8 Things That Change in Your Relationship AFTER Kids

With another little life joining our family soon I have found myself looking back. Back at all those tender sweet moments that you get to experience when you have a newborn to snuggle. Back at the prideful moment of introducing this new tiny person to people you love. Back at the awe of childbirth (and the pain and straight up terror that we endure as we straddle the line of this world and the next). Back at the exhaustion of those first few months. And back at the way you find yourself in your rawest form, and at the way that adding to your family flips the dynamics on its head.

I’m sure you’ve heard that having children changes things. And it’s true. While it changes your heart, soul, and body… it also shifts the way you relate to the people around you. And if you happen to be part of a duo when you become a parent… well… yeah, things change.

I will say the first time is definitely the hardest, but honestly it’s pretty likely that you will experience these things each time you have a baby. The following is a list of the things you can expect to change, the good, and the bad… and how to deal.

The Bathroom is Now a Hideout

You might as well hear it right out of the gate. Your bathroom will actually become your new sanctuary. If there is no man cave for dad, and no reading nook for mom then congratulations… you both get to share this new found oasis. Bathroom breaks suddenly last a minimum of 20 minutes. That shower you’ve been neglecting for the past 5 days… you may find yourself shedding a couple of tears during the hour you spend in there because it feels so good. Unless you’re hiding or showering while no one else is home… if you do that, you’ll just have anxiety attacks due to what I call “phantom crying” which is basically when you swear your kids are crying, but they end up being totally fine.

How to Deal: Take care of that oasis. Hire help to have it deep cleaned (this is my plan this time around) or clean it yourself as often as needed so that the space is enjoyable… candles, soft towels, and comfy rugs. Treat it like the retreat it is. Got room for a mini fridge in there? I honestly would support having one stocked with some water, mini wine’s, and sweet treats.

Physical Intimacy Is Put on Hold

You may be thinking that people blow this one out of proportion. I hate to say it, but they don’t. When you hear that your friends with kids aren’t hitting the sack as much as they used to, you may feel sorry for them. How can they live like that? Well. There’s a time and place for all things.

Truth is… When you have just added a baby, it takes time for your body to even desire anything other than rest and nutrients. The good new is that eventually, things level out. But during those first few years of growing your family you’ll find that sleep often wins over knockin’ boots. And the times it doesn’t is only because someone is babysitting… or you’re doing it with mild anxiety attacks because AHEM phantom crying happens during this too.

How to Deal: Have patience with yourself… and your partner. This phase shouldn’t last forever, but if it starts to feel like it is lasting longer than you hoped, communication is key. The phantom crying may not fade, but one day you’ll find that you are ready, totally ready, for intimacy again, I promise.

All You Talk About Is the Kids

I’m sure you have noticed the way in which people with children tend to flood your social media feeds with ALL. THINGS. CHILDREN. Myself included. Once you have a child in your life, you tend to find yourself consumed by their every little move. When they’re born, you literally find yourself excited by their bowel movements (this is true, ask any parent). The first year of their little lives is stuffed with “firsts” – actually, every year is filled with firsts. So it’s no surprise that in the same way your social media presence takes a sharp turn in kidsville, so does your relationship. I’ve heard of couples having to actually make a rule saying that when they have date nights, they cannot bring up their children. If you don’t have kids you’re probably scoffing right now at the entire premise of it… but seriously, kids have a way of eating up all of your extra brain space.

How to Deal: Think back to the old you. What were you into? Try to find those common interests that you shared with your partner and bring them back to life. If those things truly do not peak your interest anymore, start watching Game of Thrones together (or Grey’s Anatomy if that’s more your style), and voila – you have something that ISN’T your kid to talk about. You’re welcome.

You Turn Into a Rude Version of Yourself

We all know manners are viewed as one of the most important things we teach our children and yet… you can still end up not having a firm grasp on yours. This is because while those first few months after adding a new member to your family are filled with a few very excruciatingly simple things (feed the kids, wash the kids, potty the kids) – you still might find yourself in a bit of a fog. And with that, you might find yourself a bit snappy. The question “how was your day?” may suddenly send you over the edge. You’ll have moments where even the voice inside of your head asks you why you’re being such a brat.

How to Deal: Most of the times I have found myself being sassy or even down right rude, what I really needed was to ask for help. When it comes to parenting we often think that we know best, and we may start to feel that way toward our partner too. It’s wrong, and it’s limiting. You need to be able to depend on each other and speaking up when you need help is the best way to foster that.

You Will See Your Partner in a New Light

This could go either way. You’ll either see your partner (or the co parent) level up… or not. If they rise to the occasion there is a good chance you will actually find yourself falling deeper in love with them, or at least finding a deeper sense of respect that you may not have had before. Parenting is one of those things that does tend to bring out the best and worst parts of us (some of us find that we are a little more selfish than we expected, or maybe we don’t handle stress as easily as we thought)… and so sometimes a person doesn’t rise to the occasion the way we hope. This can be emotionally shattering, to say the least. But realizing this can be a great way for you to step into your own power, and many times people find themselves able to finally walk away from a toxic situation, inspired to find a partner able to provide consistency and love to not only themselves but also their children.

