The Many Phases of Mom

written March 22, 2019

Newborn Mom

A new mom, brand new mom, with big eyes of excitement and a little (or a lot) of fear of the unknown. At this phase, the first phase of motherhood, everything is new, and we want to do absolutely everything right by our baby. We try so hard to do everything perfectly and sometimes it can feel like we are failing. Everything is foreign; this is all very new territory. We are constantly searching for balance between our instincts, what others are telling us and what a book or website says. It can take a while to find your groove and get into a routine. You are still trying to figure everything out and so is your baby. This phase is so beautiful; one of the greatest transitions of our lives and it can be very overwhelming too. As new mothers, we strive for perfection and probably read or google looking for answers too often, which worries us even more. We also aim high and hold ourselves accountable. After all, our sweet baby is helpless and depends on us. Personally, looking back, I bathed him probably way too often and washed every article of clothing in Dreft for at least his first year of life. I gave him his first haircut (oops) and badly wanted the expensive, premium diapers. All of his clothes and shoes were brand new, he had absolutely everything we thought he could possibly need and more. Afterall, I researched everything on our registry as if I were going for my PhD in Buy Buy Baby. I even had a binder full of all of the important magazine articles, product warranties, documents from the doctor and more.

Amazon Mom (Aka Shutterfly mom)

I felt like I hit the jackpot- Amazon Mom was a new thing and I happily paid my (then) $49 annual subscription to have 2-day delivery and diapers on my doorstep. I was on maternity leave and Hunter slept a bunch as a newborn, to my surprise. I had time to research and look for all of the answers to what we were experiencing with a newborn. We needed a ton of diapers and wipes. Of course, I didn’t want to go out of the house all of the time with a newborn. And all of the other things I thought we needed were at my fingertips, on Amazon, from pumping accessories, lanolin, pacifiers, diaper cream, teething toys and even my nursing bras. 2 day free shipping, what more did I need? The baby things in our house really began to accumulate. Also, in this phase, you may learn very quickly how to be a mommy photographer, create a Twitter account or hashtag for your baby, document everything and make Shutterfly books regularly. I kid you not; Hunter, our first born, has a Shutterfly book called “My first week of Life”.

Organic Mom

You reach a point where you are ready to begin introducing solid foods and swear we will never feed our baby McDonalds or processed food ever. Like, never ever. Not even when they are 12. We strive to make our baby only organic, homemade fruits and veggies and later grains, and even chia seeds and you document and chart all of the new foods weekly. There are new products on the market that help with making, storing and freezing homemade baby food. If your baby is in daycare, some may provide the most specific and lengthy instructions about the feeding of their baby while not realizing (at all) that the caregiver at daycare working in our son’s/daughter’s room, likely knows all of this better than we do because she handles multiple babies daily and has for years now. We stress and worry if they are getting enough nutrition and healthy balance of fruits and veggies. If their dirty diaper looks weird, after eating said organic fruit and veggies, we Google it. Feeding the baby is constantly on our mind and boy is it time consuming.

Preggo Mom

Pregnant Mom, aka tired as hell mom. Now you have a toddler and are afraid of introducing your first baby to a new baby almost as if you are cheating on him/her. You fear for the full 9 months of pregnancy about how they are possibly going to handle not being an only child, having a new baby in the house and dividing your time as if no one in the world had ever had a sibling before. The worry is so intense you forget that you yourself actually have a sibling, are fine (mostly), and in fact realize your sibling may have been the greatest gift in your childhood life. I know my brother is. You need someone to remind you that giving your baby a sibling is a beautiful thing, a friend for life. But regardless, you are tired and begin, for the first time in your motherhood, to let things slip a little. You consider dozing off on the couch while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Or worse yet, you buy Gerber baby food (gasp!) and stray from your routine. You might skip bath night here or there because you are simply exhausted. You also worry about the costs of another baby and realize you can’t always buy Honest diapers, $18 baby wash and all organic food. Naturally, your mind starts thinking about efficiency in your budget, time and life. Can we reuse these clothes, the crib, car-seat and stroller? Yes, you definitely can. And hopefully many of your larger baby items are gender neutral.

