Having A Village Is Not What I Expected

Having A Village Is Not What I Expected

village-raising-kids-1
Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Of all the things that have surprised me as a parent, the hell that is FaceTiming with family takes the cake. I totally get video chats in theory for their economical ability to connect us with our long-distance loved ones. But I cringe every single goddamn time I hear the sound of someone ringing in to talk.

So many of my FaceTime sessions have been spent following my young daughter around as she drags the phone across the floor to give my siblings “a tour of the house.” And then there’ve been the moments when my dad starts talking to me about the mundane details of his day at the exact time my toddler is scream-singing an original song in her birthday suit. The phone has been dropped numerous times by little hands, my patience has been seen visibly thinning as I multitask during every convo, and by the end of each video call, I’m ready to call it a night.

View this post on Instagram

I used to run around chasing dreams. And then a few unexpected ones fell into my lap. And now I realize that the unearthing of these unexpected dreams has far surpassed any dream my analytical mind could have come up with. Motherhood has pushed me to the edge of myself so many times. It has allowed me to become something altogether different. And in the undoing of old, habitual notions about what life needs to look like or what I need to be (or do or have), I have come to realize that there is always – ALWAYS – a choice to change the narrative of my story. It’s been so much more fun to live life this way. Now, I have a few kiddos & a life partner to thank endlessly for helping me shake off the unnecessary layers that kept me from digging into who I really am. But honestly, I reserve so much of my gratitude for ME – because when they arrived, I actively chose to show up for all of these changes with curiosity & courage. As I sit with two of my unexpected dreams, I wonder to myself how it could possibly get better than this. Which allows me to see that had I not made room for the unexpected, I may not have been able to wonder. 🦋 . . . . . #motherhood #raisingkids #effyourbeautystandards #selflove #youareworthy #dreams #parenting #postpartum #allowing #momlife #lovemykids

A post shared by Lindsay Wolf (@thelindsaywolf) on

I’d been living on the West Coast for almost a decade, while everyone else in my family is back East and in a totally different time zone. Add to that the chaotic days of being a mom who works from home, and there’s even less free time to connect. Parenting without a physical support system is so fucking hard, as so many of us know. My mom life sans extended family has been isolating as hell, difficult beyond belief, and more exhausting than I ever thought possible. I’ve wanted desperately to be able to have the ordinary moment of dropping the kids off at their grandparents or grabbing a quick dinner with my sister when I’m jonesing for it. But I can’t even entertain the idea when there’s been a six-hour plane ride to always contend with.

For so many reasons, the pressure I’ve felt to answer every video call is unavoidably real. I’m thousands of miles away from these people, and I miss the shit out of them. And I know my kids do too.

View this post on Instagram

In honor of #maternalmentalhealthawarenessweek – I want to share with you my postpartum journey. Since I birthed my daughter back in 2015, my mental health has become the main attraction of my personal life. After gaining 50 pounds with my firstborn & 25 pounds with my second child, my inner – and outer! – world transformed as I began to heal two long decades of disordered eating, self-hate, ongoing bouts of body dysmorphia, and cripplingly low self-esteem. Unexpected panic attacks in 2017 led me to pull over with my 18-month old in the car one day & google therapists in my area who didn’t require insurance (I was uninsured at the time). I managed to find an incredible human at a women’s mental health facility who spent a whopping 45 minutes on the phone with me, and I credit her with helping to save my life. In the past two years, I’ve dug deep into ongoing counseling (sometimes up to twice a week), was officially diagnosed with #PTSD from complex childhood trauma, and discovered a new level of strength when the panic attacks began increasing in their intensity. And through it all, I’ve managed to raise two tiny extraordinary humans. This motherhood thing is no joke – it has changed my life in so many ways I never expected. It’s also helped me see the areas inside of me where trauma has been lying dormant – and it’s forced me to end long-term self-harm practices, destructive coping mechanisms, and mend a severely negative self-image. I’ve learned to face shame head on, ask for help, trust in the support I receive, request encouragement when I need it, create & maintain personal boundaries, and let go of the need to be liked. And I’ve stopped battling against my body and have learned to love & appreciate her as she is. Finally, I now see all emotions as teachers, allowing them to guide me whenever they pop up. I have my husband and children to thank for transforming me – and I have myself to thank for the willingness and courage to transform in the first place. To every mama out there struggling, you are welcome and safe here. I see you. I empathize with you. And I stand beside you on this brutal & beautiful road. 💖

A post shared by Lindsay Wolf (@thelindsaywolf) on

At the end of every talk, I’ve watched something that breaks my heart into pieces. My sweet four-year-old girl kisses and hugs the screen to say goodbye to each family member. Seeing my young child attempt affection with a piece of technology when I know she’d much rather throw her arms around her actual grandparents is strange and surprisingly painful. I just never expected that life would lead me to move out West, let alone have children there. And I never in a million years thought that my kids would live without the generational foundation I’ve always wanted for them.

I also never anticipated the curve ball of all curve balls that happened to me this past year.

Turns out, when you think you finally have life as you know it figured out, some new BS drops on your doorstep and forces you to adapt. I was frantically paddling in the deep end of the parenting pool, and I didn’t realize how choppy the waters had become. All of a sudden, moving back home was up for discussion as a necessary decision for the sake of my sanity and family. And in the blink of an eye, those goddamn weekly video calls calls quickly transformed into a thing of the past.

