July 17

My Mom Journey: Part 1

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Warning: excessively long post. Grab a drink, get cozy, and stay awhile.

I have this dream of being this together person. Who is always organized. Always put together. Never judged. Basically perfect. Haha!

This sense of wanting to be perfect has been exacerbated by being a mom. Because now I’m not just trying to make myself perfect. I’m trying to make two little wild, out of control minions perfect. Or at least perfect enough to pass the “never judged by others” test. Because its ok for them to be imperfect, of course. When they are judged, they aren’t judged. I’m judged. Because I’m their imperfect mom.

Hello Insecurity, Imperfection, and Judgement

I’m the one who didn’t have/make time to brush their hair. Or at least sweep it up into a ponytail before anyone else could see that I let them run around the house with unbrushed, undone hair. If they don’t listen to me or misbehave in front of someone else, I created that. I was too easy on them and that caused them to rebel, to push the limits because they know they can get away with it with me. Or if I let it go, I’m creating it for the next time around.

If they aren’t potty trained on time, it’s because I didn’t take the time and put in the effort to make it happen sooner. Shame on me.

I write this not for a pity party. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. More than anything, I want to get out of this cycle of feeling judged all the time. To feel confident in my own choices of being a mom. To be the mom who lets inevitable judgements just bounce off of her as she confidently moves forward on her own path because she knows it’s what’s best. But how would I get there?

I worried that I wasn’t teaching them enough. Because I caught wind that that judgment was made of me when Claire was a baby once. So I panicked. What if they don’t get enough exposure to letters, numbers, colors, shapes, animal sounds?

Then again, I might be pushing the academics too much. What if there isn’t enough arts and crafts, sensory bins, music, free play, outdoor time, social time??? Needless to say, I was confused and worried beyond belief about how do I do this thing called being a mom. How would I do it right? Or right enough to at least be normal, to not be judged as totally failing at worst or not good enough at best?

Hi – I’m Annie.

I guess I should backup here. Hi – I’m Annie. I haven’t posted to my blog in FOREVER (almost a year to be exact). My blog is ME. Or at least it was supposed to be me. I dreamed that I would be this awesome blogger person who somehow made a living doing the one thing she felt more passionate about than anything in life: writing.

I started my blog well over 5 years ago now. I tried to read and apply what I could about what it takes to be a successful blogger. About how exactly did these people who are pulling in six-figures from blogging actually do it? What was their secret?

All the while I had a full time job. I was fortunate to work from home, but still found my work at home job to be somewhat stressful and still dreamed about how perfect my life might be if I were allowed to pour all that time and energy into this supposed extension of me: my blog.

Just over 3 years ago I became a mom. When I had our first baby, Claire, I made it my life’s mission to make that maternity leave a permanent one.

When the time came to go back to work, we hired a nanny. Because even though I still got to work from home I found it impossible to juggle being the stay-at-home mom I dreamed of being and being a full time remote employee.

About a year and a half, a nanny, and several babysitters later, when I had our second baby, Emma, I took the same personal vow to make that maternity leave permanent. My last chance. It was at this time that I started getting into Instagram, following the template of a successful mom blogger who had managed to make a full time income from her online efforts.

I got laid off from my job shortly after going back to work from my Emma maternity leave, and chose to take a leave of absence from my job at that time to give myself time with the girls. And to blog. Because the dream of this blog succeeding was still fierce within me. I still wanted more than anything to be a BLOGGER. And now that I had two babies who I desperately wanted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom to: a MOM BLOGGER.

Sometimes Dreams Transform

I will just summarize that time in my life to say that I did indeed end up needing to go back to work full time, and I was grateful that my remote job was still there when the time came. But I still felt tortured to have to hire babysitters to come to the house and take care of the girls all day.

That was supposed to be my time to be with them. To teach them the ABCs, how to put on shoes, and the sensory distinction between sandpaper and various fabrics. I felt my early childhood mom-time slipping through my fingers with each new day, because I wasn’t the one waking them up. I wasn’t with them until late in the day. And all that time I was working was supposed to be my mom time.

I will just stop here and say that I KNOW I am lucky to work from home. I am so very grateful that I get to be at home basically all the time. And I am now truly grateful for my job. But I still felt this pull to be that completely dedicated stay-at-home mom I dreamt I might be.

