I don’t want to “have it all”

 

“Having it all” has never made sense to me. I can see a path forward to having it all. I can’t have milkshakes every day because, being lactose-intolerant, I would spend my life being very uncomfortable. All kidding aside, the idea of “having it all” seems like a great way to set myself up for failure. There would always be one more thing.

In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced burnout. The start-up I work for is growing at a faster pace and the stakes are increasing daily. We are poised to explode; it’s a really fun time of growth and change.  With success also comes pressure. These increased work and expectations have impacted other parts of my life. I’m working out less, struggling to balance family time, and this week, I have a cold to end all colds. Due to illness, I’ve been forced to slow down and have made the choice to reflect.

The crux of having it all is time. How does one allocate time and energy to all of the things that matter? I decide to think about the guidelines that would help me answer this question and move away from the “having it all” conversation.  Here’s what I came up with:

banking business checklist commerce
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Am I spending my time in ways that give me purpose? Lately, I spent a lot of balance conference call with potty training cleanups. Being an agent of change in the addiction treatment space is something that I care deeply about. Dealing with the minutiae of running a company is a means to an end. As my boss often reminds me, the proverbial trains need to run on time for us to make an impact. The same can be same said of my mommy world. On the days that work is particularly hard, I remember that if nothing else, working helps me to provide for my family. At the end of the day, that an extraordinarily important purpose. Taking the time to support my little one in learning how to “human” is highly purpose driven. It’s not glamorous, but it’s important.

Am I spending my time in ways that keep me healthy? As a highly purpose driven purpose, I need a balance to keep my workaholic tendencies in check. Engaging in work that gives me purpose cannot be at the expense of my mental, emotional, or physical health. It is a requirement to spend time and energy on eating well, moving my body, and resting my mind.

Am I spending my time in ways that align with my values?  I need to do a gut check every so often to make sure my actions are in line with my core beliefs. When I feel off, sometimes it’s because I’m taking part in something doesn’t quite fit. It’s easy to drift without realizing it when trying to keep other with others. Time for reflection and course correction can help make sure your energy is focused and makes you feel like you’re on your right path.

 

 

 

Do I really need a #MomSquad?

With ample access to information via the internet, compounded by social media, there’s a lot of advice about “self-care” for moms. One that is often at the top of the list is “get yourself some ‘mom friends.’” If you Google “mom friends,” you get a wide variety of blog posts and articles with some strong opinions of the importance (or disdain) for having a #momsquad. Mental health experts often talk about how motherhood can be very lonely and combatting that loneliness can go a long way to enhance our well-being. Well, I’m going to add my two cents into the interwebs.

Friends for a season, a reason or a lifetime

Just like any transitional point in our lives, becoming a parent creates a shift in worldview. There’s an increase in responsibility, a change in expectations and an emergence of a new identity. It’s no surprise that with a major life change, you may see a shift in your friendships. A good number relationships develop as you move through a certain period or a season in life. A few others arrive to help you learn a lesson. A very small and special group of friends stick with you through all of the peaks and valleys. As a parent, you’ll make friendships in all of these different categories. But there’s nothing wrong with gathering a few partners-in-crime for the various seasons of motherhood.

It takes a village

I live far away from family and many of those “lifetime” friends. Creating a village for my little one and myself is a key component to survival. As the new mom in a town and a hopeless extrovert, I was open to all of the friendships. I needed the adult interaction and people to help me learn about this new place. As I settled in, I learned what I needed from friendship and how to create relationships that supported those multiple needs. Sometimes, you need a friend who will hop in the car and head to the zoo or amusement park when the walls are closing in on you and your kiddos. Other times, you need a friend from whom you can seek sound advice about the growth spurts, tantrums, potty training, etc.  These are needs that looked a little different before parenthood.

