Do-It-Yourself Motherhood

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I’ve had a lot of dreams and career aspirations throughout my life. When I was very young, despite having no idea what the job actually entailed, I wanted to be an engineer like my father. For a brief period around first or second grade I wanted to be a car mechanic simply because I saw so few women doing that job. And then I wanted to be a rocket scientist – to that end, I even went to Space Camp. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted, pretty desperately, to be a writer (and yes, I still want that). I wanted to be, and in fact successfully became, a librarian.

But through all of that, through every new interest and dream, there’s been something that has persisted in the background. I’ve also always wanted to be a mother. I remember being only seventeen, and still in high school which seems unbelievable now, and knowing with a bone-deep surety that I wanted to be a mother. I’m not sure why or how I knew this: I don’t have a big family and I only ever babysat once or twice so I’d never really been around young kids. I liked kids, but as it is I’m a pretty awkward person around grown-ups (yes, even still) and I didn’t really feel any more comfortable around kids.

But I knew. I wanted to be a mother. I was going to go after my career aspirations whole-heartedly and pursue all my other ambitions as well, but in the end the thing that mattered to me the most was having a family.

That dream finally came true for me, and honestly? I’m as happy as I thought I would be. I’m one of those lucky, lucky people who got exactly what she wanted and was content with it. Whatever else happens in my life, I feel like this – my beautiful daughter – is enough.

But.

I realized pretty quickly after she was born that having a baby was the easy part. (And by no means is that “easy”!) Now I had to raise the baby! She was going to grow and change and become her own person – and that was an exhilarating, amazing thought, but it’s also terrifying! There’s so much advice out there for new mothers, and some of it – a lot of it, even – is genuinely helpful. But there’s also so much advice that doesn’t apply. So much that wasn’t relevant to me. And even advice that positioned the way it described as the “right” way, or the only way.

That’s why my philosophy, and the philosophy of this blog is: D.I.Y Motherhood. Or, motherhood that you figure out for yourself! I want to share my experiences and help other moms navigate this scary, exciting time, but I also want to advocate for moms who may not have a traditional experience. Everyone is different. Working moms, or stay-at-home moms. Moms with a supportive partner, or single moms. Moms with one child, or moms with several. Moms who knew they wanted babies, or moms for whom this journey may be unexpected and frightening.

D.I.Y. Motherhood means dealing with parenthood on your own terms.  We’re all different, with countless sets of unique circumstances, and there’s not really advice out there that’s “one size fits all.”  I want to encourage moms – and new parents, not just moms, though that is the focus – to find what works best for them.  Because even though raising our kids is now a huge part of our lives, we’re more than just “mom.”  We need to remember to take time for ourselves, to focus on our identities outside of parenthood.  Build the motherhood that works best for you!

Personally, I work full time. I have a very supportive husband and right now only one child. As I said, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was the privilege of raising a child. But that doesn’t define me. As much as I love my daughter, I’ve found that the role of “mom” is one that’s harder to slip into. Where do I draw the line? How do I navigate a changing identity and stay who I am?

Welcome to my journey, everyone. I hope to share this with you, and maybe I can offer some advice to those who need it, and learn a few things myself.

Book Review: The Golden Hour

Part of my job at the library is to lead a book club each month. This is something I really enjoy doing, and over the… two years now, I believe, that I’ve been leading it I’ve really come to appreciate the group and look forward to the discussion every month. Another thing this does is introduce me to books I wouldn’t normally read. This might sound silly since I’m the person who picks the books, but I try to cater to my group’s tastes more than my own. I sort of inherited the group. It had begun previously, and I took over when the old leader retired.

This month we read The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams, which I don’t think I ever would have picked up on my own!

The Golden Hour
Beatriz Williamz
William Morrow | July 9, 2019
485 p
My rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in the Bahamas to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?

Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.

Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen.

The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.

~*~

The best thing about this book, for me, was Lulu’s voice. She had a very distinct personality – sharp and bright and sassy, I guess you’d say, and it made for vivid writing with a strong voice. It was fun to read, hearing what she had to say about what was going on. Everything else was just… okay, for me. It wasn’t bad, really, but I didn’t love it. You might have noticed in the summary that it’s the story of two unforgettable women, but one isn’t mentioned at all. Well, for me, at least, it’s because the two threads are so disparate they don’t feel as if they belong together. In fact they don’t really tie together until the end. For some readers, I think this could work, but for me I found the other women – Elfriede – to be a little less immediately engaging. Her story wasn’t uninteresting, and neither was she as a character, but it was a much slower-paced, more internal story as opposed to Lulu’s bright, Bahamian intrigue-laced adventures. A few of the ladies in my book club enjoyed Elfriede’s story more than Lulu’s, but I did not. I actually skipped her sections once or twice! (I would not have done this if I didn’t have a deadline I had to finish the book by, though.)

