a Mother’s Day not-to-do list

You know that scene in I Don’t Know How She Does It, where Sarah Jessica Parker is lying in bed running through The List . . . to-dos, to-buys, to-calls, to-check-ons, to-look-ups, to-remembers? Yup. That’s my life. Being a working mom means being a master of lists. When I’m organized and things are running smoothly, it’s always easier to find the time, energy and frame of mind for all the much more fun and more spontaneous parts of #momlife like snuggles, movie nights, bike rides, cooking experiments and pillow talk with my sweet 7 year-old Miss Girl.

But for all my lists of things I need to remember to do, I is also have a list of things I need to remember not to do. That one also makes life a lot easier, and it looks something like this:

Don’t Chase Perfection

I wish my life looked like Pinterest. I do. But it doesn’t. And it never will. And the moment I accepted that I’m not the kind of mom who makes adorable bento boxes for lunch, that a store-bought cake for the birthday party is fine and that kid clutter will never be contained in her bedroom or playroom, I gained the clarity to focus on the stuff that really matters.

Don’t Stress

As long as everyone is healthy and alive, everything else can be worked out. Couldn’t deal with the grocery store? Gas station milk works just fine. Laundry isn’t done? Nobody cares if she doesn’t wear a school uniform one random Tuesday. When you stop striving for perfection and apply some creative problem solving to daily tasks, you gain the confidence to handle the chaos in stride.

Don’t Compare

Nobody has their shit together. I promise. I know because I have actually been accused of it on a couple rare occasions. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. That mom you see at pick-up who’s always impeccably dressed and arrives on time in a car that doesn’t have smileys drawn in the dust on the back window or an explosion of toys and trash when she opens the door is probably grabbing take-out (again) on her way home to catch up on work while her kids watch Nick until way past their bedtime. Again.

Don’t Judge

And the flip side of making comparisons, which usually only make you feel bad about yourself, is to have an opinion about moms you think aren’t doing it as well as you (which can feel good in a totally superficial, not-your-best-self kind of way). Maybe Always Late Mom, whose kids are always disheveled is working extra hours because her husband was laid off and she has even less time for all the stuff that has to get done than you do. You never know.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the other working moms out there — you’re all killin’ it in your unique way!

(this was originally set to be part of a collection of Mother’s Day perspectives on being a working mom for my work blog, but only 2 of us contributed, so we decided to scrap the whole thing. lucky for me and this much-neglected blog!)

motherhood: a no wuss zone

Woodward Family 2012 (11 of 42)(photo: Sarah Esther Witherington)

i desperately wanted to do a mushy post about what i love about being a mom. everybody loves a list! especially for a holiday like Mother’s Day! it would be super positive. it would be sweet and touching, with a cute anecdote here or there thrown in. y’all would feel all warm and fuzzy when you read it.  Motherhood as an institution would positively glow. . . . and then i sat down to write. and it felt fake. i mean, like Bruce Jenner league not being true to myself fake. ugh.

don’t get me wrong. i love being a mom. i wouldn’t give it up for the world. but it’s damn hard, y’all. like every minute of every day, whether you’re even thinking you’re in a mommy moment or not. no matter how much wine or coffee you throw at it, you’ve gotta be strong to survive.

no judgement if you’re one of those women who sails through it with spotless white pants and no roots, making organic bento boxes for lunch every day while your 6 adorable children always say please and thank you and always put their things away in their perfect Pottery Barn Kids rooms. i’m just saying that is not my reality. for me, the truth is something more like this:

motherhood ruins your body.
puh-leeease. nobody cares about your post-baby stretch marks or lumps and bumps. that is the least of your worries. i’m talking about real shit that actually hurts. a lot. like DeQuervain’s tendonitis and sciatica. because holding and carrying your child (and all their crap) makes you crooked. period.