Mom friends don’t have to be moms

OK, hang with me on this one. I’m going to mess with the definition of “mom friends” here. Mom friends are the people in my life who help me move through this journey with grace, laughter and maybe even a little dignity. To be fair, most of my current squad is a mom, but not all. I made friends with a restaurant owner in town, a father of two adult children, and his partner. Having someone who is in a totally different season of parenthood provides me with a fresh perspective. He is also awesome a talking about things that are not kid related.  They love my little one have the energy to do fun things with us because they are not suffering from the hallmark sleepless nights of parenthood.

So…do I need mom friends?

Maybe, but more importantly, you need friends who make your a better person. Moms may be able to empathize what you’re going through. Your friends, whoever they all, should fill your cup.

All the feels after giving birth: What do to if you think you need help  

When my little was born, I had a serious case of baby blues. It took about a month for acute sadness to subside but anxiety remained through his first year. I had some moments that helped me know my feelings of being overwhelmed, sad at times, and extremely emotional would go away. I had moments where I felt fine, even excited to be a parent. I wasn’t frustrated by the needs and demands of a newborn, I mostly felt bad that he couldn’t talk and tell me what he needed. There were almost moments that made me nervous that PPD was on the horizon. At times, I had serious feelings of inadequacy, not knowing if I was up for parenting.

I came across the chart from Running In Triangles in a Facebook post and I think it’s a pretty good guideline to follow for recognizing PPD. It’s not one size fits all. People manifest depression in diverse ways. But it’s a great guide to use for yourself and for your friends and family.


Vanessa, the creator of Running in Triangles, vividly shares her experiences with all three parts of the chart.

Here’s some additional context about types of postpartum distress:

Difficulty bonding with the baby. One of the biggest indicators of PPD is the lack of bonding, and sometimes the feeling of indifference about the lack of bonding. With baby blues, you may worry that you’re not bonding quick enough or “correctly.” With PPD there may be feelings of indifference or even resentment when it comes to the new little person that has entered your life. You can also ebb and flow between feeling guilty that you don’t feel the way you’re supposed to feel and indifferent.

Isolation can exacerbate any negative feelings. Not having a support system and feeling lonely can make you feel worse. I found my partner extremely helpful during those baby blues weeks. He was able to help me check my irrational thoughts and celebrate special moments with our new son. Not having someone to relieve you, let you get some sleep, and help bring you a dose of reality can make those first weeks really hard.

It can be hard to talk about with others. People don’t always react well to hearing about negative feelings after baby arrives. I had friends who had some challenges postpartum and were able to relate. I also had friends who made me feel like I did something wrong and that’s why I was sad. That wasn’t their intention, but they didn’t have context because of their lack of experience or knowledge. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms, just know you’re not alone. As with many issues related to mental health, our society has a long way to go as far as providing good support.

How to get help:

No matter where you fall on the chart, if you feel like you need help, get some. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you call it, if your feelings of sadness, anxiousness, or anger are affecting your ability to care for your child and yourself, there are ways to find support.

Support groups. Often, hospitals have newborn parent, breastfeeding, or other support groups for parents. This can be a great first option for support. They are often facilitated by people who know the signs of a more serious issue and have access to additional resources. Being a member of a support group can often combat feelings of isolation that accompany negative feelings. Often these groups are free or have a low cost. If you’re worried about the cost to participate, talk to the coordinator. They often have funds to help folks who can’t afford it.

Individual therapy. If groups aren’t your thing or you feel like you could benefit from a one-on-one experience, go to a therapist. You can find a therapist by calling the number on the back of your insurance card and asking for a referral. You can also find a therapist on the Psychology Today website by entering your zip code and using the “refine” function to search for “pregnancy, prenatal and postpartum, and your insurance. Don’t let not having a babysitter be an excuse. If you don’t have insurance and are worried about cost, look for therapist with a “sliding scale fee” stucture. While therapy may be a little easier without a newborn, bringing the baby is better than not getting help. I have sat through a number sessions with newborns and infants and have even used the parent/child interactions I see in my office as a way to address the real-life issues my clients face.

If you are having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby, go to the ER. They are not going to treat you like you’re “crazy.” The physicians and staff are there to help you and are more than happy to do so.

