The other side of motherhood. The one that no one talks about.

Motherhood is hands down the greatest experience of my life. I’ve never been so in love with this little cherub that has blessed my days. The kisses, the unanticipated hugs, the unsteady swagger of a new walker; I wouldn’t change becoming a mom for anything.

But motherhood also has its dark parts. The things no one likes to talk about. The day to day experiences that aren’t glamourous or sexy. If I took a selfie it wouldn’t be Instagram worthy. On these days I wonder how I will make it through the vast time spans until bedtime. On these days I do laundry (again), dishes (again), and try to tidy my ever messy house (again). I wonder if I made the right choice leaving work, or wonder if it is time to go back. I find myself fantasizing about an hour alone for lunch, uninterrupted bathroom breaks, and the availability of other adults to talk to. Today, though, I might stay in the bathroom an extra few minutes, just to have some space for myself without a little leech clinging to my leg. My patience sometimes wears thin, much to my chagrin, and I sometimes physically grit my teeth before trying to catch a melody for Twinkle Twinkly Little Star while I’m trying to change an alligator-rolling toddler with a poopy butt. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this part?

Why doesn’t anyone tell new moms about the extent of the baby blues? The depression and anxiety? The isolation? The loneliness? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

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The most important thing that I’ve come to realize is that this is okay, and I truly believe I’m not alone when I hit these speed bumps in the road of parenting. Well, at least not alone metaphorically. Physically, it’s a one woman show over here. Like everything else, motherhood has its up and downs. It’s just that no one talks about the other side of motherhood, the one where you feel so lonely that you want to run up to the next stroller-pushing stranger you see in the street and make friends. Or when you turn on the tv just so that there is another adult human voice in the house because, frankly, a stuffed Elmo telling me about his favorite letters just aren’t filling my void for linguistic interaction.

A mom once told me something that sticks in my mind: “The days are long but the years are short.” And it’s totally true. Even though the days can seem endless, time is really passing by quickly. So whenever I have a rough day, or my little dude and I just aren’t hitting our stride, I remember that tomorrow always hits the reset button and will bring some new development that signals that my little boy is growing up too fast. So yes I’ll get the laundry done and load the dishes, but first I make playtime my priority so I don’t miss a minute. Until mama needs a minute, then Elmo the entertainer can take a turn.

On motherhood and the “Should Be”s

My head is just pounding. My hormones are going insane after finishing breastfeeding. I’m completely exhausted. I’ve been going to bed before 9 pm the last few nights because I can’t keep my eyes open. T is napping right now. My body is screaming for sleep. But instead of sleeping, I started a load of wash, made coffee, and sat down to write. I like to think that it’s dedication, but really it’s because I’m an idiot. It’s because of all the Should Be’s in my life.

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What is a Should Be, you might ask? It’s the annoying tape that plays in my head telling me what to do. I should be getting something done while the baby is sleeping. I should be doing the dishes. I should be writing on my blog. I should be able to handle all of this. I should be able to do it all, all the other moms do. And so I do. I do the laundry. The dishes. Drink the coffee. Write my blog. I put my well-being and needs aside for my family. I suspect that I’m not alone—at least, I hope I’m not. I’m guessing a lot of moms have moments when they are feeling inadequate or not good enough, or just plain out ignore their own needs for the needs of others.

Should Be’s really ugly sibling, Shouldn’t Be, is also someone I’m very familiar with. I shouldn’t be so tired, the baby has been sleeping through the night. I shouldn’t be at this weight anymore, it’s been over a year since birth. I shouldn’t be having these feelings of depression or anxiety, my life is great.

I tell myself a lot of things, and none of them are helpful or uplifting. Now that I think about—write about—it, I’m even harder on myself than I thought. I am completely self-deprecating. This is a scary realization. I have worked—and do work—hard my entire life, and here I am giving myself zero credit for anything I’ve accomplished. I’m berating myself about every decision I have made. This really saddens me. Why are we our own harshest critic?

Now what? Literally, I was just sitting with my chin in my palm leaning over staring at this half-finished post. I wish I had some brilliant introspective solution for you. I want to write about how we shouldn’t be desperately need to be kinder to ourselves, to marvel in our physical and mental accomplishments as a woman and a mother, and take the time to give ourselves what we need. These are all so true, but also feel so trite. I don’t know how to actually accomplish any of these things. The best I can do for you right now is to tell you that if you happen to be reading this and nodding your head along with me, saying “Yup, me too. That’s me,” then you aren’t alone.

