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The Joy Journey

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Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the disconnect between what we are “doing” as parents and how we are feeling as parents.  Are we parenting perfectly, hitting all of the milestones, keeping our children safe and scheduled, feeding them the right things and playing with the right toys– but missing the point?

I’m pretty honest with anybody who asks me about my first year of Motherhood– telling them that the first few months (ok, let’s call it four months) were extremely challenging for me.  And I don’t just mean that they were hectic and imbalanced and tiring– which they were– but I also mean that they were not fun.  I didn’t like it.  I loved my child, of course, but if somebody had asked me if I “liked” being a Mom at that point, my answer would have been “Meh”. 
Now I contribute this to a great many things going on in my life at the time, least of all parenthood.  I was working in a job I no longer liked, trying to figure out how to breastfeed and work at the same time, navigating a changing relationship with my husband, attempting to bring back certain elements of my pre-baby life that I so desperately missed– and I was also caring for an infant who was giving very little back.  It just seemed thankless, and bottomless– and boring, to be totally honest.  When I look back I think that perhaps this was a mix of hormones,  a bit of Baby Blues, and totally normal feelings associated with a major life change.  In any case, I realized that I needed to bring the joy back in to my life in a major way.
 

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Right around that four month mark, of course, is when babies begin to really show their personalities.  They smile, and laugh, and interact, and suddenly you are parenting an actual human-seeming creature.  Of course this is a slight exaggeration– there are definitely moments of cute before this, but I always tell people that at Four Months is when things start to actually get fun.  And for a while I was so relieved to be actually enjoying my child that I forgot all about ever feeling checked out.  But as our babies grow, so do the challenges and the responsibilities– and suddenly we are cooking meals,  cleaning up toys, baby proofing, helping them up stairs, and disciplining them. 

We are doing everything (everything!) for them, and we get so caught up in doing it well– Are they sleeping through the night? CHECK! Are they eating solids? CHECK! Crawling? CHECK! Speaking and walking? CHECK AND CHECK! We are winning!  We are doing it all– our kids are growing and maturing, and that means everything is exactly as it should be!!!  Except have you ever actually checked in with yourself during the day, and asked how you are feeling about parenting? In other words– are you having a good time?

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Now I mention this because there have been several periods in the past eight months or so when I have acutely realized that I am not having a good time.  I am, in fact,  walking around like a stress ball, feeling overwhelmed and like I’m somehow a step behind.  A step behind what or whom? Who knows.  But I had worked myself in to a tizzy, and instead of observing my child and enjoying my child and the experience we were having together– I was at a point where I was just trying to get from point A to point B.  And obviously Marlowe noticed this. 

At these times, I have had to come from outside myself, and readjust my behavior.  I’ve had to snap myself out of it, and really remind myself that this is my one time to be parenting this child, as a baby, at this moment in her life.  Of course then I had a miscarriage, and this point was driven home in a much more visceral way.  Our children are so funny, so smart, so capable of love in a way we as adults have to try hard to be.  We can learn so much from them– even when we are feeling tired or stressed or overwhelmed.  I work at this type of joy every day as a parent– but since I started reminding myself to do it, I have loved parenting even more than I ever thought I could.  Of course we have bad days, like any Mother and Child duo, but I think we both laugh more than we used to.  At the end of the day, Marlowe won’t remember how clean our house was, what she ate for dinner, or what kind of sippy cup she drank from.  She’ll just remember how I made her feel– and I’m going to make sure that sippy cup is half full. 

xoxo
EAM

(Photographs by Nina Suh for Love And Lemonade Photography)

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39 Comments

  1. Kendra says:

    Oh my goodness did I need this post! My baby girl is 4 months old and I often catch myself obsessing and wondering if I’m doing right by her. Did I do enough skin-to-skin in the beginning? Am I a bad mom because I supplement breast milk with formula? I used plastic bottles instead of glass for awhile! I don’t always eat organic, is my milk hurting her? If she looks at the TV will she develop ADD? I mean I could go on and on! Your post made me realize I need to stop and enjoy her in this moment because they grow and change so quickly. I’m going to make mistakes because I’m not perfect but what would really be tragic is to miss her whole childhood because I was stuck in my head the whole time.
    Thank you, Eva!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Kendra,
      I think I don’t have to know you to know that as long as you are this interested in doing well by your child, you are already doing GREAT! Now enjoy your good, hard work 🙂
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  2. Lisa says:

