motherhood is the greatest equalizer

momsToday I saw a mom in a moment of complete distress. The kind of situation where everything around you kind of blurs and quiets, and you’re laser-focused only on what’s happening right in front of you. A woman I know who is unfailingly poised and stoic got a phone call with emergency news about her son, and completely fell apart.

My heart sank. I froze. I wanted to throw up just hearing her cry.

And I realized in this moment – in which I was so peripherally involved – that all that mattered was whatever might ease what she was experiencing. That was it.

I didn’t care if she nursed or co-slept or let her kids watch tv or worked full-time or if her kids ever bolted away from her at a zoo. In this moment, I felt an overwhelming awareness that as moms, we’re all in this together on a pretty fundamental level. That the greatest equalizer we’ll ever know is the love we have for our babies.

There are so many ways moms judge and evaluate one another these days – it’s even become popular to jokingly use that term – “Don’t judge me…” or, “I sort of had to judge her…” There’s an endless list of qualifying questions we like to know about each other, to gauge how aligned we are, how comfortable and unguarded we can be. Part of that is fun and natural, to be vulnerable and find affinity with new friends – if nothing else it’s common ground for conversation. But sometimes it goes too far, and instead of working to bridge differences, it forces us to put up blocks.

So much of what we use to filter thoughts and judgments about others is irrelevant. There are so few things we can actually control, yet it’s amazing to see how parents lash out at one another for discrepancies in how things are done.

Amazing things happen when we’re open to new ideas and approaches. If instead of defaulting to the horrified, “I would never do that, and here are all the reasons XX is better,” re-train your response to be more along the lines of, “She feels XX is the best for her family, and I wonder what I can learn from her way of thinking.” It sounds completely cheesy and foreign, I know, but how cool would it be if we all were a little more open to learning about each other instead of compartmentalizing everyone? After all, we’re all doing what we believe is our very best.

 

If we haven’t spoken in a while…

…and met for breakfast, here’s what would spew out of my head and my mouth:

I’d tell you that I recently started a new job, going back to a prior employer in a leadership role. And it’s strange to feel like your surroundings are simultaneously familiar and unknown. I’ve had lots of job, and many new starts, yet I always underestimate how hard the transition is. To forget the path to the bathroom, to eat solo at your desk because you’re not quite sure how the team dynamics are just yet. How you have to mentally wade through all the newness to find your normal. The benefit of having done this many times before is I know it’s just a phase – one that will segue quietly into a memory.

I’d say that Lila at 22 months is a spitfire chatterbox who loves to command those around her, “No, Mama, Lila try,” “Move Molly, out,” “Mah cah-cah peeease.” It’s astounding to be able to communicate back and forth when for so many months you are literally talking to your child like an enthusiastic maniac without a coherent response. This girl is fearless (except around loud trucks or motorcycles – not a fan) and so full of laughter and joy, often giggling so hard she erupts into snorts and the most glorious uncontrolled belly laughs. I watch her in constant awe of her unabashed approach to life. The innocence and bravery only a child can possess. Not giving an ounce of concern to filtering her emotional responses, running around naked and living completely and fully as herself in every moment.

I would sigh and talk about how hard it is to process the world right now. That sometimes it’s hard to breathe when I think about the grave unfairness and pain that exists. Everything seems amazing and horrible all at once. News stories about insanely awesome medical advances and amazing human feats interspersed with others about horrific violence and misfortune. My Facebook feed is a chaotic juxtaposition of friends with sick kids posting updates from hospitals, and other friends sharing political rants, new recipes or workout selfies. I love it all, and my own content is as miscellaneous as anyone else’s, but it all just seems so strange what lands on our respective plates. Some days I want to dedicate my entire life and all my money to help anyone who needs it. Other days I want to hide from life and ignore it all. Most days I just strive to be kind (even when it requires deep breathing) and see the good where I can. And I count my blessings like a madwoman because hello – no matter what hardships I like to think I’ve experienced, my life is a complete privilege.