You aren’t alone in your ups and downs. You aren’t alone in your eternal search for answers of the right thing to do for your kids. You aren’t alone in feeling so devastatingly alone when you sit at home wondering what to do next with your toddler. You aren’t alone if you’re pumping at work in a closet. You aren’t alone if you’re crying because you haven’t slept in 24 hours. You aren’t alone if your three year old is screaming in the middle of Target. You aren’t alone as a mother.

Maybe I can take some solace in the fact that none of us really have any answers. All of us push ourselves to our own limits and beyond. We as the universal mother are just doing the very damn best that we can do. And that has to be enough, because that is all we can do.

I matter to him.

“Maybe I just need to go back to work,” I said to my husband with a shrug. My sentence didn’t come out as a statement; the words fell into each other in a long sigh, like stale breath exhaled after being held too long. It was yet another conversation about tightening the budget, something we’ve done constantly since we decided that I would give being a stay at home a chance. I had never really realized how much we’d been spending, until I had given each dollar a careful examination before setting it free into the world. In truth, it was more than our budget. It went a lot deeper than that for me. It was a suggestion imploring to be closed, denied, and followed up with reassurance that I was doing the right thing by staying home.

I’ve always been insecure. Well, maybe not always, but since arriving at the age of breasts, periods, and bullying, my self-confidence was always at low tide. Today, I’m responsible 24/7 for our offspring, someone we waited and longed for, but suddenly made me insecure and depressed with his arrival.

The first months were easy. I never slept, instead running on love, joy, and adrenaline. I was all too happy to lose myself completely in motherhood. But now I constantly wonder if I made the right choice. Was it the right thing to stay at home? Can I even handle this? Am I doing a good job? Is he eating enough vegetables? How do you feed an infant vegetables, anyway, when most of them are choking hazards and he now refuses to eat purees?

Maybe I am looking for validation, something that makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile, some physical evidence of my efforts well spent. The extra cash wouldn’t hurt either. In truth, maybe I am just looking to run away. It seems easier to sit at a desk all day than deal with a highly demanding baby: tantrums, nap time refusals, and poopy diapers are just the tip of the postpartum iceberg. Maybe, just maybe, my inner critic is right. “You can’t do this,” she often tells me, “you’re not good enough.” Whether it’s motherhood, my blog, or my choice to nap instead of doing something productive, she is always there to remind me of my inadequacies.

As I stand in the playroom, I half watch him play independently and half scroll through Twitter, jealously eyeing all the mothers who seem to have it all: happy kids, a self-made career, and most importantly, they seem to have showered that day. Unexpectedly, he looks up at me. I almost missed it, lost in the rabbit hole of social media. He looks me right in the eyes and a huge grin lights up his face. I find myself genuinely grin back at him. We hold each other’s gaze for a minute, and he turns back to his toys. The exchange didn’t last long, but it filled my heart to the brim.

Using no words he told me everything I needed to hear. I am a good mom. I am doing a good job. He is happy and loved. I might not matter anymore to my old coworkers. I might not matter to the blogosphere. My opinions might not count to anyone but our family. But my son doesn’t care. With no words he told me the one thing I needed to hear most, and that is that I matter to him.

I’m a stay at home mom—did I ruin my life?

I recently read an article that is making the rounds on Facebook. In it, the author pens how she has regrets about becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Don’t get me wrong, I understand that with every decision, there are regrets, and also realize that being a SAHM isn’t for everyone. However, I was a little floored at the depth of some of these regrets. The ones that surprised me most were that she felt she was letting down the feminists that paved the way for women to hold careers equal to men, and how her kids viewed her as doing nothing with her life.

While I couldn’t disagree with her more, I am not picking on the author—I am guessing that many SAHMs have also felt this way. This woman has been the only one I found to voice it. She also writes some other regrets that could have been paraphrasing my thoughts, namely concerns about not using her degree and becoming out of touch with the working world. These are two of the major concerns I had, and still have, when I made the decision to leave my career. Reading this article not only left me flabbergasted, but also left me starting to doubt if I had indeed made the right decision when I chose to stay at home.

