The Top Ten Ways Becoming A Mom has Changed My Life

BEFORE:  trouble1

AFTER:  davidschlatterphotography-4464

Here they are, the top ten ways becoming a mom has changed my life:

1.  My boobs are longer.

I’m embarrassed that it’s first on the list, but this one is the most striking. Before my children came along, I had tiny little barely-A-cup gymnast breasts. After my first, the boob fairy granted me a Double D Deluxe set which shocked everyone, including myself. But the boob fairy’s gifts are not forever.  As I now come to the end of nursing my second, we are settling in at a soft and gently elongated B cup. Kind of like water balloons that have been filled and emptied a hundred times.

2.  My love is stronger.

The greatest surprise for me has been the pure sweet love that has come through my heart. Before my kids, if a bear had attacked someone I loved, I would have gone to get help, or maybe used bear spray. Now, if a bear attacked one of my children, I would be sitting over a dead bear with blood on my hands before I actually realized what happened. This love is a whole new level. It’s physical, visceral, and undeniable. And truly unconditional.

3.  There are a lot less pictures of my cats.

catsOkay, this one is a little sad. It’s not just the pictures (which there used to be MANY- cute xmas cards with Sandy and Booda, pictures of Sandy lounging around, pictures of Booda looking neurotic for no reason), it’s the rank. My cats have fallen so far down the totem pole, they’re not even on it anymore. These feral beasts that still call our house their home used to be the vessel of all my displaced maternal love. Now they make me crazy. They are on Prozac (literally) which is helpful. But at least once a week my husband will say “hey, did you know so-and-so is looking for a cat?”

 

4.  My house is messier.

Okay, this one might not actually be true. My house used to be a wreck in a certain, creative, costumes all over the place, dishes in the sink, ‘I’ve-watched-an-entire-season-of-Alias-this-weekend-because-I- can’ kind of way. Now my house is a tornado of toys, legos, sponge bob, stuffies, train tracks, diapers, socks (I think my son goes through 4 pairs of socks a day) and other people’s underwear. I think the main difference is before when my house was a wreck, I’d usually avoid having anyone over until I got it mostly cleaned up. If I did that now, I’d have no friends. I’m amazed at my tolerance for mess while nannies, friends, and family members come over and join blissfully in my chaos.

5.  I have a whole new concept of time.

When I think back on my ‘pre-baby’ life, I can’t believe I ever thought I was busy.  What was I so busy with?  Now, the idea of wasted time (a movie that I don’t like, or a bad massage) is an abomination.   I can write a blog post in 20 minutes or less, shower in two minutes, and eat a full meal in under 5 minutes (probably not the best thing for my digestion, but necessary sometimes). A wise person said, ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person.’ Or just give it to a mom.

6.  I get to play with LEGOS!  (again)

IMG_1737This one might be my favorite. My son calls me a ‘master builder’ as we work for hours on a space station that covers six different moon plates (won by me in an intense Ebay showdown-probably with another mom).  It has seven spaceships, sleeping areas, a rocket launching pad, a mobile space lab, and a hanging planet earth hanging from the curtain rod near the lego table. Sometimes I think… “this is why I became a mom.” To do the things that brought me so much joy as a kid and call it “parenting.”

 

 

 

7.  I love my husband way more.

There is something about seeing a tiny human being with a mix of facial features matching myself and a man I love that is beyond words. When my almost two year old daughter wrinkles her eyebrows in that same earnest way that my husband does. Or when I tossle the curls of my five year old son, and smell his sweet little boy smell of sunshine, sleepiness and peanut butter and think of a picture of my husband at the same age, my heart just opens. Not to mention that he’s seen me inside and out, both physically and emotionally over the last five years. I’m pretty sure no one knows me or loves me like he does.

