YOUR Version of a Working Mom

YOUR Version of a Working Mom

From the ripe ol’ age of 15 I was slapped with a worker’s permit, along with a uniform and union wage at the end of a check out line at our local grocery store bagging groceries. The moment I could work, I was put to work. This actually started earlier than 15 with the chores and creative punishments that never involved grounding but instead, any type of housework or outdoor work my parents didn’t want to do. Like filling up an entire bucket full of crab apples or a garbage bag full of weeds. To this day I loathe pulling weeds.

My work ethic was the cream of the crop, which I’m sure most employers these days would pray to anything sacred to meet at least ONE applicant with the same values. You can’t find it nowadays. I don’t know where I got it from but I’m sure my mom had something to do with it. As a serial people-pleaser, it’s also in my blood to not disappoint or fall through on a promise. So a little nature-nurture created the work horse inside me. I showed up, only called in sick if it was serious, worked hard while I was clocked in, and was proud to earn my own money and use it for what I wanted. My parents financially supported me but starting at 15 it was a “If you want to buy that, you have to use your own money” mentality. Food, shelter, clothing was on them. “Going out” money or a concert that I wanted to go to was strictly on me.

This continued through my college years as I kept my job selling men’s shoes when I was home on break, and eventually got a job cocktail waitressing, then bartending, while I was at school. I also worked at a tanning salon at school for even extra money, along with some free tans. I remember my mom visiting me at school and from across my apartment living room she told me I looked “dirty” from the excess tanning I was doing. The super bleached teeth didn’t help. Both “Friends” episodes with Ross being spray tanned way too much, and then the other episode of his overly bleached teeth shining in his date’s black light, rang true to my heart when I watched them. When I wasn’t working, I played hard and definitely felt I earned it. Neither guilt nor shame was felt in the fun I had and how I spent my money. More like pride.

When I met my husband, he was doing very well financially and I remember sitting on his bed as he told me “You’ll never have to worry about working again.” Immediately I became defensive and protective, as if I was being threatened in some way. I don’t know exactly what I said but I know it was along the lines of,

“What do you mean ‘You’ll never have to worry about working again’? You don’t expect me to STAY HOME do you? What the hell would I do all day?

What about the career I’ve built?”

I’m sure I barked at him and got out my guns and started blazing. There was a lot going on in my head when he said this. For one, his ex-wife was a stay-at-home-mom and for anyone early in a relationship with an ex-wife, the last thing you want to be is what his ex-wife is. You want to be the exact opposite. Why would he want to marry the same thing he just left? Wouldn’t he want something completely different?

I then had feelings of dependency come over, which terrified me. My mother was a stay-at-home mom up until my parents got divorced when I was a junior in high school. My father was an alcoholic (an addict in many forms) and when I hit middle school, things became very unreliable with him and his jobs. He was a powerful attorney with such an amazing background and potential, but his addiction took over every single part of his life. Including his job security. I only know some details now as an adult, but when I was in middle school and high school I did know when he lost a job. That usually was followed by grocery store trips to Aldi where I remember inserting the quarter for the grocery cart, ashamed of all the “non-brand” items we were buying, having to pay in cash, and feeling so out of place with this simple errand. To this day, no matter how many moms tell me how amazing Aldi is (and I’m sure it is!), back then there was a certain stigma attached and there are too many memories for me to step back into.

When my parents split, my mom had to go back to work. My mom had been a paralegal and hadn’t finished college when she met my dad. 2 years later, she became pregnant and then a stay-at-home-mom with me and then 2 ½ years later with my twin brothers. Being out of the work force for 17 years had to have been terrifying for her. She had no choice, my father was jobless and there was no money left. I remember the jobs she had, some for a long time, and she’s recently told me how much she was making in the early years as well as the stress she had with my father, paired with raising 3 kids in high school on her own. I remember walking on eggshells a lot and at the time didn’t understand but as an adult hearing her stories, I cannot imagine how I would act and react as a mother with all that stress and pressure.

My senior year of high school was rough for my mother and I. There is a school photo I have of her coming straight from work and me in my cheerleading uniform. The smiles are real from the outside but only I remember the massive fight my mother and I had seconds before the photo and how forced those smiles were. I don’t remember what the fight was about, it was never about anything super important and usually just induced by stress on both our ends. I wanted to get the hell out of my town and off to college, I’m sure she felt that and even more added pressures on her plate. I counted the days until I left for college and even though the good-bye was hard, I also was thankful for space and breathing room that we both needed.

