Are you there Kate? It’s me, Mama.

I’m struggling to find myself outside of motherhood. Trust me, being a mom will always be my favorite role, but I’m really starting to miss the other parts of myself. For a long time I’ve had fleeting thoughts about what I could accomplish without a double stroller and a purse full of car snacks, but I try to shove them into the back of my brain and block them out. Now those thoughts are creeping to the forefront and are hard to ignore.

2010 BC (Before Children.)

I didn’t enjoy the person I was before motherhood. It’s been 10 years since I got pregnant with Jacen, so we are basically talking about a teenage me. Back in those days I felt isolated and unloved. I had one good friend and clung to her, but always felt alone. I thought becoming a mom would change those feelings, that I’d always have someone to look after and love. It’s true, from the moment I saw two lines on that pregnancy test I had someone to love and adore, but it didn’t make my lonely feelings go away. I still had to work on myself. When I say I want to be more than a mother, I certainly do not mean that I want to go back in time to the days before babies. I don’t want to be that girl again, and I’d rather not repeat all that hard work I’ve put into bettering myself. I just really feel like there has to be more to life than cleaning up legos and watching the Paw Patrol Christmas special for the millionth time. 

Maybe it’s just January cabin fever kicking in. Maybe my depression is less controlled than I thought. Either way, I find myself watching the clock and waiting for Mike to get home. I long for conversation without baby talk, but when there are adults around I can only talk about the kids. I don’t do anything without them. Sometimes they are the only people I see for days at a time. I have nothing interesting to say, no new stories that don’t include them. My world is starting to feel very small, and I am feeling like a very uninteresting person. 

Everyone wants to solve my problem by reminding my to take time away from the kids. Self care.That’s easier said than done. Even when I do have time away from them, I can’t shut off my mom brain. If I’m on that once-in-a-blue-moon solo trip to the store, I instinctively navigate to the fruit snacks and clearance baby clothes. When I get home I realize I forgot the tampons that I ran out for in the first place, but the kids are stocked for a long, cold winter. Self care ends up feeling forced. I’m hyper aware of the time limit I have, what other things are on my to-do list, and the guilt of having an exhausted husband take the kids after a long day of work. In the words of Jerry Smith, “Have you ever tried to relax? It’s a paradox!” It’s never alone time when the kids are always on your mind. The more you try to forget, the more you think about them.

Figure Skating 2008ish

I miss having hobbies. I was never any good at figure skating when I was young, (even when I was competing) but as an adult I like skating laps. When Jacen and Arielle started school, I could go to the rink on my days off. I had the ice to myself on weekdays, and I could re-learn how to skate without judgmental eyes. Ice skating was one of the many skills I rediscovered after my weight loss, but I was only able to go for a few months before finding out I was pregnant with Anna. My doctor told me the pregnancy was too high risk, and skating needed to be put on hold. I hoped to resume after baby, but trustworthy babysitters are hard to find and the rink is way too cold for an infant. 

Jan 2020, working out at home. (Please take note of her burrito.)

These days I don’t even get out to the gym. I had to cancel my YMCA membership last Christmas because Anna melted down in the babysitting room, so now working out has become ‘mommy and me’ time. I asked for a cheap gym membership for Christmas this year, but instead Mike got me an exercise bike for the living room. It seemed logical- no need for childcare, no reason to leave the house. In reality it’s just more time staring at the same walls I feel closing in on me. It’s more baby talk. It’s more time splitting my focus between the task at hand and keeping my littles alive. It’s taking things slow, being patient, and multitasking. No wonder the scale isn’t moving. For a few years there my fitness journey was part of my personality. Now it’s merged with motherhood, and I can’t decide if I even enjoy it anymore. 

Last weekend I cleaned out my workspace, and ended up donating a ton of yarn I’ll never get to use. It isn’t easy to crochet with a toddler on your lap, and the last time I tried, Anna pulled out an hour worth of stitches in about thirty seconds. I tidied books I haven’t been able to read, fabric longing to be sewn, even seasonal crafts I haven’t been able to sit down and complete with the older kids. What a waste.

I’m not an ice skater. I’m not a gym rat. I’m not a hooker, (person who can crochet, get your mind out of the gutter!) I’m not a bookworm, not a crafter. Hell, I’m not even ‘the girl with the eyelashes’ anymore. I’m just a mama.

This weekend I turn 30. We’re planning on going to a piano bar- my first time out since the summer of 2018. I’ve been thinking about it all week. I only own sweatpants, and I threw out my tackle box full of makeup a few years ago. What the heck do I wear? Do I remember how to put get my eyelashes on? More importantly, What in the world do I talk about? I ONLY have stories about the kids. Fingers crossed no one asks me, “what’s new” because the only response I have is “Lucy is sleeping through the night.” Oh, and the thought of meeting a new person? “Tell me about yourself.” uhhhhhhh, I have kids? What else is there?