8.  I have a lot more anger. And I express it.

Even as I love more, I also get a whole lot more pissed. I’ve screamed “HONEEY!!!” across the house in a way that was not the least bit tender or endearing. And towards my beloved children, I’ve heard such phrases leave my mouth as “I’m going to swat your behind!” Or “Do you want me to call your father!” Or when I have the wherewithal “mommy needs a time out.” I’ve hit the wall- more than ever before, and at least once physically. I’ve felt the deep soul rage that can only come from that special blend of sleep deprivation, constant body molestation and total lack of self care for months on end.

9.  I’m less self- centered and more present.

So even though I’m less in love with my cats, I’m more in love with and love taking care of a lot of other people. I delight in cooking a beautiful meal for others (something that used to offend my feminist hide). I feel a sense of calm strength staying up all night with a sick kiddo on my chest. And I love making my son laugh in the bathtub more than making an entire audience laugh at Improv Olympic in Los Angeles.

10.  I love who I am becoming every day.

I think most moms would agree with me when I say I’ve had two different lives. One from the day I was born until May 12, 2009 at 2:02am, and one from that moment on.  When I felt my son’s warm slippery body on my chest, after working for days to get him out, and my heart sang as I looked into his perfect, wet, open eyes, I knew life would never be the same.   Since that day, I’ve let go of perfectionism, and welcomed the philosophy of “good ’nuff.”  I’ve let go of thinking I can do it all myself, and opened up to my place in the grand village of life.  I’ve stopped trying to ‘look like I have it all together’ and learned how to live more fully in my skin.  And I have my children to thank for this.  Even if I would like to get a little more sleep.

Traveling with Babies and Children, or: Katie’s Ridiculously OCD Packing List

Okay, so by request, I am posting my overly obsessive compulsive packing list.  After a few near disasters (forgetting the binky at a friend’s wedding with our 10 week old, forgetting the car seat on a plane trip, forgetting to pack underwear for myself)  I created this list.  Please modify it as you see fit for your trips.  And please don’t judge my control-freak nature.

Here are a few of our favorite travel tips as well:

1.  When boarding an airplane, have your partner get on first, wipe down the area with clorox wipes, every inch.  Remember, your child will touch everything and then put fingers in their mouths.

2. Offer to buy the people next to you a drink on the airplane.  They may not take you up on it, but they will appreciate the gesture

3.  Prepare your children for whatever style of travel you will be doing.  If they are older tell them stories about the travel leading up to the day.

4. for road-trips, use rest ares.  Let your little ones run around.  Add enough time that you’re not in a rush.   For every four hours of expected drive time, add at least an hour per child over one years old for random ‘stuff’  and two hours per baby.

5.  Remember the boy scouts motto:  BE PREPARED.  And for parents, this is no joke.

6.  Remember also, there are no vacations, only Trips.  Change your expectation from relaxation to adventure.  You are taking this difficult care giving routine on the road.  It may not be easy, and there will be breakdowns.

7.  Enjoy the ride…

KATE’S GRAND PACKING LIST

Before leaving the house:
Empty trash
Turn off wipe warmer
Empty diaper pail
Fill kitty dish and water fountain

Travel Time:

In the Car:

Mobile Mobile:  An amazing contraption that attaches to anything, and sings a super annoying song while bugs move around in a circle. Saved us on a road trip through Montana
Diaper bag
ergo carrier
blanket
Your child’s backpack (with lovey inside, stocked with age appropriate toys)
iPhone apps
toys
lunch and snacks that are not a complete mess (avoid the freeze dried raspberries in a bag. disaster)
books
books on tape
older kiddoes love a DVD player

For Airplane travel:

Clorox Wipes

many of the above items from the road trip list for entertainment (only compact versions), PLUS:
CAR SEAT (hopefully your less new one, since it may get beat up)
stroller to check (snap and go works great for reclining car seat style)
umbreller stroller for older kiddoes- ideally that folds down easily, with a reclining seat for mobile napping
new never before seen toys for each hour of plane ride
something to suck on for take-off and landing, especially if not nursing anymore

Diapering:

