Jill's Blog Posts

Jill tiptoed into motherhood 3 ½ years ago, leaving full-time work as a college administrator, career coach, and grant writer. She now spends her time “momming it up” with her two little sidekicks, Judah (3 1/2yrs) and Frances (3 months), and totally hit the jackpot with her software engineer studmuffin husband of 12 years. Most recently she has taken up educating people on and selling essential oils, which adds to her fairly eclectic but totally normal moonlighting roles of higher ed consultant, personality assessment trainer, and play-doh enthusiast.

To Love A Mom...
I never gave it much thought, really. Not until now with two children of my own sitting close to me on the floor, at the table, on the couch, everywhere. Always close. You were just there – the one I reached for throughout my day. The one I followed around with questions about my socks, a new word, or Saturn.

You were one of those people who was irreplaceable, but simultaneously dismissed as I went about my daily activities. If I close my eyes tightly and try to remember I can see shadows of activity in the background, assuring me of your presence while I am running through the sprinkler in the backyard, coloring at my 6th birthday party, and crocheting miles of asymmetrical scarves. But at the time I was too busy cartwheeling my way through the living room to notice how the hum of the washing machine kept rhythm with your footsteps throughout the house. And now, I am you. Mom.

"You never let on to the exhausting gamut of emotions you must have experienced throughout a single day."

It all seemed effortless then. Like my day just naturally wove together from breakfast to bedtime. When I think back, I don’t remember you whipping around the kitchen wishing you were anywhere but there. I don’t remember you letting on to the struggle of being a support-player in everyone’s lives – the person everyone desperately needs but unconsciously overlooks. I don’t recall exasperated sighs when I spilled juice all over the carpet, eye rolls when I flopped dramatically to the ground, or the deep groove of a furrowed brow that emerges over years of use. You never let on to the exhausting gamut of emotions you must have experienced throughout a single day.

Was it just easier when you were a mom?

If I had taken a moment I may have noticed the weariness in your eyes, or the slouch of your shoulders at 5:30pm when all of our lives collided at the dinner table. I probably wouldn’t have known what to do with that information back then, but now I feel like it would be a bit of a relief to know that my perception was not your reality.

Motherhood is one of those things that so many people experience. It is one of the most common roles that someone can find themselves in. And maybe it is that commonness that makes us get confused, simplifying it. Somehow we trick ourselves into thinking that if everyone is doing this then it must be easy. Regular. Something mastered and formulaic, like a math equation. A side note to the real challenges in life, rather than a focal point of continual thought, concern, and self-doubt.

<span "font-size:12.0pt;font-family:cambria;="" mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-fareast-font-family:"MS="" 明朝";mso-fareast-theme-font:="" minor-fareast;mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:"times="" roman";="" mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;mso-ansi-language:en-us;mso-fareast-language:="" en-us"="">But motherhood, as beautiful as it is, is hard. It is full of paradoxes that have to be navigated and negotiated: hold me, but don’t touch me; teach me, but don’t tell me what to do; help me, but don’t hover. You become so many different things to so many different people that you aren’t quite sure what you need in order to do a good job. You don’t even know how to define whether or not you are doing a good job, so you just keep working toward this hazy goal of being a “good mom.”

"Moms don't know what the need, they don't know if they are successful."

And so it’s hard to be around us. Moms don’t know what they need, they don’t know if they are successful. They appear confident, but aren’t really equipped to navigate the 500 different situations and decisions that occur in a single day. They appear ruffled one moment, and controlled and intentional another.

As Mother’s Day is approaching, here is the thing that she needs most: Love her. Love the confidence edged with insecurity, love the steadfastness, love the fear and determination in her eyes. Love the crazy that follows her around like a swarm of bees, love the disheveled hair, love the grumpy way she wakes up in the morning, knowing that she has no idea if what she’s doing is making a difference. Love the untitled google doc she calls a baby book. Love the old shoes and new hair. Love the absurd way she insists that everyone get dressed even when it’s a stay-at-home rainy day, love the burned food, and love her demands for alone time and resulting complaints of loneliness. Love the milk you find in the pantry. But most of all, love the way she loves her family. The way she loves you. Them.