How to Deal: If you find yourself looking at your partner with big ol heart eyes, you better say it! That moment when your partner is rocking your baby to sleep, or teaching your big kid a new skill… those are the moments that need to be spoken on, because just like you, your partner could be feeling so many different emotions, and what appears easy could be anything but. So let them know how much joy seeing them be a good parent brings you!

If you happen to find that you are underwhelmed by what you’re seeing… I think it’s important to say something in those moments too. No one is a mind reader. It’s not your job to parent your children AND your children’s other parent… but it is your job to advocate for your child. Find a way to have the conversation in as civilized of a manner as possible, state your expectations and your boundaries. If they can’t meet them, it may be time to consider other alternatives (like counseling, or legal advice).

You Think More About the Future

When you have a child placed into your arms and life, all of a sudden your future plans start to shift. You both used to live day to day, making sure you had enough for rent, brunch, and booze. You saved your pennies for vacation getaways, and hardly ever thought about how good your medical insurance actually was. But now you’re consumed by thoughts of “what if’s.” The things that could happen in the future keep you awake. Things like living wills, life insurance, and college tuition start to be real factors.

How to Deal: Stay calm and save on! Truthfully, I come from the school of thought that the kids will be alright and that what it boils down to is teaching them what you can while you’re still around to do it. But life insurance is always a good idea.

You Experience True Joy

I bet you both thought you were happy, just the two of you, right? You were! You totally were. Another school of thought I totally connect with is that not everyone is meant to be a parent. Some of us have genetic factors to consider, some of us have deeply rooted beliefs about overpopulation, and some of us flat out just don’t have the desire to do it. If that’s you, you’ll receive no judgment from me because I don’t think having kids is the end all be all.

But if you do choose to be a breeder, like me, I can almost guarantee that you will look back and say something like “I can’t believe I ever lived without this level of happiness.” Parenting is so hard, even harder if you have a child that isn’t “perfect” – but still their smiles, their innocence, and the laughter they bring you both is on another level. Before kids I couldn’t imagine actually laying my life down on the line for anyone, but now I would gladly do it, for a child (not just my own!) You’ll find that the love you have for your little ones is greater than the love you have for your partner, because it’s different. It’s instinctual. If you asked your partner, they would probably say the same. It’s the kid over you, every time.

How to Deal: This is part of the magic of parenthood, in my opinion. Finding something that brings such a special kind of love into your life is one of the most amazing experiences this world can offer. There’s no need to allow yourself to be consumed with jealousy or resentment. Instead, allow yourself to bask in the truth that your children are well loved by both of you, and that their best interest will be looked after even in your absence.

Seeing Your Partner Makes Your Day

Here is my favorite thing about bringing a child into your dynamic. All of a sudden, what was once a commonplace moment of your day: seeing each other at the end of your day. Is the best part of your day. When the kids are tiny, this is the moment you get to catch a break, take that shower, or just have some much needed conversation where you don’t use your baby voice. When the kids are older you get to revel in this moment, because you will see how excited they are to see your partner, and it’s everything.

How to deal: This is another one of those things that needs to be spoken on. If you know that you’re sitting there watching the clock waiting for your missing puzzle piece, then do your best to make that known, often. And try not to let the excitement of possible alone time turn you into that rude person we talked about before!

So there you have it! These are the things that I have found change since my husband and I started bringing children into our little world. Although, there’s probably way more… what did I miss?

Addressing the “Highlight Reel”

I often see people talking about how insanely annoying it is that others only share what they consider “the highlight reel,” meaning they only ever share the good stuff in their life, and that leads to others feeling down about their life not measuring up. I definitely do believe that we have a comparison problem, particularly with the generation I am a part of. What I’m not sure about is that asking others to not share their happy moments is the solution.

Here’s what is true, for me, at least.

I spent years and years not allowing myself to be content, and thus found myself not feeling true happiness. I would look around me and feel some envy, some sadness, and I found that it was hard for me to just be there in the moment of my own reality. When I first became a mom, I struggled greatly with letting go of who I thought I was, who I thought I wanted to become, and the fact that I felt lonely as hell in motherhood and adulthood. Being in a committed relationship, getting married, having kids, living a quiet mostly sober life… for me, started pretty early. Everyone around me was doing the complete opposite.

Truthfully, it wasn’t that I had no one to talk to, it’s just that explaining the loneliness of motherhood and the pressure of adulthood is only something that a person can understand when they do it. It’s like explaining the pain of childbirth. It hurts – but it’s awesome. That’s what motherhood and adulthood and all of the other growing up shit we all have to do is like. It is dual natured. And because it’s so confusing to put into words, especially if no one else can help you find them, it took me some time to realize that things were hard because they were hard, but also because I refused to stop making them so hard.