I think I’d probably tell you that no matter how busy I get, even with a toddler and new job and all the rest, I still make it a point to work out for a half hour a day. I need the endorphins and it’s time for just me. It might be at 6 a.m. or at 10 p.m. but I get it in and it helps me stay centered and ok. Some people pray in quiet churches or meditate on mountaintops – I find solace in pushing my body to find new strength.

I would declare that I’m hibernating from the summer heat (it was 120 this weekend, come ON) and still enjoy the debate as to whether our summers are worse than frigid midwest winters.

And I’d absolutely tell you to watch the new Season of Chef’s Table, and that Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is worth a read, and the meditation app Calm is pretty awesome if you ever can’t sleep.

tumblr_nzwf9t4cSn1u5iry1o1_500

 

 

Lila at 21-ish months

Common Words & Expressions: Oh no, bye-bye, hiiii, good girl Lila, I see, Lila poo, bubble, puzzle, doggie, Molly (our dog), cahh (color), woof woof, night-night, gaffy (glasses), caw (car), buh (book), uh huhhhhh, potty, fah-chee (flower), chah (chalk), slide, ticky-ticky (tickle, tickle), fah (frog), peeeeese (please), tah-chu (thank you).

Longest Sentence: “I see poo, mama.”

Favorite Foods: Avocado, blueberries, popsicles, pretzels, smoothies, and shakes, ice chips, and anything you can feed yourself with a spoon, or dip in ketchup.

Fun Tricks: Climbing into the carseat, climbing onto the coffee table, climbing onto our barstool chairs (yes, there’s a theme here). Playing night-night and covering up stuffed animals with blankets and saying ‘shhh’ and patting them. Drawing with chalk outside or inside on your easel, putting on glasses/sunglasses, putting on soap or lotion, stacking cups and blocks like a boss. Dancing to Ring Around the Rosy and singing along to the The Wheels on the Bus. Putting all kinds of puzzles together, picking flowers and going to get the mail. Pointing out dog poop and insisting we pick it up immediately.

Dislikes: Going to bed, napping at school, getting sunblock put on your face, having anyone play with your hair, and anything that slows you down.

Lila you are SO FUN right now and bursting with personality and chatter. It’s amazing being able to interact and communicate in so many ways, and really get to know you as a tiny person. You are expressive and joyful, and love laughing and being silly. You are occasionally shy around strangers and new places, but take off as soon as you warm up. You love giving hugs and exuberant kisses and being chased around the house. You confidently march into school by yourself and know exactly where to go and what to do. You enjoy your bath each night and snuggling with blankies in your crip. You wake up happy and giggling with righteous bed head, always ready to start the day.

IMG_5017

IMG_4810

 

On love and motherhood.

The depths of your love. 

…For your child. When she runs to you at toddler warp speed, arms waving and feet thumping noisily against the ground, squealing and panting in pure joy at the sight of you, to throw her arms around you in triumph. 

When she sleeps so peacefully you just stand and stare in silence. She’s finally still after days of non-stop energy. Her even rhythmic breaths, tiny hand twitches and perfect profile illuminated by the nightlight. You tear up, every time, because you cannot fathom that this was created within you. 

When she melts down, has loud tantrums, pulls your hair and kicks her shoes off, and you love her even harder because you hate her unhappiness in those moments, as trying as they are.

…For your husband. Who stood steadily by your side as you endured the physical and emotional pain of labor. Just as clueless and terrified as you, but forced to be the rock as you both waited for your world to change. 

Who was just as tired as you were, and just as in love with your wee one, but who had to go back to work two weeks later while you had months to bond and learn each other. Who took care of your dogs and your meals and frankly your sanity while you figured out nursing and bottles and went weeks without normal conversation.

Who you form an breakable bond with over the love only you two can know for your child. What an amazing notion that this thing – this love without bounds that takes your breath away – can be known by another?