Walking onto campus, I knew I was 90% on my own both emotionally and financially. Many friends I had met didn’t have to work at all, their parents just wanted them to focus on studying. For me, not so much. I worked endless hours in the summer and breaks to have money until I returned home again. When I got my on-campus jobs at a bar and the tanning salon, I kept on going to be able to pay my rent and other expenses. School loans loomed over me for when I graduated where I knew that would take me a couple decades to pay those off on my own. I never seemed to complain or have fear though, it was so refreshing to be in control of my finances and not have to worry that I’d be living off ramen noodles for a month. I didn’t have to ask my parents for money unless I was completely desperate, which of course happened a couple times. I learned that if I needed more money, I asked for more shifts. When everyone was going to Cancun for Spring Break and their parents paid for it, I was working extra shifts at the bar to save for the down payment and then for the trip itself. Did I bust open a credit card at times and get into debt? Sure, but I eventually paid it off with my own money. My deal, my game, my rules and most importantly: my control.

So back to my husband and the “You never have to work again” reassurance. In no way was I feeling like he was there to control me or hold anything over me. When he said that to me, the feelings I had worked hard to push under the rug started to sneak out and take over. My mind went straight to my mother and how after 20 years of marriage, and 3 children, she was now alone and had to figure out how to survive. She didn’t have parents that said “we’ll take you in, don’t worry” but more like “you stepped in this shit, figure out how to get it off your shoe”. She couldn’t rely on child support or alimony, my father could barely hold a job. Insurance, car payments, food, mortgage, clothes, sports, bills and school expenses were all on her. She wasn’t making 6-figures, barely in the 5’s. It was all about survival. Being terrified and alone. Not being able to trust what the next day would bring. All of this terrifies me as well. I constantly think “What if my husband has a heart attack at work and dies?”, “What if he finds someone else and tells me he’s leaving me?” and I imagine what my life would be like with my daughter. Where I would live, what job I would go back to that I would hate, how much I would have to figure out and react to. I’m constantly trying to prepare myself for the “what ifs” if something happens where I’m alone and stranded just like my mother was.

So I have learned to be prepared as much as I can but all these feelings have led to the fears and insecurities I have as a stay-at-home-mother. From the day I found out I was pregnant, I realized I couldn’t go back to the career I had. I was up at 4:30am, off to the train by 5:50am, and back at home by 7:30pm unless I had a client dinner or event where I’d be home by 10 or 11pm. So, basically I’d never see my daughter. Plus the job I was currently at didn’t have work-from-home opportunities or any flexible work schedule for moms. So it was either go back and never see her until the weekend or quit. I didn’t find any middle-ground nor wanted to start job searching and interviewing as my vagina was still on fire and my boobs leaked.

I decided to stay at home and go back to school to become a Health Coach. I started my education online while I commuted and finished after she was born. I became passionate about health after hiring my own Health Coach when I was trying to conceive, so why not make it a career and have the flexibility that everyone was talking about? Be your own boss! Set your own hours! Make 6-figures! Sounds fabulous and effortless to me! But you see, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it is that easy, then everyone would be doing it. Through these 6 ½ years of entrepreneurship, I now know that creating and running your own business is ANYTHING but easy, luxurious, or quick. If anything, it’s MORE time consuming and connected to your heart. You’re constantly ON and in order to be successful, it’s not a 9-2pm, Monday through Friday kind of job. I found myself exhausted mentally, frustrated I wasn’t this glamorous and successful Health Coach I’d see on social media, along with that fashionable mom on Instagram who makes her own hours and still finds time to be an amazing mother.

Why do we feel we need one side or the other? You’re either a stay-at-home-mom or working full time? And both are exhausting in their own unique ways. There is guilt attached to both and we can’t seem to “win” with our audience when it comes to our choice. You stay home, it’s “Oh but you went to school for X career, don’t you feel you should go back to it?” When you go back to work, it’s usually too soon by someone else’s standards and you receive comments like “Don’t you think you should be home more with the kids?” or under-the-breath comments about how you never see them. Like we all don’t have enough guilt on our plate, we don’t need it smothered by outside commentary.

