The topic of motherhood is in the air. Just in the last week both my friends Sara and Meganwrote about the subject so beautifully. I’m thrilled to see our community approaching the subject with a graceful honesty and vulnerability. Both of them have toddlers, a stage I’m relieved to be out of, but I remember feeling the exact same way they describe in their stunning essays: Overwhelmed, exhausted, out of control, angry, scared, and alone.
It’s for these sweet friends and for all of you reading these words who may be in that stage where you are overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion that I continue this series on motherhood.
What I needed to hear.
Be a better boss.
My 8 year old falls into a deep pit of despair come Sunday nights. He is not loving school (that’s putting it mildly) so when the reality of a fresh week hits him suddenly there are stomach aches and headaches and tears and the need for pep talks and snuggles.
I started to notice that I was basically throwing the adult version of his Sunday night fits. “Why?” I thought. I’m an adult, I get to set my schedule, I’m doing work that I enjoy, and I have a healthy family. What’s wrong with that?
I realized what I was dreading was my overly critical boss who berates me all day. My boss will say things like, “Ugh. You’re already behind because you slept in. Your kids have nothing to put in their lunch – I mean, really, how unorganized can you get? When are you EVER going to do laundry? Your inbox is a disaster. Have you seen your children’s shoes? They are falling apart – you need to buy them new shoes. See that pile of clothes in your bedroom? Most people use a closet not the floor!.” It goes on and on and on. That inner critical boss berates my every action and I hadn’t realized how exhausting it was until I started dreading starting the week.
Something clicked in me and I decided that I needed to be a better boss to myself. I woke up one morning and starting applauding myself for even the simplest of tasks. Seriously, it was a bit ridiculous but something needed to change. “Good job for getting out of bed this morning, Ashley! I know that wasn’t easy. Great job on that coffee this morning. Hey, way to teach your children independence by having them make their own lunch and do their own laundry. I’m proud of you for ignoring that mess and choosing to sit and snuggle your child instead.” There was a lot of reframing and lot of taking note of the simple accomplishments that happened throughout the day.
By the end of the day I was still filled with energy (rare), I was happy, excited and felt really damn good about myself. Starting the days after I upped my boss game felt like a gift, not a burden. I was eager to cheer myself on.
Then I started to notice another beautiful effect – I became less critical and more of a cheerleader to my family. If they put their dish away after breakfast I noticed it rather than the cup they left behind. I congratulated them for doing their homework, being ready for baseball practice on time, remembering their jacket and for just being awesome.
It began with simply reframing, then I started to see other reasons for cheering and then with the boldness I felt from being cheered on I started to take bigger leaps, I did more around the house, and felt empowered to just do more. Berating and judgement and a critical attitude made me want to curl in a ball in the corner and cry but the cheers (even though they were just from me) made me feel like I could do anything.
Now let me be real honest and say this takes intention. Even as I’m writing this I’m realizing that I’ve been a really crappy boss lately. I’ve let myself get weighed down by all the things I tell myself I’m not doing well enough. But I’ve seen and felt the difference in the cheers and am determined to be my own cheerleader in my days because life is hard and we all can use more applause.
Good job to you for taking a quiet moment and reading this.
Taking care of yourself is the opposite of being selfish when you have little people to raise.
I kissed their heads with coffee in hand and an audio book queued up then headed to the car on a road trip for one. Not every day finds me in between perfectly formed rows of blueberry blossoms with bees dipping into the petals providing a low vibrating hum like the bass line for the birds singing the melody. Wandering the fields I felt tightness leave my shoulders and creativity wiggling its way into the creaks and crevices where stress and anxiety had taken root. I came home from that day lighter, inspired and eager to tell my family all about it.
Gabe used to have to push me out of the house when the kids were little. I feel incessantly guilty for needing as much time away from them as I did. My introversion wasn’t so apparent until I had children and then suddenly I realized how much I needed quiet. Guilt overwhelmed me as I looked at other mothers who seemed to handle long days with their children just fine. I should suck it up and deal with it, I told myself. Slowly I started to learn what I needed and then ask for it.
Sometimes in the evening I would take myself to a coffee shop and just sit. I remember one evening in particular I sat in the chair with a pen and a blank page and the words just started falling and then so did the tears. Tears of complete and utter joy because in that quiet moment I could hear myself. I found me again. It was a little reset button and then the next day with the diapers, tears, tantrums and dishes felt a little more doable.
