Real Stories About Real Motherhood
Introducing Part Two of our motherhood series exploring real stories about motherhood and conscious living.
Navigating motherhood with social values and environmental consciousness demands flexibility and forgiveness—as could be said of all things parenting. From the products we bring into our home to the nutrition we offer and the habits we establish, raising our little ones to be responsible and compassionate stewards of this planet requires a daily balance of lofty standards and realistic expectations. This is a glimpse inside one mother's attempt—and often hysterical failure—to keep all those balls in the air.
Navigating It All
It happens in fits and spurts. The work, that is. It happens before the sun rises in the sweet hours of morning while creativity runs deep and he dozes away. It happens between hand-offs and pick-ups and meltdowns. The work happens when he’s napping away the afternoon and long after he’s asleep for the night. While his world slows down through slumber, my to do list can finally be picked up. That’s when the work happens.
And then of course sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes everything falls out of balance because sleep is harder earned some days than others. There are afternoons when naps are fought until he’s fast asleep on my shoulder, my humming about cowboys and wide open spaces the only thing willing him to rest his eyes a while. There are nights when teeth are cutting or noses are dripping or bellies are grumbling, nights when we’re too worn to wake before the sun. Those days, those moments when he is up, that’s when everything else slows down.
He stands in his bed clutching a blanket in one hand and a crib rail in the other, crying to be held. He’s fought a good fight, trying to will himself to sleep in all the usual ways—butt up and head down, in a warm room, on a good mattress, with soft white noise. But sleep eludes him, and so he stands in utter defeat and protests the exhaustion in the only way he knows how. He wails.
I didn’t expect that about motherhood.
The wailing, yes, of course. I expected the great curveball that is bringing another being into this world. I expected to question everything I knew to be true. I expected to be tired and overjoyed, overwhelmed and yet sometimes still bored. I expected for this little to add a new level of crazy into our carefully curated routine, but I certainly didn’t expect him to slow everything down.
There is something about the lack of control—that he has over his needs and that I have over him—that has challenged any semblance of structure during this birthing season of my life. It’s all I can do to respond to his needs, however erratic they may be and with whatever grace I can muster. There is no telling a hungry baby to be patient, just as there is no telling a tired one to sleep. You work for it. They work for it. We stop and slow down and meet them where they are.
As quickly as I had settled into my inbox—coffee poured and music up—I hear him fighting. Having had one eye on the monitor and the other on my work, I know how hard he’s tried and realize now the only chance is against my chest. So work waits.
That part never came easily. The relinquishing of each day’s schedule to the soft tether of a baby-turned-toddler is, to this day, one of the most painful parts of parenting for me. I spent so many years building a business that would bend to my will and now I must learn to bend to his. Everything grows more slowly in this season and for that time and perspective I am immensely grateful. Anxious too, and sometimes embarrassed, but mostly grateful for the way he has challenged me to step back, focus in, and trust that it will still all get done—albeit in a new rhythm, a new way—between burps and bouncing.
Getting It All Done
Tips for balancing motherhood, entrepreneurship & working from home
A few things, then, that are working for us right now:
- Establish a routine. They say that babies thrive with routine, but I’d underestimated that when they’re happy, we are too. So set a routine. Help your little one learn when the hand offs are coming, when they have your full attention and when they don’t. It makes the transitions easier for my son and lowers my own anxiety if I have work windows I can count on—whether they’re a normal 9-5 or not.
- Embrace the imbalance. Balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood is hard. Some days the professional pressure accumulates and there’s more work and less mothering. Other days he demands my full attention and deadlines have to slip. But falling off balance is part of the dance that is motherhood. I can fight the ebb and flow or accept that fact that my attention will have to swing between the two in ways I simply cannot schedule.
- Find your tribe. Ask for help. Lean in. Build support systems you can trust, both personally and professionally. Train colleagues so they can step in on work projects in a pinch. Find childcare you can trust. Motherhood has challenged me to set aside my ego and ask for help and I feel nothing but gratitude for the people I trust on the daily.
- Redefine what’s reasonable. Productivity, I’ve found, can no longer be measured in individual meetings or mornings. With the broken work schedule that works for me, I’ve had to redefine what can reasonably be accomplished in any one day. I measure productivity in weeks now, sometimes even in seasons, and it makes a world of difference for my own sense of self-worth in the workplace.
- Give yourself grace. Two years and one toddler into motherhood and I’ve learned that I may forever be a bit distracted. When he’s happy and healthy and well cared for, I can focus fully on work, but when handoffs are hard or sickness strikes or childcare fails I am bound to be distracted worrying about or tending to his wellbeing. For me, right now, that has to be okay.
He’s asleep on my chest now. His drippy nose running onto my sleeve and his sweet sweaty head tucked under my chin. I rock and he dozes and—for the moment—we’re winning. He’s sleeping and I’m slowing and despite the long list that awaits me I know this is where I need to be. And the deadlines? For some I’ll ask forgiveness, for others I’ll work long into the night.
It doesn’t happen the way it used to, but it still happens.
Kassia Binkowski is a Contributing Editor at The Good Trade and the Founder of One K Creative. She grew up in Madison, WI and traveled her way around the world to Boulder, CO which she now calls home. Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Kassia supports innovative organizations from Colorado to Kathmandu tell their stories of social change through writing, photography, and design. Kassia is an eternal optimist and forever a backroad wanderer.