…For your own parents. Who did this all for you. Who knowingly watch you make the same mistakes and all-knowing proclamations that all new parents do, without ever questioning or judging.

Who stressed over what brand of car seat and high chair to buy you before there was an Internet to use for research. Yeah, chew on that. 

And who feared for the world their children would grow up in, just like you do. 

You hear all the time that having a child breaks open your heart and ignites your  ability to love. I’ve previously compared it to seeing the world in color versus black and white. The way you perceive every aspect of life is forever enhanced and made brighter.

Mother’s Day is not always an easy day. For many it brings joy, but for others it’s the cause of hard feelings and emotions. Regardless of where the day finds you, know that you are loved, and that it’s ok to feel whatever you need to feel today. 

3 Things that Motivate Millennials (Hint: none of them is more money)

millennialsAnywhere you look, there are articles, studies and surveys interpreting the behaviors and motivations of millennials. All this talk is pretty strange to hear if, like me, you make up part of this population. From what I’ve read, we’re a unique blend of entitled, values-driven and mindful young adults. Apparently it was a really big deal that we got honorable mention ribbons at field day in kindergarten, because now we can’t take criticism.

When it comes to our careers, we don’t stay at companies for the 7-10 years our older colleagues did; not because we’re disloyal, but because we become stir crazy if we’re bored. Go ahead and  #blametheinterwebz.We want to be responsible and plan for the future, but we saw the recession destroy the nation’s economy, so we’re less inclined to trust ambiguous long-term ideals. We fear terrorism and war. We are passionate about making positive changes in our world. We love selfies but are more selfless than you think, and we are nothing like the Kardashians.

If you’re ever bored on a Friday night, google “millennials in the workplace” and snuggle up for some really engaging reading. People are dedicating a crazy amount of time and resources to analyze this age group as we start to overtake the workforce, mostly to determine what motivates us. Well, spoiler alert…it’s not money. And think about it – if it was money – that would make things so easy.

If I had to sum up the driving factors for millennials at work, here’s how it breaks down:

  1. Flexibility: We will work long hours, we will get amazing results and we will be loyal and driven at all times. But we aren’t going to do it in a desk from 8 to 5. No. Freaking. Way. We’ve grown up in a world where technology has transformed the very nature of how we work, and being chained to a desk is deflating, to say the least. It confines our creativity, forces us to make unfair trade-offs with regard to other parts of our lives, and makes us feel untrusted to perform without being monitored.
  2. Inspiration: Working for and with people who inspire us is a non-negotiable. That notion that we’re entitled? Well, we are when it comes to who we need as role models. Millennials thrive and perform best when working with leaders who drive us to be better each day. We don’t care about your degrees or resume, we want to emulate what makes us feel good and energized, and that is found in inspiring leaders.
  3. Recognition. Recognition isn’t found in certificates, plaques or cash. Those things are nice – and I suppose they each have a place – but meaningful recognition, the kind that retains employees and sends them home fulfilled each day, is fostered through trust, mentoring and a supportive team. The best bosses I’ve had weren’t the ones who gave me framed certificates or fought to get me raises, but the ones who recognized my work by giving me new and amazing opportunities, and throwing me into projects way over my head so that I could be pushed to learn on the fly. Recognition needn’t be connected to a particular accomplishment, but should be an underlying part of the culture in any effective organization.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to see what the world perceives me to be, but it’s also frustrating. The very nature of millennials is that we are dynamic and evolving – a transitional generation amid others that are more clearly defined. As millennials continue to comprise a majority of the working world, I have no doubt that the organizations with a keen eye on what motivates and engages this demographic are the ones we will see succeed.

19-monthisms

An update from Toddler Town.

Verbal explosions arrive just as friends warn they will, and just when you’re afraid they won’t. They are equal parts fascinating and alarming, and can be broken down into the following categories (think: Jeopardy): animals/animal sounds, exclamations/commands, names, random objects and body parts/clothing.