But one day, probably around the time our second babe was born, I realized how much I was letting the hardness of life cause me to become disillusioned and distant from who I ultimately wanted to be, rather than letting it help me grow. I found that somewhere along the way I had stopped believing that I really deserved my happiness. I can vividly remember writing in a journal how sometimes I felt like none of my life was actually supposed to be mine.

All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye I realized that I had everything to be happy and thankful for, and that my kids deserved for me to get my shit together and to stop pushing blame outside of myself. What they deserved was for me to start being right there with them. I realized that my sole job in life (for right now) was just that.

What I really wanted was to be happy in the small quiet moments. I wanted that happiness to come from within. I wanted to commit myself to contentment (which is something I know many people don’t want to feel- but I really just want to be happy with what I have and where I am no matter what) and I wanted to commit myself to finding and seeing the beauty that is freely given on this journey that is life. Bad things happen all the time, they will happen to me, and to you, but there are still beautiful things happening too. I wanted that to be my story.

I also knew I had to actively do something to change. This was big for me because it was during a time when I was parenting alone a lot, and knew I would need to be strong for the next year (when I would parent alone for an entire year straight). I knew I needed to learn to not let loneliness and sadness take me from my children.

So I started reframing. I started opening my heart and my throat. I started writing more, because I truly cannot let something go until I say it or write it (it’s just how I operate as a human). If something was objectively pretty, I made myself see it. I went back and made myself read up on childhood development (something I am still obsessed with) and stopped allowing myself to feel drained by the needs of my children, so that way when they were “out of control” I could stay in control and be what they needed; their mom. But I also did the work in confronting my true feelings, I started actually telling my husband when I was in a mood, when I needed a break, when I desperately needed quiet or for him to just do x,y,z for me. I stopped believing he could read my mind. (Dear everyone, NO ONE can read your mind.)

Does it shock you that I didn’t always do those things? The me I am now has been such a work in progress friends. I used to be the queen of walls, the queen of never crying or showing my emotion openly, the queen of never asking for help. Opening my mouth and saying what I wanted and needed in the moment I wanted or needed it started way more recently than I would care to admit, if I’m keeping it real. I was on this earth for years and years before I realized I was being too strong (stubborn, actually) for no reason.

None of this happened over night. All of it is STILL a work in progress.

I’m not perfect, and I’m still not *her* – the woman I want to be, quite yet. But I have learned to let go of those things that made it so hard for me to allow real life happiness to flourish. I have learned that guilt is a sign I need to do better or apologize, not constantly reprimand myself for something that makes me human like raising my voice with my children. I have learned that sadness is a sign that I need to be honest about how I really feel. I have learned that loneliness, for me, is often times very rooted in insecurity. The more I allow myself to see and feel those things, the happier I became. And so now, even if I do have a bad day or moment, they are no longer magnified or thought of as defining. Because I know they pass and and that ultimately they don’t matter, unless I make them. Instead, what I have decided to magnify are the things that pass but DO matter, regardless.

I’m not over here having only good moments, I’m just over here forcing myself to take note of the moments. The ones that will flash before me in my final moments; and I just know that not a single one of those quickly flashing moments will be: that one time I yelled at my kids for taking too long to get dressed. Or one of the times I was crying and panicked during my first post partum experience. Or the time I smacked my child’s hand as a reaction to them hitting me. It’ll more likely be that time that I peed on myself laughing at my tiny petite little daughter letting out a fart that would rival a mans. Or one of the many times I saw my children connect and comfort each other. Or the way their faces light up when they’ve been separated from one of their parents, even when it’s only been an hour.

I want others to know that I don’t share good or happy things because they are the only things I experience. I still struggle with anxious thoughts. I still go through life dealing with doubt and fear, and constantly attempting to re-wire my brain so that I’m not stuck in falsehoods. I definitely still struggle with feeling comfortable with allowing my voice to be a voice that is heard.

It’s just that now I have accepted these parts of myself, and have decided to share the happy stuff too, because I worked really hard to feel it, and because I want to spread those moments of happiness as far as I can, for anyone else who needs a little joy.

And because one day I won’t be here, and my kids won’t get to see what I see as it flashes, but they WILL be able to go back and hopefully look at this blog, or my social media accounts, and they’ll see me. The real me, who was truly happy with what she had.

Things I NEED My Children to Know

I don’t want to give them everything, I want them to know how to be happy with just enough. I don’t want to fill them with soul crushing standards, I want them to know that it’s okay to be multi-faceted. I don’t want them to think they always have to be happy, I want them to know that it’s okay to not feel like laughing (especially when the joke wasn’t funny).

I want them to know it’s okay to not look perfect, and that it’s okay to not have or do what everyone else has or does. It’s okay to choose to let small things roll off your shoulders for the sake of your own sanity, or to say no and not feel bad about it.

I want them to know that how they feel matters, and that it’s also completely within their control to decide to act or not act on that. I want them to know that NO ONE, not even me, gets to decide who they are.

I want them to know how to forgive themselves when they desperately need to. I want them to know that when they see others enjoying massive success, that it does not diminish their own success, and that those people are still human, and they too, cannot possibly be perfect, even if it looks that way.