Hunter, 18 months and the October birthday girls

Two under Two Mom

And then baby comes along. That amazing sensation, all over again. The incredible smelling head, teeny tiny feet, sweet yawns and the newborn size diapers. How much you have already forgotten! Things really start getting into perspective here. And then there’s guilt, mom guilt. Your first cries because you are holding your second. Your second cries because, well, babies cry. And then you cry too. My goodness does that hurt. So much transition has to take place for months to come. But eventually #1 warms up to #2 and actually likes their new baby. You see them interact for the first time and it warms your heart like nothing ever has before in your entire life, ever. And you cry again. Happy tears, sad tears, this phase is the fullest of emotions. This is also one of the many phases where you need to reach out for help, if it isn’t being offered already. I am the absolute worst at asking for help from anyone else except my husband. Do yourself a favor and ask for a couple of hours here or there for either personal time or just simply the ability to take a nap.

Mom of Multiple kids

A few months pass and once again you have found your groove. You learn that you can reuse all of those baby clothes, blankets, car-seat, bottles, stroller, baby carrier, etc, etc. But you upgrade your diaper bag from your old designer one to a new handy, extra-large duffle bag size to handle your size 1 and size 6 diapers, bottle and sippy cups, wipes, snacks, and clothes for 2 (see photo below). And you couldn’t be happier! Yes, you are running off coffee and fumes but you feel like a million bucks when you get everyone dressed and out the door in the morning as if you have conquered the world. Now two lives depend on you and Dad and you realize THIS is the time of your life. Who needs sleep anyway?

AKA Naive mom thinking I could fly with 2 by myself

If it ain’t broken Mom

Your new routine becomes normal, you match their clothes for fun and your oldest can talk now, is potty training and can be a sweet little helper. I remember Hunter getting a breast pad and putting it on Deacon’s head in an effort to help. And when I really needed it, he knew how to run to the other room and get a diaper. You can start bathing them together and maybe, just maybe, things are getting easier. You feel yourself relax a little and you don’t worry so much about the small stuff. You are a pro by now! A fly on the wall might say, “Aren’t you going to do something about that?” when the kids are in disarray. But no one is getting hurt, or in danger and for goodness sake, you just sat down. “It’s fine.” you say way too often and your parents wonder why you are letting them do that. You might even rip tags off clothes and put them right on your kids without even washing them! (Ha! Newborn Mom would have never done this.) This may also be the phase where you realize your social life is nonexistent (unless you count meet ups at the park and) and your clothes may be going out of style a bit. And that new song you love so much (“Shut up and Dance with me”) has been out for many months now. Have you bought any new clothes since you purchased your maternity wardrobe? When is the last time you and your husband had a date night? Someone, will you please volunteer to take the kids to the movies or park for a couple of hours on any random day so that I can clean the house?

Trashcan mom

I correlate this with the tremendous impact of Amazon Mom. Holy cow, all of the sh*t laying around. At first I wanted to and did save everything. Then I had to realize, I have 18 years (×3 boys) of saving stuff. I simply can’t save everything. Do you know how many times I have had to make up excuses for when Hunter catches me and is pulling his school work, old broken toys, etc. out of the trashcan or recycling? He gives me such a hard time. I swear he now checks the trash on a regular basis to make sure I am keeping all of his stuff. And when I am cleaning up the playroom? If I find old broken plastic pieces without identification, an old McDonalds toy (because yes I take them to Playland and feed them nuggets sometimes) or a toy that won’t work because it had a missing part? Trash. (Or donate if I can) Old stained shirts? Trash. The dump-load of classwork and work sheets? I’m sorry but Trash/ recycle. I can easily bring home 50 sheets of paper per week; there is no way I can keep it all. Sometimes, the clutter gives me anxiety and I threaten to throw it all away if they create this hurricane mess in their playroom ever again. I don’t have a housekeeper and I am just sometimes looking for a little bit of order to our chaos. When Christmas comes, I prefer (inexpensive) experiences or outings rather than adding to the piles of plastic toys upstairs. I know that they love their toys and they do actually play with them all. However, it is overwhelming, the amount of toys inside our home and literally pouring to the outside too. I also overly use the phrase, “This is why we can’t have nice things!” If you cannot tell, this is my current phase of motherhood. I am, self-proclaimed, trashcan Mom.