No matter where you are on the chart, if you’re having a hard day, week, month, or months, it can and will get better.

Take a breath: 4 ways to get organized during the weekend

May and June were a whirlwind. Visitors, birthday parents, fun weekends with friends; we did everything. All over LA County. Fun was had. I am tired.

In the midst of all of the fun, I feel like I don’t know up from down. I’ve had a hard time remembering to complete important to-do list items, I’ve struggled to keep up with work expectations, and even though I’ve done all of these fun things with my partner, I feel like I’ve hardly seen him.

Instead of using the long weekend for more merriment (okay, there was some merriment), I decided to SLOOOOWW DOWN. Taking the weekend to breathe has made me realize that while we were out having fun, I was not taking care of myself, which has left me feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and tired. Here are some things I’m doing as part of “Operation: Get Yo’ Life So You Can Breathe Again.”

Take a break. This weekend, there are no birthday parties. We are not going out of town. I am staying home and intentionally slowing down my pace. Have I been bored? Yes. (As bored as you can be with children). Have I felt the urge to hop on Yelp to find a new adventure? Yes. As the weekend goes on, I’m noticing that I have more brain space to think through things and take care of business. I’ve also noticed that my mind isn’t racing at night and I actually feel a little more rested.

I made a to-do list. It only has 3 things per day (not counting things that are required to make sure the small human continues to live). This helps me prioritize what really needs to get down, without feeling overwhelmed and like a disorganized mess.

I picked up good habits that had fallen to the wayside. I chose two things that I really wanted to do to make me feel more put together. One was drinking more water (it’s a requirement if I don’t want to feel terrible after this new “running” thing I’m trying to do). The other was keeping the house tidy my getting rooms “back to ready” when I leave (the linked Apartment Therapy article has som great tips about having a happier home).

I made a schedule for the next week. The schedule will likely fly out the window, but it made me more conscious of how I’d like to spend my time.

This restorative time has reminded me that a little time to myself is necessary, even for extreme extroverts like me. Here’s hoping my life stays a bit more organized for a while.

When life chucks lemons…how to make lemonade

Since embarking on this unanticipated (and let’s be honest, unwelcome) move across the country, I’ve have had to push myself to try a lot of new things. I went from being a full-time working mom in the Midwest to a freelancing stay-at-home mom on the west coast. I’ve had to learn about my new surroundings, make new friends and shift my career goals.
Trying new things has always been a struggle for me. I like to know what I’m getting into, have all of my “ducks in a row,” and have a plan for execution. It’s how I manage my anxiety of the unknown. This need for control and safety is not conducive to being a mom who moved across country with her family.

Picture of October Baby playbill
October Baby playbill
For our monthly Moms Night Out, our Fit4Mom group saw a one-woman show in Hollywood. October Baby was about a woman who had somehow, been successful in planning her entire life, until trying for her second child. Props to her for making it that long! The show validated some “lessons learned” that I’ve had about managing the uncertainty of life and how I support myself in trying new things to make life work for my family and me.

Simple drawing is a monster
Frank the anxiety monster
Confront your worries. As a psychotherapist, I use to draw a picture of anxiety, and I would name it. I would call it “Frank.” I used “Frank” to help my clients think about anxiety as a more concrete “thing” that can be faced head on.

Making a plan the worries that you face when life seems out of your control can help you make a plan to deal with the worry and stress. It can feel both scary and like a relief to do it, but it allows the opportunity to prepare reactions to life’s curve balls.

Be honest with yourself about what you can control…and what you can’t. Things you can control: the way you think and feel, your behavior, how you react to situations, and how you take care of yourself. Things you cannot control: other actions of others, societal norms, and the universe. I know, controlling the universe would be pretty cool and making your partner do all of the things you know they should be doing would be helpful, but it isn’t going to happen. Focus on your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The way you react to a situation may impact others behaviors, but we just can’t control the type of impact we’ll have.

