Occupational Hazard

I thought of this post while I was trapped under my sleeping child at 4:40 on a Tuesday afternoon. (But if you follow me on Instagram, you already knew that.) One arm firmly wrapped around Vivi’s snoozing body, I tapped out a few sentences to help myself remember it with one thumb on my phone, my very least favorite way to communicate. (Seriously, it gives me legitimate anxiety having to type so slowly. Anyone else?)(I may have a problem.)

I had not intended on taking a 30-minute breather on my couch at 4:40 that Tuesday. I had plans for my afternoon. Vivi and I had spent late morning at the park, where she was to run out all her energy before returning home, eating a nutritious lunch of ground turkey and sweet potato chili, and then taking a 2-hour nap in her crib while I worked and prepped dinner for that evening. It would be relaxing, satisfying, and totally stress-free.

It was also, it turns out, entirely not how the day went.

The park was fine, as it almost always is. But I made the mistake of staying ten minutes too long, leaving me with a hungry, cranky babe for the short walk home. By the time lunch was heated and ready to eat, Viv’s #hanger got the better of her. She ate most of the turkey and almost all of the sweet potatoes, but at least a third of her food was swiftly chucked onto the floor for Bogey to enjoy. Perfect.

As for the 2-hour nap…I tried to put her down around one. No dice. I tried again around 2:00, diligently making myself ignore my swiftly approaching 3 o’clock deadline for the site I edit to launch. Again, she wailed for a solid 20 minutes until I brought her back into the living room.

Not that she was happy awake, mind you. She wasn’t. She fussed and rubbed her eyes and griped at me about just about everything.

If only there was a simple way to solve all her problems. Like, oh, I don’t know…going to sleep.

I was so frustrated. I felt tempted to call off our evening plans, so certain was I that Vivi would be an absolute terror if we took her anywhere.

Finally, at 3:30, I laid her down and resolved to let her cry out her feelings a bit. Within 10-15 minutes, she was sound asleep. (I firmly believe that babies always know when they are going to break you and when they are not.) I was able to get most of my work for the launch done, but Vivi woke about 40 minutes later and started crying immediately.

I held her in my lap as I finished up my work, and all of a sudden I realized that she was sound asleep again. So I laid down on the couch without thinking to put her in a more comfortable position.

It was then that I realized I was now trapped. And work wasn’t done, dinner wasn’t prepped (we usually eat around 5:30), and I wasn’t anywhere near ready for our meeting that night (we have to leave by 6:40 to make it on time).

My first instinct was to feel frustrated — I had done everything right! I had a plan! Why was everything being so mean to meeeeeee.

But, in an effort to be more patient, I decided instead to take a breath and take a moment to stare at this beautiful creature sleeping on top of me. And in those 20 minutes I was her captive, I realized a few things:

1. Vivi has the longest eye lashes, but her eyes are so bright, you only really notice the lashes when the eyes are closed. You know, like they are when she’s sleeping.

2. I truly don’t think there is anything sweeter than a peacefully sleeping baby.

3. It’s okay that I’m not in control of everything. And even if it’s not, it’s just how life is now, and I may as well get on board.

Motherhood makes you slow down. It forces you to be flexible. It reminds you of your insignificance and humbles you beyond belief. But it also builds you up, speeds up time, and refines you in a way nothing else can.
Ultimately, things worked out just fine. After I was sure she was really, deeply asleep, I was actually able to slide out from under Viv and leave her sleeping on the couch (I put a million pillows on the ground in case she rolled, don’t worry). It’s a move I will never, ever be able to complete successfully again, so I basically felt like a ninja in that moment.
Then I finished my work, got dinner in the oven, and even curled my hair. Vivi woke up right before dinner, ate happily, and was an absolute dream at the meeting that night.
It’s a hard thing for a lifelong planner to accept that most of her planning will be for naught, but I’m trying to embrace the unpredictability of this new life. One day, I will miss the days when Vivi would fall asleep on my chest, her chubby arm resting lightly on my shoulder, her sweet, warm breath puffing gently against my collarbone. When I think about grown-up Vivi, I already miss these moments. And I can almost guarantee I will never again think about whatever it was I was supposed to be cooking for dinner.