Soccer mom

This is the season for mini-vans, huge SUVs and baseball, soccer, basketball, ballet, piano and karate. I mean I can fit 3 more car-seats in my ginormous vehicle and that is in addition to the 3 already there. It is all about efficiency and running from one extracurricular to the next. How do you run 3 boys in 3 different directions when both parents have extraordinarily busy and demanding jobs? I do not know because I am not here yet. I still have one who is a half year shy of playing baseball (and pees in public outside the dugout during his brother’s games) and another in diapers. But I know plenty of parents who do it and juggle everything else on their plate. One of my colleagues sits in his car and watches his son’s soccer practice while attending his online class live session (toward his advanced degree). I know this phase will certainly be busy but I am prepared, third row and all, for when the time comes. I look at this phase with fondness because by the time they are this age, kids can tie their shoes, zip their own coat, get themselves a snack and hopefully know how to hustle a bit.

Light at the end of the tunnel Whether existent or not, this is the phase that we all aspire to. The day it gets easier. I mean, it has to, right? You lean on your mommy tribe to give you insights and tell you that it does get easier. One day they will be wiping their own butt, reading a book, doing homework and caring about their grades. This is uncharted territory for me and I have no experience from which to draw. However, I know as there is light at the end of the tunnel, and things get easier as they get older they are probably less likely to need our help. Wyatt is just 1 year old and so I am a ways away but this phase may be just as hard- to accept that they can do it on their own and don’t need us for every little thing. It may be freeing and equally saddening. For example, my middle son, 4 year old Deacon takes a good 2 minutes to say bye to me each morning with multiple kisses and hugs standing in the doorway to his preschool classroom. He lets me go eventually and finally says, You’re the best! I say it back. It’s our thing. I can’t imagine when he is 8 and in 2nd grade that he wants to kiss and hug his Mama for 2 minutes before heading to school. But I’ll just always have to cling to and remember all of the beautiful phases we lived through when they were young.

The Power of A Mommy Tribe: My Story

A story about how I decided to go back to school as a working Mom of 3.

We decided we wanted to have a 3rd child. Actually, my husband was ready before I was. Once Hunter turned 4, for whatever reason, I decided, I was ready too. Maybe it was because I had transitioned and settled into my new career on campus at this point, we had just moved again and my parents moved as well, so we now had two more grandparents in town. Yes, I remember now! That was it. Timing is everything. I remember thinking logistics: that we had space in the new house, room in our large vehicles for 3 carseats, I was no longer traveling for my job and we have the support of all grandparents in town to help. The time felt right.

It was April and work was busy. Very shortly after we decided to start trying for #3, I had lunch during a conference day with one of my colleagues and friends. He asked me, very plainly, as we were just getting to know one another, “So, what makes Kim, Kim? What do you like to do outside of work?” I awkwardly tried to explain other things that didn’t start with being a Mom.  “I write for fun. I love to run, when I have time. We travel as a family quite a bit…” Later he followed with, “Do you want to get your MBA? You should start!” (It became very obvious to me, I am now working in academia.)