It’s crazy because I have desired the time I spend with my daughter, but also need something special for myself. 6 ½ years later, I’m literally just starting to be honest about what I want for this perfect “career” I’m searching for. I’ve never honored the season I am in with motherhood, and what fits with my life and what is already filling it. There are so many influencers around me that I’ve unfortunately paid way too much attention to, versus creating my own story that works for my family and me. I may not be making 6-figures, climbing the corporate ladder, and I may regret leaving the industry I worked so hard to be successful in. Eh, it won’t be my only regret in life so what’s one more added to the list? I’m starting to truly pay attention to what fills me up and what ignites the passions inside of me, along with the time I spend with my family. I vow to always be prepared for the “what ifs” that hopefully will never happen and am thankful to the career and experiences I’ve had that will allow me to be secure and provide for myself and my daughter. I want to be real, true, and honest to what makes me happy and fuels the mother and woman I am meant to be. Not what I feel I should be.

Stop Scrolling, it’s Time to Listen to my NEW Show!

I may not be on Netflix or a TedTalk (yet!) but for now, I’ve created a YouTube channel as another way for me to share the common and yet taboo feelings surrounding motherhood.  I wasn’t on the serious side of Postpartum Depression, but my feelings as a new and first time mom were real and need to be talked about more.  Reading is one of my passions but let’s face it, as moms we are lucky to read through an Instagram post much more a blog post with 1900 words.  I’m still going to be writing- after all I have to get this book done!  But I wanted to offer you another way for us to connect, with a voice and a face.  You can plug me into your car system and listen on a long commute, just like a podcast.  You can watch a short episode while your child has their independent play.  Perhaps while you’re cooking dinner I can be in the background?  Any way you listen or watch, I’d love to share with you and any mother out there how to feel more comfortable with this challenging season of life.  Below is the link to the first episode and there is a permanent link on my WHERE TO FIND ME page.  Enjoy and…

LISTEN HERE!

Michelle Mansfield Blog

 

Social Media is the New Supermodel for Moms

Social Media is the New Supermodel for Moms

This isn’t meant to be a rant about how social media is evil, we need to destroy our accounts, or bash it to every parent we interact with. I have found so many positives in social media that I cannot discount nor discredit how it’s helped me become the mother I am. There have also been challenges that I’ve noticed the past few years that I’ve had to overcome in order to scroll without getting trapped.

I became active on social media in 2008, which was 5 years before Brooklyn was born and only involved Facebook. My posts were humor-based, super casual and usually involved what I titled “Train Updates”. These were my photos and commentary of bad behavior on my train commutes to the city. My “fans” loved them and it was quite an adventure through the years of taking secret photos of people and finding funny ways to describe their train behavior. Otherwise it was photos of my husband and I, my stepchildren, family events, work events, funny stories, maybe reality show commentary, super simple and full of humor and light-hardheartedness. I wasn’t out to show off, one-up, or compete with anyone, I was simply there to share as if I was talking to a girlfriend about what was going on. The comments I would get from my posts also brought me additional laughter, new material to ping pong back and forth with, and to connect with people I couldn’t in a live way. People I was close to at one time, but didn’t see anymore. Friends that moved out of state or someone from high school I always enjoyed talking to. It was a connector for me in so many ways. I enjoyed opening my feed but I wasn’t addicted to the responses. Each post I created brought me joy and I loved how sharing it brought joy to the person that saw it. Even if they didn’t click on the “like” button. To this day, 11 years later, I still have people telling me they miss my “Train Updates” and how they looked forward to them as I commuted to and from work.

When Brooklyn was born in 2013, she became a huge part of my Facebook feed. Nothing complicated was being posted. Simply photos on the day she was born and then from that day forward everything that I thought was random, funny and oh-so-adorable. I didn’t get super emotional with any posts and my commentary was simple and still full of humor. Things like her first fart, a random Elvis smile, her discovering and staring at her fist for the first time, how she was obsessed with ceiling fans, us being up at 4am and asking if anyone else was, along with some shots with our cats as they sniffed her head.   As she grew older, the posts became funnier and my writing went right along with it. Especially through toddler-hood. “Friends” of mine would stop me at a local parade or while we’d be walking around town and say “Brooklyn?” and we would obviously stop to chat with the fan that Brooklyn created.

“We just love seeing Brooklyn and all she’s doing. She is a riot! What an amazing little girl you have.”