My biggest complaint about the book was that it was too long. At 485 pages, I feel like it’s fairly hefty, and with two separate narratives there can be a lot going on. I feel like I would have enjoyed the book more as two separate stories, maybe two books. However, the book is structured in a way that I don’t think would work without the two differing narratives. There are a lot of flashbacks and jumping around in time, and different sections of a character’s story take place in different years. Without the clean break of a new character, I do not think the sections could have been effectively separated in the same way. Having the same character jump between 1941 and 1943, then back and forth, all without a break, might have been jarring to readers.

Overall I enjoyed reading it, but it did not leave me with a strong impression after I’d finished. I cared about the characters, but I didn’t feel invested in the plot, and there was so much going on that without that investment it just didn’t draw me in. (Also, for anyone interested, since it does take place in the Bahamas – no, there’s no real discussion of the impact of colonialism and racial tensions are touched on but not addressed. It’s very obvious it was written by a white person and I believe the characters are all white, save for Veryl, whose voice is written in dialect which… was so unnecessary.)

Easy Handmade Stocking Tutorial

Last year was my daughter’s first Christmas, and because I had not actually sewn or made much for her – which, believe me, I cannot believe?! what happened, I was so excited – I wanted to at least make her a stocking. It was really easy, and last year I wrote up a quick tutorial I’d posted on an older blog (that, to be honest, I never really used). I’ve reproduced it here, so if you’re interested, here’s a quick how-to!

better stocking graphic
Continue reading “Easy Handmade Stocking Tutorial”

Favorites Post: November

Here are a few of my favorite things from the previous month!

Make-Up

Stay Naked Concealer from Urban Decay – This is AMAZING. It works perfectly for me! When it says “full coverage” it really means it, and it works so well that my confidence has really gotten a boost when I wear make-up (or when I take the time to put on make-up I should say).

Too Faced Better Than Sex Eyeliner – I know some moms are a little uncomfortable with the name, and while I can understand that for a young girl or teenager, I have absolutely zero qualms using it for myself lol. This is really easy to apply, a deep, matte black, and long wearing. When I want a really nice winged liner long, this is my go-to.

Television

The Good Place – In honor of S4 – the final season! – I recently rewatched the entire show in. And it was just as good as I remembered! If you are not already watching this, what are you waiting for?! It’s so funny, has amazing characters (and an amazing cast), and it’s such a unique premise that’s been really well executed. A lot of people have been less than happy with the final season, but I’m withholding judgement until the very end. Just like the first season had a massive, canon-shifting twist, this last season could be leading up to a big surprise, as well. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I’ve really come to care about these characters and I’m so excited to find out where they’ll end up. I could go on and on about how much I love this show (and did you know that I had a – now defunct??? – TV column where I talk about TV?), but I’ll just leave you with this:

Video Games

Slay the Spire – You may not know that I love games, of all types. I love a good family board game, I love crossword puzzles and cards, and I also love video games. There are so many different types of video games out there that if you’re at all interested, I’m sure there’s something you’d enjoy. Slay the Spire, which I’ve been playing tons of in my free time lately, is an interesting game that combines cards and deckbuilding with a “roguelike” dungeon crawling gameplay structure. (For anyone unfamiliar, that basically means you travel through randomly generated levels, and if your character dies, they stay dead.) It’s a really fun game, and it’s easy to jump in and out of when I’m in the mood. If you’re interested, here’s a beginner’s guide!

Podcasts

The Adventure Zone – So, in keeping with the nerdy theme of this month’s Favorites, this is a podcast that I have to recommend with a caveat. It’s really… really nerdy. It’s an actual play D&D podcast, which means you’re listening to a group of people play Dungeons and Dragons. Yep. You’re just listening to them play. Don’t let that deter you, though! D&D is a roleplaying game and while there’s combat and things like that the best part, for me at least, is the storytelling. With the right group at the table, it becomes a collaborative storytelling experience – and yeah, sure, you also roll some dice! The Adventure Zone is definitely that sort of experience, and having just finished the first campaign I have to say that the story is amazing. I loved it so much! Now, this is not something you can just jump headfirst into and binge. I was catching up, and listening over the whole month. There are about 70 episodes or so in the first campaign, and each is about an hour long (some more, I think the finale was two hours), so if you want to listen you’ll have a lot of content! But I really recommend it! You grow very attached to the characters, and it’s great seeing them grow. The story is really interesting, and grows to an awesome scale. There’s mystery, romance, adventure (lots of adventure… a whole zone of it, you might say), and lots of laughs. This has been a delight, so if you’re interested, I encourage you to check it out!