Then, coronavirus happened. And suddenly it became quite acceptable to have 3 year olds singing Twinkle Twinkle on Zoom calls. I know there is no saying that the pandemic was good or it happened for a reason or whatever so I’m not even going to go there. But I will say that through a series of events leading up to that time and the breaking point that sent everyone I work with home to be with their newly homeschooled children and toddlers, I got what I wanted. Sort of.

Work-at-Home Mom: The New Stay-at-Home Mom

My husband, Michael, was also home. As an orthodontist, during the initial shutdown, his business doors were closed to the public. He significantly helped out with the girls and allowed me to get work done during that time. He still helps out a lot (and watches them as I write this!) to give me time that I desperately need to get stuff done.

It was honestly a relief to be free of nannies and babysitters. They were generally all good and I appreciated what they did for us and I’m sure it was even good for the girls to be exposed to other people besides us. But while I was relieved to hand them over, I missed them. And I envied the stay-at-home moms I knew in real life and admired from afar online.

I wanted more than anything the ability to be the present mom, taking the girls on morning walks, making smoothies with them for breakfast, teaching them whatever it was that I was supposed to be teaching them at that time.

How Do You Be a Mom? Asking for a Friend…

In parallel during these past three years, I have struggled to figure out just exactly what am I supposed to be doing with them when I am with them. As in what is a developmentally appropriate activity? Aren’t I supposed to make sure they get bombarded at every turn with the ABCs? Even if ever so subtly. And rotate their exposure to a wide variety of subjects to provide them well-rounded experiences? And somehow challenge them, but in ways that are relevant and appropriate and not going too many steps ahead?

I guarantee they have consumed way more screen time than any educator or official association or whoever would recommend or consider appropriate. They seem relatively well-adjusted so hopefully there hasn’t been any permanent damage done.

I became interested in Montessori shortly after Claire was born. My mom is a teacher and I’m sure it was her talking about Montessori schools with such high regard the whole time that I was growing up that drew me to it.

Montessori Overwhelm

I remember trying to read what I have heard is the foundational book on the Montessori method when Claire was a baby. I might have even gotten it on audio. But it was so far over my head at the time and I really just felt like I needed something quick and straightforward. I needed something to tell me exactly WHAT I needed to do and HOW to do it. In as brief and concise a manner as possible.

As her first few years of life passed, I would watch a video on YouTube here or there about a Montessori playroom setup. I bought several more Montessori books on recommendation with high hopes of reading them (they are still mostly unread and I’m thinking I might re-buy their audio formats so I can actually get through them).

I organized and re-organized their growing collection of stuffed animals, toys, and activities. Labeled and re-labeled bins. Categorized and re-categorized categories of STUFF.

Always trying to get a grip on the constant influx of stuff to their names. Trying to follow the Montessori principles of minimalism, simplicity, and beauty. Because that’s how Michael and I want to live our lives anyway. So there’s never really been any question in my mind that this was the educational path and lifestyle for us. But the HOW escaped me.

I put all this pressure on myself to have dedicated “activity time” and aspired to come up with a curated menu of developmentally appropriate activities that would be rotated out with the same thoughtfulness and variety as a meal plan that everyone in the family doesn’t get burnt out by. But that still passes as exciting enough when old favorites are rotated in and secretly reuses the same things over and over again. You know – perfection.

The Solution I Have Found for Me

I’m so very excited to share that I finally found something that gives me what I have been searching for as a mom. From finding the strength to reject the judgments, the confidence that what I am doing is simply and (im)perfectly on the right path, to what activities are developmentally appropriate, which activities to do on which day (spoiler alert: I was over-complicating it), how to arrange the stuff (ok, I’m still working on that but I have some more focused ideas with less pressure now!), how to stop bad behaviors with simple phrases and by simply having the next activity in mind, when to switch activities and how many activities to do in a day….it all can be so incredibly simple. Well-thought-out, but simple once it has been thought-out.

I found the YouTube videos by Ashley of Hapa Family Vlog over the past few years and here and there I would tune in to see what Montessori topic she was talking about. More recently, especially as I have been trying more strongly to figure out how to manage the girls’ time throughout the days while I am with them, I have been checking in more and more frequently to try to wrap my head around how to do this. How to do Montessori-at-home while the girls are home.

