(Photo by Brenda Munoz Photography)
“How do you do it all?”
A friend asked me this at dinner a few weeks ago, and our conversation stuck with me like a magnet to a fridge.
In the moment, I was quick to respond with an “I don’t!”— perfectly timed and delivered for comedic effect.
I went on to explain to her that in order for me to succeed on any given day, something has to suffer.
There are days where this space of mine goes untouched. (Read: I haven’t blogged in almost two weeks). Others where my laundry piles high, I skip my workout, or the kids spend too much time in front of the tv. Some days I don’t respond to a single message on social media.
Every single day, something suffers.
I simply try and make sure that it isn’t the same thing suffering each day. And at the end of each week, I hope that I was able to give each thing equal amounts of attention— with the exception of my kids, who hopefully receive above and beyond what everything else did. PS: that unfortunately, isn’t always the case.
If there is a better way to do things, I haven’t found it yet. Maybe it’s just this season of motherhood. Maybe in the future I will be able to pursue all of my passions without a single stone going unturned on any given day.
But right now, this is where I sit. And after the conversation with my friend, I really wanted to express this. Because the downside to social media is that we hand select every corner you see. Even our worst day photos are the best version of our worst day— carefully angled and edited to draw the eyes in, so that you will stop and listen.
It’s smart, really. Because science has shown that most of you won’t stop scrolling long enough to even see our words unless we captivate your eyes first. But these images— 90% of them— are art. The photo I used for the main image on this post, is art. Damn good art. Brenda is amazing and knows how to make me look slightly less awkward than I am in real life— but it’s still art, none the less.
Think of it like watching a documentary. They show an overdramatization, a reenactment— because people respond to visual stories. Social media is the same thing. A carefully planned image of what is trying to be expressed has been created for you. It’s for your enjoyment. To encourage you. To inspire you. To make you think.
So next time you’re scrolling and feel you see nothing but posts from moms who have perfect kitchens, perfect outfits, perfectly lit photos of their children reading books quietly while they enjoy a cup of coffee that looks like it could still be hot (it’s not)— just remember that those images are not the now. They are art. Still frames used to speak to you. And they do, obviously. But I pray they aren’t whispering ideas of inadequacy to you. I hope that when you are on social media, you are not finding yourself plagued with jealously or comparison. Because they are art— not perfect depictions of reality.
I want you to know though, that this— is art too.
The unedited, unfiltered chaos of a mother’s living room.
The place where she tries to do it all by folding laundry while the kids watch tv, so that at least she can still engage with them and ask them questions.
The dimly lit, dirtiest corners of the home— the lived in ones. They are art.
With every crunch of a goldfish on the floor and spilt glass of milk, memories are being formed. Mental images. Art.
I know that one day I personally, will look back on photos like this one much more than the ones that have been deemed “postable” by our society.
So take heart, mamas.
Because the truth of the matter is, we don’t do it all. Don’t ever let those pretty pictures make you think any differently.
We all just simply, do our best. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever: Your best is enough, picture perfect or not.
I wonder what photo they would use? Probably one I hate. Like that one where I’ve got that big goofy grin and you can see my baby fat and double chin. That’s the one they would grab, I’m sure. They would use that dopey face and vast dimples to paint me as a loving, caring, happy mother. They would tell of how none of the warning signs were there, and they would use the photo with a shirt I made myself to drive home the shock of how a mother who appeared so joyful, could have been filled with so much darkness.
This is the photo I imagined they would use— you know, if I finally really did snap. If the weight of my world came crashing down on me and I thought my only option was to crumble beneath it.
It’s a morbid idea, but it’s one that I frequently found creeping into my late night thoughts when I was in the thick of postpartum depression. I knew I could never actually harm myself or my children, I knew that. But I also knew that I really didn’t know much of anything. I knew that pain has a way of clouding even the soundest of mind. And I knew that all it would take was one moment for me to turn those thoughts into actions.
I remember driving in the carpool lane. Driving with eyes so heavy, it felt like the only way I had been able to keep them open was because they were sewn that way. As I gazed out at the road ahead, I wondered what would happen if I veered to the left. Would the crash kill us all? Would it spare them and take me instead? Could I somehow execute it so precisely that it only impacted me, and spared those two small frames in the back? Again, I knew I would never do it. Still, my mind wondered what would happen if I did.
Who even allows their minds to wander somewhere like that? What in the hell is wrong with me?