Welcome December!

While I celebrate Christmas and really enjoy the holidays (family, food, a break from work? Yes, please), December is not my favorite month. It’s so dark. Here in the northern hemisphere December means the beginning of winter, and – to my much greater displeasure – the final slide into the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. It sounds portentous when you put it like that, doesn’t it? It’s a very festive time, and a time of great import to many, but I do not like the slow disappearance of daylight. I look forward to when the day is passed and we start the climb back towards spring. I do not like the cold, either, to be honest, but I can handle a bright, snowy day far better than a day that’s cut short by the specter of twilight.

Maybe I’m a little petty – well yes, definitely I am – but I see no reason not to try to combat this dark time of year, even if it’s not a personal slight against me (though it feels like it sometimes). So to that end:

As readers may remember, I tried to blog more in October and immediately failed. Miserably. I had so many posts planned! I still have the drafts saved! But it just didn’t work out for me, and to be honest, I still haven’t found a great “groove” with blogging. I might put ads in next year, but right now, it’s just a place to put down my thoughts, talk about parenting, and maybe work on my writing! (If I grow an audience for that writing, great! But not the point.) But I really do want to be more consistent. So while I am not committing to posting everyday, I do plan to be on a bit more regular schedule. If I can post everyday (other than yesterday, which already I missed! You see what I mean about accountability, but not too much accountability), then that’s great, but it’s not something I’m going to hold myself to. That way, if I have more manageable expectations, I think it’ll be easier to succeed! So here’s a quick plan for posts:

  • November favorites
  • Homemade cocoa recipe
  • Newborn/baby essentials
  • Christmas gift ideas for the book lover in your life
  • Finding your personal style

I’m hoping that this will motivate me to keep posting, and set the stage for a great start to 2020! Thanks for reading, everyone!

December Book Club – Hiatus!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a new month! I will be taking a break from my book club this month, so there won’t be a new selection. However, I’ve got some exciting things planned for the new year! Because of how busy I’ve been, and because of the tragedy of losing my Mom earlier this year, I definitely let my book club posts fall to the side. I’d like to re-energize it a bit, and post more updates throughout the month, reviews, and discussions. I love reading and as a librarian, promoting books I’ve enjoyed – and literacy in general as a more big-picture goal – is important to me! So, starting in January, you can expect:

  • A more consistent schedule, with the first selection post up before the 5th and a final review post by the last day of the month
  • At least one check in throughout the month to update my progress and to see if any other readers are enjoying the book so far
  • An actual book review, talking about what I liked or didn’t like about the book, a rating, and possibly read-alikes for anyone who enjoyed the book
  • Discussion posts for more interaction, so if you’re interested you can read along!

I want to be more active on this blog, and I think that’s a great place to start. I try to read a lot anyway, so this will keep me accountable for reading as well as for blogging.

Thanks, everyone! See any book club friends in January!

Coping With Grief During the Holidays

I have always loved Christmas. It’s an opportunity for me to spoil my family and friends with gifts and love and nothing makes me happier than getting to spend time, warm and cozy, with the people most important to me. But this year is going to be different. This year I’m dreading Christmas – and Thanksgiving, and the holiday season in general – because this is going to be the first year I have to celebrate without my mom

Her absence is like a hole in my heart.

While normally I would be making preparations, looking forward to all the expected joys, and really reveling in that part of year when I make extra special time for my family, this year all I can think about is how much I want to run away and hide. Hide from my feelings, from all the other happy families, and from everything in my life that’s going to remind me that my mom isn’t here. But I know I can’t do that. Running away from my feelings isn’t going to help me, and while this first holiday season is no doubt going to be the hardest, I have to accept that from now on I’m going to have to go through the holidays without her. I’m going to have to go through every day without her.

Talking about my feelings is tough, but to be perfectly honest – it helps. Holding them in not only causes me pain, but it keeps me from ever really processing my grief. Talking about them, and about her, hurts so much, but – for me, at least, and I imagine for many others – it’s a necessary step towards accepting that she’s gone and moving forward. I’ve done quite a bit of research into healing and how to handle my grief, so I wanted to share a little of what I’ve found. If you’re also going through a tough time this holiday season – or any time, really – after the death of a loved one, know that I understand and sympathize and I hope maybe this can help you like it has helped me.

