The Grace of Giving Up

The last two years have been a whirlwind of joy, successes, milestones, good food, great friends, and new adventures. In the midst of all of that joy, there have been some real challenges. There was a dark cloud that colored the past two years in my life, and it can be pinpointed to one thing: I did not take kindly to being a working mom.

After maternity leave, I lost the luxury of being at home with my Emma Beaux. It was tough to miss things like Emma’s first steps while I worked on projects that took me across the state and country. Hearing secondhand accounts of my child’s milestones hurt in ways I could not imagine. This heartache weighed on me and I struggled to be a good employee because half of my soul, heart, and being was miles away. I had one of those all-encompassing jobs that I thought required all of me. If you know me, you know that I have always given my all to work and academia because that’s where I found my greatest validation.  As a result, I did not have grace with myself, and decided that I could  not be the employee my company required and the super mom that Hollywood depicts.

I couldn’t. I cried. A lot. And then I quit my job.

Quitting was the best decision I could have made for myself and our family. Quitting initiated a few things: Calvin started a dream professional scenario, we took 3 months in Maine to heal and enjoy summer and family, and then we moved again, to a new place. I had no job, no career plan, and honestly I was equal parts excited to be a full-time mom and terrified of what that might mean. I had no idea what would fill our days or how I would nurture Emma’s precocious mind. Emma and I were both excited for our new adventure. However, our first day at home together was less heaven and more of a National Lampoon’s vacation from hell. I learned that toddlers require a lot of scheduling, and that fights between momma and kiddo can happen well before those teenage years. “Two-nagers” can be equally as sassy as pre-teens, let me tell ya.

Thankfully, God set provisions out for us. We set up a fun schedule, we made new friends, and we rarely said no to play. Those were our rules. We changed Emma’s nap time to coincide with the nap times of friends. We structured our days with morning play, time to reflect, and afternoon coffees with folks I admire. We plugged friends, libraries, museums, parks, and gyms into all of our free time. There was no deadline to meet, and no boss to please, so we embraced flexibility and self-care. To that end, I started practicing yoga and got to catch up on reading. Spending time with my girl helped me to get to know her and learn more about myself.

Recently, I started an incredible new job. I always  knew in my spirit that my time at home with Emma would not last forever. So I was determined to savor every moment. I wanted to be whole again. I wanted to find myself and be the type of mom that I dreamed of being. Leaving the corporate world for a beat allowed me to do this work. I had to quit to make room for play, and I had quit to realize my value. What I learned in my 8 months of being a full time mom was grace. I learned to have grace with myself, grace with my husband, and grace with a toddler and her independent spirit.

Grace brought me full circle. The issue wasn’t with being a working mom. It was with giving myself wholly to work that didn’t fulfill me. It was with trying to be all things to all people. Grace gave me the peace to find validation away from offices and work product. I was able to define my own success. Now, my work life is in the proper context and amplified by the smiles that I know will greet me when I log off for the day.

 

Hashtag MomLife

I never thought I would be a laissez faire mother. I mean, I create spreadsheets for fun. To say that I love structure, rules, and coloring inside the lines is an understatement. So, it was a shock to me that I began to reject rigidity when Emma arrived. Honestly, it’s just too hard to follow every rule to the letter while you’re pumping, working, feeding, and maintaining some semblance of sanity. Ecclesiastes 9:11 is a verse that I cling to in regards to parenting. It says, “the race is not given to the swift nor the strong, but to those who endure until the end.” That’s my motto as I try to endure these adorable salvos. In this time, I have learned that enduring means adjusting and breaking a few rules.

Sleep Schedules

I don’t believe in sleep schedules anymore. Even if I did, Emma doesn’t listen to me, and I am not willing to fight with her yet. Plus, I would rather my babe gently doze off  in my arms after some innocent play and gentle rocking. That’s much more desirable  than having her wail alone in her crib until she falls asleep. When I attempt to let her “cry it out,” I usually end up crawling into the crib with her to pay my pennance. And, believe me; it’s nearly impossible for an adult to climb out of a crib without pulling a muscle. How do babies escape their cribs so easily? Cal once remarked about crying he overheard at night. I haven’t had the heart to tell him those were my tears. I don’t understand the phrase “sleeping like a baby.” That’s not because English is my second language! It’s because I haven’t found these babies who sleep. Emma sleeps more than most, and I still haven’t woken up refreshed in 208 days. But who’s counting?

Hot Mama

I love maternity high fashion and all the accoutrements: breast milk, spit up, and pee-pee. Breast milk is magical. It comes from my body, feeds my child, and gives her all the nutrients she needs. Emma has also discovered that if she stops suckling, breast milk will squirt all over me and give my shirt a nice sheer aesthetic that you just can’t find on the rack (pun intended).

