Time to read: 7 minutes
In August of 2022 we added a baby girl named Noa Chavanne to our family.
For me, going from no children to one was filled with identity shifts, mourning a certain kind of freedom and an expanding of my capacity. Moving from one child to two has been a lot of overwhelm, a deeper understanding and compassion for other parents/humans and a true test of acceptance and surrender.
Keep in mind as I write this I am only 14 weeks postpartum so a lot of this is fresh and will continue to evolve.
The initial postpartum stages were beautiful – my second labor and delivery was much shorter, my recovery was significantly faster and we immediately had family and friends with us for extra support. Household needs were taken care of, an amazing meal train kept us fed and I could lean into newborn snuggles mixed with giving Shai one-on-one attention any chance I got.
We’ve got this right?!
^ The home birth of my dreams 💕
Then, 3 weeks in shit started to hit the fan.
Family left, we were on our own and Shai started preschool for the first time (maybe not the best timing). All of a sudden Shai was getting sick, which got the baby sick, then both Michael and I got sick. We were in and out of the ER and up all night long with both children. Shai – impacted by the huge change to his world – regressed 100% in potty training, started acting out through disobedience and throwing/hitting. Work pulled me out of maternity leave and on top of it all we decided to sell our house and move to a new one.
Okay, deep breaths. You. can. do this. Right? Can I? I don’t know.
At around 10 weeks postpartum while Michael was getting back to a full work week at Soul Searching Adventures, I was ready to get out of the newborn bubble and begin taking care of myself. The “me” that is not a mother – the wife, lover, fitness enthusiast, budding artist.
We brought a new nanny for Noa into our family and I was so excited for some autonomy. I would wake up with a plan for the day, eager to use my space efficiently and finally having some “me” time. Then each day something would completely derail me – Shai would need to be picked up from school, or Noa would be refusing the bottle (she still is and YES – we have tried everything) and need me to feed her. A last minute work meeting here and pumping over there. Over and over I found myself starting something and being pulled out of it which left me completely frustrated and defeated. My 5 hours of childcare really ended up being 2 broken into short segments.
One night I broke down crying to Michael – I am not a crier so this was a big deal. I explained how this situation felt unsustainable and at the same time I didn’t see any solutions. He held me, heard me and let me throw myself a pity party while also trying to make sure I wasn’t going to ask him to do more childcare than he was already doing – to be fair, he does a lot (that’s a story for when I get a chance to update our Negotiating Responsibilities post.)
After this pattern repeated itself enough times I decided to get my shit together.
I realized that we are in a phase right now where the type of planning I used to do was not possible anymore – 2 small children with needs that change almost daily and a very full life – I needed to surrender to the flow of life as Michael Singer would call it.
What did that look like?
I let go of expectations. Maybe a better way to put it is that I drastically reduced my expectations.
As much as I wanted to work on certain things outside of childcare, household duties and work, I kept hitting a wall. When I expected to get extra space in a day and didn’t, I found myself suffering. I would complain, feel anxiety, overwhelm and try to make it all Michael’s fault (sorry babe!) I was resisting my situation from all angles and it was painful. Then something interesting happened.
Once I lowered my expectations and accepted my situation for what it was – all of a sudden I had more space. Hence my ability to even get this post completed.
It was almost as if the resistance itself was taking up space. I was moving through life tense and everything felt hard. Letting go of that resistance left me feeling more free and spacious.
For right now my main priority each day is to be a mom. Honestly, I cringe as I type this out because that is not the totality of who I am. However, in this moment of time I am choosing to put certain desires and dreams on hold-ish so I can be available for my children. Not only is this okay, this is something I am so grateful for. Yet, I find myself even as I write this undoing the programming that was installed in me saying that being a mom isn’t enough (I wrote about this HERE).
I also want to be clear, I don’t see this as a “sacrifice” or a version of martyrdom. I am assessing my priorities, laying them all out, ordering them in levels of importance and I am consciously choosing motherhood. I am doing the thing I most want to be doing – I don’t feel resentment for any of it and they are not obligated to me because of it.