It’s Okay if You’re Not Okay

This is something I have to repeat to myself pretty frequently. I even wrote it out in my planner to look at if I need to. It’s okay if I’m not okay – in fact, it’s totally normal. Everyone experiences grief differently, and some people may be able to accept a loss sooner than others. This does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that they did not care about the person or thing they lost. This can depend on any number of factors, and it won’t help anything to compare your own experience of grief to others’. If you’re not okay, don’t try to force yourself to be. Let yourself take the time you need. Sometimes the best way to move forward and process what happened is to acknowledge that this horrible thing happened, and that it has left a mark on you.

Feel Your Feelings

Grief can manifest in a number of different ways. You might be sad or depressed, angry, anxious, or even numb. And that’s okay! Let yourself feel those feelings, you don’t have to suppress them. You might have to step away or wait for a more appropriate moment to express those feelings, but you don’t have to shut yourself off. And it’s just as important to remember to let yourself feel good emotions, too. Oftentimes we get caught up in a spiral of guilt if we’re not sad enough. I know I’ve experienced this. I’ll have a good day, or just be enjoying something, and suddenly I’ll be hit with a wave of guilt: how dare I enjoy something when my mom is gone. But this is not helpful, and denying yourself positive feelings is only going to amplify the bad. If you have a support system that you’re spending your holidays with, be grateful for them, and enjoy every moment you can. Joy, laughter, happiness – not only are these good for you on their own, they can help combat the pain from your grief.

Be Prepared

Sometimes a reminder of our lost loved one can pop up out of nowhere, but there are some days – a birthday, for instance, or a holiday like Thanksgiving – where we know ahead of time things might be rough. In that case, try to prepare yourself for those feelings. Sometimes you might want to avoid situations that would any reminders of the person you’re missing, but sometimes you can’t. In those cases, being prepared can help you and can keep those feelings from being overwhelming.

Ask For Help

I’m very lucky that I have a lot of friends and family members who are there for me if I need them. If you have someone you can ask for help, and you need it, go ahead and ask them! The holidays, as wonderful as they can be, also have a bad habit of getting stressful. Sometimes you just need a break. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to help you out or to understand if you just need to go take a quiet moment to yourself.

It’s very telling how we talk about grief. We don’t “conquer” it or “beat” it. We cope with it. The last of the stages of grief is acceptance. We might not overcome our grief, but we can learn to live with it. We can learn to think of the good memories instead of the pain. I don’t know how my holidays are going to go this year, but I know I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about my mother. I miss her, and I know I need to deal with those feelings, but I don’t want that to keep me from sharing memories of her with our family and making new memories with my daughter. Good luck to everyone else struggling. I see you, and I’m right there with you.

Hello Bello Review

So as much as I wish it would hurry up and get here, we haven’t quite started potty training R yet. She’s not 2 yet, so she’s not behind, but – and I know other parents out there can commiserate with this – I’m just a little tired of diapers. Or maybe very tired. Or maybe I never want to change another diaper again. You have one poop blowout and that’s it, you’re pretty much done, am I right?

Though initially I’d planned to use cloth diapers, I let friends and family members talk me out of it and we used regular disposables (for the next baby, if there is a next baby, I do plan on being a little firmer about what I want). I can’t deny they’re much more convenient, but they’re terrible for the environment and they can be harsh on sensitive baby bums. You can’t help it sometimes, though! No shame for anyone who uses them, especially because I do, too, but I couldn’t help wonder if there were maybe some other alternatives. First, I looked for completely biodegradable options. Those can get pretty pricey, though, so while it’s definitely something I want to look at in the future, it unfortunately wasn’t in our budget right now. But, as is usually the case, I saw on ad on social media – maybe Facebook or Instagram – that was promoting Hello Bello. This is a company similar to the Honest Company, which was founded by Kristin Bell and her husband Dax Shepard. I’ll be the first to admit it – I was drawn in by the cute patterns. This was being advertised as a cute, plant-based, affordable option, so when I saw that there were Halloween patterns available, I felt like I might as well check it out! (Note: I am not receiving any form of compensation for this post and we bought the diapers with our own money to use for our baby. These are my own opinions and experiences, and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. Just wanted to write an independent review for other interested parents.)