Spit up: Now, that Emma is eating solids, spit up is less frequent. But when it happens, it gets all over me. Every time. I love wearing dark colors. My closet is basically a series of black and navy Pantone swatches . Off-white spit up really pops on those colors! Every top you own will take on  a macabre Lilly Pulitzer print comprised of Gerber products and saliva. Thankfully, spit up is a tricky substance to wash off clothes while you’re on the go. So, depending on if it is the start of my day or the end, I may not attempt to clean it up. Who are we kidding? I almost never clean it up. Remember? I’m exhausted. I just embrace it and wear it like a badge of honor.

Pee-pee: What can I say about pee that hasn’t been said about fake news? It’s everywhere and it stinks. The good news is that baby urine is sterile. So, you don’t have to run out of the grocery store when those Pampers spring a leak on aisle 6 at Whole Foods.

Lay off me. I’m Starving!

I like to think that Cal and I are foodies. We have eaten at eight Michelin rated restaurants around the world  and even more Bib Gourmands. In between we have cooked tasty meals and found holes-in-the-wall that serve pure slices of heaven. We even choose vacation spots based on cuisine. I obsess over ingredients, chefs, and food trends. Food pictures on Instagram make me want to jump into my phone with a knife and fork. Moreover, we have been taking Emma to restaurants since she was 4 days old, and continue to take her with us as we explore new places. We want her to share this love of food with us.

With that in mind, we subscribe to a feeding method called Baby Led Weaning (“BLW”). There is a lot of content out there about feeding your baby solids. Please pick whatever is best for your family and your little one. BLW was recommended to us by a dear friend and I love it. Cal is on the fence about it, but he’s wisely afraid to oppose my decisions. BLW encourages your child to eat what you are eating. You let your child explore textures and learn to chew and swallow on his/her own.  BLW is working for our family.

However, I thought I would be able to have those iconic pureed food moments you see on television with Emma. I planned on having a pureeing system, baby food meal prep days, and a freezer full of colorful cubes of organic baby food. Although I bought in to (literally and figuratively) making homemade food for Emma, I threw in the white flag on that idea after she refused to even open her mouth for the food I prepared. I had to adjust which didn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy plans, but feeding Emma what I am making for dinner cuts my prep time in half. It also means if she doesn’t like what we’re having, I didn’t waste time making her something new. I take note of her likes and dislikes and try to meal plan around that.

Change Is The Only Constant

We are all trying to figure this parenting thing out. It’s hard. I pray that at the end of the day we all learn to love and laugh at our hectic lives just the way they are. A really important person in my life passed away recently. Ana Pizarro lost her courageous battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was my host mom when I studied abroad  in Lisbon, Portugal during undergrad. Over the years she became much more. She was an amazing mom, and helped to teach me how not to take things so seriously. I want Emma to love her life, love her family, and love living. In order to do that, I am trying to schedule less and live more. I may not figure it all out today, but the race isn’t over and I will endure till the end.

Siri Says

We knew we wanted to have a baby a year before I became pregnant. We were ready. I read the books, the baby blogs, and Pinterested everything from swaddles to bassinets. It felt like the right time for our family to expand. I am not sure there is ever a perfect time, but I was comfortable in my career and knew it was the right time for us. When we found out we were expecting, the joy we felt was indescribable. If you know me, you know times like these are when I enter the deep rabbit hole of research and planning. My google sessions were ridiculous. Just imagine that I had on a white lab coat and chalkboards all around me like a mad scientist. It got real, folks. I was truly shocked by some of the answers to my seemingly simple questions, however.

Q: How many extra calories can I eat now that I am pregnant? A: Medical professionals advise you to only have 300 additional calories per day.

What the heck?! How is that even possible? I thought I was supposed to be eating for two? Two of me should be able to eat a whole pizza, right? Let’s be honest. I can polish off an entire pizza by myself just because it’s Friday. Are expectant mothers supposed to eat like college girls getting ready for spring break? How else am I supposed to get that “pregnancy” glow without consuming multiple slices of NY style pizza. The meat sweats can be attractive with the right filter! Trust me.

Q: Can I still get a pedicure? A: No!

Well, that sucks! The only way to counteract the look of swollen toes and ankles is a pretty shade of Deborah Lippmann polish. I am sure there are plenty of scare stories associated with pedicures and pregnancy. However, I put pedicures in the “mama needs this category” and ignored all the internet shaming. I can’t hear your complaints when my toes are on fleek.

Q: What sushi rolls can I eat while pregnant? A: Veggie rolls.

This was the saddest realization of my pregnancy because sushi was my number one pregnancy craving. However, since I am masochist, I ate hundreds of fish-free rolls  while Calvin had all the tempura. One day I will punch him for that. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day. Also, avocados are a superfood. If you close your eyes, the buttery goodness  of avocado can help you forget you’re eating an inferior roll and drown out your husband’s commentary about how good his spicy tuna rolls taste with wasabi.

Q: Is it safe to attend a concert while 8 months pregnant? A: Yes.