Diapers
wet bag
Cloth diapers
extra wipes

In Diaper bag:
Little squares (3):  these are little waterproof cloth squares that help with public restroom dirtiness.
Portable changing pad and Purell
Diaper cream
sunscreen
Wipes in case
spare outfit

If Potting Training:
training pants
three potties
Underwear
treats for potty

Nursing/eating
 
If nursing exclusively:
“Hooter hider”
Burp cloths (3)
lily pads
Mastitis remedy (wishgarden happy ducts)
hand or electic pump
bottles, nipples and caps

If begun solids, in the beginning:
spoon
food grinder
bibs (2)

If eating everything we’re eating:
Bibs (3)

Gear:

For sleeping:
Noise machine
nightlight
monitor (cheapie from target)
extra 9 volt battery for monitor
blankets
sheet for pack and play
Pack N Play
dark blanket and push pins for windows to make darker

For hiking:
Hiking backpack or ergo
Rain gear for all

For Bathing:
Too hot turtle- temperature monitor
rubber duck
inflatable bath
bubble bath/shampoo

For baby-proofing/house:
gate for stairs
stool

Clothing

Clothing for kiddoes:
4 sleep outfits (2 feetie, 2 non-feetie)
4 pairs shorts
5 t-shirts
1 pair jeans
1 pair sweats
Sweatshirt
one party outfit
Sunhat
swimsuit
swim diapers
Warm hats
Hoodie
Shoes (running shoes)
Boots (rubber boots)
Sandals (keanes or crocs-wear in the car to slip on and off)
slippers
warm jacket
windbreaker
rain pants

Clothes for you:
3 Nursing bras
5 pairs Underwear
Socks:  2 warm, 3 light
3 cute tops
Sleepy outfits:  3 bottoms, 4 t shirts
Party outfit (if going to a party)
jeans
cargo pants
2 pairs shorts
Bathing suit
Sunhat
sunglasses (in purse)
Hoodie
hiking shirt
Running shoes (blue)
Flip flops
sandals
pillow for me

For entertainment

Books for me:  parenting and pleasure reading
Journal
Baby book to add milestones
iPhone and charger
Camera and charger
board games (whonoo, balderdash, apples to apples)

Toiletries

For Me:
hankies(3)
Face lotion
Cleanser
Shampoo
conditioner
Pads and tampons (if your cycle is back)
Deodorant
Hair oil
Hair brush
Barrette
Ponytail holders
Sunscreen
Lotion
Massage cream
Baby oil
Nail file
Clippers

For kiddoes:
hair brush
Thermometer
First aid kit
bandaids
Colic ease and/or Mylicon Drops
Motrin and/or teething tabs
Sting stop
Antimicrobial salve
Kiddo sunscreen
Kiddo bug spray
Aloe vera gel

Please feel free to add, comment and let me know if I’ve forgotten anything (I’m sure I have!)  I love to learn!

Friendship – for new moms

When I was in second grade, making  a new friend was sometimes as simple as giving away my juicebox, or sharing a seat on the bus ride home.  “Wanna be my friend?” my new pal would chime.  “Sure!” I would say back with a smile.  “Hey, I have that same Garfield sticker!”  Friendship begun.  Check.

Now, juggling a business, a two-year-old, a marriage, and the everyday anxieties of a full adult life, making new friends seems anything but simple.

Today I made a friend.  Here are the elements that came together that made it work:

  1. Proximity.  She lives in my neighborhood.   Let’s face it, leaving the house with a small child is kinda like going on a camping trip.  Sometimes the prep outweighs the pleasure.
  2. Invitation.  She approached me (many times) to go for a walk.  The day of: she texted, emailed and called.  I appreciate (and need) a little persistence.
  3. Affinity.  Both she and I, as well as our two-year-olds, liked being together.  That’s huge.

So, we walked.

