Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Transitioning into Motherhood with Grace and Ease

"April 29, 2005 -- The Transition from not being a mother to being a mother is a huge one—-and one that is not talked about adequately. I don't think anyone can be completely ready for the magnitude of the transition, but I do think that it would have been nice to be a little more prepared. I don't know if it has to do with age; like the longer you wait the more experience you have in living life without the child responsibly and so when the baby comes, it's such a drastic comparison from your pre-baby days.

I can remember longing for a baby; a cute, sweet baby that would be an expression of our love—a child to call my own. No way did I realize that attached to that miracle would be so many adjustments; so many emotions, both positive and negative. Not to mention a physical, emotional and mental challenge like no other.

So how does one make the transition from "career woman" to motherhood with grace and ease? Is it even possible? I'd like to think that I can figure that out through my own experience, trials, errors and intuition."

The above is a journal entry from when my daughter was just two months old. It is now two plus years later. Wow. Where has the time gone? Being a parent in the midst of caring for an infant is one of those times in your life where you feel like it's always going to be that way. And then you look back each month and then each year and realize that each stage is actually rather quick, and before you know it you are sitting at the dinner table having a conversation with your two year old about why birds don't wear diapers and get to poop on the ground.

Well, more than two years into it I can say that I have figured some things out. I am not sure how graceful it all looked or how easy it all felt, but I did make that initial transition from mother-less to mother-hood and have lived to tell about it. And here’s what I learned was the most important.

1. Recreating my definitions of success as a mother and a professional. The longer and harder I held onto old definitions or someone else's definitions the more overwhelmed and depressed I felt. Once I realized that I could choose how I want to show up as a mother, a wife and a professional (and I was willing the think outside the box), the more content and happier I became in all my roles.

2. Being gentle and compassionate with myself. Although everyone else was telling me to take it easy and not worry about being Super Woman with a new baby, my internal critic kept telling me that I wasn't doing enough and what I was doing I could be doing better. When I asked myself what I would be telling my best friend in the same situation, I realized that I was much harder on myself than I would be on anyone else.

3. Letting go of guilt, worry, comparisons, standards, judgment and perfectionism. Okay, I know this is a tall order, but it's so true. As new moms we can get so caught in what the experts say we should be concerned about, and how others are doing it, and what are the right ways versus the wrong ways to doing things. For many of us, we carry over the perfectionism that came in so handy as a professional, but which will drive us towards insanity if we hold on to as moms. There is no handbook for motherhood. And those books out there that claim they are, are only based on someone else's experience (just like this article). The relationship between mother and baby changes, evolves and grows so much throughout the first couple of years. To expect that we will know exactly what to do and how to respond in this new relationship and this new role...well, that really is insanity.

As I have continued to practice (I'll admit that sometimes I fall off the bandwagon) and follow these guidelines over the past couple of years, I have felt my confidence and enjoyment as a mother increase. I have also found that I am less concerned and judgmental about how other mothers are choosing their journey. For one thing I know for sure is that this is all just a series of stages—a blip on the lifetime line. And I want to look back on this series of stages, called motherhood, with feelings of joy, peace and gratitude and know that I did the best I could...and enjoyed it along the way!

Motherhood Defined

I had an emotional and revealing conversation with one of my oldest (and I don't mean by age; I mean I've known her since I was born) friends about my associations with motherhood and being around children, specifically, negative associations about being a mother to my child.

I don't really want to get into where I picked up the associations (thanks mom) because I think that is less important than being aware that they exist and acknowledging that they don't feel good, and making the choice to now select new, more positive associations.

I had never articulated it quite so clearly or bluntly as I did with my friend--doing so felt both sad and freeing.
Essentially, what I came to terms with is that I have viewed being a mother and being with children as a burden, a chore, something "to get through." Not all the time, but a lot of the time.

This one particular association (children = burden), has colored my view of motherhood. It has challenged my transition into this new role and has led to resentment towards my husband. It has impacted my involvement with friends and limited my requests for help with childcare (because if being with my child is a burden to me, it must be a burden to others).

I hate the feeling. I hate thinking, "What am I going to do to get through this day with Lindsay?" I hate assuming that my husband's position of being away more is more appealing than my role of being home more. This is not me at my core. This is a learned association that I have acquired from others.

Exercise of The Day
What is my new vision of motherhood?
How do I want to be as a mother and with my child?