    This post has been a huge help. To see someone else put into words exactly how I’m feeling makes me feel less lonely. I have a three month old son and for the first couple of months I struggled to be the person I was before he was born. I didn’t want to change, I wanted to be me and have my life but also be his mum. I’ve realized recently that it’s not possible. It’s time to make a new me and bring as much happiness to my life as I can. I was missing moments in his life because I was still fighting this new life, despite the fact that I loved him more than anything in the world. Thank you for your honest words x

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Lisa,
      It is ALL about balance. Make sure you bring enough of the “old you” back in to your life as a parent that you can still be the person you want to be! Your child will be happy if you’re happy.
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  3. Shari says:

    Reading this is like reading what I always say verbatim about the first 4 months. I loved my daughter who just turned 1, but didn’t enjoy her or being a parent. Cried a lot, doubted myself endlessly, and was generally unhappy with baby blues. I work in the NICU and because of that everyone felt I should know all the things I worried about or asked about. Then 4 months hit and it’s like a light turned on (also when she started sleeping through the night!) and have been thrilled with her ever since! It’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever done though!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Shari,
      Totally. 4 months is the magic time! I’m glad you’re feeling better now!I can’t even imagine what a challenge it must be to work in the NICU, that takes a special kind of woman. I salute you!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  4. Jaclyn says:

    This post was so refreshing! As a new mom to a 6 month old, I struggled so much during the first 8 weeks because I was surrounded by new moms who were constantly saying how AMAZING motherhood was and how perfect their children were. It wasn’t that I disagreed, its amazing, but I constantly wondered if I had gotten a “bad baby” because our first 8 weeks were full of gas and crying from 4-8pm each night. No one ever talks about the tough times! I so enjoy reading your blog and this definitely hit home.

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Jaclyn,
      I used to think of those “Rainbows and Puppies and Candy” new moms as total weirdo liars. Now I realize they so desperately want to believe what they are telling other Moms that they start to convince themselves it’s true. In any case, let this be the first lesson to focus on no other mother and no other baby beside YOU and YOURS. Your child is an individual and will do everything in their own time/their own way! Enjoy this special little gift and everything it will teach you!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  5. Jordan says:

    Oh man, tears at my desk at work. This is so spot-on; thanks for sharing your experience in this, Eva. I struggled with all of these feelings, and more, for about the first 5.5 months of my daughter’s life–we had breastfeeding woes that required cranial-sacral therapy; she didn’t sleep more than 3 hours at a time at night for about 6 months; then add in going back to work and feeling as though I’d abandoned her at daycare, and that they’d get to see all of the good things in her growth and development…SO. CHALLENGING. She’s 14 months old now, and the light of my life, but I am still learning that I am a new being; my husband and I have a new type of marriage; and we have to actively pause and enjoy the little moments of wonder that our new life brings!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Jordan,
      I’m so glad you could relate and felt comforted! Being a working mom is SO HARD. There is no other way to say it. But know that any moment your daughter spends with you (even if she is with others all day) is the absolute light of HER life. She adores you and always will, no matter if you work one job or four. Trust in that bond and enjoy your sweet family 🙂
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  6. Amanda says:

    This couldn’t ring more true. Thank you for sharing. It really helps to know I am not alone, and it is so refreshing to hear the real life struggles instead of what most mom’s want to share – which are the perfect moments that look like they walked off their pinterest boards. Now 8 months into motherhood, I am finally learning to embrace the imperfection and we’re having a lot more fun!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Amanda,
      I’m glad it spoke to you! I find that honesty makes me feel the best about myself, while also helping others. Perfection is great for a picture, but kind of boring for life! 🙂
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  7. Liz says:

    Love this, thank you for sharing, Eva!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Thanks for reading!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  8. A Bernhardt says:

    Holy moly this is me!!! And so many other mothers. My poor husband always tells me to relax and why am I having a kanipshit over the wrong sippy cup with straw attached? Lol
    We are running ourselves ragged and the kids are just happy to be with us. Thank you SO much for your honesty. It is ok to say you don’t enjoy parenthood all the time. I think I had the blues as well at the beginning. Same feelings you described, so we all in the same motherhood boat .. As mothers we are expected to be walking around in a pink haze of fluffy bunnies and rainbows 24/7.. Ummm nooooo it’s not that easy or enjoyable. I sometimes forget my husband is there beside me. I’m so worried about making sure she’s OK, that I have to remind myself all the time that my husband needs attention as well. Lots of it. He can also take some of the load off. He’s happy to do it. ☺️
    God bless your little heart for being so honest. It is much appreciated.