No, I don’t think this is 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. I then officially met my “Facebook Friend” for the first time and created a connection beyond our phones. That’s what social media is all about after all, right? Making connections. Creating community. Making people laugh and bringing joy. Starting conversations and interacting. So where did all these goals go?

I created my Instagram account in 2012 and honestly I don’t even remember doing it. My first post was June 2013 with Brooklyn’s 4th month “Sticker on her Onesie” photo. When she didn’t know she could rip it off. Due to my lack of followers, it was liked by 2 people and had zero comments. Well, OK then! A month later, a super cute 4th of July photo with 3 likes. I was growing! Then later that month a photo of Brooklyn with a mustache I drew on her face. I didn’t post anything until November 2013, where I had attended a mom conference for bloggers, which I now realize it changed how I posted on my feed. I had just started my business as a Health Coach for women where this conference taught me the importance of my online presence with my business. I had never even HEARD of the concept of “Influencer” as I saw all these companies exhibiting at the event, to include big time ones like LG and Samsung. My friend who invited me explained that these companies look for moms with high following on social media to use and promote their products. Moms were a powerful voice in the world of family products and were being targeted to advertise on their high-traffic blogs and social media channels. Sitting at my banquet table, I laughed at my 30 followers on Instagram and 800 on Facebook as I pulled up women at the event who were in the 10s to 100s of thousands of followers. Not only did I not truly understand this industry but I wasn’t sure how or if I was going to be a part of it. As I listened to speakers and panels talking about the world of influencing, increasing your following, and how to use all of this in ways to make money, I was definitely fascinated. Was this what I should be doing versus the local workshops I was hosting in my area? Gosh they seemed boring and “so last year” as I listened to these women and heard my friend talk about how she was going to be doing this so she could be home for her boys but still be connected to something outside of being a SAHM.

My posts on Facebook continued to have Brooklyn as the show stopper but my Instagram was slowly taken over as a business platform. My Instagram page was splashed with some baby photos, but it became mostly health tips, supplement crap from a MLM I joined, local events I was hosting, food I was making, and just things that no one cared about. My following has never grown above 2,000 nor did I have any clients book me because of my Instagram feed. My Facebook, yes, I did see some leads from it but that wasn’t my goal with social media and all of a sudden I was changing how I treated and reacted to it. I was becoming addicted to reaction to my business-posts. Wondering and then obsessing why my business wasn’t growing. Back and forth on what I was doing wrong. Telling myself one day I needed social media, then the next I didn’t. Then I saw another shift, specifically in my Instagram world.

So why was I wasting my time doing it? Why wasn’t I bringing joy, laughter, and conversation like I was back a few years?

In 2017, I noticed myself in the face of the Instagram Mom Influencers. People I was meeting at events, events I was going to talking about the world of an influencer, and then connecting with them on Instagram. Not Facebook, Instagram. I want to say that I respect each and every woman I’ve met and encountered in the social media neighborhood. Many times I have loved their content and get so much positive information. Where my problem started was I wanted that high-powered life that I saw as glamorous, fun and easy. I wasn’t even focusing on the content anymore. I was focusing on how many “likes” their photos got, how many comments, and how fast their following was growing. I wasn’t engaging with mom accounts that would benefit me as a mother, or as a person.

As I sat un-showered and unruly, with a toddler waddling next to me in her diaper, the last thing I felt was glamorous, fun or that anything in my life was easy. Ummmm, let’s just say it was quite the opposite. Did I blame the woman on my screen? Ironically I didn’t but I did fall into a huge comparison trap and into a world where I believed I needed to be in that place she was. A gorgeous outfit, professional photo, smile for days, and makeup to match were the things I focused on. To heck with the actual content and to this day I don’t remember much of it. At times there wasn’t even much content, just a witty sentence about motherhood and how she was just jumping through the streets of her city looking like a million bucks.

It kind of depressed me. Actually, if we are really peeling the onion here, it depressed me a lot. Yes, it’s up to me to shower and take responsibility for my life and feelings. So they tell me. I do agree to some point but I also acknowledge outside influencers out there that truly affect us. We, as moms, shouldn’t deny the feelings. We, as moms, also shouldn’t let these feelings rule our life or ruin our own unique purpose. It takes time and lots of work to create a filter for the things around us that could bring us to a place we don’t belong. I should be able to scroll through a social media feed and find the photos that bring me joy. The posts that are learning opportunities and make me want to share them with my best friends. I want to be able to post something to simply bring joy to whoever sees it. Write something on Instagram to reach mothers who may be struggling at that exact moment they see my post. Interact with a community of mothers who help and uplift one another during hard times, and cheer on through all the successes. This is social media.