We all care for ourselves differently but the need for it is the same. I require a LOT of quiet. I know that now and have given up feeling guilty about it and just appreciating and owning up to that part of me. People always told me about the importance of self care and yet it felt so trite, cliché and in that season, impossible. So I imagine my words here might feel the same. But what I needed to hear back then is that taking care of myself and my needs is actually a selfless act, not selfish, as it enables me to take better care of my family. Know yourself, know your needs, and ask for what you need. Can you think of a better lesson to teach your children?
This recipe is the result of that day of caring for myself with a trip out of the city. I visited Bow Hill Blueberry farm to learn more about their process and products and in this little escape I took deep breaths and came back buzzing like those bees in the blossoms.
Susan greeted me in their shop on the farm and immediately led me out into the fields. She and her husband Harley purchased the farm in 2011 but the farm itself began in 1947 making it the oldest blueberry farm in Skagit County. It’s now a bustling organic blueberry farm growing many different varieties each having their own distinct characteristics.
For those who don’t get the pleasure of experiencing the farm and picking the berries as I do (we’ll see you there in July and August!), they’ve now made their products available to ship nationwide.On the day I visited the berries were far from being ready to pick but the shot of cold blueberry juice I drank tasted just like eating blueberries in the middle of the summer.
This recipe, which happens to be an ideal candidate for Mother’s Day breakfast, uses Bow Hill’s Organic Heirloom Blueberry Powder blended with honey to make a stunningly purple, antioxidant rich sweetener for this simple yogurt bowl. As with all of their products, the blueberry powder is grown and made directly on the farm. They create the powder using the byproduct of the juice making process so what you are left with is all the nutrient dense richness found in the blueberry skins concentrated into a powder that is high in fiber, Manganese, Iron, and Vitamin C.
Beyond the blueberry honey we’re using our powder to boost smoothies, vinaigrettes, and baked goods. I also just whipped up a stunning blueberry salt which adds the most lovely purple color to everything it touches.
The granola crisps were inspired by a recipe in Tartine Everyday. We all love the clusters in granola so basically we’ve just made a giant batch of clusters. I’ve been snacking on them all week. The egg white helps bind the oats and seeds and gives that snappy, crisp texture. Feel free to use whatever seeds and nuts you happen to have on hand.
2 cup oats
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter (or coconut oil), melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup blueberry honey (recipe below)
1 egg white
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor combine the oats, almonds, and pepitas. Pulse several times to break down the almonds a bit. Add the sesame seeds, vanilla, butter, cinnamon, salt, and honey then pulse until just combined.
In a bowl whisk together the egg white with the sugar. Stir in the oat mixture until well mixed.
Dump this mixture onto the sheet pan then press down using a rubber spatula to form a rough rectangle about 1/4-inch thick or so. Bake until deeply golden, about 45 minutes. Let it cool and if it doesn’t feel entirely crispy then return it to the oven to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Serve these in a bowl with yogurt, fresh blueberries, and a good bit of blueberry honey.
1/2 cup / 6 ounces honey
1 1/2 tablespoons Bow Hill Blueberry powder
Mix together the honey with the blueberry powder. Keeps for a long long time so go ahead and make a lot of it. It’s so beautiful you’ll want to put it on everything.
The photos in this post were from a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park
Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and in light of that I wanted to share with you a few lessons I would have loved to hear when my three babes still had fingers that looked like little sausages.
Even if you don’t have small ones I think there are lessons here that are still very applicable. And really, the truth is, I’m out of those very intense days of the younger years and yet I remind myself of these truths on a daily basis.
If you don’t have kids and are just simply trying to adult, there’s truth in here for you too. Because I get it. Gabe and I are so tired of “adulting” lately. So many times we’ve looked at each other with drooping eyes and said, “how do other people do it?” The more I talk to other adults I realize we are all in the same place; we’re all just trying to figure it out and so often we feel like we aren’t doing it right. So in my pursuit to share some truth in this perfection-seeking, social media driven world let’s get real! Adulting is hard. Truth. Parenting is ridiculously tough. There is no right way to do either. We do the best we can in a way that feels right to us, we make mistakes and own up to them and we celebrate our wins. And I hope that the more truth and honesty we share the more we can move away from competition and into celebration. We can all do hard things!