Back in February, I reached a solo parenting breaking point as the pressures of my husband’s job exponentially grew and my time alone with the kids multiplied. I had also lost a great creative gig that had been supplementing our household’s income for two years, and we could no longer afford regular childcare. We were living in an expensive, but small, townhouse when I gave birth to my second child and kept jam-packing the endless toys, schedules, and people into a space we were clearly outgrowing. My anxiety and panic were through the roof, depression became a trusted friend, and the idea of totally disappearing was starting to look like a very attractive option.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

I was burnt out in a way I had never known before, and our family’s limited resources left me without an option to fully recover. That’s when my dad, stepmom, and both of my husband’s parents lovingly agreed to something that would change the course of our year. They were open to temporarily housing us if we wanted to live on the East Coast for a little while. Suddenly, the abstract idea of maybe one day going back home became a very realistic choice. And at the time, it felt like the only feasible way to bring me back to life and help our family.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Fast forward to this month, and things are looking dramatically different from the way the year started. After spending several months with our folks, we now live in our own spacious three-bedroom duplex that feels more like a house. We can finally afford full-time preschool for my daughter. My husband’s parents live just ten minutes away from us, and we see them weekly. My son and daughter have sleepovers with their grandparents at least once a month, and my sister-in-law has been babysitting for us like a champ. I found a new job, go to regular therapy, and am currently on some life-saving anti-depressants. And we have a real yard for the first time that’s filled regularly with the sounds of my toddler playing with our neighbors’ kids.

All of this sounds like it should result in my immediate relief. But the act of accepting so much support after going at it totally alone for so long has been tremendously vulnerable.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

My husband’s extended family make regular appearances at our home, often bringing items to help us with our day-to-day lives. My mother-in-law is the sole reason we have things like extra toilet paper, most of our furniture, and coats for the kids. We have a whole team essentially cheering us on now in person, and it has felt unexpectedly overwhelming. And each time someone comes over, I feel it – the dread of thinking I owe them something in return.

It’s become very uncomfortable, but necessary, to teach myself that in ideal situations, people just help other people. You can depend on loved ones to get you through. And the positive impact of having a village can outweigh even the best days of solo parenting. I, for one, am just not used to being able to depend on anyone too much, since I raised my kids without extended family for so long. I was accustomed to doing things like ordering groceries on an app, crying alone during full days with the kids when no one else could watch them, and pretending like I was okay to the world when I really wasn’t.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Now, it’s one thing to be open to receiving help. It’s quite another to actively ask for it. My husband’s parents are thoroughly involved with the kids and so wonderful to be around, but they have full lives themselves with ongoing work and responsibilities. So when the time comes to ask for them to pitch in with the kids, I don’t always push the matter unless they have the room for it. And I’m still sort of living in disbelief that I even have them as an option.

View this post on Instagram

Some days, just showing up for yourself & others is a huge victory. Some days, just hanging in there & having a little curiosity helps. And some days, your inner & outer challenges just seem too big to hold – and that’s okay. ❤️ This is the first year of my life I’ve ever felt so low I didn’t think I could go on – and I’m going to talk about it here because IT MATTERS. I MATTER. YOU MATTER. Too much of the trauma in my life, the chaos of my childhood, and the ongoing pain of feeling betrayed by my past has run the show for me in secret. No longer. I am a worthy human being, in the midst of my struggle. I am a worthy human being, in the midst of feeling done with it all. I am a worthy human being, in the midst of having nothing fully figured out. And I am a worthy human being, in the midst of the darkest period of my life so far. I know there are others in this community who most likely suffer in silence, especially if you care for others around you more than you care for yourself. I want you to know something very immediate & VERY important today. I SEE you. I AM you. And I STAND WITH YOU – always. If it helps, please share below in a comment anything that matters to you right now or anything that feels challenging – and I will do my best to respond to each and every one of you. Let’s keep showing up, no matter how hard it may feel to do so. 🦋 . . . #mentalhealth #PTSD #complexPTSD #recovery #healing #childhoodtrauma #reparentingyourself #youareworthy #selflove #motherhood #innerworth #reparentingyourself #suicideprevention #youmatter

A post shared by Lindsay Wolf (@thelindsaywolf) on

It’s been over six months since we moved East, and it’s all still very much a work in progress. But now that I know what it feels like to be here, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I know that so many parents don’t even have extended family to turn to, so the good fortune of it all isn’t lost on me. I feel grateful every day that I get to wake up in a place where I feel seen, heard, and loved as a parent and human. And while it’s felt tough at times to be away from everything I’ve known on the West Coast, this has easily felt like a second home to us.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

When moms are conditioned to accept circumstances that negate true and lasting support, the society they are living in has failed them. I don’t believe any person should have to do this parenthood thing completely on their own. We all need loving shoulders to lean on as we figure this shit out. Whether it’s the family you were born into or the friends you’ve chosen to add to your squad, active and ongoing support allows mothers to trust that they’ll be pulled back to safety whenever the parenting waters get too choppy.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

Having family nearby may not be an option or the optimal choice for everyone, but it has most definitely worked for me. Being physically close to them has made a huge difference in my life and in the life of my kids. And I am reminded of this powerful truth every single time I get to see my daughter hug her grandparents without a phone screen in between them.