It can get dark for some. One may feel they need to 100% disconnect. Nothing wrong with that, I’ve know a few that have and don’t look back. For me, I love connecting outside my community and 4-walls of my home. There are posts that I pee my pants off that I wouldn’t trade for a million bucks. I interact with my French exchange student from when I was 10 years old, it doesn’t get any cooler than that.   I’ve read parenting tips, personal development, and mom advice that I hold sacred. So I’m not throwing in any towels, I’ve just learned how to create a filter and focus on what brings me what I need.

How? Well, it’s not easy my friend. I’m a huge personal development junkie and it became a passion of mine after I had Brooklyn. I’ve read…A LOT. I’ve gone to conferences and events to learn, interact, and grow. Listened to countless summits and webinars on wellness. Yoga and meditation became a huge part of my life, along with exercise in general. I’ve found amazing friends through the years where we talk a lot about becoming better people every day. What has helped me the most is realizing my core values, my inner strengths (ask people what they think if you don’t know), finding my true passions, and honoring the woman and mother I TRULY am. When we are lost with who we are as unique individuals, we search for the answers in others. In this case, social media feeds. It’s work, and you have to do the work, to find who you are and honor it. Then you can scroll without falling into comparison. You may even scroll past without even thinking about it.

Here’s to Finding You- and Honoring It!

Michelle Mansfield Blog

The Role We Need to Let Go of as Mothers, in Order to Save Our Relationship

The cliché of the changing relationship after a baby enters your life. How THAT much more amazing your relationship becomes and how it “bonds” you both with this magic being you brought into your lives. The words “complete” and “fulfill” and “bliss” get thrown out so casually one can easily catch the bug and believe this is the way family creation is. Not only did your marriage, or any union for that matter, “complete” you where you found your “soul mate”, but now another being is taking the same role of making you FINALLY whole and worthy on this earth.   I would watch movies, soap operas as a child, listen to wedding vows, along with women talking to me about how motherhood has changed them. I’ve even had women admit that amidst their relationship challenges, that they think that having a baby will be good for them. Trouble is, while they said that their constipated smile and hesitancy didn’t have me too convinced this was true.

6 ½ years into this motherhood gig, I couldn’t disagree more. I’m still married, I still love my husband, but I’m choosing D) None of the above.

There are the typical things women bitch about which are common and bound to happen. Let’s go through the list: Your body isn’t what it used to be, your boobs are being kidnapped by an infant, your vagina looks like a fruit roll up, you’re exhausted, emotions are high and ever-changing, and you just don’t feel sexy. No matter how many glasses of wine you have, you’re just not going to do it. I remember going to my joke-of-a-6-week appointment with my OBGYN and based on my healing vagina, she exclaims, “You’re perfectly fine to have sex!” Oh goodie! That’s the only credential to my husband’s boner poking my back as if to say “Hey there, in case you don’t remember, here I am”? No one checks that emotional state, which is KEY to sex for women. I could give him a cantaloupe with my face on it, along with a hole in it, and he’d have sex with it. Me, not so much. I need a lot more and honestly I wasn’t there at 6 weeks.

But what no one tells us is how we are going to feel about our partners when we walk into our home with our baby. No one warned me of the anxiety, resentment, anger, and sadness once he went back to work. I wasn’t told that I could feel anger towards him when the clock approached 11pm and I knew he was going to be going to bed soon and my night was just beginning. When I saw him leave for work every morning, I was jealous that he had a quiet commute in his car with his Starbucks. Jealous that he was able to talk to adults. Envious that he continued his career and I chose to end mine. I was angry at times that when he walked in the house, I had already felt like 2 days had passed and he was just picking her up with smiles and cuddles.