I don’t want them to hold bad days against themselves, I want them to know in their heart of hearts that everyone, even the people who swear they don’t, has bad days, and that everyone, even them, deserves gentleness on those days.

I don’t want them to waste precious time hating their body, I want them to know that their body is just a vessel. It could be slimmer, it could be stronger, it could be a million other things, but it would not change WHO they are. I don’t want them to mistake a persons attractiveness (or what they may see as a lack thereof) as an indicator of personality traits – I want them to know that nothing could be further from true. I want them to know that a person can be a super model and still be a really rude and demeaning person, and that a person can be “average” or “ugly”, and still be the kindest soul on earth.

And I want them to know that when it comes to me, their mom, there is no perfection here, so they don’t need to bother trying be just like me, they can instead be just like them, and know that I will still love them.

A Fun Weekend in San Diego

A couple of weekends ago we were able to check off two of our San Diego Bucket List items AND do some of it with some of our close friends who stopped in from Florida on their way to Mexico.

I think one of the best parts of our current duty station is that we are in a city lots of people don’t mind visiting before they head out on (or home from) their vacations. It’s kind of hard to resist sunny San Diego, and Southern California in general, if I do say so myself. Since we do tend to move around every few years, I forced myself to sit down one day and create a “bucket list” a few months ago. A list of things I want to do, or see, before we inevitably have to leave a place with so much to offer. As luck would have it we were able to check two items off of that list in one weekend!

The first stop was at The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. If you live in SoCal, or follow anyone on social media who does live here, you’ve probably seen your fair share of pictures from this field, which is open in the Spring (typically early March- mid May). While we were there we joked about creating a new Instagram focused on taking pictures of people who were clearly there to take pictures for their Instagrams- this place was crawling with people creating “content.” To be honest, it’s totally understandable, it’s a beautiful place, with so much to offer. Aside from the fields, there was also green houses, multiple gardens to walk through, wagon rides, delicious treats, and a stamp hunt, as well as an awesome play ground for the kids to play in. We particularly enjoyed letting the littles lead us through the Sweet Pea Maze – which by the way, is one of the best mazes I’ve walked through.

The girls had a blast, which isn’t hard to do with these two particular friends of ours. We didn’t walk all the way down the field, but where we did go was outrageously pretty. From the top of the fields you can see the ocean, another reminder of how unique San Diego truly is.

Our second bucket list item was visiting The San Diego Zoo Safari Park. On this particular weekend they were running and irresistible promo for their Día Del Nino celebration; all children were free with the entry of a paid adult. My husband gets in free to most museums and zoos around here, so we only had to buy ONE ticket (which I had a groupon for). Our hometown heroes had a flight to catch so we weren’t able to do this with them, but luckily we have great neighbors with a daughter the same age as our big girl, so we all went together!

The Safari Park is the sister of the San Diego Zoo, and it’s settled on 1800 acres. Half of that is set aside as protected native habitat. The cool thing about the Safari Park is that they give real space to the animals in their care. So while you aren’t as close to the animals as you could be at the San Diego Zoo, the views are breathtaking, and you get a lot of walking in. At the Safari Park you have the option to purchase “Safari’s” some of which get you much closer to the animals, others are experiences like zip lining.If you’re ever in San Diego and looking for something to spend an entire day doing, the Safari Park is a great option if you’ve got some money to spend and a love of animals.

Now that these two items are checked off of the list we’ve only got a few more left to go:

  • Take the “Coaster” (train line) north.
  • Disneyland
  • Visit San Francisco
  • Visit Joshua Tree
  • Visit Salvation Mountain
  • Cabin at Big Bear
  • See the Redwoods
  • Visit LA for food trucks and museums
  • Yosemite Half dome

Considering I’m pregnant this summer, getting the majority of these done seems like an elusive goal, so we’ll see what actually gets done. I’d be happy with getting at least half done I think.

For all my fellow California people (or if you’ve visited!) is there anything I missed? Or anything on the list that isn’t “worth” the hassle of getting there? Do you have a bucket list for the place where you live? With this “lifestyle” we tend to know a lot of people in literally all corners of the world, so I may be able to help you create one if you want!

When Life Has Different Plans

For the past year or so, we have been debating whether or not to add another baby to our family. One of us had been team “not completely convinced” while the other was team “maybe“.

Maybe. Because I could see our lives with just two, but I could also see it with three.

Maybe. Because I loved the idea of our youngest being a big sister, but also really enjoyed the idea of possibly getting to start a career with the degree I busted my ass for, and never used.

Maybe. Because for some reason something was telling me “one more” and I hated ignoring that, but understood why “no more” could also be a good path for us.

For the majority of these discussions between us, I had an IUD. But as many may or may not know, it wasn’t exactly working out for me anymore. It was definitely doing what it was designed to do, but I’m a very physically sensitive person (as in I KNOW my body) so for me, there was a little bit more going on than I preferred. I made the executive decision that birth control was no longer going to be solely my arena. If my husband ever seriously found himself on team no, then maybe we should consider a vasectomy. So after two years, out came the IUD. Until we made a decision either way, we chose to just “be careful”.