The answer was yes. I have always wanted to go back to school. I have been considering it since I graduated from college. I still have hand written cards from MBA programs (specifically Kelley, where I expressed interest) inviting me to visit campus, dated in 2006. I even asked for a GMAT study guide book (you know those 900 page books) for Christmas in 2007. (I returned it after not looking at it for 6 months and bought a wedding planning book) The timing wasn’t right. Many friends, colleagues, and schools told me to go and gain great work experience first to get more value out of my education. After all, your resume and work experience are part of the application process. Also, the thought of taking the GMAT scared me. And, the cost of grad school terrified me.

So, to answer my colleague, I told him that I would love to start my Master’s degree or MBA eventually but I wasn’t sure of the timing. I thought to myself… we are trying for a third child. I can’t have both right now. But I also have some of a tuition benefit now (not free but not full price either). So, I thought about it and over-analyzed it and tried to figure out what I wanted and what was possible. (Isn’t that what we do, Moms?) I didn’t want to sacrifice a child for a degree but I also didn’t want to sacrifice a degree for a child either.  My ultimate thought was, I didn’t want to spread myself too thin (either as a mom or a student) and fail.

Honestly, we actually stopped trying for a third child for a month because I decided I could apply and start classes and then try for a baby next year or “later”. I thought that I am now working at this school and have the opportunity to apply to one of the very best programs in the country. For that month, I prioritized my degree because in my little mind, I thought I had to choose one. But you know what? The timing is never going to be right, at least for me. You just have to find a way to make it all work if you really want it.

It was so heavy on my mind for a few months.  One day at work, I had a meeting with a faculty member. She had her MBA, her PhD and 4 children. She is highly regarded around the school, is so humble and just the nicest lady in the world. I am honored to get to work with her. She saw my photos of my two boys in my office and asked about them. So I asked her, “How did you do it all with 4 children? How did you go to school, get your PhD, balance home and work and all of your children?” I will never forget her answer. Katherine looked at me and smiled. She told me that when you really want something and have a passion for it, you find a way to make it work. She told me she always knew she wanted to work and when she decided to pursue her PhD, she had 4 young children and was teaching full time. This helped me more than anything, she said, “I would look at Canvas (our online platform) and see the list of all of the classes I was teaching and then there at the top of that list was MY CLASS, my own special class that I GOT to take and it just made me so happy.”

That was it!! That was all I needed to push me forward. A positive attitude and you can do anything. That was exactly how I felt about it. I was so excited to take a class, learn and be challenged, like really challenged. I had to stop worrying about how I was going to make it all happen and just concentrate on actually making it happen. Through all of this, my husband gave me his full support to go back to school and we would figure it all out together. I was optimistic and excited and so determined. I began looking into and preparing for the application process.

That next month I got pregnant with our third son! Later that summer we were on our boat on Lake Monroe and I talked with one of my best friends (who was 8 months pregnant with her third child) and was finishing a certification at work. She is a pharmacist and mentioned that with that certification she already had finished 4 classes toward her MBA in Healthcare, and wanted to continue to finish it. “I mean, I might as well.” she said so casually. She told me this without hesitation or concern. She too was excited about the idea of challenging herself and continuing her studies. I told her I was getting ready to do the same. I was getting ready to apply to a 4-course certificate program that would then lead into the MBA program. Just knowing that another mommy, one of my best friends, felt confident in handling kids and school, gave me that extra boost of confidence.

At 6 months pregnant, I completed the application process. My boss helped me to think through how many classes I could take at once and also worked with me on the tuition benefit. He was instrumental in helping me to get ready for this giant leap. My application included my updated resume, a letter of intent, a letter of recommendation, my official college transcripts and my final grades in accounting mattered. I was accepted! I registered for Managerial Economics in the spring semester. Just by coincidence, my first class began March 6th with a 90-minute live online class and it was the exact day I was in the hospital delivering Wyatt. (Remember I was thinking I had to choose one or the other?)  This is how it is going to go, I thought. Sometimes your greatest challenges in life join forces and meet you at once.