Nothing heroic.  We walked around the neighborhood lakes, over to my son’s favorite dirt biking hills (we walk on them, not bike on them), threw rocks in the lake, threw rocks at a fence, threw rocks at the dirt, shared snacks, shared some laughs, shared some time.

I can’t say how good it felt to come home after our time together.  Okay, it wasn’t as intimate and focused as a tea from my twenties might have been, but there were definitely shared moments, amidst the lost conversation threads, and watching that neither of our children fell off a dirt embankment.

I have to say a new friend makes me feel like a second grader, in more than one way.  I love the rush of realizing you have something in common!  (Her daughter is named Scotia, and my son is named Phoenix, both after towns that one parent grew up in).  And it felt so good just being seen… and liked for who you are.  There is nothing greater than that.   But mixed in there is the insecurity, ‘how much do I share? what if she thinks I’m weird/ too much/ wearing the wrong shoes?”  Feeling suddenly like the awkward girl in the lunchroom, hoping to find a place to sit.

As I watched our children tentatively hold hands, I felt we were doing the same, sharing a vulnerable moment of motherhood.  Sharing our insecurities, sharing our triumphs (Phoenix used the potty TWICE on our walk, just to make me glow as a mother!), and sharing the complete insanity of this isolated mother existence.  It’s hard to believe we are all doing this wild thing, inside our four walls, and someone just down the street from us, is living the same craziness…

And if we can just leave our homes for a moment, and go for a walk, we have contact.

Friendship.  Sunshine.  Mud.  Rocks.

So, mamas, don’t be afraid to take a risk.  Be seen in your less-than-perfect new mama state.  Don’t wait till you ‘have it all together again’ to go out and make friends.  You are not alone.  Make a phone call, make the effort, wear the wrong shoes, and find a new friend.  There may be a mama right around the corner, just waiting for an invitation.   And I’m pretty sure that ‘having it all together again’ is not really part of being a new mom.

Today, I want to say Thank you to the woman who asked “Wanna be my friend?”

The answer is yes.

Danger

The mind is always seeking zones of safety, and these zones of safety are continually falling apart. Then we scramble to get another zone of safety back together again. We spend all our energy and waste our lives trying to re-create these zones safety, which are always falling apart.”  -Pema Chodron

Through my work, and my community, I am constantly in the conversation of motherhood.  And that conversation usually is:  Who is doing what to better the life and well-being of their child?  What book have you read?  What is your kid doing faster than anyone else?  Slower?  What are you, as a mother, doing wrong? right?   Recently, I noticed a theme.

Danger.

What is a healthy amount of danger?  Our own childhoods would be considered ridiculously dangerous now.  Sleeping on our stomachs as infants, riding in the back of pick-ups, wearing lap belts in the back seat, if at all.  We had teeter-totters, gravel filled playgrounds and death-defying, butt-burning, sheer metal slides.  It’s wonder we all survived. So how do we let our children grow and play, and keep them safe at the same time?  What kind of mother do you want to be?

Let me compare two moms (names changed of course):

Mom number one we’ll call Jo:  this mom is fun. Her house is full of toys, laughter, swings, home made slides, forts, rope swings and enough plastic light up toys to make a Waldorf mother faint.  She lets her kids play rough, she lets them get the chicken pox, she bikes them all over town in a Chariot.   At least one member of her family (often her), has a visible injury of some kind.  She is a tough, earthy, fun mama.

Jo and I were talking about choosing a day care for her daughter, and she described a place in her neighborhood.  An older couple run a play group in their back yard.  The woman there told Jo “This place is not for everyone, kids fall off bikes, get sun burns, we all pile into a big van… ‘ as Jo was speaking, I could hear myself saying, “whoa, I would never take my son there.” And although I should know Jo by now, I was still delighted and surprised to hear her say, “I just told the woman,  sign me up!”

Later in a conversation with a student, we’ll call this mom Kimmie, I felt much more kinship.  Kimmie was talking about how she doesn’t let her husband use the cell phone while her two year old daughter plays in a kiddie pool.  And the nanny isn’t allowed to have the girl in the  kiddie pool at all.  Kiddie pool use is mostly with Kimmie present, and on the rare occasion with Daddy. Hallelujah. These are my people.