photo by me | 4 diaper patterns we got

Overall Quality: The diapers seem well-made and very absorbent. They’re soft and they seem comfortable on baby – she hasn’t had any negative reactions to them and they fit her well (in size 4). The website advertises them as “hypoallergenic, eco-friendly, and effective” and I don’t have any reason to argue with that (not really, anyway). I like that the side tabs are sturdy. If R is wriggling around, I’ve torn a few off both Pampers and Luvs. Overall, I’ve been happy with the quality of the diapers! The bundle also includes wipes, and I would rate those a little lower. They’re not bad wipes, but they’re not very wet and I feel like they don’t get as much as other brands I’ve used. However, they are labelled as 99% water and it’s not enough of an issue for me to stop using them!

Absorbency: I’ve been very happy with how these have worked! A little disclaimer: my baby hates being dirty so she tells us when she’s pooped and a lot of times when she pees, so she gets changed pretty quickly (sometimes she tries to do it herself, which is… great that she’s got an independent streak but not great for keeping her clean and keeping her from wasting wipes). However, we’ve never had any leaks and she wears them overnight with no problems. As a note: N-2 has a wetness indicator, but the bigger sizes do not. This is not a concern for me, but I know it might matter to some parents.

Eco-Friendliness: The diapers themselves are not biodegradable (as far as I’m aware), but they are marketed as:
-no lotion, fragrance, phthalates, or latex
-plant-derived absorbent core liner
-chlorine-free processing
-sustainably harvested fluff pulp
There is not a lot of other information, but that is according to their website. However, I do have to give a lower rating for their packaging. It’s very cute, but in the bundle you can choose 7 different patterns and they are all packaged separately in a plastic pack, so there is more waste than there really needs to be. While these may be better than other brands, it’s not what I would choose if eco-friendliness is your only concern.

Affordability: A bundle costs $65 (this includes free shipping). For size 4, that’s 168 diapers (7 patterns, 24 of each) and each bundle also includes 4 packs of wipes with 60 wipes each. I would prefer more wipes, which we definitely ran out of before diapers, but we had wipes on hand already so that didn’t really cost us extra. As a comparison, on Walmart’s website a 150 box of Pampers swaddlers is $43.98. Honest Company bundles are normally $79.95 (if you’re a subscriber, it’s marked at $96.45 if you just want to buy a one-time bundle). So overall I feel like Hello Bello is quite reasonably priced! There are definitely cheaper options, so this would not be my suggestion if budget is your only concern, but for what you get (plant-based, cute trendy patterns) this is not a bad deal at all. For your first bundle, you also get a free extra product (we got shampoo), and there are codes that cuts the price to $50 for your first bundle, so if you want to try it out, I think that’s a really nice price.

Convenience: A big benefit is having a subscription service that will auto ship diapers right to your door. You can set it to send a bundle whenever you want (4 weeks, for example). We had a few diapers left so I set our shipping to five weeks and that worked out very well. The next box is on the way and I still have enough diapers left that I know we won’t run out. I think 4 weeks is the recommended time frame. It does send you a notice to let you know that they’re going to charge you, so if you need to cancel you’ll be able to. I have gotten a second box, so I haven’t cancelled yet, but according to the website it’s easy to do by phone or online! I love companies that let you cancel online, if you make me call to cancel there is 100% chance I am never subscribing again (looking at you Gwynnie Bee). The site is easy to use, as well, and all in all a good shopping experience.

Cuteness: Finally, the meat and potatoes of the post! Ha ha, sorry. But this is how they got me! Do I need diapers with cute little sloths on my baby’s bottom? Absolutely not. Did I get them anyway? You better believe I did. All their marketing is super cute – the ads, the website, even the packaging. In addition to that – and what I know you all want to know about! – the designs on the diapers themselves are very cute. There is not a whole lot of variety, but I liked all the designs. Right now, there are really cute winter patterns, so if you’re interested in those at all it’s a great time to sign up. You can see in the picture above what the designs look like on the diapers.

Well that’s all! I hope this review was helpful to you. Again, I was looking for a more eco-friendly option and got suckered in by cuteness, so be aware. There are lots of options out there for more sustainable disposable diapers, and I’d like to eventually use one of those brands. Or, even better, no diapers! I don’t care how hard people say potty training is, I am ready.

Has anyone else used Hello Bello? Are there other diapers you prefer? Am I completely ridiculous for letting the cuteness tempt me like that (the answer is yes, you don’t have to tell me)? Let me know what you think!