Friends. Being careful is not a way to prevent a baby, even if there are no “slips.” Before I could get a period after getting the IUD out, I was pregnant. I spent about a week wondering (and googling- let’s be real) exactly when I would get my first IUD-free period before the nausea settled in. I genuinely thought I was experiencing the dreaded “mirena crash” as my body began to rapidly change. But on my third day of that all day queasy feeling, as I stood in the shower, I kind of just knew… my period was not coming.

It’s funny, because even though I knew that we both had actively been a part of the creation of this baby, I still felt confused, and shocked at how it happened. Thoughts and emotion flooded my brain within seconds, all before even taking a test. I considered not mentioning it until I knew for sure, but quickly changed my mind, I didn’t want to feel that sense of confusion and shock by myself any longer than I had to.

I went down stairs, and sitting on the edge of my husbands chair said “I know this doesn’t make sense,” – because it didn’t, “but I think I need to get a pregnancy test.”

My husband seemed doubtful (because like I said- HOW?) but he trusted me. We talked about if we were scared, and both decided we weren’t. Took a trip to good ol’ Target and then while he went to go grab some lunch for us, I stayed home with the girls, and took the test. After peeing on the test, I glanced at it and could see the plus sign immediately starting to form, but thought it could be the lighting tricking me, so I set it down on the counter and forced myself to wait the few minutes as instructed.

Two minutes later, I picked it up and saw it clear as day. No trick of the light, no wild imagination. For a second, I considered crying, but instead, I started laughing.

This is the stuff that life is all about right? We think we have a plan, we think we know what’s next, but we genuinely have no idea how things are going to go. The hand we played in our third child feels kind of minimal, to the point that for a few weeks, until I saw the ultrasound, I kind of didn’t really believe it.

As time moved forward, I experienced the worst all day nausea, and uncomfortable bloating, headaches, and exhaustion. It can be hard to see the light when your body is putting you through the ringer, but I also believe my body needed to do these things for me to believe and trust that there was truly another life inside of me. It hasn’t been a walk in the park this time around, but I know how fleeting this time is, and I’m starting to move into the space of enjoying this part of the journey. Along with that, how it happened has started to become less important, as the technicalities of being a family of five has started to take center stage. I’m scared of being “outnumbered,” I worry about the inevitability of roles changing, I stress over the idea of splitting myself even further.

As before, I know these worries will all fade out as our little one joins our family, but hey, I’m pregnant! I can’t help it!

For those who are into pregnancy announcements, here’s a little video I made of my husband and the girls reactions to the news. We truly appreciate all the love we hace received since announcing our big surprise! If there’s anything you’d like to see me post about regarding pregnancy, feel free to comment and let me know!

On Taking Things Personal

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the way in which we are wired to take things personal. It’s something I have been trying hard to move away from. In almost all of our relationships and experiences we are likely participating in the “single player” function. When we are functioning in that mode, we are so often stuck in our own heads, and likely believe that all of what is happening around us, including the actions, thoughts, and feelings of others – particularly has to do with us.

It’s almost so instinctual that I’ll even hear myself doing it toward our children! Scary, but true. I’m sure other parents kind of know what I’m talking about here – if they act up while we are out, there are times I am tempted to take it to heart, and very personal, thinking to myself “why can’t they just behave for 5 minutes while we are in the store?” If they wake up in the middle of the night and wake me, for a split second I am tempted to think “come on. they know I’m tired, why would they wake me up!” – but in reality their little minds do not think that way. All they know is they heard a sound, woke up, and are pretty sure there’s an effing monster under their bed (even though their bed has no room under it for a monster to lurk- not comfortably at least). In the moment of the hard crap, it’s almost instinctive to think that what my children are doing is in direct correlation to me.

The truth is this: what others say, do, think, or feel (or lack thereof) has little to do with us and everything to do with them. Yes, even children. Even children have needs and wants particular to themselves (who knew?!) because they are actual little people who are having their OWN experiences.

Because so many of us are living as the center of our world, it can be so hard to remember that the people around us are experiencing situations in a completely unique way, and their way can be similar or completely opposite to how we are experiencing it. It can be hard to remember this, especially when someone hurts you. Or when someone breaks your trust. Or when someone does something that (in your humble opinion) would obviously cause a reaction in you. “Why would they do that? They KNEW it would hurt me.” Maybe they did know, maybe they didn’t.

Here’s the thing, well, a couple of things. ONE: it’s entirely too taxing to try to guess why anyone does anything- because life is 100% subjective and our paths and journeys are exclusive. A difficult thing to come to terms with, but important, nonetheless. And TWO: it’s not your place to figure out someone’s motives, and it won’t bring you peace. This can be crazy hard to come to terms with when you feel like you need to “say something” to someone so they can know what you think. But the truth is, what you think about someone else’s choices only needs to be said when that person asks you. (Of course, if you’re dealing with a dangerous situation of any form, you should say or do what you need to keep yourself and loved ones safe- what I am talking about here are general opinions.)