But then I thought, where would my son rather be?  Falling off a bike in a fun back yard full of kids, or playing in two inches of water with me one foot away, staring nervously at him?  There is clearly no right or wrong here.  Just as my husband will inevitably play rougher with our son than I do (to my son’s delight!), there are many ways to parent.  But how do we remain diligent with our children while still letting them have a childhood?

Have we baby-proofed the fun out of their lives?

When I was pregnant, I pictured the sweet little baby girl I would give birth to.  I saw us taking trips to the library together, and coming home to cuddle on a safety-tested hammock, reading together in the dappled sunlight of an overhanging tree.  We would have tea parties, and play with stuffed animals, and bake muffins.  Instead, I am shocked to find myself the lucky mother of a highly physical, energetic, exploratory BOY.  When my husband wants to really get me, he’ll tell me stories of his childhood exploits using phrases like ”tree-climbing, rock-climbing, building-climbing’ and my favorite: ‘bicycle polo.’  The words immediately tie my stomach in a knot.  These are not things that little girls do!  We do arm tickles, back scratches, and maybe the occasional seance at a sleepover.   Not boys.  Boys have a ton of ideas, most of them terrible.

Watching my son play is a constant mixture of delight and terror.   My anxious mind is a projector of could-be horrors, all the things that could happen if. Other times, I am able to let go and really enjoy his play, his exploration, testing of his boundaries.  If he climbs to the top of a slide, one part of me fills with pride at his act of bravery, while another wants to run up there and slide down with him, just in case.  And often, I do.  Yes, I’m that mom, sliding down any new slide with him at least once, or maybe ten times before I let him do it on his own.  I don’t want to spend his childhood with an ulcer and a frown, only to see him graduate from high-school in the blink of an eye.

Play and Freedom are essential to our kids.

There is research suggesting now that playing in the dirt actually helps children heal, builds their immune systems, and prevents allergies.  And here we are, Purell in one hand, baby wipe in the other, trying to sanitize their very existence.  Google ‘the Value of Play’ and you will be showered with articles about the importance of play, and Time last year featured an article on Helicopter Parenting and the ways in which we are stifling our children’s experience of the world.

So how do we learn to love our kids, and let them be, without panicking about their well-being every minute?

There is nothing safe about having a child.  To have a child is to come face to face with the tenuousness, and vulnerability of everyday life.  The minute we see two pink lines on a stick, we have signed a contract to risk complete annihilation.  The love we have for our children is immense, visceral, and heartbreaking.  Some choose to try to manage this love by reducing the risk of losing the object of the love.  There is no way.  Every mother wishes they could sign a contract with God, saying simply “Take me first.” But here we are, the imperfect world, watching our preciously perfect children step out into it, and feeling the lack of control.  There is no other path, no workshop, no meditation practice, that can help us evolve, and break down our anxiety like having a child.  I watch my son, with awe, with hope, with fear, and with the greatest love I have ever felt.  I see his little pinkish scar on his face from an incident with a dog leash (my fault, of course).   In that scar I see the lack of control, but more than that, I see that he can heal.  That his childhood may not, no will not, be without some bumps and bruises, no matter how good of a mother I can be.  But ultimately, we will both be okay.  We will live this life, day by day, and play together, for as long as we are so blessed to do so.  And hopefully, I can actually enjoy him, more and more, learning to let my mind be in that place of uncertainty.

And I will look to the other mamas, for compassion, and for inspiration.  I can see myself, as I watch Kimmie carefully play near her daughter.  And I will go to Jo’s house, delight in her wild kingdom, as a tourist enjoys a trip to Florida.  I may never be her.  But I can celebrate the fun she’s having, and the fun my son has at her house.  Oh wait… He’s climbing up the slide… I gotta go!