Lean into the new. Facing new challenges make us stronger. I have often had to reframe this unanticipated move to California as a way to get stronger and better. The challenges of finding a new source of income made me consider my ability to transfer my skills to multiple types of work and to think creatively about how I can contribute. It had also forced to learn new and interesting skills. Reframing the way we think about new challenges as a vehicle for growth helps feel differently about the situation and hopefully, have more energy to push forward.

Celebrate your successes. Reflecting on how you’ve moved forward is important. It puts in perspective your ability to learn, grow, and get sh*t done. It usually several small successes and occasionally a big breakthrough. I’ve been reflecting on the successes I’ve had as our year anniversary in California gets closer. We’ve survived being evacuated for a fire, career transitions, making new friends, exploring a huge new city, and being farther away from home than we’ve ever been. No matter how small, a win is a win and it’s worth celebrating.

Activism book list for little one

Activism has been on my mind lately (surprise surprise). Here are a few books I plan to get (or already have) for the little guy over the next couple of months:
Baby holding book
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

We have this one already thanks to little dude’s community organizing auntie in Washington, DC. We’ve been reading this book since he got it at 6 months old. This book is an A to Z overview of activist words and phrases.

Counting Community by Innosanto Nagara

Need this one! As someone who teaches community engaged learning courses, I’m embarrassed I don’t have this one yet. This book paints a picture of the people and places that make up a community, including inclusive characters and spaces.

My World Your World by Melanie Walsh

This book introduces the ideas of differences and commonalities and celebrating both.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

Never to early to start a good foundation for history education. This book provides a diverse depiction of women who have impacted our world.

Never to early to talk about the importance of community engagement!

Crafty mama: Review of Golden Road Brewing Pub

(As someone who enjoys a good restaurant adventure, my hope is to provide reviews of kid-friendly restaurants, mostly in the LA Metro area, with mamas and little ones in mind. This is my first one. Hopefully y’all will find this helpful!)

One of my favorite hobbies is exploring and enjoying craft beer. My partner, Brad, and I have been participating in brewery tours and beers tastings for most of our 11 years together. We continue to check out breweries, even with the little one, as most of them are family friendly. After a week of much needed rain in SoCal, we decided to seize the 70 degrees and sunny day by checking out the Pub at Golden Road in Atwater.

From the Ventura Freeway, it looks like it belongs among the industrial buildings that surround it. We were pleasantly surprised to see the expansive patio and doggie patio in addition to the indoor pub, which is next to the brewing facility. It is in an industrial area, street parking is limited, though we were able to snag a spot. The Pub does offer valet parking for $5, which may be worth it with multiple kids.

Picture of pub patio
The Pub at Golden Road Patio

There were several families on the patio, with kids of all ages; in newborn car seats, worn in carriers and in strollers. We were grateful for the ample stroller space on the patio, as Lil’ Dude was getting in his afternoon nap. The couple next to us, who also had a napping kid, gave us a knowing “woohoo” face for our well-timed “enjoy beer on patio while kid is napping,” parenting move.

There were about 14 beers on tap. We enjoyed their hefeweizen due to the perfect sunny day. Brad also had the Get Up Off That Brown, which he said had the classic brown nuttiness. I had their classic IPA next, which was not as bitter as I would have liked but was an easy drinking IPA with a citrusy finish. In addition to beer, they have wine and some weekend specialty drinks to complement their brunch menu.

Picture of hefeweizen beer
Golden Road Hefeweizen

The menu looked awesome too! Lots of appetizers and a kids menu with 3 options for little ones. Lil Dude was out the majority of the time, so we didn’t get to try one of the kid’s dishes, but we enjoyed our classic burger with sweet potato fries. They had several vegan options as well!


There was a single stall women’s bathroom with a changing table in addition to another bathroom with more stalls for ladies and the men’s room.

My favorite part of the ambiance was the 1990’s – 2000’s playlist, catering to the “old millennial” hipster crowd. Lil Dude and I enjoyed a dance to Outkast’s “The Way You Move,” just before leaving.

The service was fast and friendly! If Lil Dude had been awake, he would have had his meal in a jiffy, which makes the dining experience more enjoyable and less tantrum prone.

