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Finding Myself in Motherhood: The Transition Away From Work

My whole heart

If you had asked me two years ago if I thought I’d keep working after our second baby was born, my answer would have been a resounding, “Of course! I’m not the stay-at-home mom type.” I never thought there was anything “wrong” with being a stay-at-home mom, I just KNEW that wasn’t the path for me. I would have told you that I valued my autonomy, independence, and work life too much to give it up. I would have had the certainty of a politician, and I’d have been overly confident in my decision.

Fast forward to today and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for seven months and I finally (read: barely) feel like I’m settling into this new role, which is why I’m writing this post. Writing this all down is an attempt to hold on to the fleeting feeling that I have settled in comfortably to this life I’ve found myself in. If you’re a parent—and even if you’re not, even if you just care about something deeply in this world and put forth an immense amount of effort every day to do the best you can to care for it—you’ll understand why I want to hold onto this feeling. Not every day is punctuated by the perception that I’m doing a good job in this life. Some days are littered with frustration, irritability, and fear that I’m completely screwing up our kids.

Berry Picking

As I reflect on the last seven months, there are a few key things that stand out as absolutely essential to thriving in this role. These are my non-negotiables, if you will, and must remain a part of my focus if I want to excel and be the best mom, wife, friend, daughter, PERSON, I can be. These are MY essentials, and they may not be yours. I encourage everyone to find what it is that will help them be their best in their own lives.

Realizing I’m not the only one making sacrifices.

This is a big one. And it’s the ONLY way for me to avoid the monster known as resentment.

My husband Chad said something to me recently that really resonated: “It’s healthy to change your mind.” Although he wasn’t referring to my decision to quit working, that’s what it made me think about because, truthfully, I knew I wanted to leave work long before I finally bit the bullet and quit. I felt the tug at my heart and the call of my family to be with them as much as possible, but work was such an enormous part of my life, and I was so scared at the thought of giving it up. So scared at changing my longstanding belief that I would always remain in the workforce, even through motherhood.

Unlike a lot of people, I loved my job at CrossFit. I loved the company, and I believed in and stood behind its mission. Of course, this didn’t make leaving any easier. I had been employed by CrossFit for more than six years, and my job offered flexibility, autonomy, community, even workout space. I had an unrivaled benefit package, worked from home, made my own hours (mostly), and adored (most of) my co-workers. Quitting seemed stupid, but that didn’t change the fact that the desire to do just that was growing everyday.

When I tell people I left the workforce to stay home with the kids, almost always their response is something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re so lucky you can do that. That’s so special.”

Living in coastal California, where housing—and everything else—isn’t exactly cheap, I started to realize how lucky I truly was. And I started to wonder, was this luck? Or rather a result of extreme sacrifice on the part of Chad? Turns out, it was the latter.

Ellis, Chad, and Isla

Depending on your desires in this life, you’ll either view my decision to quit working as “lucky” or as having made a huge sacrifice myself in giving up my career. I view it as both. Chad selflessly encouraged me to leave my job for months before I actually did. He saw the stress I was under, which was mostly produced internally, and he watched me crumble at the feeling that I was being pulled in two different directions.

It wasn’t until our nanny unexpectedly quit that I decided to take him up on his longstanding offer. In doing so, I shifted the burden of our family’s entire financial stability completely onto his shoulders.

Chad is a helicopter pilot. He works for CalStar and has an awesome schedule that allows him to have every other week off. Only now, his “off” weeks aren’t really off weeks. In the past two years, he has built an impressive real-estate portfolio that has allowed him to produce cash flow through purchasing properties in other parts of the US. Additionally, he is working in various roles with the company, Cash Flow Tactics, which helped him discover this new way of creating income. Even further, he cashed in on every privilege he was able to for the time he spent in the military—9-and-a-half years, and 4 tours overseas—which included financial benefits and other perks. He’s essentially created streams of income from nothing, coming in from all different directions.

Chad’s sacrifices to date include: the total freedom of his off week, the ease that comes with knowing we have a double income, and countless hours that he could be spending doing things he loves—surfing, hanging out with the kids and I, traveling. I’d also argue that he literally gave up some of his brain space because I know from being around him that financial freedom and security consume large parts of his mind nowadays.

While we still get a lot of family time because we are diligent about it, Chad has undoubtedly immersed himself in his new role: the sole financial provider for our family. And that is some heavy shit.

Chad and the kids—BEACH DAY

In recognizing and acknowledging the sacrifices he’s made, I’m able to practice empathy for him and his position as well as my own. In addition to all he does, he is still an extremely involved father, and helps me around the house everyday, which does not go unnoticed. Shout out to my husband, he’s amazing.

Learning to meditate.