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It’s a funny thing, this “living your life online.” This blogging about lifestyle (also know as life). This building an “Instagram brand.” This being a brand.

My mother never had to worry about this. I think about that whenever I have a chance to look through my baby book. These 50-odd photos of baby me. Sadly and blissfully all I have to know about what I looked like, what we did. It makes me both grateful for and disgusted by the literal thousands of photos and videos I have of the first year of Vivi’s life. At least 300 are perpetually available with a swipe of my phone.

I don’t talk a lot about how much what I do tires me. How much the internet and technology and the gratuitous, frivolity of it. One because I’m exhausted by over-earnest blogging. Funny, right? Because I also love it.

I love the catharsis of pouring out your heart, the lift in sadness and despair that comes from finding a tribe of people who do so much more than just “like” your honesty; they hold up mirror images of your pain and say, “I thought I was the only one.”

I also have a hard time whining because I recognize the privilege of complaining about the superficiality of what I do. Poor me, working from home on a flexible schedule so I am also able spend hours cuddling my sweet baby girl and dedicating so much time a week to my volunteer work. The internet, in all its obnoxious glory, lets me do that.

I struggle with the self-promotion. I think it’s a difficult thing for Christian, Midwestern, female people to do. It goes against the traits those types are usually bred to project.

So I try to soften the blow with self-deprecation, humor, and, often, bluster. But I’m still uncomfortable sometimes. Because I’m still acutely aware of every person in my life who hates me for being a blogger. Who hates me for every smiling Instagram photo, every snapshot of something pretty or Pinterest-worthy (which means…what, exactly? Didn’t we just call it “pretty” a handful of years ago?). Of every person who openly refuses to follow me or, even worse, follows but never likes, or, even worse, does none of the above but still looks at my public posts or watches every single Instagram story I post. Those people make me really sad, honestly. And my awareness of the people I do know about continually pokes a finger in another gaping insecurity: How many more are there out there that I don’t even know?

The internet is a big place, and hate is usually only a keystroke away.

This post has been buzzing around in my brain for a while, but it took me a while to find words that sounded right without sounding like I was complaining. I don’t know why I feel like I need to tell you that I’m in on it — I know the promoted posts, the self-promotion is annoying sometimes. I need you to know that I try to make them not that way.

And then I roll my eyes at myself because why do I care so much? I truly believe that, in life, you either attract or repel people. And I would rather repel someone by being who I really am than attract them by pretending to be something I’m not.

Often, I fantasize about stopping it all. You know that. I can’t really, though, because it is my job. It is my golden ticket to stay-at-home/work-at-home mom life, to full-time volunteer service. But I do sometimes imagine a life where I could do those things without doing these things. Because as much as I actually love blogging and DIY and style and cooking, the hate wears me down.

You, person who looks at my stuff and never likes, who mocks and says nasty things and seethes even though I’m not hurting you (or even thinking about you, often times). You wear me down.

But if I pretend to be the person you would be happy to see me be — self-loathing, bitter, failure — I would be attracting the wrong person with the wrong things.

Because there’s so. Much. Pressure. Guys. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to be imperfect. Pressure to be perfectly imperfect. To be raw, to be polished. To be funny, to be sincere. And to be all those things all the time. It helps to remind myself that probably all business owners feel this way. And, in so many ways, this is my business. Entrepreneurism is not for the thin-skinned, the faint of heart.

I started this blog because I wanted to be a writer, and I still cringe a bit at the word blogger. (I mean, could we have picked a word that didn’t sound like loose mix of swampland and mucous?) Today, I am a professional writer, so maybe I’m not doing everything wrong.

But I’m also a blogger, for better or worse.

And bloggers will always bother someone. Honestly, I spend a lot of my life trying not to bother anyone. I speak quieter to Vivi when we’re being silly in public, trying not to be THAT mom that needs everyone to see how great she’s doing. I’m hyper-aware of people on the sidewalk, dodging and hugging the wall to keep from jostling anyone, trying not to be THAT person who is so self-centered. My emails read like a textbook of “woman in meeting” speak, trying not to be THAT in-your-face jerk. Maybe it’s more honest to say that I spend a lot of my life trying not to be a cliché.

The thing is, I really don’t want to bother anyone. So, if this blog bothers you, if my internet presence bothers you, I implore you: Ignore me. Stop following, stop looking.