As women, we are traditionally raised to be the leaders in our home. We buy the clothes, the bottles, the toys, the books, the bows, the bibs, the latest gadgets, the formula, and the food until they are 21. We do the research on the latest trends, milestones, foods, activities, toys, and anything else our baby should be doing. There we are looking at daycare centers, preschools, researching public versus private when they end preschool, up until they head to college. We pack the pool bag with all the essentials. The diaper bag is full and there’s a system and there are items that must be in that bag or you cannot leave the house. She has to eat organic, what do you mean you just gave her any old strawberry? If he doesn’t have this exact positioning in his crib, he won’t nap well. Oh and he has to go down at exactly 10:25 or he won’t fall asleep. Don’t forget his sleep sac, he can’t sleep without his sleep sac. I need to do A,B,C,D,E,F before bedtime- and in that order- so… oh I’ll just do it, don’t worry about it. Oh and while you’re at Target, before you buy anything, send me a photo so I can make sure it’s the right food pouch. I’ll be back in an hour, are you SURE you got this?

“Getting my husband to understand that ‘invisible task list’- you know- all the shit that gets done without him even knowing… Dr appointments, meal prepping, social calendars, present buying, gosh even kids clothes shopping (who knew managing my son’s wardrobe was so stressful?!) and making sure he has enough weather-appropriate clothes for a full range of events/outings. Speaking of which, he just outgrew all his shoes so I need to go get him new ones today. It’s mostly my fault because I just naturally take ownership of these tasks. I wish hubs noticed it more, so that’s definitely a struggle for me.”

Resentment started to build towards my husband, but why did I continue to be a control freak when it came to Brooklyn? It wasn’t just with him; I created a 5-page timeline and list of details for my nanny before she started watching Brooklyn. She was a mother, in her 50’s, and as she read it, she chuckled and said, “Oh this is funny!” What do you mean this is funny? I finally got it when I recently went through my computer to clean up documents and I found the mighty instruction list I created for her. I laughed out loud, 6 years later. It was absolutely ridiculous! I did this to my mother as well, as if she had no idea how to take care of a baby. Meanwhile, I seemed to have forgotten she had newborn twins and myself, a barely 3-year-old, all by herself. I also seemed to forget my husband had already raised 2 humans, and it is his natural self to want to help and be a part of things.

Why do we carry all the duties, lists, research, scheduling, activities, school selection, clothes shopping, buying birthday presents for other kids, meal planning, making dinner, cleaning, laundry, emotional support and so much more on our shoulders? For me, it’s partly due to my perfectionist Type A personality, along with my fear of losing control. And looking like an asshole. I thrived off the comments such as “Wow, how adorable are her outfits?”, “That’s an amazing school, how did you decide on that?” along with “Brooklyn seems to be in so many fun activities!” I defined my success in motherhood with how much I could put on my plate without having a nervous breakdown. Even if I had a nervous breakdown, I wouldn’t show it nor tell anyone about it. If my husband offered to help, I’d immediately shut it down as if he had ZERO clue what raising a child was like. He would attempt to help without asking, ya know, to be nice and all, and I would stop him, correct him, and just do it myself. I would have to be physically AWAY from him and Brooklyn for him to be her father. When I was physically away, which wasn’t often, I would be checking in and thinking of all the things he was doing and how they weren’t how I would do it.

So when this continues, they eventually stop offering and asking. They just look at you as if you’re going to handle it. Because you will.

When you separate in parenthood, there is a shift in the marriage as well. Kids consume us. Not only do they consume our time, but our energy and mental wellness as well. Where are we then going to find the time, energy and stability to cultivate our relationship? I had zero desire. I trusted he wouldn’t leave and just went through the motions believing there would be an end someday. 6 ½ years later my time, energy and mental wellness is still being drained. Differently, yes, but I am still not giving what my husband needs. I keep hearing about the 5 Love Languages, it’s everywhere I go lately. Probably for a reason. You want to know what? I’m terrified to read it. I know he’s in that book. I know I’m in that book. I know we need to know one another in this way in order to be happy and give each other what we want. There will be changes, and that’s hard. Going through the motions and seeing the days and weeks just fly by into the months and years is easier. Being numb in a world of numbness is more comforting than feeling what you need to feel. On top of feeling it, expressing it and making changes from it.

More to come as this book progresses and I share more on this topic. There is oh so much more to all of this. I’d love to hear from you and your story so please share and let’s get this conversation out there so we can all begin to heal.

