Things are getting better. At least it seems like it… Baby boy is stretching out his feeds and sleeping a little bit more, our daughter is a little more interested in him and a little less emotional, I’m no longer sick or in pain and am regaining my physical strength, little by little. Am I getting a lot of sleep? No. Am I grumpy more than I care to be because of it? Yes. Is it the worst thing ever? No, but mostly because I’ve been down this road before and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, for lack of a better metaphor.
My biggest problem is the voice in my head. The part of me that constantly taps me on the shoulder and questions what I should be doing. It makes grandiose assumptions of what others are expecting of me. It tells me that I’m being judged for coping too well or losing the baby weight too fast. Tap, tap, tap…Even though you’re still technically on maternity leave and only two months postpartum, you’re more than capable of jumping back into the saddle – get more work done, check every email, start working out, clean the house, do it all – you need to, you want to! Do, do, do…
And then I POP from all the pressure.
And we’re not talking a small kids party balloon pop, we’re talking a gigantic, messy, explosive blimp-sized pop. My entire world comes crashing down on me in an instant and then that other voice starts talking to me – See, I knew you couldn’t do it! You’re too weak. Who are you kidding? You’re not cut out for this. You can’t keep your sh!t together, not even for your kids. It’s time to quit, quit everything!!
Yikes! What a scary place to be. This is what postpartum depression can look like. You’re chugging along well enough, happy most days (but tired), like the Little Engine That Could, and then suddenly you’re derailed. You didn’t see it coming, you had no warning, and quite honestly, you did it to yourself.
If you’re someone like me – Type A personality, a go-getter, an overachiever, a Boss Lady Mom, it’s suuuuuuuper hard to live in the grey space of ebb and flow. I’m so good at following the rules, my own rules, and thrive on the structure of “black and white.” Let’s be real, NOTHING about motherhood is black and white. It’s constantly changing every day, just like our sweet little babes change every day. Today we don’t yet know how to smile, tomorrow we’re giggling. Today we like our sandwich cut up, tomorrow we want to eat it whole. Babies turn into toddlers overnight, and it’s without warning. Kids wake up as a new and improved versions of themselves each morning. So, what makes me think I can be the same kind of mother every day and be successful? The answer is, I simply can’t. I have to live in that grey space – that uncomfortable place of learning and growing and simply doing my very best within each moment.
If motherhood was my only gig, I think I’d be better at it. I think I could endure more, cope better, and have much more patience. But it’s not. I’m a full-time business owner. I manage a team of twelve, while wearing twelve different hats myself. Running a dance studio sounds like a cutesy job full of pink tutus and adorable recitals, but it’s not. It’s long days of scheduling and responding to emails, it’s late nights of ordering costumes and balancing finances, it’s emotionally-charged conversations and situations, it’s cultivating art, supporting teachers, being a teacher, and developing youth. It’s constantly being a role model, a mentor, and a positive example, even when I'm not up for it. I’m never allowed to throw my hands up and go do something irresponsibly fun without the guilt and fear of how it might affect the person that everyone needs me to be in my line of work. I’m a boss, a co-worker, a teacher, a mentor, and a friend. Oh, and did I mention that my daughter's dancing now, so I'm officially a "dance mom" too. It’s A LOT.
I have been a mother to hundreds of kids before I was ever a mother of my own children. It has given me so much wisdom and has shaped me into the type of mother I am today. There is no price you can put on experience, and I’ve been doing this for two decades. But the pressure I’m under now as a mother at home and essentially a mother to my work has been a real struggle. I’m trying my best to find balance and lean on those who are there to help, but it’s hard to let the guilt go. I constantly feel like I’m letting someone down – my employees, my husband, my accountant, my children, my students…even my cats...especially my cats!!
Only in America do we as women feel like the world expects us to be back to normal only two months after giving birth. Back to work, back to life, back to doing it all – and don’t forget to smile! UGHHH…
So, what am I doing to keep the pressure at bay? First of all, deep breaths. We’ve trained our daughter so well to manage her big emotions with deep breathing that she’ll remind me, “Slow down, mama. Deep breaths!” That’s when I know it has gotten bad… Secondly, I’ve been scheduling time away from home to focus on work. My husband has been generous in honoring that for me because he knows it’s the only way to keep me from going off the deep end. Lastly, sunshine and loud music. This might sound funny, but try it!! It’s amazing what a cruise around the neighborhood on a sunny day with your favorite jams on full blast can do for your soul, especially as a mom who is inundated with Doc McStuffins on TV and the SING soundtrack constantly on repeat most days. A little vitamin D, the wind blowing in your hair, and Tupac can literally make you feel 18 again.