This is one of our new favorite spots in LA. Even though Golden Road Brewing was recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch, the Pub still has a great neighborhood feel. There were several TV’s for watching sporting events (2 on the patio), tables playing card games, and yard games were available too. We will be back!

Family friendly rundown

  • Kids Menu available (there were several regular menu items that I would split with my toddler)
  • High chairs available
  • Noise Level: Loud
  • Changing Table: Yes, in women’s single stall
  • Crowd: Spirited, but not rowdy
  • Will I be the only one with a kid? No! Lots of families of all shapes and sizes enjoying the nice day!

Reality check

Finding balance in life can be hard. Finding balance in life with tiny humans is harder. As I talk with my mama friends, it seems that many of us are struggling to find that sweet spot of balance, even for a half a second.

By training, I’m a clinical social worker. My professional pursuits have always been about helping people find and pursue their balance.

I am also a member of Generation Y (or an old millennial…I remember when LiveJournal it was the jam). Many of us Gen Y folks (depending on your place in the social strata) were told “you can do anything, and everything, and you should be great at it. And do what makes you happy, too.”This does not jive very well with what I know as a clinician:

Happiness = Reality – Expectations

Here’s a cute little cartoon that explains how this mismatch of messaging plays out for us Gen Y folk. It focuses on careers, but I find it applies to any goal or milestone, including one of the toughest jobs, parenting. Many of us (self-included) set our expectations pretty high. I compare myself to my friends who seem to have it all together, or at least their Instagram game is strong.

Baby in a box with toys.
The struggle is real.

So, how do we get our expectations back in check? First, we need to figure out our irrational beliefs. We all do it, and as they say, “identifying that we have a problem is the first step.” David Burns did an excellent job of describing 10 of the, what he calls “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” mantras (from his 1989 book, The Feeling Good Bookwe have on repeat, here are my favorites.

1. All-or-nothing thinking – You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure.

Example: “I didn’t get to everything on my to-do list, so I got nothing done!”

2. Overgeneralization – You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it.

Example: “I didn’t get the job that I interviewed for last week. I am never going to find a job!”

3. Mental Filter – You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water.

Example: When your mom tells you that you like nice, but tells you to put on more lipstick. (You mean, it’s not rational to be cranky about this? I think it is, but we’re talking about reframing our thoughts and realistic expectations. I expect my mom to says this for the rest of my life, so I might as well not get upset about it.)

The list has some other fabulous ways we ruin our day like, mind reading/magical thinking, where we think we are Ms. Cleo, emotional reasoning (as a mama, this one is in heavy rotation) and the “should statements,” which pairs nicely with emotional reasoning.

Combine all of this with unrealistic narratives that social media provides and poof: hello stress and shame!

Ok, now what to do? We have to change the narrative.

1. Being honest with ourselves. I spend some of my brain space during the day challenging that “stinkin’ thinkin'” and trying to base my thoughts and reactions on real evidence.

2. Be honest with friends. It’s easy to fall into the Instagram/Snapchat phenomenon where we want to mirror or social media stories in real life. We tend to post the highlights on social media while the less than stellar moments are not shared. And that’s fine. To help balance this, it’s good to have friends that we can talk about the stuff that happens in between posts. I was very fortunate to have many friends have little ones around the same time that I had mine. I also joined Fit4Mom, an organization that had community building in its mission. Having an in-person community (or a text group with my friends back home) where we can share daily challenges and triumphs have helped me to know that I’m not alone. Many localities have organizations like MOPS, Mocha Moms, or parenting groups through birthing centers, to provide community.

3. Sometimes good enough is good enough. If my kid is fed, clothed, and knows I’m there, that’s good enough some days. When I was working, showing up to work and getting a couple things done, was good enough some days. Knowing that doing only what is necessary some days will give you space and the hutzpah to do amazing things some days too. There are days or even times in our life when it may best for our overall well-being to keep the boat afloat, and that’s it.

Keep on, keeping on, mama!