I think this is essentially why it’s so important to know your personal boundaries, and to take care of yourself. Honor how you feel, listen to what your body is saying to you, always. No one can feel things for you, no one can change anything in your life except for you. What a powerful gift. Knowing this makes you free from having to wonder about the meaning of anyone else’s actions. Knowing this allows you to start to come face to face with the fact that you are responsible for you. And not for “them”. This is something I am mindful of teaching my children, because while circumstances may be what they are, my children are still wholly responsible for their actions (which have consequences, good or bad).

I one hundred percent believe in the idea that Life does not happen to you it happens for you. So YOU can learn what you need to learn. All of this is true for others, too. Even when I deeply resent their choices.

Here’s the takeaway, the most important part in all of this: when you come face to face with adversity or trials in relationships, or even just someone being a little too sassy, you can rest assured that the only part of the equation that you are responsible for and the only part you can actively control is your part of it. How you react, what you do, or say. You get to make the choice for yourself: am I going to react? Or am I going to use some self control? There is so much power in what we decide.

I’ve been struggling with this a little bit lately regarding certain situations in my personal life, obviously I enjoy sharing my point of view, so it can be hard to keep my mouth shut when it comes to certain situations… which is why I decided to write this here. If anyone else struggles with taking things personal from time to time, just know, I hear you wholeheartedly, and you do have a choice.

Don’t Be Perfect

I know you’re tempted to. I know you want to do it all. I know you want to show up at all the things looking your best. I know you want to have a home cooked HEALTHY meal on the table every night at the perfect dinner time – not too early, not too late. I know you want to make sure you exercise enough, sleep enough, and keep your house clean enough. I know you’re desperate to show up at your kids games, practices, lunches, field trips. I know you want to be the perfect spouse. The perfect friend. The perfect family member. I know how you think “hypothetically, it’s not too hard.” And I know how you feel when another day passes and you find you didn’t do it all.

But, all of this, it’s not necessary.

Having little eyes looking up to me, I know how important it is to be the best version of myself I can be. It’s not a weight carried lightly by me. I’m internally motivated by the thought of how my children will remember me. How they will remember our lives together. It is a driving force in many moments. These thoughts are often where my patience is born. But with that, there is another truth that must be acknowledged. My children still need to see me mess up. They need to bear witness to my failures. They need to see me as a human with real flaws, real emotions, so that they don’t feel as though they need to hide theirs. So they don’t feel the need to measure up. They need to hear me apologize when I’m wrong, just as they need to see me stand my ground when I am passionate about something. They need to see my strength, and they need to see my weakness.

And it’s not just the little ones in our lives who benefit from this. I really do believe that this is important for anyone around us to see. It is essential to remember that perfection is an illusion, and when you decide to show up as you are, you end up holding space for others to do so as well. Don’t apologize for the messy house, you live there. Don’t feel the need to always have your makeup on, or wear your best clothes, you deserve to be comfortable.

Being perfect means there’s a specific standard. If you’re feeling that pressure – in any situation – take a minute to think of whose standard of perfection it is. Ask if it’s truly even your standard. And then ask yourself what the benefit of reaching that standard actually is. If mastering the juggle is what will bring true joy and happiness to the short existence we are all blessed with, by all means, pursue perfection. But if sometimes it feels like you’re wasting energy and minutes worrying about how you appear, or what someone else thinks, then it is officially time to consider this truth:

Your instinct is not wrong.

Have you found ways to ditch the need to be perfect? How did you do it? I love to hear back from those who support my writing so let me know in the comments or any other way that feels right!

Paying Homage.

Today my Facebook reminded me via its handy dandy memories tool that prior to sharing my personal thoughts and experiences here, I first did it there. Around this time last year, and for the first time, I publicly shared a piece of writing. That piece of writing is still one I love and I think it does deserve a place here. If you’ve never read it before, or if it stirs something new for you, by all means leave a comment and let me know!

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I wrote this yesterday after reading and internalizing posts where others expressed confusion, contempt, and even some disgust. I hope it can shed some light on the “why” that so many seemed to call for. I dedicate it to my mother, my grandmothers, and the other admirable women of color I am blessed to call family. To the wonderful women I have gained through marriage. To my girlfriends, who have exemplified strength in so many different ways. To my high school drama teacher who set the foundation of my own sense of womanhood through her example. To the important men in my life who have never made me personally feel anything other than loved and supported. But mostly, this is for my children.

Marched.

Here in the United States there is no guaranteed paid maternity leave.

So, I marched.

I personally know women who were physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by men they loved deeply.

So, I marched.

Once, I saw a mother lose temporary custody of her children because her abusive husband convinced her to let him see them after he had recently tried to kill himself in front of them.

So, I marched.

I know a woman who spent years in the same job field that her husband would much later join, and hardly made more than him at the time he entered the work force.

So, I marched.