We bought tickets to this show before we knew Emma was coming along, and I was really excited to attend. But as we got closer to the due date, I began to get sleepy somewhere around 3:00PM every afternoon. But, since I vowed to stay “cool” during my pregnancy I was committed to going to the show unless I could find something on Google that told me not to… I begged Google to help a girl out and tell me that it was silly to go to a concert that far along in pregnancy. Siri could have  at least pointed me towards some fear mongering site that said concerts are too loud and might hurt the baby. Despite a great performance, I was far too pregnant to stay awake no matter what. As a result, I fell asleep 30 minutes after the lights went dim in the arena, and I woke up with a little drool on my face. Not a big deal. Emma, you definitely got the “cool” mom.

Q: How can you reduce heartburn? A: Avoid caffeine and spicy foods.

Many highly regard researchers have found correlations between caffeine, spicy, foods, developing baby hair growth, and heartburn for expectant mothers. Apparently, Emma  grew every single one of her long strands of hair at conception. Prior to pregnancy I drank coffee like a beat cop who works the night shift. I can’t live without that sweet, sweet nectar.  So, I was already on thin ice as far as heartburn is concerned. My love of spicy food didn’t help either. Little Serrow in D.C. is my favorite restaurant in the entire world. They serve northern Thai cuisine. Each dish has flavor blessed by Jesus and spiced by Satan. Needless to say, I had horrific heartburn during pregnancy. At least Emma has a head full of hair. At least Emma has a head full of hair. That’s not a typo. I have to say that over-and-over again to make myself believe those Zantac sandwiches were worth it.

Google kept me sane during  my pregnancy. However, I don’t want to parent via a search engine. So, I’ve decided to stop my urge to Google ALL the time and just parent. I don’t have all the answers, but thankfully, there is always a lady in line in the grocery store who can tell me if I’m not doing things the right way. HAHA.

**Mo picks up phone, holds down the home button** Q: Siri…

Air Jordan

Traveling with a baby is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a cruel sport where the winner doesn’t receive accolades or acknowledgment. Your only reward is being alive when you reach your destination. Thankfully, we have been really lucky with Emma. She takes after her papa and enjoys lengthy naps on planes, in cars, and around people trying to make small talk about the weather. Prior to being a parent, my worst nightmare concerning air travel was being seated near a crying baby. This is coming from a guy who was once detained by Egyptian airport security in Cairo. Sitting in a flimsy plastic folding chair under a flickering fluorescent light in a windowless room while people discuss your fate in Arabic is somehow more comforting than hearing a baby wail while struggling to reach coasting altitude in a confined space. At least the Egyptian airlines gave me drink vouchers for the inconvenience. Screaming babies on planes just reward your suffering with more tears.

With that said, kudos to the brave men and women who take kids on long trips with or without a partner. Not all heroes wear capes. Some heroes wear drool, food, goldfish crumbs, and their least stained clothes. Fortunately, I have the MVP of parenting as a partner to help transport Emma around the world. To save yourself some tears and trips to the wine rack, you have to form a team to win at the travel game. Mo and I’s team is just the two of us. Everyone else- TSA, other travelers, our own sweet baby- is the enemy. Each team member has to play his or her position flawlessly. In this game, moms are Michael Jordan. They have all the skills, resources, and intuition needed to win. Dads are, at best, Scottie Pippen. I don’t say this to assign gender roles or to diminish the value of fathers or Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest NBA players ever, but his primary role was to support Michael Jordan. When we hit the road, I consider myself helpful when I can just fill in where Mo needs help.

This strategy has gotten us through five different flights, countless metro rides, too many car trips, and one lazy river cruise. We are far from experts, but we haven’t had (fingers crossed) a bad trip yet. Here are two hacks we’ve used to avoid major disasters on flights. Mo has a million more that she’ll gladly share with anyone who wants them via email or PM, as well. Hopefully, we can help someone else raise a glass in celebration of a successful trip instead of pouring out breast milk for your fallen homies.

Make It Rain: We will literally pay any price for any resource that will make travel easier. To that end, having TSA pre-check, buying preferred seating/boarding on direct flights, and checking every bag we don’t need makes air travel a (relative) breeze. Having free hands means everything while you’re navigating crowded airports with a squirming human and direct flights reduce the amount of time you’re hurdling through the air inside a sardine tin with a tiny person. It also takes away any excuse dads have to wear cargo shorts during travel. You’re welcome, ladies.

Is That A Baby In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy To See Us: For us, baby-wearing is the most efficient way to go through TSA. A wrap allows us to have four hands instead of two; it comforts Emma, and keeps our little one calm. Mo prefers the Solly wrap. Although the initial cost for the item is rather expensive, the breathability and ease of storing it is well worth the price.  We don’t have a ring sling, but we are debating adding this to our baby-wearing repertoire. Emma doesn’t really like the bulkier carriers and we found our Ergobaby was difficult to stuff into our carry-on bags.

We have flown with Emma several times and each time has been a bit different. We have flown as a couple and as individuals. Each scenario has its own unique challenges. We’re not experts, but we’re still alive. If you have helpful tips, please share them with us. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to be Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.