, M.A., LPC, The Mommy Therapist. First, love Allyson’s voice and her entire message throughout the episode. Even though I’m seven years postpartum, my head was nodding the entire time and I only WISH I could have had this episode within the first six months of being a mom. If you are curious, here’s the link to the show: Mom After Hours: Isolation in Motherhood

I got into mommy isolation a bit more on my own where you can take a listen and look at what I have to say about it: New Mom, New Story!

One thing that host Brandi says that rang a big bell for me was not being comfortable with nursing in public. People that know me well may say, “REALLY?!!” I’m an open book and they would think I would have NO issues showing my boobs in public. Those that knew me in college would agree. I had no issues showing my boobs to the patrons at an Iowa City bar or spring break trip but for some reason nursing in public made me SUPER uncomfortable and contributed to my isolation. Who knew boobs had so much power?

I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with socializing in motherhood and as Allyson Pitre describes it as exercising your “social muscles”. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Do you still need help with this? Comment below and let’s send that boat over to the deserted island you’re on!

Sincerely,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

Best Friends Forever? Not After Motherhood!

I was prompted to write today based on an Instagram post by the Blue Dot Project (if you don’t follow them, PLEASE do or travel to their website, www.thebluedotproject.org). It goes a little something like this,

“You are allowed to outgrow people.” The caption under it explains, “Just as the seasons change, so do people. Growth is going to happen, don’t hold yourself back by fighting it, take the time you need to move up and move on.”

Chapter 9 of my upcoming book is alllll about the subject of changing and evolving friendships after you become a mom. Honestly, I have had the “best friends forever” stamp on certain women in my life where things just aren’t in sync. Chemistry is totally off with one. A few make zero effort to maintain the friendship. One I just feel isn’t what I crave with friendships at this time in my life.

I’m not mad at anyone. Disappointed in some, yes. Forgiving, of course. The more signs I get, the more I think, and then I talk to those around me that I trust and understand this need of letting go. This is hard for me as I not only have a hard time with change, but of abandoning things. Especially people. I have a lot of guilt but also hope that things will change and be back to where they were. Problem is, that’s not happening. I’ve been waiting a long time on top of it.

No one told me that this could happen in my life. The friends I have grown up with were going to be my friends for life. I thought that unless we had some huge fight or they slept with my husband, that there weren’t any reasons to end a friendship. Turns out, I need someone to reach out to me to say hello… and not be silent for six months. I crave someone else making the plans and not always being me. I’m desperate for someone to be relatable and real about their life, and to not be a perfectionist. Time is only getting more strained but I need a friend that values our relationship enough to carve out just one hour a month to catch up face-to-face.

What’s sad is I believe that if I let some of the friendships go, I don’t think they’ll be begging for them to fixed. Another thing I have to come to terms with and face. What I also need to focus on are the incredible friends right in front of me that are just as busy as others and make time to say hello, plan a dinner, try to get a couples’ night going, organize a girls’ weekend, and simply send a card to say they’re thinking of me. I need to align my life and energy towards these women. As a mom, and someone that has a hard time with this mom gig, I need friendships that fertilize me to grow. Not have me stuck overanalyzing, questioning, and living in the past. As a mom, I need a community of women that bring me excitement and electricity. Not a feeling inside that I’m being fitted in or they are too distracted where I feel it’s a courtesy date. No thanks. I’m not bitter, just need to move forward and make motherhood, and life in general, the best possible.

I hope you can as well mom. You deserve it.

Michelle Mansfield Blog

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