There is so much fear that accompanies a thought like that one. It’s enough to make you lose your mind all on its own. It’s enough to make you question your sanity, and your heart, and your self-worth.
The minute you believe— truly believe, that you don’t deserve to be a mother, is the minute you find yourself in real danger. Because if motherhood defines you like society says it does, and you don’t deserve it, then why are you even here? I fortunately never found myself at this point. The darkest thoughts in the corners of my mind were ones that I quickly turned away. But we aren’t all so lucky.
I think we naturally lean towards hating the mother for taking the life of her innocent child, and that hate clouds our ability to see the entire picture. The picture here, if you can push the anger aside, is such a sad one all around. It’s a scene of a woman— a mother, who crumbled underneath the weight of her world. Though outwardly she seemed so content and happy, she was filled with the thoughts of the dark. Her heart was broken down by the anxiety and the fear and the feeling of loneliness. She is not the first woman this has happened to— and crushingly, she will not be the last.
And my heart, well it can’t help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if she had felt the support and love and strength from others that she so desperately needed.
Too often we allow ourselves to take things at face value. Too often we double tap and move on, without saying a single word of love or encouragement. We assume that because someone says they are happy, that they are. That because they have 11,000 followers or 100 likes that they are doing great. And we reserve our support only for those who outwardly ask for it.
But what if I told you that even the most put together of us is in desperate need of words of affirmation. Of a helping hand. Of encouragement? What if I told you that you could literally save someone’s life by taking the time to notice them— by taking the time to do a little more than simply “like” them.
My friend Amanda saved my life, and she had absolutely no idea. What she did know, was that she saw a bracelet that made her think of me, and so she sent it. Me— the blogger who was always smiling. Candid and honest about her struggles. Truth be told, I didn’t even realize how far gone I was until that bracelet came in the mail. It was a simple gesture— but it transformed my heart. Without even fully meaning to, my friend told me that day that she saw me. She told me that I mattered. And she gave me the strength to go on.
That’s when I knew that I needed to recreate this feeling for other moms. I needed to come up with a way for moms and husbands and parents and friends to encourage the hearts of moms— I needed to provide them with something put together for the sole purpose of telling a mother that she is seen and she matters. And so, the Mama Love Collective Box was born
These boxes are my passion because I know that so many mama’s out there are silently suffering in the trenches and I know that all it takes is a slight veer to the left to crumble them. But I also know that a slight veer to the right can save their lives, and that is where you come in. We are the Mama Love Collective, because I need your help. I need you all, collectively, to help veer mamas to the right— away from that wall.
The mama who makes it known that she’s struggling right now, and especially the one who doesn’t. The mama who lives on caffeine and wine, and the one who wakes up every morning to exercise and always seems so motivated. The mama who never does her hair and lives in yoga pants, and the mama who looks like she’s on her way to an interview every time she leaves the house. The organized, the cluttered, the introverted, and the outgoing. Every single mama— every single one, needs to feel encouraged. Every single one needs to be told that she is seen— that she matters.
I know that the New Year is right around the corner, and we’re all gearing up to revamp ourselves and our lives. But I wonder if we can also resolve to revamp the way we love others. So here’s my challenge to you.
Don’t wait to act. Don’t say, “I totally want to send a box to my friend, but I’ll do it next month.” Don’t say, “I’ll like this Instagram post so-and-so did and then comment on it later if I have time.”
Don’t give yourself the opportunity to forget. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on the chance to love on a mama. Because those 2-5 minutes that it will take you to act in the moment, could literally save a life. And if you take the time to shower other mama’s with love, they will return the favor. And you never know when you too, will need your heart saved. Mothers are killing themselves, friends. We cannot continue to ignore it.
So pick a mama that you know, right now, and send her some encouragement. That could be as simple as commenting on her social media with some words of affirmation. Or send her a Mama Love Collective box
, either anonymously or with a small note. (We ship direct so that you don’t have to). You can view the boxes here: Mama Love Collective Box
We were not meant to do this journey alone. Let’s be there for one another, collectively. Let’s show love and support in a world that is constantly trying to tear one another down. Together, we can change the world and pull mama’s out of the trenches, one by one.
Mommin’ 101 teaches us that “the days are long but the years are short”.
Throughout the younger years of your children’s lives, especially, you will hear this countless times from older and wiser women in the grocery checkout line. From grandmothers at the park with their grandkids. From moms of teenagers. From pretty much everyone who knows, because they’ve lived it.