And then everyone will remember back to “those days.” You know, the ones when motherhood was easy, children were laughing at the table, days were filled with intentional learning and fun, and family was both a noun and a verb. Your love will shape her memories, moving her attention from her inadequacies to the beauty of her family.
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15 Things Moms Know Are True
There are very few things you can rely on when raising kids. There are no rules, no advice articles or books that absolutely pertain to your child. But after nearly four years of extensive research and observation, I have found the following list of 15 things to be true:

"Mastitis comes on Fridays at 10pm, colds on Tuesdays as everyone is hustling out the door for work, and weekend stomach bugs attack."
1. You will master the sideways glare. You know the look you give when simultaneously thinking, Are you kidding me? Someone tell me this is not really happening right now. It’s something you rarely used before children and yet now you find yourself pulling it out regularly and directing it toward kids pushing your child, mothers ignoring their pushy kids, women dressed to the nines who are rolling their eyes at your disheveled and crying baby, any person who utters the words “if you aren’t busy right now…,” and even the sweet woman who just wants to “touch those cute little cheeks” moments after coughing wetly into her hands. This is not to be confused with the look given to your kids when you find toys in the toilet, food under the bed, or coins and buttons placed in the hands of a baby by a loving sibling.

2. Illness strikes at specific times. Mastitis comes on Fridays at 10pm, colds on Tuesdays at 7:40am as everyone is hustling out the door for work, and just when you think you have navigated the week smoothly and are looking forward to a fun family weekend stomach bugs attack…on Thursdays between 1:25am and 4:50am. Welcome to middle-of-the-night cleanup, a mom rite-of-passage.

3. There is a direct correlation between the amount of healthy food on your toddler’s plate and the amount of nutritionally deficient food on your own. Carrots, cucumbers, hummus, strawberries? That must mean that mama is eating cracker halves, old toast from the morning, or other items scavenged from the previously discarded toddler snack. Mommy meals are either 100% carbs or are 100% drinkable.

4. Everyone poops together. Have you noticed this yet? Mom excuses herself for a few minutes of privacy and suddenly the baby erupts and toddlers everywhere are yelling moooommy, I’m dooooone!signaling the need for a wipe. I refer to this aspopcorn prayer pooping. Someone starts it off, everyone else joins in as comfortable, and then once everyone has taken their respective turn there is a grand simultaneous finish. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Naagtag.com

5. Public spaces trigger the part of a child’s brain called the monster lobe. You may not have learned this in 10th grade Biology class, but it is a part of the prefrontal cortex impacting judgment and mood, and also plays a significant role in the pons Varolii that send signals to the bladder and bowels. It basically just covers all areas of the brain, making your children incapable of functioning normally. Grocery store? Diaper blowout. Children’s Museum? A tantrum that tops all tantrums. Interestingly, in-law visits also trigger this part of the brain.

6. WebMD was created by sadists. With baby #1 I thought that this valuable resource was launched to help mothers. After diagnosing my children with numerous ailments at 2am, and researching 3-D printing options of new body parts on this site, I have come to find that this is simply not true.

7. Piling toys on top of your infant or toddler in an attempt to distract them from what you are doing causes them to be even more interested in you. They know something is up. Even as I write this with my 4 month old wobbling in the bumbo seat, barely visible under the stack of teething toys I have place on her lap, she is lunging for my laptop.

8. There is a very real thing called Mommy Language. We communicate in looks, gestures, spoken half-thoughts, and sometimes even in monotonous chanting in order to remember what we were doing (groceries in trunk, groceries in trunk, groceries in trunk). It works, so let’s agree to treat it as a normal mode of communication.