I remember being sexualized at the age of thirteen by men twice my age, and seeing it happen to friends as well.

So, I marched.

When my husband was out to sea, I became highly paranoid that the alcoholic who lived below us would one day snap and try to hurt me because my kids were loud.

So, I marched.

When he was deployed, I hid knives in each room of my house, I kept a panic button next to my bed, and sometimes slept with the key to our gun box on a lanyard around my neck. So, I marched.

I know women, myself included, who have been made to think they are not as worthy as other women because of outward appearances.

So, I marched.

I know of women who were date raped, but never reported it.

So, I marched.

Once, one of my husband’s higher ranked coworkers told him I would need to pause my career for his to succeed, and he wasn’t wrong about that.

So, I marched.

When I was interning as a new mom, there was no where for me to pump breastmilk, I had to do it in the bathroom.

So, I marched.

When I go out with my daughters, people always mention how we better have a gun in the house.

So, I marched.

I marched. I marched. I marched. At one point I cried. And then I marched.

On Love of Self.

It’s happening. My five-year old is picking up on “beauty standards” and it’s damn near heartbreaking. About a week ago she expressed to me that she wanted us to buy her a painless hair removal tool she saw on a commercial, “no” I said, “you don’t need that.” “But it won’t hurt me, the commercial said that it is painless” she replied. I let the conversation fade out with a quick word on the natural tendencies of our bodies to grow hair, not just on our heads. She expressed resentment at the thought of it. I wished there was someone I could call and scream at to make that commercial disappear forever. I thought of all the other little girls sitting there, being indoctrinated into beauty culture on that very day, by that same stupid commercial… or by the hundreds (thousands… millions?!) of other commercials or media they may be exposed to. Maybe it would happen tomorrow. Maybe it had happened already. Either way, one thing I know for sure is that it will happen. My children will have images of unrealistic standards shoved down their throats and there is little I can do to stop that. Hours later, it dawned on me. That little painless hair remover may not physically hurt you, but it will hurt you! It will hurt you, it already has.
The way many of us feel about ourselves is not the way we should feel. It’s the way we have been made to feel. It’s the way we were suggested, even pushed, to feel. The way we think we should feel. And seeing it happen to someone so perfect and pure, someone so innocent, is beyond disturbing. I can remember how it felt in middle school to realize that my hips, legs and thighs were double the size of my friends. Somewhere around the age of thirteen, I can remember the way I lied about my stretch marks during camp when a boy pointed them out.  The way I bled and cried and cried over the curse of it. The way I tried so hard to pick the right outfit to cover, shape, hide. I can vividly remember how it felt as a freshman in high school to look in the mirror and truly hate what I saw reflecting back to me. During that time it felt like I couldn’t measure up because my measurements were not near small enough. Trying to fit in genuinely felt exhausting. What I would give to go back and tell that girl how perfect is an illusion, and how enough I already was.
As I reached the end of my senior year of high school something finally clicked, and I was able to work through some of  the negative aspects of my self view over the next few years in college, just in time for me to become a mother. Somewhere along the way it sunk in that there are entire industries built off of our insecurities, business models that hope we will continue to feel like we can’t cut it as is. Escaping that mentality wasn’t easy so the fact that I did makes me feel lucky. I know that so many others (men included) don’t get past the idea of the ideal until much later in life, if ever.
When I had my children, I knew that I could love what was to become of my body after because I had already stopped believing that my worth was directly connected to the size of my jeans. But what I did not expect was just how strongly becoming a mother would make me realize how much I really believe in spreading self-love. Because now I deeply believe that if I can love myself fully and without inhibitions, maybe my children can do that too. Maybe they can skip the hard years. A momma can hope, right?
Even though it has been years since I felt  ashamed of this body of mine, I’ve still found myself hiding it. Covering the natural curves of my hips. Being sure to downplay the truth of my body shape, in hopes that I don’t offend those around me, that I don’t willingly “mark” myself, make myself a target for the unwanted looks and whispers. I love my body, but I still fear it at times. And in owning that, I am able to own the fact that there is still work to be done.
Loving yourself fully doesn’t mean not taking care of yourself. Often times people believe that the “self love movement” is all about being okay with treating your body however you want, for better or worse. For me, it’s all about knowing that my value as a person is not relative to how I appear at any given moment. It’s making choices that feel good and right for me, regardless of if the people around me would make that same choice. It’s about honoring and loving my own body above other bodies, and listening to it, allowing it to grow and change as it needs to.
I want that inherent knowing for my children, I want that for me, and I want that for you. 
And now this part is directed to my girls (who I know will find these words somehow) and to anyone else who needs to hear this:
When you see a picture, or a video, or a movie, or even a Snapchat (or whatever you have in the future) take it with a HUGE grain of salt, because the truth is it takes a TEAM to make that happen.  It took all hands on deck to get the body sexy enough, to get the hair to fall just so, to get the makeup that perfect. There’s someone whose sole job is to keep it all in place, someone who knows exactly when to snap the picture and exactly when the light is hitting them at the perfect moment. And then after that there are people who EDIT that shit. Even after all that hard work, they still fix the tiny imperfections so you would never even know they were there.
What you’re seeing over and over again, it’s not real. It’s not even close. YOU are real. And there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s okay to love you. And if that feels really hard to do, find me, and let me be the one to tell you the truth of your REAL perfection.