You’ll feel the weight of those words in your own heart as your baby’s first birthday approaches, or the first time they deny a kiss from you. You’ll gently brush the hair off their face as they sleep and declare with a pinch of mourning that you have no idea where the time went. You’ll finally understand the stage five clinger mom in “I’ll Love You Forever”, and suddenly that old woman crawling through her grown son’s window to cradle his limbs won’t seem so completely insane.
It’s a beautiful sentiment, meant to give perspective on the hard days. But when one day feels longer than the sum of an entire year, it can be hard to maintain that positive outlook.
When the minutes and hours and seconds of each new dawn begin to blend with the night, and you can no longer tell if a new day is upon you or not, because sleep has abandoned you and the needs of others— of your ever-growing little loves— take precident over your own.
When the days feel longer than the years because one day is a year. Because when you are finally able to rest, so much time has already passed.
How can you embrace the days where the sun never seems to descend? The ones that last longer than a telethon or a Ragnar race or that damn Lamb chop song from your childhood? This is the season that never ends, yes it goes on and on, my friends.
It would be easy to say, “think about the future! Remember that you’re going to miss this!”— but telling someone that they are going to miss the days of sleepless nights and zero moments alone is like telling someone they are going to miss weeks of rain. There’s just no way for them to know until it’s gone. There’s no way for them to see that until they are face to face with a California drought.
So instead, maybe we can do something different. Maybe, when the days feel longer than the years, we should be encouraging one another to merely look at that day. Break it up into sections. Tackle it piece by piece. Hour by hour. Can you get through another ten minutes of this? Yes, you can. What about another hour? If your answer is unsure, then go back to minutes. And if that seems overwhelming still, then ask for help.
Mamas, we have to start asking for help when we need it. I don’t know what it is, but every single mom I talk to tells me the same thing:
They feel an intense mom guilt whenever they have to ask for help with their kids.
Why do we do this to ourselves? When did we decide that it would be better to raise our children from a place of overwhelm than to simply ask for an extra set of hands when we need them?
I wish I had the answer.
I wish I could hunt down the first person to ever whisper in a mama’s ear and tell her that she was somehow less than if she asked for help— because I would slap them in the face.
Mama’s, hear me out.
All of you.
The working mom who feels guilt because she’s already gone 40+ hours a week— so she feels like she needs to spend every second of her spare time with her kids to “make up” for being gone so much.
The stay-at-home mom who feels guilt because her job is to care for her children, so asking for help feels like she is quite literally unable to fulfill her job description.
The work-from-home mom who feels guilt because she thinks that either her work gets neglected or her children do, almost every single day.
The momtrepeneur who feels guilt because she chose to pursue her dreams and feels selfish for doing so.
All of you— listen up.
Your children do not and will not suffer from you getting help. They will be better for it.
Yes, I’m going as far as to say that they will not only be okay, but better for it. And the reason is simple.
If you’re out on a run and you sprain your ankle, you need to go home and care for it. Ice, wrap, elevate, and rest. You wouldn’t ignore the pain and keep walking on it, because if you did then your condition would worsen.
Think of being overwhelmed as spraining your ankle. You can’t keep carrying the weight of that around because the symptoms will only worsen.
Likewise, you wouldn’t teach your children to push through the pain of a sprain, would you?
If you want your kids to ask for help when they need it (something I know you say to them) then you need to be willing to live by example. Because I promise you that yes, even your newborn baby, can tell when you are overwhelmed. And if you are pridefully pushing through when you should be leaning on others, your children are going to see that and think that is how they too, should be.
We are not meant to do this life alone, sweet friends. God made Adam a companion for a reason— because even the very first person on this earth needed someone. We all need each other, and there should be absolutely no shame in that.
So when the days feel longer than the years, do not lose hope. Focus on that single day. That single hour. Those single seconds. And do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Because when the days feel longer than the years, that is our souls way of telling us that it needs a break. So give your soul a break, mama. Your heart and your children will both thank you for it.
“Have I ever cleaned this window in the three years we have lived here?”
It’s the thought that surfaced over a sea of trembling ones as I stood in front of my kitchen sink. I had pulled a carton of grapes out of the fridge to clean, and as the water trickled down their skin I ran my fingers across the stems and thought about that window. I traced each water spot with my mind— wondering which meal preparation or scurried bottle cleaning they came from. Three years of memories had built up in that dirty window. Three years of motherhood and three years of filth— they all came rushing through me as I memorized the pattern of splatter and dust on that kitchen window.