But if you like looking at my stuff, I welcome you with open arms, fist bumps, and a round of celebratory drinks.

Do other people feel like hate is this visceral, tactile thing? Sometimes I look at a person and feel it radiating off of them like steam. It oozes from nasty comments, sparks out of sharp-tongues. I’m immediately put off when I feel it; I retreat like a spooked animal, a knot in my gut and a rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Danger, these people seem to whisper.

Do you know what I think about every time I post anything? Those three people who I know don’t like me. I’m not exaggerating when I say “every time.” They are my last thought before hitting “publish” or “share.” The anxiety those three people give me is embarrassing for me to admit. It would be so nice to not have to deal with that anxiety.

I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re one of those three people): So, why don’t you just quit then?

I totally get why you think that. Because I want to quit.  Often. But I can’t because of Vivi. I can’t teach her that we go as far in life as the people who hate us the most want us to go.

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Instead, I want her to be brave. I want her to be kind. I want her to be the antidote to all that nastiness. And the only way I’m going to get her there is by trying to be those things myself.

So I’m going to try to focus on the people I actually like anyway. The people who love and support and get it and get me. Who like what I do, who like reading about the things I like talking about. And, you know what? I think that can be enough.

Whew! That was a lot of feelings. And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m making anything better by calling them out. I don’t even know if this all makes total sense — I wrote it over a series of emails to myself in the car. But I think I feel a little better. The aforementioned catharsis and all of that. The point is, if you feel this way too, you are not alone. And I think we can both be a little bit more of that kindness we want to see. To those of you who do and always have supported me and shown me so much love, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. You are the greatest.

Recently, I had a small stress spiral.

I started to say I had a meltdown or panic attack or something equally dramatic, but, for one, I don’t want to make light of actual panic attacks and two, it wasn’t nearly so overt or overblown.

What happened was, I came to the sudden and almost paralyzing realization that I have a lot on my plate.

SURPRISE, self!

This probably should not have been as shocking as it was. I’ve got a husband, an almost-seven-month-old, three secular jobs, an apartment to take care of, spiritual responsibilities, friendships to maintain…it’s a lot. But, listen, we’ve all got our ways of dealing with stress. And if mine includes a healthy dose of denial, that’s my business.

And it probably didn’t help that I was coming off a week of vacation and a 24-hour flu, both of which rendered me exhausted and had set me back in terms of what I was able to accomplish on my to-do list. The point is, it all hit me hard and I ended up staying up until 2 a.m. one night catching up.

Because that’s how your brain works when you’re stressed: You’re so worried about being exhausted that you stay up late and get five hours of sleep. Perfect plan.

You’ll be pleased to know (unless you’re, I don’t know, a sadist) that I ultimately got it together. Everything on the list got done. And while I’m still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation a bit (you never really catch up, do you?), I’m a little less panicked about everything I’ve got going on.

It’s just…well, it’s hard being a work-at-home mom. There are days when, even though everything is getting crossed off, you’re just not doing anything all that well. There are days when writing deadlines get pushed back because I had to reschedule source interviews because Vivi didn’t take a nap as planned. There are days I find myself responding to emails one-handed while I play blocks with Viv with the other.

I would love to tell you I spend every single breastfeeding session staring lovingly into my daughter’s eyes, but, honestly, sometimes I’m posting a new photo on a brand’s Instagram account.

And sometimes I feel guilty about that. And others, I feel totally okay with it because it’s these jobs that mean I am home breastfeeding my daughter instead of pumping in an office somewhere so I can leave milk with the daycare attendants. Because I’m sure I would feel a whole other kind of guilt if that were the case.

Because the fact is, motherhood almost invariably means guilt about something.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the guilt and the responsibilities ever since my semi-all-nighter, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’m probably always going to feel bad about something. Even if I wasn’t working at all, I would most likely not always be 100 percent on as a mom. I would have tired days where I would be a lazy mom. I would have irritable days where I would be an impatient mom. I would have drained days where I would be a boring mom. But I think as long as I’m still being Vivi’s mom, I can make my peace with my imperfections.