5 Tricks to Survive Parenting

I realize my last post may have left some of you wondering if parenthood is even sustainable. It is. It totally is. A lot of us do operate on a mode of necessity, especially when you’re doing hard things on top of it, but it truly is possible to enjoy parenthood, even if life is throwing a bunch of crap at you. That’s kind of the gig in its entirety, to be honest. So while last week was all about secrets, this week is about things I have picked up along the way to get through. Think: tricks of the trade. Methods of survival, if you will. If you don’t have children you might think me using the word “survival” is a bit dramatic. IT’S NOT. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, kids are the jam. They’re funny without trying, they’re not always incessantly pessimistic like adults can be, and they’re cute and cuddly. They are all that is right in the world. And when they are like that, you’re thriving.

But. Some days you’re really tired and they’re being kind of mean, and they slapped you in the face before you even had your coffee. There are times when those cute little faces are twisted up and beat red, throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of Target, all because you wouldn’t let them eat the spilled popcorn off of the ground, and you’re wondering if someone is going to call CPS on you, because they are screaming that loud. So yeah, some days it is mostly about surviving until bedtime, and praying for a reset, while hoping they don’t slap you in the face again the next morning. On those days, it is up to the adults in the family to figure stuff out. And using coping mechanisms works wonders. Mine are as follows:

Don’t rush their growth. Sometimes it seems as though people can be in a rush for their kids to make it to the next benchmark. NOT ME. I’ve always been totally fine with taking things slow. Why? Because sometimes you find that the less they know, the more freedom you as the adult have. I’m not saying to intentionally hold your child back from learning things that are important to learn… I’m just saying that trying to push them to learn things early just for the sake of them learning it, isn’t really all the necessary. What will happen if they aren’t the kid who reads the best by the end of kindergarten? I’ll tell you what. Nothing. In fact, you’ll be able to continue spelling words you don’t want them to hear for longer. Just saying. Plus, babies don’t keep. I like to enjoy them for who they are and where they are.

Get a mom/dad friend. You need to have at least one friend in your personal circle that has either been parenting for a little bit longer than you or is becoming a parent at the same time as you. Having friends who have kids in middle school when you’re having your first child is fine, but I promise you they’re going to do that whole “better you than me, pal” thing I mentioned in my last post. Instead, you need someone who is going to be right there with you. You need someone who you can text “HELP ME” and they will know not to call the police, but instead will commiserate with you and remind you that you’re normal. And that bed time is only a few hours away. And that wine exists.

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Tape saves the day. 
Use what you have. We live in the times of the “pinterest mom” and the “instagram influencers” – every where you turn someone is cooking up some elaborate birthday party, or taking their kids around the country in their renovated school bus. You find yourself wondering: am I doing this right? Am I providing them with enough? The answers are undoubtedly yes and yes. In fact, I would argue you could probably do less than what you’re doing and still be doing enough. As I have mentioned before, comparison is the thief of joy, my friends. Your kids don’t need the newest toys to be happy. Stick them outside with pots and pans filled with water and cups. They don’t need to go to Disney every weekend, take them hiking and let them literally kick rocks. You have everything you (and they) need, sometimes you just have to think outside of the box a little. Better yet, you probably just need to get a box. A brown cardboard one. Kids love those. You’re welcome.

Expect the worst. In any plan you make regarding your kids, you should be hoping for the best, and expecting the worst. Think ahead. Whats the worst possible outcome? Prepare for that. Bring the extra clothes in case they pee on themselves even though they have been potty trained for three years. Bring the plastic bags in case they start throwing up in your car when you’re 20 minutes from home. Bring the wipes, for all of the above. Bring snacks. Bring drinks. Bring your iPad or kindle, and for crying out loud make sure that thing is charged. Your kids may normally be super well-behaved, but they’re human too. And just like you some days they are just not feeling like themselves. Take the time to  be prepared for anything and everything, so that way when they are actually decent, you’ll feel like a rock star.

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Learn to laugh. I’m telling you right now, if you don’t learn how to laugh, you won’t make it. You will spend your whole time parenting thinking you’re not cut out for it, that you are failing. Parenthood is hard, so let it be funny. Let your instinct be to laugh, rather than to immediately take things personal. When I say my kids are sassy, I mean it. The other day my husband told me that after I strapped my youngest into the car and closed the door, she announced to him and our oldest that “Mommy is rude!!!” because I wouldn’t let her eat candy in the car. I could have been hurt and taken that personal, but I chose to laugh instead. Most situations that seem really annoying in the moment, can become comical if you let it.

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Bank on that, and enjoy them while they are unintentionally hilarious. 

XO,

Bryanna Lee