“I’ll take repeated monosyllabic screams for $500, Alex.”

Here’s a current break down:

Animals/Animal Sounds
Jaff (giraffe), dowg (dog), cah-cah (kitty cat), owl (pretty solid pronunciation here), buh (bird), duh (duck), cuh-cuh (chicken), moooooo (that’s a cow), hoooo-hoooo (synonym for owl – get your mind out of the gutter). She oinks like a pig and roars like a lion, and when she whinnies – I just die.

Exclamations/Commands
No. Ohh noo (each word two syllables). Uh oh. Whoa. Uppa, dow, ow (up, down, out). All duh (done), muh-muh (more), MY (mine, always shouted), herro, hiiiiii, buh-bye.

Names
Mama. Dada. Buh-ba (baby). Liiilahhhh (any time she sees her reflection). Oh, and ELMO.

Random Objects
Cah (car, with a Boston accent). Vroommmm (applies to cars, trucks, buses, trains), ba-ba (ball), chay (chair), buh-bull (bubble), puh-pull, yerro, guh (purple, yellow, green), bhah (bath). Side, siii (slide, swing).

Body Parts/Clothing
Nose, elbow, tuh (toe), shoooz (shoes), sah (socks).

She also makes this really consistent yet indistinguishable sound for airplanes – no clue – sorry kiddo.

This is in no way a brag list. The deeper I get into motherhood, the more I face this subtle sense of competition some parents seem to generate around kiddos hitting milestones. #letthembelitte should be followed with #letusstayhumble. At any rate, I list these things in blog form because I want to remember them. (And let’s be honest, my pre-mom memory is on unpaid leave.)

I love this phase and the endless discoveries. I love watching her decisions and intentions come into play. Her physical strength and determination astound me along with her sheer understanding of just about everything. There are frustrating moments, and messy and loud moments but mostly purely magical moments.

Pardon the peanut butter on my pants 

As I wiped peanut butter off my slacks with a wet paper towel in the women’s restroom this morning, a younger female colleague walked in. Initially I was kind of embarrassed and tried to cover up what was happening from this innocent person still safely cocooned from the madness of parenthood. 

But, ever-phobic of awkward silences, I played it cool for about 1.5 seconds before blurting out an enthusiastic version of, “My daughter wiped her peanut-butter hands all over me while I was washing yogurt out of her hair, and I thought I got it all, but guess not!” 

And this gal 10 years my junior gave me a compliment more meaningful that she ever could have planned. 

“I can’t believe you’re a mom before you come in here, that’s just so impressive that you do all that. I can’t even imagine. You’re awesome.”

I’ve been given all kinds of advice as a woman in the corporate workplace, some spot-on, other pieces wildly offensive. The ones that really irk me though are the pieces that seem to detach motherhood from a woman’s career – rather than letting the two intermingle. 

“Don’t ever tell anyone when you’re thinking about getting pregnant, people will write you off.”

“When you come back from maternity leave, you can’t cry or show that you’re emotional, it sends the wrong signal.”

I understand this advice, I really do. And I recognize that it’s always been well intended, offered up from those who’ve traveled this road before me. But it supports the outdated idea that work-life balance is easy…”I shall work now without a thought of my family for nine hours, and completely transition to home life as the clock strives 5!” 

There’s no perfect balance in any one person’s situation, but I wish there was a greater focus on work-life integration – how to support employees at work so they also feel supported at home. It’s not realistic to compartmentalize our lives in ways that stifle important parts of it. 

If you’re showered and wearing matching shoes when you come back from maternity leave, you are a champion human being. And if you can balance your family commitments and still show up ready to kill it at work each day, you deserve every possible type of recognition. Not just kudos for wearing a lot of hats, but support and flexibility when you need it to keep all the planes in the air. 

That funny little interaction this morning was such a refreshing pat on the back that it’s ok for more traces of one side of life to bleed over onto the others, even if it ruins your outfit.