It’s taken me forty years, but I can finally call myself settled. Ten years ago – when I was living the single life in Europe – I would have laughed if you’d told me I’d be married in Milwaukee a decade later. But here I am, and here I love!
I grew up in California and always thought I’d settle next to the ocean. When I’m feeling homesick, I’ll stare out over Lake Michigan (and pretend, pretend, pretend) and all is well again. My husband wooed me here in 2008 and we’ve lived on the east side ever since. We married in 2010 and have two beautiful boys (ages 2 and 4). But it’s been a long road getting these two kiddos and we’ve certainly had our share of heartache (read: miscarriages) along the way. I don’t mind talking (or writing) about things that hurt because I think it’s important that we give ourselves space to grieve. Too often, we brush our pain and grief under the table because we need to clear it off to get dinner on it. But what if we slowed down to acknowledge it? That’s the question that drives me. Motherhood can be hard.
Like a lot of new moms, I started the journey with strong coffee and a stack of parenting books a mile high on my nightstand. You name it, I’d probably read it, or joined the author’s mailing list, or ‘liked’ their Facebook page, frantically trying to keep up with their latest directives. Was I supposed to be a respectful parent, a peaceful parent, a helicopter parent, a love and logical parent, an attached parent, a growling tiger parent? I don’t know how many times I’d lose myself down the rabbit hole of parenting blogs only to find myself completely baffled and utterly paralyzed when I actually needed to DO something. You know, like raise a child. Now I steer clear of the sites that tell me there is only ONE way to do this mothering gig lest my children be warped and ruined for life. No thank you. I know from experience now, there is more than one way to skin a knee.
That doesn’t mean anything goes. And that doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions. Indeed, I do. But I often like to say I was FAR more judgmental before I became a mother. In the trenches, it’s much easier if I know we’re in this together. You and me. Together. We might have different ways of getting through our days, but most of us jumped down in the trenches of motherhood for the love of these little people, and we’ll do anything to keep them alive. You and me. Together.
I wouldn’t be a mom without my husband and the two playful boys who jump on me WAY too early on Sunday mornings and sweetly tell me that I am the best mom ever just when they would like a piece of chocolate. I love them dearly. I do. But they wouldn’t have a mother if I didn’t take care of myself. And so I am determined to keep on with the things that remind me that I have an identity outside of motherhood. It needn’t compete with my boys. In fact, if I do it well, it should complement them, and show them that their mother is a strong and capable woman who deserves their love and respect. (With or without the promise of chocolate!)
To that end, you’ll also find me cherishing my alone time in coffee shops while my husband (bless him!) rotates through our museums with the boys on Saturday mornings. Or organizing ladies’ nights with my girlfriends enjoying a finer cabernet than I ever serve with dinner at home. Or running retreats for other women to allow us a day to slow down, tell our stories and find connections. Or waking early to attempt meditations that never really work but at least have me sitting still for a ten-minute stretch. Or taking time to think about how I can give back to this city so that ALL children have the opportunities that my boys will and do have.
All these things I do because I need to put my mask on first before assisting my children. I look forward to learning by contributing and hearing from YOU too – how do you take care of yourself? I feel blessed with the tribe of women I’ve found in Milwaukee and can’t wait to hear new stories of motherhood from all around our great city!