I am a person of routine. I like order, predictability, and schedules. I like when things go as planned and I’m generally not super spontaneous. Well, my life is an illustration of none of that right now. Literally, not one single thing. Three and 1-year-olds are not orderly or predictable. They couldn’t give a shit about your “schedule,” and they are probably the most spontaneous beings there are out there: “We’re going here?” “Great!” “We’re going there?” “Let’s go!” Literally, they are game for anything.

I’ve learned over the past several months through mindfulness meditation that our consciousness shapes our reality. Just my saying that I’m a person who likes routine literally destroys any chance I may have at being someone who can roll with the punches. So I had to change my mind.

Ellis and I

Using an app called “Waking Up,” I’ve found meditation helpful in bringing me back to the present and acknowledging who I am today, in this moment. If the day goes as planned, great. And if it doesn’t? There’s a phrase that is used often in mindfulness mediation: Begin again. Ellis didn’t take his nap on time? I aim to to regroup and roll with it. Isla is having a full-on toddler meltdown when I’m just trying to take her to do something fun for her? I try to compose myself before comforting her, and begin again. And sometimes I don’t begin again until I’ve already lost my temper. And then I just begin again once I recognize that. It’s been a truly magical saying when spending lots of time with our two littles. This shift in mindset is necessary for me to maintain sanity and truly enjoy the moments I get with my family.

I’m obviously not perfect. I am not always in the present moment, I don’t always have the patience to begin again, and I lose my cool often. But another lesson I have taken from meditation is that it is a “practice.” Some people say they can’t meditate because they think too much and they can’t ever stop thoughts from arising in their minds. The goal—the practice—of meditation is to recognize those thoughts and the fact that they’re occurring, and then come back to the present moment—that’s what you’re practicing. You’ll never stop having thoughts. So for me, raising the kids is a practice in which I’m always striving to be better and more present, mindful, empathic, and aware.

Maintaining my “job” brain and satisfying a passion.

When I decided to quit my job, it was really important to me to maintain some way in which I could still use my “job” brain. I wanted to be sure to keep my skills as a writer and an editor sharp, while also doing something I felt passionate about. While still working for CrossFit, I started a side copy-editing business as a way to make some extra money, and because I felt the urge to start something that was just my own. My entrepreneurial spirit was awakening.

I was really gung-ho about the business at first—Written Word Copy Editing at your service! But I soon realized that it wasn’t in fact editing that I was passionate about; it was CrossFit. I studied communications with a focus on media and journalism, and specifically writing and editing, at Cal State University Monterey Bay. Writing and editing are in my skill set, and I do enjoy making writing the best it can be, but I came to realize that the reason I enjoyed my job so much is because I love CrossFit. It was the content I was working with that filled my passion. So today, I do some writing and editing for businesses in the CrossFit space, but I found a new project that truly fills both voids: the need to use my learned skill set, and fulfill one of my passions at the same time. Enter The BIRTH Project.

My motivation

The BIRTH Project is the blog you’re reading this on right now. Here, I publish birth stories written by parents. The idea stemmed from my seeing many friends come away from their birthing experiences feeling defeated because things didn’t go as “planned.” Maybe they had c-sections when a vaginal birth was desired, maybe they ended up with an epidural when they were hoping for an unmedicated experience. Whatever the case may be, it was heartbreaking to see them feeling as though they had failed in some way. So I wanted to create a safe space to tell and celebrate their stories.

Today, The BIRTH Project has evolved into a space where I hold online meet-ups on topics around pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Chad calls me an “information broker” and I love that. The project will grow organically, and at its own pace, since I am taking care of two small kids, and some days, I have zero seconds to dedicate to it. And I’m totally fine with that.

Always learning.

So that’s it. Those things, for me, have been the essentials to settling into this new life—so far. Everyday I find that there are more and more habits that support me in this new endeavor. The real goal is to be the best version of me—for my kids, my family, my friends, and myself.

When I started this post the goal was to write about the transition from working mom to “stay-at-home mom” (side note: If anyone has a better term than “stay-at-home mom,” please send it my way!) But as my thoughts unfolded, I realized it’s about so much more than that. It’s about how this simple transition from working to not led me to so many other, more profound transitions. It’s about how the pursuit of motherhood has led me to strive to be the best I can be everyday, and to realize and acknowledge my potential. Motherhood has taught me so much about myself already, and it continues to change my mind everyday about who I thought I was before I experienced it.

More berries!

Below are a few additional efforts I’ve recently taken as I navigate this life. These may appear to be honorable mentions, but I can’t express enough how they’ve helped me in this journey.

Reading: When I was working for CrossFit, I didn’t read for pleasure too much because I read articles, rulebooks, social-media posts, etc., all day long. I’ve fallen back in love with reading and it is a wonderful way to unwind and learn.

Choosing sobriety 90 percent of the time: My life is better without alcohol in it. Period. It’s that simple. It’s not to say I won’t have a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, or a glass of wine on occasion, but limiting alcohol consumption has proven very beneficial for me.