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Although I can’t explain why, one morning later that week I woke up proud as fuck to be a stay at home mom. My brain must have rewired itself while I slept to give me a bolt of confidence, but I suddenly embodied a much braver and more confident woman. I didn’t recognize her at first because I don’t get to see her that often, which is a real shame, but there she was, unbridled and fiery. Why the hell would I feel bad about my decision? I elected to accept the most challenging career of one’s life: raising a child. Oh please, it’s not that hard you might say. I would answer that you probably didn’t stay at home and try it out then.

While I don’t decree that it is the only job that women have to at least try, I do decree that it is one that should be valued equally to others. This is one of the reasons why I was so prickly when reading the article. I’m not letting down our former female voices who fought for our equality, but doing them proud by making a choice. Feminism is about the ability to choose anything, and be anyone, you want to be. For me in the near future, it is being a mom. And I would make the comparison of mothers to childcare providers (one is paid and one is not) to stress the importance of child-rearing, but even childcare providers and, to a degree, teachers, are often looked at as little more than snot wipers, or in the best case overlooked entirely as to how important their profession is.

If we don’t teach our children to value what SAHMs do as an important contribution to society, then how will we ever change this stigma? Being a SAHM should never be expected of a woman, but should be seen as a valid and elemental part of the workforce. What more important job is there than raising our future generation to be healthy and well-adjusted children? SAHMs do a lot, and are an equal part of the partnership of a relationship.

As far as returning to the workforce, I have no doubts that it will be significantly challenging for myself if/when I go back one day. I could try to pursue some degree-using activities to keep my resume current, but even if I choose not to it is a shame that my alternative career will be looked at as wasted years by a boss at my next interview. Just because I traded keyboards for diapers and meetings for food-flinging food introductions doesn’t mean that I am a less qualified candidate than someone else. If you are arguing experience year for experience year then yes, obviously, I would lose out there. But quality? I don’t lose that just because I get peed on more often than you do.

For me, all of this boils down to being able to be confident in myself and my decisions. No one will ever agree entirely with every decision you make, but the decision you make is right for you. My choice is valid, and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Aaaahhhhh I feel a sense of freedom in making that statement. It feels good to be free. And isn’t that what feminism is all about, anyway?

I’m a SAHM, not a housewife

A recent visit to Baby T’s doctor proved what I’ve been fearing: I am judged—and looked down on—for being a stay at home mom. Since it was a new doctor my husband and I filled out forms, including our occupations. Although I put “stay at home mom, former Tobacco Control Coordinator,” the doctor’s verbal assumptions made it clear that she missed that second part. While explaining the science behind her reasoning, which also sounded a lot like lecturing ironically (or not), she directed her speech mostly at my husband, assuming that his job title meant that he understood the physiology and anatomy behind the human body and function of immunoresponse. She even went so far as to say to him, “with your job title, you understand, right?” “Uh, no,” he answered, “That’s actually not what my field is in.” His answer barely phased her as she continued, and he turned to look at me with a “Wtf….” expression.

Because of my Master of Public Health degree, I have some background knowledge of the human body. I understood more of what she was rambling on about than my husband did. When we left, he said to me “That was pretty insulting to you to assume that you knew nothing. You know a lot more about this stuff than I do.” And he’s right. I do.


Why is it that “stay at home mom” is such a dirty word[s], and one that brings about so many assumptions—more like accusations—about a woman, her intelligence, her drive, and her priorities? It’s odd to me that a country like this one that puts so much emphasis on women as nurturers and givers and shames women who chose to not have kids, also has created a stigma about stay at home moms (SAHM). I am educated beyond the standard college degree and have work experience, and am [most days] intelligent, and yet when I say that “what I do” is be a mom, I’m met with a lot of “Oh”s. I can read the expression on your face and can interpret it, by the way, as I just told you, I’m far from an idiot.

Being a SAHM doesn’t mean that someone is lazy, has it easy, or has given up. I hate answering the question “Will you go back to work one day?” I’m sure I will one day, I say, but what I really want to say is “I’m not sure, will you ever get a better job?” But I never would, because that would be an asshole thing to say. Which is kind of what I hear when I get asked that question.