And I have to remind myself that these are not new or unique feelings — every mom feels this way at some point about something. So…maybe I can just let it go. I can just keep doing, rather than let myself get caught up in the thinking.

Because I’m doing this. I’m being Vivi’s mom, and I’m working and taking care of my home and maintaining my relationships. If I’m doing it perfectly or not, I don’t know. (Probably not because, ya know, I’m not perfect. I know, I’m really sorry to shatter that charade.) But I don’t think perfection matters in this case. I’m doing my best, and my daughter is happy and healthy.

And that sounds pretty perfect to me.

 

If you had asked me two years ago if I ever thought I would be a full-time freelance worker, I would have answered unequivocally “no.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t see the merit of leaving the office behind — setting one’s own schedule, prioritizing work I actually enjoy, working from home…the list goes on.

What always held me back, though, was the fear that I would never be able to make it work for real — or that the anxiety of whether or not it was working would crush the joy of freedom. I liked knowing that I had work to go to every morning and a paycheck coming every two weeks without fail.

So, I would have said no, and I wouldn’t have hesitated.

When Joey and I had discussed our work plan post-baby, we talked a few options, but rarely did we discuss the option of me staying home. I made good money, and, more importantly, I liked working. I like what I do for a living. (Most of the time.) I like working on a team, and I’ve even liked a few of the office buildings I’ve worked in. Me working full-time was something that made sense in my brain.

Then I got pregnant.

And from the moment I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I knew things were never going to be the same again. With every sonogram, every inch my belly grew, and every feisty little kick, it became clearer and clearer to me that there simply would be no going back to work for me.

Which isn’t to say that my decision is somehow better or more noble than anyone else’s. Parents choose to go back to work for a variety of reasons — and in some cases it isn’t a choice at all. For me, though, there just wasn’t an alternative.

So, quietly at first, I started to toy with the idea. And as Vivi’s due date drew closer, the possibility and the options I actually had in front of me became more real and ever more likely every day.

When I first put my hands around that tiny baby, I forever let go of the idea of leaving her to go back to work.

Every time she looked at me, Vivian steeled my resolve to find a way to make this work-at-home-mom thing a reality. A month into my maternity leave, finding and applying for remote and telecommute jobs, as well as reaching out to everyone I knew who might be hiring freelance writers, editors, or social strategists, became my full-time hobby.

By the time my “return to work” date rolled around, my mind was fully made up and I turned in my official notice. (For the record, my boss could not have been kinder and more understanding of my decision. We even discussed the possibility of my freelancing for the team in the future.)

And then, quite suddenly, my dream-turned-plan turned into a reality. And I felt…well, I’m still not quite sure. I’m completely happy with the decision and what it means for Vivian and me. But when you have defined yourself by your career for much of your life, it’s weird to suddenly change course.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to handle these changes better than I did five years ago (remember this?)(also, remember when I thought I was leaving journalism for good? lol), so I’m not panicking or even all that worried. I’ve learned that life is rarely finite decisions. Instead, it goes in seasons, and right now, I’m just in a new one.

I’ve had a tendency in the past to throw myself completely into things, only to later wonder if I had given up too much of myself for this new self. But this feels different. I think, with a baby, you really are made over new in almost every way. So even though I’m so different than I was even a few years ago, it doesn’t feel like something I’ve put on so much as something I’ve become. I don’t feel like I’m really giving up any part of myself.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve had some kind of metamorphosis into what I was always meant to become.

That sounds deep and heavy. It also sounds kind of silly or overly poetic. But, regardless of all that, it feels right now that I’ve finally put it into words.

So, for now, I work from home. I ignore the slight flutters of nervousness over this new, less certain career path. And I revel in every second I get to spend with my daughter, watching her become who she will become.

And that office life? Wouldn’t ya know, I don’t really miss it that much at all.

Vivi and Me

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It’s beyond cliche to say that time goes too quickly for most parents, so I’m not going to say it.

BUT YOU GUYS.

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I’m around Vivi every day, obviously, so sometimes she changes without my noticing. But then I sneak peeks at her newborn baby photos (usually during her naps…because I’m obsessed with her, apparently), and I realize that my squishy little baby has been replaced with this bright-eyed, wiggly little girl.

I mean, it’s a good thing. Her growing up is good. That spitting up after every feeding phase? I don’t miss that.