Unfortunately my husband is working the night we are going out. My mom is going to take the kids in the evening, but I still have to get ready with all four of them home. I’ll be taking my shower with Anna splashing in the tub at my feet. There will be fingerprints and smudge marks in my nail polish. I won’t be taking the double stroller on a last minute run for makeup or an eyebrow wax, so who knows if I’ll even feel pretty. Honestly, it’s a gamble if I’ll even make it out the door. 

nov 2013- first honeymoon

Mike wants to take a vacation, a second honeymoon. Something all inclusive, so we can sit on the beach and drink. Somewhere 21+, no kids allowed. That seems like years away considering Lucy is only two months old. On a smaller scale, I just want to sit down and watch Frozen 2. I haven’t even made the attempt yet because I love Frozen too much to watch it unfocused, while Anna begs me to switch back to Spongebob. Oh, just watch it when the kids go to bed? I haven’t heard that one before! Just kidding, I hear it every day. My kids all go to bed at 8:30. I fall asleep at 8:35. It doesn’t matter if I’m lying in bed, sitting on the couch or standing. Most nights Anna is still standing at the babygate whining to stay up a little later. I can’t hear her, I’m snoozin’.  An honest break from being a parent is just impossible while they’re this young. Not for one movie, not for a trip to the store, not for a vacation. Guess we will reevaluate when Lucy starts kindergarten in five years.

I love being a mom, I promise I do. I just feel like every day I lose a bit of my own personality, and morph into a sitcom housewife. I want to have a thing- a hobby, and interest. Something. I’m not looking to ditch my kids and go out EVERY night. I just want to go out for my birthday and feel that I’m interesting enough to hold a conversation. To be honest, I even love the double stroller.. And walking with my sister and our side by side strollers? Literally the cutest thing ever. But there was a time where we spent our days taking spontaneous trips, clothes shopping without crossing to the kids’ side, and even doing shots in the parking lot before a concert. Now we whisper when we want to curse. Who are we? Who the heck am I?

Seriously. Who am I?

Mama.

Chipping Away at Depression Ruins

Over the summer I wrote a post called “I’m Back, Baby!” and you know what? I really tried to be back. I really tried. In said post I shared that someone in my life had used my blog posts against me. They took my very real, very vulnerable recounts of my worst mental health moments and tried to make me out to be a bad mother. I wanted so badly to overcome it. I wanted to prove them wrong, rise above, and keep doing what I loved. I couldn’t. At that time I just wasn’t strong enough. 

Next month I turn 30. That’s 30 years of a whole lot of crap that I’ve lived through. Really dark stuff, really difficult stuff. I’ve felt really terrible about myself but the one thing I always felt like I had going for me was that I was a good mom. Having someone cherry pick my worst moments and represent me as a horrible mother got in my head. I started to believe them. My depression worsened, and I questioned our choice of having another baby. I started spiraling out, needing validation from others for even the most simple of tasks. I chased sleep to escape my own thoughts and quiet my anxieties. I canceled plans consistently and isolated myself from the people I love. I latched on to my husband and prayed he would face my battles for me. I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t think. I could barely even survive. 

November 2019 (9 months pregnant, 230 pounds, peak depression.)

I only had so much energy, and when it was gone there was no finding more. I prioritized the kids. I tried to keep the family areas clean and food in their bellies.I neglected myself because there was just nothing left to fuel my body. All the gas was used up on the kids. I stopped showering every day. I didn’t exercise. I went so long without leaving the house that my car battery had to be jumped before I could drive it postpartum. I frequently walked into my office/work space, got overwhelmed and walked away crying. My desk was no longer a place of creating and healing, but a place I dumped the things I didn’t want to deal with – both physical clutter and my own feelings. 

November 27, 2019 ( 201 pounds postpartum)

The negative repercussions of my blog posts have died down. My children have reconfirmed how much we love each other, and that (in their opinion at least) I AM a good mother. Really, their opinions are the only ones I care about anyways. I gave birth to baby Lucy on November 27th, and my health complications started to resolve almost instantly. The miracle workers at Women’s Behavioral health have helped me come back into good mental health. I’m back in counseling, seeing an eating disorder specialist, taking my meds and (hopefully) back to blogging. 

As we come up on two months postpartum, I’ve made a lot of progress in taking care of myself. I’m back to showering, working out and trying to stay on top of the chores – but seriously a family of 6 makes a whole lot of laundry. I’m not a god. Yesterday I walked into my work space and those familiar overwhelming feelings came flooding back. For the first time in months I didn’t turn away and ignore them. It was time to face the mess, and take back my space. 

Self care has become a little misunderstood. It’s trendy to grab some Starbucks and an expensive face mask and tell everyone on snapchat you’re taking care of yourself. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things if they give you the boost you need.) Self care doesn’t need to cost a thing. It comes in many forms, and sometimes it isn’t easy. Sometimes it isn’t relaxing. Sometimes it isn’t fun.

My self care this week was taking back my space. It was difficult, it was time consuming. It was hard work, especially with the kids calling “mamaaaaa” every three seconds. Most of all, it was necessary. Clearing out the clutter has lifted me up and renewed my spirit. I have more confidence in myself, more pride in my home, and my desire for writing has already come back. 

January 25, 2020
Januray 2020 (180 pounds)

My bipolar disorder makes maintaining consistency very difficult. Having four children seems to make maintaining a routine impossible. Between the two it feels almost impossible to keep blogging, but I do this for myself. Writing is my self care, and a way to manage all of the emotions that come with parenting and mental illness. As a perk, my readers give me motivation and validation. Hearing stories about others relating to my journey makes me feel a little more normal, and gives me a boost of self worth. I look forward to the posts my future holds, and continuing to bond with my readers. Just know I’m trying my best over here, and I’m thinking about you all even when blogging is impossible. 

With a healing heart,

Kate.