When she announced she had a Montessori at Home Course coming out around the end of this past May, I was excited. To say that the course exceeded any hope I ever could have had would be an understatement. When I finished the course, almost instantly, things started clicking for me. And everything that seemed unrelated suddenly seemed related. My insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams. They all just made sense and I felt that there was now a solution to them. A path that I could follow to be a work in progress towards who I actually wanted to be. As me and as a mom.

While I obviously won’t be able to giveaway the secrets and how-to’s of Ashley’s course, I plan to write next time how I have interpreted this course to work for us and how it has given me the freedom to understand how to be a work-at-home mom. The freedom to completely get that Emma sitting on the floor trying to figure out how to put on her shoe for 20 minutes is a perfectly acceptable use of her time. Or that her stacking boxes of tea from the groceries is a clue to me of what activities to try with her next. And to feel that if the girls are engaged in playing with their tea sets or play dough for 40 minutes, there is no need for me to put an end to that in the name of a schedule or 20 minute timer or the pressure I feel that maybe it’s time to get in some ABCs.

And Finally…

It will never be perfect. I will never be perfect. As a blogger, a mom, or a human being in general. I have been mentally gearing up to get back into blogging for months now, and I finally feel that I have figured out where I want to come from with my blog posts and the direction I want my content to go in.

When the pandemic hit, I saw this post on some major site like the Huffington Post or something with the main intention of providing parents a scrambling sense of order in the chaos that they found themselves thrust into with trying to work at home while their children climbed all over them.

The post literally featured a photo of a piece of paper taped to a pillar in the home with a scratched out daily schedule in like a marker and bad, slanted handwriting. I feel like the author of post was genuinely trying to say: do this! This is good. This is an example of how you can get it together. This piece of paper taped up on the wall with a scribbled out schedule.

My first thought was: I could have done that better. I laugh as I write this because while I do have pretty, neatly written chalkboards hanging in our home detailing the girls’ schedule and our monthly calendar and weekly meal plan, they are often outdated. Making me feel like I’m falling behind yet again. I also wasn’t featured on the Huffington Post (yet) or wherever that post was featured. So I kind of am not “doing better.”

I’m not better. And while I have been waiting for the perfect moment to be perfect and share that I am perfect and that I have somehow made it, that moment isn’t ever going to come. And who wants to read about that anyway?

I was trying to be something I wasn’t. And I was never going to become something I wasn’t. I was always going to be me. Sure, I could evolve from where I was. But I wasn’t going to instantly enjoy the success of being a six-figure stay-at-home mom blogger. That’s for sure crystal clear to me now.

After years of trying to be who I wasn’t, I am really really really working on simply being me. And sharing from the place of who simply me is. Because I don’t think people want to see perfection any more than I do.

I kind of can’t stand when people look perfect anyway. Like the moms with 5 kids all in matching outfits and all looking at the camera and smiling at the same time on Instagram with 300k followers. Maybe it’s real. Or maybe they are robots (kidding!). I’m sure they are wonderful and if that works for them I don’t begrudge it.

But I honestly never did aspire to that kind of perfection and I now truly see that it wasn’t even worth it for me to try. That’s not what I want. And that’s not how I make a difference in the world. That’s not how I connect with other people. I wasn’t meant to be in the popular group. And it’s more than ok.

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  1. I love your story! Thank you for sharing! You speak such a wonderful truth and I look forward to reading more on your journey

  2. Hi! I’m a work at home mom too and Also applying Montessori 🙂 I just want you to know that you’re doing a good job! Your girls seeing you work hard will let them know the importance of a hardworking mom. ❤️

  3. being a mom is truly the hardest job in the world. focus on the things you are doing great and let go of the rest

  4. You are doing a great job Mama! Perfection is false and such a liar. Glad you are ok with not being in the popular group, it’s a hard lesson to learn for some folks, myself included!

  5. It is such a process to disassociate from being ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ to just.. you. My kids are in elementary school and it was definitely very recent for me to be selfish when I need to be, for my own sanity! I strive to do my best with the children when I can.. otherwise we are just surviving!

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