I’m a stay at home mom, not a housewife. A stay at home mom has chosen a path that she believes is best for her family. She has prioritized her role as mother above all else, and performs that most sacred of jobs, to nurture and raise her children as the sole caregiver (for most of the day. Until Dad gets home. Then the baby is all his!). Her house is messy because her job isn’t to cook and clean, it’s to stimulate tiny brains as a teacher. Her job isn’t to fold laundry, it’s to be a nurse on call 24/7, whether it is changing diapers or kissing booboos, or freaking out over baby’s first fever. Her job isn’t to look perfect with a martini in hand when her husband gets home, but even with oily hair and dark circles, she is the most beautiful creature.

Would you ever tell an in-home nurse that her job is easy because she gets to be at a home all day? No. Would you ever tell someone that is on call 24/7, even in the middle of the night, that her job is simple because she can “sleep during the day”? No, you wouldn’t. That would be asinine. Being a mother is no different. And BTW, I don’t get to nap during the day, because Baby T recharges on just a few minutes of sleep. I’m not convinced he wasn’t switched at birth and was meant to go home with the Energizer Bunny.


Please also know that I am by no means judging moms who return to work. There is definitely a strength in that, too. Sometimes forced by necessity, sometimes because a woman is more complete with work-life balance, women who go to work and can be full-time mom off hours is another form of powerful superhero. Some days I think it would be a lot easier to go to work and not be at my infant’s constant beck and call. It might be easier to eat lunch in peace and take leisurely bathroom breaks. But I would never tell you, working woman, that it is easier, because I haven’t walked your path and would never take the presumption to say such things. So in all fairness, don’t judge us SAHMs either, ok?

No matter what your path of motherhood looks like, it’s often hard AF. If you’re not a mom, if you’re a guy, or just someone with an overinflated sense of self, just keep your opinions to yourself—not that you will, keyboard warrior.

Every day I try to not be embarrassed or doubt my decision to become a SAHM. I don’t believe I or any other woman should feel like that. Why am I even embarrassed? Because of judgy-mc-judgersons like the doctor who make assumptions about me. As strongly as I believe in my decision, there is still that nagging critical voice in the back of my mind that makes me susceptible to outside criticism. It shouldn’t matter what someone else thinks, but realistically, many of us are affected by others’ words. We hear our own self-criticisms in their voices. It can be very hard not to internalize such negativity.

What I do know is that I work my tail off every day, on very (VERY) little sleep. I am also very (VERY) proud of my occupation. It’s definitely all not cakes and rainbows, although if you ask me, it’s the best career in the entire world.

Finding my calling in motherhood: How giving birth to one love gave birth to another

I feel really fat.

You know that feeling you get about yourself when you try to avoid looking in the mirror when undressing because you know you won’t really like the visage that looks back at you? I’ve been feeling really off all day. This whole “mom body” that I am trying really hard to embrace (she grew and birthed my son, after all!) just isn’t working out today—ha, figuratively and literally. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, days on end of baby talk, or the day-long silences between adult conversations. Maybe it is the moon, or just one of those days.

But today is coming to a close, and I’m getting ready for my shower. I peruse social media a little—my last link to the outside world, it seems—and see women who are also small business owners and scroll through their work on Instagram. They’re talking about the power of women, motherhood, and the divine female. The strength that women possess and the sacred. I’m not sure why, but the images of mothers, births, and the curves of clay molded into generic, faceless pregnant women and nursing mothers resonates deeply with me. I suddenly feel more connected again. To other women. To their experiences. To myself.

I step gingerly into the shower, lest I slip on some conditioner that squirted too hastily out of the bottle at the last cleansing. I reflect more on motherhood, the joy it has brought, and the lessons learned. I reflect on my full heart. I reflect on my blog, my new calling, my newfound purpose. Purpose.

It was like a lightning bolt of realization struck me from the top of my grown-out roots to the tips of my un-pedicured toes. “Holy shit,” I said to myself, “that’s it!”


It has actually been years, a decade, maybe, that I have been searching for what my true calling is. I have a lot of passions—art, writing, spirituality… shopping (does that count?)—but I haven’t been able to quite put it all together. It’s caused a lot of emotional and mental turmoil and, in some instances, depression and anxiety about who I am and who I am meant to become. No matter which path I picked, it always seems like the wrong one. Another wrong turn. Things didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped.

In that millisecond in the shower, I realize something brand new. Something for the first time that finally makes sense. What if I hadn’t been able to find my true calling because that piece of me was still missing? What if I couldn’t find it because it didn’t exist yet? What if it took having a child to realize that the realm of motherhood is my true calling? Mind. Blown.