Soon enough they will both be hanging out with their friends and I will get a lot of my time back, wishing for the days I have right now. Nonetheless, when the kids are asleep and I try to write, play piano or do my art but don’t have the energy, I feel a pang of sadness. I have seen some version of THIS VIDEO many times with the Jordan Peterson audio that helps me snap out of my sorrow real quick.
There is a quote Michael always reminds me of by James Altucher that goes something like “You can be anything you want, but you can’t be everything you want.” I would also add, you can’t be anything you want all at the same time.
On the other end of the spectrum I also find myself feeling shame for even wanting to make time for my own interests. I know there are women everywhere who would give anything to spend the amount of time with their kids that I get. Shame, guilt, pressure from all angles! How can I escape it?!
I can accept and be okay with the fact that being a mom right now is an incredible gift and I will cherish it forever while also not wanting this to be my day to day forever. It is OKAY that I am sometimes sad and frustrated about it. I am allowing myself to feel all the feelings without hanging out there for too long.
So I get it. Lower expectations and accept my main priority is being a mom. I can drop whatever I am doing to be there for them.
AND – I still need to make sure my cup is full.
So what can I do?
If I can’t control my daily schedule, exactly how much I get done or where my attention may be needed – what is it that I can control?
There are a basic set of my own needs that must be met. For me this is exercise and hygiene. So Michael and I sat down and we agreed that working out and my hygiene (shower, put myself together etc.) was to be held as sacred.
On days we have childcare this is often the first thing I do when they arrive. When we don’t have childcare Michael makes it his priority to help me get these two things done. Sometimes it needs to be broken up into multiple blocks throughout the day but I know I need to get it done.
If I can do these two things I know my cup is full.
Maybe someone reading this is thinking some version of “That’s great, but I cannot even imagine getting a workout in” – I will be honest, I used to judge you thinking it was a total excuse. Then I had a second baby who won’t just watch me workout from the bassinet, take a bottle from someone else or fall asleep in the gym and ohhhhh shit I realized that it isn’t that easy. I get it and I am not here to give you some motivational speech about how you can make the time and do it if you try. Moving your body is medicine AND it may be beyond your capacity right now like so much is beyond mine.
I have been working out since I was around 14 and an athlete since I was 3 (I am now 32) – for me there are very minimal barriers to the gym. I have an amazing program I follow from HWPO training (SWEAT program) that I know is only 45 min long, I know how to do every exercise safely and confidently, I can modify anything that is outside my capabilities postpartum and I have all the equipment. I don’t need to think twice. This is MAJOR and I am sorry I did not realize it before.
My questions to you:
- If you get to the end of the day and not working out frustrates you. Is working out an expectation you can let go of in this period of time? Remember, it is all a phase.
- What CAN you do to fill your cup that comes easily to you? For some women it’s a bath, others it’s doing their makeup, cooking a meal without a child around, going for a walk, a yoga class, reading a book. What helps you reconnect with who you are that is as easy to get done as working out is for me?
Sit down with your partner, co-parent, childcare support, friend – whoever can help you and find a way to make that thing happen no matter what. That voice in your head trying to stop you from asking for support – ignore it. Ask for it right now! You can even borrow my words:
“Hey [insert name here], I have been having a hard time making space to do [insert thing here] and it would be a game changer for me right now. Can you sit down with me and brainstorm a way for me to [insert thing here] that works for both of us long term? I am available [insert time here].”
So my big takeaways:
I was creating my own suffering by expecting myself to get more done than I was capable of. Lower expectations.
I have things that I can commit to within my control that leave me feeling full. Do those things.
Let go of resistance and accept my current situation for what it is. Acceptance leads to more space.
Simple, not easy.
To all the other parents out there. You are absolutely CRUSHING IT! No matter how you spin it, whether we parent the same way or not – you are DOING THE DAMN THING and I see you. You are not alone.