It’s remarkable, isn’t it? The built-in diversion mode that our brains switch on to help us cope with trauma. My trauma in that moment at the kitchen window, was a phone call I had received an hour prior. A phone call that said I may have cancer. And so, my brain— being the clever girl she is, decided to shift my focus to that dirty window of a home full of memories. And in that moment, I felt the full fragility of motherhood.
There is something so vulnerable about being a mother.
When I was younger I felt fearless, invincible— immortal even. It seemed as if things could only graze me, at best. I didn’t fear danger, or life, or death. I just lived. I jumped out of airplanes and drove my car way too fast and slept alone at the beach without telling a soul where I had gone. I can’t say that motherhood changes everyone, but it certainly changed me. Still, I had never fully felt the weight of this change until I received that call. Suddenly I was painfully afraid of death, I was achingly afraid of leaving my children behind.
I spent the next two weeks in a silent panic. It wasn’t the cancer itself that scared me. It wasn’t the idea of chemo or radiation or even dying— though they all crossed my mind. What kept me awake in fear every night, were the people lying right beside me. The idea that my life could end and I would never get to see theirs blossom, was soul crushing. I thought of the people my body would be letting down, like my mom— who is supposed to (potentially) receive a kidney from me in the next year. Would she end up on the donor list for the rest of her life because my body had failed her? I thought of my husband and the tragedy his heart has had to endure. Would he be able to handle this blow? And my boys— my sweet sweet boys. How would their rambunctious, young hearts be able to grasp that mommy was too sick to play with them every day?
I walked into the hospital and made my way to Radiology alone on Tuesday. Only four people in my life knew I was there. Out of those four, only one knew just how terrified I was. My family was comforted by the odds, but numbers didn’t mean anything to me because I had been that 1 in 10,000 before
— I had watched the odds crumble all around me on more than one occasion. I checked in at the front desk and went to text my husband who was out of town, but there was zero cell reception. That’s when I realized I really was doing this alone.
As I walked down the long empty hallway, I thought about how many other mothers had made the same walk of fear as me. I thought of my own mother, and the walks she’s made—from kidney disease to cancer to heart problems
. And for a moment, I felt like I knew just how she may have felt when she made her first walk down a long, empty hospital hallway like that one— awaiting a test that would determine whether or not she would get to watch her children grow old. After two exams, the radiologist came in to see me. When they brought me in for the “we need an even closer look” ultrasound after the initial look, my eyes welled up with tears. I prepared my heart for the worst, so when the radiologist opened his mouth to give me a clean bill of health, it took me a moment to process it. He must have noticed my daze, because he repeated the sentence and asked me if I had any questions. That was when it finally registered, and I thanked him for the wonderful news and left.
As I walked out of that hospital building, I felt the weight of two weeks of built up fear flush out of me. I sobbed tears of relief on the steering wheel of my car and grabbed my phone to text Derek. The cell reception was back, and on my lock screen was a message from him that had been sent while I was in the appointment:
“I’m here. Not leaving you.”
Those words ran through my veins and breathed life into me again. I looked at my home screen and whispered to those two little boys who grace the background of it:
“I’m here. Not leaving you.”
When I got home, my mom greeted me and I embraced her in a long hug. I knew that she knew better than anyone, the feelings I had been wrestling leading up to this, and I also knew that she needed that hug almost as much as I did. It was a glimpse into the fragility of motherhood my own mom feels every single day. And as she walked away to grab a glass of water, I whispered quietly to her:
“I’m here. Not leaving you.”
I’ve probably been pulled over close to a dozen times in my life. I’ve got the speeding tickets, and fix it tickets, and traffic violations to prove it. I had a lead foot and a rebel heart, and I paid for it with a poor driving record and high insurance costs.
When I would see those patriotic lights flashing behind me, my mind would race to a thousand different places. My heart would pound.
What did I do this time? How fast was I going? Do I have a light out? Will this be the time they finally arrest me? My parents are going to be furious with me. I can’t afford another ticket!
The fear of license suspension, car searching, and even being arrested and sent to jail would creep in, but I never ever, feared that I would be killed. Because I didn’t have to. Because I am a white privileged woman.
It’s easy when you’re white in a world that values that. The emphasis on superiority based on melatonin levels is no new thing. It’s easy to pretend that being “colorblind” and “loving everyone” is enough. But it’s not. And we do not need to be colorblind. In fact, you need to very clearly see color in order to fully grasp what is happening in our world. Because this is so blatantly an attack based on it.