Today I declare new associations around being a mom and being with my child!
  • I choose to be in the moment; present during my time with Lindsay; aware of what is going on; connected to the situation and her; engaged
  • I choose to be loving and compassionate
  • I choose to be in awe and inspired by her mind, her smile, her emotions, her curiosity and her love
  • I choose to be playful; to laugh and sing and be silly
  • I choose to be patient and to help create ease during our time together
  • I choose to be emotionally available and to listen to what she needs
  • I choose to be open and accepting to her individuality
  • I choose to be honest and revealing
Being a mother to Lindsay is a gift. It is an opportunity for me to tap into my own "inner child." It is an opportunity to play and laugh and sing and dance. It is an opportunity for me to learn more about myself. My time with Lindsay is an adventure. I am surrounded by people who want to share in caring and loving Lindsay and by opening myself to that help I give everyone a gift--especially Lindsay and me.

(I just found this entry, which I wrote November 1, 2006. It's amazing to look back at this and see how by declaring my new associations around motherhood I have changed my life. My time with my daughter, especially the two days during the week when it's just her and me, are full of laughter, learning, fun and intimate moments. What a lesson in making the choice to show up a different way.)

My Motherhood Mantra

man-tra (noun) a commonly repeated word or phrase.

As a way of helping to keep me grounded and remind me how I want to be as a mother I came up with the following Motherhood Mantra.

  • I will honor this stage of life.
  • I will define my own success based on how I feel.
  • I will let be gentle and compassionate with myself.
  • I will let go of guilt, judgments and perfectionism.
  • I will take care of me so that I can care for others.

I find this really working for me. This morning, after realizing that I had messed up by telling my 2.5 year old daughter that she could get out of bed because I thought it was 6:15 a.m. instead of the actual time of 5:15 a.m., I found myself lying beside her in her bed saying, "Be gentle and compassionate with myself. So I messed up. It's okay."

Instead of lying there trying to figure out how I was going to get her back to sleep or what was going to happen at daycare if she didn't go back to sleep, I instead enjoyed my time snuggling with my daughter's warm body. This doesn't happen often in our house since we've never been co-sleepers and we are pretty firm with our rules around each person sleeping in their own bed.

But this morning, at 5:15 a.m., I found myself having more compassion for my mistake in mis-reading the time, letting go of the guilt and honoring the special time that it provided for my daughter and me.

And what a pleasant surprise when she finally fell back to sleep.

If you want a copy of this Motherhood Mantra to put on your refrigerator, email me at "nicola (at)" [type out as normal email address with the "@" symbol] and I'll gladly mail a magnet to you. Or, better yet, consider creating your own Motherhood Mantra! If you do, please send me yours. I'd love to see what others come up with.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Easy Recipe of the Week: Slow Cook Pork Chops

I often get asked to share some of the easy, family-friendly recipes we use. Once a week I will post a new recipe that has been tried and approved in our house.

Pork Chop Dinner with Apples and Squash (from Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook)
-4 servings-

1 small butternut squash (or two bags of fresh, cubed butternut squash from Trader Joe's)
3 large unpeeled cooking Apples
4 pork loin chops, 2/4 inch think (about 1 1/4 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Peel squash. Cut squash in half; remove seeds. Cut squash into 1/2-inch slices. (See why the pre-cut bags are so nice!)
  2. Cut apples into fourths; remove cores. Cut apple pieces crosswise in half.
  3. Remove excess fat from pork (I usually don't do this).
  4. Layer squash and apples in 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  5. Mix remaining ingredients. Coat pork with sugar mixture. Place pork on apples. Sprinkle with any remaining sugar mixture (we usually don't add all the mixture to cut down on some of the sugar).
  6. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until pork is tender.

We usually add a simple salad or steamed asparagus with this and we are good to go. The other nice thing is that this dish is often better the second day, so we make enough for leftovers and don't have to worry about making dinner the next night!

How Time Flies

I was just looking over some photos from the past three years. Nothing like seeing a photo of your child when she was only days old to remind you how far you've come in just a matter of years.

Lindsay is now 2.5 years old and we just moved her into a new "big girl" bed this weekend. I can remember the first time I put her to bed in her crib. She was so tiny--wrapped like a burrito--laying in the middle of what seemed to be a HUGE crib. And now that same kid is sleeping through the night in a bed that not only she fits in, but that her mom and dad can squeeze into as well--all together!

As we contemplate trying for one more, we often get caught up in the practicalities and logistics of what another child in our lives would mean. Space, time, money, careers and sanity all come up as possible reasons why we shouldn't have another one.

But when we set all of that aside and look inward at what are hearts are's (nearly) a resounding, "Go for it!" What that means for our future and where we go from here are still yet to be seen, but as a woman who is enjoying having the Best of Both Worlds, that leads to a bit (Okay, sometimes a lot) of anxiety about how this will all play out.

I do stand firm in my belief that I can have a successful and rewarding career, as well as have the time and energy to enjoy my personal life. As I learn more and more about who I am, what I want and how to manage it all in a way that feels good to me (regardless of what others are doing or may think), I feel more confident that I can continue on this path regardless of whether another child comes into the picture or not.

I'll keep you posted!