""Helping" adds on 10 minutes of struggling, 7 minutes of tantrums and 12 minutes of tantrum recovery."
9. The doorbell rings at the worst time. The mailman, UPS driver, Tommy from the t-ball team, and girl scouts everywhere time theirdoorbell ringing visits to directly coincide with naptime.

10. “Sometimes,” “Maybe,” and “Later” have a different translation for toddlersYes, we will do that thing you are begging to do immediately as long as you keep repeating what you want. Wipe these terrible words from your vocabulary. And also, loosely related to this, toddlers can remember things that you whispered five days ago if it pertains to parties, camping, “Sandy” the electric horse at the grocery store, the playground, or shoes, but will instantaneously forget any requests you make that involve words like “clean,” “pick-up,” or “help.” I would suggest combining your requests with whisper words for best results: “Judah, I need you to help pick-up your toys so that we can put on your new shoes and go to a party at the playground.”

11. It only seems faster to assist your toddler in strapping on shoes, climbing into the car seat, or putting on a backpack. Do not be fooled. Helping adds on 10 minutes of struggling, 7 minutes of tantrum, and 12 minutes of tantrum recovery to any given task.

12. Babies have an innate strength and tenacity that can bring adults to their knees. They can yank out clumps of hair and mash flesh into something unrecognizable with their tiger claw kung-fu grip. My daughter can twist my skin a full 360 degrees as I scream silently while bobbing her to sleep. She also has the ability to knock the wind out of me with a well-aimed kick. Beware the cute chubby fingers and ooey-gooey thighs.

13. Red lights, newly paved roads, and “smooth ride” suspension systems are to be avoided at all costs. Infants who miraculously choose to sleep in the car will be jolted awake at anything that resembles slow speed or a glassy ride. Choose a route devoid of stoplights, pick the road with the most potholes, and select the car with the most turbulent suspension. These things will lull your babe to sleep. And also, if you have an older child riding as well, ensure that they make as much noise as possible. Once they go silent, the baby will shriek.

Grandmothers and other helpers are saints.
14. The person who offers to watch your kids, clean your house, or run errands for youwithout being asked is in line for sainthood.This is true for working moms, stay-at-home moms, and work-from-home moms alike.  It may appear that moms in the professional workplace have time to run errands over lunch, or that stay-at-home moms spend their days wondering what to do with their extra time, or that work-from-home moms sit at their home office desks, fully showered, while their children nap simultaneously. This is a lie.

15. Mom guilt is real. We feel guilty for working, we feel guilty for not working. We feel guilty leaving our kids for a weekend getaway, we feel guilty staying when we know we would be better moms if we got a little me-time. We wonder if we’re giving enough time and attention to our partners, we wonder if we are giving enough time and attention to our children. We never wonder if we are giving enough time and attention to ourselves.
What other things do you know to be true?
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Redefining Me
I remember talking to a work colleague shortly after getting married. She was curious about my baby-making timeline, as so many back then were. We were in a conversation over coffee where I assured her that “3-5 years is our target.” I clung to that timeline as my early married life mantra, much like when I was a college freshman announcing to anyone who asked that I was going to be a pre-med and English double-major so that I could write medical textbooks upon graduation. A far cry from the Psychology and Philosophy routes I actually chose.
"3-5 years is our target.”
-I clung to that timeline as my early married life mantra.
Since 3-5 years is basically 10, it seemed like an accurate target at the time. One of the things that she told me as she admired her manicured nails and smoothed her dry-cleaned slacks was that she couldn’t remember anything about her life before her kids were born. It wasn’t apologetic, it was a statement. She had been married for four years before her first child, and she alluded to the idea that the time had been a hazy blur of disposable memories.
I cringed. I wanted to leave this conversation. Even back then I could tell exactly when someone was going to espouse unsolicited advice under the guise of “mentoring.”  I was not disappointed.