i’m talking about deep bone exhaustion and brain fog that lasts for years after your precious baby starts sleeping all the way through the night. sleep deprivation is a way of life. because even when she’s 5 or older, you’ll stay up too late after she’s down trying to get done the 16,000 things that you’ve put off all evening, while feeding, playing an hearing about her day, bathing and putting her to sleep is your priority in the brief window you have with her between getting home from work and bedtime. because school starts way too early. and because there’s soccer early on Saturday. because she’ll stop napping long before you’re ready for it. and because then she’ll be a teenager and you will pretty much never sleep again worrying about what on earth is going on with her.

an orthopedist and a sleep aid will be your BFFs. and don’t even get me started on how long it takes to find time to get your hair or nails done.

motherhood destroys your mind.
this is your mind. this is your mind on motherhood.

so you’ve got complete sleep deprivation working against you. now add in the 34,000 things you have to remember and do on a daily basis, not to mention thinking 3 steps ahead of what might happen next. some of it is just about keeping another human being alive. some of it is just all the other associated tasks: which babysitter is coming which night? is her gymnastics outfit clean? get a birthday present for Saturday’s party. remember to sign the field trip permission slip. remember to pay after school care. crap, who’s picking her up? where is the soccer game this morning and which jersey? please let the soccer game this morning be rained out so i can sleep another hour. some of it is actually interacting with your child, keeping all her friends and latest interests straight. since when is Elijah your boyfriend? and why are you on your third boyfriend at 5 years old? this is not going to be pretty at 15. gaaahhh. and WTF is Sweet Crush Road/Lightening Crush Road?

is it any wonder you have no idea what day of the month it is or what you were supposed to pick up at the store? girl, you’re lucky you made it into work wearing all appropriate items of clothing and might actually match.

motherhood saps your spirit.
now, you’re sleep deprived and in physical pain. your mind is shot because it will no longer hold the 87,000 things you’re trying to stuff in it, you don’t understand half of what is happening around you or remember what you were thinking 6 seconds ago. you don’t have the energy to say hell no to one more birthday party or can i just have ice cream for dinner? and you pretty much feel at least 30% crazy at least 90% of the time.

roll with it. whoever that sane, strong, organized woman you were before you had kids was, she is long gone now, girl. you are no longer in charge. it’s easier to accept it than to fight it. and accepting may truly be the only path to self preservation. perhaps after she goes off to college, you will find the time, energy and focus to really feel your own spark again for more than like 4 hours at a time.

but here’s what motherhood also does.

  1. it makes the little things less important. you realize what really matters when you have something so massively consequential as someone else’s health, happiness and learning to shape and oversee.
  2. it shows you the world through eyes that aren’t judgemental or jaded.
  3. it lets you step into the world of some amazing little people who aren’t afraid to be wrong, sing off key or make up anything they damn well please — and actually believe it.
  4. it shows you what it’s like to never know a stranger and give without expecting anything in return.
  5. it helps you remember what it was like when no possibility was impossible.
  6. it makes you fall in love again and again every single day until you actually think your heart might explode.

and these are the things that make it all worth it, a thousand times over. those and also, the snuggles.

i have had an amazing day so far, complete with sweet gifts and cards, Spy-made Bloody Marys, a massage, a great workout and being left alone to write this. i hope all the other moms out there are getting whatever makes them happy and relaxed today. we all work so hard and should be proud — even on the days when it feels like everything’s falling apart. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

how he made my Mother’s Day


yesterday afternoon, these arrived. sweet Spy actually remembered Mother’s Day all the way in Poland—and did something about it. not that he’s terrible in this area, but he still totally scored some points with the gesture alone.

but there’s more. not only are they gorgeous, they are from my favorite florist. he actually remembered that i had mentioned i liked the flowers he got me from Buckhead Blooms way more than another florist he’s used recently, and acted on that information.

and then there’s the card. an in-writing thank you for everything i do. again, not that he’s an ingrate, but as with many husbands, he’s kind of been spoiled into thinking things just naturally run smoothly in the household, without any idea of the 30 million lists, errands, appointments, purchases , etc. that allow that to be so. acknowledgement and gratitude just makes it all worth it.

it all kind of made me swoon a little.

hope that today, all the other mothers out there are feeling as special and appreciated as i am!