Thank you for reading & sharing,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

A Letter to the Mother of my Past…

Dear Mother of my Past,

I see you sitting in the corner with your chai tea latte, biscotti and stroller. Looks like this may be your first adventure out of your house with your new baby. She’s all cuddled in her stroller dressed in the onesie from grandma, along with a beautiful rose blanket with a satin trim from your baby shower. The special bow that her aunt gave her is around her tiny soft head. Her eyes are closed peacefully as she sleeps and is told by a passerby how adorable and beautiful she is. It’s easy to look at this scene as an outsider and smile for you. New mothers and new babies can stop a conversation and any train of thought. Even with the soft filter and calmness that comes from you, I know this is one of the shortest periods of your day. I hope you’re enjoying it because when you walk in that door of your house, you’re back. It’s not a happy “Honey I’m home!” feeling where you are excited and feel welcomed. Most of the time you dread coming home and going right back to where you were 30 minutes ago. The place you were escaping.

You don’t know what else to do with her right now. Sitting in your home seems to be the safest and easiest option. It’s winter, it’s cold, gathering the items for the diaper bag, wondering if she’ll need to be fed (AGAIN) and if you’ll get any glares for nursing her, what if she cries, what if she has a diaper blow out, what if you run into someone (remember, you haven’t showered nor have any makeup on), you really don’t feel like talking to anyone, and next thing you know the excuses build up and you just toss in the towel and say “F it!” and sit back down on the couch with her. She’s nursing round the clock anyways so perhaps this is just temporary and you should be staying at home.

You’re probably saying “Well, it’s not like I’m TOTALLY alone right now, we’ve had a lot of visitors since we got home.” I, too, had many people that dropped by after my daughter was born, reached out to see how the baby was doing, some even brought a meal or even offered to pick up my house.  But then the visits will stop.  The reach outs and “need anything?” texts will be fewer.  You’re not reaching out either, you don’t want to bother anyone or make anyone notice that you are drowning in this mom crap. With as much help as your mom has been, you even feel you’re asking too much from her.  You’re a perfectionist on top of it, and so hard on yourself if you can’t figure it out on your own. This is not something you’re going to fail at, even if you’re on Dr. Google at 3am overanalyzing the 15 different pieces of advice on why she won’t latch. To you, asking for help means you are failing. Where is this “mommy instinct” they talk about anyways?

But if you’re on a deserted island with no compass,

how are you supposed to find it?

So not only are you totally insecure about this mommy thing, but you haven’t been taking care of yourself either.  You feel guilty for even thinking about spending time with friends or leaving your baby for 10 minutes to take a shower. You honestly get drained from just thinking about putting on makeup and blow-drying your hair- or even simply washing it. There were times I simply took a baby wipe and went through my bits for my daily “shower”.  When someone mentions the weekly date-nights they have, your head spins at what you and your partner would even do, who would watch the baby, how much milk would you have to pump, how much formula to make, the pain-in-the-ass pumping when you get home, your boobs leaking at the dinner table, your mind is distracted by wondering if the baby is crying, is she sleeping, why haven’t I heard from my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law won’t stop texting me, I’m not even enjoying this glass of champagne, is my partner even attracted to me right now, is he bored, we have nothing to talk to, we are both exhausted, OH MY GOD make it stop. I know, I always wondered if it would even be worth it as well. So we didn’t have a date night for a long time. We survived.

I see you sitting in the corner.  Like Baby from Dirty Dancing, I can see your insecure expression, tightened lips, and fear of where you are at in life.  In the movie, Johnny’s hand stretches out across the table and passes Baby’s parents without even glancing at them.  There wasn’t even a question if Baby would grab it because she yearned for it. My friend, no one is here to save you, but I am here with my hand reaching out. To be by your side, make you feel normal, ease the guilt, shine the light on reality, and most importantly to be your friend.  You see, as I look at you I’m also looking in a mirror and remembering things that I’ve gone through. I haven’t forgotten how hard it can be and what my life was like that first year. Or second. Or third. I, too, hid it from the ones that love and care about me. The ones that wanted to help and extend their hand to me from across the table. I will tell you this, no one will put you in the corner other than yourself. There are times when we can get our ass up and step out on the dance floor but let’s be honest, there are times when we need supportive and empathetic moms to drag us out there too. There’s nothing wrong with how you get there as long as you get there and start dancing.

Love, The Mother You’ll Eventually Be

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