Now I realize that she wasn’t necessarily trying to advise me, she was confiding in me based on her experience. I wish I remembered everything she had said.

Three and a half years into my own motherhood experience, I find I am having the complete opposite experience as my former colleague. I remember a lot about our pre-children years. I remember what we did, where we lived, who we spent time with, jokes that we found hilarious, the restaurants we would frequent and what our daily lives looked like. I can remember these things in uncharacteristically acute detail, especially in the midst of a meandering toddler conversation or a particularly messy diaper blow-out.

And I find the hardest part about this “remembering” rabbit-hole is this realization: I used to know myself.

I knew how I handled social situations, what made me laugh, the moments that contained personal fulfillment. I knew how others viewed me, what they counted on me for personally and professionally, and what the expectations were for the relationships I was a part of. I knew in detail my triggers for anger, stress, and disappointment, and I also knew what I could contribute to the world around me to make it a better place. I spent hours thinking about my personal life purpose and that eventually translated into a career of assisting others in articulating and owning their own understanding of their purpose and applying it to creative personal and professional situations.

Then I had Judah.


When I was first pregnant with him I remember thinking thatpretty soon I would feel more like myself. I thought the only thing I was experiencing was physical change. Then I had this sweet baby boy and I continued to clumsily grasp at the hope that it wouldn’t be long until old Jill will reemerge and everything will get back to normal.

The days and weeks started to flow together to form the past three years. Everything about my life was different but I continued to assume that aside from my circumstances, not much had changed.

The thing is, I can’t quit my job, trade in my daily Starbuck’s for lukewarm day-old coffee, surround myself with new mommy-friends, and pour my life into nurturing a new person and expect to be the same old Jill. Laundry of that magnitude changes you. Kids music blasting in the car changes you. Knock-knock jokes and fort building changes you. Focusing thought and energy on meal plans and pre-school decisions changes you. Seemingly inconsequential moments of activity blur together to create a new life.

My life of intellectual service to others turned into a literal manifestation of physical service to my family. All of the household jobs I formerly skirted or delegated found their place in my own personal daily routine. 
And I was ticked.

If only someone would come do my laundry, clean my house, and make all the meals, THEN I could go back to the Jill I knew. 

If only I could have a day to myself, time to focus on my side projects, and have 10 minutes of pure relaxation, THEN I would see a glimpse of my old self.

Aaron and I set up my life to humor my perceived needs. Judah was at the babysitter’s one day a week, Aaron and I shared household responsibilities, and he listened to my evening pontifications of what else I could do to get back to myself.

The problem is, I was chasing an image and understanding of myself that no longer existed

Kids change you. Period. 

Now, different things make me laugh, cry, or get angry. Being a parent will never allow me to go back to my former years of not being a parent. And I am finally, FINALLY, getting to the point where I no longer mourn the pre-children days that seemed so full of freedom of experience. Because when I look back, they really don’t compare to what we have now. Those years contributed to who we are as a family, but I look at them in a similar way as I look at my years in middle school, high school, or college. They happened, I made the most of them, and I exited those periods of my life wiser (hopefully) and ready to tackle the next phase.

So maybe I agree with my colleague after all. It’s not that she couldn’t remember her life before kids, it’s that she isn’t the same person and she refuses to dwell on that. 

If I talked to her again now she would probably tell me that the “old me” is long gone. I won’t find her in the piles of dirty dishes, the pre-school car line, the work projects I finish while bobbing my infant on my knee, or the handprint salt-mold I made for the grandparents. She would tell me that it’s time to stop resting in the disappointment that wraps around me in that futile search and embrace the beautiful new version of myself. The me that laughs loudly, cares endlessly, hurts deeply. The me that sees value in teaching my children about generosity, bravery, and empathy. And the me that can impact and influence others positively in amazing new ways because of my experiences as a mom. 

Then, I may find, I actually like this new version of me.
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