But…

Babies are so fleeting. So I’m still trying to soak up her little baby sweetness every second.

Ugh, is it DUSTY in here? I need a tissue. Moving on.

Here’s a quick update on what the little lady has been up to, plus a teaser about me/an upcoming post:

The biggest change as of late is that, well, Vivian has just gotten to be so much fun lately. She babbles to me constantly, but even that is in this interactive format where I say something, she lets out a “goo,” I say something else, she gurgles and grins — it actually feels like a conversation even though very little is actually being said.

And it’s so freaking cute.

And as if her HUGE grins weren’t enough to totally make up for all those nights of lost sleep I’ll never get back, she also started giving “kisses” on command. (I’ve literally watched that video over a hundred times. It never gets old.)

Last week, she started to get more mastery over her hands, meaning she’s now picking up and holding her toys.

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Her favorites are a set of plush blocks that rattle and her Sophie giraffe. The cutest part is that she always look fascinated by her fingers when they actually do what she wants them to do. I die.

On the more practical side of things, she’s also sleeping through the night and not having nearly as many spit-up attacks as she used to, both developments that make my life a million times easier.

All in all, she’s pretty awesome. It’s such a joy to watch her grow up.

Which leads me to my next announcement…I’m not going back to my office job.

EEP.

Maybe this isn’t that shocking of an announcement (or maybe it is), but for me, it’s a big deal. I’ve worked in an office for the last 8+ years, and I truly thought I always would. But last week, I took the plunge into the world of full-time freelance. It’s a little scary since I only have a couple steady gigs at the moment, but I’ve been in touch with a lot of friends and former co-workers who are looking for writers/editors/social strategists, and I feel like there will always be something to fill in the gaps. (Hopefully?)

No matter what, I know this is the right choice for us, and I’m excited to start this next season of my life. Here’s hoping Vivi’s next month is just as exciting.

{Losing my hat; losing my mind}

{Losing my hat; losing my mind}

One of the hardest parts of getting pregnant and becoming a mother for me has been feeling like my brain has literally been poked full of holes. I first noticed the effects of “pregnancy brain” late in my first trimester when I started losing words.

I would go to say something or write something, and I would know the definition of the word I meant — I would even be able to recall another time I had used the word in conversation — but I could not for the life of me tell you what the word was. I started googling the definitions or looking up synonyms (that I could remember) on Thesaurus.com, following my own linguistic treasure map back to my own vocabulary.

For a writer, losing words is a very big deal.

My mom loves to tell me a story from my own babyhood about our babysitter, Irene. Apparently, Irene had a habit of looking me in my little baby eyes and telling me, “Words are power.” I don’t know if this infant inception was the direct cause of my becoming a writer, but it’s hard to deny the plausibility.

The point is, I’ve always believed the sentiment of the phrase. Even now, I make excuses to tell Vivi the same thing. She doesn’t have to be a writer (unless she wants to be), but I want her to be able to communicate and express herself the best way possible. It’s part of why I spend a few minutes each day reading to her, even though it’s hard to believe she’s really paying attention as she carries on with her regular baby antics.

Anyway, all of that is a long way of getting around to the fact that pregnancy brain was a little scary for this logophile. It’s gotten marginally better since actually pushing out the baby, but now I just find myself suffering the effects of “mom brain.” (Which, spoiler alert, is the same thing. Babies make you dumb, folks.)

I also feel like it has been affecting the quality of my posts on here. Granted, I’m usually just trying to fling a few words together in a somewhat coherent sentence in between naps, freelancing, and keeping a semblance of order in our apartment, but I can’t shake the feeling that the quality is slipping more than I feel comfortable with.

Of course, this little blog is hardly a priority in the grand scheme of things (sorry, blog; the baby wins this round), but I would be sad if I felt like I let my most consistent creative outlet completely lose its shine. Besides, I feel like I have so many stories in my head from this one-of-a-kind experience I’m going through, and I’d hate to lose those just because I can’t make the time to write.

So while I might not be blogging as often, I’m going to try to brush up the quality of my posts. I’m not going to worry about consistency because, frankly, I can’t promise there will be any, but when I do post, I promise to really have something to say or share.

And hopefully I’ll be able to find the words to do that.