I couldn’t find my calling all these years because it didn’t exist yet. I didn’t have that piece of my soul yet. Now that I have that missing element, I feel completed. Whole. From my heart to soul to brain and back again. I feel peace, and almost as importantly, purpose. Purpose.

I could hear those clanky wheels turning in my head as I scrubbed my mama body, causing the jiggly bits to jiggle. My calling is making those connections with other moms. Pregnant women who don’t love pregnancy. Pregnant women who do, but fear losing themselves in the process. New moms who feel overwhelmed and alone in a new city, or maybe new country, with a baby that she isn’t quite sure why she is suddenly entrusted with caring for and keeping alive. Moms of infants who are months into sleep deprivation, and know there are more months ahead, but are so in love that the sleepless nights are but a negligible part of the whole (this is where I fit in).

Maybe my role is to provide a new voice, one that moms don’t often express for fear of looking ungrateful, incapable, complaining, weak, annoying, “that mom”, or a hundred other degrading words that are used to describe women who have just given life to someone brand new on this earth. I should also note that as I’m writing these exact words and feeling the well of energy bursting forth from within and up to my head and hands, the song playing on Pandora is called “Transcendence/Kundalini Rising” which [Googling] means the spiritual emergence that brings many shifts in energy and consciousness from the spine chakra upward and outward to the head chakra. That’s some deep stuff! I don’t think this is coincidence…

I feel that my purpose for you, and for me, is to share these experiences and hope that some of you will say “me too!” either inside or out loud, and feel less alone when you read my posts. I want to create for you an online tribe so that you can see that your experiences aren’t so weird and aren’t so uncommon. I’ve had readers tell me “I thought I was the only one” or “I really needed to hear this today,” and that makes me feel like I am doing some good. Even if I reach just one of you, my heart is content.

No matter how tired I am or how giving I must be, I always do it with gusto because my son is the ultimate reward and fulfillment nature affords. It might be hard to see the light through the clouds on some days, but the sun always comes back out.

Motherhood isn’t for the weak, so it’s good that you aren’t. We’re stronger together, don’t you think?


Me and the little man

The moment I gave up the life I had created for myself so that I could help you create yours.

One mother’s choice of walking away from her career to rear her child.

It felt like opening my eyes to the sun for the first time. As the light of realization poured in, I felt the warmth in my soul. My eyes welled, as tears of fulfillment and peace rested on my lower lids like you rest content in my arms. My connection to you has never felt stronger, pulling on my heart and bringing a feeling that there is no analogy for, only the experience one has to have had to understand.

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Postpartum has brought many things: sleep deprivation, joy, anxiety, love, and pain. One of the most significant sources of anxiety and depression was the thought of going back to work after 12 short weeks home after giving birth. I realize that I am lucky to have had a full 12 weeks with you instead of the typical 6, but the thought of leaving you pains me worse than bringing you into this world did. My head and heart clash against one another. The societal demand and practicality of returning to the work force to make money in a job I had fought so hard to acquire. The emotional and primal desire to stay at home with you and help you take your first steps, say your first words, and watch in amazement as you achieve your milestones one day at a time. This internal battle has raged like titans inside me for weeks. Sometimes I shove it aside and avoid coming to terms with it. Sometimes I lay awake at night as you slumber beside me and obsess about my imminent decision.

Today is the day, and right now the moment, that I decide to give up the career path I had created for myself so that I can be with you as you create your own path. Eleven simple words on a mommy blog post changed everything for me: “Child life specialist by trade, stay at home mom by choice.” Choice. This is my choice, not society’s. I am choosing to give my notice at a job I got a scant year ago. I am choosing to walk away from the shaming of mothers who decide to give up everything to stay at home. I am choosing the most challenging job there is, the one of raising another person to be kind, loyal, and strong.  I am choosing to create a new life for myself, thus giving birth twice this summer, once to you, and once to my newfound passion for helping new mothers in their journey to a fulfilled motherhood.

As you coo and grunt happily on my chest, I watch the rise and fall of your back and feel at peace. I kiss your forehead very lightly so as to not wake you. Life has never felt more right for me. As I tear up again, this time in awe of the love I feel for such a small and helpless creature, I know in my heart that there really was no other choice for me to make after all.


An abbreviated version of this article was originally selected as an essay winner for the Transitional Seasons of Motherhood contest in Tribe Magazine. The article can be found here