Cutting back on social media: I allow myself 30 min. per day on social media. I think it’s a great tool and I enjoy it. I also think it can be addicting and distracting, and take too much awareness away from our days. Our kids don’t remember a time when social media didn’t exist. We do, and I believe we have a responsibility to teach them how to live a full life without it.

Working out in our home gym: If you know me, you know I love the gym. With two small kiddos, it’s a real chore to get there everyday, so Chad and I have started utilizing our home gym and we are loving it. Feels like the day is three hours longer.

Podcasts and books that have helped me along the way as I pursue my best self.

Books: The Trauma Spectrum: Hidden Wounds and Human Resiliency, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering a happy, healthy, wealthy alcohol-free life, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show, Finding Mastery, HOME Podcast, The Modern Mamas Podcast, The Tribe Life Podcast.

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The BIRTH Project Network Meet-up: Home Births

On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, The BIRTH Project Network held its first-ever online meet-up. This inaugural meet-up covered the topic of home births, and featured an experienced home-birth midwife as the subject matter expert.

Click here to learn how you can participate in upcoming meet-ups.

The conversation covered the home-birth process from pregnancy, to labor and delivery, and through the postpartum period. You can watch and listen to the whole conversation above, or see time stamps for highlights listed below.

Learn About the Subject Matter Expert

Kelly Olmstead, LM, CPM, is an Iowa native who has been in Santa Cruz, California, for 17 years. A mother of three, she has been active in the Santa Cruz birth community since shortly after the home birth of her third child, Henry, in 2002.

Her particular passion is ensuring that women understand they have options in birth—and the benefits and risks of various choices—so they can make the best choice for themselves and their babies.

After four years of midwifery school and apprenticeship, Kelly was licensed by the Medical Board of California in March 2010. By the close of 2017, she had attended more than 450 births. She’s also served on the board of directors for Birth Network of Santa Cruz County for several years.

Additionally, Kelly is the co-founder of a midwifery advocacy group called Birth Santa Cruz. Check out BirthSantaCruz.com on Facebook—it’s a great way to stay up to date about what’s going on with birth locally and nationally.

More recently, she joined forces with two other amazing midwives to create Pacific Community Midwives. They each have independent practices but collaborate and back one another up.

From 2011-2014, Kelly was Regional Co-Rep for the California Association of Midwives (CAM). She remains active on projects with their sister organization, the California Association of Licensed Midwives (CALM), including keeping midwives updated on continuing-education opportunities, meeting with state legislators on midwifery issues, and creating welcome packets for newly licensed midwives in the state.

Highlights and Time Stamps

19:07- Kelly discusses an effective written home-birth birth plan.

13:00- Amara shares her takeaways after experiencing a home birth turned hospital transfer.

24:00- Katy shares her home-birth takeaways.

28:15- Kelly suggests what to look for when trying to find the right midwife for you.

29:20- Katy shares the story of when she got in a car wreck at 8 months pregnant.

31:45- Katy shares her biggest insight after working with a midwife and experiencing a home birth.

34:00- Participant question about not wanting any ultrasounds, but suspecting she’s carrying twins.

38:00- Participant question about a safe distance from home to hospital when planning a home birth.

41:50- Participant question about responding to family who are hesitant about home births.

47:15- Kelly discusses the hospital vs. home-birth experience.

49:08- Kelly addresses how she remains confident as a midwife.

51:00- Kelly discusses how she handled an emergency with a patient who had Hellp syndrome

54:20- Participant question about assuring women that their births will work out the way they want them to.

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The BIRTH Project Network

I am so excited to announce the launch of The BIRTH Project Network! The overarching goal of The BIRTH Project is to add value to the birth community through storytelling. By publishing birth stories written by parents, I hope to spread awareness, knowledge, and connection in regards to the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum processes.

The BIRTH Project Network is a way to further connect, relate to, and learn from others in the birth community. The Network is comprised of online topic-based meet-ups with topics ranging from pregnancy, to birth, postpartum, and beyond. Each meeting is one hour in length and features a subject matter expert (SME). The SME is always someone who has more knowledge, experience, and qualifications on the given topic than I do. The SME is present to partake in the discussion, share their stories, share information, and answer questions.

Topics that are currently in the works include home births—this will be the inaugural meet-up!—postpartum fitness, nutrition during pregnancy, postpartum partner relationships, unmedicated births, c-section support, and so much more.

Please visit The BIRTH Project Network page HERE to find out how you can participate in this FREE online meet-up. I’m looking forward to chatting with you!

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Fit Mama Real Food Radio Podcast

I was recently invited to be interviewed by Heather Englund of Fit Mama Real Food Radio. We chatted about about our birth experiences, where the inspiration for The BIRTH Project came from, and where I hope this journey leads. Give it a listen to learn a bit more about me and my vision for The BIRTH Project. Check out her other episodes, too, which focus on food, fitness, motherhood, and mindset.

Hope you enjoy!