At some point, even the most skeptical white privileged folks have to be able to look at this and see a trend. At some point you have to take off the blinders and see the direct racism our country is facing. How many times can we blame a bad angle or “cut” video for a cops behavior? How many more people must die before we see that this is happening. That human beings are being slaughtered by the very people who are sworn to protect them.
Dear white people:
We need to start talking about this with each other. We need to start asking the hard questions and losing friends, if need be. We need to educate one another. It is not black peoples responsibility to ignite change within white people— it’s ours. Would you ask a Holocaust victim to help you care? Would you make that their responsibility? Could you imagine?
It is up to us to use our privilege to spark change. We cannot just stand by idly, despite how much more comfortable and easy it would be to do so.
And this is where I will start. And I’m sorry to all of my readers that it took me so long to publicly do so. If you somehow, still feel that these murders are justified, let’s talk. If you somehow, cannot see the very real racism our country’s black people are facing, let’s talk.
Say their names. We have to say their names. These mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons— they are very real victims of hate crimes and we cannot— I will not allow them to blur together into one white priveleged apathetic pile of mush.
Black lives matter. They matter just as much as mine and yours. And until they are treated as such, no lives will matter.
If you want to learn more about what is going on in our world and how you can help, please visit Black Lives Matter and read about 5 Ways Allies Can Show Up For Racial Justice.
Everybody tells you it’s a dream.
“You’re living the dream! Motherhood is such a dream!”
What they don’t say, is that it’s not always the kind of dream where Channing Tatum spoon feeds you endless amounts of mint chip ice cream, which has zero effect on your Victoria Secret model body. No, they neglect to tell you that sometimes it’s a straight up nightmare. One that feeds on every fear, and insecurity, and weakness you’ve ever had. The kind of dream that leaves you feeling weak and vulnerable for days.
How can something so incredibly wonderful also be so insanely challenging?
I guess that’s easy. A quick convo with your neighborhood superhero will reveal that all good things come with a price. That it takes every ounce of your abilities to change the world— to raise the future of the world.
But you’re not a superhero. You don’t have laser beam eyes, or telekinesis, or freeze ray guns. (Though, that last one would sure come in handy when the kids are mid- “fall off the chair for the hundredth time”, am I right?)
The only fire that comes out of your mouth is “If I have to tell you one more time..!”, and the only bad guys you chase away at night are the invisible monsters underneath the bed. They’re off saving the universe, while you’re trying to find a way to sneak veggies into your child’s food.
But maybe, that’s just it. Maybe that is exactly why you are a superhero.
I mean, it surely seems like you have super human strength when you walk out of the store with two kids on either hip and arms filled to the elbows with groceries. You can’t for the life of you open the pickle jar, but you can carry 50+ lbs. of tantrumming children out of Target— which is pretty damn impressive.
And it takes some sort of other-earthly patience to listen to the same song sung, same question asked, same scream screamed, all day long. Only a radioactive spider bite can explain how you manage to survive off of sandwich crust and zero sleep. And don’t even get me started on potty training— I’m pretty sure that Superman himself would rather battle Lex Luther any day of the week than have to clean human poop out of the carpets.
And sometimes our kids feel like our kryptonite— our Achilles heel, our own personal vortex of chaos and destruction. Right? I mean, there are days, weeks, months even, where they just drain every ounce of… everything.
But we really are superheroes, and it’s time we start believing that. You can get through this stage— whatever terrible, awful, losing your hair and your sanity, stage it may be— you can get through this. It’s not going to be teething, or breastfeeding, or the terrible twos that cue your demise. You’re a damn superwoman. You will conquer this phase— the nightmare will not last forever.
So next time you find yourself completely immobilized by the stress, the lack of energy, the anxiety, etc.— do yourself a favor and put yourself on time out in the bathroom for two minutes. Stare at yourself in the mirror— hollow shell, full-faced beauty, whatever you see that day— and repeat this mantra: I AM A SUPERHERO. I CAN AND I WILL CONQUER THIS. Repeat it until you feel it, mama.
Remember, you’ve got this.
It won’t last forever.
The days are long, but the years are short.
Whine now, Wine later.
[Inster snazzy catch phrase here]
You get the drift. You really are remarkable, and I hope you are able to see that these seemingly small actions you make every single day, make a huge difference.
Fly high, my sweet friends.