Of course I was stressed and overwhelmed by the thought of missing my first class coupled with being just 6 hours postpartum.  But I then learned that I could watch it later, recorded. You see, online classes are designed for flexibility. They are built for 27-year-old engineers balancing a full time job, work related travel, a girlfriend and grad school. Online classes must also be designed for a 34-year-old mother of 2 who works full time but is currently in the hospital delivering another baby, right?

Now taking Economics, my first class in 13 years, during maternity leave while breastfeeding, being sleep deprived as well as transitioning our 3 year old and almost 5 year old boys to a house with a baby maybe wasn’t my best idea but remember I was excited and optimistic and determined. Now, I can fondly look back at my (most recent) maternity leave and know that taking Economics at that time in my life was one of the hardest things I have done in my life.

Wyatt & Econ

There are the many emotions of being postpartum and of course the tiredness that comes with (breastfeeding) your newborn. You are giving your very best to his health and wellness and not wanting to sacrifice anything for that, meanwhile with 2 other young children learning what it is like to have a baby in the house. (And their mom with a new baby in the house.) Sometimes, in the dark, gloomy corners of my sleep deprivation, when I wanted to be really negative, I thought I was ruining my maternity leave. 

12 weeks, 12 live-online sessions, group assignments, and 2 4-hour exams later, the class ACTUALLY ENDED. I literally took my final exam for the whole 240 minutes and started back at work the very next day. I got a B- as my final letter grade and was happy with that. I celebrated! I don’t know if I even deserved that but boy did I try hard, reading my text book every week of maternity leave relentlessly cross eyed from sleep deprivation. I was afraid of failing, which means getting a C in grad school, because 1) people at work would know 2) even with a discount, there is a financial commitment 3) I was afraid I wasn’t cut out for it after all.

sometimes they like to watch my live sessions

You see, all of this is to make my point that this would not be possible, in my little mind, if it weren’t for the encouragement of my mommy tribe. Katherine inspires me more than she knows and helped me see going back to school in a positive light.  Jen leads by example and makes me strive for more as a mom and a professional. She shows me it is all possible. Just a few small but crucial conversations like these helped me make some major life decisions! I was sure in my mind that it was not possible to have a class and a baby at the same time. And it doesn’t have to be school or a class. This is just my little tiny story. Many moms I talk to don’t like the idea of going back to school and strive for other BIG things in life like running 5Ks, marathons, traveling, raising a family, adopting, advancing in their career, volunteering, renovating or building a new home or building their own business.

So, here is what I learned about the power of your mommy tribe:
1. Take small steps toward making your dreams come true. Set goals and believe in yourself. Be inspired!
2. Talk to your mommy friends, your tribe that you trust, and seek insights and perspectives, other than your own, to consider.
3. Remember the impact of what you say and how you can help others. Remain positive and be helpful, be encouraging to others. Build each other up.
4. You are never too old to do what matters to you. I may not graduate until I am 38 years old, and I don’t care.
5. Pay it forward. Share your invaluable wealth of experiences with other mommies. We need your help.

No matter what, your story and your example is more powerful that you know. If Katherine never told me how fondly she looked at her special class in Canvas, I may not be here to tell you that today I proved myself and completed my certificate in Business Management (12 credits) and am in the MBA program (36 more to go).

You can do anything, Mama. Whatever you want to challenge yourself with, you got this. All the power to you. You are doing a great job and you are amazing. Share your story and thoughts with me and I promise to be a listening ear.

And finally, I’ll share one of my favorite quotes from a mom “I think every (working) mom probably feels the same thing: You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, “This is impossible- oh, this is impossible.” And then you just keep going and keep going and you sort of do the impossible.” – Tina Fey

And cheers to all of the amazing Daddys out there standing by our side and giving their full support.

Written By Kimberly Ennis for lifeloveandlittleboys blog

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originally written November 14, 2018, edited January 9, 2019

Baby Wyatt photo by Amanda Field Photography