The following is adapted from a little talk I’ve been giving to mom groups around Seattle. I’ll break the talk down into three posts and I’m hoping that perhaps by posting these on Sundays you’ll have a bit of time to tuck into the words. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.
I’m sitting in heap of laundry. The teetering tower of clothes threaten to defeat me while one toddler is running through the house wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hat and nothing else and the other lays on his play mat attempting to roll over in order to get his sausage-like fingers on the herd of dust bunnies lying next to him.
Looking over at the sink I see the mess from breakfast lying dormant as I have to start thinking about lunch. I’m lost in the mess, lost in this new reality. Alone. Tired. Depressed. Tears stream from my exhausted eyes as I sink into my current reality. I always wanted kids but really? Is this what I signed up for? I was lost, had no perspective, was trying to do it alone and in a way that wasn’t me.
My shoulders slumped and I curled into a small ball – my physical body matching how I felt on the inside. I closed my eyes while the tears slipped down my cheeks. I took a deep breath and whispered to God. “When this is all over.” I began. “No more diapers, bibs, highchairs and potty training, use me.” I didn’t even know what I was saying. Why that was my prayer in the midst of such darkness? But I started to think, what if other women felt the way that I’m feeling right now? And that was too much.
God doesn’t forget – even when I do. This year I’ve been asked a number of times to talk to a groups of young moms. This is what I’ve said God in response to these invitations. “Cool. I totally meant it when I said I wanted to be an encouragement and a voice to women raising young children but surely you don’t mean now. I’m not ready. I’ve not ‘arrived’ as a mother yet. I still feel inadequate in my parenting, the house is still constantly a mess even though now I make the kids do the laundry and my parenting skills have yet to be proven. Who am I to stand up in front of these women of little ones and say anything?”
When I finally force myself to dig into the reality that I was indeed going to have to say something coherent to these women I frantically started to Google Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton hoping and praying that they had some sort of a transcript for me. One that I could you know just do a little copy and pasting to form the ULTIMATE-destined-to-go-viral Mega- mom- encouragement speech. Until a soft voice whispers, “but what do YOU want to say?”
So you to you young mama’s out there I want to say to you the things that I needed to hear. I want to be the voice that I needed as I lay in a puddle of tears with three little ones running amid a scene of chaos. I want to say that you’re okay, you’re doing a great job and even when you’re not it’s still okay.
Throw away the idea that ‘savoring every moment’ is actually possible.
Regardless of how frazzled I looked in the grocery store there was always some lovely well-intentioned women with silvery hair and creases around her eyes from years of life. Her eyes never left the soft, rounded skin of my baby’s face and I saw the light her eyes brighten as she caught the gaze of my child. “It just goes so fast.” She would say like clockwork. “Savor every moment.”
I knew it was coming and yet every time I heard those words I felt the punch of guilt in the gut. Was I savoring this time enough? Will I be wrecked with regret because I sat my kids in front of the tv in a moment of weakness (there were so many of those moments. Who am I kidding? Still are). Will I loathe that aching feeling to escape when there were endless tears and sleepless nights? Can I really possibly savor the changing of diapers, lack of sleep, dried up food on every surface, laundry piles that never shrink?
Somewhere along the way I realized that those ladies probably just forgot the drudgery of the day to day. What they meant to say – and what I now say to mother’s of babies is savor what you can. Inhale their heads as often. Commit that smell to memory. Believe me when I tell you that they won’t always smell so sweet.
Take pictures, videos, sound clips, etc. You’ll return to them again and again and yes, there will be a bit of an ache for those days but we aren’t meant to exist in one place forever so you preserve what you can and live in the present with as much mindfulness as we can muster.
Keep a little journal handy and write down a few of the day to day mundane because one day your mundane will look different and those little notes – like what words they pronounce in an adorably wrong way, or how their hair looks in the morning, or what their sweet mannerisms are as they drift off to sleep or in an attempt to ward off a nap. Those little notes will trigger a flood of memories when you otherwise thought you’ve forgotten it all.
Don’t for a moment live in a puddle of guilt fearing that you aren’t savoring it all enough. The work you are doing is incredibly hard, exhausting and with little immediate reward. Wander through your days with the perspective that it will pass, and yes, much quicker than you can imagine. Forgive the unsavory moments and somehow cement into memory a few things that you hope to not forget when this season has passed. And then promise me and all the future young mothers that you too won’t heap the impossible task of savoring every moment on to them. Next week let’s talk about how we all need be a better boss.