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      I am so happy you could relate and that this experience spoke to you!! It’s important to remember that all of parenting (and all of our feelings about it) are always a work in progress. Don’t be too hard on yourself!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.16.15Reply
  9. Jenna says:

    I felt the same exact way for the first few months, and I felt like people were judging me when I told them how I felt. As though they thought I was a bad person for not loving every moment I spent as a new mom. Thanks for writing this!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Jenna,
      So normal! Try not to be so hard on yourself.
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.17.15Reply
  10. Britt says:

    My daughter is 9 months old and I had a very similar experience. Thank you for sharing what so many of us feel–and what too many of us are afraid to voice.

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Thank you for reading!!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.17.15Reply
  11. Daniela says:

    First of all, I enjoy reading your blog so much. This post has helped me realize how much of my energy goes into worrying about every single little thing instead of seizing the moment with our beautiful children. I can’t wait to start tomorrow with a brand new approach to things. Thank you Eva!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Daniela,
      I’m so glad to hear this! Every day is a new opportunity for everything– you sound like you have a great perspective on parenting, keep up the great work!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.17.15Reply
  12. Laura says:

    I absolutely love this post. My daughter just turned two, and I vividly remember wondering if something was wrong with me during those first few months because it was just so so hard. Things definitely got better, but I still find myself stressing about the very things you mentioned above – her eating, tantrums, sleep schedules. This post reminded me that I need to slow down and cherish this time with her and not waste so much time worrying. It seems like I blinked and she went from a newborn to a 2-year old.

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Laura,
      I know, It all goes by SO fast! I fall in to the trap all the time of getting overwhelmed by the tiniest things. Try to make a list today of the five biggest things you think you are GREAT at as a Mom. I promise it will make you feel like a million bucks.
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.17.15Reply
  13. Sharon says:

    Great article! As my first born is 1 month from turning 14 this was a great reminder to stop and just enjoy!

    09.14.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Sharon,
      So glad to hear that! I’m sure the teenage years bring their own entirely new set of challenges !!! 😉
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.21.15Reply
  14. Cat says:

    Posts like this are so necessary! I avoid most parenting blogs, to be honest, because they have a standard of perfection and not enjoyment of their kids. Thanks 🙂

    09.15.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Cat,
      Nobody is perfect, I promise you. Ha!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.21.15Reply
  15. Marcy says:

    Thank you for your honesty. God it is hard to live up to our own standards of what a Mother is. The struggle is real and sometimes the reminder that you are not the only one out there trying to do it all is such a gift. Have a wonderful week. Marcy

    09.15.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Marcy,
      Thank you!! I find we are all the very hardest on ourselves. And what a shame it is! An exercise I love is to try to treat myself with the same compassion I would treat a friend in need. I usually ease up and give myself a much-needed break!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.21.15Reply
  16. Raina says:

    Eva, I’ve been such a big fan of yours over the years… I am LOVING your blog. I’ve got a 3 year old daughter and a 17 month old daughter, and I LOVED THIS POST. You are so honest and this is exactly how I have felt with being a mom, too. Those first months are hard, so hard! But as they get older and do more and interact more, it just gets more and more fun. When I’m with my girls I put my phone in another room, and just soak up the joy, curiosity, and freedom they live their little lives with. Don’t you wish you could bottle their little spirits? Children are amazing! Also I have a trick when I’m having a really bad moment/day with the girls… I imagine myself in 30 years, looking back on the moment. How will I WISH I’d acted? Will it be funny in a few years? (i.e. when you’ve been puked on and stepped on a lego in a 3 second span and just want to cry). haha! Anyway, thank you for this post 🙂

    09.18.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Raina,
      I LOVE that trick!! What a smart Mama you are. The phone idea is a good one too. Keep up the great work!
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.21.15Reply
  17. Amanda says:

    Great post!! Thank you for sharing, I had many of the same feelings as you did, except that I had PPD, it’s was so hard and how you describe not liking being a mom at first is so true and I really beat myself up about it but I guess there is just no way to know how much life will really change until you have a baby, you can read and prepare all you want but until you are doing it you just don’t know.

    09.20.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Amanda,
      I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I agree, I think there is no way of knowing what Motherhood (and the ups and downs) will feel like until you get there. That’s why I always tell Mamas-to-be not to worry too much about how they’ll feel in the future, and just to try to stay in the moment with their feelings– ride the waves and enjoy the peaks and valleys.
      xoxo
      EAM

      09.21.15Reply
  18. Tricia says:

    This post is perfect! My oldest just started kindergarten and I am such a stress ball over it! Is he doing enough homework? He’s not writing like he should.. And on, and on, and on.. We saw our pediatrician today and she basically told me to chill out! Lol

    09.22.15Reply
  19. tara says:

    needed this post! struggling adjusting to my new family of four (5 months and 3 year old) and postpartum anxiety. thank you!

    01.03.17Reply